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Germany’s Catholic Fraternities and the Weimar Republic


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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Introduction: Germany’s Catholic Fraternities

1 “Heinrich Krone,” appearing on the website of the Verband des Wissenschaftlichesn Katholishchen Studetenvereine Unitas e.V. (accessed February 27, 2015).

2 Konrad Adenauer Stiftung, “Geschichte der CDU: Heinrich Krone,” (accessed March 8, 2015).

3 Ludwig Freibüter, “Ein einzigartiger Politiker, der aus seinem Glauben den Menschen diente, ist gestorben Bbr. Bundesminister a.D. Dr. Heinrich Krone starb im 94. Lebensjahr,” Unitas 129 (August/September, 1989): 89–90.

4 David Blackbourn, Class, Religion and Local Politics in Wilhelmine Germany: The Center Party in Württemberg before 1914 (London: Yale University Press, 1980), 10.

5 For a detailed summary of the prehistory of the Kulturkampf, see Michael B. Gross, The War Against Catholicism: Liberalism and the Anti-Catholic Imagination in Nineteenth Century Germany (Ann Arbor: The University of Michigan Press, 2005). The Kulturkampf was not just a Prussian phenomenon. In the 1870s, as Gross explains, Liberals in Baden attacked Catholics as Reichsfeindlich—enemies of the Reich—and as an alleged fifth column of Catholic France. Gross, 236. Wolfgang Altgeld writes that a “deeply rooted anti-Catholicism…through nationalism, penetrated democratic movements and liberalism in Germany.” Wolfgang Altgeld, “Religion, Denomination and Nationalism in Germany,” in Protestants, Catholics and Jews in Germany. 1800-1914, ed. Helmut Walser Smith (Oxford and New York, Berg, 2001), 53. In “Anti-Jesuitism in Imperial Germany: ← 179 | 180 →The Jesuit as Androgyne,” appearing in the same edited collection of articles, R...

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