Founded in 1870 to protect Catholic minority rights in the new Germany, the party gained strength in the 1870s in reaction against Bismarck'sKulturkampf, or "cultural struggle" against the Catholic Church. In addition to supporting Church interests, the Centre Party generally supported representative government and minority rights. The party was notable for the mixture of class interests it represented, ranging from Catholic workers to aristocrats.
After the end of the Kulturkampf, the Centre Party made its peace with the government and frequently formed a part of the coalitions which gave the various German governments a majority in the Reichstag. Although the party supported the government upon the outbreak of World War I, many of the leaders of its left wing, particularly Matthias Erzberger, came to support a negotiated settlement, and Erzberger was key in the passage of the Reichstag Peace Resolution of 1917.
The Centre Party, whose pragmatic principles generally left it open to supporting either a monarchical or republican form of government, proved one of the mainstays of the Weimar Republic participating in every Weimar government between 1919 and 1932, despite the defection of its Bavarian wing in 1919 to form the Bavarian People's Party. Its electorate also proved less susceptible to the allure of Nazism than most other bourgeois parties, largely due to its strong ties to the Church.
The Centre Party entered the opposition from the first time following the dismissal of its leader, Heinrich Brüning, as Chancellor in 1932. It proved ineffectual in opposing the Nazi takeover, with most of its delegates voting for Hitler's Enabling Act in March of 1933. The party was dissolved by the Nazis shortly thereafter.
The statutes of both parties are identical (except for unessential differences), and both reject enforced party allegiance, that is the obligation of the member to vote according to the direction of the party as a whole.
Of the 397 members of the German Reichstag, the Centre claimed 63 in 1871; 93 in 1877; 94 in 1878; 100 in 1881; 99 in 1884; 98 in 1887; 106 in 1890; 96 in 1893; 102 in 1898; 100 in 1903; 109 in 1907; 92 in 1912.
Although the Centre of Alsace-Lorraine joined the Centre in the Reichstag, various causes prevented a complete understanding being arrived at, especially because the CentreParty in the Reichstag was opposed to the particularistic and separationist ideals of a portion of the Centre of Alsace-Lorraine.
The German CentreParty (Deutsche Zentrumspartei or merely Zentrum), often called the CatholicCentreParty, was a Catholic political party in Germany during the Kaiserreich and the Weimar Republic.
The CentreParty, whose pragmatic principles generally left it open to supporting either a monarchical or republican form of government, proved one of the mainstays of the Weimar Republic, continuing the cooperation with SPD and DDP in the Weimar Coalition.
In 1930 the Grand Coalition fell apart and the Centre's Heinrich BrÃ¼ning, from the moderate conservative wing of the party, was appointed chancellor.
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