Does our Republic have a chance?

National Assembly at Weimar, 1919
National Assembly at Weimar, 1919

The National Assembly in Weimar draws up a free constitution.

[Germany, 1919] In the elections for the National Assembly on January 19, 1919, women could vote for the first time. The SPD emerged as the strongest faction and built a coalition with the Center Party / Bavarian People’s Party and the German Democratic Party, the so-called “Weimar Coalition” of 1919.

National Assembly at Weimar

On February 6, 1919, the National Assembly met in Weimar, and this venue has given the first German Republic its name. On February 11, Friedrich Ebert (SPD) was elected the first Reichspräsident (president). On February 13, the Provisional Government assigned its authority to the first democratic government under Chancellor Philipp Scheidemann. On August 11, 1919, the Weimar constitution came into effect. It was considered the most free in the world, and it granted those freedoms also to its fiercest enemies. The Reichspräsident was directly elected by the people and had a very strong position. He appointed and dismissed the Chancellor and his Government, he could dissolve the Reichstag, and he had the supreme command of the armed forces, the Reichswehr. Moreover, article 49 enabled him to issue emergency decrees. For the first time, the national flag was black-red-gold.

The black-red-gold flag

On this August 11th of the year, 1919 Jacob had proudly raised a black-red-golden flag in front of the “Stübchen”. Kathi and Max had insisted on helping the elderly gentleman. Black and red gold, these were the colors of the democratic revolution of 1848. He was very moved that he lived to see a republic come into being 70 years later. “Hopefully, this time, the black-red- gold flag will wave for a long time,” he said almost solemnly. Among his friends, he was the only one left who had seen the 1848/49 revolution. Of course, back then he had been a child and had not understood its political dimension, but he remembered the deep felt joy and a sense of new beginnings. And the depression when the revolution failed a few months later.

As a young man, he had entered the service of the Csabany family. “In the same year, the Hungarians rose against the absolute Habsburg monarchy,” he said, “but the revolution failed, and Csabanys had to go into exile. “Grandma Sophie was also there,” added Kathi, “her brother and her cousin Lorenz helped the Democrats in Bonn. One year later Lorenz had to flee, he went to the USA.”

“Stab in the back” legend

“Do you believe that our republic has a chance, Jacob?” asked Max. For all the joy of the first democratic constitution, he was worried. According to what was reported about the National Assembly, only a few parties supported the Republic full-heartedly. The hatred and smear campaigns against democratic members of the government deeply appalled him.

At the same time, the Kaiser’s military leaders, angry at their sudden, apparently inexplicable defeat, intentionally spread rumors that the German army had been “undefeated in the field”, but had been lethally “stabbed in the back” by strikes in the arms industry that had left soldiers at the front with an inadequate supply of material. “These damn liars,” Max grumbled, “they are turning reality upside down and get away with it.” “I’m at one with you, Max,” Jacob said sadly, “they just do not want to believe that the shining empire is a thing of the past, that peace is being forced upon us. It’s more than defeat to them, it’s a deep disgrace they cannot bear. That cannot be due to their own fault, another scapegoat has to be found. And they want revenge. I’m afraid that the democratic parties considerably underestimate the impact of this stab-in-the-back-lie, and I fear for Erzberger’s life.”

Then Max said goodbye for that day. Kathi and Jacob waved after him. “A fine fellow, your Lieutenant Max Schmieder,” Jacob said, all smiles. Kath flushed. “Yes, he is,” she said happily, “we want to get married.”

The photo is from the German Wikipedia. Das folgende Bild stammt aus der freien Enzyklopädie Wikipedia und steht unter der Creative Commons Lizenz 3.0. Es wurde im Rahmen einer Kooperation zwischen dem Bundesarchiv und Wikimedia Deutschland aus dem Bundesarchiv für Wikimedia Commons zur Verfügung gestellt: Weimar, Vereidigung Eberts, 1919. Bundesarchiv, Bild 146-1978-042-11 / Sennecke, Robert / CC-BY-SA 3.0

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