Law for theProtection of the Republic
- (Republikschutz-gesetz)18 July 1922. A series of violent acts against leading political figures— Matthias Erzberger,* Philipp Scheidemann,* and, in particular, Walther Rath-enau*—provided impetus for the Republic to address antirepublican actions. With Joseph Wirth's* accusation of 30 June 1922—"the enemy stands on the Right ("der Feind steht rechts")—action was set in motion that resulted in a cluster of so-called protection laws, passed in the Reichstag* by a vote of 303 to 102. In addition to the Republikschutzgesetz, a Court for the Protection of the Republic was created and a Law Concerning the Duties of Civil Servants for the Protection of the Republic (Gesetz uber die Pflichten der Beamten zum Schutze der Republik) was also passed. This last conceded that a bureaucrat's traditional standard of neutrality, based primarily on loyalty to the Kaiser, was no longer sufficient. From 1922 bureaucrats were expected to support the Re-public. Because the law circumvented unrestricted freedom, including assembly for previously lawful antirepublican or promonarchical activities, the DNVP found it an easy target. The entire package—including penalties against those who might glorify, encourage, or approve acts of violence against the republican form of government, its representatives, or its national banner—was adopted in the states (Lander) after considerable controversy; Bavaria* deemed the mea-sures an encroachment on regional autonomy.Ultimately, the legislation proved inadequate. The special court, consisting of three Supreme Court justices and three lay officials, endured only until 1927; its jurisdiction was thereafter consigned to less trustworthy regular courts. Ap-plication of the laws was uneven: employed vigorously in Prussia,* they re-ceived equivocal support in Bavaria (if they had been properly applied, Hitler* would have been deported in 1924 as an alien convicted of high treason). More-over, the laws' exact rendering implied the protection of any constitutionally appointed individual, regardless of that official's loyalty to the regime; among the unfortunate consequences were suits brought in the early 1930s against bu-reaucrats for defaming Nazi ministers. The Reichstag was unable in 1929 to prolong the original laws, and a modified Schutzgesetz proved hollow in the violence-laden era of Heinrich Brüning* and his successors. Although the laws were increasingly turned against the radical Left, they were vigorously opposed by the NSDAP.REFERENCES:Caplan, Government without Administration; Eyck, History of the Weimar Republic, vol. 1; Jasper, Schutz der Republik; Taddey, Lexikon.
A Historical dictionary of Germany's Weimar Republic, 1918-1933. C. Paul Vincent.