Biography of Ebert, Friedrich -
Ebert, Friedrich

Friedrich Ebert

b. 4 Feb 1871, Heidelberg
d. 28 Feb 1925, Berlin

Title: Reichskanzler (Reich Chancellor)
Term: 9 Nov 1918 - 10 Nov 1918
Chronology: 9 Nov 1918, assumed the office in accordance to an agreement with predecessor supported by the Cabinet, informal meeting, Reichskanzlei, Berlin [1]
  10 Nov 1918, ceased to exercise the duties of office upon joining the Rat der Volksbeauftragten (Council of People's Commissioners) [2]
Names/titles: Volksbeauftragter (People's Commissioner) [10 Nov 1918 - 11 Feb 1919] (see details);
  Reichspräsident (Reich President) [11 Feb 1919 - 28 Feb 1925] (see details)
A saddler by trade; participated in the socialist movement and joined the Social Democratic Party (Sozialdemokratische Partei Deutschlands, SPD) in 1889; after settling in Bremen (1891), he was an activist of the Association of Saddlers and edited the Bremer-Bürgerzeitung newspaper from 1893; became a chairperson in the local SPD organization (1894); served as a member of municipal council (1900-1905) and gained publicity after he presided over the SPD congress in Bremen (1904); held the office of secretary in the SPD executive board in Berlin (1905); was elected to the Reichstag (1912), representing Elberfeld-Barmen constituency; following the death of August Bebel, he and Hugo Haase were elected the SPD co-chairmen (20 Sep 1913); supported the policy of national interests during World War I; emerged as a sole leader of Social Democrats after the resignation of Haase in 1916; after the proclamation of the alleged abdications of Wilhelm II as emperor and king (9 Nov 1918), Maximilian Prinz von Baden transferred the office of Reichskanzler to Ebert who took the office as on behalf of the Regency which was never set up; joined the Council of People's Commissioners (Rat der Volksbeauftragten), a coalition government created by the SPD and the Independent Social Democrats (Unabhängige Sozialdemokratische Partei Deutschlands, USPD) on 10 Nov 1918, taking responsibility for internal and military affairs; assumed the position of chairperson of the Council jointly with Haase (to 29 Dec 1918); adhered to a political course excluding establishment of a Soviet republic and applied force to suppress the revolts (1918-1919); became the most influential figure among the people's commissioners and strengthened his position after the USPD members left the council (29 Dec 1918); was confirmed as chairperson with executive functions (30 Dec 1918); oversaw the elections to the National Constituent Assembly (Verfassunggebende Deutsche Nationalversammlung) in 1919; was elected the Reich President by the National Constituent Assembly (11 Feb 1919); promulgated the so-called Weimar Constitution (11 Aug 1919); survived the coup (Kapp putsch) staged by radical nationalists (1920), who planned to restore the monarchy; faced social and political crisis after France and Belgium occupied the Ruhr territory (1923) to settle the issue of reparations imposed by the Treaty of Versailles; the last months of Ebert's life were marred by the court hearings: on 23 Dec 1924, the court ruled that he had committed high treason, at least in the legal sense, during World War I by his support of a munition workers' strike in Berlin in 1918; died of protracted appendicitis (28 Feb 1925). Biography source: [3]

[1] Ebert was never formally appointed the Reichskanzler and his assumption of the office was verbally agreed during a meeting between the representatives of SPD and the outgoing Reichskanzler Max Prinz von Baden which took place at the Reichskanzlei, Berlin, between 12:30 and 13:30 9 Nov 1918 as confirmed by the witnesses' reports published in "Die Regierung der Volksbeauftragten 1918/19", ed. by Erich Matthias (Düsseldorf: Droste, 1969), Erster Teil, S. 3-18.
[2] With his admission to the Council of People's Commissioners (10 Nov 1918) the office went out of formal use, but Ebert continued to be styled "Reichskanzler" informally and he frequently appears with this title in the minutes of the Cabinet meetings ("Die Regierung der Volksbeauftragten 1918/19", op. cit., Erster Teil, S. XLVIII-IL).
[3] "Friedrich Ebert, 1871/1971" (Bonn-Bad Godesberg: Inter Nationes, 1971).
  Image: contemporary photograph.
Last updated on: 25 Jun 2009 20:00:00