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Appeal to the German People by the Christian Democratic Union (June 26, 1945)

On June 26, 1945, former members of the Catholic Center Party, along with politicians who had been close to the bourgeois resistance during the Third Reich, founded the Christian Democratic Union (CDU), a new kind of supra-confessional omnibus party [Sammlungspartei]. Unlike those parties affiliated with particular confessions during the Weimar Republic, the CDU sought to appeal to Catholics and Protestants in equal measure. Although the party was bourgeois in character, it had important roots in the Christian labor union movement. The idea of Christian Socialism shaped the CDU’s founding appeal but did not meet with equal support from all party segments, since members were influenced by diverse regional identities. Apart from emphasizing Christian-democratic values in society, the Christian Democratic Union also called for the nationalization of mineral resources and key industries.

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German People!

Amidst the worst catastrophe that has ever befallen a country, the party of the Christian Democratic Union of Germany, out of ardent love for the German people, calls upon Christian, democratic, and social forces to assemble, work together, and build a new homeland. The deification of a criminal adventurer has plunged us into a morass of guilt and shame, and a free democratic order can only emerge if we remember the culturally formative moral and spiritual forces of Christianity and increasingly draw upon this source of strength for our people.

This task is unspeakably difficult. After 1918, our political leadership salvaged state, cultural, and economic institutions from the military collapse. The villages, towns, factories, workshops, fields, and forests that had not been destroyed served as the foundation for the gradual revival of the nation.

Today, however, we stand before a monstrous legacy, before a rubble heap of moral and material values.

This time, it was an unscrupulous dictator and his followers who frivolously started a war and waged it until our nation was bled dry. Hitler left the country in devastation and desolation. With mendacious national slogans and hollow proclamations of peace, he tricked his own people and other nations, and shamefully abused the idealism of our youth. And this youth, which fought in good faith for its Fatherland, could not but become the victim of an insane leadership. Great is the guilt borne by broad segments of our people, who were all too willing to degrade themselves as Hitler’s backers and henchmen. All guilt must be atoned for. The great number of Germans whose hands remain clean suffer along with those who are burdened by guilt. They were unable to prevail against violence and terror. Fighters of genuine democratic sentiment, Protestants, Catholics, innumerable Jewish citizens, as well as men and women of all classes, suffered and died under this rule of terror. In the spirit of their legacy, united by the same love for our people, we recognize our duty to accompany this people on the path to repentance, the path to rebirth.

The terrible magnitude of the injustice perpetrated during Hitler’s rule obliges us to call to account the guilty and their accomplices, to exercise strict justice, without leniency, yet without any thirst for revenge. The travesty of Hitler’s state must now be replaced by a truly democratic state founded on the people’s commitment to loyalty, sacrifice, and service to the common good, as well as on a respect for the rights, honor, freedom, and human dignity of the individual.

The rule of law must once again become the foundation of all public life. The lie that “whatever benefits the nation is right” must yield to the eternal truth that “the nation only benefits from what is right.” It is essential that we restore the independence and the orderly process of law. The call for just judges runs through the entire German nation like a single cry. Any arbitrary abuse of the law must be ruled out. A Gestapo and its terror must not exist again. With utmost frugality, we must build public life largely on the basis of self-government and voluntary work. Parliament must facilitate a trusting, brotherly collaboration among all parties supporting democracy and all forces eager to rebuild the country.

We demand a public life that is free of lies, mass hysteria, and mass demagogy as well as a responsible press whose highest law is the commitment to the truth. We call for spiritual and religious freedom of conscience, independence of all church communities, and a clear separation of church and state.

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