President of Germany (1919–1945)

President of Germany
Reichspräsident
Flag of the President of Germany (1926–1933).svg
Reichspräsidentenpalais, Berlin.jpg
The Presidential Palace (Reichspräsidentenpalais) at the Wilhelmstrasse in Berlin.
StyleHis Excellency
StatusAbolished
ResidencePresidential Palace
SeatBerlin, Germany
AppointerDirect election
under a two-round system
PrecursorGerman Emperor
Formation11 February 1919
First holderFriedrich Ebert
Final holderPaul von Hindenburg (constitutionally)
Karl Dönitz (de facto)
Abolished
Succession

The Reichspräsident was the German head of state under the Weimar constitution, which was officially in force from 1919 to 1945. In English he was usually simply referred to as the President of Germany. The German title Reichspräsident literally means President of the Reich.

The Weimar constitution created a semi-presidential system in which power was divided between the president, a cabinet and a parliament.[1][2][3] The Reichspräsident was directly elected under universal adult suffrage for a seven-year term. It was intended that the president would rule in conjunction with the Reichstag (legislature) and that his emergency powers would be exercised only in extraordinary circumstances, but the political instability of the Weimar period, and a paralysing factionalism in the legislature, meant that the president came to occupy a position of considerable power (not unlike that of the German Emperor he replaced), capable of legislating by decree and appointing and dismissing governments at will.

In 1934, after the death of President Hindenburg, Adolf Hitler, already Chancellor, assumed the Presidency,[4] but did not usually use the title of President – ostensibly out of respect for Hindenburg – and preferred to rule as Führer und Reichskanzler ("Leader and Reich Chancellor"), highlighting the positions he already held in party and government. In his last will in April 1945, Hitler named Joseph Goebbels his successor as Chancellor but named Karl Dönitz as Reichspräsident, thus reviving the individual office for a short while until the German surrender.

The Basic Law for the Federal Republic of Germany established the office of Federal President (Bundespräsident), which is, however, a chiefly ceremonial post largely devoid of political power.

List of officeholders

† denotes people who died in office.

President Took office Left office Time in office Party Election
1
Friedrich Ebert
Friedrich Ebert11 February 191928 February 1925 †6 years, 17 daysSPD1919
Hans Luther
Hans Luther
Acting
[A]
28 February 192512 March 192512 daysNonpartisan
Walter Simons
Walter Simons
Acting
[B]
12 March 192512 May 192561 daysNonpartisan
2
Paul von Hindenburg
Paul von Hindenburg12 May 19252 August 1934 †9 years, 82 daysNonpartisan1925
1932
3
Adolf Hitler
Adolf Hitler
[C]
2 August 193430 April 1945 †10 years, 271 daysNSDAP1934
4
Karl Dönitz
Karl Dönitz30 April 194523 May 194523 daysNSDAP

A Hans Luther, Chancellor of Germany, was acting head of state of Germany from 28 February 1925 to 12 March 1925.

B Walter Simons, President of the Supreme Court of Germany, was acting head of state of Germany from 12 March 1925 to 12 May 1925.

C Adolf Hitler was served as Führer (the office position mergence of President and Chancellor) of Germany from 2 August 1934 to 30 April 1945.

Upon Generalfeldmarschall von Hindenburg's death, Adolf Hitler merged the offices of Chancellor and head of state in his person. He styled himself Führer und Reichskanzler ("Leader and Chancellor"), but did not use the title of Reichspräsident. Upon his suicide on 30 April 1945, Hitler nominated Großadmiral Karl Dönitz to be President. Dönitz was arrested on 23 May 1945 and the office was dissolved.

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