Ludwig Kaas

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Ludwig Kaas at a young age

Ludwig Kaas (born May 23, 1881 in Trier , † April 15, 1952 in Rome ) was a German Catholic theologian and politician . The recognized canon lawyer became a member of the Reichstag for the Center Party after the First World War and was its chairman between 1928 and 1933. He steered the party on the right course, underestimated the danger posed by Adolf Hitler and the NSDAP , and was ready to cooperate with them. After Hitler came to power, Kaas swore the Center Party to approve the Enabling Act , which granted the new Chancellor dictatorial powers. He then went to Rome and was involved on the side of the Holy See in drafting the Concordat with the German Empire . He then held various offices in the curia.


Early years

Ludwig Kaas was the son of the businessman and farmer Peter Kaas and his wife Susanne (née Blum). After graduating from the Friedrich-Wilhelm-Gymnasium in Trier in 1899 , from which he graduated as the best in school, Kaas studied theology at the seminary in Trier and on the recommendation of Bishop Michael Felix Korum in Rome. There he belonged to the Collegium Germanicum et Hungaricum and studied at the Gregoriana . He received his doctorate in 1904. phil. and in 1907 Dr. theol.

He was ordained a priest in Rome as early as 1906. He only returned to Germany briefly as a chaplain in Adenau and lived in Rome until 1909. From 1908 he was chaplain of the Collegio Teutonico di Santa Maria dell'Anima . In 1909 he received his doctorate in canon law in Rome .

In the same year he was briefly chaplain in Kärlich . In 1910 he became prefect and rector of an orphanage near Koblenz. He was also a religion teacher and sub-director of the Kemperhof high school. With the support of Bishop Korum, he continued his legal studies in Bonn and completed his habilitation in 1915/16 with Ulrich Stutz with the thesis "The spiritual jurisdiction of the Catholic Church in Prussia."

Canon lawyer

In the following years he was a jurist and published important writings. Against this background, he was appointed professor of canon law at the seminary in Trier in 1918 . He had turned down an offer to go to Bonn University as an assistant . He also turned down the offer of a professorship in Bonn in 1919. However, he became head of a branch of the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Comparative Public Law and International Law based in Trier.

As an outstanding canon lawyer, he was an advisor to the apostolic nuncio Eugenio Pacelli (later Pope Pius XII) from 1917 . Both were linked by a close and lifelong friendship. Kaas was also a prelate and since 1924 cathedral chapter. Since 1927 he was an honorary member of the Catholic student association Alania-Bonn in the CV and since 1929 a member of the KDB Sigfridia zu Bonn in the RKDB .

Beginnings of political activity

Kaas has been interested in political issues since about his time in Trier. From 1919 he turned increasingly to politics. He joined the Center Party. In this he belonged to the moderate right wing. He was elected to the Weimar National Assembly for the constituency of Trier . As a proven legal expert, he was a member of the constitutional committee. His main focus was on shaping the position of the churches in the new state. At that time he was positive about the constitution.

He was also consulted for questions of foreign policy. In May 1919, he traveled to Versailles for two days, where the peace treaty was being negotiated. He was elected to the Reichstag in 1920 and was a member of it continuously until 1933.

During this time he was a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee and soon made a name for himself as a foreign policy maker. Between 1926 and 1930 he was therefore a German delegate to the League of Nations . Despite all reservations in detail and personal aversions, he supported Gustav Stresemann's policy and especially his rapprochement with France.

Kaas had also been a member of the Prussian State Council since 1921 . He maintained close relationships with its chairman Konrad Adenauer . At times he advocated a Rhenish state like Adenauer. In 1924 his various political commitments forced him to give up his chair. Together with Nuncio Pacelli, he pleaded for a Concordat between Germany and the Holy See, without being able to achieve this important goal during the Weimar Republic. He played an important role in the creation of the Prussian Concordat without being able to include a school article that was satisfactory for the Catholic side.

Party leader

The Center Party experienced a decline in its ability to bind with the climax of the 1928 Reichstag election . In the same year it became apparent that the previous party chairman Wilhelm Marx would not run again. Joseph Joos and Adam Stegerwald , two representatives of the party's socio-political wing, applied for the successor . The third candidate was Kaas. He was seen as a compromise candidate who, among other things, was supposed to guarantee that the influence of the Christian trade unions would be limited.

He was able to prevail in a fight vote with a large majority, 184 of 318 votes cast. In contrast to the other two candidates, who stood for certain interests within the party, the party hoped that the election of a priest would emphasize the denominational foundations of the center. This appeared to be a way of counteracting the erosion of political Catholicism.

As a result, a stronger leaning of the center on the church and Catholic action as well as the right-wing parties seemed possible. Kaas expressed himself increasingly critical of the parliamentary system and showed sympathy for authoritarian solutions. On the Katholikentag of 1929 he said: "Never has the call for leadership on a grand scale been more lively and impatient through the German people's soul than in the days when the patriotic and cultural hardship oppresses our souls."

It turned out that the scientist Kaas was not always up to his role as party chairman. He was not always fully committed and stayed away from important meetings. This was also due to the fact that he had lived in Sterzing ( South Tyrol ) since 1930 and was therefore not in Berlin during times of crisis.

From Müller to Brüning

One consequence of the change in leadership at the center was a government crisis. As a condition for a formal grand coalition , the Center Chancellor Müller set three ministries, among other things. After various negotiations, the center took Theodor von Guérard out of the Müller II cabinet . By withdrawing support, the government temporarily lost a majority in parliament before a formal grand coalition including the center was established.

After Heinrich Brüning was appointed Chancellor, Kaas, and with it the party, stood behind the Chancellor. He also supported him in pushing back the Reichstag. On the other hand, Kaas kept the option of working with Hitler and the NSDAP open at least since 1931. He was in opposition to the Chancellor, which led to the estrangement of Kaas and Brüning. In Brüning's opinion, Kaas had been ready to break the constitution since late 1931. He was privy to the fall of Brüning.

Republic crisis

When Franz von Papen , who was also a member of the center, was to become his successor after the fall of Brüning, Kaas made it unmistakably clear to him that he would regard this step as treason. As a result, Papen left the party three days later. As a result, Kaas fought vigorously from Papen politically.

At times there were coalition negotiations between the center and the NSDAP. This project failed due to the losses of the NSDAP and the Catholic parties in the Reichstag elections in November 1932 . Initially, Kaas stuck to the refusal to work with von Papen. However, on November 16, 1932 there were negotiations between von Papen, Kaas and Joos about government support from the center. Kaas called for the government to resign and, at least indirectly, spoke out in favor of a coalition government including the NSDAP. In a meeting with Hindenburg, Kaas committed to the goal of an authoritarian government and against parliamentarianism: “For the goal of national concentration, the convinced and sustained cooperation of the center is absolutely at your disposal. I already said in my election speech in Munster that I only see a permanent way out of the difficult situation in 3 to 4 courageous party leaders making a loyalty pact among themselves in order to support a government. We do not want to fall back into parliamentarianism, but rather we want to provide the Reich President with political and moral support for an authoritarian government that is inspired and instructed by the Reich President. We don't want to go backwards, but forwards. ”Subsequently, Kaas initially stuck to the plans for a coalition government with the NSDAP.

Reich President Paul von Hindenburg instructed Kaas on November 24th to look for a final parliamentary solution to the crisis after Hindenburg refused to grant Hitler the powers of a presidential cabinet. The exploratory talks that Kaas held to bring about a new cabinet under von Papen failed. The German People's Party and the Bavarian People's Party agreed to negotiate a non-technical program for a future government, but not Hitler and Alfred Hugenberg . Ultimately, von Papen failed. In negotiations with Reichswehr Minister Kurt von Schleicher about the formation of a government under his leadership, Kaas stated that he would rather see von Schleicher as head of government than von Papen.

When at the end of the Schleicher government, as a state emergency plan, it toyed with the idea of ​​dissolving the Reichstag without immediately scheduling new elections, Kaas rejected it as a breach of the constitution. Apparently he saw a greater danger in Schleicher than in Hitler, who would benefit from new elections. In fact, under Kaas, the center had long viewed Hitler's chancellorship, provided that Hitler could rely on a parliamentary majority and vowed to observe the constitution, as the only legitimate solution to the political crisis.

Enabling Act and Reich Concordat

Prelate Ludwig Kaas (1st from left) signing the Reich Concordat

After Hitler became Chancellor on January 30, Kaas believed that the German national majority in the cabinet would succeed in taming Hitler. Immediately after his appointment, Hitler took up coalition talks with Kaas. From Hitler's side, these were only sham negotiations with which he wanted to demonstrate that the formation of a stable government was not possible with the parliament elected in 1932. Kaas, on the other hand, was actually still interested in a government alliance with the NSDAP. When Hitler suggested that the Reichstag be adjourned for a year, Kaas refused. In doing so, he provided Hitler with the pretext he needed to successfully ask Hindenburg to dissolve parliament and hold new elections.

In the run-up to the vote on the Enabling Act , Hitler and Goering Kaas made some promises. They incorporated some of Kaas' statements on the relationship between state and church in a government statement and made verbal promises to the center, which the party waited in vain for them to be written down. Von Papen indicated the possibility of a concordat between the empire and the Holy See. This was a goal Kaas had long pursued. Kaas was so gullible that he campaigned for approval for the law in his parliamentary group and party. In addition, he saw the parliamentary system for Germany as unsuitable and failed. At the decisive meeting on March 23, Kaas was able to prevail against a minority in the parliamentary group around Brüning. Brüning later recalled: His resistance “weakened when Hitler spoke of a concordat and Papen assured him that one was as good as guaranteed. That was the question that interested Kaas most, out of all of his visual world. "

Kaas went to Rome in early April without informing the party. The party leaders who stayed behind felt that Kaas had let them down. In Rome, the Cardinal Secretary of State Pacelli Kaas charged with negotiating a concordat with the empire. These were concluded in July 1933 and the treaty was ratified a few months later. The Concordat was designed by the Curia and Kaas in such a way that it secured the rights of the Church as strongly as possible. The church received the assurance of free development in religious respects, but gave up the political, social and professional organizations of the Catholic milieu . However, it was already apparent during the church struggle that this protection was strictly limited. The Concordat was of great importance to the regime in that it strengthened its reputation among German Catholics, contributed to the end of political Catholicism, and increased its foreign policy prestige. The center, of which Kaas was still the nominal chairman, dissolved three days before the treaty was initialed.

Activity at the Curia

As a result, Kaas mainly devoted himself to questions of the papal state. In 1934 he became secretary of the College of Cardinals and Canon of St. Peter's Basilica . From 1936 he was administrator of St. Peter's Basilica. As the head of the construction works , he was also entrusted with the archaeological investigations below the cathedral. In 1950, in his time, the alleged Peter's grave was uncovered.

In 1937 he was called in to draft the encyclical With Burning Concern . According to a letter from the German diplomat Fritz Menshausen , Counselor at the German Embassy to the Holy See, to Cardinal Secretary of State Luigi Maglione , Kaas is said to have been identified as the mastermind of a possible conspiracy against Hitler during the Second World War . It is said to have been about a separate peace between Germany and England, which Kaas, Josef Müller and Robert Leiber had unsuccessfully pursued.

Even after the end of the war, he did not return to Germany. In 1950 he was still in Rome for the recognition of the theological faculty in Trier.


Ludwig Kaas died in 1952 and was temporarily buried in the crypt of the Germanicum . When it was clear that his body would not be returned home, Matthias Wehr , the Bishop of Trier, applied for a grave on the Campo Santo Teutonico . So the remains of Kaas were transferred there on November 7th, 1957 and the grave in the grottos of St. Peter with a crypt slab by Toni Fiedler with a text by Pope Pius XII. locked.


1908 to 1952

  • Ojetti, In ius Pianum et antepianum ex decreto "Netemere" commentarii, Romae 1908, in: Pastor bonus . Volume 21, 1908/09, p. 138 f.
  • K. Vollert, Are church servants in Prussia state officials ?, in: Pastor bonus . Volume 21, 1908/09, p. 352 f.
  • L. Wouters, Commentarius in Decretum "Netemere", Amsteldolami 1909, in: Pastor bonus . Volume 21, 1908/09, p. 353.
  • JB Sägmüller, textbook of the cath. Church law, Freiburg 21909, in: Pastor bonus . Volume 22, 1909/10, pp. 87-89.
  • Th. Vd Acker, Decreti "Ne temere" de sponsalibus et matrimonio interpretatio, Buscoduci 1909, in: Pastor bonus . Volume 22, 1909/10, p. 393 f.
  • Nova decreta de sponsalibus et matrimonio cum declarationibus authenticis, ed. C.
  • Kiefer, Eystadii 1910, in: Pastor bonus . Volume 22, 1909/10, p. 394.
  • Christl. Erziehungslehre in Zitaten, Freiburg 1909, in: Pastor bonus . Volume 22, 1909/10, p. 394.
  • L. Wouters, De systemate morali dissertatio ad usum scholarum composita, Gulpen 1909, in: Pastor bonus . Volume 22, 1909/10, p. 394.
  • B. Ojetti, De Romana Curia, Romae 1910, in: Pastor bonus . Volume 23, 1910/11, p. 309 f.
  • H. Adams, Der errende Brandstifter, Meckenheim-Oberkassel 1910, in: Pastor bonus . Volume 23, 1910/11, p. 444.
  • DM Valensise, Super Systema Theologiae Moralis, Neapoli 1908, in: Pastor bonus . Volume 23, 1910/11, p. 499.
  • F. Heiner, The church civil trial, Cologne 1910, in: Pastor bonus . Volume 23, 1910/11, p. 500.
  • M. Leitner, The form of engagement and marriage according to the decree Ne temere and the Constitution Provida, Regensburg 1910, in: Pastor bonus . Volume 23, 1910/11, p. 568.
  • F. Schaub, The newest regulations in the field of cath. Marriage law, Regensburg 1911, in: Pastor bonus . Volume 23, 1910/11, p. 753.
  • A. Oven, Summa Iuris Ecclesiastici Publici, Romae 1910, in: Pastor bonus . Volume 23, 1910/11, pp. 753 f.
  • A. De Smet, De Sponsalibus et Matrimonio, Brugis 21911, in: Pastor bonus . Volume 24, 1911/12, p. 110 f.
  • The spiritual jurisdiction of the cath. Church in Prussia in the past and present with special consideration of the nature of the monarchy, 2 volumes, Stuttgart 1915 and 1916, ND Amsterdam 1965.
  • J. Freisen, constitutional history of the cath. Church of Germany in Modern Times, Leipzig / Berlin 1916 in: ZSavRG Kan. Abt. 6, 1916, pp. 451-465.
  • The Trier Apostol. Vicariate Ehrenbreitstein (1816–1824). A contribution to the history and the law of the sedes vacans: ZSavRG Kan. Abt. 7, 1917, pp. 135-283.
  • W. v. Hörmann zu Hörbach, In appreciation of the vatican. Church law, Innsbruck 1917: Deutsche Literaturzeitung 38, 1917, pp. 1179–1183, 1211–1215.
  • Literature on the new ecclesiastical code of law, in: Pastor bonus . Volume 30, 1917/18, pp. 369-372.
  • M. Laros, The concept of intuition in Pascal and its function in the founding of faith, Düsseldorf 1917, in: Pastor bonus . Volume 30, 1917/18, p. 381 f.
  • Literature on the new ecclesiastical code of law, in: Pastor bonus . Volume 30, 1917/18, pp. 555-560.
  • A. Göpfert, Supplements to Moral Theology, Paderborn 71918, in: Pastor bonus . Volume 31, 1918/19, p. 328.
  • I. Fahrner, The marriage law in the new ecclesiastical code, Strasbourg 1918, in: Pastor bonus . Volume 31, 1918/19, p. 328.
  • A. Knecht, plan of marriage law, Freiburg 1918, in: Pastor bonus . Volume 31, 1918/19, p. 329.
  • A. Arndt, The censorship latae sententiae according to the latest law, Innsbruck 1918, in: Pastor bonus . Volume 31, 1918/19, p. 329.
  • J. Mausbach, Natural Law and International Law, Freiburg 1918, in: Pastor bonus . Volume 31, 1918/19, p. 329 f.
  • War missing and remarriage according to state and church law, Paderborn 1919.
  • State and Church in the new Germany. Speech given at the Trier Catholic Day on October 12, 1919, Trier 1919.
  • The center in the new Germany. Speech at the Center Assembly in Trier on May 1, 1919, Trier 1919.
  • The legal situation of the cath. Church in post-revolutionary Germany, in: Diocesan Synod of the Diocese of Trier 28. – 30. September 1920, Trier 1920, pp. 27-33.
  • Conclusion, in: Diocesan Synod of the Diocese of Trier 28. – 30. September 1920, Trier 1920, pp. 101-104.
  • Foreign policy of the empire, in: Georg Schreiber (Hrsg.), Polit. Jahrbuch 1925, Mönchengladbach 1925, pp. 11–34, ibid. 1926, pp. 11–46, ibid. 1927/28, pp. 11–62.
  • The Church in Germany today, its location and task: Abendland 2, 1926, pp. 355–358.
  • The idea of ​​the League of Nations as an ethical problem, in: Germany and the League of Nations, ed. from the German League for the League of Nations, Berlin 1926, pp. 50–56.
  • The Church in Germany today, its situation and its task, in: 66th General Assembly of Catholics in Germany in Dortmund 3. – 6. Sept. 1927, ed. from the General Secretariat of the Central Committee, Dortmund 1927, pp. 82–91.
  • The Service of the European Thought, in: Nord und Süd 50, 1927, pp. 202–206.
  • Concordat speech, in: Germania No. 597/598 of 24./25. Dec 1928.
  • Commission de Constatation et de Conciliation, in: Journal for foreign. public Law and International Law I / 1, 1929, pp. 132–154.
  • Michael Felix Korum, in: StL 5III, 1929, pp. 580-583.
  • From the cultural mission of the Catholics as a whole, in: The 68th General Assembly of German Catholics in Freiburg i. Br. From Aug. 28 to Sept. 1, 1929. Ed. By the Secretariat of the Local Committee, Freiburg undated, pp. 246–259.
  • To international law. Special position of the Rhineland after the eviction, in: Europ. Conversations. Hamburg Monthly Issues for Foreign Policy 7, 1929, pp. 222–231.
  • Eugenio Pacelli . First apostol. Nuncio to the German Empire, in: Eugenio Pacelli. Collected speeches. Selected and a. by Ludwig Kaas, Berlin 1930, pp. 7–24.
  • The League of Nations as a German task, in: Karl Anton Schulte (Hrsg.), National work. The Center and its Work in the German Republic, Berlin 1930, 119–140; Görres Society and Cath. Science, in: Pastor bonus . Volume 42, 1931, pp. 81-82.
  • As an introduction, in: Walter Hagemann, Germany at the crossroads. Thoughts on foreign policy, Freiburg 1931, pp. V – VII.
  • Not backwards - forwards! Speech, Berlin 1931.
  • German foreign policy, in: Oscar Müller (Ed.), Krisis. A political manifesto, Weimar 1932, 51–61.
  • A letter from the Center Leader Kaas, in: Saarbrücker Landes-Zeitung 14 (1933) Issue No. 28 of January 29, 1933.
  • The Concordat Type of Fascist Italy, in: Journal for Foreign. public Law and International Law III / 1, 1933, pp. 488–522.
  • Nuncio Eugenio Pacelli (1917–1929), in: Die Ostschweiz No. 158 of April 4, 1949, p. 1 u. No. 160 of April 5, 1949, p. 1 f.
  • Porta Santa. With a foreword by S. Exz. Prelate Ludwig Kaas, economist of the Archbasilika St. Peter and explanatory texts by H. Riedlinger, Lucerne 1951.
  • Prefazione, in: Esplorazioni sotto la Confessione di San Pietro in Vaticano, eseguite negli anni 1940–1949. Relazione a cura di BM Apollony Ghetti, A. Ferrua SJ, E. Josi, E. Kirschbaum SJ Prefazione di Mons. L. Kaas, Vol. I, Città del Vaticano 1951, pp. VII-XI.

Post mortem

  • Diary 7. – 20. April 1930. Ludwig Kaas - Edited from the estate of Prelate Ludwig Kaas. by Rudolf Morsey , in: Voices of the Time 166, 1960, pp. 422-430.
  • Letters on the Reich Concordat. Ludwig Kaas / Franz v. Papen. Edited by Rudolf Morsey, in: Voices of the Time 167, 1961, pp. 11–30.
  • The way of the center dated April 5, 1933, in: Josef Becker , Center and Empowerment Act 1933: Quarterly Issues for Contemporary History 9, 1961, pp. 195-210.
  • First turn of the year under Hitler. An unknown correspondence between Ludwig Kaas and the Abbot of Grüssau. On the 100th birthday of the center politician on May 23, 1981, by Ludwig Volk , in: Voices of the Time 199, 1981, pp. 314–326.


Web links

Individual evidence

  1. 425 years of Friedrich-Wilhelm-Gymnasium Trier - book accompanying the exhibition . Ed .: Friedrich-Wilhelm-Gymnasium, Trier 1986.
  2. Fritz Aldefeld (ed.): Total directory of RKDB Neuss 1,931th
  3. ^ Heinrich August Winkler : Weimar. The history of the first German democracy . Munich 1993, p. 344, Gerhard Schulz: Between Democracy and Dictatorship: Germany on the Eve of the Great Crisis . Between Democracy and Dictatorship 2. Berlin 1987, p. 207.
  4. ^ Note from State Secretary Pünders on coalition negotiations, January 24, 1929 In: Files of the Reich Chancellery .
  5. ^ Heinrich August Winkler : Weimar. The history of the first German democracy . Munich 1993, p. 344f.
  6. ^ Heinrich August Winkler : Weimar. The history of the first German democracy . Munich 1993, p. 384.
  7. ^ Heinrich August Winkler : Weimar. The history of the first German democracy . Munich 1993, p. 478, declaration by the Reich Chancellery. [2. June 1932] (on statements by Prelate Kaas) In: Files of the Reich Chancellery
  8. ^ Heinrich August Winkler : Weimar. The history of the first German democracy . Munich 1993, p. 536f.
  9. Recording by State Secretary Meissner about a meeting between the Reich President and the Chairman of the Kaas Center Party on November 18, 1932, 6 p.m. In: Reich Chancellery files
  10. Recording by State Secretary Meissner about a meeting between the Reich President and the Chairman of the Kaas Center Party on November 24, 1932, 5 p.m. In: Reich Chancellery files , State Secretary Meissner’s recording of a meeting between the Reich President and the Chairman of the Kaas Center Party on November 25, 1932 , 5 p.m. in: Reich Chancellery files
  11. ^ Heinrich August Winkler : Weimar. The history of the first German democracy . Munich 1993, pp. 543-547.
  12. ^ The chairman of the German Center Party Kaas to the Reich Chancellor. January 26, 1933 In: Reich Chancellery files
  13. ^ Heinrich August Winkler : Weimar. The history of the first German democracy . Munich 1993, p. 583.
  14. ^ Heinrich August Winkler : Weimar. The history of the first German democracy . Munich 1993, p. 594.
  15. ^ Heinrich August Winkler: The way to the west . II German History 1933–1990. Bonn 2006, p. 12.
  16. ^ Heinrich August Winkler: The way to the west . II German History 1933–1990. Bonn 2006, p. 13. Heinrich Brüning: Memoirs 1918–1934 . Stuttgart 1970, p. 656, speech by Prelate Kaas with approval of the Enabling Act .
  17. ^ Heinrich August Winkler: The way to the west . II German History 1933–1990. Bonn 2006, p. 23.
  18. Peter's grave: site of a conspiracy against Hitler? ( Memento of April 24, 2016 in the Internet Archive ) Vatican Radio , February 21, 2012.
  19. ^ Albrecht Weiland: The Campo Santo Teutonico in Rome and its grave monuments. Volume I , Herder, Freiburg im Breisgau 1988, ISBN 3-451-20882-2 , p. 196 ff
  20. Short biography in Bernd v. Moeller, Bruno Jahn (Ed.): German Biographical Encyclopedia of Theology and the Churches . de Gruyter, 2005, ISBN 978-3-11-095988-8 (eBook).
  21. ^ The grave of Ludwig Kaas. In: Klaus Nerger, accessed November 16, 2018 .