Otto Landsberg

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Otto Landsberg
Bundesarchiv Bild 146-1977-074-08, Volksbeauftragte Landsberg, Scheidemann, Noske, Ebert, Wissell.jpg
Council of the People's Deputies: Otto Landsberg (left) with Philipp Scheidemann, Gustav Noske, Friedrich Ebert, Rudolf Wissell (December 1918)
Born(1869-12-04)4 December 1869
Died9 December 1957(1957-12-09) (aged 88)

Otto Landsberg (4 December 1869 – 9 December 1957) was a German jurist, politician and diplomat. He was a member of the revolutionary Council of the People's Deputies that took power during the German Revolution of 1918-19 and then served as Minister of Justice in the first democratically elected government of Germany in 1919. In that capacity, he also was a member of the German delegation that went to Versailles to receive the Allies' Treaty of Versailles.

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.

Council of the Peoples Deputies Rat der Volksbauftragten, supervising organ in the German November Revolution

The Council of the People's Deputies was the name given to the government of the November Revolution in Germany from November 1918 until February 1919. The Council de facto took over the function of head of state (Kaiser) and head of government (Chancellor), and issued decretes replacing the legislation of parliament (Reichstag) and Federal Council. The state secretaries stayed in office or were replaced by the Council.

Treaty of Versailles one of the treaties that ended the First World War

The Treaty of Versailles was the most important of the peace treaties that brought World War I to an end. The Treaty ended the state of war between Germany and the Allied Powers. It was signed on 28 June 1919 in Versailles, exactly five years after the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, which had directly led to the war. The other Central Powers on the German side signed separate treaties. Although the armistice, signed on 11 November 1918, ended the actual fighting, it took six months of Allied negotiations at the Paris Peace Conference to conclude the peace treaty. The treaty was registered by the Secretariat of the League of Nations on 21 October 1919.


Early life

Landsberg was born on 4 December 1869 in Rybnick in the Province of Silesia, to a Jewish family. His father was a medical doctor. After passing the Abitur in 1887 in Ostrowo, he moved to Berlin to study law. In 1895, having passed the First (1890) and Second State Examination (1895), he opened a lawyer's office in Magdeburg and made a name for himself as a trial lawyer. [1]

Province of Silesia province

The Province of Silesia was a province of Prussia from 1815 to 1919. The Silesia region was part of the Prussian realm since 1740 and established as an official province in 1815, then became part of the German Empire in 1871. In 1919, as part of the Free State of Prussia within Weimar Germany, Silesia was divided into the provinces of Upper Silesia and Lower Silesia. Silesia was reunified briefly from 1938 to 1941 as a province of Nazi Germany before being divided back into Upper Silesia and Lower Silesia.

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.

Ostrów Wielkopolski City in Greater Poland, Poland

Ostrów Wielkopolski is a city in central Poland with 72,364 inhabitants (2017), situated in the Greater Poland Voivodeship; the seat of Ostrów Wielkopolski County. It is the fifth-largest city in the voivodehip after Poznań, Kalisz, Konin and Piła.

Political career

Having joined the SPD in 1890, Landsberg was a member of the Magdeburg city council from 1903 to 1909. After failing to get elected for Schwarzburg-Sondershausen in 1907, in 1912, Landsberg succeeded in becoming the Reichstag delegate for Magdeburg. Since there were no elections during World War I, he held the seat until 1918. [1]

Social Democratic Party of Germany political party in Germany

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

Schwarzburg-Sondershausen principality

Schwarzburg-Sondershausen was a small principality in Germany, in the present day state of Thuringia, with its capital at Sondershausen.

Reichstag (German Empire) parliament of Germany from 1871 to 1918

The Reichstag was the Parliament of Germany from 1871 to 1918. Legislation was shared between the Reichstag and the Bundesrat, which was the Imperial Council of the reigning princes of the German States.

In May 1912, as a freshman, he refused to leave the chamber with the rest of the SPD for the Kaiserhoch (a cheer for the Emperor) but stood up for it, ignoring party tradition. Landsberg's numerous Reichstag speeches subsequently showed him to be an excellent speaker. During World War I, he supported the policies of the majority of the SPD parliamentary group, opposing Karl Liebknecht and Hugo Haase. After they had left the party fraction in 1916, Landsberg became even more prominent since he was one of only a few jurists remaining. Of a nationalistic bent, he approved of the war loans and argued in favour of the territorial integrity of the Reich, including Alsace-Lorraine, but he opposed German annexion of additional territory. He repeatedly demanded domestic reforms, including "democratisation" and changes to the election laws of Prussia and the Reich. [1]

Karl Liebknecht German socialist and a co-founder of the Spartacist League and the Communist Party of Germany

Karl Paul August Friedrich Liebknecht was a German socialist, originally in the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD) and later a co-founder with Rosa Luxemburg of the Spartacist League and the Communist Party of Germany which split way from the SPD. He is best known for his opposition to World War I in the Reichstag and his role in the Spartacist uprising of 1919. The uprising was crushed by the SPD government and the Freikorps. Liebknecht and Luxemburg were executed.

Hugo Haase German jurist, politician (SPD), and pacifist

Hugo Haase was a German socialist politician, jurist and pacifist. With Friedrich Ebert, he co-chaired of the Council of the People's Deputies after the German Revolution of 1918–19.

Alsace-Lorraine Territory created by the German Empire in 1871

The Imperial Territory of Alsace-Lorraine was a territory created by the German Empire in 1871, after it annexed most of Alsace and the Moselle department of Lorraine following its victory in the Franco-Prussian War. The Alsatian part lay in the Rhine Valley on the west bank of the Rhine River and east of the Vosges Mountains. The Lorraine section was in the upper Moselle valley to the north of the Vosges.

On 23 October 1918, Landsberg became a member of the Fraktionsvorstand (leadership of the SPD Reichstag parliamentary group) and became a delegate to the Interfraktioneller Ausschuß where he argued for proportional representation, female suffrage and the democratisation of the Prussian bureaucracy. [1]

Proportional representation (PR) characterizes electoral systems in which divisions in an electorate are reflected proportionately in the elected body. If n% of the electorate support a particular political party, then roughly n% of seats will be won by that party. The essence of such systems is that all votes contribute to the result - not just a plurality, or a bare majority. The most prevalent forms of proportional representation all require the use of multiple-member voting districts, as it is not possible to fill a single seat in a proportional manner. In fact, the implementations of PR that achieve the highest levels of proportionality tend to include districts with large numbers of seats.

From 10 November 1918 to 13 February 1919, he was one of three (later five) SPD members of the Council of the People's Deputies, being responsible for the press, arts and literature. Together with Friedrich Ebert Landsberg fought for parliamentary democracy and a national assembly, opposing a council system and left-wing uprisings. He strongly supported Upper Silesia remaining a part of the Reich. [1]

Friedrich Ebert 19th and 20th-century German politician and president of Germany

Friedrich Ebert was a German politician of the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD) and the first President of Germany from 1919 until his death in office in 1925.

Upper Silesia

Upper Silesia is the southeastern part of the historical and geographical region of Silesia, located mostly in Poland, with small parts in the Czech Republic.

On 19 January 1919, Landsberg was elected to the Weimar National Assembly for Magdeburg and Anhalt. On 11 February, Landsberg succeeded Paul von Krause as Secretary of State of the Reichsjustizamt and on 13 February became Minister of Justice in the government of Philipp Scheidemann. [1]

Landsberg was a member of the German delegation that went to Versailles to receive the Allies' demands in the form of the Treaty of Versailles. He opposed signing the Treaty and resigned over the issue, with the other ministers of the cabinet, on 20 June 1919. He refused to participate in the vote on the Treaty in the National Assembly. [1]

His abilities and experience made Landsberg become first Geschäftsträger (Chargé d'affaires) and then Gesandter (ambassador) of Germany in Belgium. However, he was not very successful in that role, which effectively ended in early 1923, when the Occupation of the Ruhr by French and Belgian troops caused his recall to Berlin. In 1924, he again began practicing law there. He was counsel for his friend Friedrich Ebert in the Reichspräsidentenprozeß (defamation suit brought by president Ebert) at Magdeburg and in the so-called Dolchstoßprozeß (see Dolchstoßlegende ) at Munich of 1925 he was a witness rebutting the charges against the Social Democrats. [1]

He was a member of the Reichstag from 1924 to 1933. In that role, he opposed an amnesty for those convicted of Feme murders, expressed regret about the state of political discourse and criticised the bias that made many judges treat right-wing defendants more leniently than left-wing ones. [1]

Later life and death

In 1933, Landsberg emigrated first to Czechoslovakia and Belgium, later to the Netherlands. Friends concealed him during the Nazi occupation of that country. He remained in the Netherlands after the end of the Nazi regime in 1945 and died on 9 December 1957 in Baarn. [1]

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  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 "Biografie Otto Landsberg (German)". Bayerische Nationalbibliothek. Retrieved 28 March 2014.
Political offices
Preceded by
Paul von Krause
Justice Minister of Germany
Succeeded by
Eugen Schiffer