Prussian mansion

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Building of the Prussian mansion shortly after its completion around 1904
Today's seat of the Federal Council

The Prussian mansion in Berlin is the seat of the German Federal Council . It was the first chamber of the Prussian Landtag , the Prussian legislature . The second chamber was the Prussian House of Representatives . The history of the mansion began with the March Revolution in 1848 and ended with the November Revolution in 1918 .



The House of Lords served as a model . From the point of view of King Friedrich Wilhelm IV. , The institution should not be an electoral chamber, but rather a house of "historically justified authorities" according to his "neo-estates" ideas. In addition, after conflicts with the highly conservative, the crown succeeded, in contrast to southern German practice, in enforcing its largely free right of disposition. This applied to both the appointment of new hereditary and lifelong members. The king had the decisive influence on the composition of the chamber with the possibility of a pair push and very extensive confirmation rights with the elected members. As a compromise with the conservatives, the landowning nobility was given a majority of the seats.


First Chamber (1848-1854)

The first chamber of the Prussian parliament of the constitution of 1848 was a pure electoral chamber with 180 members. These members of the Prussian Manor House (MdH) are also called “pairs” in historical research, based on members of the upper houses in France and Great Britain . Eligible to vote were all male Prussian citizens aged 30 and over who had been resident in their community for at least six months and either paid eight thalers in taxes per year or had an income of at least 500 thalers or had assets of at least 5000 thalers. After the revised constitution of 1850, the members were only partially elected. The first chamber therefore consisted of

  • adult princes of the royal house,
  • the heads of the formerly (until 1806) immediate imperial estates in Prussia and the heads of those families to whom the right to a seat and vote in the first chamber, which was to be inherited after the first birth and ruler sequence, was granted by royal decree (the right of membership was suspended during the Minority, an employment relationship with a government of a non-German state or a stay abroad),
  • members appointed by the king for life; their number could not exceed a tenth of the number of members from both of the aforementioned categories,
  • 90 members elected according to a census system,
  • 30 members elected by the councils of the largest cities.

The number of appointed or hereditary members could not be greater than that of the elected. The elected members were elected for six years (those of the House of Representatives for three years until 1888).

Manor house (1854–1918)

After another constitutional amendment in 1853 there were no more elected members and in 1855 the name of the house was changed to Herrenhaus . The royal decree of 1854, enacted to implement the constitution-amending law, remained in force until 1918. After her there were three groups of members

  • princes of the royal house appointed by the king. The Prussian kings never made use of this possibility,
  • hereditary members (gentlemen, families appointed by the king),
  • appointed members (for life or on presentation by authorized bodies).

The hereditary members were divided into four groups:

  • The heads of the royal houses of Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen and Hohenzollern-Hechingen ,
  • the heads of the imperial houses in Prussia until 1806 (there were 16 in 1854; four more were added in the annexed areas in 1867 ),
  • the princes, counts and barons who belonged to the united state parliament of 1847 (55 properties eligible for state assembly, not all of which are represented in the manor house);
  • and members appointed by the king with hereditary rights (41 in 1911).

The appointed members were divided into three categories:

  • members appointed by the king "out of the highest confidence" for life (in 1911 there were 88),
  • the owners of "the four major state offices in the Kingdom of Prussia " (these were the holders of the honorary titles of Chancellor, Landhofmeister, Obermarschall and Oberburggraf in the province of East Prussia ),
  • so-called “presented” members, who have been proposed by various institutions with the right to present themselves. These were not appointed for life. If someone dropped out of the capacity for which they were presented (e.g. a Lord Mayor), membership in the manor also ended.
Had the right to present:

In addition to these institutional nominees, there was also an individual right to present the Prussian mansion for noble families gifted with it by the king and endowed with extensive real estate, who had always served the Brandenburg-Prussian crown with particular loyalty. From the first granting of this right of presentation in 1854 until the end of the Prussian monarchy, only 18 Junker families from the old Prussian provinces received this right.

At first, Friedrich Wilhelm IV made little use of the possibility of appointing pairs of trust. Took place under pressure from the governments Auerswald / Schwerin and then Bismarck Wilhelm I , a first pair thrust . Above all, however, Wilhelm II made extensive use of this right, especially after the turn of the century. The result was that this group got more and more weight. In 1860 only 11% of all members were appointed, in 1914 it was almost 30%.

Members received neither travel allowance nor diets .

For the choice of the associations of the old and fortified real estate, the Prussian state territory was divided into landscape districts , in whose names numerous historical territories lived on until 1918.

Social structure

Members of the manor 1854–1918
Categories Membership numbers
Hereditary seats 282
Trust pairs 325
Cities 217
Universities 040
Real Estate Associations 345
Count Associations 030th
Family associations 055
Evangelical cathedral pins 019th
East Prussian major state offices 009
Incl. Multiple memberships.
Source: Hartwin Spenkuch: Manor and Manor . P. 380

Although the bourgeoisie was given a seat and vote through the representatives of cities and universities, the manor was clearly dominated by the nobility . While Friedrich Wilhelm IV originally wanted a representation of the high nobility and those appointed by him, in the end it was mainly the Junkers , the landed gentry, who had received a strong position. Of the 1295 people who were members of the manor house between 1854 and 1918, 862 came from the old nobility (66.5%), 103 were ennobled (8.0%), and 295 were commoners (25.5%). In 1911, 260 of the 347 members were aristocrats. Of the members in 1914, 21% had their professional background in the civil service (most of them as district administrators), 3.5% came from the foreign service, 11% were career officers, and around 9% had begun a state career ( legal clerkship, etc.) , 55.2% were full-time landowners.

In regional terms, due to the rights reserved for the nobility, the seven eastern provinces with three quarters of all members dominated. Due to the high number of civil servants and military personnel there, Berlin was at the top (about a third of all appointees), followed by the "old" western provinces - the Rhine Province and the Province of Westphalia  - and from 1866 by the Province of Hanover , Hesse -Nassau and the province of Schleswig-Holstein .

The Church of the Old Prussian Union was represented by the cathedral monasteries in Brandenburg an der Havel , Merseburg and Naumburg (Saale) . This gave her preference over the Catholic Church, which had no right of presentation. The Archdiocese of Cologne and Electorate of Trier , who provided electors up to the Reichsdeputationshauptschluss 1803 and were thus equal to territorial noblemen, had no right of presentation. Individual archbishops were mansion members on presentation of the king. The majority of the pairs were denominationally Protestant, which corresponds to the denominational proportion in the population. Catholic members came primarily from the formerly Polish parts of the country in West Prussia and the western provinces of Rhineland and Westphalia. Pairs of the Jewish faith were underrepresented compared to their proportion in the population. This was mainly due to the fact that Jews were not allowed to acquire property until 1812 and were thus excluded from the group of old landowners who dominated the manor house.

Political currents

The political currents of the mansion differed not only clearly from the political landscape of Prussia, but also from the parliamentary groups of the Second Chamber in the type of composition. There were never any Social Democratic members. Center supporters like Adam Stegerwald remained exceptions, as did left-wing liberal members.

At the same time, there were definitely different trends in the manor house. Friedrich Julius Stahl was the namesake of the conservative "Fraktion Stahl", which was later called the Old Fraction . This was mainly supported by the smaller landowners ("Junkers"). In the first decades, the really large landowners with holdings between 3,500 and 75,000  hectares formed the basis of the New Fraction , which steered a free-conservative - national- liberal course. Towards the end of the 1880s, the younger members of these "grand seigneurs" increasingly followed the course of the old faction. The moderately conservative or nationally liberal part was taken over by a bourgeois-dominated so-called "Lord Mayor's Group".

Role in legislation

The Prussian mansion was called to legislate together with the House of Representatives, the second chamber of the Prussian state parliament . The Prussian constitution of 1850 stipulated that budgets and financial laws had to be submitted to the Second Chamber first (Art. 62). The manor house was only allowed to discuss the budget as a whole (Art. 62). As a result, the manor house had a right of veto on these issues , but no creative power. Even with simple laws, the number of drafts that were first introduced in the House of Lords was small. In practice, all governments saw the focus of state representation in the House of Representatives and could mostly rightly expect that the mansion would agree to the compromise between the Ministry and the House of Representatives, provided that the conservatives were included in the House of Representatives.

There are different views in research about the actual role in the structure of rule of the Prussian state. Thomas Nipperdey states that the mansion has a constitutionally strong position in real terms, but at the same time he notes that the crown overweighs both houses of parliament. Above all, Hans-Ulrich Wehler sees the manor house as a veto power not only in Prussia, but ultimately for all of imperial politics. Wolfgang J. Mommsen sees the resistance of the manor house as one of the main reasons for the failure of all attempts up to 1918 to establish the political right of the bourgeoisie.

Elimination in 1918

Based on an unconstitutional revolutionary power to issue ordinances, the Prussian Revolutionary Cabinet consisting of the MSPD and USPD eliminated the mansion by sentence 2 of the ordinance of November 15, 1918 ( Pr. GS. 1918, p. 191). A protest by President Dietlof von Arnim-Boitzenburg , who came from the old Brandenburg family, on November 28, 1918 was the mansion's last sign of life.


Entrance hall of the Prussian manor house
Lobby. Like the entrance hall, parts of the building have largely been preserved in their original state.

The mansion was initially located on Französische Strasse in Berlin-Mitte . The building fell victim to a fire on March 10, 1851. After the fire it met four times in the Hardenberg Palace and then moved to the theater . The furniture was obtained from the Erfurt Union Parliament . The first meeting in the manor was on March 27, 1851. On May 31, 1851, the Chamber bought the Mendelssohn family's house at Leipziger Strasse 3 and had it rebuilt by the architect Heinrich Bürde by November 25, 1851 .

On the plot of the later Prussian manor house in the Leipziger Strasse  3 was first a 1735-1737 Heinrich von der Groeben built palace, which in 1746 by the Royal commercial and factory Commission acquired and Antoine Simond to operate a silk factory was awarded (Simon's silk factory ) . This was taken over in 1750 by Johann Ernst Gotzkowsky , who also bought the Palais , built around 1735 for Christian Friedrich von Aschersleben on the neighboring property No. 4 and sold to Gedeon le Duchat de Dorville in 1761, and built a porcelain factory, which from 1763 became the Royal Porcelain Manufactory. Manufaktur Berlin was continued.

Building No. 3 was acquired by Carl Friedrich Leopold Freiherr von der Reck in 1778 and from 1825 to 1851 it was owned by the Mendelssohn Bartholdy family , who had it converted into a representative residential building. Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy is said to have composed his music for Midsummer Night's Dream in this aristocratic palace . In 1856 the state acquired the building to house the manor house of the Prussian parliament. The Reichstag of the North German Confederation also met there from 1867 to 1870 . For the Reichstag of the German Empire in 1871, the building on neighboring property No. 4 was converted into a provisional meeting building in just four and a half months, raised by one floor in 1874 and used as such until 1894.

In 1898 both buildings were demolished to make way for the new manor house. This was planned by the architect Friedrich Schulze and completed in 1904. It was erected north of the building for the Prussian Landtag, which was built from 1892 to 1898 by the same architect. Both houses are connected by a common canteen and farm building; the members of both chambers could therefore meet freely. Since 1993 the building of the Prussian Landtag has functioned as the Berlin House of Representatives , as the seat of parliament. The Prussian mansion is on the south side of Leipziger Strasse.

Seat of the First Prussian Landtag Chamber

From 1904 - the first meeting took place on January 16 - the building of the Prussian manor house served as the seat of the first chamber of the Prussian state parliament. From 1921 to 1933, the Prussian State Council, representing the provinces , met in the building . Throughout the entire era, its chairman was Konrad Adenauer , who was appointed to the Prussian Council of State in 1917 as the Lord Mayor of Cologne.

Intermittent use

On November 4, 1928, the founding congress of the League of Friends of the Soviet Union took place in the Congress Hall.

The building was rededicated in 1933 according to the needs of National Socialism . The Preußenhaus Foundation was affiliated with the Reich Aviation Ministry , so the building was one of Hermann Göring's offices .

The building was badly damaged in World War II and was used by the GDR Academy of Sciences after 1946 .

Seat of the Federal Council

Since September 29, 2000, the building of the Prussian mansion has served as the seat of the German Federal Council , which meets here up to twelve times a year.

Eight bronze sculptures by the Danish sculptor Per Kirkeby were placed on the roof of the building, and a work by Emilia Neumann is in the building . The installation The Three Graces - matt gold movable lances - by the artist Rebecca Horn is installed in the light domes of the foyer .

See also


  • Hartwin Spenkuch: mansion and manor. The First Chamber of the Landtag and the Prussian nobility from 1854–1918 from a socio-historical perspective. In: History and Society. Vol. 25, No. 3, 1999. ISSN  0340-613X , pp. 375-403.
  • Hartwin Spenkuch: The Prussian mansion. Nobility and bourgeoisie in the first chamber of the state parliament. 1854–1918 (= contributions to the history of parliamentarism and political parties. Vol. 110). Droste, Düsseldorf 1998, ISBN 3-7700-5203-X (also: Bielefeld, Univ., Diss., 1992/93).
  • Hans-Ulrich Wehler : German history of society. Volume 3: From the “German Double Revolution” to the beginning of the First World War. 1849-1914. Beck, Munich 1995, ISBN 3-406-32263-8 .

Web links

Commons : Prussian mansion  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. ^ H. Spenkuch: manor and manor . 1999, p. 378 f. Hans-Ulrich Wehler : German history of society , Vol. 3. 1995, p. 204.
  2. ^ Prussian Yearbook 1863, p. 197, GoogleBooks
  3. ^ The politics of Friedrich Wilhelm IV. , P. 66 GoogleBooks
  4. ^ Provincial correspondence . Fifth year. November 20, 1867.
  5. ^ Communication from Prof. Edzard Schmidt-Jortzig (2018)
  6. Hartwin Spenkuch: The Prussian mansion . Droste-Verlag, Düsseldorf 1998, p. 174
  7. Preußische Gesetzessammlung , 1865, p. 1080 ff. Digitized by the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek
  8. Hartwin Spenkuch: The Prussian mansion . 1998, p. 36; Hartwin Spenkuch: mansion and manor . 1999, p. 381.
  9. ^ H. Spenkuch: manor and manor . 1999, p. 388.
  10. ^ Ernest Hamburger: The Jews in public life in Germany . Tübingen 1968, GoogleBooks
  11. ^ H. Spenkuch: manor and manor . 1999, p. 389.
  12. Studies on European Legal History (1999)
  13. ^ H. Spenkuch: manor and manor . 1999, p. 379 f. Hans-Ulrich Wehler : German history of society , Vol. 3. 1995, p. 857.
  14. Hans Peter Schneider, Wolfgang Zeh: Parliamentary Law and Parliamentary Practice in the Federal Republic of Germany . ISBN 3-11-011077-6 , p. 1852.

Coordinates: 52 ° 30 ′ 33 ″  N , 13 ° 22 ′ 53 ″  E