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Germany’s Catholic Fraternities and the Weimar Republic

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Jeremy Stephen Roethler

Through the last century, Catholic fraternity alumni have served as German chancellors, presidents, federal ministers, state executives, and leading voices in Germany’s parliament. They have played leading roles in the Catholic press, in Catholic youth groups, in Catholic civic associations, and in the German Catholic hierarchy. After World War II, Catholic fraternity alumni played founding roles in the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and the Christian Social Union (CSU), the two parties that led West Germany’s transition from its catastrophic defeat («zero hour») to the economic miracle (1949–1969). This book considers the ideas that many of these Catholic leaders encountered as college students or as active alumni in their fraternities in the fifteen years before Adolf Hitler came to power.
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Chapter One: Catholic Fraternities and Confessional Conflict

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← 12 | 13 →CHAPTER ONE

Catholic Fraternities and Confessional Conflict



The members of the Catholic fraternities do not believe it is sufficient in their student years to do nothing in the face of religious and moral degeneracy. Through their common efforts, they seek to promote and invigorate their religious consciousness.

—AS REPORTED IN A COLOGNE NEWSPAPER, JULY 2, 18641

“In love for the fatherland, we feel as one with the entire German student body.”

—FROM A CATHOLIC FRATERNITY PUBLICATION, 19212

Germany’s Confessional Legacy

At varying levels of consistency, Catholics in Germany continue to affirm their faith by avowing the obligations of mass, baptism, confirmation, communion and confession. They also continue to participate in the dense, dynamic and resilient organizational network that has structured their lives and the lives of their ancestors for centuries. In the idyllic southern and western German countryside, along the Rhine River, in the Black Forest and down the Romantic Road, ornately adorned Catholic churches represent a dramatic contrast to the austere efficiency of Lutheran-inspired architecture elsewhere. Massive Catholic cathedrals tower over Cologne and Munich. In the fourth century of the Common Era, the ← 13 | 14 →Emperor Constantine’s mother brought the relics of Christ’s Holy Robe to the far Germanic outposts of the Roman Empire, to the ancient Rhineland city of Trier, where they continue to be closely guarded in the Church of the Blessed Lady. In the forested hills of southern...

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