Reichstag (Weimar Republic)

The Reichstag (English: Diet of the Realm[1]) was the Lower house of the Weimar Republic's Legislature. It originated in the creation of the Weimar Constitution in 1919. After the end of the Weimar Republic in 1933, the Reichstag continued to operate, albeit sporadically, as a purely nominal legislature of Nazi Germany.


Deutscher Reichstag
Legislative body of the Weimar Republic
Coat of arms or logo
Preceded byWeimar National Assembly
Succeeded byNazi Reichstag
Seats661 (at dissolution)
Party-list proportional representation
Last election
5 March 1933
Meeting place
Bundesarchiv Bild 102-13744, Berlin, Reichstag, Verfassungsfeier
Reichstag building, Berlin
Bundesarchiv N 1310 Bild-048, Berlin, Reichstagssitzung
Reichstag on September 12, 1932 – Chancellor Papen (stands, left) demands the floor, ignored by Speaker Göring (right)


According to the 1919 Weimar Constitution, the members of the Reichstag were to be elected by general universal suffrage according to the principle of proportional representation. Votes were cast for nationwide party lists. The term of the legislature was four years; however, dissolution was common.

There was threshold for winning a seat in the Reichstag. In practice, a party could gain parliamentary representation with 0.4 percent of the national vote, roughly 60,000 votes. While this provision was intended to reduce wasted votes, it also resulted in a large number of parties being represented in the chamber. Combined with the nationwide party-list system, this made it extremely difficult to form a stable government.

Moreover, each political party wanted to pull Germany in a different direction and parties often refused to compromise with, or even recognize, other parties. As scholar Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn wrote in 1943:

Catholic Centrists wanted to create conditions in Germany which would make it easier for the individuals to save their souls; Socialists denied the existence of souls and divided people into classes; the German Nationalists were interested in language and culture; while the National Socialists put the main stress on race. Whereas some looked at pocketbooks, others at the pigmentation of the skin or the index of the skull, fruitful discussions became impossible. When the speaker of one party indulged in his oratory, the others walked out. It was not worthwhile to listen to somebody's opinion when you knew that his premises were all wrong. The grim determination to silence the unconvincible enemy by execution or imprisonment already existed prior to 1933 in many parties.[2]

The parliament passed legislation and the government budget, as well as making declarations of war and ratifying international treaties. The members of the German cabinet, or government, were responsible to the Reichstag, which could force the resignation of ministers or even the whole cabinet by a motion of no confidence. It could also revoke "emergency decrees" by the Reich President according to Article 48 of the constitution -—however, on the other hand the President was able to dissolve the Reichstag. In contrast, the Reichsrat, the house of state representatives, had minor significance. The constitution also provided for the possibility of referenda, but the hurdles to overcome were high. There were only two plebiscites (in 1926 on the Expropriation of the Princes and in 1929 on the "Liberty Law" against the Young Plan), which were both unsuccessful.

Bundesarchiv Bild 102-13801, Berlin, Reichstag, Eröffnung
Opening ceremony on 30 August 1932, Nazi members of the Reichstag in uniform

Usually, when a Chancellor was removed from office, his replacement was well short of a majority. This was especially pronounced in the 1930s when the president had to resort to Article 48 just to conduct the ordinary business of government.

In the election of 1928, the Nazi Party won only 12 seats in the Reichstag, making it the smallest of the nine parties in the chamber. However, over the following two years it gained another 95. At the election of 1932, the Nazis and the Communist Party, both declared enemies of the parliamentary system, together held an absolute majority of the seats. In 1920–1923 and from 1930 onwards, the parliament was often circumvented by two instruments not strictly provided for by the constitution:

  • the extensive use of powers granted to the President by the use of the Emergency Decree in Article 48 of the constitution,
  • the use of enabling acts, especially in 1919–1923, and then again the Enabling Act of 1933, after Hitler had been appointed Chancellor, which formed an important building block of his dictatorship.

With this latter enabling act, the Reichstag formally gave up its exclusive responsibility for the exercise of the legislative power.

From then on, the German parliament only functioned as a one-party-assembly and as a body which ratified the actions of the Nazi dictatorship by acclamation. Even in its purely ceremonial role, the Third Reich's Reichstag convened only twenty times, the last being on April 26, 1942. On January 25, 1943, five days before the expiration of the last Reichstag's term of office, the summoning of a new body was postponed for another electoral term, until January 30, 1947, by a decree of the Führer.[3][4]

When in 1948–1949 the West German politicians established a new democracy, they used the word Bund (federation) in place of Reich; in German constitutional history, both terms were almost exchangeable. With memories of how the Nazis had exploited the weaknesses of the Reichstag still fresh, the founders of the new state built in several safeguards to prevent a repeat occurrence. The new parliament became the Bundestag, elected by mixed-member proportional representation—a mix of members elected from individual constituencies and state party lists. From 1949, to qualify for seats by proportional representation, a party must either win at least five percent of the national vote or else win three directly elected seats. The Chancellor (Bundeskanzler) must be elected by an absolute majority in the Bundestag, and could only be removed from office if a prospective successor was already assured of a majority. Besides the Bundestag, the Bundesrat (representing the governments of the states) has a decisive vote on legislation where the states' interests are concerned.


Bundesarchiv Bild 102-13744, Berlin, Reichstag, Verfassungsfeier
Reichstag building, constitution celebration, 11 August 1932

After the German unification of 1870, the new Reichstag first met in the houses of the Prussian Landtag in Berlin. In 1871 it decided to have a new building constructed, and in the meantime had its base in a former porcelain factory at number 4, Leipziger Straße. Some 23 years later the Reichstag's new building was finished, and it was opened by the Emperor in 1894. This is today known as the Reichstagsgebäude or as the Reichstag.

After the building was severely damaged in the Reichstag fire of February 1933, the Nazi Reichstag met in the nearby Kroll Opera House. Towards the end of the war the surviving, but heavily damaged Reichstag building was the object of numerous Soviet attacks because it was seen as a symbol of the Third Reich. They hoisted the Red Flag just in time for the Mayday celebrations of 1945. After the war, it was repaired and used as an exhibition hall, but major renovation and rebuilding were needed for the new German Bundestag. Since 1999 the German Bundestag has used the former Reichstag as its permanent building. Its official address is Platz der Republik 1.

Elections results

Germany from 1919 to 1933:
Weimar Republic
Election year Percentage of
Number of
Percentage of
Number of
Weimar National Assembly 1919 8.7 37 91.3 386 423
1. Reichstag 1920 8.0 37 92.0 426 463
2. Reichstag 1924 5.7 27 94.3 445 472
3. Reichstag 1924 6.7 33 93.3 460 493
4. Reichstag 1928 6.7 33 93.3 457 490
5. Reichstag 1930 6.8 39 93.2 538 577
6. Reichstag 1932 5.6 34 94.4 574 608
7. Reichstag 1932 6.0 35 94.0 547 582
8. Reichstag 1933 3.8 21 96.2 537 558

See also


  1. ^ Moonis Raza, Geographical Dictionary of the World in the Early 20th Century with Pronouncing Gazetteer (New Delhi, India: Concept Publishing Company, 1990, 2 Vols.) P. 712
  2. ^ Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn, under the pen name of Francis Stewart Campbell, The Menace of the Herd, or Procrustes at Large (The Bruce Publishing Company, 1943), p. 183
  3. ^ Peter Hubert, Uniformierter Reichstag. Die Geschichte der Pseudo-Volksvertretung 1933–1945 (Droste Verlag, Düsseldorf, 1992)
  4. ^ Joachim Lilla, Statisten in Uniform. Die Mitglieder des Reichstags 1933–1945 (Droste Verlag, Düsseldorf, 2004)

External links

1928 German federal election

Federal elections were held in Germany on 20 May 1928. The Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD) remained the largest party in the Reichstag after winning 153 of the 491 seats. Voter turnout was 75.6%.The only two parties to gain significantly were the SPD, who polled almost a third of votes, and the Communist Party of Germany (KPD), completing a thorough victory of the left wing. However, although the SPD now had 153 seats, it still failed to gain a clear majority, resulting in another coalition government led by Hermann Müller. Following his appointment, Müller, who had already been Germany's Chancellor for 4 months in 1920, created a grand coalition of members of the SPD, the German Democratic Party, the Centre Party and the German People's Party. The coalition was plagued by internal divisions right from the beginning, with each party more concerned with their self-interest than the interest of the government and eventually Müller asked President Paul von Hindenburg for emergency powers. When Hindenburg refused, Müller resigned, marking the end of the 'last genuinely democratic government of the Weimar Republic' on 27 March 1930.The recently reformed Nazi Party contested the elections after the ban on the party was lifted in 1925. However, the party received less than 3% of the vote and won just 12 seats in the Reichstag. Adolf Hitler, who had been incarcerated in Landsberg prison for his involvement in the Beer Hall Putsch until Christmas 1924, had concentrated on re-establishing himself as the leader of the Nazi Party following his release rather than on the party's electability.

Fahrenbach (disambiguation)

Fahrenbach is a town in the district of Neckar-Odenwald-Kreis, in Baden-Württemberg, Germany.

Fahrenbach may also refer to:

Fahrenbach (Fürth, Hesse), a district of the community Fürth in Hesse, Germany

Fahrenbach (Rosbach), a river of Hesse, Germany, tributary of the Rosbach

Wahlebach, a river of Hesse, Germany, in its upper course called Fahrenbach, tributary of the Fulda

Heinrich Fahrenbach, one of the members of the IV. German Reichstag (Weimar Republic)

Jakob Dautzenberg

Jakob Dautzenberg (born 2 February 1897, in Würselen (today part of the district of Aachen); died 20 August 1979 in Aachen) was a German politician, member of the Communist Party of Germany, and resistance fighter against the Nazis. He was a member of the German Parliament during the Weimar Republic.

Julius Adler

Julius Adler may refer to:

Julius Adler (biochemist) (born 1930), American biochemist

Julius Adler (actor) (1906–1994), Polish-born American Yiddish theater actor

Julius Ochs Adler (1892–1955), American publisher, journalist, and US Army general

Julius Adler (politician) (1894–1945), Communist Member of the IV. German Reichstag (Weimar Republic)

List of Presidents of the Reichstag

The President of the Reichstag was the presiding officer of the German legislature from 1871 to 1918, under the German Empire and again from 1920 to 1945, under the Weimar Republic and Nazi Germany.

Members of the IV. German Reichstag (Weimar Republic)

The German parliament or Reichstag that was elected in the general election of May 1928 and sat until that of September 1930 was the fourth parliament of the Weimar Republic.

Paul Bergmann (disambiguation)

Paul Bergmann was an American football tight end.

Paul Bergmann may also refer to:

Paul Bergmann (politician), German Member of the IV. German Reichstag (Weimar Republic)

Paul Bergmann, former member of American band Thinking Fellers Union Local 282


A presidium or praesidium is a council of executive officers in some political assemblies that collectively administers its business, either alongside an individual president or in place of one.

Presidium of the Reichstag

Presidium of the Reichstag may refer to:

Presidium of the Reichstag (German Empire) 1871–1903

Presidium of the Reichstag (Weimar Republic) 1919–1933

Presidium of the Reichstag (Third Reich) 1933–1945

Presidium of the Reichstag (German Empire)

Presidium of the Reichstag (German Empire)

Presidium of the Reichstag (Weimar Republic)

The Presidium of the Reichstag was a political office in the German Weimar Republic.It consisted of the Reichstagspräsident, Erster Stellvertreter (First Deputy President), Zweiter Stellvertreter (Second Deputy President) and Dritter Stellvertreter (Third Deputy President).

The President was elected on the proposal of the largest group by the members of the House and remained in office until a successor has been elected.

Reichstag (German Empire)

The Reichstag (German: [ˈʁaɪçstaːk] (listen), Diet of the Realm or Imperial Diet) was the Parliament of Germany from 1871 to 1918. Legislation was shared between the Reichstag and the Bundesrat, which was the Imperial Council of the reigning princes of the German States.

The Reichstag had no formal right to appoint or dismiss governments, but by contemporary standards it was considered a highly modern and progressive parliament. All German men over 25 years of age were eligible to vote, and members of the Reichstag were elected by general, universal and secret suffrage. Members were elected in single-member constituencies by majority vote. If no candidate received a majority of the votes, a runoff election took place. In 1871, the Reichstag consisted of 382 members, but from 1874 it was enlarged to 397 members.The term of office was initially set at three years, and in 1888 this was extended to five years. The Reichstag was opened once a year by the Emperor. In order to dissolve parliament, the approval of the Imperial Council and the emperor were required. Members of parliament enjoyed legal immunity and indemnity.

Reichstag (Nazi Germany)

The Reichstag ("Diet of the Realm"), officially the Großdeutscher Reichstag ("Greater-German Reichstag") after 1938, was the pseudo-Parliament of the Third Reich from 1933 to 1945. Following the Nazi seizure of power and the passing of the Enabling Act of 1933, it met only as a rubber stamp for the actions of Adolf Hitler's dictatorship — always by unanimous consent — and to listen to Hitler's speeches. In this purely ceremonial role, the Reichstag convened only 20 times, the last on 26 April 1942. The President of the Reichstag (German: Reichstagspräsident) throughout this period was Hermann Göring.

During this period, the Reichstag was sometimes derisively referred to by the German public as the "teuerste Gesangsverein Deutschlands" (the most expensive singing club in Germany) due to frequent singing of the national anthem during sessions. To avoid holding scheduled elections during World War II, in 1943 Hitler extended the term of office of the current Reichstag (elected in late 1938 to serve in 1939–1943) to serve a special eight-year term ending on 30 January 1947.


This page is based on a Wikipedia article written by authors (here).
Text is available under the CC BY-SA 3.0 license; additional terms may apply.
Images, videos and audio are available under their respective licenses.