Secret civil cabinet

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Seat of the secret civil cabinet at Wilhelmstrasse 64 (1902)

The Secret Civil Cabinet was the personal office of the King of Prussia and (from 1871) the German Emperor . In terms of its function as a direct advisory staff to the head of state , which exists alongside the actual executive branch consisting of a regular state or federal government, it can best be compared with the office of the Federal President by today's standards . The adjective "secret" used to have the connotation of "trusted"; see also privy councilor .

In the epoch of the Second Empire , the object was the Secret Civil Cabinet, in particular, the business between the Emperor and the Chancellor , the Reich authorities and Reich offices as well as in the Federal Council , represented mostly princely governments of the constituent states of the German Reich handle.

From 1902 the administrative seat of the secret civil cabinet was the building at Wilhelmstrasse  64 in Berlin-Mitte . The listed building (since 1993 Wilhelmstrasse 54) is today the Berlin office of the Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture .


The house, numbered as Wilhelmstrasse 54 since 1993, is today the Berlin office of the Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture

Kingdom of Prussia

In the early 18th century, the general cabinet system emerged , in which the sovereign surrounded himself with a narrow circle of confidants with whom he “left the cabinet”, i.e. H. from his private chambers, decided. In the Kingdom of Prussia , this form of monarchical self-government emerged during the time of Frederick the Great .

The Prussian secret civil cabinet set up King Friedrich Wilhelm III in 1797 . a.

After the wars of liberation

As part of the Stein-Hardenberg reforms , Freiherr vom Stein eliminated the cabinet system in 1808 to strengthen the government . The juxtaposition of ministerial departments and the civil cabinet, which has no responsibility, was seen as a hindrance.

In 1853 the civil cabinet was re-established under King Friedrich Wilhelm IV . The head of the prime minister's office also became head of the civil cabinet. By combining both offices in one person, the name civil cabinet was retained, but it was only a modest office organization for handling the king's correspondence and private affairs. As long as both offices were combined in one person and the responsible Prime Minister could not be circumvented, there were no concerns about this solution.

The two areas of responsibility were separated again under Prince Regent Wilhelm (I) and the mere secretariat of the king became an independent advisory authority again, which was beyond any control from outside.


After the founding of the empire in 1871, it was necessary to create an office for the German Kaiser as well. Since the secret civil cabinet had already been responsible for federal presidential matters between 1867 and 1870 under the Prussian King Wilhelm I , the Royal Prussian Secret Civil Cabinet also took over imperial affairs from 1871. Entrusting Prussian authorities with imperial tasks was not a special case. In 1870 the Prussian Foreign Ministry was taken over as the Reich's Foreign Office . Many other highest Prussian offices performed direct imperial duties. So these were, for example Prussian War Ministry , the General Staff and the military cabinet responsible also for Empire tasks without in imperial offices to have been converted.

The Imperial Constitution intended the Imperial Chancellor to be the Emperor's chief adviser . The strong position of Bismarck meant that the importance of the civil cabinet after the establishment of the empire was low. After Bismarck's departure, however, the importance of the civil cabinet increased noticeably. This government administration office, initially on Dönhoffplatz in Berlin, received its own neo-baroque building at Wilhelmstrasse 64 in 1903 , the construction plans of which came from the architect Carl Vohl . The Prussian State Ministry was housed in the same new building, and the General Lottery Directorate in the neighboring building. - His Majesty the Emperor's and King's Secret Civil Cabinet dealt essentially with all personnel questions in the civilian sector. This included political information and advice on questions of internal administration and politics .


After the proclamation of the republic in 1918 , the civil cabinet was dissolved. The tasks that the civil cabinet had taken over for the King of Prussia were transferred to the Prussian State Ministry. Functional successor to the secret civil cabinet with regard to personnel matters was the Reich President's Office . Other departments of the new ministries remained in the administration building.


Around 1900 it consisted of the chief with the title Secret Cabinet Councilor , two Secret Cabinet Secretaries and ten Secret Registrars .

Chiefs of the Civil Cabinet

The head of the civil cabinet had to handle the business dealings between the Prussian government and the king: he presented all reports from the ministers and the prime minister and obtained the king's signatures. The civil cabinet took on the same tasks after 1871 for all imperial affairs in which the King of Prussia as German emperor had the final decision.

Heads of the civil cabinet were:

See also

Commons : civil cabinet of the emperor  - collection of pictures, videos and audio files

Further use of the building on Wilhelmstrasse

After 1936 the Reich leadership of the NSDAP moved to the buildings at Wilhelmstrasse 64 (and 63) . In the following years the street facade was simplified, i. H. the neo-baroque architectural decorations were knocked off. During the GDR era , the "Hanns Eisler" music college used part of the building. When office buildings were needed for the new federal government after the fall of the Wall , the house at Wilhelmstrasse 64 (now renumbered with no. 54) was rebuilt, with remnants of the imperial and Nazi era furnishings . The post-war attic was reconstructed and modeled on the historical building. Since 2000 the building has been the Berlin office of today's Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture .


  • Kurt GA Jeserich, Hans Pohl, Georg-Christoph von Unruh (ed.): German administrative history, Volume 3: The German Empire until the end of the monarchy. Stuttgart 1984. There is a representation of the Prussian civil cabinet from 1872 on pages 164–166.

Individual evidence

  1. On the analogy cf. Klaus-Peter Weber: The office of the Reich President 1919-1934. A political-administrative institution in continuity and change (European University Theses, Series III). Peter Lang, Frankfurt am Main 2001. Specifically, subchapter 4.1 (pp. 103–113) with the title: "The secret civil cabinet as a historical model for the office of the President of the Reich."
  2. Architectural monument Secret Civil Cabinet of the Emperor , built 1900–1901
  3. ^ History of the house on Wilhelmstrasse on the Ministry's website , accessed on December 17, 2014.

Coordinates: 52 ° 30 ′ 49.2 "  N , 13 ° 22 ′ 56.8"  E