Director General Rudolf Buttmann

Rudolf Buttmann, 1936 | © BSB/ Image Archive
Rudolf Buttmann, 1936 | © BSB/ Image Archive

Rudolf Buttmann (1885 – 1947) was born on 4 July 1885 in Marktbreit (Lower Franconia). He grew up in Zweibrücken (Palatinate), where his father taught at a humanist grammar school from 1 July 1892. After gaining his A levels in 1903 at this same grammar school, Buttmann read law at the universities of Munich, Freiburg and Berlin. During military service, he decided to embark on a career in the higher library service. In March 1908, he became a trainee at the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, in June 1909 he successfully passed the subject examination. At the same time, he composed his thesis on the English national economist Richard Jennings. In 1910, he received his doctorate in governance and public policy from Lujo Brentano (1844 – 1931) at the University of Munich. In that same year, he moved from the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek to the Bibliothek des Bayerischen Landtags (Library of the Bavarian State Parliament), where he continued to work until 1933, at last gaining the rank of a senior librarian.

Ever since the Revolution of 1918/ 19, Rudolf Buttmann had become very active in politics. In late 1918, he campaigned for the foundation of a citizens’ militia in Munich. As far as his party affiliations were concerned, he was at first actively involved with the Bayerische Mittelpartei (Bavarian Centrum Party), i.e. with the Munich chapter of the Deutschnationale Volkspartei in Bayern (German National Peoples’ Party in Bavaria). After having been expelled in the autumn of 1922, he co-founded the Völkische Rechtsblock (People’s Right-wing Block) in Bavaria. This party had as its nucleus the former chapter of the Bavarian Centrum Party, which had presented itself as highly nationalist and had also criticised the willingness of the party leaders to form a coalition. In 1924 Buttmann became a member of the Bavarian parliament through his affiliation with the Völkische Block. The Völkische Block was not really a party but presented a confederation of diverse organisations who considered themselves a substitute for the NSDAP after it had been banned in the wake of the Munich Putsch on 8/ 9 November 1923. On 27 February 1925, Buttmann joined the NSDAP – when Adolf Hitler (1889 – 1945) re-founded the party. This is the reason for Buttmann’s low membership number: four. In that same year, he took on the leadership of the NS contingent within the Bavarian parliament. He also campaigned for the national-socialist movement as a speaker and writer of political articles.

Rudolf Buttmann (front row, second from the right) during a meeting of NSDAP members of the national and regional parliaments, 1930 | © BSB/ Image Archive
Rudolf Buttmann (front row, second from the right) during a meeting of NSDAP members of the national and regional parliaments, 1930 | © BSB/ Image Archive

After the seizure of power in 1933, Rudolf Buttmann did not receive a ministerial post as had been expected. In April of that year, the Reich’s Home Secretary Wilhelm Frick (1877 – 1946) finally offered him the directorship of the cultural politics department in his ministry. During the following two years Buttmann was mostly occupied with negotiating with high-ranking representatives of the Catholic Church, such as Cardinal Secretary of State Eugenio Pacelli (1876 – 1958, from 1939 Pope Pius XII), the practical implementation of the Concordat, which the Hitler government had concluded on 20 July 1933 with the Holy See. The hopes Buttmann may have harboured at first in relation to his new post at the Reich’s Home Office, would not be fulfilled. On the one hand, his responsibilities were curtailed repeatedly; on the other hand, he got into conflict with Frick and Hitler over factual issues. As early as in February 1934, Buttmann started to consider professional alternatives and to aim for the top position at the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek.

As soon as he learned of the dismissal of Georg Reismüller (1882 – 1936) in spring 1935, Rudolf Buttmann made his first moves. Hitler and Frick supported him and finally managed to enforce his move from Berlin to Munich, "[o]hne weitere zuständige Stellen ordnungsgemäß zu beteiligen (without enlisting other relevant offices as would have been correct)". On 3 October 1935, Frick delivered Buttmann his letter of appointment, two days later Buttmann entered the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek – "zum ersten Mal seit 25 Jahren als ihr Beamter (for the first time in 25 years as its functionary)". His dealings as director general vacillated between adaptation to the norms of the National Socialists and adherence to entrenched habits. Despite being a convinced National Socialist, Buttmann acted primarily as librarian. Nonetheless, he rarely evaded orders from his superiors.

On 19 May 1945, the US-American military government interned Buttmann. He died on 25 January 1947 after a serious illness – in his own home - in Stockdorf near Munich. In the summer of 1948, a posthumous denazification suit was filed. In November 1948, the denazification court Starnberg classified Buttmann as offender. The Chamber of Appeals Oberbayern, however, decided in March 1949 to assign him a place in the category of minor offenders. In their judgment of Buttmann’s guilt, both chambers agreed in putting the focus on his party-political activities before 1933.

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