Christian Härle

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Christian Härle (1894–1950)[1] (born 28 June 1894, Kleiningersheim, Ludwigsburg, Germany) was the first post-war president of the state welfare organization (?) (in German Landesversicherungsanstalt (LVA), Württemberg).[2] Before 1945 he held various high official positions, for instance SPD Gewerkschafter (union organizer) and SPD Verbindungsman (SPD relations officer).[3]

His father, a farmer and wine grower, died when Christian was eleven years old. After he had finished elementary and continuation school, he worked for the “Schultheissenamt” (local mayor’s office) in Grossingersheim, for the Allgemeine Ortskrankenkasse (local health insurance carrier) in the district of Cannstatt and for several other insurance companies. At the end of World War I, Härle, a committed labor union man and social democrat, was tempted to enter the world of labor unions and politics. In 1920, he moved to Stuttgart where he worked as Arbeitersekretär (secretary) for the Stuttgarter Freie Gewerkschaften (free labor union of Stuttgart). It was at this time, that he made his first contacts with the LVA Württemberg and was appointed an honorary member of its board of directors. On 30 January 1930 Härle was promoted to the position of a “Hilfsberichterstatter” (assistant supervisor) and thus became a full-time member of the board of directors. On March 1933, he was removed from this position for political reasons. From 1922 to 1933, Christian Härle was also a member of the city council of Stuttgart, the board of directors of the “landesfürsorgeverbandes” (state welfare agency), the “Württembergischen Städtetages” (meeting of city delegates), the “Ortschulrates” (local school board) and the “Gewerbeortsschulrates” (local business council) of the city of Stuttgart. Härle was removed from all these positions in 1933.

From 1933 until 1945, Härle had to work as a real estate and mortgage broker to support his family. From 16 August 1942 until 31 July 1945 he was “Personalsachbearbeiter” (employee of the personnel division) for a construction company in Stuttgart. Because of his uncompromising and democratic attitude, Härle was under the constant scrutiny of the Nazi regime. He was arrested on several occasions, and even spent three months – from July to September 1944 – in the concentration camp at Dachau.

Christian Härle returned to the LVA Württemberg on 1 August 1945 and became its first post-war chairman. His official title, “Leiter” (leader) of the LVA Württemberg displeased Härle greatly because of its Nazi origins. It was therefore not surprising at all that Härle began to create a new administration for the LVA. To this end, he created a new board of directors to which he appointed leading figures such as the labor unionist Markus Schleicher and the Baurat Albrecht Fischer from the Bosch company. However, Christian Härle did not live to see the final restitution of the LVA’s and the social security agency’s new administration.

If we look back on the month of August 1945 when Christian Härle took over the office of the chairman in the LVA’s partly burned-out building at 133 Rotebühlstrasse, we can hardly imagine the difficulties and hardship, which accompanied this position. There seemed to be no more life in the LVA Württemberg. Germany’s collapse was total, and the life of the people was overshadowed by a lack of space and other privations of all kinds. The state of Württemberg was divided into French and American occupation zones. The regular employees of the LVA could not return to work because the occupying powers had started their first de-nazification campaign. Assets were frozen or not available, and nobody was able to pay the new membership fees. The German Reich, which used to subsidize the LVA, did not exist any more. On the other hand, there were hundreds of thousands of pensioners, widows, and orphans waiting for their pensions and many insured people were desperately waiting to be admitted to sanatoriums. In short, at the height of this social misery, people turned their eyes toward the LVA Württemberg. And it is to Christian Härle’s credit that a new administration was installed, credits were taken with which pensions could be paid, sanatoriums were reopened and new applications for pensions were processed. And, as if nothing had happened, the LVA even took over the obligations of the former “Reichsversicherungsanstalt” (former national welfare and social security agency) for employees, which used to have its headquarters in Berlin. Furthermore, the state’s medical insurance companies needed the LVA’s assistance. At this time it was still the law that the president of the LVA had to appoint the directors of the “Ortskrankenkasssen” and because they lacked their own administration, they turned to the ‘big brother’ for help. Finally, the “Württembergische Gemeindeunfallversicherungs-verband” (insurance agency which covers work accidents), whose president was also the president of the LVA, needed to be revived.

In 1947, during the consolidation period of the LVA, a law (KB-Leistungsgesetz) initiated by the Americans in their occupation zone regulated the pensions for injured war veterans and the relatives of soldiers who had died in the war. Almost 200,000 new pensions had to be readjusted, and there were hardly any competent employees available to do this work. In regard to the LVA’s geographical district, Härle had to counteract an initiative in the French occupation zone, in Tübingen, where the local authorities wanted to create a new social security agency. It was Christian Härle’s skilful way of negotiating with the French occupation authorities and the government of the state of Württemberg-Hohenzollern that prevented the creation of a new branch of the agency in Tübingen, which would have led to the ruin of the LVA. In the midst of all these problems, the LVA was confronted with another disaster: the currency reform in June 1948. Twenty-four hours after the cut-off date in July, the LVA was out of money, just a few days before the July pensions were due and the sanatoriums were supposed to receive their financial support. Again it was Christian Härle who managed to obtain the necessary cash from the government and the banks. But more problems emerged after 1 July 1949 when the new “Sozialversicherungs-anpassungsgesetz” (law regarding the adaptation of social security) caused a flood of new pension applications.

If we look back on the first five years after the end of World War II, it seems unlikely to us that it was possible to endure all these drastic events and changes of the law in force. These years also bring to the fore what an incredible task and responsibility burdened Christian Härle and the skills he had to develop in order to reach his goals. He had to work more and bear more responsibilities in these five years than any other chairman of the LVA up to this date; it was a task that would have been, under normal circumstances, the work for an entire generation. Christian Härle’s work for the LVA was certainly facilitated by the fact that he was also a member of the Assembly that drafted the new constitution and later became a member of the state parliament of Württemberg-Baden. In addition to these positions, Christian Härle also held numerous other honorary offices.

The history of the LVA Württemberg will certainly reserve the place of honor that Christian Härle deserves.

Christian Härle was quoted in the recently re-printed work by Fritz Elsas “Stuttgart, das Buch der Stadt” which was originally published in 1925. Härle talks about the Swabian worker:

“The relatively good ‘health’ of the Swabian working population expresses itself also in the life of the individual where strict rules of morals and honesty predominate. Tranquillity of mind prevails over pleasure. Furthermore, – and this is rather significant – the traditional folk song is stronger than the popular song.

“However, we should not ignore the petty-bourgeois drawbacks of such a conception of life, as we find a mania of perfection [Kannegiesserie] combined with too much patience in regard to bureaucratic harassment. The Swabian ‘Schreiberstaat’ (state of bureaucrats) has produced many unpleasant phenomena. And even though the Swabian worker himself likes to quarrel with the ‘Schulzenwirtschaft’ [overly authoritative government], he is often unable to shake off his unhealthy patience and to liberate himself from a false respect toward the ‘high authorities’. This is the reason why the Swabian bureaucracy occupies such a unique position in Germany.”

(The source for this Wikipedia article is a posthumous biography from the German language publication of the LVA Württemberg which Christian Haerle headed. That biography was prepared with the cooperation of the Haerle family and copyright is owned by the Haerle family. A member of the Haerle family has made this Wikipedia entry and therefore there is no copyright violation from this material appearing here on Wikipedia. The publication number for the original source is ISSN 0340-3270)