Center Party

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The Center Party was a major political party in Germany from the 1880s to 1933. It was organized when the Catholics were under attack by Chancellor Bismark during the Kulturkampf. A generally conservative party, it represented Catholics of all regions and income levels. It shared power in the 1920s but was disbanded in 1933 by the Nazis. Major elements, led by Konrad Adenauer helped build the new Christian Democratic Union in 1946.

History

Since the Protestant Reformation and the Counter Reformation, Catholics had been a minority in German lands, a position which became increasingly problematic in the course of the 19th century due to the abolition of the ecclesiastical principalities in 1803, the extension of Prussian influence in Germany, and the lack of any support from Austria. A Catholic movement developed after 1815, partly inspired by counterrevolutionary romantic ideals and opposition to economic liberalism, and there were demands for the formation of a Catholic party.

In 1870 during the Franco-Prussian War, the prospect of a Germany unified under Protestant Prussian domination led to the founding of the "Center". Although not immediately defining itself as a Catholic party, it soon developed a leading role in defending German Catholic interests in all social strata against state encroachment during the Kulturkampf of the 1870s. Eventually the Center came to identify with the establishment and played an important role in government, despite the split in its Bavarian wing which led to the founding of the Bayerische Volkspartei in 1919. The Center Party supported the government's military policy in 1914-18 and supported the Weimar Republic, but opposed the Nazis. Few Catholics voted for the Nazis, amd the Center party was abolished by Hitler in 1933 along with other political parties.

The modern German Christian Democratic Union (CDU) formed after World War II is not its direct heir because it includes Protestants, but includes most ssurviving activists.

Further reading

  • Anderson, Margaret Lavinia. Windthorst: A Political Biography (1981) 522 pages
  • Blackbourn, David. Class, Religion and Local Politics in Wilhelmine Germany. The Centre Party in Württemberg before 1914
  • Bredohl, Thomas M. Class and Religious Identity: The Rhenish Center Party in Wilhelmine Germany‎ (2000)
  • Cary, Noel D. The Path to Christian Democracy: German Catholics and the Party System from Windthorst to Adenauer. (1996). 355 pp.
  • Evans, Ellen Lovell. The German Center Party, 1870-1933. A Study in Political Catholicism (1981)
  • Evans, Ellen Lovell. The Center Party in the Weimar Republic, 1924-1930‎ (1956) 540 pages
  • Ross, Ronald J. Beleaguered Tower: The Dilemma of Political Catholicism in Wilhelmine Germany (1976) 218 pages
  • Zeender, John K. "Recent Literature on the German Center Party," Catholic Historical Review, Vol. 70, No. 3 (Jul., 1984), pp. 428-441 in JSTOR
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