How do I meet irritating officials

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When I prepare an appointment like this with you today, I always take a look at my office's files. Sometimes you come across something surprising or amusing, at least always fragments of the story, including the story between the Federal President and the Association of Officials. In these files there is a note from Theodor Heuss, who made a note of a meeting with representatives of the dbb in 1955: But apparently the conversation went better than Heuss had expected. After the conversation, the Federal President apparently noted with satisfaction: He was pleased that

As you can see, the close relationships between the dbb and the office of the Federal President have been built on a solid foundation right from the start. Thank you very much for your invitation. I am also looking forward to an outspoken evening with you!

1918 to 2018 - 100 years of the proclamation of the Weimar Republic and 100 years of the dbb. In this anniversary year we remember the hopeful dawn of the first parliamentary democracy in Germany. We also remember its end and the wrong path into the injustice rule of the National Socialists, the new beginning of democracy in the Federal Republic, the division along the Iron Curtain, German unity and European unification. At all of these stations, the history of the Civil Service Association is closely interwoven with our history of democracy.

So sit back for a two-hour historical lecture.

No, Don `t worry. But even a single, quick look at the history of the German trade unions - their synchronization in the Nazi era, their real socialism in the GDR, their key role in the social market economy of the Federal Republic - a single look shows us: Free and strong trade unions, Employee and civil service representatives are an essential feature of democracy! Both condition and support one another. That is precisely why the enemies of democracy have always laid hands on trade unions, professional associations and officials' representatives.

It is a historic fortune that we have strong and responsible trade unions and civil servants' associations! And it is also fortunate that our democracy can rely on a strong German civil service association and collective bargaining union! The most important thing first: Congratulations on your 100th birthday!

I don't want to bother you today with overly complex historical details. But for me, with a view to the past 100 years, the focus is on a question that we, you who are asking yourself today - and again and again -: What professional ethos actually characterizes this, i.e. the service of the common good of our democracy? What expectations do we have of the employees, of the civil servants?

In the monarchies of the German Empire, civil servants should first and foremost be obedient officials and - beyond their service - no more than private individuals. The citizen did not appear, and certainly not the one with democratic values ​​and convictions.

It was not until the Weimar Republic that civil servants took their oath for the first time in the history of the German civil service no longer on the person, on the emperor, king or prince, but on the democratic constitution.

This democratic revolution certainly not only had friends - especially not within the old government. Many higher officials of the monarchy were hostile to the republic, even hostile.

But others were central to the birth of the dbb: the hundreds of thousands of middle-class and simple officials - railway workers, police officers and post office workers, employees in town halls and the administration of justice. Many of them stood up for the young democracy with all their might, from which they hoped to represent their concerns.

After the Council of People's Representatives had enabled civil servants to represent their interests collectively, the dbb was established on December 4, 1918 with over a million members. Its co-founders, Else Kolshorn and Ernst Remmers, were eloquent advocates of democracy.

The spirit of many Weimar democrats increasingly enriched the training of civil servants. The administrative academies - perhaps more so than many university chairs at that time - conveyed a self-confident and democratic understanding of the state. Constitutional lawyers such as Walter Jellinek or Hans Peters shaped the ideal of these institutions, closely associated with the dbb.

Let us also remember these women and men tonight: the committed and courageous officials and - for the first time with equal rights! - Officials of the young republic!

What I said in the German Bundestag on November 9, I would like to reaffirm today: Let us no longer claim that the Weimar Republic was a democracy without democrats. Rather, they existed, and at all levels: committed employees, not only because of official duty, but because of inner loyalty to the constitution. I think: A modern, democratic civil service can and should refer to those traditions of democratic awakening, because that is what you should be today, ladies and gentlemen: Citizens in the service of our democracy! And I know: that is exactly what you believe!

I would like to remind you of one episode as an example: The young civil servants' union was not only a support, but actually belonged to the life-savers of the young republic. When the Kapp Putsch shook the country in March 1920, the dbb's answer was: General strike until Railway workers, postal workers and courageous women and men in the offices of the country fought against the putschists and the attack on the young democracy.

Arnold Brecht, a democratically minded official in the Reich Chancellery, hurled at the revolutionaries:

And, this Arnold Brecht had a little-known and therefore underestimated idea that helped to preserve the republic: shortly before the putschists arrived at the Reich Chancellery, he had hidden all the stamps! No chance for the coup plotters to produce documents. At least none that had the appearance of authenticity. That is the power of the stamp. A creative effort for the republic can look like this too!

If we look back today on the history of the civil servants' union, we must also deal with this: as vigorously and courageously many in the dbb stood on the side of democracy at the beginning of the Weimar Republic, so powerless and discouraged the federal government acted in its last days. The civil service was and is always a mirror of society. And so the National Socialists had found their way into the offices and ministries. Due to infiltration from within and pressure from outside by the new government, the dbb was finally brought into line after the seizure of power.

And yet it is surprising, and should also irritate us, how quickly the dbb swung into the line of the National Socialists. As early as March 17, 1933, the new board of directors decreed in the association's magazine: How little did democratic ideals suddenly count, how quickly they were back: the escape from responsibility and stubborn authority!

The cynically so-called introduced the first in April 1933. In doing so, the National Socialists destroyed the foundations of the professional civil service: Democrats, liberals and officials of the Jewish faith were dismissed from civil service. Where was the outcry from fellow officials over this blatant breach of the constitution? Mostly he stayed away!

But there was also resistance to the Nazi regime in the ranks of the officials. For example, the senior government councilor Arvid Harnack in the Reich Ministry of Economics, executed as a member of the so-called 1942 in Plötzensee, or the Berlin city inspector Fritz Erler, who only survived because he was able to escape to one of the Dachau concentration camps.

Too many, however, wrote the historian Hans Mommsen, were closed

Both are in the history of this dbb: incentive and warning. Max Weber has described with foresight that bureaucracy is indispensable and impersonal at the same time and that for this very reason it is easy to find himself ready to work for anyone who knows how to take control of it. It was only much later that the Germans understood what he was warning of.

Hannah Arendt has shown in an oppressive and impressive way where blind obedience, not only among civil servants, led during National Socialism. And what lessons we have to learn from it. , is Arendt's sentence, which is irritating at first glance, that was her powerful rejection of cadaver obedience and herd instinct.

By this she meant for the service in the Nazi regime: Nobody can steal from their own responsibility by referring to orders and obedience. Courage to think and judge for oneself, and if necessary the courage, even the duty to contradict - that is what we expect from all women and men who put themselves at the service of our state. Blind obedience, that's what Hannah Arendt called it. Creativity, loyalty and responsibility - also for one's own actions - that is the modern civil service! You embody that in your association!

I am counting on your commitment to democracy. Because every work in the public service is more than just a job, it is a service to and for the community.

Conversely, the state is also obliged to its employees and civil servants. This includes proper equipment for the public service. Of course, that means good staffing and decent pay. This increasingly includes modern equipment for our authorities, for example high-performance information technology that is state-of-the-art. Only in this way will the public service remain an attractive employer and a strong pillar of our democracy! Perhaps in the past 70 years we have never felt as much as today that we need this strong support.

A public service as a pillar of democracy must at the same time be a reflection of the democratic society in its own composition. There is still a lot to be done here. Diversity is not a buzzword. Only a civil service that reflects our society in all its diversity can provide the best possible service to this society.

And that is why you are right to ask in the dbb: Why are there still far too few women in management positions today - 100 years after women were granted the right to vote? There may be explanations for this, but really no excuse!

And since we have already looked back several times on the history of our republic, I would also like to remind you of the reunification of our country. The fall of the Berlin Wall almost three decades ago would be inconceivable without the courage and freedom of the East Germans who took to the streets at the time. Successful state unity in the years after 1989 certainly also requires the valuable support that West German officials provided in the federal states of that time. Many of them found a new home there. Today, however, we find that there are still too few employees or civil servants from eastern Germany working at the management level of many authorities, including in eastern Germany. It's time for that to align.

We cannot be satisfied either, as long as the children and grandchildren of those who came to us as migrant workers, then so-called in the 1960s and 1970s and found their home here, only rarely work in the civil service.

Everyone who has the citizenship and other requirements should have equal access to a position in the civil service. This is important so that there are role models: in the civil offices, on the chairs of judges and public prosecutors or in the ministries.

All of these are questions not only about equality and the appreciation of the biography of each individual citizen. It is also highly detrimental to the efficiency of the public service if not all talents are promoted equally, if the whole variety of experiences and perspectives for our community are not exhausted.

The public service must open up. And that more ambitiously and faster than before. The compatibility of family and work, flexible work models, career development and the targeted addressing of underrepresented groups - these are just some of the construction sites on which the public service has to make progress and: I am counting on the strong impetus from the dbb!

Finally, allow me to give a thought about digitization, because of course it also changes our view of professions and professional ethics in the public service.

What does it mean for our understanding of the state if, in the future, algorithms instead of clerks decide on the payment of state benefits or if artificial intelligence applies tax law instead of a tax officer?

Your motto also applies in the digital age. Digitization can help to significantly improve the services provided by the administration to the people. But it must not mean that people no longer meet in the administration. Such an administration would become a nightmare - if you want to read it, take a look at Franz Kafka. You don't want such a public service, I don't want it, and the citizens certainly don't want it!

In my opinion, there is also a clear imperative in the digital world: people must be able to make the final decision - we must never give up our autonomy and decision-making authority completely. This is very general. And that is especially true in the public service. The work in the public service is always more than pure data comparison or computational optimization. Even the smartest algorithm cannot calculate the common good. We must never delegate the common good to machines, because machines will never fulfill the democratic professional ethos of the public service!

A look at the eventful history of this association teaches us that this professional ethos does not simply include an obligation to the state, but to the basic rights of citizens and the basic values ​​of our democracy! They are the foundation on which those of the professional civil service stand today.

Remember and we will celebrate this on this 100th birthday.

And we should also keep this in mind when complaining about bureaucracy and administration in this country. Official jokes are known to fill entire books and seem to be supposed to save some comedy appearances on television.

But anyone who dared to look over the garden fence for a while and experienced the civil service in other countries will laugh a little less loudly. Because he knows that we in Germany are not badly served with a professional public service including rules and rule-of-law review of administrative decisions. There are many countries that envy us for this.

That is why I am primarily not here to congratulate you on your birthday, but to all of those who work for our community every day, to all employees and officials, to say my thanks to all of you. Not only my thanks, the thanks of the Federal President, but I also say this thank you on behalf of all those who depend on your commitment. And therefore on behalf of all Germans: Thank you very much!