Devoir de Philosophie

CIVIL SERVICE

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CIVIL SERVICE. A considerable section of Germany's middle class (see Mittelstand) consisted of civil servants (Beamten). Since the great mass of this group performed ‘‘politically neutral'' tasks such as teaching, tax collection, postal and railroad operations, municipal services, and the filling of Protestant* pulpits, it is difficult to reconcile its ambivalence (indeed hostility) to the Republic. But like its landowners and officers, Germany's bureaucracy revered the monarchy; indeed, many landowners were Beamten and many Beamten had served as officers under the Kaiser. As with military commissions, a civil-service appointment was a lifetime pledge. Even the Weimar Constitution* (Article 129) accorded special esteem to the ‘‘inviolable'' and ‘‘well-acquired rights'' of Beamten. Since such officials deemed themselves professional servants rather than ministerial subordinates (political appointees), they lacked connection to the new crop of ministers who governed after November 1918. Yet they might have come to accept the Republic had it given evidence of success; instead, they increasingly judged it a threat to both their living standard and their social standing. The lower civil-service ranks, never sufficiently paid, were forced into intolerable living standards in the wake of World War I. Poor salaries had often been supplemented in the Kaiserreich with interest paid on private wealth. But the inflation* ravaged the value of set salaries while eliminating many private fortunes. Moreover, wartime investments into government bonds were lost. The Kaiserreich often ‘‘paid'' Beamten for years of loyal service with titles and decorations, which were almost as important as salary. The respect bestowed by granting an honorific ‘‘von'' was the Kaiser's simplest means of consoling underpaid Beamten. The Republic suspended endowment of all such honors. Then, after years of inaction or cutbacks (1923–1924), the Reichstag* passed an excessive salary increase (21–25 percent) in 1927 for federal bureaucrats, a step inducing similar increases at state and municipal levels (both requiring federal subsidies). Unfortunately, with the 1929 economic crash, the new salaries could not be maintained; Heinrich Bru¨ning's* deflationary reductions led many Beamten to fear, with predictable results, that they would slip into the lower middle class (untere Mittelstand). In his memoirs Otto Braun* recorded that the ‘‘excessive salary increase [of 1927] scarcely won any civil servants to democracy, but the salary cuts which later proved necessary drove countless officials into the National Socialists' camp.''

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