From the Wartime State of Siege to Weimar’s Early Years: Parliamentarism and States of Emergency in Germany, 1914-1924

STIBBE, Matthew (2024). From the Wartime State of Siege to Weimar’s Early Years: Parliamentarism and States of Emergency in Germany, 1914-1924. First World War Studies, 14 (1), 91-113.

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One of the paradoxical—but seldom recognised—aspects of the wartime state of emergency in Germany between 1914 and 1918 is that it went hand in hand with a simultaneous strengthening of parliamentarism. The Reichstag not only approved the granting of extraordinary powers to the unelected Bundesrat (Federal Council) to ‘order all necessary measures required to avert economic harm’ for the duration of the conflict, allowing in effect a temporary suspension of its own legislative rights. It also actively pushed the Bundesrat to go further in using these dictatorial powers, and when this failed, advocated handing them to a specially appointed Reich cabinet instead. Although moves to create such a Reich cabinet were blocked by conservative and military interests during the war itself, what was imagined in 1914-18 in many ways came to be put into practice under the two Enabling Acts passed by the Reichstag in late 1923. As a result of their wartime experience, the centrist parties in the Reichstag had come to the conclusion that in an emergency situation, temporary dictatorship on terms responsibly set by parliament was not only preferable to handing full powers to the military, but also a positive means of safeguarding and fortifying the indirect form of democracy, built on compromise and negotiation between elected representatives of the people, that was the foundation of the Weimar Constitution.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: 2103 Historical Studies; 4303 Historical studies; 4705 Literary studies
Identification Number:
Page Range: 91-113
SWORD Depositor: Symplectic Elements
Depositing User: Symplectic Elements
Date Deposited: 23 Nov 2023 13:35
Last Modified: 27 Mar 2024 15:45

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