Christian union

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Christian trade unions were founded towards the end of the 19th century as a reaction to the already existing free trade unions , which had a socialist orientation, after attempts at ideologically and politically neutral unified trade unions had failed. Existing individual labor unions merged in 1901 to form the General Association of Christian Trade Unions in Germany (GCG).


Christian trade unions consciously acknowledged the principles of Christian social doctrine such as personality , subsidiarity , solidarity and the common good and declared these to be incompatible with the socialist principles of the free trade unions. In principle, the Christian unions were cross-denominational. Nevertheless, in most cases they were an integral part of the Catholic milieu. There were also decidedly Protestant trade unions, but overall they were more of a marginal phenomenon among Christian workers' unions. The same applies to membership.

Call for a strike (1913) by the Christian metalworkers' association in Neheim

As a rule, Christian trade unions were initially established at the local and regional level. In the Ruhr area , for example, a decidedly Catholic trade association for Christian miners came into being , and in the neighboring Siegerland , a Protestant association also came into being. The development in the iron and metal industry was similar. This is how the Christian Metalworkers' Association (CMV) was founded in the Duisburg area in 1899 . In the same year the Sauerland Metalworkers' Union was established in Neheim . There were also associations in the Aachen area and elsewhere.

The first years of Christian trade union work were overshadowed by the dispute over the question of whether Catholics should work with Protestants in a joint organization. While Catholic bishops insisted on Catholic trade unions, the leaders of the Christian trade unions ( Franz Wieber , Adam Stegerwald ) insisted on the interdenominational character of the Christian trade unions, and the papal encyclical " Singulari quadam " was needed to end this bitter trade union dispute in 1912.

During the First World War, the Christian trade unions rejected strikes and participated in the truce between workers and companies, supported war efforts and arms production. They tried to secure the interests of the workers through petitions and mediation talks with the military authorities, which did not always succeed. Membership losses were the result; only the law on the patriotic auxiliary service of December 1916 brought about a change, because here mediation structures between companies, state and workers were institutionalized.

In the Weimar Republic , the Christian trade unions developed positively under their umbrella organization German Trade Union Federation (DGB), in which employee and civil servants' associations were also organized, and made a significant contribution to the development of German social legislation . The Christian workers' unions were mainly anchored in Catholic regions, for example in the Rhineland , Westphalia , Emsland , southern Germany , the Palatinate , Saarland and Upper Silesia . In their strongholds, they were usually the dominant union. The Christian workers' unions were particularly strong in the Ruhr area . Only a third of the German population was Catholic, which is one of the reasons why the Christian trade unions were in a minority position at the Reich level compared to the socialist free trade unions, which had been increasingly anti-religious since the turn of the century. Only a few individual unions were on a par with the socialist unions in terms of membership figures, such as the Christian miners' union. In contrast, the Christian-national trade union wing dominated the Christian-national white-collar workers 'unions in the general association of German white-collar workers' unions , which did not belong to the GCG but were part of the Christian-national German trade union federation.

In 1933 the Christian trade unions were dissolved and expropriated together with the free trade unions united in the ADGB in the course of the National Socialists' takeover of power . After the Second World War , the victorious powers did not initially grant any concessions to Christian trade unions. The company was re-established in the mid-1950s.

In 1955, the re-established Christian trade unions united to form the “Christian Trade Union Movement in Germany” (CGD). From this movement the Christian Trade Union Federation of Germany (CGB) arose on June 27, 1959 in Mainz .



General Secretaries

  • 1903-1919 Adam Stegerwald
  • 1921–1929 Bernhard Otte

Membership numbers

Year members

  • 1901 84.497
  • 1904 107.556
  • 1910 295.129
  • 1912 344.687
  • 1914 282,744
  • 1917 243.865
  • 1918 404.682
  • 1919 858.283
  • 1920 1,076,792
  • 1923 937.920
  • 1927 605.784
  • 1929 673.127
  • 1931 577.512

Affiliated associations of the general association of Christian trade unions 1918/19

Important Christian union leaders

  • Friedrich Baltrusch (1876-1949), German trade unionist and politician ( Volksnationale Reichsvereinigung )
  • Heinrich Baumer (ZENTRUM) (1891–1962), secretary of the woodworkers' association in the Christian trade union
  • Josef Becker (politician, 1875) (1875–1937), Christian construction workers union, MdR (center)
  • Franz Behrens (1872–1943), chairman of the union of Christian agricultural workers in Germany, which later became the central association of agricultural workers, MdR (Christian Social Party, DNVP, CSVD)
  • August Brust , founder and chairman of the Christian Miners Union
  • Gerhard Cammann (1875–1955), chairman of the Central Association of Christian Tobacco Workers
  • Johannes Giesberts (1865–1938), MdA, MdR, center
  • Josef Hagemann (1875–1950), workers secretary in Osnabrück, employee representative, MdR, MdL (center)
  • Adam Hornbach (1873–1959), Chairman of the Central Graphic Association
  • Heinrich Imbusch (1878–1945), chairman of the Christian Miners Union of Germany, DGB chairman, Member of the Bundestag (center)
  • Jakob Kaiser (1888–1961), functionary in the general association, MdR (center)
  • Bernhard Otte (1883–1933), chairman of the Christian textile workers' association
  • Carl Matthias Schiffer , Chairman of the Christian Textile Workers Association
  • Carl Schirmer (1864–1942), Member of the State Parliament (Bayer), Member of the State Council, Center, BVP
  • Adam Stegerwald (1874–1945), chairman of the Central Association of Christian Woodworkers, MdL (Prussia), MdR (center), 1921 Prussian Prime Minister, numerous ministerial offices
  • Paul Thränert (1875–1960), chairman of the Gutenberg Association
  • Peter Tremmel (1874–1941), Chairman of the Central Association of Christian Factory and Transport Workers, MdR (center)
  • Franz Wieber , Head of the Christian Metalworkers' Association, MdR (center)

See also


  • Without an author: 25 years of the Christian trade union movement 1899–1924 . Festschrift Berlin-Wilmersdorf 1924.
  • Herbert Gottwald : General Association of Christian Trade Unions in Germany (GCD) 1901–1933 . In: Dieter Fricke u. a .: Lexicon on party history. The bourgeois and petty bourgeois parties and associations in Germany 1789–1945. Vol. 3, Leipzig / Cologne 1984, pp. 729-768.
  • Helga Grebing : Center and Catholic Workers 1918–1933. A contribution to the history of the center in the Weimar Republic. Phil. Diss. (MS) Berlin 1953.
  • Ludwig Heyde (Hrsg.): International dictionary of trade unions vol. 1. Berlin 1931 (with contributions to the individual unions).
  • Ludwig Heyde (Hrsg.): International Dictionary of Trade Unions Vol. 2. Berlin 1932 (with contributions to the individual unions).
  • Karl Hüser: With God for our rights. A contribution to the history of the trade union movement in Münsterland. 75 years of the Textile Clothing Union. Edited by the GTB Board of Directors of the Emsdetten-Borghorst administrative office, Emsdetten 1978.
  • Yearbook of the Christian Trade Unions 1930. Report on the year 1929. Ed. By the General Association of Christian Trade Unions in Germany, Berlin 1930 (also exists for other years).
  • Ingo Löppenberg: Between truce and "reorientation". Political positions and social actions of the Christian trade unions in the First World War , in: Year Book for Research on the History of the Labor Movement , Volume III / 2014, pp. 107-131.
  • Otto Müller: The Christian trade union movement in Germany with special consideration of the miners 'and textile workers' organizations. (= Economics treatises of the Badische Hochschule. Vol. VIII, 1st supplementary volume), Karlsruhe 1905.
  • Hartmut Roder : The Christian-national German trade union federation (DGB) in the political-economic field of forces of the Weimar Republic. A contribution to the function and practice of the bourgeois workers' movement from the German Empire to the fascist dictatorship (= European university publications. Series III: History and its auxiliary sciences. Vol. 291), Frankfurt / Bern / New York 1986.
  • Michael Schneider : The Christian trade unions 1894-1933. (= Research Institute of the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung: Series: Politics and Social History. Vol. 10), Bonn 1982.
  • Michael Schneider: Highs, crises and lows. The trade unions in the Weimar Republic 1918 to 1933. In: Ulrich Borsdorf (Hrsg.): History of the German trade unions from the beginnings to 1945. Cologne 1987, pp. 279–446.
  • Helmut J. Schorr: Adam Stegerwald. Trade unionists and politicians of the first German republic. Recklinghausen 1966.
  • Hans-Gerd Schumann: National Socialism and the Trade Union Movement. The destruction of the German trade unions and the establishment of the “German Labor Front”. , Hanover / Frankfurt (Main) 1958.
  • Ludwig Reichhold: History of the Christian trade unions in Austria. 1987.
  • K. Klein, B. Pellar, W. Raming: Human dignity, human right, social reform. 100 years of Christian trade unionists in Austria. ÖGB-Verlag 2006.

Individual evidence

  1. Cf. Ingo Löppenberg: Between Burgfrieden and “Reorientation”. Political positions and social actions of the Christian trade unions in the First World War , in: Year Book for Research on the History of the Labor Movement , Volume III / 2014, pp. 107-131.