New Elites – Established Personnel? (Dis-)Continuities of German Ministries in System Transformations


Although the defeat of the Third Reich dates back over 70 years, the National-Socialist past of the German ministerial bureaucracy is a topic critically discussed. A common concern is that continuities in personnel may have continued to influence the substantial public administration in Germany after World War II. Those said bureaucrats may have undermined both the competence and professional expertise of the ministerial bureaucracy, which would imply problems in terms of democratization, legitimacy, and efficiency.

The project is funded by the Federal Government Commissioner for Culture and the Media as part of a research program to examine vestiges of the Nazi period in central agencies after World War II. It focuses on recruitment practices, career patterns, politicization, and affiliation with the Nazi regime of the administrative and political elite in national ministries in both East and West Germany from 1949 to 1990. The aim of the research project is to find answers to the question of how patterns of elite recruitment and promotion have (not) changed after transformations in the political system of both German states.

Within the project, concepts stemming from contemporary historical research are complemented with scientific approaches from the political sciences and public administration scholarship. This combination will lead to findings on personnel and substantial (dis)continuities in democratization processes and (de)stabilizing effects on political systems as well in the filling of research gaps regarding an all-encompassing view of so far separately analyzed departments.

Analyses are based on biographies, official statements and material from archives as well as on pre-existent datasets. Those sources are analyzed focusing on socio-demographic attributes, professional careers, and party affiliations. Results can be compared based on the analysis of ministers, state secretaries, and heads of divisions in the core executive on national level regarding biographical data, of socio-structural characteristics, career patterns, policy areas, and political systems. Additionally, the career patterns of the elite members can be analyzed with longitudinal and multi-level methods, and prior findings will be refined and extended with a special emphasis on (dis)continuities.

Project-related Publications

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Conference Presentations

  • Strobel, B. and Scholz, S., Bedeutung kommunalpolitischer Erfahrung für Spitzenämter in der politischen und administrativen Elite des Bundes. Presentation at the DVPW-Kongress 2018 „Grenzen der Demokratie / Frontiers of Democracy“, Frankfurt a.M., 25-28 September 2018.
  • Scholz, S. and Strobel, B., Professionalisierung vs. Repräsentativität – Eine Analyse der Karrieremuster politischer und administrativer Eliten seit 1949. Presentation at the DVPW-Kongress 2018 „Grenzen der Demokratie / Frontiers of Democracy“, Frankfurt a.M., 25-28 September 2018.
  • Strobel, B. and Scholz, S., From Weimar Republic to Nazi Germany - Elites, Polycracy, and the Decline of Civil Service from 1920 to 1944. Presentation at the 12th ECPR General Conference, Hamburg, 22-25 August 2018.
  • Scholz, S., Migration and Elite Recruitment. Presentation at the 25th World Congress of Political Science, Brisbane (Australia), 21-25 July 2018.
  • Strobel, B. and Scholz, S., The Influence of Social Dynamics on Representation in the Federal Government of Germany. Presentation at the IPPA International Workshop on Public Policy, Pittsburgh (USA), 26-28 June 2018.