Heitzer, Horstwalter: Der Volksverein für das katholische Deutschland im Kaiserreich 1890-1918
Kommission für Zeitgeschichte, Research Center, Bonn

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Heitzer, Horstwalter: Der Volksverein für das katholische Deutschland
im Kaiserreich 1890–1918, Mainz 1979

(Veröffentlichungen der Kommission für Zeitgeschichte, Reihe B: Forschungen, Bd. 26)

Horstwalter Heitzer: Der Volksverein für das katholische Deutschland im Kaiserreich 1890–1918.

Horstwalter Heitzer: Der Volksverein für das katholische Deutschland im Kaiserreich 1890–1918.

The present study by Horstwalter Heitzer examines critically, and pays tribute to, the social and civic educational work done by the People’s Association (Volksverein) for Catholic Germany. Heitzer relies on the association’s own archive, which was long believed lost. Using the example of the Volksverein, with its more than 800,000 members still the largest Catholic mass organization, Heitzer portrays the close but by no means conflict-free collaboration between associational Catholicism, political Catholicism, and the Catholic episcopate in Wilhelmine Germany. This lay organization, committed by its founders Franz Brandts, Franz Hitze, and Ludwig Windthorst to a worldly mission, stood at the center of a far-reaching internal Catholic controversy over conceptions of state, society, and economy.

The Volksverein, headquartered in Mönchengladbach, served as »preschool« and »counselor« to the Catholic associations. As the largest extraparliamentary organization of German Catholics, it sought to win over public opinion to Christian social reforms and to influence state social policy through its parliamentarian members. In order to accomplish these goals, the Volksverein utilized all available media of the day. It saw itself as the Center Party’s »social policy avant-garde« and, in concert with the Christian labor unions, promoted the social and civic equality of Catholic workers. The Volksverein demanded the removal of education barriers as a precondition to social reconciliation, overcoming the class struggle, securing the social peace, and realizing the ideal of the mature, independent person in the political and social sphere.

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