- The status of Germany's Catholics differed from that of most of their coreligionists in Europe in that they were a minority. Representing about a third of Germany's population during the Kaiserreich, they had come to stress freedom of worship and social equality as opposed to authoritarian rule. Through the loss of Alsace-Lorraine* and the Polish districts of West Prussia* and Upper Silesia,* the Versailles Treaty* reduced Germany's Catholics by almost 19 per-cent, compared to less than 5 percent for Protestants.The diminution in numbers was offset, however, by the enhanced freedom and security guaranteed by the Weimar Constitution.* While most Catholics remained loyal to the Center Party* in the Weimar era—indeed, the Center enjoyed greater voter fidelity than any other party—that loyalty steadily eroded: in the 1919 National Assembly* elections, 62.8 percent of professing Catholics voted Center; in the September 1930 Reichstag* elections, only 47 percent backed the Party. This change, which embraced all classes and occupations, underscored that political fidelity was no longer a simple product of religious confession. Ironically, the change was owed to constitutional liberties for which Catholics had struggled for five decades.In addition to supporting a major political party (two parties with the BVP), many Catholics remained active in the languishing Workers' Associations (Ar-beitervereine), groups focused more on paternalism than economics. Although it was not strictly Catholic in membership, the more vibrant League of Christian Trade Unions (part of the German Trade-Union Federation*) represented work-ers whose religious sensibilities precluded their joining the socialist trade un-ions.* Catholic youth tended to belong to Catholic clubs, the most significant being the republican Windthorstbund and the antirepublican Neudeutschland (which had an undisguised volkisch outlook).During the Weimar era religious and educational questions tended to unify Catholics more readily than Protestants. This was due largely to the fact that Catholicism benefitted, in both organization and dogma, from a well-tuned, su-pranational structure. Although numerous Catholics, especially those who re-membered Bismarck's Kulturkampf, struggled to highlight their nationalism, many grew adept at differentiating between fidelity to Germany and criticism of the Republic. They were aided by the commanding presence of Eugenio Pacelli. Papal Nuncio in Germany from 1917, Pacelli (who became Pope Pius XII in 1939) coordinated Vatican policy in the Reich. His policy aimed chiefly at negotiating concordats with the Reich and the several Lander (states)—agree-ments that ensured recognition of Rome's central authority in affairs of the church.The November Revolution,* especially the early effort of the USPD to close parochial schools and separate church and state, turned Pacelli into an implac-able foe of socialism. Since the Republic's survival rested on cooperation be-tween the Center Party and the "atheistic" SPD, Pacelli's contempt for the SPD was awkward at best. That cooperation was more often rule than exception is borne out by the number of Catholics—Konstantin Fehrenbach,* Joseph Wirth,* and Wilhelm Marx*—who formed cabinets with SPD support or toleration. Only in the depression-engulfed final years—after Ludwig Kaas* had become leader of the Center Party—did cooperation with the SPD become irksome for Catholics wishing to dodge charges that they lacked patriotism in the face of a growing nationalistic temperament. Although most Catholics opposed a National Socialism that they deemed anti-Christian, their commitment to parliamentary democracy grew decidedly ambivalent after the September 1930 elections. Hein-rich Brüning's* chancellorship is testimony to the change.REFERENCES:Balfour, Withstanding Hitler; Conway, "National Socialism"; Ellen Evans, German Center Party; Scholder, Churches and the Third Reich; Zeender, "German Catholics."
A Historical dictionary of Germany's Weimar Republic, 1918-1933. C. Paul Vincent.
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