Bavarian People's Party

(Bayerische Volkspartei, BVP)
   On 12 No-vember 1918, after Kurt Eisner* proclaimed a Bavarian Republic (ending the Wittelsbach dynasty's rule), the state's Center Party* split from the national organization and, at the urging of Georg Heim,* became the Bavarian People's Party. The decision had ample motivation: aversion to Matthias Erzberger's* visibility in Reich affairs; ambivalence vis-a-vis Berlin*; and a transparent effort to disguise the Party's Catholicism.* Soon Bavaria's* leading party (its influence was negligible only in Protestant* Franconia), the BVP was recognized for two attributes: it was decidedly Catholic and monarchist. While key members, notably Heim and Gustav von Kahr,* promoted autonomy, the Party as a whole was not separatist. On balance, it promoted German nationalism in foreign af-fairs while endorsing states' rights in domestic politics. (Its aim to link Austria* and Bavaria, Catholic states, reflected a wish to balance Protestant Prussia.*)
   With its largely rural constituency, the BVP's agenda was shaped by distrust of Berlin. Some Party officials believed that Berlin planned to "take over" Bavaria, completing what Bismarck had left undone in 1870-1871; others feared the long, anticlerical arm of "Red" Berlin; still others feared Prussian Protes-tantism; many envisioned north German plots to exploit Bavarian agriculture. Such notions sparked animosity that neither Munich nor Berlin could afford in the troubled postwar era. Disputes typically focused on Berlin's efforts to cen-tralize such things as the judiciary, taxation, fiscal policy, and paramilitary ad-ministration. During the period (1920-1923) in which Kahr wielded control, any action that embarrassed Berlin was deemed honorable. Only when Party chair-man Heinrich Held* became Prime Minister in 1924 (a post he retained until 1933) did the BVP become circumspect in its relations with Berlin. While Held was committed to Bavaria, he considered Kahr stubborn and shortsighted. Only by working with Berlin, he asserted, could Bavaria maintain its federalist pro-gram in light of the Nazi threat—a threat made tangible by Hitler's 1923 Beer-hall Putsch.* Since the BVP "owned" most ministerial portfolios until 1933, Held's policy became Bavaria's policy.
   Until 1927 the BVP blocked conciliation with the Center; indeed, when Wil-helm Marx,* the Center chairman, ran for President in 1925, the BVP backed Paul von Hindenburg,* a Lutheran Junker.* While its Reichstag* faction would not always follow Munich's dictates, it was never a reliable Center ally. Nev-ertheless, after supporting Center-DNVP collaboration for two years, the BVP accepted a merger offer in November 1927. But unity proved illusive; retaining distinct names and faction meetings, the Parties regularly split over cooperation with the SPD. Upon Fritz Schaffer's* 1929 selection as BVP chairman, relations worsened. A diehard federalist, Schaffer sometimes ordered the faction to op-pose Heinrich Bruning's* economic program. Although he was friendly with the Catholic Chancellor, he opposed measures (e.g., an increased beer tax) that encroached upon states' rights.
   Upon Hitler's appointment, Held and Schaffer tried to avert disaster by re-storing the Wittelsbachs in the person of Crown Prince Rupprecht. Nazi agents frustrated the plan. With Held in Switzerland and Schaffer in prison, the BVP was dissolved in July 1933.
   REFERENCES:Ellen Evans, German Center Party; Harold Gordon, Hitler; Walter Kauf-mann, Monarchism; Mitchell, Revolution in Bavaria; Schönhoven, Bayerische Volkspar-tei, "Heinrich Held."

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

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