Philipp Scheidemann

(b. 1864)

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(b. Kassel, 26 July 1864; d. Copenhagen, 29 Nov. 1939)

German; Chancellor of Germany 1919, SPD co-chairman 1917–19 Scheidemann was a printer by trade and alter a journalist and editor of the SPD paper in Kassel. Due to his speaking skills and ambition he was elected to the SPD executive in 1911. Like Ebert, he supported the war in 1914, remaining in the leadership of the SPD and becoming co-chairman with Ebert in 1917. He was a member of the last government of the Kaiser, under Prince Max of Baden, in 1918, becoming a member of the first Social Democratic government of Ebert in November of that year. On 9 November 1918 Scheidemann proclaimed the ‘Free German Republic’ from the balcony on the Reichstag in front of an excited crowd. He had no authority to do so, but his proclamation changed German history. Ebert, who had just taken over as head of government, would have settled for a constitutional monarchy, but Scheidemann was attempting to forestall the Lenin-inspired Karl Liebknecht, who was about to proclaim a German Socialist Republic.

Scheidemann followed Ebert as Chancellor in February 1919 but resigned in June rather than agree to the Versailles Treaty. He was mayor of Kassel from 1920 to 1925. Like other SPD leaders he was subjected to a campaign of personal abuse and an attempted assassination. He left Germany when the Nazis took over in 1933, living the Copenhagen, where he continued his Social Democratic activities until his death in 1939.

Subjects: Politics.

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