Hans Luther

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Hans Luther
Bundesarchiv Bild 146-1969-008A-07, Hans Luther.jpg
Chancellor of Germany
(Weimar Republic)
In office
15 January 1925 12 May 1926
President Paul von Hindenburg
Preceded by Wilhelm Marx
Succeeded by Wilhelm Marx
Personal details
Born(1879-03-10)10 March 1879
Berlin, Prussia, German Empire
Died11 May 1962(1962-05-11) (aged 83)
Düsseldorf, West Germany
Political partyNone
ProfessionLawyer, politician, diplomat

Hans Luther ( Loudspeaker.svg listen  ) (10 March 1879 – 11 May 1962) was a German politician and Chancellor of Germany for 482 days in 1925 to 1926. As Minister of Finance he helped stabilize the Mark during the hyperinflation of 1923. From 1930 to 1933, Luther was head of the Reichsbank and from 1933 to 1937 he served as German ambassador to Washington.

Reichsbank bank

The Reichsbank  was the central bank of Germany from 1876 until 1945.


Early life

Hans Luther was born in Berlin on 10 March 1879 into a Lutheran family as the son of Otto (1848-1912), a well-off merchant, and Wilhelmine Luther (née Hübner). [1] [2]

After attaining the Abitur at the Leibniz-Gymnasium/Berlin, Luther studied law at Geneva, Kiel and Berlin from 1897-1901. His teachers included Otto von Gierke, Franz von Liszt, Heinrich Brunner, Gustav von Schmoller and Hugo Preuss. In 1904, Luther was awarded a Dr.jur. for his dissertation Die Zuständigkeit des Bundesrats zur Entscheidung von Thronstreitigkeiten innerhalb des Deutschen Reiches. He passed the Assessor exam in 1906 and worked in the Prussian administration, in 1906/07 at the city council of Charlottenburg, now a part of Berlin. [1]

Abitur is a qualification granted by university-preparatory schools in Germany, Lithuania, and Estonia. It is conferred on students who pass their final exams at the end of their secondary education, usually after twelve or thirteen years of schooling. In German, the term Abitur has roots in the archaic word Abiturium, which in turn was derived from the Latin abiturus.

Otto von Gierke German philosopher

Otto Friedrich von Gierke was a German legal scholar and historian. In his four volume magnum opus entitled Das deutsche Genossenschaftsrecht, he pioneered the study of social groups, and the importance of associations in German life, which stood between the divide of private and public law. During his career at the Berlin University's law department, Gierke was a leading critic of the newly drafted German Civil Code, arguing that it had been moulded in an individualistic frame that was inconsistent with German social traditions. He helped to advance the concept of social law, over the classical division of public law and private law.

Franz von Liszt German jurist, criminologist and international law reformer

Franz Eduard Ritter von Liszt was a German jurist, criminologist and international law reformer. As a legal scholar, he was a proponent of the modern sociological and historical school of law. From 1898 until 1917, he was Professor of Criminal Law and International Law at the University of Berlin and was also a member of the Progressive People's Party in the Prussian Chamber of Deputies and the Reichstag.

Luther was married twice. From 1907-1924 to Gertrud (née Schmidt, 1880-1924) and from 1953 to Gertrud Sioli (née Mautz). He had three daughters from his first marriage. [1]

Political career

German Empire and local politics

In 1907, Luther was elected to the Magdeburg city council where he increased the area assigned to Schreber garden tenfold and litigated against the regional potash industry for polluting the drinking water. From February 1913 to the summer of 1918, Luther was a member of the board of the Preußischer Städtetag (later Deutscher Städtetag). In the summer of 1918, he became Oberbürgermeister (mayor) of Essen. During the Revolution he managed to convince the revolutionary workers' and soldiers' councils to cooperate with the city administration and to accept the mayor's leading role. Ex-officio, as mayor of Essen, he was a member of the Vorläufiger Reichswirtschaftsrat from 1920. [1] [3]

Magdeburg Large city in Saxony-Anhalt, Germany

Magdeburg is the capital city and the second largest city of the state of Saxony-Anhalt, Germany. It is situated on the Elbe River.

Potash salt mixtures that contain potassium in water-soluble form, mainly: halite, sylvite, carnallite, kieserite

Potash is various mined and manufactured salts that contain potassium in water-soluble form. The name derives from pot ash, which refers to plant ashes soaked in water in a pot, the primary means of manufacturing the product before the industrial era. The word potassium is derived from potash.

The Deutscher Städtetag is an organization that represents interests of cities in Germany. It began in 1905, dissolved in 1933, then re-formed in 1945. As of 2019 some 200 cities comprise its membership. The association's mission centers on sustaining the guarantee of local self-governance specified in the Grundgesetz für die Bundesrepublik Deutschland, Article 28, paragraph 2.

Weimar Republic and Reich politics

During the creation of the cabinet of Wilhelm Cuno in November 1922, Luther was offered the Reichswirtschaftsministerium (Economic Affairs) and the Reichsinnenministerium (Interior) but he refused both. However, on 1 December 1922 he took over the Reichsministerium für Ernährung und Landwirtschaft (food and agriculture). His predecessor, Karl Müller  [ de ] had been forced to resign after only three days in office due to allegations about connections to Rhenish separatists. Luther remained in this office in the cabinet of Gustav Stresemann, focussing on ensuring food supplies for those groups of the population hardest hit by inflation. [1]

Wilhelm Cuno German chancellor

Wilhelm Carl Josef Cuno was a German businessman and politician who was the Chancellor of Germany from 1922 to 1923, for a total of 264 days. His tenure included the episode known as the Occupation of the Ruhr by French and Belgian troops and the period in which inflation in Germany accelerated notably, heading towards hyperinflation. Cuno was also general director of the Hapag shipping company.

Rhenish Republic

The Rhenish Republic was proclaimed at Aachen (Aix-la-Chapelle) in October 1923 during the occupation of the Ruhr by troops from France and Belgium. It comprised three territories, named North, South and Ruhr. Their regional capitals were, respectively, Aachen, Koblenz and Essen.

Gustav Stresemann German politician, statesman, and Nobel Peace Prize laureate

Gustav Ernst Stresemann was a German statesman who served as Chancellor in 1923 and Foreign Minister 1923–1929, during the Weimar Republic. He was co-laureate of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1926.

When Streseman reshuffled his cabinet on 6 October 1923, Luther took over the Ministry of Finance and kept that portfolio in the two cabinets led by Wilhelm Marx which followed. Luther thus was in charge of the currency reform which ended the hyperinflation and introduced a new stable Mark. By 15 October, Luther presented a plan that combined elements of a reform by economist Karl Helfferich with ideas of Luther's predecessor Rudolf Hilferding. With the help of the emergency law (Ermächtigungsgesetz) of 13 October 1923 which gave the government the power to issue decrees on financial and economic matters, the plan was implemented that same day, 15 October 1923. The restrictive monetary policy by Hjalmar Schacht at the Reichsbank helped to stabilize the currency, as did steps taken by Luther to close the budget deficit. On the revenue side, he pushed through three emergency tax hikes, brought forward due dates for taxes, increased prepayments of assessed taxes, raised the sales tax, taxed inflation gains and reorganized the financial burden sharing between Reich and Länder. On the spending side, Luther managed a drastic cut in personnel costs - by reducing the number of Reich employees by almost 25% over four months, a freeze on promotions and fixing public salaries at a level lower than that of 1913. [1]

Having successfully stabilized the currency, Luther then was a member of the German delegation at the London conference of 1924  [ de ] in July and August 1924, where he was in charge of trade policy and financial policy issues. On 30 August 1924, the Rentenmark was replaced as legal tender by the Reichsmark , a new gold-backed currency. [1]


After the Reichstag elections of December 1924 the parties supporting the minority Marx cabinet were unable to agree on whether the coalition should be extended to include those on the left (SPD) or those on the right (DNVP), president Friedrich Ebert on 9 January 1925 asked the independent Luther to form a government. On 16 January, Luther presented his cabinet that combined features of a party-based government with one made up of experts/technocrats. Each of the coalition parties (Zentrum, BVP, DVP, DNVP) had one representative in the cabinet, the other positions were filled with civil servants who were either members of one of the parties or were politically close to it. Although the DDP was not a member of the coalition, Luther was able to keep Otto Gessler at the Reichswehrministerium. [1]

When Ebert died on 28 February, Luther temporarily assumed the role of acting head of state pending the election of a successor. The following presidential election put some strains on the coalition supporting the cabinet. Luther tried to convince Walter Simons, president of the Reichsgericht, to ask the two candidates for the second round of voting to step aside and accept Simons as a compromise of the center. However, Simons refused and Paul von Hindenburg was elected. [1]

During his relatively short period in office, Luther and his cabinet managed to accomplish the passage of several important laws and international treaties. In foreign trade, the one-sided most-favoured-nation clause that had governed trade between the Allies and Germany lapsed on 10 January 1925, thus reestablishing Germany's sovereignty in trade policy. The tariff law came into force on 12 August 1925, setting up tariffs for industry and agriculture that were based on the tariff rates of the pre-war years. Trade treaties were negotiated with the UK, the Soviet Union, France, Spain and Italy. In domestic tax policy, a tax reform brought relief as taxes on income, capital and land transfer as well as bill stamp duty and sales tax were all lowered. In foreign policy, the cabinet negotiated the Treaty of Locarno with the UK, Belgium, France and Italy (October 1925), which paved the way for Germany's membership in the League of Nations (September 1926). The ministers of the DNVP left the cabinet in protest over Locarno, forcing Luther to set up a new government that took office in January 1926. This government negotiated the Freundschafts- und Neutralitätsvertrag with the Soviet Union. [1]

In social policy, a number of reforms to social insurance were carried out during Luther's time as Chancellor. A decree promulgated by the Reich Minister of Labour in May 1925 extended accident insurance coverage to include eleven occupational diseases, [4] a law of July 1925 extended workmen's compensation coverage to all accidents from and to places of work, and vocational care was introduced that same month. In addition, a decree of May 1925 established compensation for occupational diseases. [5]

Luther voluntarily decided to resign after a Reichstag majority censured him on 12 May 1926 after he had asked Hindenburg to issue the presidential Flaggen-Verordnung (5 May 1926), which ordered German embassies and consulates to display not just the official black-red-gold Reichsflagge but also the black-white-red Handelsflagge (trade flag). His successor was Wilhelm Marx. [1]

Further career

Luther was elected to the supervisory board of the Reichsbahn in the summer of 1926. At the end of 1928 he left, to make room for a representative of the Free State of Prussia. In March 1929, he became a member of the board of directors of the Gemeinschaftsgruppe deutscher Hypothekenbanken (association of German mortgage banks). He also joined the DVP. In 1928/29, Luther was also active in the Bund zur Erneuerung des Reiches  [ de ] and became its founding president in January 1928. The institution worked on a reform of the federal structure of the Reich, notably the problem of the dominant position of Prussia compared to the other Länder. [1]

On 11 March 1930, Luther was appointed as Hjalmar Schacht's successor as president of the Reichsbank. To ensure his independence, he gave up all other offices and also left the DVP. Luther supported Heinrich Brüning's deflation policy out of loyalty and conviction. During the crisis in German banking in June/July 1931, he stretched the envelope—both legally and in terms of the Reichsbank's financial means—to help the banks repay the short-term loans called in by foreign creditors. Criticism by the banks including the demand for his resignation were without foundation and served mainly to hide the banks' responsibility for their own situation. [1] On the evening of April 9, 1932 Hans Luther was shot at on the platform of the Potsdam station. He was injured at the shoulder. The assailants had written a letter before in which they criticized Luther's monetary policy. [6]

After the Nazis seized power in 1933, Luther followed a demand by Hitler and resigned his post on 16 March 1933. He was, however, offered the post of German ambassador to Washington which he accepted. [1]

In 1933, Luther lectured at the Columbia University campus. Luther's speech stressed Hitler's "peaceful intentions" toward his European neighbors. Nicholas Murray Butler, Columbia's president, rejected student appeals to cancel the invitation, calling the request "illiberal" and citing the need for academic freedom. [7]

In 1937, he retired from active public service (im einstweiligen Ruhestand) and in 1942 retired fully. [1] [3]

Post-World War II, Luther was trustee of Merck Finck & Co., a private bank in Munich, in 1948/49. He also served as a member of the supervisory board of the Bayerischen Hypotheken und Wechselbank. In 1952, the Munich Hochschule für politische Wissenschaften awarded him an honorary professorship. In 1952-1955, Luther was the chairman of the committee of experts on the territorial restructuring of the Federal Republic of Germany (Sachverständigen-Ausschuß für die Neugliederung des Bundesgebiets). In 1958, he became president of the reestablished Verein für das Deutschtum im Ausland . [1] [3]

He died in Düsseldorf on 11 May 1962. [1]


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Second Marx cabinet

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First Luther cabinet cabinet

The First Luther cabinet was the 12th democratically elected Reichsregierung of the German Reich, during the period in which it is now usually referred to as the Weimar Republic. The cabinet was named after Reichskanzler (chancellor) Hans Luther and was in office for only a year. On 15 January 1925 it replaced the Second Marx cabinet which had resigned on 15 December 1924. Luther resigned with his cabinet on 5 December 1925 following the signature of the Locarno treaties but remained in office as caretaker. He formed another government on 20 January 1926.

Second Luther cabinet

The Second Luther cabinet was the 13th democratically elected Reichsregierung of the German Reich, during the period in which it is now usually referred to as the Weimar Republic. The cabinet was named after Reichskanzler (chancellor) Hans Luther and was in office for not quite four months. On 20 January 1926 it replaced the First Luther cabinet which had resigned on 5 December 1925. Luther resigned as chancellor on 13 May 1926. His cabinet remained in office as a caretaker government until 17 May 1926, but was led by Otto Gessler in its final days. On 17 May, Wilhelm Marx formed a new government, virtually unchanged from the second Luther cabinet except for the departure of Luther.

Third Marx cabinet

The Third Marx cabinet was the 14th democratically elected Reichsregierung of the German Reich, during the period in which it is now usually referred to as the Weimar Republic. The cabinet was named after Reichskanzler (chancellor) Wilhelm Marx and was in office for only seven months. On 17 May 1926 it replaced the Second Luther cabinet after the resignation of Hans Luther on 13 May 1926. Marx resigned with his cabinet on 17 December 1926 but remained in office as caretaker. He formed another government on 29 January 1927.


  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 "Biografie Hans Luther (German)". Bayerische Nationalbibliothek. Retrieved 19 January 2015.
  2. "Biografie Hans Luther (German)". Deutsches Historisches Museum. Retrieved 19 January 2015.
  3. 1 2 3 "Biografie Hans Luther (German)". Bundesarchiv. Retrieved 19 January 2015.
  4. https://books.google.com/books?id=Rx6pm4iipM4C&pg=PA53&dq=accident+insurance+coverage+was+extended+to+include+11+occupational+diseases;+in+February+of+1929&hl=en&sa=X&ei=aX0cVOHCBYnYatOOgsgK&ved=0CDMQ6AEwAA#v=onepage&q=accident%20insurance%20coverage%20was%20extended%20to%20include%2011%20occupational%20diseases%3B%20in%20February%20of%201929&f=false
  5. Farm labor in Germany, 1810-1945; its historical development within the framework of agricultural and social policy by Frieda Wunderlich
  6. Knut Borchardt: Das Attentat auf Luther 1932. In: Karl Dietrich Bracher et al. (editors): Staat und Parteien. Festschrift zum 65. Geburtstag von Rudolf Morsey. Duncker & Humblot, Berlin 1992, S. 689–709
  7. "DR. BUTLER REFUSES TO BAR NAZI ENVOY; Columbia Head Rejects Plea by Students to Cancel Dr. Luther's Address. CALLS REQUEST ILLIBERAL Stresses Need for Academic Freedom – Club Is Reported Planning Demonstration.", The New York Times , 20 November 1933. Accessed 28 August 2008.

Further reading

Political offices
Preceded by
Wilhelm Marx
Chancellor of Germany
Succeeded by
Wilhelm Marx
Preceded by
Friedrich Ebert
Acting President of Germany
28 February – 12 March 1925
Succeeded by
Walter Simons