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EN:Cabinet Held IV, 1932-1933

From Historisches Lexikon Bayerns

Minister President Heinrich Held. (Bayerische Staatsbibliothek (Bavarian State Library), portrait and views collection)

by Walter Ziegler

Bavaria's acting government under Minister President Heinrich Held (BVP, 1868-1938) from May 1932 to March 1933. It is not possible to give exact official dates, as the government did not emerge from an election and was replaced by the National Socialists in March 1933. In terms of party politics, it was based on the cooperation between the Bayerische Volkspartei (Bavarian Peoples’ Party, BVP) and the Deutschnationale Volkspartei (German National Peoples’ Party DNVP). In light of the events in the Reich (presidential cabinets, Prussian coup d’état, rise of the Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei [National Socialist German Workers’ Party, NSDAP]), the preservation of Bavaria's independence was the main issue of the fourth Held government. Attempts to find a way to survive in the catastrophic economic and financial situation were equally as important. Since Adolf Hitler's (NSDAP, 1889-1945) assumption of office as Reichskanzler (Imperial Chancellor) on 30 January 1933, the government's ability to shape its own affairs narrowed considerably until it was forced out of office in March.

Entry into office

There was no actual formation of a government. In 1930, when the majority in the Landtag (State Parliament) was lost due to the departure of the Bauernbund (Peasants‘ League) from the government (end of the Second Held Cabinet) the government had already remained in office as caretakers, forming the Third Held Cabinet. After theLandtag elections vom 24. April 1932, die der bisherigen Koalition aus Bayerische Volkspartei ((Bavarian Peoples’ Party, BVP) and Deutschnationale Volkspartei (German National Peoples’ Party, DNVP) nur 48 Sitze von 128 gebracht hatte (Sozialdemokratische Partei Deutschlands (Social Democratic Party of Germany, SPD) 20, Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei (National Socialist German Workers’ Party, NSDAP) 43, Kommunistische Partei Deutschlands (Communist Party of Germany, KPD) 8), there were again no majorities for the election of a Minister President, although the strongest party proposed negotiations. The caretaker government therefore remained in office. The latest date one could use for the start of the Fourth Held Cabinets term in office is 31 May 1932, when the new state parliament,elected on 24 April, met for the first time and did not elect a minister president.

Personnel structure

Minister of the Interior Karl Stützel. (Private property of Elisabeth Stützel, Speyer)

The structure of the government remained unchanged, as the previous heads of departments carried on their work. Heinrich Held (BVP, 1868-1938, head of government since 1924) served as Minister President. Although at that time, there was no authority for the Minister President to issue directives and he only chaired the cabinet his authority was universally recognised, especially on fundamental political issues. In addition, he headed the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which, due to its increased responsibilities, was now called the "State Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Economic Affairs and Labour".

Minister oft he Interior Karl Stützel (BVP, 1872-1944, minister since 1924) and the head of the Finance Department, State Councillor Fritz Schäffer (BVP, 1888-1967; head of the Ministry since 1931) were of huge importance in the cabinet. Schäffer was not only important because of his professional expertise (1949-1957 Federal Minister of Finance), but also as party chairman of the BVP. Since the death of this predecessor Franz Matt (1860-1926) in 1926, the Ministry of Cultural Affairs had been headed by Franz Goldenberger (BVP, 1867-1948) a rather reserved official, who had been of great importance for the concordat reached with the Vatican in 1925, however. Franz Gürtner (DNVP, 1881-1941) had headed the Ministry of Justice since 1920, but in early June 1932 he became the Reichsjustizminister (Imperial Minister of Justice) in Papen's cabinet. In Bavaria he was replaced as head of department by State Councillor Heinrich Spangenberger (DNVP, 1870-1942).

The caretaker government's problem

According to the Bamberg constitution from 1919 (Article 66), in case the Gesamtministerium (State government) resigned, it had to continue taking charge of the affairs of state until a new government was appointed. This was intended as a temporary, short-term solution. However, since the Minister President had to be elected by an absolute majority (Article 58) and the same hurdle was set for the self-dissolution of the Landtag (Article 31), whilst, at the same time, such majorities could no longer be achieved due to the differences between the parties, the government had to set itself up as a caretaker government since its resignation on 20 August 1930. It was therefore not really a "weak" government, f.e. it could no longer be overthrown due to already having resigned. It was also now able to govern largely independently of the parties, which accommodated for the disenchantment with parties at the time ("state policy" versus "party policy"). Problems only arose with the annual adoption of the budget, for which it always found a majority, however, and with the resignation of ministers, because a majority in the Landtag would also have been necessary for a new appointment. For this reason, after June 1932 two out of five ministries (finance, justice) were headed by state councillors, which the Minister President could simply appoint.

In the final phase of the Weimar Republic, many of the German Reich states were governed by caretaker governments, namely Lübeck (since 1929), Saxony (1930), Hamburg (1931), Württemberg and Prussia (April 1932) and Hesse (December 1932). The Reichskanzler (Imperial Chancellors) had too been without a majority in the Reichstag (Federal parliament) since 1930. In both the Reich and Bavaria, this development was less of a problem for the acting state administration than for its democratic self-image and public legitimation.

Distance towards the Reich governments

Although Bavaria's relationship with the Reich had been a topic of discussion for all governments since 1918, the problem had become much more acute. This was due to the fact that, after the fall of Chancellor Heinrich Brüning (Zentrum, 1885-1970) at the end of May 1932, new governments, now completely dependent on the Reichspräsident (President of the Reich) but already strongly influenced by the NSDAP, were in office in Berlin: first those headed by Franz von Papen 1879-1969; 3 June to 3 December 1932) and Kurt von Schleicher (1882-1934; 3 December 1932 to 30 January 1933), , and since 30 January the Hitler-Hugenberg government. Despite commitments to federalism by Papen in particular, these new governments took the states’ adaptation to the Reich's policies for granted. The Held cabinet had to assert itself in previous areas of contention (Reich reform, taxes, social policy, etc. by this point also broadcasting) and fight over new ones. The most important new disputes were:

  1. The ban on the SA and SS as well as the ban on uniforms: the Reich had enacted these, especially at Bavarian insistence, in March 1931 and April 1932, thus calming the domestic political scene somewhat. Hitler had demanded its abolition as a condition for temporarily tolerating Papen and achieved it on 14 June 1932. When Bavaria and other states issued their own bans, Papen lifted them again by means of an emergency decree. In the end, Minister of the Interior Stützel succeeded in implementing a very rigid security policy against the radicals, despite the Reich regulations. This was also helped by the determined stance of the Ministry of Education against right wing and left wing extremists in schools and universities.
  2. The behaviour during the "Prussian coup d’état", when Reichskanzler von Papen deposed the Prussian government of the SPD, Deutsche Demokratische Partei (DDP) and Zentrum under Otto Braun (SPD, 1872-1955) on 20 July 1932 and appointed himself as Reichskommissar (Imperial Commissioner) for Prussia. Despite little sympathy for Prussia, Bavaria immediately joined Braun's suit before the Reichsstaatsgerichtshof (Imperial State Court). Together with Baden, they reached a principally positive verdict for the federal structure of the Reich (25 October), even if the deposed Prussian government was only partially reinstated. The Bavarian Government in Munich feared a similar intervention for Bavaria, but the cabinet's effort was also motivated in principle: above all, the aim was to prevent a Reich reform from being carried out with the help of the "Dictatorship Paragraph" in the Reich Constitution (Article 48/2), and without the consent of the states affected.

Overall, the relationship with the Reich governments had deteriorated considerably, as the BVP had no longer been part of them since the end of the Brüning government (it had previously usually provided the Reichspostminister (Imperial Post Minister). The government did not consider Gürtner a representative of Bavaria. In addition, the Chancellors of the Reich were not held in high esteem (Papen "traitor to the Zentrum"; Schleicher "Prussian general", Hitler "Putschist of 1923").

Economic and financial policy

In the field of [[artikel_44825|economic] and financial policy, Bavaria no longer had many opportunities to operate independently due to the nationalisation of the railway and postal services as well as the Erzberg financial reform of 1919/20.

The main problems in Bavaria during the world economic crisis were the catastrophic situation of many farmers (low grain and timber prices), which led to many foreclosures and forced sales, and the shortage of money for small and medium-sized businesses. In Berlin, for example, the Fourth Held Cabinet tried to block the import of timber or to provide protection for insolvent farmers. At the same time, the financial straits of the municipalities rose to the highest level, as they had to support the unemployed who had fallen out of the unemployment benefit system ("welfare unemployed"). The government was constantly seeking new financial aid for these municipalities from the Reich. At the end of 1932, the eastern part of Bavaria managed to be included in the Reich's Osthilfe debt relief programme.

With larger undertakings such as the preservation of the extremely at risk Isartalbahn (Munich-Bichl) which was important for Upper Bavaria, or the planned Rhine-Main-Danube-Canal it was possible to provide assistance and secure their existence, f. e. with funds from the Bayerische Staatsbank (Bavarian State Bank). Job-creation measures introduced together with the Reich (e.g. electrification of railway lines) were very slow to take effect.

The complete dependence on Berlin in tax matters forced Bavaria to also face the consequences of their savings policy (e.g. ongoing salary cuts for civil servants, cuts in unemployment benefits). The transfer of Reich taxes to Bavaria, a permanent subject of the financial equalization negotiations until 1930, was now ruthlessly determined by emergency decrees from Berlin. At first, attempts by Schäffer to create an independent Bavarian financial administration did not seem to be without success, but failed due to structural problems and also due to the refusal of the necessary Reich funds. Agreed compensation from the rail and postal services’ nationalisation did not materialise.

State simplification

Simplifying the State’s administration, an enduring project throughout the 1920s, was particularly important from a federalist and financial point of view. The Bavarian government was able to achieve considerable successes in this regard due to the prior years work. By 1932, the number of ministries (there were ten under Hofmann II in 1920!) had already been merged into the five traditional departments, or had been eliminated by being subsumed by the Reich. Numerous sub-authorities (e.g. local courts and measurement offices) were also abolished. In 1932, the Held III and IV governments managed, against considerable resistance, to reduce the number of districts from eight to six by merging Middle and Upper Franconia and Lower Bavaria and Upper Palatinate (this was reversed after 1945). An initiative to streamline laws and regulations was also launched. A planned reduction of the district offices was postponed for political reasons (after repeated failure during the Nazi era, this ultimately happened in 1972).

Communicating government policy

The southern German heads of government on 12 June 1932 at a reception by Reichspräsident Paul von Hindenburg (1847-1934). From right to left: Heinrich Held (Bavaria, 1868-1938), Reichskanzler Franz von Papen (1879-1969) and the State Presidents Eugen Bolz (Württemberg, 1881-1945) and Josef Schmitt (Baden, 1874-1939). (Bayerisches Hauptstaatsarchiv, Bildersammlung Personen 2153)

After Gürtner's departure, the cabinet largely spoke with one voice. The influence of the DNVP was still noticeable in State Councillor Spangenberger, but it was far outweighed by the heavyweight of BVP party leader Schäffer. Schäffer and Held made far greater efforts to communicate government policy in the rural areas than they did in years gone, which was not least related to the challenge posed by the radicals. This was done on the one hand by detailed statements in the Landtag, on the other hand by the widespread pro-government press, from the official Bayerische Staatszeitung and the much-read Münchner Neueste Nachrichten, whose editor-in-chief Fritz Büchner (1895-1940) leaned towards the cabinet, to such influential newspapers as the Regensburger Anzeiger (personally associated with Held), the Bamberger Volksblatt (associated with the BVP parliamentary party leader in the Reichstag Johann Leicht [1868-1940] nahe stehend) oder der Eichstätter Volkszeitung (organ of the BVP parliamentary party leader in the Landtag, Georg Wohlmuth [1865-1952]).

The future power of broadcasting was already known as well: in 1932, the government was once again able to defend the independence of the Bayerischer Rundfunk from the centralistically reorganised "Reichsrundfunkgesellschaft" (until 1934). Besides this, Held maintained a constant presence with speeches at festive events, congresses, election trips etc., in which only Schäffer surpassed him. In political matters, this presence also included the contacts with Berlin, which by then tended to avoid the Reichskanzlers, going via ministerial colleagues and the Reich Council instead. The Bavarian legation became more and more important. Above all though, they now relied on the Reichspräsident, Paul von Hindenburg (1847-1934), who was considered to be particularly well disposed towards Bavaria.

In the shadow of the Hitler Government (February/March 1933)

Hitler's appointment to the position of Reichskanzler on 30 January 1933 was formally of no significance to the federal states – with the exception of Prussia, where the new Nazi government was in charge through its commissioners. This fact alone, but soon also the commanding nature of the NSDAP and its massive national unity propaganda that was now beginning to set in, caused the states problems. This was especially true for Bavaria, which Hitler, Hermann Göring (NSDAP, 1893-1946) and Reichsinnenminister (Imperial Minister of the Interior) Wilhelm Frick (NSDAP, 1877-1946) knew well and of whose importance for a final "seizure of power" they were convinced.

The government in Munich could do little to oppose this – apart from appealing to the adherence to law and order. It slowed down Berlin's action as much as possible (e.g. in the case of Frick's requests for newspaper bans), but at the same time stressed its loyalty to the Reich and its anti-communist stance, arguing that there was no need for intervention in Bavaria. A renewed initiative to form a majority government in Munich was also intended to serve this purpose. Since cooperation with the SPD was traditionally difficult and Held rejected any association with the NSDAP, this did not come about. The Bayernwacht (Bavarian Watch) was supported as a paramilitary association of the BVP, but it was weak compared to the SA.

The idea of restoring the monarchy with Crown Prince Rupprecht (1869-1955) in Bavaria as a last stop before Hitler, was aired by monarchists and some circles of the BVP and much discussed after 1945, actually was talked about several times, especially in February 1933. However, it did not even officially make it into a cabinet meeting – the nature of the action (State Commissioner General; coup d'état?), the Crown Princes' programme and the available funds were too unclear, the stance of the Reichspräsident and the Reichswehr (Imperial Military) clearly negative, and Hitler's reaction threatening. Restoration was not a serious option.

End of the Held government (March 1933)

The (semi-free) Reichstag elections of 5 March 1933, which Hitler won definitively in Bavaria, too (NSDAP 43%, BVP 27%), became decisive. The National Socialists immediately demanded to take over governmental power in Bavaria as well.

The ousting of the Held government took place in the days between 7 and 27 March 1933, with several actions, in which the government was forced out of office by largely illegal measures taken by the National Socialists, overlapping.

Zuerst First, the cabinet (Council of Ministers from 7 March) decided to form a new government and to conduct regular negotiations with the NSDAP and DNVP (no longer with the SPD) in this regard. At noon of 9 March though, a number of Bavarian Nazi party leaders – Ernst Röhm (1887-1934)/SA; Heinrich Himmler (1900-1945)/SS; Adolf Wagner (1890-1944), Gauleiter (district leader) of Munich-Upper Bavaria -, attempted to persuade Held, by means of a surprise coup, to appoint the NS Member of Parliament General Franz von Epp (1868-1947) as State Commissioner General and thus transfer the power to govern. They claimed that order was being jeopardized. The Council of Ministers declined. In the evening, Reichsinnenminister Frick appointed Epp as Reichskommissar (Imperial Commissioner) in Bavaria ("to maintain public safety and order"), which the government was forced to formally accept – appeals to the Reichspräsident and the Reichswehr had been unsuccessful.

Although the SA occupied the ministries and abused Ministers Stützel and Schäffer, the government, following Frick's order to the letter, tried to continue to hold office in the remaining areas (Council of Ministers on 10 March). Epp, on the other hand, illegally appointed commissioners for all ministries, thus attempting to establish a new NS government without negotiations and without the parliament. Hitler, in turn, personally negotiated a new majority government in Munich on 12 and 13 March, but then left the city without a decision.

On 15 March Held, sick and worried about his family, driven from his official residence in the meanwhile and already threatened, announced his resignation and departure to his brother in Lugano (Switzerland) for the first time in writing, which State Councillor Josef Bleyer (1878-1935) conveyed to Epp. Both of them deliberately overlooked the fact that Held immediately retracted this announcement afterwards and stated that he was going on sick leave for the time being. On 16 March, for example, Epp proclaimed that, following Held's resignation, he had now taken over all governmental power with his commissariat government; the forced resignation of the previous ministers was also dated to that day. Finally, Held agreed to Bleyer's and Epps' action on 27 March in Switzerland.

However, the Reichskommissariat (Reich Commissariat) was not a government yet. In fact, a "regular" new government was not formed until 12 April 1933, when, without the Landtag, Reichsstatthalter (Imperial Governor) Epp (he had been appointed on 12 April 1933, with retroactive effect from 10 April 1933) appointed Ludwig Siebert (1874-1942), the Lord Mayor of Lindau, as Minister President on the basis of the Reich's Second Equalisation Act of 7 April 1933. As confusing as the end of Bavaria's last democratic government in the Weimar era was, Held was the one who resisted the National Socialists' "seizure of power" for the longest time of all the heads of state governments.

Cabinet Members
Ministry Minister Biographical data Distinctive features
State Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Economic Affairs and Labour Heinrich Held, BVP 1868-1938 Minister President at the same time
State Ministry of the Interior Karl Stützel, BVP 1872-1944
State Ministry of Justice Franz Gürtner, DNVP 1881-1941 Until 6 June 1932
Heinrich Spangenberger, DNVP 1870-1942 From 6 June 1932; State Councillor, Head of the Ministry
State Ministry of Finance Fritz Schäffer, BVP 1888-1967 State Councillor, Head of the Ministry
State Ministry for Education and Cultural Affairs Franz Goldenberger, BVP 1867-1948


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Walter Ziegler, Cabinet Held IV, 1932-1933, published 29 November 2010, English version published 22 March 2024; in: Historisches Lexikon Bayerns, URL: <http://www.historisches-lexikon-bayerns.de/Lexikon/EN:Cabinet_Held_IV,_1932-1933> 17.07.2024