Ludwig Windthorst

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Ludwig Windthorst, 1872

Ludwig Johann Ferdinand Gustav Windthorst (born January 17, 1812 at Gut Caldenhof in Ostercappeln near Osnabrück , † March 14, 1891 in Berlin ) was a German politician of the originally denominational-Catholic German Center Party .

Youth and education

Memorial at Gut Caldenhof

Windthorst grew up in a world characterized by traditional Catholicism in the Protestant Guelph state of Hanover and, as a member of the Catholic Church, was an outsider who was actually denied access to high state offices. But Windthorst proved to be extremely tough over the course of his career, although he was also one of the disadvantaged in the personal sector. The only son in the family was disadvantaged by being short and having a relatively oversized head. After the death of his father Franz in 1822, he became a half-orphan. Windthorst's mother Klara, however, managed to offer him an adequate education through her income from the rent master's office on Gut Caldenhof owned by the imperial baron Droste zu Vischering .

“When she left the house of his parents, Windthorst's mother gave her son a silver inkwell and a silver quill with the words: 'Here is your late father's inkwell and pen. Woe to you if you ever use it for something that is not true, noble and Christian! '"

The disadvantages may have shaped his character. He often reacted militantly to defiantly to the judgments of supposedly stronger people or those of the authorities. As a teacher his lack of talent certified, he stated that he would prevail in any case. Despite initial difficulties, he graduated from the Carolinum grammar school in Osnabrück as one of the best. Diligence and ambition became personal attributes.

After graduation in 1830 studied Windthorst in Göttingen and Heidelberg law . In Göttingen he met a new, Protestant and education-oriented, part-liberal world and developed into an enlightened and liberal lawyer . But he had problems to bring his traditional beliefs into harmony with the new spiritual currents. He overcame this crisis by turning to the teachings of the Bonn theologian Georg Hermes . In 1834 he became a trainee lawyer in Osnabrück, and in 1836 he settled there as a lawyer . On May 29, 1838, he married Julie Engelen, six years his senior, in Oedingberge . The marriage resulted in four children, two daughters and two sons. In 1842 he was appointed chairman of the Catholic Consistory in Osnabrück. The Osnabrück knighthood elected him as syndic . As early as 1848 he became a judge at the Higher Appeal Court in Celle , the highest court in the Kingdom of Hanover .

Politician in Hanover

Favored by his hard work and ambition, but also by his ability to adapt to new situations, quick comprehension and great legal talent, Windthorst quickly rose to higher offices after completing his studies. It was also beneficial for his ascent that the Catholics established themselves in Hanover. During the constitutional conflict of 1837, they remained loyal to the Hanoverian royal family. When the revolution of 1848/49 reached Hanover, King Ernst August tried to intercept it by making concessions. Against the background of a more liberal political turn, Windthorst, who feared the revolution as an outbreak of proletarian masses, was elected in 1849 for the "Greater and Genuine German Party" from the Iburg office near Osnabrück to the House of Representatives of the Kingdom of Hanover , whose president he became in 1851. His attempt to be elected to the Frankfurt National Assembly in 1848 failed in three constituencies, where he lost in one by drawing lots and in another by falling two votes behind. From 1851 to 1853 and from 1862 to 1865 he held the office of Minister of Justice and campaigned for politics that were friendly to Austria. During his tenure, he introduced groundbreaking reforms to the judiciary. The Second Chamber of Hanover, of which he was President for some time in 1851, belonged to the first Catholic minister of the Kingdom of Hanover from 1849 to 1855 for the Iburg district and from 1855 to 1856 and from 1863 to 1866 for the Emsland city of Papenburg . In 1857, the state refused to accept re-election by the city of Papenburg. In addition to his work as a member of parliament and minister, Windthorst worked as a lawyer and in 1865 became chief attorney in Celle.

Ludwig Windthorst, 1860

The Prussian Bismarck recognized in hannoversch- Guelph Windthorst early as the 1850s a political opponent. For him, Windthorst represented many things that he saw as the opposite of Prussia: Catholic, ultra-montane , liberal , democratic, federal and a friend of Austria. Bismarck put pressure on King George V and convinced him to dismiss what he saw as the liberal-democratic cabinet in which Windthorst was involved from 1851 to 1853. To the satisfaction of Bismarck, after Windthorst's dismissal, a period of reaction began with police-state means. Windthorst was ultimately refused a seat in the Second Chamber. Windthorst did not forget this intervention by Bismarck in Hanoverian politics. Even decades later, he made Bismarck jointly responsible for the arbitrary policy of the late 1850s.

Although the relationship between the Hanoverian king and Windthorst was always tense from this time on - the king considered him a cunning, Jesuit and liberal politician who worked against the monarchical principle - George V was of Windthorst's national sentiments and his willingness to pursue an independent policy between the interests of Prussia and Austria, convinced. When the situation in Germany shifted more and more in favor of Prussia, he reappointed him as Minister of Justice in 1862 with the hope of being able to assert himself against Bismarck's policy. But when Windthorst initiated liberal reforms, George V withdrew his trust in him for the second time in 1865. Windthorst was upset about his release. He did not trust the king and the new government to be able to prevail against Prussia.

In the North German Confederation

The annexation of Hanover by Prussia after the Austro-Prussian War in 1866 looked Windthorst as a political as personal misfortune. It was not right but power that had decided in his eyes. After the annexation of Hanover, Windthorst, unlike many other Hanoverian politicians, did not withdraw into private life. From 1867 on he sat as a member of the Meppen-Aschendorf-Hümmling-Bentheim-Lingen constituency in the Reichstag of the North German Confederation and also in the Prussian House of Representatives for the Meppen-Aschendorf-Hümmling constituency until his death . He also worked as a legal advisor and agent for King George V, who was deposed by Prussia.

In the Reichstag, Windthorst joined the federal constitutional association , in which he was the only Catholic apart from Hermann von Mallinckrodt . The association was federal and stood in opposition to Bismarck and the Liberals. Nevertheless, he was able to work with the Liberals on many points. Windthorst endeavored to create an independent parliament and advocated MP diets. He also campaigned for the interests of the Catholic Church, but remained non-attached in the Prussian House of Representatives and did not join a Catholic Center Party that still existed there. As a member of the North German Reichstag, Windthorst automatically belonged to the customs parliament. In the southern German states, the opponents of the Kleindeutsche and Bismarckian politics in Germany were strongly represented. Many South German MPs joined together in the South German parliamentary group, which Windthorst also joined as an intern.

In all three parliaments, Windthorst was soon seen as the personality of an oppositional movement and was Bismarck's avowed opponent, even if Bismarck did not publicly admit to this opposition. Bismarck only spoke about Windthorst to people he trusted.

Opponent of Bismarck

Ludwig Windthorst in tails ;
Oil painting by Heinrich Johann Sinkels , around 1880
Windthorst (left) in the German Reichstag around 1889
Caricature of Bismarck and Windthorst as "stokers and brakemen" in the culture war
Windthorst's short-sighted fixation on “Rome” in contrast to Bismarck's alleged political foresight, caricature from Kladderadatsch , 1884

Windthorst showed great distrust of the German Empire of 1871. This state, brought about by wars, had to go down in wars, according to his conviction. When the Center Party was founded, he initially held back, also because he feared that he might burden the new party with his commitment to the former Hanoverian King George V, but joined it in January 1871. However, he continued to maintain close personal contact with the parliamentary representatives of the Welf German-Hanover Party , who as Lutherans only joined the center as interns and who always entered into electoral alliances with the center during the Reichstag elections in Hanover during his lifetime.

Windthorst ran for the constituency of Meppen-Lingen-Bentheim , which comprised today's districts of Emsland and Grafschaft Bentheim , and was elected to the German Reichstag eight times from 1871 until his death in 1891 . As a member of the Reichstag and the Prussian House of Representatives , he made a name for himself as an extremely capable speaker , especially in the Kulturkampf that Bismarck waged against the influence of the Catholic Church , and rose to become the leading representative of the Center Party and German Catholicism without officially holding a parliamentary group office on. Windthorst is considered to be the parliamentary opponent of Bismarck and also found an opponent in Gustav von Goßler . This is why Bismarck tried again and again to hinder or prevent Windthorst's election in Emsland through various measures, for example by secretly promoting the press. Nevertheless, the Catholic from the Lingen district was also elected to the Hanoverian provincial parliament in 1884, into which he moved in 1885.

During the Kulturkampf, Windthorst vehemently advocated a religious basis for the school system and equal rights for all minorities, including the rights of Jews and Poles. For the same reason he also opposed the socialist law , although he also fought against the socialists because of their anti-religious policies. Today, therefore, several (not only Catholic) schools in Germany are named after Ludwig Windthorst.

Above all, Windthorst's 1880 speech in the House of Representatives, which was expressly held as a private person, is described by Olaf Blaschke as the “highlight 'of the Catholic defense against anti-Semitism ”. Blaschke, however, limits the fact that Windthorst also "instrumentalized" the topic for Catholic interests, among other things with the words: " No baiting against Jews , but also no baiting Christians , especially not baiting Catholics ." In addition, this speech also shows "typical elements of the anti-Jewish argumentation of ultramontanism ”, such as Windthorst's conviction that this debate would not have come about“ if some of our Jewish fellow citizens had not given the occasion ”. Furthermore, in the Kulturkampf “the overwhelming majority of Jewish writers assumed a [...] very hostile position”. He did not want to credit the perceived de-Christianization “not to the Jews as such”, but only to the unbelieving part, together with the unbelieving Christians, and therefore all liberal culture fighters.

Ludwig Windthorst in 1889 (Photo from the biography of Eduard Hüsgen, 1911)

During the Kulturkampf, the decades-long opposition between Windthorst and Bismarck broke out openly. For the Reich Chancellor, Windthorst was given an almost existential role in his mental household. In a conversation with the MP Christoph von Tiedemann and the historian Prof. Heinrich von Sybel in Berlin on January 25, 1875 , Bismarck once remarked : “But hatred is just as great a spur to life as love. Two things maintain and beautify my life: my wife and - Windthorst. The one is there for love, the other for hate. ”This strange rank which Windthorst occupied for Bismarck reveals that the conflict on the part of Bismarck often left the objective level. But Windthorst also seems to have dealt with more than just issues in this parliamentary dispute with the Chancellor. He knew how to provoke Bismarck, and the Reich Chancellor often had great difficulty repelling the attacks of the center leader, who was at least as good as his parliamentary dexterity. Despite all governmental efforts, the Emslanders voted for Windthorst with extraordinary unity and with an unusually high turnout across the empire, even if the governing parties boycotted the elections there because of the hopelessness of government candidates.

In almost all individual questions as well as in the general worldview, Windthorst presented himself as an antagonist of Bismarck's politics. It was the omnipotence of the state or Bismarck that prompted Windthorst to oppose this chancellor. Bismarck's policy was based on demarcation, deviations were either used by him for his own interests or combated. Windthorst, on the other hand, adopted different positions and thus became the central figure of identification of the Center Party. He was not only a Catholic, but also a federalist , rule of law and staunch parliamentarian . With regard to the Polish question, he presented himself to a limited extent as a kind of early international lawyer .

Windthorst was a member and founder of many Catholic associations. In 1871 he became an honorary member of the Catholic Reading Association (later KStV Askania ) in the Cartel Association of Catholic German Student Associations and in 1872 a member of the Association of Scientific Catholic Student Associations Unitas . Shortly before his death, he founded the People's Association for Catholic Germany , which grew into the most important Catholic mass organization in the Empire and was banned by the National Socialists after 1933 .

As early as 1882, Windthorst was invested in the Knight of the Knights of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem by Vincenzo Bracco , the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem and Grand Master of the Order of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem .

Political evaluation

Otto von Bismarck judged as follows in 1890: “There are not two souls in the Center Party, but seven schools of thought that shimmer in all the colors of the political rainbow, from the extreme right to the radical left. For my part, I admire the skill with which the center's coachman knows how to steer all these diverging spirits so elegantly. ” Golo Mann considered the chairman of the Catholic Center Party, Ludwig Windthorst, to be“ the most brilliant parliamentarian Germany has ever had ”. Lothar Gall named Windthorst in his standard work on the life and work of Bismarck as “probably the most important parliamentary leader of political Catholicism in the 19th century”. Jonathan Steinberg writes in his Bismarck biography: “The perseverance, integrity and courage with which Windthorst fought against Bismarck's authoritarianism and violations of the law, often contrary to the reactionary instincts of his own parliamentary group, would deserve to be better known in today's Federal Republic of Germany and would be held in a higher honor than is the case. "

Death and afterlife

Ludwig Windthorst on his deathbed, 1891
Postcard of the Marienkirche in Hanover with the inscription Dr. Windhorst's final resting place

Windthorst died on March 14, 1891 in Berlin at a pneumonia . Two days earlier, the seriously ill was visited personally by Kaiser Wilhelm II in his apartment. Windthorst's grave is in the St. Marien Church in Hanover. His successor as a member of the Reichstag was his compatriot and temporary employee, the lawyer Carl Brandenburg , who was already a member of the Prussian House of Representatives. After Brandenburg's death, Windthorst's nephew Carl Friedrich Engelen represented the Meppen constituency, which was well known throughout the Reich. In Emsland, Windthorst was an important figure of integration in the Catholic milieu until 1933, and his politics and memory were often evoked there in election campaigns, especially in March 1933.


Windthorst monument next to the Osnabrück Cathedral
Windthorst monument in front of the Meppener Windthorst-Gymnasium

The Windthorstbund , the youth organization of the center, is named after Windthorst . The Ludwig Windthorst Foundation , based in Lingen-Holthausen, takes care of the political, social and religious concerns of the center politician and others. a. by promoting young talent in the Ludwig Windthorst working group into the present day. His name is next to it:

A memorial is located on the site of his birthplace on Gut Caldenhof. On the Black Bears in Göttingen is a memorial plaque for the politicians attached. A plaque on the forecourt of the Maria Hilf pilgrimage church in Amberg commemorates Windthorst's appearance at the Amberg Catholic Day in 1884. The city of Amberg has also named Windthorststrasse after Ludwig Windthorst, to whom it granted honorary citizenship on September 6, 1884. The St. Ludwig Church in Berlin-Wilmersdorf was named in his honor after his namesake.

Ceiling painting in the parish church of St. Josef , Reinhausen: Pope Pius IX. declares St. Joseph the patron of the Catholic Church; he is joined by the “workers' bishop” Ketteler von Mainz , the Regensburg student associations and the center chairman Windthorst.

Windthorst never lived in the Hildesheim villa built for him in the 1880s .

The exhibition "Parliament - 45 Lives for Democracy" in the German Bundestag honored Ludwig Windthorst in 2019 as one of the most important democrats in German history.

Font editions

  • Ludwig Windthorst. 1812-1891 . Edited and explained by Hans-Georg Aschoff . Contributions to research on Catholicism. Series A: Source texts on the history of Catholicism, Volume 9. Schöningh, Paderborn, Munich, Vienna and Zurich 1991, ISBN 3-506-70869-4
  • Selected speeches. Volume 1 . (2nd, improved edition, reprint of the edition by Wehberg-Verlag, Osnabrück 1903.) Olms, Hildesheim, Zurich and New York 2003, ISBN 3-487-12007-0
  • Selected speeches. Volume 2 . (Reprint of the edition of Wehberg-Verlag, Osnabrück 1902.) Olms, Hildesheim, Zurich and New York 2003, ISBN 3-487-12008-9
  • Selected speeches. Volume 3 . (Reprint of the edition by Wehberg-Verlag, Osnabrück 1902.) Olms, Hildesheim, Zurich and New York 2003, ISBN 3-487-12009-7
  • Letters. Volume 1: 1834-1880 . Edited by Hans-Georg Aschoff and Heinz-Jörg Heinrich. Publications of the Commission for Contemporary History. Series A: Sources, Volume 45. Schöningh, Paderborn, Munich, Vienna and Zurich 1995, ISBN 3-506-79885-5
  • Letters. Volume 2: 1881-1891. Supplemented by an addendum with letters from 1834 to 1880 . Edited by Hans-Georg Aschoff and Heinz-Jörg Heinrich. Publications of the Commission for Contemporary History, Series A: Sources, Volume 47. Schöningh, Paderborn, Munich, Vienna and Zurich 2002, ISBN 3-506-79888-X


  • Margaret Lavinia Anderson: Windthorst. Central politician and opponent of Bismarck (= research and sources on contemporary history. Vol. 14). Droste, Düsseldorf 1988, ISBN 3-7700-0774-3 .
  • Georg Arnold: Against the Prussian state omnipotence. The development of Ludwig Windthorst into Bismarck's opponent. VDM Verlag Dr. Müller, Saarbrücken 2007, ISBN 978-3-8364-3048-7 .
  • Hans-Georg Aschoff : Ludwig Windthorst. A Christian politician in a time of upheaval. Lower Saxony State Center for Political Education, Hanover 1991
  • Hans-Georg Aschoff: Rule of Law and Emancipation. The political work of Ludwig Windthorst (= Emsland / Bentheim. Vol. 5). Publishing house of the Emsland landscape for the district of Emsland and Grafschaft Bentheim eV, Sögel 1988, ISBN 3-925034-13-7 .
  • Hans-Georg Aschoff: Welfish movement and political Catholicism. 1866-1918. The German-Hanoverian party and the center in the province of Hanover during the German Empire (= contributions to the history of parliamentarism and political parties. Vol. 83). Droste, Düsseldorf 1987, ISBN 3-7700-5140-8 (at the same time: Hanover, University, habilitation paper, 1986).
  • Rüdiger Drews : Ludwig Windthorst. Catholic tribune against Bismarck. A biography. Pustet, Regensburg 2011, ISBN 978-3-7917-2408-9 .
  • Christian Feldmann: Bismarck's opponent. Ludwig Windthorst, brilliant parliamentarian and liberal Catholic. NDR-Kultur, broadcast on October 21, 2012, online version (PDF; 123 kB) .
  • Bernd Kettet:  Windthorst, Ludwig. In: Biographisch-Bibliographisches Kirchenlexikon (BBKL). Volume 13, Bautz, Herzberg 1998, ISBN 3-88309-072-7 , Sp. 1391-1396.
  • Johannes Laschinger: Der Katholikentag of 1884 , In: DER EISENGAU , Volume 42, Amberg 2014, ISBN 978-3-9814672-7-7 , pp. 22-47.
  • Helmut Lensing: The elections to the Reichstag and the Prussian House of Representatives in Emsland and in the Grafschaft Bentheim 1867 to 1918. Party system and political disputes in the constituency of Ludwig Windthorst during the German Empire (= Emsland / Bentheim. Vol. 15). Emsland landscape for the districts of Emsland and Grafschaft Bentheim, Sögel 1999, ISBN 3-925034-30-7 (also: Münster, University, dissertation, 1997).
  • Helmut Lensing: Ludwig Windthorst. New facets of his political work (= studies and sources on the history of the Emsland and the county of Bentheim. Vol. 1). Study Society for Emsland Regional History, Haselünne 2011, ISBN 978-3-9814041-4-2 .
  • Wolfgang Löhr: Windthorst, Ludwig. In: Siegfried Koß, Wolfgang Löhr (Hrsg.): Biographisches Lexikon des KV. 2nd part (= Revocatio historiae. Volume 3). SH-Verlag, Schernfeld 1993, ISBN 3-923621-98-1 , p. 199 ff.
  • Hermann Meemken (Ed.): Ludwig Windthorst 1812-1891. Christian parliamentarian and opponent of Bismarck. Book accompanying the memorial exhibition on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of death - a memorial exhibition of the Emsland district and the Ludwig Windthorst Foundation. Goldschmidt, Werlte 1991, ISBN 3-927099-25-2 .
  • Felix RachfahlWindthorst, Ludwig . In: Allgemeine Deutsche Biographie (ADB). Volume 55, Duncker & Humblot, Leipzig 1910, pp. 97-104.
  • Wilhelm Rothert : General Hannoversche Biography Volume 1: Hannoversche men and women since 1866 , Sponholtz, Hannover 1912, pp. 307–323
  • Wolfgang Sellert: Ludwig Windthorst as a lawyer. “The way of the right is the only way that leads to the goal”. Wallstein, Göttingen 1991, ISBN 3-89244-024-7 .
  • Wilhelm Spael: Ludwig Windthorst. Bismarck's little big opponent. A picture of life. Fromm, Osnabrück 1962.
  • Volker Ullrich : German Empire: The Little Excellency. In: Die Zeit No. 03/2012 of January 13, 2012.
  • Hans-Georg Aschoff: Political Catholicism at the time of Ludwig Windthorst and its relations with the Pope and the Curia, in: Stefan Heid , Karl-Joseph Hummel (ed.): Papality and patriotism. The Campo Santo Teutonico: Place of the Germans in Rome between Risorgimento and First World War (1870-1918) (= Roman quarterly for Christian antiquity and church history . Supplement vol. 65). Herder, Freiburg (Breisgau) et al. 2018, ISBN 978-3-451-38130-0 , pp. 233-262.

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Anton Koch: Homiletisches Handbuch I (132) Herder, Freiburg im Breisgau 1939 (third edition), p. 86.
  2. Volker Ullrich: The Little Excellency . Portrait of Ludwig Windthorst. In: Die Zeit , January 12, 2012, page 16, [1]
  3. ^ Lothar Gall: Bismarck. The white revolutionary . Corrected edition. Frankfurt am Main 1980, p. 487.
  4. Jonathan Steinberg: Bismarck: Magician of Power . Propylaen Verlag, Berlin 2012, ISBN 3-549-07416-6 .
  5. [2]
  6. [3]
  7. Rolf Westheider: From Emsland to Vrbastal. Traces of northern German emigrants north of Banja Luka. In: The Germans in Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina. New research and perspectives. Center for Research into German History and Culture in Southeastern Europe at the University of Tübingen, Sarajevo 2013. p. 27.
  8. ^ Johannes Laschinger: The Catholic Day of 1884 , In: Der Eisengau , Volume 42, Amberg 2014, ISBN 978-3-9814672-7-7 , pp. 22-47
  9. Bundestag exhibition honors 45 democrats - including Ludwig Windthorst. May 9, 2019, accessed on September 30, 2019 (German).

Web links

Commons : Ludwig Windthorst  - Collection of images, videos and audio files