Otto Braun

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Otto Braun
Bundesarchiv Bild 102-10131, Otto Braun.jpg
Minister President of Prussia
In office
6 April 1925 20 July 1932
Preceded by Wilhelm Marx
Succeeded by Franz von Papen
In office
5 November 1921 18 February 1925
Preceded by Adam Stegerwald
Succeeded by Wilhelm Marx
In office
27 March 1920 21 April 1921
Preceded by Paul Hirsch
Succeeded by Adam Stegerwald
Personal details
Born28 January 1872 (1872-01-28)
Königsberg, East Prussia
Died15 December 1955(1955-12-15) (aged 83)
Locarno, Switzerland
Political party SPD

Otto Braun (28 January 1872 – 15 December 1955) was a German Social Democratic politician who served as Prime Minister of Prussia for most of the time from 1920 to 1932. After the Nazis seized power in 1933, Braun went into exile in Switzerland.

Germany Federal parliamentary republic in central-western Europe

Germany, officially the Federal Republic of Germany, is a country in Central and Western Europe, lying between the Baltic and North Seas to the north, and the Alps, Lake Constance and the High Rhine to the south. It borders Denmark to the north, Poland and the Czech Republic to the east, Austria and Switzerland to the south, France to the southwest, and Luxembourg, Belgium and the Netherlands to the west.

Social Democratic Party of Germany Social-democratic political party in Germany

The Social Democratic Party of Germany, is a social-democratic political party in Germany.


Life and career

German Empire

Born in Königsberg, East Prussia, as the son of a railway employee, Braun attended Volksschule and then completed an apprenticeship in lithography. In 1888, he joined the Social Democratic Party, illegal at the time. He advanced in the typical manner for a local functionary: chairman of the local Arbeiter-Wahlvereins (the legal front of the party) and later publisher, editor and printer of the party newspaper Volkstribüne (later Königsberger Volkszeitung). In 1904, he was one of several social democrats charged with high treason for smuggling pamphlets calling for the toppling of the Tsar into Russia but was not found guilty, due to inconclusive evidence. Braun was active in supporting the rights of farm labourers in East Prussia, dominated by large landowners. From 1909-20, he was a member of the board of the Deutscher Landarbeiter-Verband, a farmworker association, which he had co-founded. He also became an expert on agricultural issues within his party. Braun rose to chairman of the East Prussian Social Democratic Party, in 1911 became a member of the board of the national SPD and in 1913 was elected to the Prussian House of Representatives. [1]

Königsberg capital city in Prussia

Königsberg is the name for the historic German city that is now Kaliningrad, Russia. Originally a Sambian or Old Prussian settlement, it then belonged to the State of the Teutonic Order, the Duchy of Prussia, the Kingdom of Prussia, the German Empire, the Weimar Republic, and Nazi Germany. After being largely destroyed in World War II by Allied bombing and the Red Army, it was annexed by the Soviet Union and its surviving inhabitants forcibly expelled. Thereafter, the city was renamed Kaliningrad. Few traces of the former Königsberg remain today.

East Prussia province of Prussia

East Prussia was a province of the Kingdom of Prussia from 1773 to 1829 and again from 1878 ; following World War I it formed part of the Weimar Republic's Free State of Prussia, until 1945. Its capital city was Königsberg. East Prussia was the main part of the region of Prussia along the southeastern Baltic Coast.

Lithography printing process

Lithography is a method of printing originally based on the immiscibility of oil and water. The printing is from a stone or a metal plate with a smooth surface. It was invented in 1796 by German author and actor Alois Senefelder as a cheap method of publishing theatrical works. Lithography can be used to print text or artwork onto paper or other suitable material.

During World War I he supported the Burgfriedenspolitik policy of the majority SPD. His only child died in the war: his son had volunteered for service and died of diphteria in 1915. [1]

World War I 1914–1918 global war originating in Europe

World War I, also known as the First World War or the Great War, was a global war originating in Europe that lasted from 28 July 1914 to 11 November 1918. Contemporaneously described as "the war to end all wars", it led to the mobilisation of more than 70 million military personnel, including 60 million Europeans, making it one of the largest wars in history. It is also one of the deadliest conflicts in history, with an estimated nine million combatants and seven million civilian deaths as a direct result of the war, while resulting genocides and the 1918 influenza pandemic caused another 50 to 100 million deaths worldwide.


Burgfriedenspolitik —literally "castle peace politics" but more accurately a political policy of "party truce" — is a German term used for the political truce the Social Democratic Party of Germany and the other political parties agreed to during World War I. The trade unions refrained from striking, the SPD voted for war credits in the Reichstag and the parties agreed not to criticize the government and its war. There were several reasons for the Burgfrieden politics: the Social Democrats believed it was their patriotic duty to support the government in war; they were afraid of government repression should they protest against the war; they feared living under an autocratic Russian Czar more than the German constitutional monarchy and its Kaiser; and they hoped to achieve political reforms after the war, including the abrogation of the inequitable three-class voting system, by cooperating with the government.

Weimar Republic

After the German Revolution Braun became Prussian Minister for Agriculture. In 1919, he was elected to the Weimar National Assembly. Following the abortive Kapp-Lüttwitz Putsch in March 1920, Braun became Minister President of Prussia, a position in which he served from 1920 and 1932, except for brief periods in 1921 and 1925. He also held a seat in the Prussian Landtag (1913–33) and in the Reichstag (1920–33). He was the Social Democratic presidential candidate in the first round of presidential elections in 1925, coming second. He then withdrew his candidacy during the run-off in order to help the Centre Party's Wilhelm Marx defeat Paul von Hindenburg, who had not stood in the first round. Marx was eventually defeated by Hindenburg. [1]

Weimar National Assembly 20th-century constitutional convention in Germany

The Weimar National Assembly was the constitutional convention and de facto parliament of Germany from 6 February 1919 to 6 June 1920. The assembly drew up the new constitution which was in force from 1919 to 1933, technically remaining in effect even until the end of Nazi rule in 1945. It convened in Weimar, Thuringia and is the reason for this period in German history becoming known as the Weimar Republic.

Kapp Putsch 1920 attempted coup in the Weimar Republic

The Kapp Putsch, also known as the Kapp–Lüttwitz Putsch after its leaders Wolfgang Kapp and Walther von Lüttwitz, was an attempted coup on 13 March 1920 which aimed to undo the German Revolution of 1918–1919, overthrow the Weimar Republic and establish an autocratic government in its place. It was supported by parts of the Reichswehr (Military) and nationalist and monarchist factions.

Minister President of Prussia position

The office of Minister President, or Prime Minister, of Prussia existed from 1848, when it was formed by the King Frederick William IV during the 1848–49 Revolution, until the abolition of Prussia in 1947 by the Allied Control Council.

Prussian Prime Minister Otto Braun (left) in 1925 Bundesarchiv Bild 102-01173, Otto Braun (links).jpg
Prussian Prime Minister Otto Braun (left) in 1925

Braun's coalition government was based on the SPD, the Centre Party and the DDP (until 1924 also the DVP.) It was one of the strongest democratic bastions of the Weimar Republic, as Braun worked closely with his Ministers of the Interior, Carl Severing and Albert Grzesinski. During his tenure, the Prussian government enacted a partial land reform as well as a school reform. Prussia became a modern Free State, based on civil servants and security forces who felt loyal to the new republican state. Braun managed to introduce a temporary Reichs-wide ban on the Nazi-Sturmabteilung. However, these policies resulted in the enmity not just of the far-right but also of the communists. [1] He was not a social revolutionary, says Holborn, but was "a determined democratic reformer" and a shrewd coalition builder. [2]

German Democratic Party former German political party on the left wing of the political spectrum

The German Democratic Party was founded in November 1918 by leaders of the former Progressive People's Party, left-wing members of the National Liberal Party and a new group calling themselves the Democrats.

German Peoples Party German liberal political party

The German People's Party was a national liberal party in Weimar Germany and a successor to the National Liberal Party of the German Empire. A right-wing liberal or conservative-liberal party, its most famous member was Chancellor and Foreign Minister Gustav Stresemann, a 1926 Nobel Peace Prize laureate.

Carl Severing German politician

Carl Wilhelm Severing was a German Social Democrat politician during the Weimar era.

In the April 1932 Prussian elections, Braun's government lost its majority. Under the Prussian constitution, a government already in office could be removed only with a constructive vote of no confidence: a prospective successor required the active support of a "positive majority". While neither of the other major parties – the Communists (KPD) and Nazis (NSDAP) – would support the governing coalition, neither could muster sufficient support to form government in their own right and neither would the KPD and NSDAP cooperate with each other. Hence Braun's coalition remained in office as a caretaker minority government. [1]

The constructive vote of no confidence is a variation on the motion of no confidence that allows a parliament to withdraw confidence from a head of government only if there is a positive majority for a prospective successor. The principle is intended to ensure that a replacement head of government has enough parliamentary support to govern.

Communist Party of Germany former political party in Germany

The Communist Party of Germany was a major political party in Germany between 1918 and 1933, and a minor party in West Germany in the postwar period until it was banned in 1956.

Nazi Party Fascist political party in Germany (1920-1945)

The National Socialist German Workers' Party, commonly referred to in English as the Nazi Party, was a far-right political party in Germany that was active between 1920 and 1945, that created and supported the ideology of National Socialism. Its precursor, the German Workers' Party, existed from 1919 to 1920.

Braun's government was deposed in the Preußenschlag of July 1932, when Reich Chancellor Franz von Papen, himself governing without a parliamentary majority, assumed direct control of Prussia's administration as Reichskommissar (commissioner). [1] Braun, however, remained de jure Prime Minister and continued to represent the state of Prussia in the Reichsrat until January 1933, when Papen became Prime Minister for two months. Hermann Göring then held the office for the next twelve years until 1945.

As an opponent of the Nazi regime, Braun decided to leave Germany and emigrated to Switzerland after Adolf Hitler attained the office of Chancellor in January 1933. Braun's wife Emilie was terminally ill and he followed her to Ascona on 4 April 1933, after being warned of his imminent arrest. [1]

Later life

At the end of the Second World War, Braun approached the Allies to reinstate the previous democratic Prussian government, but they were not receptive to his proposition due to their earlier decision to abolish the state of Prussia and divide East Prussia between Poland and the Soviet Union. Braun died in exile in Locarno in 1955.

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  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 "15.12.1955: Otto Braun gestorben (German)". Friedrich Ebert Stiftung. Retrieved 14 July 2015.
  2. Hajo Holborn, A History of Modern Germany, 1840-1945 (1969) p 591
Preceded by
Paul Hirsch
Prime Minister of Prussia
Succeeded by
Adam Stegerwald
Preceded by
Adam Stegerwald
Prime Minister of Prussia
Succeeded by
Wilhelm Marx
Preceded by
Wilhelm Marx
Prime Minister of Prussia
Succeeded by
Franz von Papen