Heinrich Aloysius Maria Elisabeth Brüning (born November 26, 1885 in Münster , † March 30, 1970 in Norwich , Vermont , USA ) was a German politician of the Center Party and from March 30, 1930 to May 30, 1932 Chancellor .
The conservative national Catholic had become parliamentary group leader of his party in the Reichstag in 1929 and in this capacity supported the grand coalition of Hermann Müller . The day after the resignation of the Müller cabinet (March 27, 1930), he was commissioned by President Hindenburg to form a new government - the first of the so-called presidential cabinets , which did not emerge from a coalition of the parties represented in the Reichstag. Brüning was the last chancellor of the Weimar Republic to rule on a constitutional basis. His "Brüning system" was based on so-called emergency ordinancesof the Reich President, which increasingly replaced the normal legislation of the Reichstag. In May 1932, Hindenburg dropped Chancellor Brüning because he was still dependent on the parliamentary tolerance of the Social Democrats .
Brüning was unpopular as Chancellor because of his austerity measures to combat the Great Depression of the 1930s. Whether these measures served to free Germany from its reparation obligations, as it did a few weeks after his resignation, is disputed in research. Brüning's attitude towards the National Socialists fluctuated between fighting and integrating the NSDAP into a right-wing coalition. In July 1933, as chairman, he wound up the center as the last democratic party. In 1934 he fled Germany; He spent the rest of his life mainly in the USA, where he taught at universities, and briefly in Germany again between 1951 and 1955.
His memoirs, which were published posthumously in 1970, caused a sensation . In historical studies, opinions differ about their source value.
Youth, studies and war experience
When Brüning was one year old, his father, a Catholic conservative vinegar manufacturer and wine merchant, died. His older brother Hermann Joseph had a great influence on his later upbringing.
Brüning attended the Paulinum grammar school in Münster. He first studied law at the Ludwig Maximilians University in Munich . On May 8, 1904, he joined the CV connection KDStV Langobardia . In 1906 he moved to Strasbourg , where he studied philosophy , history , German and political science. There he became a member of the KDStV Badenia . In 1911 he passed the state examination for the higher teaching post, which he did not take. Instead he turned to the study of economics . For this he enrolled in May 1911 at the University of Rostock. He then went to England to study political economy at the London School of Economics and Political Science . In 1913 he moved to the Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität Bonn , where he completed his unusually long studies in 1915. He received his doctorate with a dissertation on the financial, economic and legal situation of the English railways, taking into account the question of their nationalization . He had collected all of the material for his work on site in England. When he volunteered for the infantry during World War I in 1915 , his professional goal was a university career.
Brüning, whose weak physical constitution and short-sightedness had given cause for concern during the draft, was promoted to lieutenant in the reserve in Count Werder No. 30 infantry regiment . Because of his bravery he was awarded the Iron Cross, 2nd and 1st class . After the second wounding, Brüning reported to the MG Sniper Dept. 12 , which was newly established in 1917. He eventually advanced to company commander and earned the recognition of the soldiers under his command. This was shown by the fact that Brüning was elected to a soldiers' council after the armistice . These councils, based on the Soviet model, were intended to represent the interests of the common soldiers vis-à-vis their superiors. Despite his involvement in the soldiers' council, Brüning was an opponent of the November Revolution , which he also announced as Chancellor of the Reich.
Brüning never said much about his personal life. Nevertheless, Hans Luther , who worked closely with him when he himself held the position of President of the Reichsbank , suspects that his experiences at the front would have changed his professional goals. Instead of an academic career, he was now aiming for a political one after the end of the war. In 1919 he became an employee of the Catholic social politician Carl Sonnenschein and helped dismissed soldiers in their studies and work. Six months later, the Prussian Welfare Minister Adam Stegerwald made him his advisor. Stegerwald also headed the German Trade Union Federation (DGB), whose managing director Brüning became in 1920. He had been a member of the Reichstag since 1924 and quickly rose to become the financial policy spokesman for the Zentrum parliamentary group. In 1925 he achieved with the so-called lex Brüning that the wage tax was limited to 1.2 billion Reichsmarks . His specialist knowledge earned him reputation, although his personal restraint and taciturnity made it difficult to deal with the ascetic bachelor. From the state election in May 1928 until his resignation on July 12, 1929, he was also a member of the Prussian state parliament .
In 1929 he became the parliamentary group leader of the Center Party in the Reichstag and enforced the so-called " Junktim ": his party would only approve the Young Plan if the budget were balanced through tax increases and austerity measures. Through this consistently represented policy, the Reich President also became aware of him. Contrary to his plans, however, Brüning worked in the grand coalition ( Müller II cabinet ) towards a compromise between the SPD and the German People's Party (DVP). But since the Social Democrats knew that the Reich President wanted to push them out of the government and that after their approval of Brüning's last compromise proposal, the DVP and industry would only demand further concessions from them, they refused. This broke the grand coalition. On March 27, 1930, the Müller cabinet resigned.
Appointment to Reich Chancellor
The Reichswehr leadership had already looked for a conservative successor to the Social Democratic Chancellor Hermann Müller in Kurt von Schleicher and Paul von Hindenburg . Your choice quickly fell on Brüning. His calling “was not unexpected for political observers. Since Easter 1929, but increasingly since the turn of the year 1929/30, Brüning was the Reichswehr ministry's candidate for chancellor and a conservative politician for a bourgeois government. [...] Not only the composition of the Brüning cabinet, but also Hindenburg's mandate to the Chancellor-designate not to 'build the government on the basis of coalition-like ties' clearly showed that the political weight should be shifted to the right. "
The day after Müller's resignation, Heinrich Brüning was commissioned by Reich President Hindenburg to set up a new cabinet. Two days later he took office as the twelfth Chancellor of the Weimar Republic . The cabinet was formed in record time: on April 1, Brüning was able to present his government, the Brüning I cabinet , to the Reichstag, which, in addition to politicians from the center, the DDP , the DVP and the economic party , also included Martin Schiele , a representative of the anti-constitutional DNVP , who left the party in the course of the second wave of secession in July 1930. Hindenburg hoped to finally have the “anti-parliamentary” and “anti-Marxist” cabinet on which he had worked in the background discussions of the months before together with Kuno Graf Westarp , Gottfried Treviranus and Kurt von Schleicher . In his government statement, Brüning made it clear to parliament that he was willing to work against parliament if necessary: The era of non-parliamentary but constitutionally compliant “ presidential cabinets ” began.
The first task of the new cabinet was to compensate for the deficit budget. The effects of the global economic crisis in Germany had not yet reached their peak, but the Young Plan demanded the stability of the German currency alongside other high reparation claims. The Reichsmark was therefore not allowed to be devalued or the economy to be stimulated with economic stimulus programs.
The first restructuring program of Brüning, which from June 20 to 26, 1930 provisionally also headed the Reich Ministry of Finance , was rejected by the Reichstag: contrary to what Hindenburg had hoped, Brüning had not succeeded in attracting a sufficiently large number of DNVP members to the radical To steal from party chairman Alfred Hugenberg and move to the government camp. As the Chancellor had threatened, he now enforced the cover documents with an emergency ordinance under Article 48 of the constitution, but a parliamentary majority from the SPD , KPD , the radical wing of the DNVP around Hugenberg, and the NSDAP repealed the emergency ordinance on July 18 . Thereupon Briining read out the Reich President's dissolution order pursuant to Article 25. The center, the liberal parties and the moderate wing of the DNVP around Count Westarp, who left the party in July, voted against the repeal of the emergency ordinance - in order to avoid the dissolution of the Reichstag and the resulting new elections at this extremely unfavorable time. The Reichstag election was scheduled for September 14, 1930.
In the election campaign, Brüning tried to activate the large “party” of non-voters and first-time voters and relied on strengthening the governmental-conservative dissidents from the DNVP, which were now organized in various small parties and represented in his government with Schiele and Treviranus. In fact, five million previous non-voters voted. The NSDAP and, to a lesser extent, the KPD recorded a significant increase in votes. The National Socialists increased the number of their seats from 12 to 107, making them the second largest group. Although the DNVP also lost half of its voters, these only went to a small extent to the small parties that emerged from the divisions. The German values on the foreign stock exchanges fell significantly in response to the election results, and foreign loans were withdrawn. The global economic crisis, which had been felt since summer, worsened noticeably.
For Brüning, the election result was tantamount to a catastrophe: instead of a balanced budget, there were always new deficits due to the worsening depression, instead of a stable “Hindenburg majority” between the SPD and the National Socialists, a Reichstag incapable of forming a stable majority. Germany was now politically and economically in dire straits, which, paradoxically, had been triggered by the emergency measures that they should have eliminated.
Chancellor in times of crisis
In lengthy negotiations, Brüning succeeded in persuading the Social Democrats to form a “tolerance coalition”, pointing out that the next new elections would be even more devastating for democracy in Germany. In the period that followed, Brüning hardly ever introduced any laws into the increasingly rare Reichstag, but instead issued emergency ordinances (a total of 62 during his term of office). Communists or National Socialists then always applied for their repeal, but this was rejected each time with the votes of the governing parties and the SPD. The SPD did not vote in favor of Brüning's emergency ordinances, it merely prevented their repeal. This enabled Brüning to rule steadily in stormy times, even if the Reich President was not very happy about this renewed dependence of “his” government on the Social Democrats.
Brüning pursued a radical austerity and deflation policy in a total of four major emergency ordinances : he raised new taxes while simultaneously reducing state benefits, and he worked towards lowering wages and salaries. With this he hoped to increase German exports , but because Germany's trading partners pursued a similar policy and also increased their tariffs, this procyclical policy had to fail; it ultimately only exacerbated the economic crisis in Germany.
Many historians assume that Brüning pursued his harmful economic policy in order to end the reparations : he wanted to prove to the Allies that Germany was not able to pay the reparations despite the utmost efforts. It is doubted that this “primacy of reparations policy” really existed. Brüning and his co-workers then believed that their deflationary policy could overcome the financial crisis and prevent renewed inflation.
In the spring of 1931, the plan for a customs union with Austria met with fierce resistance from the French, who saw it as an attempt to circumvent the “Anschluss” prohibition of the Versailles Treaty in the medium term. This was not the first time that it became clear what a large gap in German foreign policy the death of Gustav Stresemann in October 1929 had torn. To torpedo the plan, the Laval government encouraged the French banks to withdraw money from Germany and Austria. Now the German banks ran into difficulties, which increased after a second foreign policy mistake by Brüning: In order to make the next anti-social austerity package attractive to the German public, the government published an appeal in June 1931 in which, following right-wing extremist parlance, referred to as “tributes” and suggested that Germany would not be able to pay much longer. A courtesy visit to the British government at the same time gave the impression that a political step towards reparations was imminent. Since, after the experiences of the Ruhr War of 1923, a political reparation conflict threatened to impair the stability of foreign investments, the credit withdrawals increased to the point of panic. Parallel to these foreign policy efforts, a new emergency ordinance came into force at the beginning of June, which further reduced the pensions for invalids and war invalids as well as civil servants' salaries and unemployment benefits. The emergency ordinance triggered massive protests, especially on the part of the KPD, with demonstrations and so-called hunger marches .
In order to avoid a complete collapse of the German economy and to restore confidence in Germany's ability to at least pay off its private foreign debts, American President Herbert Hoover proposed a moratorium on both German reparations and inter-allied war debts on June 20, 1931 before which Great Britain and France in particular repaid the USA with reparations money. Weeks of negotiations with the French ensued, which let the psychological effect of the generous proposal fizzle out.
The foreign loans continued to be withdrawn, and on July 13, 1931, all major German banks had to close for several days. This blow to the economy resulted in a sharp rise in unemployment. In February 1932, 6 million Germans were officially unemployed, and in real terms probably even 8 million. 37% of the labor force was unemployed; on average, each family had one unemployed. The catastrophe in the German economy was beneficial for reparations policy, however, because the British now saw that confidence in German creditworthiness would not return without a significant reduction or cancellation of reparations. However, this thesis only prevailed in the summer of 1932, after Brüning's dismissal, at the Lausanne Conference , which resulted in the de facto cancellation of the reparations against a final payment of three billion gold marks, which never took place. Immediately before the end of the term of office of the Brüning government, it bought a package of shares in Gelsenberg AG with a nominal value of RM 100 million from Friedrich Flick . This transaction went down in history as the Gelsenberg Affair .
Little by little, Brüning lost the support of Hindenburg , who envisioned a purely right-wing cabinet without any support from the SPD. In vain did he urgently warn the aged Reich President not to "make the worst political mistake that anyone would be able to make at the moment ... and not to lose calm"; on May 11, 1932, he swore to the Reichstag that it was “a hundred meters from the goal”. When the French ambassador André François-Poncet pointed out to him that the goal he had announced a few weeks earlier, the complete cancellation of all German reparation obligations without replacement, would certainly not be able to be implemented in Lausanne, Brüning said laconically, “it is coming when judging the distance from the destination to the total route ”. The Chancellor, who had also headed the Foreign Ministry since October 1931, was a tactic motivated by domestic politics.
Since the spring of 1932, Hindenburg had been increasingly disappointed in Brüning, in whom he had placed great hopes. The fact that the Chancellor had helped the 83-year-old to get re -election on April 10, 1932 in a restless election campaign did nothing to change this. Brüning personally resented the fact that Hindenburg owed this success to Catholics and Social Democrats of all people, the old Bismarck "enemies of the Reich" who considered the monarchist field marshal to be the lesser evil compared to his opponent Hitler. Hitler had been supported by many of Hindenburg's old companions and even by the former Crown Prince .
The gap between the two was deepened by the SA ban, which the Interior and Defense Minister Wilhelm Groener had issued on April 13, 1932. This brought Hindenburg into conflict with the Reichswehr leadership under his friend Schleicher, who intended to use the SA as a recruiting pool for military rearmament. It was hoped that the victorious powers would concede them to Germany at the Geneva Disarmament Conference . Schleicher's intrigues led to Groener's resignation on May 13, 1932, and also weakened Brüning.
In the spring of 1932, the Brüning government was working on a fifth major emergency decree, which might have exacerbated unemployment. Therefore, plans were discussed to enable a subsistence economy by settling a certain number of unemployed people in the countryside and thus to clean up the statistics. Behind this was the conviction that Germany would no longer recover from the global economic crisis in the long term - instead of economic growth and the creation of new jobs, Brüning relied on a return to agricultural society . They wanted to procure the land for the army of millions of new settlers by ending aid from the East . These were subsidies for the over-indebted agricultural large estates in eastern Germany, which until now had always been spared from the government's austerity measures. After the subsidies for some farms had now exceeded their value several times and the imperial budget was again on the verge of insolvency, an end to permanent subsidization was envisaged for goods that were not excusable. In the inevitable foreclosure auction that followed, the land was to be acquired by a state rescue company and resettled with the unemployed. This led to furious protests from East German agrarians and their conservative friends. In a resolution of the DNVP parliamentary group in the Reichstag, the plan was described as "perfect Bolshevism ". In this climate, Hindenburg, who as the owner of Gut Neudeck himself had a personal interest in Osthilfe, announced on May 29, 1932 that he would no longer sign any of his emergency ordinances. Brüning resigned on May 30, 1932 and received his dismissal certificate in an unworthyly brief ceremony. Subsequently, this conflict went down in history with the term Osthilfeskandal .
Since Brüning, as a bachelor, did not have his own apartment, he retired to the Catholic St. Hedwig Hospital after moving out of his office in Wilhelmstrasse . The rooms provided by the superior there accommodated him until the hospital management was threatened with the passing of the Enabling Act that they would experience the full severity of the new government. Brüning then went underground first with daily changing apartments and then via the Netherlands into exile in the United States.
"Seizure of power" by the NSDAP
At first Brüning and most of his contemporaries did not recognize the danger that National Socialism posed to Germany ; he wanted to force the NSDAP to assume political responsibility and thereby tame it. At that time he had nothing against a coalition between the center and the NSDAP. But Hitler only wanted to lead a presidential cabinet as Chancellor . But when the Center Party rejected Hitler's subsequent coalition offer after Hitler was appointed Reich Chancellor , Brüning supported his party's decision. Brüning's attitude towards the Enabling Act was also fluctuating: after initially clear rejection, Hitler made reassuring promises to him and to party chairman Ludwig Kaas , even if he avoided giving them in writing. After Kaas, who wanted the Enabling Act to be passed, had asserted his position within the parliamentary group against the opposition of Brüning and Adam Stegerwald , the entire Center Party as well as Brüning approved the law on March 23 in the Reichstag. According to Elfriede Kaiser-Nebgen and Theodor Heuss , the communications from Brüning about Hitler's promises, which were only partially in writing - e.g. B. on the Reich Concordat with Rome and on cooperation with the Christian churches - the reason why the German State Party also agreed to the Enabling Act. On May 5, 1933, he became the last chairman of the Center Party for the time being. On July 5, 1933, he dissolved his party in order to forestall a ban by the National Socialists, according to his own statements, under pressure from a respective majority in the center groups, including Ernst Grass and Karl Maria Hettlage .
Exile, Return, and Memoirs
In May 1934, Brüning left Germany to avoid the threat of arrest and went to the Netherlands. He spent the following years in difficult economic circumstances. At first he lived in Great Britain and Switzerland, where he dictated most of his memoirs. In July 1935 he was incognito in Paris, where there was a meeting with Annette Kolb and Harry Graf Kessler . In the same year he moved to the USA. There he received a teaching position at Harvard University in 1937 and a full professorship in administrative science in 1939. In 1951 he returned to Germany and received a professorship for political science at the University of Cologne . In 1953 he retired. Among other things, out of dissatisfaction with Konrad Adenauer's politics , which he had not been able to talk about in the 1920s, he returned to the USA in 1955 and revised his memoirs, which, however, were only published after his death in 1970 because of their explosiveness. He was buried on April 8, 1970 in the central cemetery in Münster.
As in several private conversations that he had after his fall with the British ambassador Horace Rumbold , Harry Graf Kessler , Winston Churchill or the later Hindenburg biographer John Wheeler-Bennett , he styled himself in his memoirs as a cool strategist with clearness , a far-sighted plan how Germany could have been saved from National Socialism: After that, he aimed precisely at the cancellation of reparations, military equality and then the reintroduction of the monarchy , which would have caught the right-wing trend of the population and diverted it from Hitler. Unfortunately, General Schleicher did not understand this plan and spoiled everything with his intrigues. These theses met with incomprehension from his former employees such as Hans Schäffer or Count Schwerin-Krosigk - as monarchists, none of them had met Brüning. In fact, Brüning's alleged long-term strategy is seen in recent research as an ex-post self-justification of a failed politician who did not want to see the cause of his failure in his own failure or in adverse circumstances, but in the intrigues of a personal opponent. According to the historian Andreas Rödder , Brüning often followed his “inner perceptions” in his memoirs, he “invented” external facts. As for his long-term plans, which Briining claims to have had, the memoirs are implausible.
In his home town of Münster, of which Brüning is an honorary citizen, a street - not far from the town hall - was named after him. In a few West German cities (such as Bonn ) streets and squares are a reminder of him.
In addition to his membership in the CV (Badenia s. O. And since 1930 KDSt.V. Rappoltstein (Strasbourg) Cologne ), Brüning was also an honorary member of the Catholic student associations Burgundia Berlin (now K.St.V. Askania-Burgundia Berlin ) and K.St.V. Arminia Bonn in KV .
In 1938 Brüning was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences .
Evaluation and aftermath
Brüning's work is controversial. On the one hand, he is considered to be the “hunger chancellor” who intensified the global economic crisis with his hardship and counterproductive austerity and deflation policies and undermined democracy with his emergency ordinance regime. On the other hand, however, the factual cancellation of the German reparation obligations is owed to him, albeit in a different way than he had planned. However, only his successors, Papen, and especially Hitler, benefited from this .
The Berlin historian Henning Köhler refers to another point: Since autumn 1930 Brüning's government has been tolerated by the SPD , which - in order to prevent new elections with even greater success for the NSDAP - always voted in the Reichstag against the repeal of its emergency ordinances . With this approach by Reich Chancellor Brüning, a semi-democratic, but at least stable - and constitutionally compliant - system was found with which one could have survived the global economic crisis - the next Reichstag elections would not have taken place until 1934, i.e. when the economic upswing was beginning, and Hitler might never have been Became Chancellor. The hasty break with Hindenburg described by Brüning in his memoirs caused this path to fail.
Historians argue whether he was the “last bulwark” of the dying republic, or at least its gravedigger - or whether both assessments apply to him. Because with his increasing authoritarian measures to protect the republic, he undermined its foundations at the same time.
The Brüningian policy of responding to a decline in government revenue due to the economic situation with cuts in government spending is repeatedly portrayed in Germany as the wrong path to avoid - especially in contrast to a Keynesian- inspired economic policy ( deficit spending ) based on credit-financed government spending in an economic crisis : Oskar Lafontaine compared this In 2002 the Schröder government's policy with Brüning's, the economist Hans-Heinrich Bass described Bremen's economic policy as “local Brüningsch” in 2011 , and in 2012 an online Spiegel column by Wolfgang Münchau compared Angela Merkel's austerity policy during the euro crisis with Brüning's austerity policy .
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|ALTERNATIVE NAMES||Brüning, Heinrich Aloysius Maria Elisabeth (full name)|
|BRIEF DESCRIPTION||German politician (center), Member of the Bundestag and Reich Chancellor (1930–1932)|
|DATE OF BIRTH||November 26, 1885|
|PLACE OF BIRTH||Muenster|
|DATE OF DEATH||March 30, 1970|
|Place of death||Norwich (Vermont)|