Prussia

   Germany's most important Land, Prussia dominated German poli-tics from 1871 until Hitler* seized power. Inclusive of Germany north of Thu-ringia,* Bavaria,* Hesse, Württemberg, Baden, and the Land of Saxony* (excepting Mecklenburg, Oldenburg, and some enclaves), it surpassed in com-bined resources the remaining German states (Lander) in population, area, and wealth. In the Weimar era it embraced East Prussia, Brandenburg, Pomerania, and Silesia (Upper and Lower), as well as the provinces of Saxony (now Sax-ony-Anhalt) and Rhine, Hanover, Schleswig-Holstein, Westphalia, Hesse-Nassau, some enclaves in Württemberg and Bavaria, and Berlin.*
   The unfolding of Prussian society since the eighteenth century was a process whereby various social groups managed to gain access to positions of privilege and power. The officer corps and bureaucracy gradually integrated all dissident groups into the existing authority structure. Criteria ensuring power were birth, wealth, and education (Herkunft, Besitz, and Bildung). But whereas agriculture remained its main occupation, Prussia had developed into Germany's most highly industrialized Land by 1900. The transformation deepened class cleav-ages and inspired demands for political reform.
   The November Revolution* terminated Prussia's restrictive three-class fran-chise in favor of universal suffrage. After the 26 January 1919 elections to its constituent assembly, Prussia became the Republic's most polarized Land in social and political terms. Its parliament was dominated by a leftist majority, and its coalition governments, generally led by the SPD, were confronted with crises produced on the one hand by the posturing of reactionary Junkers* and on the other by the radicalism of Berlin and the Ruhr. Yet during the Kapp* Putsch only a few high-placed bureaucrats were persuaded to support the putschists. Prussia's government, led throughout most of the era by Otto Braun,* displayed an energy and success at combatting antirepublican activities that set the Land apart from a national policy that tended to equivocate. The credit for Prussia's success was owed largely to Carl Severing* and Albert Grzesinski,* Social Democrats who dominated the Interior Ministry during 1920-1932 and were, accordingly, in control of Prussia's police forces; both were pragmatists who understood the role of compromise in coalition politics.
   By 1929, after the aggressive replacement of prominent civil-service* per-sonnel with candidates nominated by the Weimar Coalition,* 70 percent of Prus-sia's administrative posts were held by members of the SPD, the DDP, the Center Party,* and the DVP; the large majority of officials had been of noble background in 1916, but were from the middle class by 1929. However, in July 1932, after the ruling coalition had lost its Landtag majority in the 24 April state elections, the Braun government was deposed by Chancellor Franz von Papen.* Through extraordinary use of Article 48 of the Constitution,* Papen, acting as Reich Commissioner for Prussia, removed leftists from Prussia's ad-ministration in a vain attempt at smoothing relations with the NSDAP. Not only did this Preussenschlag (Prussian coup) effectively end Prussia's tradition of autonomy, but it eased Hitler's assent to power. When Hermann Goring* be-came Prussian Interior Minister (he advanced to Prime Minister in April 1933), the state's parliament was annulled and its constitution set aside. In 1945 the Allies abolished Prussia.
   REFERENCES:Brecht, Prelude to Silence; Craig, End of Prussia; Feuchtwanger, Prussia; Orlow, Weimar Prussia, 1918-1925 and Weimar Prussia, 1925-1933.

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

Look at other dictionaries:

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