Civil liberties in imperial Germany / by Marven Helmut Krug.
This doctoral thesis examines developments between 1871 and 1914 in Germany as a whole and in the states of Prussia, Saxony, Bavaria, and Baden. It has two major objectives. First, it examines the civil liberties "environment" in late-nineteenth century Germany. By analyzing police investigations, court cases, ministerial directives, and other evidence, the extent to which Germans did--or did not--enjoy the freedoms of expression, assembly and association, and the degree to which so-called "enemies of the state" were granted second-class liberties, is gauged. These findings serve to undermine some myths about the authoritarian character of the German state and society. Thus, many readers might assert that there were no civil liberties in Imperial Germany. Cognizant of the unprecedented abuse of political and civil liberties during the Nazi dictatorship, such readers could draw upon a large body of literature which argues that the roots of the Nazi terror can be found in earlier periods of German history. This dissertation aims to show why an analysis that reads abuses of civil liberties backward from the Nazi period to Imperial Germany, despite its obvious appeal, is fundamentally incorrect. Second, the thesis explores the question of how civil liberties issues shaped the political agenda, and specifically how the liberal parties influenced--and in turn were influenced by--the civil liberties debate. It is argued not only that civil liberties questions were often at the centre of public debate in Wilhelmine Germany, but that issues of liberty--and not economic issues, as is commonly assumed--were the most consistent measure of political direction within German liberalism in this period. This dissertation, moreover, argues that an examination of civil liberties provides some critically important criteria to differentiate between Imperial Germany's authoritarian system of rule, with its curious mix of 'modern' and 'unmodern' features, and the far more ruthless practices of political domination developed not only by the Nazi state but by other dictatorial regimes in the twentieth century. The thesis is based on research at the German national archives as well as the state archives of Prussia, Bavaria, Saxony and Baden.
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