Heinrich Bruening, Harvard's mum-keeping Littauer Professor of Government and ex-Chancellor of Germany, bounced back into the headlines yesterday, after negotiated peace rumors, named him as key figure.
In a WMCA radio attack on Bruening, commentator Johannes Steel warned against such a plan, which he said was being fostered by industrial interests in Germany, Britain, and the United States.
Steel denounced the ex-machine gunner, ex-labor leader, as a man who "cannot possibly be acceptable to the Allies as the future Chancellor of Germany. He is the candidate of all the reactionaries and conservatives in the world."
Specifically, Steel charged Bruening with failure to "condemn Nazism or any of its atrocities" since his arrival in this country. The unemotional ex-Chancellor was alleged to be a potential Charlie McCarthy for industrialists and financiers of the Fritz Thyssen variety, now out for a "second chance" to control Germany.
Vatican Might Approve
A Catholic, 56-year-old Bruening might have the backing of the Vatican as head of a post-Hitler government. His first political experience was as a Catholic trade-union executive, from which post he rose to prominence in the Catholic Center Party.
In March, 1930, Bruening became Chancellor of the Weimar Republic, with a coalition of moderates as his supporters in the Reichstag. He was pledged to support of the 1919 peace treaties and the Streseman policy of France-German rapprochement, but sought to abolish reparations to stave off national monetary collapse.
In a 1936 Godkin lecture at Harvard, Bruening attributed the downfall of the German Republic to economic difficulties. Commenting on Bruening's regime, Louis Fischer said that "He concentrated on financial problems. . . and was too busy to see or to cope with the tremendous changes taking place in German life."
When Bruening faced a budget deficit, the Reichstag refused to support his demand for additional taxation. In desperation, the bespectacled Chancellor asked President von Hindenburg to issue an emergency edict under Article 48 of the Weimar Constitution.
It was the first gun in the Bruening epoch of "government by presidential decree," which weakened parliamentary democracy and hastened the rise of Hitlerism. When the Reichstag rebuked him for these Notverordnungen, Bruening asked von Hindenburg to dissolve the parliament and call an election.
Though Bruening's coalition was successful, the Nazi Party leaped from the obscurity of 12 seats to second position with 107. Stormy Reichstag sessions followed, as brown-shirted deputies goosestepped into the Chamber to denounce Bruening.
Ran State by Decree
The weary Chancellor turned increasingly to decree-laws. To diminish unemployment, he asked the aged Hindenburg for a decree chopping up the Junker lauded estates and resettling jobless workers on them. The President, dominated by monocled aristocrats like Kurt von Schleicher, demanded the resignation of the "agrarian Bolshevik."
Bruening was succeeded by Franz von Papen, who in turn paved the way for Hitler. To the last, the scholarly bachelor protested against the Nazi mass-appeal he abhorred and could not understand: "The tendency to regard politics from the emotional viewpoint . . . must never get the upper hand of cool deliberation or there will be an end to Germany."
During his Cambridge years, Bruening has rarely alluded to the Third Reich, limiting his infrequent public addresses to discussion of pre-Hitler Germany, and to advocacy of a Central European customs union.