May constitution

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The May Constitution of 1934 is the imposed constitution of the Austrian corporate state , which came into force on May 1, 1934 and was repealed by the annexation to Germany in 1938.

History of origin

After the Dollfuss government finally left parliamentary democracy on March 4, 1933 through what was later to be called the "self- elimination " of parliament , a formal mishap that resulted from the rules of procedure and which rendered parliament incapable of action, the constitution of the regime appeared 1920 (in the version from 1929) obsolete. That is why a new constitution was drawn up under the chairmanship of Otto Ender .

This was finally issued twice: on the one hand by an ordinance of the federal government according to the War Economic Enabling Act , which was a clear breach of the constitution and corresponded to the authoritarian system practiced with it; on the other hand, in order to improve the optics vis-à-vis foreign countries, by a resolution of the Rump National Council on April 30, 1934. The mandates of the Social Democratic MPs had been declared expired; Most of the Greater German MPs also stayed away from the unconstitutional session.

The former was done primarily to satisfy the partner of Dollfuss' Fatherland Front , the Heimwehr , who had worked towards the abolition of parliament since it was founded and therefore demanded a non-parliamentary way of creating the new constitution, the latter was done to make it appear to preserve legal continuity. But even this second way, as two Greater German MPs emphasized in the last National Council meeting of the First Republic, did not meet the formal requirements of the Federal Constitution 1920/1929, which had been in effect until then, as neither the attendance quorum was met ( i.e. the required number of MPs was not present when the decision was made war) nor the referendum was held, which was mandatory for this overall amendment of the constitution.

Announcement, structure and preamble

The constitution was already announced in the annex to the ordinance of the federal government of April 24, 1934 on the constitution of the federal state of Austria, Federal Law Gazette No. 239/1934 . The formal conversion into a new state did not take place until the deliberately chosen date of May 1st : it was prepared by the Federal Constitutional Act of April 30, 1934 on Extraordinary Measures in the Constitution, Federal Law Gazette No. 255/1934 , with which it also incorporated into the constitution then applicable and the Federal Government was empowered to republish it as the 1934 constitution (Art. II), and the National Council and Federal Council were dissolved with effect from the following day (Art. III). Then it appeared in the new Federal Law Gazette for the Federal State of Austria in the annex to the announcement of the Federal Government of May 1, 1934, with which the 1934 Constitution was promulgated, Federal Law Gazette No. 1/1934 (which is usually known as Federal Law Gazette II No. BGBl. 1/1934 / II is noted), which is why we speak of the May constitution today .

The constitution is divided into 13 main parts, 182 articles and a preamble , which is important because of its programmatic content:

"In the name of God, the Almighty, from whom all justice proceeds, the Austrian people receive this constitution for their Christian, German federal state on an estate basis."

In contrast to the Federal Constitution of 1920/1929, according to which the law of the republic originated from the people, the May constitution of 1934 was given “in the name of God”, while the people only passively “received” it: It was an imposed constitution , although this The fact should be concealed by the decision of the Rump National Council. Thus was the corporate state - contrary to 1919 after the abolition of de facto Catholic Habsburg Monarchy " grace of God " deliberately separation of church and state based Republic - again not decidedly secular created.


legislative branch

The constitution for the ordinary legislative four preliminary advice bodies before, including the State Council , the Federal Cultural Council , the Federal Economic Council and the Länderrat . These were intended as expert bodies that were supposed to examine and prepare draft laws. The former strengthened the authoritarian system because its members by the President with the countersignature of the Federal Chancellor appointed for ten years, the latter emphasized the corporative element because its members have been sent by the individual stands.

The Bundestag consisted of members of the four preparatory bodies and was intended as a decision-making body; however, he could only agree to the bills or reject them outright. Since he had no authority to initiate a law or to determine the content of the law and was also sent by the preliminary advisory bodies, it was de facto a mere acclamation instrument of the government. The federal government was responsible for the sole legislative initiative .

The constitution also contained plebiscitary elements: a government-initiated referendum, for example, would have repealed and replaced a negative decision of the Bundestag. The possibility of a popular initiative initiated by the population, however, has been abolished. Furthermore, the War Economic Enabling Act of 1917 remained in force, which, according to (unconstitutional) interpretation, allowed government ordinances to amend the law and the constitution. In addition, there was also an emergency law of the Federal Government and the Federal President.


The organs of administration were adopted almost identically from the First Republic, but their creation was changed. The Federal President should now be elected by all mayors on the basis of a three-man proposal by the Federal Assembly, and his term of office was extended to seven years. The federal government remained the highest executive body of the federal government; its appointment continued to be made by the Federal President. It experienced a significant strengthening, since it was no longer responsible to parliament and was responsible for the sole legislative initiative .


The judiciary remained a federal matter ; Despite the basic authoritarian content of the constitution, judicial independence was "guaranteed". The jury courts were, as their judgments were difficult to foresee, replaced by jury panels, which amounted to a weakening of the unpredictable lay element. The constitutional and administrative courts were combined to form the Federal Court of Justice , to which judges loyal to the regime were appointed.

State law

At the state level , the people continued to be the bearers of violence, but only had access to decision-making on a class basis. The state parliaments were no longer composed by elections, but by sending representatives from economic and cultural organizations. The state parliaments had no right of initiative and practically no right of control. The legislative resolutions of the state parliaments required the consent of the Federal Chancellor. The state governments now consist of a governor (who was appointed by the Federal President on the basis of a three-way proposal by the state parliament ), a deputy and state councilors. The district captains were appointed by the state with the consent of the Federal Chancellor. These in turn had to confirm the election of the mayor, thus making it possible that only people loyal to the regime were allowed to vote for the Federal President.

Fundamental rights

Furthermore, the constitution also contained provisions on the general fundamental rights of citizens, freedom of the press and freedom of teaching , which appear comparatively liberal in view of the authoritarian basic structure of the constitution . However, the rights could and were restricted by the federal government at any time by means of constitution-amending ordinances. Because of the restrictions noted in the constitution, the freedom rights appeared to be "almost meaningless in practice" from a freethinker's point of view.

1933 Concordat

The concordat between Austria and the Holy See , signed on June 5, 1933 and enacted on the basis of an unconstitutional government decree, was also a constitutional law in the corporate state from the start. It enabled the Roman Catholic Church to exert greater influence on the state and on personal issues than before. It was republished as a Concordat between the Holy See and the Republic of Austria in Federal Law Gazette (II) No. 2/1934 with the Constitution of 1934 and declared as ratified by the Federal President by virtue of his office.


The May Constitution of 1934 was at no time fully in practical application until Austria was dissolved in the German Reich in 1938. It remained largely the case that the federal government ruled dictatorially with ordinances. Wilhelm Miklas ' second term of office, which began in 1932, would have ended in 1936 according to the Federal Constitutional Act in the 1929 version ; however, there was no federal presidential election according to the rules of the new constitution. The connection law of March 13, 1938 was not submitted to any of the legislative organs provided for in the May Constitution, but was adopted as an ordinance of the federal government.

The proclamation of April 27, 1945 on the independence of Austria (StGBl. 1/1945) demanded in its article I, "the democratic republic of Austria is restored and to be re-established in the spirit of the constitution 1920/29". In doing so, it not only declared the connection to Germany as "null and void" (wording of Art. II), but also implicitly the corporate state. The 1st  Constitutional Transition Act 1945 restores the B-VG and the rest of the federal constitutional law to the status of March 5, 1933. In particular, the following were repealed: Constitution 1934, Enabling Act 1934 , F-VG 1934 , V-ÜG 1934 (as well as Connection Act 1938 , Ostmark Act 1939). This measure contributed a lot to the self- image of the 2nd republic , which was later often criticized as a victim myth , because it meant that Dollfuss (and Schuschnigg) were personally charged with the responsibility for the developments that led to the Anschluss, but not the republic, as it was in the spring 1934 was considered extinct, and the people of the state, which was passed over as sovereign in the 1934 constitution . This also resulted in the ambivalent role of Dollfuss in the Austrian view of history, who on the one hand was a staunch Austrian and fiercest opponent of Hitler in his time, on the other hand, due to his totalitarian measures, is considered to be his most important pioneer for further events in Austria. This also includes the fact that Dollfuss' seizure of power - unlike Hitler's legally compliant seizure of power in Germany in 1933 - was viewed as purely exploiting a loophole in the law as in the parliamentary crisis of March 1933 and was therefore understood as illegitimate.


Web links

Individual evidence

  1. Helmut Wohnout: Political-legal controversies about the 1934 constitution in authoritarian Austria. In: Erika Weinzierl (ed.): Justice and contemporary history. Contributions to the symposium 1976–1993. Volume 2, Jugend & Volk, Vienna 1995, ISBN 3-224-12999-9 , p. 833ff.
  2. To not do it with the first regulation in the old Federal Law Gazette for the Republic of Austria to be confused of 4 January 1934 comp. Query BgBl. 1/1934 , ris.bka ;
    the new law gazette as “a second part of the Federal Law Gazette 1934 beginning on May 1, 1934” is expressly mentioned in Art. II. BGBl (I) No. 255/1934, last sentence.
  3. The Church blesses the breaking of the oath. The prelude to the spiritual enslavement of Austria. , in: Freidenker Heft 9, Volume 18 (1935)
  4. a b cf. Austrian constitutional history. Transcript by Lukas Müller, University of Vienna, October 27, 2011; Chapter XI. Period: External controlled Republic of Austria 1945–1955. ( Chapter ( Memento from April 17, 2016 in the Internet Archive ), there p. 1 f; entire document ( Memento from April 17, 2016 in the Internet Archive ); both pdf (doc),, accessed 17 April 2016).