Leader principle

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Weekly saying of the NSDAP , February 16, 1941

The Führer principle , which is also reflected in the expression Führergrundsatz as the “principle of unconditional leader authority”, was a political concept and a propaganda formula in German National Socialism . According to this, Adolf Hitler should have supreme command not only militarily, but analogously in all political and legal areas without control bodies .

The leader principle generally subordinates a group (a people , an organization etc.) without restrictions to the decisions of the respective leader . The leader principle includes the "authority of every leader downwards and responsibility upwards". Majority decisions do not take place. Decisions are made by a single person to whom advisors may be assigned.


The leader principle was a fundamental principle of fascism in the interwar period and its leader parties . In the social constitution of a society it is fundamentally directed against democracy and parliamentarism . In Germany , the core of the transition from the parliamentarism that prevailed before National Socialism in the Weimar Republic to the Führer principle that existed under Hitler's dictatorship can be seen in the Enabling Act of March 24, 1933, in which the Reichstag gave the Reich government the opportunity to pass resolutions by the dictator or his government in the form of laws and regulations without any control to make them binding for everyone. This unusual law - previously "enabling laws" were only intended for extreme emergencies, e.g. B. for armed conflicts - became the principle of the National Socialist state: Basically there should be consultations, but no more votes, but decisions were made - at the top or at the top of the respective hierarchy . These decisions were either kept secret or in the form of laws, ordinances or written instructions - "passed through" at all levels from top to bottom.

With the resolution of the Greater German Reichstag on April 26, 1942 , the Führer principle was fully enforced and any previous restrictions (such as the official channels and superiors still prescribed in the Officials Act of 1937 ) were lifted.

According to the definition of the influential constitutional lawyer Ernst Rudolf Huber , which was valid in the time of National Socialism , leadership violence is not inhibited by controls, but exclusively and unrestricted : “The leadership violence is comprehensive and total; it unites in itself all means of political formation; it extends to all subject areas of ethnic life; it includes all national comrades who are committed to loyalty and obedience to the leader. "

The leader ideal should also radiate to the lower level in the hierarchy . In this sense, the dictatorial leader principle was used in the reorganization of companies in the course of National Socialist conformity , for example in the companies whose managers were renamed "managers" and integrated with the workers as "followers" in mass organizations . The attempt was made to linguistically resolve the ideologically undesirable contradiction in the relations of production - between the owners of the means of production and the workers.

In practice, the economy , however, the stepped leader principle only as a formula in appearance, while the actual structures, rules and procedures were not changed for about distribution of tasks and information flow. In terms of organizational theory , the Führer principle thus generally remained an empty shell without its own form.

Psychologically , the idea of ​​the Führer is closely interwoven with the National Socialist mass ideology and the need of the Führer and the masses for mutual confirmation. The masses can therefore realize their depersonalized needs in the person of the Führer, who in turn enjoys popular tribune acceptance in a corporatist social order (" Volksgemeinschaft ") and is confirmed by acclamation .

Example 1: clubs

The leader principle was implemented in clubs in mid-1933. The chairman of the association was "re-elected according to the alignment". He then appointed his representatives, which “was subject to the approval of the higher authorities”. After that he no longer called himself "Chairman", but "Führer". This also worked on several levels. B. the leader the Reich Sports Leader , the latter the federation leader , this the club leader . This could well lead to conflicts and subsequent corrections, because when associations were merged in the course of the Gleichschaltung, National Socialists had to take a back seat to other party members and this was not so easy to put up with.

Example 2: military

The use of the term “decision” ( see above ) suggests that it is related to the military categories “ command ” and “ obedience ”. In fact, the young philosopher Ernst Bloch mentioned the three terms as a coherent characteristic of the Hitler movement in an early diary note on Hitler's violence . With the leader principle, the military principle of command and obedience was, so to speak, narrowed through unconditional obedience, which was also required in civil society . It was therefore only logical that, after the death of Reich President von Hindenburg, from the summer of 1934 as "Führer and Reich Chancellor" , Hitler had the armed forces take the oath of himself as the leader of the German Reich and the people and later as the Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces.

Example 3: administration

From October 1, 1933, there was no longer the “mayor” in Bremen, but the “governing mayor”. This addition should also emphasize the leadership principle in administration. The President of the collegial Senate became the Governing Mayor with authority to issue guidelines.

From 1935 the German municipal code applied to the municipalities of the Third Reich , according to which they should be integrated into the indirect state administration in the "controlled self - administration " and the mayors were no longer elected, but were appointed on the basis of party proposals . For this purpose, the respective district leader of the NSDAP - in the sense of the " unity of party and state " - had to propose three applicants to the competent authority.


In contrast to the democratic principle, in which a group elects its representatives and the powers of the representative are legitimized by the election ( bottom-up ), in the leader principle, the appointment of the "representative" takes place by the respective higher authority without the possibility of influence by the corresponding subordinate group ( top-down ). In this respect, in a system organized according to the leader principle, the “ election ” of officials and decision-makers can always be traced back to the highest leader, while in a democracy there is always an interaction between “above” and “below”. This interplay is questionable in the representative democracies due to the temporary restriction within electoral periods by delegation to the delegates without control or confirmation of the individual decision.

Attempts to explain

According to Diemut Majer , the Führer principle is fundamentally ahistorical, that is, it has no historical connection with, for example, absolutist ideas. In contrast to the total leader state, these still knew certain rights ( natural law ) and duties towards the subject, while the subject did not have to give an account. At the same time, the Führer principle is strongly irrational and therefore resorts to mysticism and the transfiguration of the Führer for its own legitimation (see also personality cult ).

A frequent attempt to explain this is based on social Darwinist ideas. The leader is the "strongest" in that he asserts himself against the "weaker".

According to Sigmund Freud and Gustave Le Bon , the leader principle is important in mass psychology . Since the individual within a crowd is more exposed to suggestive influences, the guide is of great importance to the hypnotist, similar to hypnotic phenomena.

Legal theory

The irrational character of the Führer principle is also shown in the failure of all attempts to cast the ideological construct into a legal form (see Huber , 1939). According to Majer, the Führer principle can not logically become a category under constitutional law because it governs the state and law itself .

See also


  • Martin Broszat : The State of Hitler. Foundation and development of his inner constitution . Deutscher Taschenbuch-Verlag, Munich 1969 ( dtv world history of the 20th century 9; dtv 4009).
  • Norbert Frei : The Führer state. National Socialist rule 1933–1945 . 8th edition. Deutscher Taschenbuch-Verlag, Munich 2007, ISBN 978-3-423-30785-7 (dtv 30785).
  • Gerhard Hirschfeld , Lothar Kettenacker (eds.): "Der Führerstaat". Myth and Reality. Studies on the structure and politics of the Third Reich . = The "Führer State". Myth and Reality. Studies on the Structure and Politics of the Third Reich . With an introduction by Wolfgang J. Mommsen . Klett-Cotta, Stuttgart 1981, ISBN 3-12-915350-0 ( publications of the German Historical Institute in London 8).

Web links

References and comments

  1. a b Knaur's Lexicon. Th. Knaur Nachf., Berlin 1939, p. 454.
  2. Sometimes, e.g. B. in the so-called Röhm Putsch , the legal approval of the events was also only afterwards .
  3. Ultimately, the Wannsee Conference only served to clarify all foreseeable "technical details" and responsibilities for decisions that had already been made at a higher level and culminated in the written assignment of Reinhard Heydrich by Hermann Göring .
  4. ^ Ernst Rudolf Huber: Constitutional Law of the Greater German Empire . In: Georg Dahm and Ernst Rudolf Huber (Hrsg.): Fundamentals of Law and Economics - Series A Law . 2nd Edition. Hanseatische Verlagsanstalt Hamburg, Hamburg-Wandsbek 1939, p. 230 .
  5. Cf. Wolfgang Benz , The 101 Most Important Questions: The Third Reich (=  Beck'sche Reihe ; Vol. 1701), 2nd edition (Paperback), CH Beck, 2008, p. 30 .
  6. These examples are documented in log books that have been preserved from the time, for example: "Gleichschaltung" in the log book of the comradeship of former soldiers Lunestedt or "Gleichschaltung" in the log book of the gymnastics club Westerbeverstedt .
  7. Arnd Krüger : "Today Germany belongs to us and tomorrow ...?" The struggle for the sense of conformity in sport in the first half of 1933. In: Wolfgang Buss , Arnd Krüger (Ed.): Sports history: maintaining tradition and changing values. Festschrift for the 75th birthday of Prof. Dr. Wilhelm Henze (= series of publications by the Lower Saxony Institute for Sports History Hoya eV , Vol. 2). Mecke, Duderstadt 1985, pp. 175-196.
  8. Ernst Bloch , Hitler's violence , in: Tage-Buch , 5 (1924) H 15, April 12, pp. 474–477.
  9. ^ Corinna Tonner, Documents from brown times , in: Weser-Kurier of March 5, 2013; see also: The Bremen Senate at the time of National Socialism .
  10. ^ Sigmund Freud : mass psychology and ego analysis . [1921] In: Collected Works, Volume XIII, “Beyond the Pleasure Principle - Mass Psychology and Analysis of the Ego - The I and the It” (1920–1924) , Fischer Taschenbuch, Frankfurt am Main 1999, ISBN 3-596-50300-0 , Pp. 70–87 on the keyword "Le Bon" and p. 80 on the keyword "Hypnotist".