Article 48 of the Weimar Constitution

“If a state fails to perform the duties imposed upon it by the federal constitution or by federal law, the President…may enforce performance with the aid of the armed forces.
 If public order and security are seriously disturbed or endangered within the Federation, the President…may take all necessary steps for their restoration, intervening, if need be, with the aid of the armed forces. For the said purpose he may suspend for the time being, either wholly or in part, the fundamental rights described in Articles 114, 115, 117, 118, 123, 124, and 153…The President…has to inform the Reichstag without delay of any steps taken in virtue of the first and second paragraphs of this article. The measures to be taken are to be withdrawn upon the demand of the Reichstag. Where delay is dangerous a state government may take provisional measures of the kind described in paragraph 2 for its own territory. Such measures are to be withdrawn upon the demand of the President…or of the Reichstag…”¹.

Article 48 of the Weimar Constitution granted the president of the Weimar Republic “emergency decree powers to protect the republic from crises initiated by its opponents on either the left or the right [of the political spectrum]”². One such privilege was the power to suspend the individual liberties of the German people, rights that were guaranteed in the constitution³. Although these powers bestowed upon the president were originally meant to assuage social pains, they eventually became an outlet through which the president could work around Parliament, exercising “wide-ranging legislative powers”⁴.

Although Article 48 is primarily seen as a malignant part of the Weimar Constitution, it accomplished various beneficial measures for the German economy. Chancellor Luther of the Weimar Republic stated that Article 48 was “very useful in cases of extreme urgency when economic measures--and especially the imposition of taxes--had to be carried out”⁵. Of a total of sixty-seven decrees carried out with the help of Article 48, forty-four dealt with economic or social problems⁶.

Article 48 also proved to be a factor of the downfall of German democracy. From 1930 to 1932, Chancellor Bruning governed through the use of President Hindenburg's use of the emergency powers. Bruning become somewhat like a dictator, utilizing an ever-increasing amount of presidential decrees. This set a precedent for a non-democratic government and the rise of Nazism in Weimar Germany.


¹German Weimar Republic. "Article 48." The Weimar Constitution. N.p.: n.p., 1919.
John Jay College of Criminal Justice. Web. 9 Oct. 2009.
<http://web.jjay.cuny.edu/~jobrien/reference/ob13.html>.
² "Germany." Encyclopaedia Britannica Online School Edition. N.p., 2009. Web. 9
Oct. 2009. <http://www.school.eb.com/eb/article-58203>.
³Lindseth, Peter L. "The Paradox of Parliamentary Supremacy: Delegation,
Democracy, and Dictatorship in Germany and France, 1920s-1950s." Yale Law
Journal 113 (2004): n. pag. Questia Online Library. Web. 11 Oct. 2009.
⁴ Ibid.
⁵ Neocleous, Mark. "The Problem with Normality: Taking Exception to 'Permanent
Emergency.'" Alternatives: Global, Local, Political 31 (2006): n. pag.
Questia Online Library. Web. 11 Oct. 2009.
⁶ Ibid.