University of Wisconsin Digital Collections
Link to University of Wisconsin Digital Collections
Link to University of Wisconsin Digital Collections
The History Collection

Page View

Information bulletin
No. 130 (March 9, 1948)

German constitutions,   pp. [3]-8 PDF (3.8 MB)

Page 7

which, after review by the Soviet
Military Administration, were pro-
mulgated between December 1946 and
the end of February 1947.
The constitutions of the  Soviet
Zone states are almost identical in
their provisions and occasionally
identical in phraseology as a result of
the dominant position of the Soviet-
sponsored Socialist Unity Party.
The legislative power is vested in
a unicameral legislature elected by
universal suffrage and secret ballot,
according to the principles of pro-
portional representation. The legis-
lature exercises legislative authority
and control over the administration
and the judiciary of the state. In
certain specified cases provision is
made for popular referenda.
The executive power is exercised
by a minister-president who is chosen
by and responsible to the legislature.
The cabinet is composed of ministers
who are nominated by the minister-
president and confirmed by the legis-
lature and are individually respon-
sible for their activities and must
resign if the confidence of the legis-
lature is withdrawn.
A judiciary is established consisting
of professional and lay judges nomi-
nated by democratic parties and
organizations and elected by the rep-
resentative bodies. While they are
subject only to law, they are not
permitted to question the constitution-
ality of properly-enacted laws. When
the question of the constitutionality
of a law arises, decision is rendered
by a special committee consisting
partly of the legislative executives,
partly of members of the high state
courts and the university law faculties.
The communities and counties are
recognized  as self-supporting cor-
porations. However, they execute
those governmental functions that
may be assigned to them by the leg-
islature or the state government.
Local governments and popularly
elected officials are fully responsible
to their assemblies and can be re-
moved by them.
The economic freedom of the in-
dividual is guaranteed, but the econ-
omy of the state is to be organized
according to the principles of social
justice. The state government is re-
sponsible  for economic  planning.
Monopolistic private enterprises are
strictly forbidden and certain en-
terprises may be socialized by law or
referendum. Agricultural holdings are
limited to a given size.
Public education is compulsory and
unitary schools must be established.
Higher education is provided for all
without regard to social status or
ability to pay. Religious freedom is
guaranteed.  Religious communities
are organized as corporations of public
law and contributions made to them
out of public funds are to be commut-
ed by law.
ESoviet Zone contains essentially
the same basic rights as the con-
stitutions of the US and French Zones.
Like the constitution of the Soviet
Union and constitution of Yugoslavia,
the constitutions of the states in the
Soviet Zone make no mention of what
is actually the most important organ
of the state, namely the "state party"
which performs the dual function of
being a nervous system for the state
bureaucratic apparatus and of mo-
bilizing the general population to
support state policies.
On the surface, these constitutions
seem to protect the citizen against
arbitrary acts of the bureaucracy in
that the executive is formally sub-
ordinate to the legislative and all
political powers are centered in the
legislative branch as the "highest or-
gan of the people's will."
Under the conditions where several
liberal parties compete for political
power, the Soviet Zone constitutions
would provide the basis for thoroughly
democratic government under popular
control. The leading party is, however,
committed to the "unitary state" or
one-party system.
Under this system the legislative
branch is effectively mobilized and
controlled by the party, leading func-
tionaries of which also occupy lead-
ing bureaucratic posts, so that any
effective opposition is silenced. The
result is a de facto self-government
by the bureaucracy, the supposed
elements of popular control remaining
merely a fiction.
The independence of the judiciary is
also only apparent; they are, with few
exceptions, instruments of political
power subject as much to the manip-
ulation of the ruling party as are
the legislative and executive branches.
The French occupation forces on
assuming control of the French Zone
in July 1945, had also to contend with
many practical, geographical and ad-
ministrative difficulties. Their zone
Brig. Gen. Telford Taylor, war crimes chief of counsel, at his desk In the
Palace of Justice, Nuremberg, holds a press conference for Russian
newsmen who are making a tour of the US Zone.    (Signal Corps photo)
MARCH 9, 19'8

Go up to Top of Page