The German Audit Office in the Course of Changing Political Regimes of the 20th Century
Prof. Dr. Hans-Peter Ullmann | Modern History
The project is being funded by the Federal Audit Office
he fate of a state can be predicted, so to speak barometrically, from the status and functionality of its accounting and auditing,”as Social Democrat MP Kurt Heinig who fled the National Socialists in 1933 wrote in his constitutive book The Budget. As budget auditing is by no means a “secondary function within state financial administration”; on the contrary: “An exchequer without constant monitoring is a government answering to no one, a dicta-torship.” Financial auditing therefore forms an essential basis of fiscal and subsequently political decision-making processes. It is institutionalised in various nationally organised audit offices. From 1871 onwards, the Audit Office of the German Reich was organised on a central state level, divided into zonal interim offices during the Allied occupation, and in 1950 it became the Federal Audit Office.
The Audit office generated specific ideals concerning order which were often media effectively orchestrated to influence politics and society and reacted at the same time when confronted with concepts and demands regarding order. The Audit office can therefore be regarded as a custodian of both fiscal and state order, which was always fragile and often illusionary, but which emerged most of all as a result of monitoring, inspection and maintaining order. These order and orientation services were defined, on the one hand, by continuity, inherent logics and
chronologies, while, on the other hand, developed in different ways in the face of changes in political systems.
The project, which is being funded by the Federal Audit Office, is for the first time examining the history of the Audit office in Germany on a broad empirical basis, starting in the Weimar Republic and finishing in the young Federal Republic with an emphasis on the National Socialist era. It places the Audit Office’s regime-loyal activities during the “Third Reich” into the context of developments with regard to staff, institutional, and supervisory techniques over a substantial period of time and examines their relationship with continuity and breach as well as the supervising actors’ leeway in their actions and their options.
Text: Hans-Peter Ullmann