Political Loyalty and Public Service in West Germany

The 1972 Decree against Radicals and Its Consequences


The recent upheavals in the communist bloc reflect a yearning among its citizens for more democratization and civil liberties. Seeking models to emulate, many activists look toward the Western democratic states. The Federal Republic of Germany is one such model, yet its record on civil liberties is a mixed one, as Gerard Braunthal's incisive study shows.

In the history of the Federal Republic of Germany, few government actions have created controversy as emotional, polemical, and long lasting as the Ministerial Decree of 1972 concerning "radicals" employed in public service. Aimed primarily at Communists, the decree prohibited from civil service posts anyone whose loyalty to the State was in serious question. Enactment of the measure led to a massive loyalty check of 3.5 million individuals, the rejection of 2,250 applicants for political reasons, disciplinary proceedings against 2,000 public servants, and dismissal of 256. It also spawned international protests and legal actions that continue even today.

This book is the first comprehensive study of the 1972 decree. It is based on voluminous German archival sources and on interviews with political leaders, journalists, academicians, and individuals who were directly affected. Braunthal examines the cause and context of the decree, as well as its consequences. Although sharply critical of the measure, he has sought to offer a balanced assessment of its impact, presenting the views of both supporters and opponents.

In a larger sense, the book explores a central question of democratic theory: Where should the line be drawn between the security of the state and the protection of individual rights?

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