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In Support of the Emergency Laws (May 15-16, 1968)

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Ladies and gentlemen, if this bill is defeated, it does not mean that no precautions will be taken in the case of an emergency. It just means that there will be no legal foundation for them,

(How true! from the CDU/CSU)

and therefore no one will know what these precautions will entail.

(Applause by the government parties)

In the hour of need, will the Allied forces exercise their special rights in accordance with Art. 5, Sec. 2 of the Germany Treaty? Will we, in turn, have to take precautionary measures in the event of such a case? Ladies and gentlemen, we do not know.

Will the chancellor and the government have to refer to their oath of office, in which they swore to divert harm from our people? Will they derive from that oath the right and the obligation to do whatever is necessary to protect our people from harm? Will the regulations that will then have to be prepared in secret in a parliamentary committee be more effective and more constitutional than the ones we have prepared? We do not know.

Let us not put ourselves in a position where, for lack of timely foresight in an hour of need, we can decide nothing more than the old “Videant consules, ne quid res publica detrimenti capiat,” [“May the government see that the Fatherland suffers no harm”]. We should not put ourselves in that position.

(Applause by the government parties)

This draft is – and in saying this, I do not believe I am revealing any new information to either side of the house – a compromise. That means: it is a framework of concessions and counter-concessions in which changes can only be made by common accord if the draft as a whole is not to be endangered. This also means, ladies and gentlemen, that the draft does not represent the ideal conception of emergency regulations for which some of us might have hoped. But based on the standards of effectiveness and constitutionality, the legal committee believes that this draft can stand its ground. This is why I would like to ask you to grant your approval to our proposals.

(Applause by the government parties)

[ . . . ]

Source of original German text: Debate in the German Bundestag on the Emergency Laws, Verhandlungen des Deutschen Bundestages [Proceedings of the German Bundestag], session 174-175, May 15-16, 1968; reprinted in Irmgard Wilharm, ed., Deutsche Geschichte 1962-1983, Dokumente in zwei Bänden [German History 1962-1983. Documents in Two Volumes], vol. 1. Frankfurt am Main, 1989, pp. 149-51.

Translation: Allison Brown

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