The Holocaust Historiography Project

Translation of document 3313-PS

VON PAPPEN, APPEAL TO THE GERMAN CONSCIENCE
[Appell an das deutche Gewissen]
Oldenburg, 1933, page 66-68.
Address delivered at Stuttgart, March 3, 1933.

The principles of German federalism, as far as they have been incorporated in the Weimar Constitution, are thus of a dynastic nature. Therein, in truth, lies the crisis of federalism.

Whoever regards the states [Laender] simply as legal successors of the former states of the German union forgets the elimination of the dynasties (ruling houses). The yardstick to measure the vitality and the political as well as legal importance of a state has completely changed since 1918. Whoever does not want to recognize this fact, but deals with the states of today as if they were still the union-states of yesterday's, does condemn to death federalism as a legal and state building principle. Either this great process of mediation continues until the unified state is accomplished, or one has to underpin the federalist principle anew. The slogan: "Back to Bismarck" really springs from a basically un-Bismarckian attitude, because Bismarck himself would never have tried to construct something for which the real political presuppositions were lacking.

It follows then that the federalist principle must be rebuilt legally and politically on a new basis. Its outstanding characteristics, it seems to me, point to two directions: for one to the legal constructions and for another to the administrative method. A construction of a state is a federalist on if it rests to considerable extent upon contract law, and upon the mutual recognition of living legal units which give birth, in a legal fashion, to an all embracing political being. The principle of force will thus be limited to a minimum; force can only be applied to prevent a decay of unity and behalf of the basic right to live. In addition, federalism will protect us from centralism, that organizational form onto one point. No nation is less adaptable to being governed centralistically than the German nation. Particularism, on the other hand, leads to a predominance of the members and to a centrifugal movement dismembering the total unit.

Such a centrifugal movement has been characteristic for the decay of the Holy Roman Empire of the German nation, the body of German folkdom, ever since the thirty years war, or even since medieval times. Exactly here, in the center of the southern German [alemamic] tribes, we feel lively, even tragically, the political tearing apart of a tribal unity which today still extends beyond the Rhine and the Swabian sea. We fully understand, therefore, the anxiety of all those who wish to strengthen the power of the Reich and wish to prevent at all costs a further crumbling of the kernel of the German nation.