Friedrich Ebert


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(b. 4 Feb. 1871, d. 28 Feb. 1925).

President of Germany 1919–25 Born in Heidelberg, he became a saddler, and joined the SPD in 1889. From 1893 Ebert edited a party newspaper, and in 1900 he became leader of the SPD in the parliament of the city‐state of Bremen. Elected to the national parliament in 1912, he became chairman of his party in 1913.

Upon the collapse of the Empire Ebert was appointed Chancellor on 9 November 1918, partly because of his hostility to the current workers' revolts throughout Germany. On 10 November he established a pact with the army leader, General Groener. With the tacit support of the bureaucratic elites, this enabled him to squash the revolution and establish a democracy. In return he had to grant the army and bureaucracy almost complete autonomy. The persistence of these old power structures fundamentally weakened the new Weimar Republic throughout its existence.

 Ebert was elected President by the National Assembly on 11 February 1919, and tried (in vain) to secure a better treatment of Germany at the Paris Peace Conference. He was due to face a popular presidential election in 1922, but, owing to Germany's volatile domestic situation, parliament voted to extend his period in office. Constantly exposed to personal attacks from rightist groups, in 1924 he was forced to defend himself in court against the accusation of treason during the war, when he had participated in a strike of munitions workers. In a judgment that exemplified the right‐wing bias of the judiciary, his accuser was found guilty of lying, but Ebert was not cleared of treason. The trial strained his health, and he died soon afterwards.

Subjects: Contemporary History (Post 1945) — Politics.

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