Friedrich Ebert was born in Heidelburg in February 1871 and died in February 1925. Ebert was Weimar Germany’s first president and was instrumental in introducing Weimar’s constitution which was to play an important part in the downfall of the Weimar Republic.
Ebert had a relatively humble beginning as he worked as a saddler before becoming a journalist. Ebert got involved with trade unionism and as a natural progression, moved to politics. Ebert became a member of the Social Democratic Party (SDP), becoming its secretary-general in 1905. He was elected to the Reichstag in 1912 and became the leader of the Social Democratic Party in 1913.
As with many Germans, Ebert supported Germany’s involvement in World War One and near the end of the war, Ebert was invited to join a coalition government lead by Prince Max von Baden. However, Ebert’s support for Germany’s participation in the war, caused a spilt in the SDP. Two factions split: one was to become the Communist Party of Germany while the other titled itself the Independent Social Democratic Party. Both were virulently anti-war.
Ebert’s reputation meant that he was asked by Max von Baden to take control of the coalition government in November 1918 and immediately showed his hand when he allied himself to the military and to the Freikorps in an effort to overturn the Spartacist movement in the so-called German Revolution. Ebert became associated with the brutality used by both, though especially by the Freikorps, in crushing both the Spartacists and an attempt to impose a Soviet in Bavaria.
Such was the fear of communism and what had occurred in Russia, that most Germans were content to turn a blind eye to what was done in the name of the government. These events also showed that Ebert was willing to use a strong hand against anybody who threatened the stability of Germany. The loss of face Ebert experienced by having to leave the capital Berlin and move to the safer city of Weimar during the ‘revolution’, may explain why he treated those who fought against his government with such harshness.
In January 1919, elections were held in Germany. The coalition which Ebert lead got 85% support
On February 11th, 1919, Ebert was elected president of the Weimar Republic – a position he held until his death in 1925. In this time he had to contend with the shame many Germans felt at losing the war, the humiliation of the Treaty of Versailles, the economic plight Germany was in, the invasion of the Ruhr and the devastating impact of hyperinflation. From 1920 on (the year of Weimar’s first parliament), Ebert lost support amongst the people. This was directly related to the Versailles Treaty which many Germans believed was simply a non-military way of destroying Germany. Few understood that the government had little other choice but to sign Versailles.
Ebert died at the relatively young age of 54. Many believe that the judgment of a German court – which ruled that Ebert had committed high treason during the war – contributed to his premature death.
|“Freedom and Justice are twin sisters. Freedom can only flourish when protected by strong governmental order. To protect this order and to recreate it where it was violated is of the highest importance to those who love freedom.” Ebert in 1919.“Without democracy there is no freedom. Violence, no matter who is using it, is always reactionary.” Ebert
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