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The Origins of Christian Democracy

Politics and Confession in Modern Germany

Maria Mitchell

Publication Year: 2012

This book is a pioneering contribution to the history of the founding of the West German political system after the Second World War. The political cooperation between Catholics and Protestants that resulted in the formation of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) in occupied and early West Germany represented a significant change from a long history of hostility in confessional relations. Given that the CDU went on to dominate politics in West Germany well into the 1960s, Maria D. Mitchell argues that an understanding of what made this interconfessional party possible is crucial to an exploration of German history in the postwar period. She examines the political history of party formation as well as the religious beliefs and motivations that shaped the party's philosophy and positions. She provides an authoritative guide to the complex processes of maneuvering and negotiation that produced the CDU during 1945-46. The full range of political possibilities is discussed, including the suppressed alternatives to the Adenauer/Erhard axis that eventually defined the party's trajectory during the 1950s and the abortive Christian Socialism associated with Jacob Kaiser.

Published by: University of Michigan Press

Title Page, Copyright

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List of Abbreviations

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pp. xiii-xv

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pp. 1-11

In 1945, small numbers of Protestants joined former members of the Catholic Center Party throughout occupied Germany to found the country’s first avowedly interconfessional political party, the Christlich-Demokratische Union (Christian Democratic Union [CDU]). Their intention to...

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1. Confessional Conflict in German History

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pp. 12-32

Cast in the extraordinary conditions of occupied Germany, Christian Democracy was nonetheless an outgrowth of complex developments extending into the German and European past. Though a diffuse political movement with profound national variations, Christian Democracy was clearly rooted...

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2. Politics in Defeat: The Organizational Beginnings of Christian Democracy

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pp. 33-55

In 1945, former members of the Center Party intent on founding a Christian Democratic party confronted a society seemingly on the verge of total collapse. Whether the war’s aftermath would induce interconfessional politics or democracy in general was anything but certain. For the vast majority...

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3. Christian Democratic Organization beyond the British Zone: Priests, Protestants, Patriarchy

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pp. 56-75

In many ways, early Christian Democracy in the French, American, and Soviet zones bore strong resemblance to that in the British zone. Throughout defeated Germany, the CDU was organized by former members of the Center Party with strong participation from trade unionists and clergy, including many...

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4. Secularism, Materialism, and Rechristianization: The Construction of a Christian Democratic Ideology

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pp. 76-104

The legacy of the prewar Center Party determined not only the organization and personnel of the CDU but also the party’s programmatic development. If Protestants of varying political backgrounds and religious views played instrumental roles, the party’s ideological formation was clearly dominated...

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5. Antimaterialism Applied: Ideological Positions in the Early CDU

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pp. 105-125

The translation of the CDU’s vision of a Christian, antimaterialist state into a coherent political program constituted an ongoing process throughout the occupation years that would test the two confessions’ commitment to an interconfessional union. Of the host of prescriptions Christian Democrats offered...

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6. Christian Democracy in Practice: Economic Discourse and Policy

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pp. 126-151

More than any other controversy, the battle over Christian Socialism defined the interconfessional alliance at the heart of German Christian Democracy. By delineating the outlines for Christian Democratic economics, party members’ discourse ultimately determined the boundaries of Christian...

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7. The CDU in Council: Forging Economic and Cultural Policy

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pp. 152-179

The year 1948 provided the CDU with both unprecedented opportunities to translate its ideological compact into policy and significant political challenges. The party entered the year in a sustained confrontation with the refounded Center Party and a pitched battle with the SPD for political...

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8. Christian Democracy and Confessional Culture in the Federal Republic

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pp. 180-201

Its major ideological and leadership struggles resolved, the CDU found itself on the eve of the August 14, 1949 Bundestag election in its strongest position to date. With its election victory, Christian Democrats would commence two decades of political leadership. Yet while the party could justifiably...

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pp. 202-207

The history of the Christian Democratic Union is tied inextricably to the evolution of German confessional relations. The party’s origins as well as its success rested on the dismantling of the Catholic Turm and what Josef Kannengießer dubbed Germany’s “centuries-old barrier” of confessional hostility...


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pp. 209-293

Works Cited

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pp. 295-331


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pp. 333-343

E-ISBN-13: 9780472028542
E-ISBN-10: 0472028545
Print-ISBN-13: 9780472118410
Print-ISBN-10: 0472118412

Page Count: 360
Publication Year: 2012