Policing Western Europe: Politics, Professionalism, and Public Order, 1850-1940

By Clive Emsley; Barbara Weinberger | Go to book overview

Policing, Professionalisation and Politics in Weimar Germany

Richard Bessel


I

Between 25 September and 17 October 1926, the Berlin exhibition grounds along the Kaiserdamm hosted the first major international exhibition to be held in the Reich capital after the First World War. Its theme was policing. Timed to coincide with the International Police Congress in Berlin from 27 September to 3 October (which drew more that 200 participants from interior ministries and police forces in 29 countries), the "Great Police Exhibition Berlin 1926" was an enormous success. 1 It covered a display area of more than 20,000 square meters; the many exhibits outlined the work of police authorities within Germany and abroad and examined subjects ranging from the detective work on murder cases to problems of traffic control. Police officers from around the country were sent to observe the exhibition; and it attracted nearly half a million visitors from the general public, "which was enlightened in such an impressive manner about the many-sided and responsible service of the police authorities." 2

The 1926 exhibition was a revealing expression of the hopes and ethos of the German police during the Weimar period. Never before had such effort and expense been committed to show the public the workings of "their" police, and across the country regional "Commissars for the Great Police Exhibition Berlin 1926" had been appointed to ensure that appropriate exhibits be made available. 3 When Dr. Wilhelm Abegg, Ministerialdirektor and head of the Police Section in the Prussian Interior Ministry (and Staatssekretär from 1926 until July 1932, and who probably did more than anyone else to shape the Prussian police during the Weimar Republic4), looked ahead in 1925 to the huge exhibition planned for the coming year, he stressed that "in today's world all means must be employed to overcome public hostility towards the police and to bring about general recognition that the modern police is not only the authorised defender of the existing state structure but also the ever-ready helper and protector of the public."5 Carl Severing, the Social Democratic Interior Minister who, together

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