Prussian Landtag

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The term Prussian Landtag has been used to describe various political institutions in Prussia since the 15th century .

In the early modern period, the assembly of the Prussian royal portion was called the Prussian state parliament. From 1849 to 1918 the term Prussian Landtag referred to the Prussian people's representation formed from the two chambers of the mansion and the house of representatives. During the Weimar Republic the first chamber of the state parliament of the Free State of Prussia was called the Prussian Landtag , the second chamber was the Prussian State Council .

Old Prussia

Order state

First meetings, as Prussian Landtag be called (or day trips), mentioned found in the afterwards Prussia Teutonic Knights of the Teutonic Order instead. The part of the order area in the old Prussia was named Prussia after the Baltic indigenous population, the Pruzzen, and was not yet united with the Margraviate of Brandenburg - the heartland of the later Kingdom of Prussia - this only happened in the 16th century due to success. In 1308, when Gdansk was taken over, the Knights of the Order and the Mark Brandenburger, who were entitled to inheritance, faced each other. After the lost battle of Tannenberg (1410) , a state parliament was convened by the Grand Master of the Teutonic Order in 1411, which regulated the financing of the Polish reparation claims against the state of the Order ("Old Prussia"). Involved in it were u. a. Envoy from the Hanseatic cities. The discontented cities and country nobles organized themselves in the Prussian League , which broke away from the religious order in 1454 and formed an alliance with the Polish crown for this purpose. Through the Thirteen Years' War 1454–1466, the western part of Old Prussia (later West Prussia ) was placed under the Polish Crown with a guarantee of autonomy, the eastern part remained with the Order.

Prussia royal share

The Prussian royal share (also: Polish Prussia) was only assigned to the person of the King of Poland from 1466 to 1772, whereby the autonomy rights also included a state parliament. From 1466, assemblies were held here, called the Prussian Landtag, in which, among others, Nicolaus Copernicus took part as a member of the Duchy of Warmia . An important meeting point was the adjustment of currency values ​​with Poland , Lithuania and the Duchy of Prussia , which came into force in 1525. Copernicus wrote the Monetae cudendae ratio on this.

With the decline of the I. Rzeczpospolita ( first partition of Poland ), the existence of Prussia Royal Share ended in 1772. With the exception of the city republics of Danzig and Thorn , which were added in 1793, it became the new province of West Prussia in the Kingdom of Prussia under King Frederick the Great.

Duchy and Kingdom of Prussia (1525–1848)

Prussia 1576 ( C. Henneberg , reprinted by Blaeu in 1645 ): Ducal Prussia subsequently highlighted in color, Royal Prussia not

The remaining part of the religious state in eastern Prussia (later called East Prussia) initially remained autonomous until Grand Master Albrecht von Brandenburg-Ansbach converted it into a secular duchy in 1525 and also placed it under the Polish crown as a fief. In 1618, the Brandenburg Elector Johann Sigismund inherited the ducal dignity. This meant that Brandenburg and Prussia were administered in personal union, although the Brandenburg elector, in his role as Duke of Prussia, was nominally obliged to be subservient to the Polish king until the elector Friedrich Wilhelm obtained sovereignty in the Treaty of Wehlau in 1657 .

In the Königsberg uprising in 1663, the last attempt by the Prussian estates to assert themselves against the elector as a power factor in the duchy failed.

In 1701 the Brandenburg Elector Friedrich III crowned himself . in Königsberg as Friedrich I personally as “King in Prussia”. In this epoch known as absolutism , however, there was no question of the Estates having a say - neither of a Prussian Landtag.

In constitutional Prussia 1849–1918

Prussian House of Representatives around 1900, shortly after the new building opened

The history of the Prussian Landtag as a political institution in the 19th century began after the dissolution of the Prussian National Assembly and the introduction of the constitution of 1848/1850. The parliament was a two-chamber parliament , consisting of the manor house (until 1855: first chamber ) and the house of representatives (until 1855: second chamber ). Originally, the First Chamber was elected by citizens who either paid at least eight thalers in taxes per year or had an income of 500 thalers per year or owned 5000 thalers in assets. After a constitutional amendment in 1850, the first chamber was only partially elected, the remaining members were appointed by the king or had a hereditary seat. From 1853 there were no more elected members. The heads of formerly imperial noble families were automatically members. There were also persons appointed by the king, some with hereditary seats, but also representatives from large cities (mayors) and certain institutions.

The members of the Prussian House of Representatives were elected according to the three-class suffrage until 1918 . That is, the eligible voters were divided into three groups according to their tax revenue in each constituency. Each group had the same weight. As a result, the political influence of the wealthy was significantly greater than that of the less well off. The demand for equal voting rights became one of the central issues in Prussian domestic politics in the course of the 19th and early 20th centuries.

Nevertheless, the House of Representatives was a step forward compared to the time before 1848, as it was not an assembly of estates, but a representative body of the people despite the three-class suffrage. Both chambers and the king had the right to initiate legislation. The most important parliamentary tool was the budget law. There was also a (criminal) ministerial responsibility . However, the influence of the elected House of Representatives was limited by the legislative participation rights of the only partially elected manor house. In fact, the predominantly conservative mansion had a kind of veto right over the House of Representatives.

In political practice, the House of Representatives was comparatively weak during the Reaction Era (around 1849/1851 to 1858/1859). That changed with the new era and the transition to more liberal governance in the 1860s. A high point of Prussian parliamentarism that liberalization brought with it at that time was the dispute between the now liberal majority in the House of Representatives and Prime Minister Otto von Bismarck (since 1862) during the Prussian constitutional conflict .

For details on the two chambers, see main article: Prussian House of Representatives , Prussian Manor House

Free State of Prussia 1918–1933

The Reich Assembly of Workers 'and Soldiers' Councils in Germany met in the plenary hall in 1918. There she decided to call for general and free elections to the Weimar National Assembly . At the turn of the year 1918/1919, the Communist Party of Germany (KPD) was founded in the ballroom above the entrance .

First Chamber: Prussian Landtag

Tasks, rights and structure

After the November Revolution, a constituent Prussian state assembly was elected for the first time using the same electoral law . In 1921 this passed a new democratic constitution for the Free State of Prussia . This also determined the structure of the state parliament. After that, the state parliament was elected for four years. Parliament had the right to dissolve itself if the majority of MPs voted for it. If they were in agreement, the Prime Minister , the President of the State Parliament and the President of the State Council (“ three-man college ”) could dissolve the State Parliament. Another possibility to end an electoral term early was a referendum . At the request of at least one fifth of the members, committees of inquiry could be set up. When there was no meeting, a standing committee managed day-to-day business.

The most important task of the parliament remained the deliberation and adoption of laws. With a two-thirds majority, the state parliament had the right to change the constitution. The state parliament elected the prime minister. The assembly was able to withdraw its trust in this and other members of the State Ministry. With a two-thirds majority, ministers could be charged with serious misconduct before the State Court.

The deputies were elected according to the state election law of 1920 and later according to the amended version of 1924. According to this, men and women from the age of 20 had the right to vote . Eligible were persons ( passive right to vote ) from the age of 25. Both the active and the passive right to vote were linked to the possession of civil rights.

Election period 1921–1924

The parliamentary majority was already at the time of the constituent state assembly in the Weimar coalition of the SPD , the center and the DDP . In the first regular state elections on February 20, 1921, the SPD and the DDP in particular lost considerable votes and seats, while the DNVP , DVP and KPD gained. Nevertheless, the coalition was able to maintain its parliamentary majority.

Nevertheless, the formation of a new government turned out to be problematic because the center and DDP wanted to include the DVP in the coalition. A large part of the SPD parliamentary group resisted this and accused the DVP of an anti-republican stance. However, the March fighting in central Germany showed that a more stable government was needed. Nevertheless, a rapprochement between the parties was initially not in sight.

With difficulty, the parliament elected Adam Stegerwald from the center as prime minister. Since he was not supported by the SPD when a second election became necessary, Stegerwald formed a cabinet made up of members of the center, the DDP and non-party experts. In order to finally enable the SPD to participate in the government, Stegerwald renounced the DVP minister.

After the DVP at the Reich level supported the law for the protection of the republic passed by Friedrich Ebert in the wake of the murder of Matthias Erzberger , the SPD changed its negative attitude at the Görlitz party congress . In addition, there was pressure from outside, such as the decision of the League of Nations to split Upper Silesia between Germany and Poland. Then Carl Severing began renewed coalition negotiations to form a grand coalition.

In November Stegerwald resigned and the state parliament elected Otto Braun from the SPD as prime minister. This formed a grand coalition which, in addition to the previous partners, also included the DVP.

One of the most important parliamentary decisions of this time was: the motion of the Social Democratic Group in 1922 to abolish the death penalty . However, the majority of the House rejected this.

In 1924 the state parliament approved the law on church regulations in the regional churches.

The attempt to separate the province of Hanover from Prussia failed in the same year due to a majority in parliament. However, at almost 25 percent, approval was considerably high.

The social democratic parliamentary group chairman Ernst Heilmann and the manager of the center parliamentary group Joseph Hess were responsible for the cooperation between the large groups of the SPD and the center in the following years . They succeeded in balancing out the differences between the left wing in the SPD and the conservative part of the center group.

In contrast to the rest of the Reich, the stability of the political situation in Prussia is particularly remarkable against the background of the crisis year 1923 ( occupation of the Ruhr , peak of German inflation , political unrest).

See also: List of members of the Landtag (Free State of Prussia) (1st electoral period)

Election period 1924–1928

The next state elections took place on December 7, 1924. There were serious shifts, especially in the bourgeois camp. While the DVP lost votes, the DNVP gained. Shortly after the constitution of the new Parliament, there was distrust requests to Otto Braun , Carl Severing and Wilhelm Siering . With 221 to 221 votes, the applications of the DVP, DNVP and KPD narrowly failed. The state government then resigned. Some time later Otto Braun was re-elected Prime Minister; but since he did not accept the election, Wilhelm Marx (center) was elected in a runoff election. After the latter had not achieved a stable majority, Hermann Höpker-Aschoff (DDP) was elected, but he did not take office either. A new government of the Weimar coalition was not formed until April 3, 1925 by Otto Braun. The government survived its first motion of censure in May 1925.

One of the most important substantive decisions of the state parliament in 1927 was the abolition of the manor districts as political units.

See also: List of members of the Landtag (Free State of Prussia) (2nd electoral term)

Election period 1928–1932

The state elections of 1928 ended with gains for the left (SPD, KPD). The established bourgeois parties (DDP, DVP, DNVP) and the center lost some significant losses. In contrast, the economic party and other smaller interest parties were able to post profits for themselves. The election result again brought a clear majority in favor of a Weimar coalition under Otto Braun.

Of great importance for the state protection of the Catholic practice of religion was the approval of the parliament in 1929 to a concordat between Prussia and the Holy See .

In August 1931, a referendum initiated by the Stahlhelm failed to dissolve the Prussian state parliament , supported by the DNVP, the DVP, the National Socialist German Workers' Party (NSDAP) and the KPD.

See also: List of members of the Landtag (Free State of Prussia) (3rd electoral term)

Final phase of the Weimar Republic

The House of Representatives, 1932
Election poster of the NSDAP for the Prussian state election, 1932
Election to the Prussian state parliament, NSDAP election donation medal 1932

In the state elections on April 24, 1932, the NSDAP was the strongest political force with almost 37%. In the previous election - on May 20, 1928 - it was only 1.84%. The NSDAP and KPD (almost 13%) now had a negative parliamentary majority , which made the formation of a new parliamentary-backed state government impossible. The Braun government therefore remained in office. With the “ Preussenschlag ” of July 20, 1932, Reich President Paul von Hindenburg appointed Reich Chancellor Franz von Papen as Reich Commissioner for the State of Prussia and authorized him to “take over the official business of the Prussian Prime Minister himself” (Section 1 of the “Ordinance of the Reich President concerning the restoration of public safety and order in the territory of the State of Prussia ”of July 20, 1932, Reichsgesetzblatt 1932 Part I, p. 377). On October 25, 1932, the State Court of Justice for the German Reich, called upon by the Braun government, declared Hindenburg's regulation to be partially unconstitutional: The Reich Chancellor's authorization should not extend to "the Prussian State Ministry and its members representing the State of Prussia in the Reichstag, in the Reichsrat or otherwise against the Reich or against the Landtag, the Council of State or against the other countries ”. In this respect, the Braun government remained in office. In violation of the decision of the State Court of Justice , however, on February 6, 1933, the Reich President ordered by means of a further ordinance ( Reichsgesetzblatt 1933 Part I, p. 43) to transfer the powers still remaining to the Braun government to Reich Commissioner von Papen. The lawsuit immediately brought by the Braun government against the new ordinance was no longer dealt with by the State Court.

After the beginning of the Hitler government , the attempt to induce the Prussian Landtag to dissolve itself failed because of the votes of the SPD, German State Party , Center and KPD. The three-man college, in which Braun was still sitting, also refused to approve. Only when von Papen took the place of Braun on the basis of the ordinance of the Reich President of February 6, 1933 and Konrad Adenauer, as chairman of the State Council, refused to attend the meeting, on February 6, 1933, the state parliament was dissolved and appointed a new election - together with that of the Reichstag - on March 5, 1933.

See also: List of members of the Landtag (Free State of Prussia) (4th electoral term)

On March 5, 1933, the NSDAP and the Black-White-Red (formerly DNVP) battle front received an absolute majority in the state parliament. On April 7, 1933, Hermann Göring was appointed Prussian Prime Minister by Adolf Hitler . On May 18, 1933, as in the Reich, the state parliament approved an enabling law for Prussia against the votes of the SPD . After that, the state parliament never met again. The dissolution of the Reichstag on October 14, 1933 resulted in "the dissolution of the people's representations of the states" without further ado, in accordance with Section 11 of the Act on Harmonization. By § 1 of the law on the rebuilding of the Reich of January 30, 1934, these popular representations were repealed without replacement.

See also: List of members of the Landtag (Free State of Prussia) (5th electoral term)

Presidium of the Prussian State Parliament 1921–1933

  • 1921–1924: President: Robert Leinert (SPD), 1st Vice-President: Felix Porsch (center), 2nd Vice-President: Wolfgang von Kries (DNVP), 3rd Vice-President: Hugo Garnich (DVP)
  • 1924–1928: President: Friedrich Bartels (SPD), 1st Vice-President: Wolfgang von Kries (DNVP), 2nd Vice-President: Felix Porsch (center), 3rd Vice-President: Hugo Garnich (DVP), since 1927: Otto Wiemer (DVP )
  • 1928–1932: President: Friedrich Bartels (SPD), since 1931: Ernst Wittmaack (SPD), 1st vice-president: Wolfgang von Kries (DNVP), 2nd vice-president: Felix Porsch (center), from 1929 Josef Baumhoff (center), 3rd Vice President: Otto Wiemer (DVP)
  • 1932–1933: President: Hanns Kerrl (NSDAP), 1st Vice-President: Wolfgang von Kries (DNVP), 2nd Vice-President: Josef Baumhoff (center), 3rd Vice-President: Heinrich Haake (NSDAP)
  • 1933: President: Hanns Kerrl (NSDAP), 1st Vice-President: Heinrich Haake (NSDAP), 2nd Vice-President: Josef Baumhoff (center), 3rd Vice-President: Wolfgang von Kries (DNVP)

Second Chamber: Prussian State Council


  • Barbara von Hindenburg: Biographical manual of the members of the Prussian state parliament. Constituent Prussian State Assembly and Prussian State Parliament 1919-1933 (= Civilizations and History Volume 45). Peter Lang Edition, Frankfurt / M., Bern, Vienna 2017, ISBN 978-3-631-67652-3 (also dissertation), Free University of Berlin 2015.
  • Siegfried Heimann : The Prussian Landtag 1899–1947. A political story. Ch. Links Verlag, Berlin 2011, ISBN 978-3-86153-648-2 .
  • Arnold Brecht : With the power of the spirit. Life memories. Second half 1927–1967 . Deutsche Verlags-Anstalt, Stuttgart 1967.

Web links

Commons : Prussian Landtag  - album with pictures, videos and audio files

See also

Individual evidence

  1. On the claims of the estates to the restoration of their old privileges, cf. Hartmut Boockmann : German History in Eastern Europe. East Prussia and West Prussia , Berlin 1992, ISBN 3-88680-212-4 , p. 302 f.
  2. ^ Wilhelm Ribhegge: Prussia in the west. Struggle for parliamentarism in Rhineland and Westphalia , Münster 2008 (special edition for the state center for political education in North Rhine-Westphalia), p. 328 ff.
  3. ^ Wilhelm Ribhegge: Prussia in the West , p. 325.
  4. a b State election 1932 (table)
  5. State election 1928 (table)
  6. RGBl. IS 729