Presidential Cabinet

(Presidential Regime)
   Hitler's* appointment in January 1933 at the head of a so-called Presidential Cabinet was feasible because the Reichstag's* parliamentary power to confirm such appointments had been subverted over the prior three years. During 1930-1932, largely under Heinrich Brüning,* policy was increasingly enacted without recourse to parlia-ment. Although the Reichstag passed 29 measures in this period, 115 emergency decrees were implemented by authority of President Hindenburg*—many failing to address issues warranting emergency action. Through abuse of powers granted by Article 48 of the Constitution,* the Reichstag's proper function was shifted to the President. This result, plotted from at least 1929 by Kurt von Schleicher* and Otto Meissner* and given a legal basis by Carl Schmitt,* was reinforced by Brüning's policy of bypassing parliament. As long as Hindenburg placed Article 48 at his disposal, Brüning (and his successors) could ignore the Reichs-tag. By enacting his agenda without recourse to parliament, Brüning made the President—a pseudoemperor—the Republic's agent of power. Indeed, the lon-gevity of any cabinet was thereafter subject to the pleasure of the President. The impact of this change can be viewed statistically: days on which the Reichstag sat, numbering 94 in 1930, were reduced to 13 in 1932; emergency decrees, totaling 5 in 1930, rose to 66 in 1932. The Republic was, accordingly, recast as an authoritarian state well before 1933; indeed, Brüning's heavy use of Article 48 augmented Franz von Papen's* dismissal of the Prussian government in July 1932.
   Given the age and disposition of Hindenburg, the stability of a Presidential regime was always suspect. In 1932 it was unwittingly subverted by a short-sighted camarilla that first prompted Brüning's dismissal and then, in January 1933, encouraged Hitler's installation as Chancellor. But in contrast to his pre-decessors, Hitler became Chancellor as leader of Germany's largest Party. While assuming power with the promise to form a parliamentary cabinet, he was al-ready governing via Article 48 within six days of his appointment. Then via terror, cunning, and manipulation he managed to foil the underlying principle of a Presidential regime when, on 23 March 1933, he cajoled the Reichstag into granting him long-term emergency powers through an Enabling Act.* Thereafter he was no longer dependent upon the President for his authority.
   REFERENCES:Boldt, "Article 48"; Bracher, Auflosung; Kolb, Weimar Republic.

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

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