Germany as a unitary state

DR. FRICK
Reich Minister of the Interior

Germany has been centuries behind Great Britain and France in achieving her national consolidation; and many struggles, both internal and external, have been required to attain it. At a time when the principles of unification had long established themselves in the governance and administration of other European countries, Germany was still divided into a huge number of secular and ecclesiastical principalities, considerably differing in size, whose rulers were eagerly intent-even at the time when the medieval Empire was at the zenith of its power-upon their own aggrandisement at the expense of the Emperors. It was of great help to them, in that connection, that the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation rested on an elective – as opposed to an hereditary – foundation, which made it all the easier for them to impose their own will upon the wearers of the Imperial crown. The Thirty Years War destroyed even the outward semblance of power wielded by the Emperors. What was left was a “shadow Empire,” an utterly impoverished nation, and an almost innumerable number of rival States which, in time, became mere pawns in the political game of the non-German powers. Large tracts of country inhabited by a purely Germanic population, stretching from the Netherlands to Switzerland, detached themselves from the Empire, some permanently and some temporarily.

To Germany, the peculiar tragedy of this development lies in the fact that it coincided with the age of discovery and with the colonisation of the American continent the West Indies and Africa. When, therefore, the world was first distributed among the European countries, the political and national constitution of Germany was such as to make it impossible for the nation to take an active share in those great movements. More than two centuries had to pass before the spirit of national solidarity grew up again. In the course of time, the number of small and very small States was reduced to workable proportions; but even then a severe struggle for ascendancy – more particularly between Prussia and Austria-had to be waged before the Second Reich could be founded as a result of the policy conducted by Prince Bismarck.

It would be wrong to assume that the Bismarckian Empire of 1871 was a unitary State. It was, indeed, composed of 22 federal States, each of which had its own ruler, its own government, and its own legislative bodies. In addition, some of them had their own postal and railway administrations, and even their own armies. There were very important matters of internal organisation in which the authority of the Central Government in Berlin could only be exercised after innumerable obstacles had been surmounted, or in which it could not be exercised at all.

There was – above all – a lack of uniformity in internal administration, in the principles underlying municipal legislation, and in the police system.

In Great Britain, the work of political consolidation was started during the Norman period, so that – during the Elizabethan era – it could be used as the foundation of the world-wide Empire subsequently acquired by the Insular Kingdom.

In France, the development from a feudal to a national State dates back to Henry of Navarre and Louis XIII. By Cardinal Richelieu the administration of the country was completely centralised, all authority being vested in the king and his ministers and all legislation originating from Paris. Within a short time, the spirit of national unity grew so strong that it could successfully withstand not only the revolution of 1789, but also all the other political crises that have since occurred in France.

In Germany, events moved in the opposite direction. The Imperial Prerogative, still fairly considerable during the Middle Ages, decreased more and more, and after the Thirty Years War full sovereignty was accorded each of the territorial principalities. The final goal of that development was decentralisation instead of centralisation; and the process of political disintegration was accelerated by economic barriers of all kinds.

Notwithstanding its shortcomings, however, the Constitution drawn up by Prince Bismarck was a great improvement upon the preceding state of affairs. By it, the loose confederation of States previously existing was converted into a far more coherent federated State, of which Bismarck’s North German Confederation was a kind of forerunner, both politically and economically. During the Franco-German War (1870-1), that great statesman’s far-sighted policy in his dealings with the South German States resulted in the creation of a federated State which comprised both North and South Germany.

After the débâcle of 1918, the monarchical Constitution was superseded by that of the Weimar Republic, but no fundamental change took place in the relations between the Central Government and the individual States. The part previously paid by the rulers of the latter was henceforth taken by their respective parliamentary bodies.

It was therefore not until the advent of the National Socialist régime under the leadership of Herr Hitler (1933) that the authority still wielded by the then existing seventeen federal States was so severely curtailed that it became subordinated to that exercised by the National Government.

Seventeen parliamentary bodies, each of which nullified the will of the German people by creating artificial antagonisms and fomenting party dissension, were swept away by the fervour of the National Socialist movement. Before that, the supreme authority of the Central Government was constantly weakened by its own instability, by its dependence upon shifting parliamentary majorities, and by the resulting civil disturbances. These conditions vanished as if by magic as soon as the triumph of Herr Hitler and the National Socialist movement became a reality. Party strife and class war came to an end. The menace of a Bolshevist revolution was overcome at the eleventh hour. Communism was suppressed, and the last traces of the always smouldering civil war were eradicated. A régime that was shaken by one crisis after the other, that lacked the confidence of the nation, and wearily continued its precarious existence from day to day, had to give way to that of Herr Hitler, which enjoys the support of the great majority of the German people. Since then, order and security prevail again, and economic conditions are continually improving.

The Leader and Chancellor has vigorously taken in hand the great work of political reconstruction. He is now converting the federated State into a unitary one, whose affairs are conducted as he directs. Thus, the century-old attempts at unification are at last within sight of being crowned with success.

Four years have elapsed since Herr Hitler’s assumption of power on January 30th, 1933. Anyone visiting the country can personally convince himself of the immense improvement wrought in that short time. Within a few months, supreme power throughout the country was concentrated in the hands of the Leader. Since then, systematic steps have been taken to rebuild the State. The measures introduced to that end no longer depend for their success upon political accidents or the intrigues of political opponents. Recent elections and plebiscites have shown that not a mere majority, but actually 99 per cent. of the electorate, support the Government and endorse its decisions, so that the Reichstag is now more fully representative of the nation’s will than it has ever been before.

The victory of National Socialism has thus created the political conditions indispensable to the complete unification of Germany.

The Bismarckian Constitution succumbed to the onslaughts of Germany’s internal enemies during the World War. It was sabotaged by those political parties which – as early as 19 17 – had endeavoured to exercise a certain influence in connection with the conduct of the State. The ultimate reason for its failure to withstand these attacks upon it was that the Second Reich was not a unitary State. The twenty-two components of that Reich had retained a considerable amount of political sovereignty, and the authority of the Central Government was restricted to a few domains. The Constitution was bound to break down when parliamentary parties took the place of the ruling dynasties, and when its main pillar – the close connection between the Reich and Prussia in the person of the monarch – was withdrawn.

The Weimar Constitution of 1919 did not even restore this connection, which had proved so useful a bond of union so long as the monarchical Constitution existed. It made it compulsory for all the federal States – including Prussia – to adopt the parliamentary Republican régime. Under such a régime, the centre of political gravity must naturally lie in the parliaments of the federal States and in the Reichstag. In effect, however, all these bodies were dominated by a legion of political parties, the percentage representation of which in each State varied exceedingly. Hence, the Weimar Republic soon presented a picture of so much political disunion that it was found quite impossible to form a Government really capable of governing the country.

The Weimar Constitution is directly responsible for the open breach between the Reich and Prussia in 1932, inasmuch as – under its terms – that dispute was referred to a State Tribunal, which was by no means qualified to effect a just solution. In October, 1932, a decision was pronounced by that court: political authority in Prussia was divided up and an untenable situation was created which lasted until January 30th, 1933.

Herr Hitler’s Government has turned the party- governed federated State existing prior to his coming-into-power into a unitary State. Three great measures had to be passed to bring about this transformation, viz., first, the Acts establishing uniformity in the political organisations throughout the country (1933); second, the Act of January 30th, 1934, governing the reform of the Reich Government, and third, the extension of the authority wielded by the Reich Governors in the individual States. These fundamental measures were supplemented by a number of others introduced for the purpose of ensuring uniformity in the State executive and administration.

The first Act establishing uniformity in the political organisations was passed on March 31st, 1933. It did away with the difficulties arising out of the discrepancy between the composition of the Reichstag and that of the parliamentary bodies in the various States. It was provided that party representation must be uniform in all these parliaments so long as they continued in existence. The second Act was passed on April 7th, 1933, and empowered the Leader and Chancellor to appoint Reich Governors in all States. They act as his personal representatives, and each of them is entrusted with the task of ensuring that Herr Hitler’s political views dominate the policy of the State concerned. The same Act restored an arrangement wisely introduced by Prince Bismarck years ago, but thrown overboard by the makers of the Weimar Constitution, namely that by which the Government of the Reich and that of Prussia (by far the largest of its constituent parts) are conducted on identical lines. Herr Hitler achieved this purpose by appointing himself Reich Governor for Prussia.

After the dissolution of all political parties and the combined plebiscite and Reichstag elections held on November 12th, 1933, when the new Government secured an overwhelming majority throughout the country, it became possible for the new Reichstag to give its unanimous consent to an Act definitely establishing the unitary State, i.e., that passed on January 30th, 1934, governing the reform of the Reich Government. The five classical sentences expressing the nation’s desire for the creation of the unitary State read as follows:

The parliaments of the individual States are abolished. The sovereign rights of the States are transferred to the Reich. The Reich Governors receive their instructions from the Reich Minister of the Interior. The Reich Government is empowered to create new constitutional law.

By abolishing the separate parliamentary bodies and assigning all sovereign rights to the Reich Government, this Act – to which the late President Hindenburg appended his signature on the day it was passed – has removed the ultimate causes to which Germany’s political disunion was attributable. By subjecting the State governments to the Reich, it has established the unquestioned supremacy of the latter. By empowering the Reich Minister of the Interior to give instructions to the Reich Governors, it indicates that these latter will be the future heads of the various States, which – at a later date – will be transformed into Reich provinces.

Additional legislation, more especially the act of January 30th, 1935, by which the authority exercised by the Reich Governors was further extended, directed these Governors (and along with them the Governors of the Prussian provinces) to ensure that the policy of the Leader is also adopted within the areas over which they preside and which need not be identical with those covered by the States, in so far as they still exist. To that end, they are authorised to make all the necessary arrangements in connection with the administrative bodies set up within their respective districts, including those of the Reich, those of the States, and all others exercising public functions. They are also entitled – if instructed by the Leader and Chancellor to do so – to promulgate the laws affecting their particular districts and to appoint officials in his name. In doing all this, however, they act as the representatives of the Leader and Chancellor and of the Reich Government.

The Act passed on January 30th, 1935, contains some clauses that make it possible to establish still closer collaboration between the executive of the Reich and the States. Thus, it provides that the Leader and Chancellor may commission any Reich Governor to conduct the government of the State concerned. Up to now, this provision has been made use of in respect of Saxony, Hesse, Lippe, and Hamburg. In these States, therefore, the conditions have already been established that will prevail throughout Germany when the reform of the Reich Government has been completed: The Reich Governor solely and directly conducts the State Government and presides over the State administration so thatthe States named are in effect administrative units subject to the control of Governors appointed by the Reich.

Thanks to all the aforenamed measures, the individual States have already been transformed into constituent parts of the unitary State. This development has made especial progress in regard to Prussia – a country which comprises three-fifths of the population and the area of Germany, which can look back upon a long and proud history, and which therefore forms the main pillar of the constitutional structure of the Reich. Prior to 1933, the Reich Government exercised but few administrative functions of major importance, e.g., those in the domain of national finance. It was thus found convenient to bring about far-reaching co-operation between itself and the highly developed administrative system of Prussia. First, the competent Reich Ministers were entrusted with the executive functions of the corresponding Prussian Ministers; and later on, such amalgamation was extended throughout their respective spheres of work. To-day, combined administrations of this type exist in the following departments: home affairs; justice; science, education: and popular instruction; labour; transportation; national economy, and forests. Thus, what may be called a “Greater Prussia” is being more efficiently merged with the” Greater Reich” than could have been achieved by the’ disintegration of Prussia, and one of Prince Bismarck’s) aspirations is nearing its realisation. Such gradual merger will be the outcome of the “liquidation of the States,” which Herr Hitler described in 1933 as the goal of the plans for the reform of the Reich Government. It will be further accelerated by the fact that the Governors of the Prussian provinces (each of which covers an area about equal to the average area covered by the other States) have been given authority – as already stated – similar to that granted to the Reich Governors. Like them, they are directly subject to the Reich Ministers, and represent the Reich within the districts over which they preside.

The unification of Germany has not only been brought about in regard to the political and administrative functions formerly reserved to the competent organs of the States and Prussian provinces, but also finds expression in the political status of the inhabitants and in the form of the national symbols. Under the Weimar Constitution, there was no German citizenship. Every German was a citizen of some particular State. All this has been abolished, and all Germans are now citizens, or nationals, of the Reich. Citizenship can be conferred by the States only if the Reich Minister of the Interior gives his consent. By his famous decree of March 12th, 1933, President Hindenburg made the swastika flag – the emblem of the victorious National Socialist movement – the national symbol of the Third Reich along side with the black-and-white-and-red flag of the Bismarckian Reich; and by the Act passed September 15th, 1935, the swastika flag showing the national colours – black, white, and red – was made the principal symbol of Germany’s political unity and is now representative of the Reich, the nation, and the country’s commerce.

The progress of unification has made itself felt in many respects. More particularly, the Reich is now the sole competent authority in matters concerning legislation, administration and justice. The States can only pass new legislation within the authorisation granted them by the Reich and with the co-operation of the Reich Governors.

The administrative sovereignty of the States, which formed the backbone of their political life under the Weimar Constitution, has passed over to the Reich; and their administrative functions are now performed in pursuance of the authority vested in them by the latter. The decree issued by the Leader and Chancellor on June 17th, 1936, subjected the important domain of police administration to the uniform control of the Head of the German Police. By the decree governing municipal administration (January 30th, 1935), genuine self government was restored to the municipalities, and their legal status was uniformly determined. Public officials – whose importance to the unitary State was specially emphasised when the new Act governing their status (January 26th, 1937) was passed – are to-day one of the main pillars of that State. All of them are the direct servants of the Leader and Chancellor and swear allegiance to him upon their appointment. He is responsible, in principle, for their appointment and dismissal.

The administration of law and justice is the exclusive domain of the Reich, by which the whole of the legal system with all its accessories was taken over in pursuance of the Act passed January 24th, 1935. Accordingly, all courts of law are now Reich institutions. They administer justice in the name of the German people. The granting of pardons is solely vested in the Leader and Chancellor.

The reorganisation of the political structure of the Reich, as foreshadowed by the Act of January 30th, 1934, will be definitely completed when a number of internal territorial changes have been effected. The present distribution of territory – quite comprehensible in view of the country’s past history – is largely due to purely accidental occurrences; and it will be necessary to remove existing anomalies and to make arrangements by which regions with a homogeneous population and with identical economic interests are amalgamated with one another, thus preparing the future division of the whole country into Reich provinces. The first step in connection with this difficult measure – difficult because so many traditions have to be respected – was made when the Act of January 26th, 1937, was passed. It deals with the future status of Greater Hamburg and a few similar matters. It provides that Prussia, Oldenburg, and Mecklenburg will make certain territorial adjustments among themselves, that the Hanseatic city of Lübeck will be incorporated with Prussia, and that the Prussian towns and rural districts closely adjoining Hamburg will be absorbed by the latter, with which they will henceforth form one administrative unit. By this Act the conditions have been created that are indispensable for the territorial reorganisation of North-Western Germany.

The National Socialist Government is well aware of its duty to preserve the special cultural features characteristic of each part of the country and to do everything that will encourage their growth and further development. Care will be taken to render this easily possible notwithstanding the unifying measures introduced in public administration, legislation and internal government. For that reason some of the great organisations of the German people have been closely associated with certain towns and cities. Munich is “the capital of the National Socialist movement,” Nuremberg “the city of the National Socialist party rallies,” Goslar “the city of the Reich Food Corporation,” Frankfort “the city of German handicraft,” and Hamburg will be “the Hanseatic city” entrusted with some tasks of nation-wide importance.

National Socialist Germany, however, is not merely a unitary State: it is also a unitary nation, and its governance is based on the principle of leadership. The nation constitutes the concrete substance of the National Socialist movement, and the State is merely a means for the realisation of its political aims. The National Socialist party is acknowledged to be the organisation with which by far the greater part of the German people have identified themselves. It is therefore best qualified to represent the nation, and the ultimate object must be to establish the complete unity of the party and the State. Hence, leadership must be vested in the party, and positive tasks must be entrusted to it. It is the embodiment of the German political idea and determines Germany’s political activities. Its organisation is the supreme organisation of the German people. The State apparatus serves the purpose of giving effect to the political principles laid down by the party. It attends to all matters of administration through the instrumentality of the public authorities and public officials. Its only task is to be of service to the nation; but it is not fit for the exercise of leadership, Similar conditions have existed in all periods of Germany’s national history. Leadership has always been the preserve of persons or groups of persons not directly connected with the machinery of State, such as the German kings and emperors, the Church, the estates of the realm, the princely houses, and – in our own days – the parliamentary bodies. In all these instances, the State apparatus was only a means employed by the ruling powers.

In National Socialist Germany, leadership is in the hands of an organised community, the National Socialist party; and as the latter represents the will of the nation the policy adopted by it in harmony with the vital interests of the nation is at the same time the policy adopted by the country.

The necessary unity of the party and the State is the subject of the Act passed December 1st, 1933, by which the National Socialist party is specifically described as the leading and moving force within the State. It doe not follow, however, that the State as such has ceased to, exist or that it is intended to merge it with the party The National Socialist party is the only political party in Germany and therefore the true representative of the people. It incorporates the German idea of the State and is indissolubly associated with the State.

The unity of the party and the State finds its highest realisation in the person of the Leader and Chancellor who – under the terms of the Act passed August 1st 1934 – combines the offices of President and Chancellor. He is the leader of the National Socialist party, the political head of the State, and the supreme commander of the defence forces. In this way, the authority of the party as being the highest political organisation in the country has received recognition. Whenever the proclamation of a new leader of the party takes place, the person thus nominated is at the same time the head of the State and the supreme commander of the defence forces.

Other means by which effect has been given to the unity of the party and the State are the following: the provision that the Leader’s deputy is a member of the Government and that he takes part in legislative and administrative matters; the personal identity of Reich Ministers with Reich leaders of the party, and of Reich Governors and of Governors of Prussian provinces with district leaders of the party; the fact that party functionaries are also members of State and municipal councils and the appointment of party members in connection with the practical application of the Code of Municipal Law.

All the organisational measures, however, that have been introduced in order to ensure the unity of the party and the State, are dominated by the unity of the German idea of the State as embodied in the Leader. It has created the party, has brought about its accession to power, and will continue to inspire its actions, whilst it is the function of the State to give reality to that idea in accordance with the will expressed by the National Socialist party.

The German people are aware that the principal task before them in the domain of domestic policy is the further development of the unitary State on a national basis. I believe that I cannot close this account more fitly than by quoting the concluding sentences of the broadcast speech which I addressed to the nation on January 31st, 1934, immediately after the passing of the Act governing the reform of the Reich Government.

Our generation has been called upon to create the national unitary State. We are to succeed where our fathers failed and to bequeath to future generations the result of our endeavours. Let us rejoice that Fate has found us worthy of so huge a task. Let us also realise that this day is a turning-point in the history of our country, and that its importance can only be properly estimated by posterity. I ask everyone of you to contribute your share to this splendid achievement. Let the past be past, and – always conscious of your duty – envisage the future with confidence.

Pride yourselves on being privileged to witness so tremendous a change and to collaborate in the work of moulding our country’s destiny. Everyone is needed for that noble purpose. And all those who love Germany must serve her to the limit of their power, so that the great work may be completed for the benefit of the whole nation.

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