German nobility

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The German nobility was a population group with privileges in society until the state was abolished in 1919 ; in particular, they exercised rule in most of the German territories or at least played a major role in it. The nobility is often associated with a tradition that goes back thousands of years to the Germanic tribes . From the Middle Ages to 1806 he was closely associated with the Holy Roman Empire, which was ruled by the Roman-German Emperors . Due to the same form of rule and very similar ranks ( title of nobility ), the German nobility included the Austrian nobility until the end of the German Confederation in 1866 .

The last Roman-German Emperor , Franz II after his coronation, 1792

It was not until the late phase of the German nobility that the German Empire emerged under the leadership of Prussia in 1871 , which was represented by the German Kaiser until the November Revolution, as was the sub-states by the federal princes of the sub-states .

Archeology knows the earliest evidence of power, mainly from grave finds and the remains of former villas and castles, which are interpreted as such "aristocratic life" without any reliable statements about the social structure of communities for which there are no written evidence. Caesars Font De Bello Gallico (52/51 v. Chr.) And the Germania of Tacitus from the year 98 n. Chr. Are often seen as the first evidence of the existence of the Germanic nobility. According to recent research, however, this interpretation is not tenable: it is in the context of a now outdated Germanic term in the context of "historical research motivated by the need for national cultural identity determination" in Germany in the 19th and 20th centuries. Century.

The aristocracy's claim to power was based, among other things, on performance, upbringing, ancestry and an assumed divine intention . From 11./12. In the 19th century, the nobility was organized in a legal and social sense and was part of the social order . Ordinary, d. H. Non-nobles were able to rise to the nobility as knights in the Middle Ages , from the 14th century onwards through ennoblement . As in some other European countries, the German nobility is very heterogeneous. A single “national aristocratic history” is therefore not possible , according to Conze and Wienfort . On August 11, 1919, the Weimar Constitution abolished the “public law privileges or disadvantages of birth or status”. (In Austria, on the other hand, the Austrian nobility was completely abolished by the Nobility Repeal Act and the use of nobility predicates and titles in names was forbidden.) To this day, the nobility in Germany still represents a relatively closed social class with its own way of life, manners and differentiated ethos.



It is unclear whether the Germanic tribes were hereditary. Caesar designated Germanic leaders in his in the years 52/51 BC. Written De bello Gallico as reges , as did Tacitus in Germania , which appeared in Rome in 98 AD . Whether this actually means that there were kings among the Germanic peoples is doubted in recent research. There are also reports of duces in the sense of military leaders, principes and their comites . The latter designation was only used for the counts from the early Middle Ages , while Tacitus simply meant a following . Within the entourage there were ranks whose names Tacitus does not disclose, especially since they were at the discretion of the respective leader (the designation of Germanic leaders as "king", because some of the Latin authors were given the title rex , is a misunderstanding). According to Tacitus, a particularly distinguished background ensured a high position within the retinue even for very young men (chapter 13). Likewise, tribal or military leaders were chosen because of their origin from respected families, but above all because of their ability (Chapter 7). The extent to which these structures, as described by Caesar and Tacitus, had existed for a long time, to what extent they adequately reproduced the conditions among the Germanic peoples, or to what extent it was a reinterpretation from the Roman point of view, is controversial. According to the current state of research, there is no continuity from the Germanic structures of rule to the later feudal feudal system and to the class society with the predominance of the nobility. Nor can it be inferred from the traditional reports about the Merovingians that there was a nobility there.

The first indications of the emergence of a hereditary aristocracy come from the Carolingian era and initially refer to the Saxons. The Frankish abbot Nithard , a grandson of Charlemagne , wrote in Book IV (cap. 2) of his story in 842 that the Saxons were divided into three estates, whereby they would call the first estate in their language edhilingui , which Nithard with that equates latin nobiles . These nobles would be entitled to triple wergeld , but would also have to atone for violations with a triple fine. In 967/68 the monk Widukind von Corvey reported in his Res gestae Saxonicae about the tribal legend of the Saxons. He reports of military commanders ( duces ) who each commanded 1,000 men, 100 of whom served as entourage and bodyguards, and princes ( principes ) who headed the three Saxon tribes of Westphalia , Engern and Ostfalen . According to Widukind, however, their priority was essentially limited to armed conflicts, with the command being drawn from among them when the entire Saxon tribe united against an enemy.

In Bavaria there was a tribal duchy earlier than in Saxony . According to the Lex Baiuvariorum , supposedly issued in the late 6th or 7th century by Merovingian kings , the Agilolfingers had an inheritance claim to the ducal dignity. 788 was Tassilo III. overthrown as the last duke of this clan. At that time, a distinction was made between nobiles et liberi et servi, as in Saxony . The members of the noble clans Huosi , Trozza , Fagana , Hahilinga and Anniona were also particularly privileged in the Lex Baiuvariorum ; but their trace is lost in the early Middle Ages. Overall, it can be assumed that there were families in the Carolingian Empire in the 9th century who claimed a prominent position; a closed hereditary nobility, however, apparently did not yet exist, but social mobility was still high.

Early middle ages

The noble free (also high free) were legally equal, so that they could marry one another without degradation and each of them could hold all dignities. It remains to be seen whether this corresponded to social reality. When Charlemagne expanded the Franconian count system to most of today's Germany, the high nobility and the later nobility ranks slowly began to form through the transfer of tasks and enfeoffment with counties or brands . Military leaders were named in the sources dux (duke) or legatus , margraves legatus , praeses or later marchio , count comes . The counts were enfeoffed with the royal spell and directed the royal court in his name, while the margraves were entitled to more extensive powers, as they had to defend the imperial border. It was only late and slowly, from around the First Crusade , under the influence of Christianity, that the noble ideal of the knight ( miles ) developed, through which the principle of the hereditary nobility was temporarily loosened again. Noble families made permanent contributions to the culture of the Middle Ages through their participation in government, the founding of cities, the promotion or foundation of monasteries or cathedral schools. The only later (and still flourishing) German dynasties that are documented (and not just legendary or presumably) in the period before the turn of the first millennium are the Guelphs , the Reginare (the House of Hesse) and the Wettins . The other later important houses, Wittelsbacher , Habsburg , Hohenzollern u. a., all appear only after the year 1000 in the very thin written tradition for the early Middle Ages.


The feudal system gave the class of the noble free a legal and social structure. The beginnings of the feudal system could be found in the Germanic allegiance , which is, however, controversial. According to Marc Bloch's fundamental work Die Feudalgesellschaft (1939), there was already a landed nobility in the Merovingian and Carolingian early Middle Ages, such as the greats of the Franconian Empire (e.g. the Robertines as ancestors of the Capetians ), the owners of Carolingian counts ( e.g. the Guelphs ), many of them presumably climbers in court or church service, in their origins probably also Germanic or Celtic large peasant chiefs; It is very doubtful whether the continuity actually goes back to the leaders of the Germanic allegiance gangs of the Great Migration Period , which has occasionally been claimed. Politically, the weight of this nobility (as well as that of the church and royalty) initially grew at the expense of the free . In the Carolingian army, which partially took over functions of the people's assembly, in administration and jurisdiction, the nobility, which grew together from Germanic nobility and Romanesque land nobility, increasingly dominated.

However, at the time of the collapse of the state order in Europe during the predatory onslaught by Vikings , Saracens and Magyars from around 800 to shortly after 1000 AD, this older nobility was caused by a spontaneously arisen, defensive sword nobility (partly unfree-peasant, partly of free or noble origin), who took it upon himself to defend the peasant population, was nourished by it and equipped with (at that time expensive) horses and weapons as well as soldiers. When the external dangers were averted, rivalries broke out within the warrior caste. Therefore developed within this early nobility a vassal system , the weaker their protectors reversed surrendered their lands and these as - in which either the more powerful his followers transferred the means and responsibility for their own maintenance (land and people) or - more frequently feud , received back to then to leave the land encumbered with monetary or in-kind taxes and arable taxes to the rear occupants for arable farming .

The inheritance of fiefs and the admissibility of subcontracting as an after-fief were established in 1037 by Emperor Conrad II with the Constitutio de feudis . So it came about that in the 12th century all duchies and counties were already given as fiefs. Within these individual spiritual and secular territories, however, there was again a complex feudal system. It was not until the 13th century that the importance of feudalism declined, as service men (" ministerials ") were hired instead of vassals , who were either already sons of knights or who were distinguished by warlike or administrative skills and who, due to their position, e.g. B. as castle men , soon received the sword or the knighthood . This lower, actually unfree group also began to close itself off from the middle of the 12th century on the basis of class consciousness. This conclusion was proclaimed in Germany in 1186 in the Constitutio contra incendiarios by Emperor Friedrich I Barbarossa as an imperial law. It was also stipulated that the right to prove a duel (i.e. victory with divine help) provided for in legal disputes ( feuds ) was only granted to the "knight who was real by birth", who was equal because his parents were already of knightly descent. In other countries this degree of knight society is attested only for the 13th century. Of course, individual able-bodied men who led a chivalrous way of life and who were promoted to knights by wearing a sword belt and spurs due to brave military service could still hereditary rise to knighthood, because if they then married women of chivalrous families, their offspring would be lost the 3rd generation of knighthood hereditary ("knighthood").

The imperial princes received their so-called flag feuds directly from the king. Parts of the flag fiefs , but also allodial property of the imperial princes, were in turn given out by them as fiefdoms to counts and other noble freemen, who proceeded according to the same principle. The result was a leaning pyramid, the steps of which were called army shields . Anyone who took a fiefdom from someone who was on the same level as him in the military shield order did not lose his noble status under land law, but reduced his military shield. The latter regulation turned out to be a problem for the secular imperial princes when, from the 11th century onwards, more and more spiritual imperial princes (archbishops, bishops and abbesses of monasteries and foundations) succeeded in creating formerly imperial counties or duchies or essential counties for their churches To obtain components of such. The secular imperial princes now had to allow themselves to be enfeoffed with these fiefs by the spiritual princes instead of the king, as a result of which they got from the second to the third shield. In the late Middle Ages and modern times, the sovereign princes and the later class lords emerged from the noble free of the third and fourth army shield .

Insofar as a prince was not obliged to obey anyone and only owned allodial goods, he was referred to in tradition as a prince of special freedom . According to the tradition of the Guelphs , their ancestor was a prince of special freedom, which probably only happened in the early Middle Ages; in fact they were at first Carolingian counts . Only very few families date back to the time before the turn of the millennium, such as the Welfs and the Wettins .


Originally unfree , on behalf of their respective masters, administered his farms, collected taxes from dependent peasants, performed military service, administered castles and, in some cases, entire counties. From this upper class of the unfree, the service team of the empire and the imperial princes formed until in the high Middle Ages even small counts or monasteries had their own ministerials.

The social position of the ministeriality increased when smaller nobles gave up their class to join the service team of an imperial prince. Sometimes they had to hand over their allodial property as a result of an unfortunate feud for them to get it back as a service loan, or they improved their economic situation by receiving a new castle as a fief. There were agreements that they and / or their descendants would personally remain free. In addition, the unfree ministerials succeeded in attaining the dignity of knights as part of their military tasks, so that ultimately the knighthood was formed from them. Occasionally they achieved social advancement. The earliest known example is Friedrich von Stade , who around 1095 was commissioned by the Margraves of the Nordmark, the so-called Udonen, to administer their old county of Stade. He allied himself with the Saxon duke and later king or emperor Lothar III. against his masters, bought his release in order to be enfeoffed with the county of Stade by Archbishop Adalbero of Hamburg-Bremen himself.

Because the king often appointed archbishops and bishops from outside their diocese to break the supremacy of the local nobility, they were particularly dependent on the loyalty of the service team of their bishopric . This led to a legal strengthening of ministeriality, which resulted in a separate law, according to which misconduct and other disputes were decided in a court or feudal court with the participation of their class members. Similar developments were evident in the secular principalities. While the Sachsenspiegel still assumed around 1235 that ministerials were unfree who could be given away and exchanged by their princes at will, Johannes von Buch tried to justify in his gloss on the Sachsenspiegel about 100 years later that a knight, even if he was a service loan had so that it was not automatically unfree. However, there were still unfree ministerials for Johannes von Buch.

Castle and castle residents

In the newly settled and colonized Slavic regions east of the Elbe, the traditional rules from the old western and southern parts of the empire often did not apply. There, due to the Slavic influences, an independent set of rules developed that primarily promoted vassalism. The system, which was based more on a voluntary vassal body, made it easier for the vassal to get involved with another sovereign, which at times led to considerable feuds. This went so far that the vassals became independent and, last but not least, directed themselves against the sovereign, thereby considerably strengthening their own position and weakening that of the sovereign accordingly. In these countries, such as B. Brandenburg , Mecklenburg , Pomerania and East Prussia , no distinction was made between noble free and ministerial, but rather between the castle and castle-sitters as well as eximited families who stood out as higher nobility from the overwhelming number of the other noble families.

Late Middle Ages and Modern Times

Regionally different, in the late Middle Ages and at the beginning of the modern age the knighthood of many - but not all - imperial and secular rulers developed into a separate class, whose members were no longer the property of the sovereign, but with whom he had to negotiate about military service and taxes.


The award of nobility titles began in Germany in the time of Emperor Charles IV by raising civil servants (especially lawyers) to the nobility class. The oldest known nobility letter was issued by Emperor Karl IV for Wyker Frosch , scholaster at St. Stephen's Church in Mainz , on September 30, 1360. Families that were not already knightly in the Middle Ages, but were only admitted to the nobility in modern times through nobility letters, are referred to as letter nobility .

In Germany, in the Holy Roman Empire , i.e. until 1806, ennoblement was a privilege of the emperor. However, over time, some of the territorial princes also acquired this right:

Since 1806 the princes of the German states of the Rhine Confederation and after 1815 all German federal princes have been able to carry out class surveys. This was also true after the establishment of the German Empire on January 18, 1871, the emperor could only award titles of nobility as King of Prussia.

From the beginning, however, there were rank disputes within the nobility and with the urban patriciate , which from the late Middle Ages onwards led to nobility trials for knighthood or equality , even to lengthy legal disputes such as the hereditary dispute . To this day, a distinction is made within the nobility between old nobility or primeval nobility and later post nobility (see below).

Economic basics

The feudal system had already arisen in the Franconian Empire in order to economically enable the knighthood to perform the duties of knighthood as armored riders . Associated with this were exemptions from taxes and peasant burdens that are otherwise liable for rural property. As vassals and ministerials, the knights were obliged to do military service on horseback and later, as an alternative, to cash benefits ("knight horse money"), some of which were collected during the Thirty Years' War and afterwards. Since the 14th century, the old feudal armies were replaced by mercenary troops , which led to the end of knight service and thus to an economic decline of the nobility. Pay and booty now flowed into other pockets. Customs duties, on the other hand, were only due to the sovereigns who took them on their toll castles or at city ​​gates . The possessions were often split up, the nobles moved closer together on Ganerbe castles . Some, by far not all, were active as robber barons in the late Middle Ages and early modern times , while some talented people made great fortunes as mercenary leaders .

The owners of the manors now lived mainly from the taxes of their heirs or backers ( servants and landlords ), to a lesser extent also from self-sufficiency with the help of servants and maids . These incomes were often relatively modest because the farmers were mostly poor. In his letter to Willibald Pirckheimer from the year 1518, Ulrich von Hutten vividly describes the cramped and worried conditions at the home castle.

The owners of a manorial rule mostly held the lower jurisdiction , in rare cases also the high jurisdiction . They thus exercised both official and judicial functions - up to the peasants' liberation and in some cases into the 20th century. To defend their political rights they organized themselves in many regions in the late Middle Ages in associations, the so-called knighthoods . These exercised political co-determination rights in the state parliaments , where the manor owners formed the knighthood within the state estates ; the imperial knighthood , which is not subordinate to a sovereign, also organized itself in three so-called "knight circles". From around the 17th century, manors and the associated real rights could also be acquired by commoners.

While in the early and high Middle Ages the sovereigns almost exclusively employed clergymen for their governmental affairs (since they knew the Latin language and writing), from the 15th, but especially in the 16th and 17th centuries, they increasingly provided middle-class people who knew Latin Legal scholars as higher state officials, who also had the task of curtailing the power of the class nobility in favor of the sovereigns. However, these career officials often rose to the nobility through letters of nobility, but mostly remained among themselves as "letter nobility" if they did not succeed in acquiring manorials as well, which is the prerequisite for recognition by the old nobility (and for marrying into them ) was.

The church with its benefices was also important for the maintenance of the nobility . Often all the other sons except the eldest entered clerical service, for example when the property was insufficient for dividing the inheritance. If the intended heir then died childless, the next youngest would switch back to the lay class and get married. Nobles who had grown into the tasks of a manorial rule also appeared capable of administering ecclesiastical lands, whether as canons , abbots or bishops up to reigning prince-bishops and electors , who often gave their members high administrative offices and considerable income and estates ( nepotism ), or also in lay service , for example as governors of monastery property. Unmarried daughters became nuns or canonesses , but the latter could also leave the women's colleges and marry if the opportunity arose. The higher church service represented a noble network, but, like the court service , it also offered talented commoners the opportunity to rise to high positions and into the nobility.

With the French Revolution and the resulting assumption of state and social tasks by the rising bourgeoisie , the power and influence of the nobility were gradually curtailed. In economic terms, the peasant liberation in the 19th century put an end to feudal rule , the land-owning noblemen no longer lived mainly on services and taxes, but had to try their hand at becoming an agricultural entrepreneur. With the rise of capitalism and industrialization , civic education in industry, administration and science proved to be more competitive than the nobility education, which in the 19th century was still based on traditional noble professions (officer, diplomat, farmer and forester, hunter and clergyman) . Access to high offices in the military and administration was no longer a monopoly of the nobility, but remained relatively privileged until the November Revolution of 1918. In the 19th century, numerous civil servants, professors and officers families who did not own land were ennobled; successful industrialists were also occasionally ennobled (see below, money nobility). The so-called " Second Society " was created. Occasionally, older noble families were also successful in the economy, for example in cattle breeding or wood production for expanding markets, in the Upper Silesian coal regions even as veritable large industrialists such as Count Henckel von Donnersmarck or Count Ballestrem ; others like Count Hans Ulrich Schaffgotsch married civil industrial assets. But there were also spectacular breakdowns due to a dandy lifestyle, as with Count Hugo Waldbott . In the Weimar Republic from the end of the 1920s, the global economic crisis led to the loss of many old properties.

Inheritance of noble titles and privileges

By far the most common manifestation of the German nobility was the hereditary nobility and the hereditary class associated with it. Exceptions to this were the personal, non-inheritable nobility, especially the official and often also the religious nobility, in which the title of nobility was linked to the person or the respective office.

Hereditary nobility and the titles associated with it were typically inherited "in the male line" in a straight line and equally to all legitimate children of a noble man, unless it was a primogeneity title that was generally only passed on to the oldest son or the oldest child . However, in most German states there were restrictions to the effect that the spouse of a noble man was not allowed to be of minor birth. The Prussian land law of 1794 spoke here of a marriage to the right hand . This could only be closed by a noble man with women who at least belonged to the upper class. In contrast, the children of a noble man from a marriage to the left were not noble and were also not entitled to use the father's nobility names and titles. Wives who did not come from the hereditary class at birth could also obtain the "external rights of the nobility" through a marriage in the right hand with a noble man (PrALR 1794, Tit. 1, §§ 30, 31; Tit. 9, §§ 3, 8) .

Loss of nobility

The nobility of birth or sex could be withdrawn in the German kingdoms as well as in Austria if a member of the nobility violated laws or other rules of his class. This so-called loss of nobility, in Austria the removal of the nobility, applied for example in Prussia from 1794 with the introduction of the Prussian General Land Law and in Bavaria from 1812 with the penal code for the Kingdom of Bavaria . The loss of nobility was only abolished in the German Empire with the judicial reform leading to the establishment of the Reich in 1871 , while in Austria it could still be imposed until 1919. In addition to a number of different types of rule violations, such as exercising civil trade and membership in a craft guild with concealment of the title of nobility, a violation of the penal laws came into consideration for a loss of nobility (cf. PrALR 1794, Title 9, §§ 81 , 89) . Those punished for this had to give up their titles of nobility and noble name components, lost their noble status privileges, and were excluded from the nobility for life. The loss of nobility always only affected the person of the convicted person, not his family, his wife in the event of a previous marriage, and legitimate children born before the loss of nobility.

Abolition of the privileges of the nobility in the Weimar Republic

In Germany, the last title of nobility was awarded to Privy Councilor Kurt von Kleefeld on November 12, 1918 by Prince Leopold IV von Lippe . The proclamation of the Weimar Republic and the abdication of Kaiser Wilhelm II from the House of Hohenzollern and the Federal Princes in November 1918 ended the era of the monarchy in Germany. At that time, around 60,000 people belonged to the nobility, which corresponded to around 0.1% of the population.

With the entry into force of the Weimar Imperial Constitution on August 14, 1919, all privileges of the nobility were abolished (Article 109, Paragraph 3, WRV). All citizens were treated as equals before the law, men and women basically received the same civil rights and duties, privileges under public law or disadvantages of birth or status were abolished, and titles could only be awarded if they denote an office or a profession. The previous nobility designations could be used as part of the surname, but could no longer be awarded. The nobility was thus abolished as a privileged class, even if a majority in the constituent assembly on July 15, 1919 could not decide in favor of the more extensive formulation in Article 109 “The nobility is abolished” and this was rejected. In the Weimar National Assembly , which drafted the new constitution, there were also republican-minded nobles, such as the constitutional lawyer Alexander Graf zu Dohna-Schlodien .

The constituent Prussian state assembly passed the on June 23, 1920 Prussian law on the abolition of class privileges of the nobility and the dissolution of the House assets . With this "Nobility Law", which other countries of the German Empire adopted in a similar form, the nobility was legally abolished as a privileged social group in Germany. Furthermore, this law stipulated that the titles of nobility in the form that were previously held by family members who were not particularly privileged by Primogenitur would in future be considered part of the civil surname, according to a decision of the Reich Court of March 10, 1926 (RGZ 113, 107 ff .) the gender-specific variants could still be used (Count / Countess, Duke / Duchess, etc.). Those persons who held a primogeneity title at the time the Weimar Imperial Constitution came into force (e.g. prince instead of prince) were allowed to retain this title personally for life. This particularly affected the rulers' titles of former ruling houses.

The noble families were allowed to keep the inherited assets. An attempt initiated by the Communist Party of Germany (KPD) in 1926 to " expropriate " at least the former ruling houses without compensation through a referendum on the expropriation of princes failed.

Nobility and National Socialism

Between hope for a national recovery and the rejection of National Socialism

The nobility is not a homogeneous group, and therefore members of the historical German nobility can be found on the side of enthusiastic supporters of National Socialism as well as on the side of open resistance, which often ended in death. Although that was ethnically and racially influenced German nobility Cooperative , the largest association of German nobleman in the German Reich, but they did not represent all German nobles. Due to a predominantly religious and politically conservative attitude, many aristocrats were skeptical of the new National Socialist movement. National Socialism mostly met with rejection from Catholic-influenced West and South German, especially Bavarian aristocrats. On the other hand, National Socialism also made use of conservative terms and found so many aristocratic followers. In addition, the racial ideology of the “pure family tree” ( Proof of Aryans ) practiced by the National Socialists was formally borrowed from the “proof principle of nobility” ( trial of nobility , nobility law ), which is still used today , but in contrast to the trial of nobility with racist demarcation features. Heinrich Himmler, for example, intended to attract the "nobility of the future" with his Lebensborn organization.

The German Nobility Association - whose testing center for questions of ancestry still exists today in the so-called German Nobility Law Committee - had already introduced the Aryan certificate in 1918. Noblemen like Karl Freiherr von Hirsch , who later died in the Theresienstadt concentration camp , were thus excluded from the association of the German nobility. Many leading racial theorists were members of the nobility, such as Max von Gruber , Otmar Freiherr von Verschuer , Karl von Behr and especially Egon Freiherr von Eickstedt (the Nuremberg Laws were applied according to his “race diagnostic formula” ). What effect the ideology of Herrenmenschtums of Arthur de Gobineau on some German nobles had, can only be guessed. Franz Pfeffer von Salomon may be mentioned as an example of the nobles actively involved in the regime with such an attitude . On the other hand, many aristocrats rejected the egalitarian side of national socialism and the proletian thugs of the SA, despite their support for paternalistic social engagement .

For the situation of the Austrian nobility at this time, see Austria's nobility and National Socialism .

Weimar Republic: Attempts to keep National Socialists out of power or to involve them

The Weimar Republic was rejected by the majority of the German nobility . The nobility continued to support the conservative German national tendencies in society and hoped for the restoration of a monarchical form of government.

On the one hand, many aristocrats were also critical of National Socialism. After the suppression of the Hitler-Ludendorff putsch in 1923, the German-national Reichswehr chief Hans von Seeckt used his official power to ban both the KPD and the NSDAP .

On the other hand, the former Duke Carl Eduard of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha was one of Adolf Hitler's influential supporters from 1922 onwards . Later, organizations like the Harzburg Front of Alfred Hugenberg, with the support of Reichswehr General a. D. Hans von Seeckt and the emperor's son and SA group leader August Wilhelm Prince of Prussia in Germany Adolf Hitler from 1931 acceptable in the conservative German national circles. This happened even though Wilhelm II , as he later admitted in exile in the Netherlands, was hostile to this son's rapprochement with National Socialism. Nevertheless, making this salon-friendly is considered a big step towards the later seizure of power .

Reich President Paul von Hindenburg continued to look down on the National Socialists and the “ Bohemian Corporal ” Hitler and tried to keep them out of power as long as it seemed possible to him. When the NSDAP and the KPD had dominated the majority in the Reichstag since 1932, the Chancellors of the Presidential Cabinets Franz von Papen and Kurt von Schleicher considered preventing these parties from seizing power with the help of the Reichswehr. The head of the Army Command, Kurt von Hammerstein-Equord, and the head of the Ministry of Defense in the Reichswehr Ministry, Ferdinand von Bredow , advocated military action against Hitler.

The only alternative seemed to be to involve the National Socialists in a government led by the DNVP. Hitler rejected a vice-chancellorship, and the split in the NSDAP failed. In this critical phase of the party, Hitler's head of propaganda, Goebbels, wrote in his diary:

“Late at night, the Führer develops his thoughts about the nobility in the imperial court. Also here, as always, original and imaginative. The nobility only makes sense if it is based not only on privileges but also on prior obligations . Demand, but not achieve, that does not apply. "

- Joseph Goebbels : Diaries, September 10, 1932

Stephan Malinowski pointed out, however, that many members of the noble families were members of the NSDAP even before the seizure of power . He emphasizes that there were significantly more party members than later resistance fighters (although this probably also applies to the rest of the population). Malinowski comes to the conclusion that “the nobility in the NSDAP was clearly disproportionately represented in 1933”.

The camarilla ( Otto Meissner , Oskar von Hindenburg , Elard von Oldenburg-Januschau , Franz von Papen , Kurt von Schleicher , Alfred Hugenberg and, to a certain extent, August von Mackensen ) around Paul von Hindenburg drove Hitler's appointment as Chancellor to support a nationally oriented government Ahead. Initially, Hindenburg and parts of the nobility hoped to bring National Socialism under control. Accordingly, only two National Socialist ministers were involved in the government. At the beginning of the " seizure of power " Adolf Hitler relied on the still numerous officers of the aristocracy in the Reichswehr (General Werner von Blomberg from 1933 to 1938 Reichswehr Minister or from 1935 Reich Minister of War and in 1936 the first General Field Marshal of the Wehrmacht ). However, there were tensions early on with the Wehrmacht, which was not completely harmonized, and their officers, who often came from aristocratic families.

Harmonization of the Wehrmacht and persecution of critical officers

In 1934, the former Chancellor and General Kurt von Schleicher and General Ferdinand von Bredow were killed as part of the Nazi "purges" after the Röhm putsch . The SA leaders Peter von Heydebreck and Hans Erwin von Spreti-Weilbach were killed, as well as Herbert von Bose from around Papen . With the murder of the former Bavarian Prime Minister Gustav Ritter von Kahr in the Dachau concentration camp , persecution of aristocrats from politics and the church began. The aged Field Marshal August von Mackensen and Schleicher's friend, Colonel General z. V. Kurt von Hammerstein-Equord , tried in vain to reach Hindenburg during the days of the murder. They hoped to enlighten the Reich President by means of a memorandum. Although the writing contributed to a critical attitude of the officer corps, whose members mostly wanted an investigation, it never reached Hindenburg. The fear of persecution, however, prompted many members of the upper class of society, from the nobility and bourgeoisie , who were neither convinced nor early opportunists, to behave appropriately towards the new rulers.

During the Blomberg-Fritsch crisis in 1938, Hitler succeeded in dismissing the Commander-in-Chief of the Army Werner von Fritsch and War Minister Werner von Blomberg , who had dared to object to his aggressive foreign policy , within the framework of partially constructed affairs . In 1938, the diplomat and attaché Papens Wilhelm Freiherr von Ketteler , who was already planning an assassination attempt on Adolf Hitler, was murdered.

As part of the so-called September Conspiracy, a resistance group was formed in the Foreign / Abwehr Office in 1938 , which was able to win commanders for coup plans in Berlin in the event of mobilization . a. Erwin von Witzleben (Commanding General and Commander of Military District III ), Walter Graf von Brockdorff-Ahlefeldt , Paul von Hase , Wolf Heinrich Graf von Helldorf ( Police President of Berlin ), Fritz-Dietlof Graf von der Schulenburg . The newly selected and supposedly loyal to the regime successor as Commander-in-Chief of the Army, Walther von Brauchitsch, also seems to have been actively involved in the conspiracy plans. Even when he refrained from doing so, he did not reveal these plans. After the Munich conference , the plans were initially stripped of the ground.

Resistance circles

Nobles played a leading role in the intellectual and political resistance , including in particular officers of the Wehrmacht (see above and below around July 20 ). But they also took the lead within ecclesiastical, ethnic and bourgeois resistance circles.

On the Catholic side, the Bishop of Münster, Clemens August Graf von Galen, gave his widespread sermons against Nazi ideology and later against euthanasia as early as 1934 . From 1941 he was supported in the Reich capital by the Berlin bishop Konrad Graf von Preysing . In 1944, as Catholic civil servants z. B. Ferdinand Freiherr von Lüninck and Nikolaus Christoph von Halem sentenced to death by the People's Court and hanged . The diplomat Ulrich von Hassell suffered the same fate , although he did not belong to the inner circle of the resistance.

The resistance of the Confessing Church included aristocrats like Friedrich von Bodelschwingh , Hannah von Bredow , Constantin von Dietze , Anni von Gottberg , Ewald von Kleist-Schmenzin , Ruth von Kleist-Retzow , Stephanie Mackensen von Astfeld , Friedrich von Rabenau , Hans von Soden , Elisabeth von Thadden and Reinhold von Thadden-Trieglaff .

In the Freiburg Circle , with ecumenical- ordoliberal ideas, alongside R. Eucken, the economist Constantin von Dietze played a special role (see also the predecessor organization ' Arbeitsgemeinschaft Erwin von Beckerath '). The direction rejected both centrally planned economies and laissez-faire - capitalism , and did preparatory work for the later developed in the Federal Republic of social market economy .

The so-called Jordan-Kreis (also Jordan-Halem-Gruppe) came into resistance to National Socialism because of a conservative attitude. See in particular Carl von Jordans , Nikolaus Christoph von Halem , Wilhelm Freiherr von Ketteler and Hans Graf von Lehndorff .

Albrecht Graf von Bernstorff and Herbert Mumm von Schwarzenstein played important roles in the Solf circle, which is supported by liberal and conservative elites and has connections to the Foreign Office .

At the beginning of the 1940s, the political resistance of the Kreisau Circle was formed on the initiative of the nobles Helmuth James Graf von Moltke , Peter Graf Yorck von Wartenburg , Carl-Dietrich von Trotha , Horst von Einsiedel , Adam von Trott zu Solz (also the later editor-in-chief of the » Time «, Marion Countess Dönhoff , was close to the circle).

Individuals from the nobility, who as a rule had broken with their social origins, were active in the resistance of the workers' movement, for example Waldemar von Knoeringen , who headed the border secretariat of the Sopade in Nýrsko and a resistance network of the group Neu Beginnen or Fritz Eberhard ( Birth name Helmut von Rauschenplat), who had to go into hiding in 1933 and coordinated the illegal work of the ISK from 1934–1937 .

Second World War and leading participation of nobles in several assassinations on Hitler

In the Second World War , the aristocratic officers lost more and more of their influence, as Hitler was increasingly suspicious of them as a social group. Towards the end of the Second World War, many noble staff officers and, in some cases, front-line officers took part in the covert and then open resistance against Adolf Hitler. From mid-1942 von Tresckow tried to organize attacks on Hitler. In 1943 Hennig von Tresckow and Fabian von Schlabrendorff attempted an explosives attack on Hitler's plane. The attempt failed because of a faulty ignition. Thereupon Tresckow convinced Rudolf-Christoph Freiherr von Gersdorff , who had access to Hitler, to an explosives suicide bombing in a museum. Due to changed plans by Hitler, this attempted assassination had to be stopped, and at the last moment Gersdorff managed to defuse the acid detonator unnoticed. Von dem Bussche , von Kleist-Schmenzin and von Breitenbuch made further unsuccessful attempts to kill Hitler .

These attempts culminated in the bomb attack carried out by Claus Schenk Graf von Stauffenberg on July 20, 1944 at the Fuehrer's headquarters in Wolfsschanze . Despite the detonation of the bomb, Hitler survived this attack with only minor injuries. Nevertheless, the conspirators tried to implement the overturning plans that had been drawn up (see also Company Walküre ). This made the assassination attempt on July 20, 1944, the greatest resistance event that emerged from the German population against the National Socialist government. Many people from the nobility were involved in these events at risk of death or lost their lives (for example: Albrecht Graf von Bernstorff , Hans-Jürgen Graf von Blumenthal , Hasso von Boehmer , Georg Freiherr von Boeselager , Philipp Freiherr von Boeselager , Hinrich Graf von Borstel , Hans von Dohnanyi , Horst von Einsiedel , Karl Ludwig Freiherr von und zu Guttenberg , Hans Bernd von Haeften , Werner von Haeften , Carl-Hans Graf von Hardenberg , Paul von Hase , Ulrich von Hassell , Caesar von Hofacker , Heinrich Graf von Lehndorff-Steinort , Wessel Freytag von Loringhoven , Ludwig von Leonrod , Helmuth James Graf von Moltke , Hans-Ulrich von Oertzen , Kurt von Plettenberg , Albrecht Mertz von Quirnheim , Alexis von Roenne , Fritz-Dietlof von der Schulenburg , Ulrich Wilhelm Graf Schwerin von Schwanenfeld , Carl- Heinrich von Stülpnagel , Henning von Tresckow , Carl-Dietrich von Trotha , Adam von Trott zu Solz , Berthold Schenk Graf von Stauffenberg , Nikolaus Graf von Üxküll-Gyllenb and , Count Peter Yorck von Wartenburg , Hans-Alexander von Voss , Job-Wilhelm Georg Erwin von Witzleben ).

Other nobles, e.g. B. General Dietrich von Choltitz , who was referred to as the “Savior of Paris” , could at least prevent senseless bloodshed and destruction during the war by not obeying orders from the Fiihrer. In the last days of the war, Wichard von Alvensleben, as a captain of the Wehrmacht in South Tyrol, liberated a transport of 139 prominent special prisoners near Lake Braies , whose SS guards had orders not to let these prisoners fall alive into enemy hands. These prisoners included a. the former Austrian Chancellor Kurt Schuschnigg , the multiple French Prime Minister Léon Blum , the theologian Martin Niemöller , Fritz Thyssen , Bogislaw von Bonin , Fabian von Schlabrendorff , Alexander von Falkenhausen , the cabaret artist, film actress and later sister Isa Vermehren as well as prisoners of the kin of July 20, 1944 like the von Stauffenberg family .

Nobility in the GDR

In the Soviet occupation zone , the Prussian “ Junker ” was the central ideological enemy. Beginning with the land reform in September 1945, the economic basis of the landed nobility and thus their social leadership role in rural areas was systematically destroyed. Under the slogan “Junkerland in peasant hands”, aristocrats were usually completely expropriated without compensation and banished from their home circles. Many fled to West Germany in the following years. Usually only a few members of the often extensive aristocratic families remained in the GDR . It was difficult for them to keep in touch with their western relatives; they could not join the aristocratic associations that had re-established there either. Nobles remaining in the GDR were generally under suspicion of political opposition and were therefore exposed to various harassments and disadvantages. Sometimes, especially in the context of "Junkerland in Peasant Hands", they were even taken to camps ( such as Rembert von Münchhausen or Joachim ) without involvement in National Socialism or even with a critical attitude towards National Socialism (such as in special camp No. 2 Buchenwald ) Ernst von Anhalt .

However, aristocratic titles were also retained as part of the name in the GDR. Some aristocrats also found prominent positions in the “workers and peasants state”: SED agitator Karl-Eduard von Schnitzler , sports functionary Manfred von Brauchitsch and researcher Manfred von Ardenne should be mentioned in particular . Some aristocrats loyal to the regime dropped their rankings, such as the diplomat Ferdinand Thun (Ferdinand Graf von Thun and Hohenstein) . It is reported that Walter Ulbricht personally forbade Schnitzler to give up his title of nobility because the SED chief attached propagandistic value to the journalist's aristocratic origins:

“You must have gone crazy! People should know where to come to us from everywhere! "

- Walter Ulbricht to Karl-Eduard von Schnitzler when he suggested that he give up his title of nobility

After reunification , some members of former East German aristocratic families were able to buy back or lease previous properties, although legal disputes with the German state often had to be resolved beforehand . The sociologist Ulf Matthiesen described the returning nobles in the often structurally weak regions as important economic and cultural sources of inspiration, although they still occasionally met with resentment from the GDR era.

Successor organizations of the German nobility

Number of persons of the German-speaking nobility

The members of the German nobility founded aristocratic associations organized under private law after the loss of their constitutional privileges as a result of the Weimar Constitution . Membership in the individual regional aristocratic associations and thus their umbrella organization, the Association of German Aristocratic Associations e. V. (VdDA), which is also a prerequisite for inclusion in the Genealogical Handbook of the German Aristocracy (GHdA  - formerly Gotha ) and, since 2015, its successor series Gothaisches Genealogical Handbook , can only be acquired by persons of the "historical aristocracy". H. they must be the direct descendant of a noble father in a legally valid marriage since 1918. Other bearers of a noble surname who received it through illegitimate birth or adoption, by taking over the noble name of the wife or by birth in a marriage whose noble surname comes from the wife are not considered noble: Although the current German naming law them authorized to use the name, they are not included in the “GHdA” or “Gotha” (see nobility law ) and are referred to as false nobility in the context of these regulations . Exceptions to this, such as unobjectionable adoptions according to historical nobility law, are regulated by the German Nobility Law Committee (see below). Membership in these associations is therefore granted on the basis of the conditions that were valid for membership of the nobility under the abolished class structure; To distinguish the “historical nobility” from other bearers of aristocratic surnames, the rules applicable at the time of the monarchy are applied (cf. for example Salische Succession , Nobility Trial ).

The reason for the introduction of these association rules was a flourishing trade in noble names in the 1970s, which made use of the possibility of adoption by noble namesake (the case of Consul Weyer is particularly well known ). The association's supervision of the conception and application of these rules in Germany is carried out by the German Nobility Law Committee. The intention of the committee is to preserve the social isolation of the “historical nobility” and to provide sources of information about the “legitimate” members of the historical noble families (in all successor states of the Old Kingdom ) as well as about their genealogical ancestry with the manuals it supervises . It is deliberately not intended to be able to exhaust all possibilities of today's liberal German adoption and naming law in order to become a member of these associations.

These rules are still valid in the European countries with monarchies ; in Germany today they are only valid as so-called special private law, thus predominantly internal to association law and at least no longer under public law to which courts or authorities are bound. They are in contrast to a number of legal naming options and adhering to them is a critical reaction to them. Criticism “within the aristocracy” is mainly inflamed by the fact that the application of the traditional rules of nobility law “discriminated” women from these circles if, for example, they marry a man who does not belong to the historical nobility. They could then neither join the aristocratic associations nor - if they continued to use their maiden names as married names - they would be recognized as "historical nobility titles". It is sometimes even expressed the view that this is contrary to fundamental constitutional principles such as the equality of men and women ( Article 3, paragraph 2 GG ) and the equality of marital and non-marital children (art. 6, para. 5 GG).

The self-understanding of the aristocratic associations and their members, based on the historical concept of nobility, as well as corresponding reporting, especially in the rainbow press, but also in serious media, have resulted in “the nobility” being perceived by large sections of the population as a continuing social grouping and the terms "Aristocracy" or "nobles" can still be used in today's language for members of these families. For example, on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the “abolition” of the nobility in 2018, the columnist Jens Jessen published an essayistic view of its survival and remaining aspects of its difference from the bourgeoisie .

Former titles of nobility are still used as a salutation out of tradition or courtesy , even those that have not become part of the name, especially the titles of first birth . Many members of formerly aristocratic families, especially the high nobility , continue to use these “primogenic” ranks , which no longer exist under the law, in public (such as “His Highness Prince” or “Prince” Alexander zu Schaumburg-Lippe or “His Highness Prince "Alfred-Ernst zu Löwenstein-Wertheim-Freudenberg ) or make them part of their name (" Alexander Prince of Schaumburg-Lippe "instead of the official form Alexander Prince of Schaumburg-Lippe ). These people are often referred to as such in the media (e.g. "Fürstin Gloria" instead of correctly Gloria Princess von Thurn und Taxis ). The NZZ justifies this with the fact that aristocrats are “indispensable” as a “projection surface”.

Furthermore, in families of former ruling houses, it is customary to refer to the family member who would have been entitled to succession to the throne according to the historical rules of succession as the "head of the house" (e.g. "head of the Wittelsbach house "). This family-internal designation also has no public law meaning.

Ranks and terms

With the German nobility a distinction was made between high nobility ( princes and imperial direct counts ) and the lower nobility (other counts, barons , knights and " nobles "). This division had originally developed from the medieval division into noble free (nobiles) and dependent service team ( ministerials ). Since, on the one hand, some noble freemen entered the ministry of imperial princes in the High Middle Ages and, on the other hand, the status of the non- free among the knights dissolved in the late Middle Ages, the ranks varied over the centuries. New nobility names were created or disappeared. Among the counts there are a few (few) houses of princely rank (only those that were directly imperial up to 1806); all the rest are titular counts , some of whom (unofficially) also referred to themselves as imperial counts because they had received their title from the emperor with validity throughout the empire, which, however, did not rank them higher than, say, Prussian or Bohemian titular counts. So most of the counts do not belong to the high nobility.

In the Genealogical Handbook of the Nobility , a distinction is made between “Princely Houses” (divided into three departments, including the formerly imperial princes and counts in “Department II”), “Count's Houses”, “Baronial Houses” and untitled or simple nobility. The upper nobility included the secular electors , dukes , territorial , palatinate and partly the margraves , princes , as well as the " illustrious ", originally imperial direct, after 1806 noblemanly counts. The clerical princes ( archbishops , prince-bishops and prince abbots ) were also of equal rank in the Old Kingdom . In terms of protocol, cardinals are still considered to be of equal rank with European princes.

The following ranks ( titles of nobility ) sometimes did not appear at the same time:

In Great Britain, Belgium and France there is a rank between the Freiherrn or Baron and the Count with Viscount or burggraaf / Vicomte . In Germany, in the Middle Ages, the vice count only appeared as a functional designation when a count was represented - especially in the count's court.

In addition to the ranking, there are other terms for differentiation:

Noble Free

Originally those landowners who differed from other free (farmers or large farmers) in that they had to pay three times the wergeld were originally referred to as " noble-free " ( noble free or noble rings ) . The Edelfreien were a country legal status and had their nobility not through a service - or Lehnsverhältnisses . So they were not subordinate to any other dynasties (apart from the king or emperor ) and with their allod (property) were not subject to any feudal lords. In the army shield they stood under the secular princes and formed a middle tier between them (the tribal dukes and the owners of real old county counties ) and the mere knightly free middle class . After the old Gau constitution collapsed in the 11th century, its territories were considered to be imperial-free , royal- free or imperial-direct . Their titles were mostly only lord , occasionally free lord ( liber baro , in the original sense of the title). In the Sachsenspiegel and in the Schwabenspiegel they are referred to as Semperfrei , whose place of jurisdiction was not the lay judge of the counts appointed by the king, but the spiritual sending court of the bishops. They were thus on an equal footing with the princely high nobility. In the late Middle Ages or in the early modern period , many of them achieved the status of count .

In the course of the 12th century, the high nobility developed from the secular princes and those noble nobles who managed to remain imperial for a longer period of time in the Holy Roman Empire , in contrast to the lower nobility, which essentially emerged from the originally unfree service nobility, the so-called Ministerials (servants and castle men who rose from the peasant class ). Most of the noble freemen, however, sooner or later also joined service teams for economic reasons or under pressure from more powerful masters, often with further (documentary) emphasis on their original status, while in some cases non-noble, but free large farmers ("Königszinser") and in individual cases even unfree servants who had made a career at the royal court rose to the Reich ministry (for example, Markward von Annweiler, who was “released” in 1195 and enfeoffed with duchies ). Reichsministeriale, which later belonged to the high nobility, were about the houses Reuss , Erbach or Waldburg . Smaller imperial lords since the late Middle Ages were the imperial knights , who were sometimes also originally noble-free, but sometimes were initially enfeoffed as ministerials, but whose liege lords then died out, so that their feudal rule fell to the king.

Since in Germany the “ right of the worse hand ” applied, only those who were born in wedlock and whose parents were both noble free could be noble free. In the Middle Ages , noble or highly free thus meant that someone from all four grandparents was of dynastic origin (barones et dynastii) . Unless he was enfeoffed as a count with the royal spell and was named comes , he was listed as a witness among the nobiles and otherwise also referred to in the documents as senior , vir nobilis (nobleman) or domicellus (junggraf, junker).

According to land law, noble families were of equal rank with each other, but also in relation to the imperial princes. So could z. B. a simple nobleman, Egeno von Konradsburg , in 1070 before the royal court in Goslar accuse the Duke of Bavaria, Otto von Northeim , of high treason and challenge him to a judicial duel, and because he refused the duel, his duchy was withdrawn from him.

The current term Uradel should not be confused with the older term nobelfrei , because most of the families belonging to the Uradel were unfree ministerials at the time they were first mentioned.

Uradel / old nobility

According to the Genealogical Handbook of the Nobility (GHdA) , the primeval nobility includes houses or families whose sex can be proven to have belonged to the knightly nobility by 1400 at the latest . In the Middle Ages, knighthood generally required at least three generations of a knightly way of life as well as marriages commensurate with class, so that the knightly families mentioned in documents only late (after 1350) can generally be regarded as belonging to this class since the second half of the 13th century. Only in the rarest of cases is it possible to trace the exact time that the knightly landed gentry grew into a document. As a rule, citizens of knights often appear in contemporary documents with the designation miles (knight), higher nobles with titles such as comes (count); The order in the lists of witnesses was also based on rank, from which comparative conclusions can be drawn (e.g. to differentiate between Edelfrei and Ministeriale ). However, the time requirement for the first documentary evidence was gradually pushed back by the editors from the 13th century to 1399, as it depends on chance whether documents have been preserved.

The aristocratic handbooks generally differentiate between noble, baronial, count and princely houses. The former additional distinction between row A for primeval nobility and row B for the younger nobility and letter nobility has been gradually abandoned for editorial reasons (1976 for the count's houses, 1986 for the baronial houses and 2008 for the aristocratic houses) Principle however retained. In the case of the princely houses ( high nobility ), a distinction is also made according to the duration of sovereignty in divisions I and II and the non-sovereign houses in division III. With a few exceptions (e.g. Fugger , Biron von Curland , Wrede ), the princely houses belong to the primeval nobility.

Since Emperor Charles IV. Amplifies the French model by diploma to the peerage Raised are in contrast to a letter Adel referred to (see below) . Up until around 1650, many families of primeval aristocracy wrote themselves without the aristocratic predicate of (or to ), namely those who did not name themselves after a family castle, but after their coat of arms symbol or some other property, often a combination of coat of arms and ancestral seat designation occurs (see below: noble names, origins of names) .

According to Austrian opinion, the name “Uradel” was an invention of the Prussian heraldry ; it was therefore only able to assert itself in Germany. For the Austrian nobility , this designation was rejected early on by the very highest authority, i.e. by the emperor. There they spoke of the "old nobility". In this way, the excessive number of ennoblings that have long been customary in Austria-Hungary through letters of nobility, including inflationary increases in class, have been absorbed, which, although they cannot do justice to the specifically interpreted term “primeval nobility”, can at least be assigned to a less defined term “old nobility”, thus include the post office up to the 16th or 17th century.

The oldest still flourishing families of the German nobility are likely to be the Welfs (the House of Hanover ) and the Reginare (the House of Hesse ), who, together with the Wettins, are probably the only ones who are documented (and not just legendary or presumed) are proven in the time before the first millennium. The other later great dynasties, Wittelsbacher , Habsburg , Hohenzollern , Ascanian , Oldenburg , Obotriten , Zähringer and others. a., all appear in written records after the year 1000. In Italy, where the Latin annals and documents tradition of antiquity continued unbroken, there are even more noble families with a comparable "range" (see: Italian nobility ) .

Post office

The postage nobility includes noble houses which, in contrast to the ancient nobility, were originally of bourgeois or rural origin and in modern times by means of a nobility letter (also called nobility diploma), usually with a coat of arms (if not already available, otherwise with the addition of a crown of rank ), were raised to the nobility. Nobility letters or recognitions were also given to foreign nobility, who were thereby admitted (incorporated) into the domestic one. The “status” of the “foreign” families, some of which belonged to the “old nobility” (primeval nobility), was mostly taken into account accordingly. The genders of the letter nobility were listed in Germany in the nobility handbooks (see above) of series B (letter nobility ), also differentiated according to untitled, baronial and count houses.

The award of nobility titles began in Germany in the time of Emperor Charles IV in the second half of the 14th century, following the French model, by raising civil servants (especially lawyers) to the nobility. Elevations into the nobility ( ennobling ) were - and are in the countries where the custom is still practiced - reserved for the head of state . However, there were princely families or individuals who received the right (large or small palatinate ) from the emperor to elevate others to the nobility in the name of the emperor. In Germany, in the Holy Roman Empire , that is until 1806, ennoblement was a privilege of the emperor; Electors and princes had to ask the Reichshof Chancellery for surveys of their favorites, while the Archdukes of Austria or the Prussian kings also conferred titles that were independent of the Reich.

The oldest known German nobility letter was issued by Emperor Karl IV for Wicker Frosch , scholaster at St. Stephen's Church in Mainz , on September 30, 1360. Until 16./17. In the 18th century, the acquisition of a manor suitable for the state parliament was in fact often the prerequisite for elevation to the nobility. Which lay a still landständisch embossed conception of nobility based. Since such ancient noble estates were often not available in sufficient numbers, could new be built by the nobility candidate agricultural land (a land register ) acquired and a celebrations house or mansion (a Castrum sided). However, since private individuals were no longer allowed to build new castles or fortifications at this time and the funds of the rising families were mostly insufficient for larger castle buildings , these houses were more modest in size; Since many new nobles wanted to convincingly convey their newly won status to the outside world, the mansions and residences oriented themselves in the 16th and 17th. Century - similar to the contemporary new buildings on old estates - in their formal language on the medieval predecessor buildings of the aristocracy, for example through moats, towers, ornamental battlements , decorative oriels , imitated machicolations , circular walls, corner cuboids or ashlar paintings . The formal upgrading to a nobility seat, in particular through tax exemption , then required a sovereign legal act and the knighthood had to enroll in the new seat. Just like the manors in northern Germany, newly created court brands in Bavaria and Austria and the residences in Tyrol had to be approved by the sovereign and the owners had to be included in the register of nobility or knights . However, unlike the old manors , the newly admitted no longer had any direct nationality, as although they received a tax exemption from the rural community charges, they no longer received jurisdiction (i.e. no exemption from access by the local court); Also they had no serfs , Erbuntertänigen or tenants ( of hearing and ALQUERIA ) as the old noble estates.

Until 1806 - in Austria until 1918 - the custom prevailed, the name of the newly ennobled by the name of his newly acquired aristocratic residence or a new building named after him (e.g. Sigmund Gerstl zu Gerstburg ) or - if he did not have one - through to add a (pseudo) place name (e.g. " Hofmann von Hofmannsthal "), as it is still used in Great Britain for non-hereditary elevations to the Lord . The (mostly not large landowners) civil servants, officers, professors or commercial councilors of the 19th century were referred to as the Second Society , especially in Austria , because they belonged to the nobility under nobility law, but sociologically more to the upper bourgeoisie. Among the ennobled business people there were not infrequently Jews like the Rothschild , Auspitz , Ephrussi , Eskeles , Gutmann , Hirsch or baptized Jews like the Mendelssohn , Oppenheim or Erlanger .

In more recent nobility handbooks, the “von” was always abbreviated with “v.” (Not yet in the “Gothas”) in order to assign names to non-aristocratic families with “von” (such as “von der Forst”, “von Recklinghausen”) from aristocratic names distinguish. This followed the use in the rankings of the royal Prussian army . It can be traced back to different language usage in Lower and Upper German. In Low German and Dutch, a “van” did not necessarily refer to the aristocratic class, but often only to the local origin. When the family names were “Verified German”, the impression of aristocratic origin could arise, which rarely occurred in southern Germany.

In the post-medieval modern era, only very few families rose from the middle class to the high nobility , even to the throne of emperors and kings, such as the Bonaparte and their followers (including the Bernadotte ) or in the Balkans the houses of Karađorđević , Njegoš or Zogu . Otherwise the (ruling or previously ruling) houses of the “First Division” of the high nobility of Europe all belong to the primeval nobility and were mostly among the leading dynasty families as early as the High Middle Ages. In the "Second Department" (the mediatized German princes) there are the Fuggers as the only post-aristocratic family (comparable were the Eggenbergs , which had also risen from the bourgeoisie, until their extinction at the beginning of the 18th century). In the “Third Division” (with the titular princes) there are a little more examples, besides the already mentioned Biron von Curland or Wrede, for example, the Austrian couple , the Italian Torlonia or the Russian Demidow .

Sword nobility

As a privileged status introduced by Maria Theresa in the countries ruled by the Habsburgs , every officer of bourgeois origin between 1757 and 1918 could, under certain conditions, acquire a legal right to be raised to the hereditary nobility . The most important prerequisite for this was thirty years of perfect military service, later participation in a campaign was also required. From 1896 officers without combat experience could be elevated to this systematic nobility even after 40 years of service .

In the German Empire (1871 to 1918) officers were only ennobled once they had reached a division command ( lieutenant general ) - but then almost automatically.

Order nobility

The award of certain medals (especially the house medals and the highest orders of valor) was often associated with an ennoblement. The nobility acquired in this way could be hereditary or personal . In Austria, until 1884, every knight of the Order of the Iron Crown was entitled to hereditary knighthood, while the Military Maria Theresa Order automatically brought the bearer the personal nobility as "Knight of" until 1918 , but hereditary upon request A baron . Similar customs existed in the case of the Grand Cross holders of the Saxon-Ernestine House Order , the Black Eagle Order and some other orders of the German states.

In the Kingdom of Bavaria awarding the attached Military Max Joseph Order and the Civil Merit of the Bavarian Crown the personal nobility with the title "Knight of" a (z. B. Ritter von Epp). Similar regulations existed in Württemberg for the Frederick Order (until 1856) and the Order of the Württemberg Crown as well as for the papal order of the Golden Spur (e.g. Knight von Gluck ).

Official nobility

For some offices, their acquisition was automatically linked to the acquisition of nobility or a certain nobility title. Such official nobility arose either through an express award (e.g. to the Archbishop of Prague , who thereby became Prince Archbishop ) or by virtue of observance (e.g. Prince-Bishop of Chiemsee ). Such official nobility was more common for church princes in Habsburg lands, with both Roman-German and Austrian and Bohemian awards. The Imperial Court Councilors are also likely to have acquired the nobility in the 18th century. The Prussian General Land Law assumed that there were offices that the nobility was associated with. In Württemberg, the personal nobility for residents was linked to the state offices of the top four ranks (repealed in 1913). The official nobility was at the same time a personal nobility.

Noble names with or without a predicate, origins of names

The family name of noble families is often a designation of origin, derived from the family seat (mentioned in Latin documents of the Middle Ages as de or ab ). In the early and high Middle Ages, names were changed very often when there was a change of location or ownership ("Names are smoke and mirrors " , sighed the genealogists in the 19th century) - so the Counts of Arnstein became the Counts of Barby , when they were Take control of Barby Castle; As a result, brothers who owned different castles often had different names. Younger lines changed the name in this way, so that there are numerous examples of primeval nobility families of common tribe and coat of arms, but different names, that exist to this day.

It was not until the late Middle Ages that the gender names retained by all relatives developed, since now the enfeoffment of goods was usually no longer made ad personam , but "to the entire hand" of a gender, so that confiscation by the feudal lord could only take place after the entire clan had died out. The gender names thus created not only served to keep the family together, but also to preserve property. To distinguish between different families of the same name or several lines of a family, the name of a property was sometimes added to the original name ( "from" Stein to "Altenstein" , Stein to Liebenstein , Stein to Lausnitz , Stein to Nassau etc.) . It was only in the course of the early modern period , parallel to the emergence of modern family names, that the “von” became independent of ownership, while the “too” remained a title of nobility dependent on ownership for a long time .

However, there were also often noble families from the Middle Ages who did not have a nobility predicate “von” in their names, precisely because their name was not derived from a manor and thus from a place name, but from their coat of arms or - less often - a court office or a personal one Property. As a rule, they came from the ministry . Sometimes they later linked their family name with the name of a property (e.g. Fuchs von Bimbach , Gans zu Putlitz , Riedesel zu Eisenbach , Rabe von Pappenheim ), or they named themselves and the castle they built after their duty as a servant Door bolt from Riegelstein . If that did not happen, they simply used their first and last name without any additional predicate e.g. B. Levin Ludwig Hahn , Philipp Rode . The addition miles or equus (knight) was often used in Latin documents . In German documents, in addition to the knight's title, the designation " Armiger " was also used for those people who had not acquired a knight's title. In other texts the terms "knightly", "born to shield", "honorable team" or "knights and servants" were used to denote the socially different groups of people of knighthood. In the early modern period, many of these families on the lower social fringes of the nobility lost their late medieval nobility status.

Often the names of ritterbürtigen family developed from a nickname that the coat of arms or crest already mentioned Fuchs met (eg. B., Goose, Raven or Behr , Hahn , Hundt , nail , ox , Pflugk , Rüdt , Schweinichen , Wolff ) or from a court office that the family exercised hereditary, such as that of marshal , treasurer , cupbearer or drosten , which numerous families of the lower nobility exercised at the courts of princes, counts and bishops and thus became a family name ( see for example: List of families with the title of the gift as part of the family name ). Examples are the Schenck zu Schweinsberg , Schenk von Stauffenberg , Marschall von Altengottern , Marschall von Bieberstein , Marschalk von Ostheim , the Truchseß von Wetzhausen , the Droste zu Vischering or Droste zu Hülshoff , the forester von Gelnhausen or the Vogt von Elspe . More rarely, the original noble family names are also derived from a personal characteristic of an ancestor, such as Groß - in Low German: Grote -, Quadt ("der Quade" = the bad), Landschad , Thumb , Ungeloube , Unruh , Wackerbarth (= "the brave beard / Battle ax ") or anger .

While the individual family member z. B. Wolderich Lappe was called, the noble clan was then referred to in the plural as the Lappen , the Groten, the foxes, the geese, the ravens, the shillings , etc.; even female forms were created for women (“Füchsin von Bimbach”, “ Trottin zu Solz ” etc.); In two families, the ancient "gender" of the surname is still in use today: The Eltz and Ingelheim ladies are called: Countess and Noble Woman (or Noble Daughter) from and to Eltz, called Faust in von Stromberg and Countess von Ingelheim called Echter in von und zu Mespelbrunn .

In the Bavarian and Austrian regions it was customary in the 14th, 15th and 16th centuries to use the name of origin adjectivistically, even by noble families who had named themselves after a castle , instead of giving it the predicate of , i.e. Heinrich Königsfelder (instead of Heinrich von Königsfeld ) or Ulrich the Pervaller (instead of Ulrich von Perfall ).

Family names such as Brunonen , Ottonen , Welfen , Billunger or Knutonen , on the other hand, have mostly only been introduced in modern times by historical researchers in order to record early medieval clans that did not yet have a surname by their lead names .

From around 1650, however, the “unmarked” primitive aristocratic families also began to use the predicate of , in order to make their nobility, which had previously been clearly recognizable through clothing, lifestyle, etc., against the wealthy and growing bourgeoisie and the emerging nobility to clarify. Correspondence gentlemen, on the other hand, were explicitly given their name in the nobility diploma, either a simple “von” in front of their ancestral family name or the combination with an acquired property or - especially in the 19th century - with a fancy place name ( Mayer von Mayerfels , Schmid von Schmidsfelden , Schneider von Dillenburg , Schuster von Bonnott etc.), in rare cases also with their coat of arms symbol (e.g. Schmid von der Kugel ).

Predicate “from” without belonging to the nobility

On the other hand, a “von” or “von der” in a family name does not necessarily have to indicate a noble origin. Especially in northern Germany and the Netherlands, but also in the German-Swiss area, it can be a mere designation of origin, particularly in towns and cities that have been brought in from the countryside (in northern Germany sometimes referred to as "Hamburger Gemüseadel").

Children from unequal marriages of the lower nobility - with the permission of the sovereign - mostly belonged to the nobility, but illegitimate children only very rarely, and indeed if they were expressly ennobled by nobility letters. Occasionally, however, they carried the father's name with the von predicate without being accepted into the nobility.

It also happened now and then that noble families could not keep their property, which was necessary for membership in the respective state knighthood, and were forced to move to a city and take up a civil profession there (e.g. craftsmen or Kaufmann) to pursue, which resulted in the loss of status. Others only managed remaining farms and sank into the peasant class. Due to the privileges of the nobility, however, in cases of impoverishment, which were by no means rare, there was mostly the possibility of obtaining offices in the military, administration or court and acquiring property again at the earliest opportunity by marriage. In any case, a loss of status occurred far less often than is often claimed today by supposed aristocratic descendants.

Personal nobility

Personal nobility was lifelong, tied to the beneficiary and therefore not hereditary. The nobility of merit as a staff nobility in Bavaria has been demonstrable since the 16th century. In Britain today the norm, he entered Germany in two ways: (1) He often occurred as religious nobility, with certain religious ceremonies was automatically connected; there were these in Bavaria , Hanover , Prussia , Würzburg and Württemberg . (2) Another case of personal nobility was the official nobility. The personal nobility was conferred on the wife in Bavaria, but not in Württemberg. In the Kingdom of Bavaria there was also from 1812 to 1818 the so-called transmission nobility as a step between the personal and the hereditary nobility .

Money nobility

The money nobility is colloquially the group of people who, because of their wealth, have advanced into spheres of social life that correspond materially to those of the earlier high nobility. The term was already used in the 19th century for large industrialists whose financial means enabled them to live a life similar to that of a baroque prince. Some of these people were ennobled and thus count not only to the "money nobility", but also to the historical nobility, e.g. E.g. the families von Boch , Krupp, von Bohlen and Halbach , von Metzler , von Mumm , von Opel , von Rothschild , von Siemens , von Stumm , Thyssen-Bornemisza de Kászon etc.

Imperial nobility

The term imperial nobility encompasses several nobility groups of different class quality. What they all had in common was that they were directly subordinate to the German King or Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire.

The secular imperial princes were awarded flags by the king, which symbolized their respective imperial fiefs. At times the flag was so important that its loss could lead to the loss of the fief. Spiritual imperial princes received a scepter. The top of the imperial princes were the seven electors in the late Middle Ages . The Reichserzämter were connected with the electorate . The Archbishops of Mainz , Cologne and Trier were the Arch Chancellors for Germany, Italy and Burgundy. The King of Bohemia was cupbearer , the Duke of Saxony marshal , the Margrave of Brandenburg treasurer and the Count Palatine of the Rhine was truchess of the empire.

Since there were counties that went to fiefdom either from the empire, an archbishopric or bishopric, a duchy or a palatinate, margraviate or landgraviate, the imperial counts were the most noble group within the counts and were essentially equal to the imperial princes. According to Schedel's world chronicle of 1493, there were supposed to have been four families of imperial counts, although considerably more counties were directly imperial.

While the enfeoffment with important imperial castles led to imperial immediate burgrave families, smaller noble freemen were enfeoffed with royal castle warden and similar fiefs. In addition, the king had his own ministerials , whose influence and wealth could, in part, far surpass noble families. Spiritual members of the imperial ministry were often appointed by the king as bishops and archbishops in order to weaken or break the power of local noble families. The Imperial Knighthood arose from these two groups .

Rank crowns

The helmet Crown as crest at Adelswappen (French. Couronne de noblesse , closely. Crown, coronet ) symbolizes since the coat of arms of the 15th century the rank of nobility and patrician families .

See also


  • Kurt Andermann and Peter Johanek (eds.): Between non-nobility and nobility. Stuttgart 2001.
  • Johanna Maria van Winter: Chivalry. Ideal and reality. Munich 1965.
  • Werner Paravicini: The knightly courtly culture of the Middle Ages. Munich 1999.
  • Eckart Conze : Of German nobility. The Counts of Bernstorff in the twentieth century. DVA, Stuttgart 2000, ISBN 3-421-05344-8 .
  • Eckart Conze, Monika Wienfort (Ed.): Nobility and Modernity - Germany in European Comparison in the 19th and 20th Century. Cologne 2004, ISBN 3-412-18603-1 .
  • Eckart Conze, Alexander Jendorff, Heide Wunder : Nobility in Hesse. Rule, self-image and lifestyle from the 15th to the 20th century. Marburg 2010, ISBN 978-3-942225-00-7 . (Historical Commission for Hesse, Volume 70)
  • Elisabeth Fehrenbach , Elisabeth Müller-Luckner: Nobility and bourgeoisie in Germany 1770-1848. Oldenbourg Wissenschaftsverlag, 1994, ISBN 3-486-56027-1 ( ).
  • Genealogical entries . In: Marcelli Janecki , Deutsche Adelsgenossenschaft (Hrsg.): Yearbook of the German nobility . 3 volumes (1896–1899). WT Bruer's Verlag, Berlin (reprinted 1996–1997 by Schmidt Verlag).
  • Gothaisches Genealogisches Taschenbuch . (divided into Count, Baron and Noble Houses), Justus Perthes Publishing House, Gotha 1763–1942.
  • Genealogical manual of the nobility - Adelslexikon . Limburg / Lahn 1972–2008.
  • Marcus D. Ernst: The Bavarian nobility and modern Bavaria. The legislation and debate about the personal privileges of the nobility enrolled in Bavaria (1808-1818). Dissertation, University of Passau 2002 (full text)
  • William D. Godsey Jr.: Noble Survival and Transformation at the Beginning of the Late Modern Era. The Counts Coudenhove from Rhenish Cathedral Canons to Austrian Priests, 1750-1850. In: German History . 19/2001, ISSN  0266-3554 , pp. 499-524.
  • Philipp Heck: The Sachsenspiegel and the free classes. Hall 1905.
  • Mark Hengerer, Elmar Kuhn (ed.): Adel im Wandel. Upper Swabia from the early modern era to the present. Thorbecke Verlag, Ostfildern 2006, ISBN 3-7995-0216-5 .
  • Dieter Hertz-Eichenrode: New Wilhelmine nobility? On the practice of conferring nobility in Prussia before 1914. In: Historische Zeitschrift. 282/2006, ISSN  0018-2613 , pp. 645-679.
  • Iris Freifrau v. Hoyningen-Huene: Nobility in the Weimar Republic. The legal and social situation of the Imperial German nobility 1918–1933. CAStarke Verlag, Limburg 1992, ISBN 3-7980-0690-3 .
  • Wolfgang Jahn, Margot Hamm, Evamaria Brockhoff (eds.): Nobility in Bavaria, knights, counts, industrial barons. Licensed edition for the Scientific Book Society, Augsburg 2008.
  • Larry E. Jones: Catholic Conservatives in the Weimar Republic. The Politics of the Rhenish-Westphalian Aristocracy, 1918-1933. In: German History. 18/2000, ISSN  0266-3554 , pp. 61-85.
  • Katrin Keller , Josef Matzerath (ed.): History of the Saxon nobility. Böhlau, Cologne / Weimar / Vienna 1997, ISBN 3-412-16396-1 .
  • Ernst Heinrich Kneschke : New general German nobility lexicon . Leipzig 1859 ff.
  • Detlev Freiherr von Linsingen: The Kgl. Westphalian baronates and the emergence and development of the nobility. A contribution to current issues of the historical German nobility, Augsburg 2012.
  • Stephan Malinowski : From King to Leader. Social decline and political radicalization in the German nobility between the German Empire and the Nazi state. Akademie Verlag, Berlin 2003, ISBN 3-05-004070-X .
  • Josef Matzerath: Trial of nobility in the modern age. Saxon nobility 1763 to 1866. Declaration of a traditional social formation. Steiner, Stuttgart 2006, ISBN 3-515-08596-3 .
  • Johannes Rogalla von Bieberstein: Aristocratic rule and aristocratic culture in Germany. CA Starke, Limburg ad L. 1998, ISBN 3-7980-0686-5 .
  • Hansmartin SchwarzmaierNobility - I. Middle Ages . In: Theologische Realenzyklopädie (TRE). Volume 1, de Gruyter, Berlin / New York 1977, ISBN 3-11-006944-X , pp. 437-446.
  • Stephan SkalweitNobility - II. Reformation period . In: Theologische Realenzyklopädie (TRE). Volume 1, de Gruyter, Berlin / New York 1977, ISBN 3-11-006944-X , pp. 446-452.
  • Martin Schmidt:  Aristocracy - III. Nobility and Church from 17th to 20th centuries . In: Theologische Realenzyklopädie (TRE). Volume 1, de Gruyter, Berlin / New York 1977, ISBN 3-11-006944-X , pp. 452-454.
  • Karina Urbach: Go-Betweens for Hitler . Oxford University Press, Oxford 2015.
    • German: Hitler's secret helpers. The nobility in the service of the swastika . Theiss, Darmstadt 2016, ISBN 978-3-8062-3383-4 .
  • Wolfgang Wüst: Aristocratic self-image in transition? On the importance of patrimonial jurisdiction 1806–1848. In: Walter Demel, Ferdinand Kramer (Hrsg.): Nobility and aristocratic culture in Bavaria. Munich 2008, ISBN 978-3-406-10673-6 , pp. 349-376. (ZBLG, Supplement 32)
  • Genealogical paperback of the primeval nobility. Brno 1891-1893 ( digitized version )

Web links


  1. The assignment "German" is initially only to be seen retrospectively geographically, over time also culturally and linguistically, and finally politically and under constitutional law.
  2. The year of origin is not without controversy, for the dating see Germania (Tacitus) .
  3. “In a European comparison, the German nobility appears to be particularly diverse and segmented. Writing national aristocratic history is therefore - at least for now - neither possible nor appropriate. Instead, studies of different aristocratic groups (noblemen, military aristocracy, aristocratic associations, etc.) primarily come into consideration for both the 19th and 20th centuries. "(Eckart Conze, Monika Wienfort: Introduction - Topics and perspectives of historical research on nobility from the 19th and 20th centuries) Century. In: Eckart Conze, Monika Wienfort: Nobility and Modernism - Germany in European Comparison in the 19th and 20th Centuries. Böhlau, Cologne 2004, p. 1.)
  4. As noble or noble in many European societies nichtständischen the members of the family are called, which formed the nobility stands times qua law.
    Examples :
    • I. The “definition of nobility” is shifting “from legal to socio-cultural characteristics”. ( Monika Wienfort : The nobility in modern times. Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, Göttingen 2006, p. 9.)
    • II. “In the present, aristocrats [in Germany] no longer have any legal or political privileges. Nevertheless, a disproportionately large number of aristocrats belong to the political or economic, regional or local elites. ”(Ibid., P. 10.)
    • III. "According to conservative estimates, the nobility makes up no more than 0.1% of the German population today." (Ibid., P. 159)
    • IV. “But this was not the end of the history of the German nobility. Rather, as Wienfort judges looking ahead to Weber, “the nobility will continue to exist in the 21st century as long as it finds faith in its nobility quality - in its own ranks and in the mass media”. In this respect, the nobility also remains an issue for contemporary history. A history of the nobility in the Federal Republic of Germany opens up opportunities for knowledge in at least two ways: on the one hand as an essential part of a Federal Republican elite history, on the other hand as a downright Weberian experimental arrangement. ”( M. Wienfort: Adel in der Moderne. Göttingen 2006. Reviewed by Martin Kohlrausch, DHI Warsaw. In: H-Soz-u-Kult, May 31, 2007. Page accessed on May 26, 2011.)
    • V. “The business policy of the young Federal Republic also facilitated the integration of the nobility into the socio-political order. In line with a respectable formation of tradition, at a time when the conspirators of July 20, 1944 were still often stigmatized as "traitors", the conspicuously large proportion of nobles in this opposition was recognized, but the nobility as a whole was also recognized as a resilient formation . This attitude also reconciled the nobility with the new socio-political conditions. ”( Hans-Ulrich Wehler : Deutsche Gesellschaftgeschichte. Fifth Volume - Federal Republic and GDR 1949–1990. C. H. Beck, Munich 2008, p. 166 f.)
    • VI. "Politically, the nobility generally opted for the CDU / CSU, at best the free democrats won over some aristocratic outsiders." (Ibid., P. 168.)
    • VII. “It is well known that a third of the opponents of National Socialism executed in this connection were aristocrats. [...] The mental arrival of the aristocracy in the Federal Republic is thus also owed to a class-related history policy, which linked a canon of virtues defined as aristocratic with the willingness to actively oppose National Socialism. ”( Eckart Conze / Monika Wienfort: Introduction - Themes and Perspectives on historical research on nobility in the 19th and 20th centuries. In: Eckart Conze / Monika Wienfort: Adel and Modernism - Germany in European Comparison in the 19th and 20th Centuries. Böhlau, Cologne 2004, p. 4.)
    • VIII. “And doesn't a look at the nobility after 1945 also provide insights into the social structure of the Federal Republic? [...] And if one is interested in these processes and mechanisms, one cannot consider the year 1945 as the end point of aristocratic history either. "(Ibid., P. 12)
    • IX. “Considerations like the Schulenburgs or Einsiedels, but on closer inspection also those of Moltke, point to the continued effect of a specifically aristocratic self-image, but also to the connection, if not the identity of the ethos of the class and the ideal of the elite, of service ideology and claim to power. From this perspective, the thoughts and actions of resistance of the assassin himself, from Claus Schenk Graf von Stauffenberg, gain a dimension relevant to the history of the nobility. ”(Eckart Conze: Adel und Adeligkeit im Resistance of July 20, 1944. In: Heinz Reif (ed.) : Nobility and bourgeoisie in Germany II. Akademieverlag, Berlin 2001, p. 282 f.)
    • X. Michael Seelig, MA, project description: The East Elbe nobility in the Federal Republic of Germany 1945 / 49-1974. Dissertation project at the Philipps University of Marburg . Page accessed on May 26, 2011.
    • XI. Eckart Conze: The nobleman as a citizen? Class consciousness and change in values ​​in the nobility of the early Federal Republic. In: Manfred Hettling, Bernd Ulrich (eds.): Bürgerertum nach 1945. Hamburg 2005, pp. 347–371.
    • Monika Wienfort speaks of a "specifically aristocratic canon of values ​​[s] in the context of terms such as honor, duty and sacrifice, which was developed as a counter model to" bourgeois "ideas of individual willingness to perform." (Monika Wienfort: Der Adel in der Moderne. Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, Göttingen 2006, p. 11.)
    • Based on Lord Ralf Dahrendorf, Hans-Ulrich Wehler speaks of the nobility as a “prestige upper class” and a “closed society”, “which has its own rituals, its specific code of honor, corporate principles of lifestyle, its descent prestige and exclusive social intercourse stood out from their bourgeois environment. "(Hans-Ulrich Wehler: Deutsche Gesellschaftgeschichte. Fifth Volume - Federal Republic and GDR 1949–1990. C. H. Beck, Munich 2008, p. 167.)

Individual evidence

  1. Hermann Ament : Germanen: On the way to higher civilization. In:
  2. See in particular the section “Problems of research into social structures in prehistoric times” in: Stefanie Dick: The myth of “Germanic” royalty . Berlin / New York 2008, pp. 114–124
  3. ^ Publius Cornelius Tacitus: Germania - translation by Manfred Fuhrmann. Reclam, Stuttgart 1971 and more often, ISBN 3-15-000726-7 .
  4. Dick S. 2. Basically: Ernst Wolfgang Böckenförde: The German constitutional research in the 19th century . Berlin 1961; Klaus von See: German Teutonic ideology from humanism to the present . Frankfurt am Main 1970; Ders .: Barbarians, Germans, Aryans . Heidelberg 1994
  5. ^ Walter Demel : The specifics of the European nobility - first considerations on a global historical topic. In: Zeitblicke ( Archived copy ( Memento from November 20, 2011 in the Internet Archive ))
  6. ^ Constitution of the German Reich, Article 109, in: Constitution of the German Reich (1919) #Article 109
  7. ^ Ijoma Mangold: In a class of its own . In: Die Zeit 41, October 7, 2010, pp. 17-19
  8. See the analysis of both writings by Dick, pp. 43–67
  9. Heike Gran-Hoek: The Franconian upper class in the 6th century. Studies on their legal and political position . Sigmaringen 1976.
  10. ^ Fleckenstein, Josef: Foundations and beginning of German history. (German history 1). Göttingen 1988, p. 40.
  11. Eberhard Otto: Completion of the knighthood. In: Arno Borst (ed.): The knighthood in the Middle Ages. Darmstadt 1976.
  12. Digital Archives Marburg: Excerpt from Ulrich von Hutten's (1488–1523) letter to the Nuremberg patrician Willibald Pirckheimer (1470–1530) about life in a castle, October 25, 1518 ( ).
  13. a b General Land Law for the Prussian States (June 1, 1794). Zweyter Part ( ).
  14. Criminal Code for the Kingdom of Bavaria ( )
  15. Roth, above: Adelsentetzung - inventory and attempt at interpretation , Blätter für Heimatkunde (Steiermark) vol. 46: 39-48 (1972)
  16. Article 109 WRV
  17. ^ Sebastian-Johannes von Spoenla-Metternich: Acquiring a name, using a name and changing a name, taking into account parts of the name. Peter Lang, European Science Publishing House, Frankfurt am Main 1998, ISBN 3-631-31779-4 , pp. 119 ff.
  18. Prussian Law Collection , year 1920, No. 32 of July 22, 1920, pp. 367–382. Online at the Internet portal Westphalian history at .
  19. Bernhard Seeger: The marriage and civil partnership name in notarial practice ( Memento from March 20, 2012 in the Internet Archive ), in communications of the Bavarian Notarial Association , ISSN  0941-4193 , July / August 2002, Munich 2002, p. 230. (PDF ).
  20. Stephan Malinowski , Vom König zum Führer , 2003 ( review Vom König zum Führer : “Even denominational reasons alone were not decisive for the greater distance of the southern German, especially the Bavarian nobility from National Socialism, as the contrast with the Westphalian counterpart shows probably the meeting of Catholicism, particularist tendencies and a more stable monarchism through a more hopeful heir to the throne play a role. ")
  21. Lilienthal 2003, p. 47.
  22. Dagmar Wittmers (script & direction). Film Kaiser AD - Wilhelm II in Exile , The First. October 22, 2018 (44 minutes).
  23. Ralf Georg Reuth (Ed.): Joseph Goebbels Tagebücher, Piper Munich, 2nd edition. 2000, Vol. 2, ISBN 3-492-25284-2 , p. 698.
  24. Stephan Malinowski: From the king to the leader. Social decline and political radicalization in the German nobility between the German Empire and the Nazi state. Akademie Verlag, Berlin 2003, ISBN 3-05-004070-X , p. 575.
  25. Detlef Schwerin: Then it's the best minds you think, 1991, p. 145.
  26. For the assassination attempt and the prehistory, see for example the representation and a few contemporary witnesses ( Philipp Freiherr von Boeselager , Ewald-Heinrich von Kleist etc.) in the ZDF semi-documentary from 2004 on the 50th anniversary of July 20, 1944 The Officers' Hour .
  27. "The best names of the East Elbe nobility were united again here (note: in the resistance)." Walter Görlitz: Die Junker , 1957, p. 407.
  28. ^ University of Rostock: Nobility in the Soviet Zone / GDR 1945–1990
  29. This topic was processed in the ZDF television film Tannbach - Schicksal eines Dorfes , which received several awards .
  30. In the (Saxon) original: You are probably verrigd geworrn! Suffering should know where one came to us everywhere! Nobility in the GDR: gentlemen's striders on a Soviet red carpet Der Spiegel , October 15, 2007
  31. ^ Feudal social workers Die Zeit , February 14, 2013
  32. ^ "Men inherit titles, women depressions" Abendzeitung online from December 29, 2008 about the BR documentary "Standes according" by Julia von Heinz, first broadcast December 30, 2008
  33. Jens Jessen : What remained of the nobility. A bourgeois consideration , on Klampen Essay 2018, ISBN 978-3-86674-580-3
  34. Short biography on the website of Schloss Bückeburg  ( page no longer available , search in web archivesInfo: The link was automatically marked as defective. Please check the link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. ; accessed: August 6, 2009.@1@ 2Template: Toter Link /  
  35. On the appearance of the German nobility. NZZ from March 6, 2011, accessed on March 7, 2011.
  36. Edict on the nobility in the Kingdom of Bavaria on, accessed on December 11, 2015
  37. a b Rudolf Granichstätten-Czerva: Old Austrian nobility and coat of arms law. In: Magazine Adler Vol. 1, Issue 4, pp. 49–58, Vienna 1947 Collegium res nobilis Austriae
  38. See the Wergeldtarife in Sachsenspiegel , Book 3: Article 45 and Article 51 (text archive of the German legal dictionary)
  39. ^ Uradel on the homepage of the German Nobility Law Committee.
  40. Whether it is a question of primeval or letter nobility can be seen from the historical outline in the opening credits of the individual family articles. These introductions are summarized in the Adelslexikon (the series Genealogisches Handbuch des Adels).
  41. ^ Siems, Ursula; Kluxen, Kurt: Politics, Society, Economy from 800 to 1776. In: Tenbrock, Kluxen, Grütter (Ed.): From times and people . Vol. 2 Paderborn 1979, pp. 39-41.
  42. cf. z. B. Hahn , Behr , Pflugk
  43. cf. z. B. Bose , Grote , Quadt , Flemming
  44. For example Fuchs von Bimbach , Hundt zu Lautterbach , Rüdt von Collenberg
  45. See e.g. B. Aleramiden , Caetani , Caracciolo , Colonna , Frangipani , Gherardesca , Malaspina , Marescotti , Massimo , Orsini , Sanseverino , Ventimiglia
  46. Examples of primitive noble families of common tribe and coat of arms, but with different names are for example: Eichstedt / Rundstedt / Lindstedt ; Itzenplitz / Brunn ; Kameke / Bonin ; Bennigsen / Jeinsen ; Kleist / Woedtke ; Schaffgotsch / Dallwitz ; Göler from Ravensburg / Helmstatt / Mentzingen ; Gemmingen / Massenbach ; Pölnitz / Metzsch .
  47. ^ Kurt Andermann and Peter Johanek (eds.): Between non-nobility and nobility. Stuttgart 2001.
  48. Craftsmen could not get the accolade in Germany - unlike in Italy, which Otto von Freising was astonished at in his Gesta Friderici . Cf. Arno Borst (Ed.): The knighthood in the Middle Ages. 1998; there: Joachim Bumke , The Noble Knight. P. 279, as well as Gina Fasoli p. 199.
  49. Robert von Mohl , The State Law of the Kingdom of Württemberg. 1829, p. 431 ( ).
  50. Article on the Imperial Knighthood in the General State Archives Baden-Württemberg ; accessed: August 6, 2009.