Kaas, Ludwig

(1881-1952)
    theologian and politician; as chairman of the Center Party,* his "yes vote on behalf of his faction secured Hitler s* Ena-bling Act* on 23 March 1933. Born to a Trier businessman, he decided at sixteen to become a priest. He studied initially at Trier s seminary, took a doc-torate at Rome's Papal University, and was ordained in 1906. His two-volume study entitled Die geistliche Gerichtsbarkeit der katholischen Kirche in Preussen (Spiritual jurisdiction of the Catholic Church in Prussia) brought appointment in 1918 as Trier s Professor of Church Law. As advisor to Papal Nuncio Eugenio Pacelli, he was named Church Prelate (an honorary ecclesiastical title) in 1917.
   Monsignor Kaas launched a political career in 1919 with election to the Na-tional Assembly.* His overriding aim was to secure a concordat with Rome and protect Catholic* rights within the new Republic. He was elected to the Reichs-tag* in 1920 (where he remained until 1933) and joined the Prussian Staatsrat in 1921. With Party colleagues Wilhelm Marx* and Konrad Adenauer,* he promoted a separate Rhenish state (i.e., one that would be part of Germany but separate from Prussia*). His distaste for Gustav Stresemann* did not preclude his supporting the Foreign Minister's accommodation with France. In 1924 the weight of his political responsibilities and duties to Pacelli led him to resign his professorship. During 1926-1928 he represented Germany at the League of Nations.
   Despite delicate health, Kaas became Party chairman in 1928 as the compro-mise candidate of the Center s moderate right wing. The election ended easy cooperation with the SPD. Kaas never embraced parliamentary democracy, but advocated a form of populist dictatorship based on plebiscites. While he initially supported the government of Party colleague Heinrich Brüning,* he began urg-ing his faction to work with the radical Right. Increasingly estranged from his former friend, he may have played a role in Brüning's 1932 dismissal.
   Because Kaas assumed that fascism offered firm guarantees to the church, he courted a coalition with the NSDAP during the Chancellorship of Franz von Papen.* Immediately following passage of the March 1933 Enabling Act,* he offered Hitler his support. His talks sustained Hitler s notion that protection of religious freedom applied to Christians, not to Jews,* and that equality before the law should not extend to Marxists—a category including the SPD; thus, to achieve his dream of a concordat, Kaas may have engaged in a dishonorable compromise with Hitler. In April 1933 he traveled with Papen to Rome, osten-sibly for an Easter visit; in fact, the trip initiated intense negotiations, capped in July by the Reichskonkordat. Although Papen soon returned to Berlin,* Kaas remained in Rome until his death in 1952, supervising excavations under St. Peter s and becoming one of the papacy s trusted advisors (Pacelli became Pius XII in 1939). His failure to acknowledge that Nazi beliefs ran counter to Catholic teachings prejudiced Vatican policy toward both Fascist Italy and Nazi Ger-many.
   REFERENCES:Benz and Graml, Biographisches Lexikon; Ellen Evans, German Center Party; Helmreich, German Churches under Hitler; Morsey, "Ludwig Kaas ; Stehlin, Weimar and the Vatican.

A Historical dictionary of Germany's Weimar Republic, 1918-1933. .

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