Philipp Scheidemann

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Philipp Scheidemann
Bundesarchiv Bild 146-1979-122-29A, Philipp Scheidemann.jpg
Chancellor of Germany
(Weimar Republic)
In office
13 February 1919 20 June 1919
President Friedrich Ebert
Deputy Eugen Schiffer
Bernhard Dernburg
Preceded by Friedrich Ebert
Succeeded by Gustav Bauer
Personal details
Philipp Heinrich Scheidemann

26 July 1865
Kassel, Electorate of Hesse
(Now Germany)
Died29 November 1939 (aged 74)
Copenhagen, Denmark
Political party Social Democratic Party
Spouse(s)Johanna Dibbern

Philipp Heinrich Scheidemann (26 July 1865 29 November 1939) was a German politician of the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD). On 9 November 1918, in the midst of the German Revolution of 1918–1919, he proclaimed Germany a republic. Later, beginning in the early part of the following year, he became the second head of government of the Weimar Republic, acting in this post for 127 days.

Germans are a Germanic ethnic group native to Central Europe, who share a common German ancestry, culture and history. German is the shared mother tongue of a substantial majority of ethnic Germans.

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

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

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.


Early life

Philipp Scheidemann was born in Kassel on 26 July 1865, the son of Friedrich Scheidemann (1842–79) an upholsterer, and his wife Wilhelmine (née Pape; 1842-1907). He had two sisters. [1]

Kassel Place in Hesse, Germany

Kassel is a city located on the Fulda River in northern Hesse, Germany. It is the administrative seat of the Regierungsbezirk Kassel and the district of the same name and had 200,507 inhabitants in December 2015. The former capital of the state of Hesse-Kassel has many palaces and parks, including the Bergpark Wilhelmshöhe, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Kassel is also known for the documenta exhibitions of contemporary art. Kassel has a public university with 25,000 students (2018) and a multicultural population.

Upholstery work of providing furniture, especially seats, with padding, springs, webbing, and fabric or leather covers

Upholstery is the work of providing furniture, especially seats, with padding, springs, webbing, and fabric or leather covers. The word upholstery comes from the Middle English word upholder, which referred to an artisan who held up their goods. The term is equally applicable to domestic, automobile, airplane and boat furniture, and can be applied to mattresses, particularly the upper layers, though these often differ significantly in design. A person who works with upholstery is called an upholsterer. An apprentice upholsterer is sometimes called an outsider or trimmer. Traditional upholstery uses materials like coil springs (post-1850), animal hair, coir, straw and hay, hessians, linen scrims, wadding, etc., and is done by hand, building each layer up. In contrast, today's upholsterers employ synthetic materials like dacron and vinyl, serpentine springs, and so on.

Scheidemann attended elementary and secondary schools between 1871 and 1879. After the death of his father, the family fell into poverty. In 1879-83, Scheidemann was apprenticed as a printer. [1] [2]

Printing process for reproducing text and images, typically with ink on paper using a printing press

Printing is a process for reproducing text and images using a master form or template. The earliest non-paper products involving printing include cylinder seals and objects such as the Cyrus Cylinder and the Cylinders of Nabonidus. The earliest known form of printing as applied to paper was woodblock printing, which appeared in China before 220 AD. Later developments in printing technology include the movable type invented by Bi Sheng around 1040 AD and the printing press invented by Johannes Gutenberg in the 15th century. The technology of printing played a key role in the development of the Renaissance and the scientific revolution, and laid the material basis for the modern knowledge-based economy and the spread of learning to the masses.

In 1883, he joined the Social Democratic Party of Germany (the SPD) and became a union member (Buchdruckerverband). At the time, the German Anti-Socialist Laws were still in force and the SPD was essentially an underground organisation. [1] Until 1895, Scheidemann worked as a printer and proofreader. [2] Scheidemann married in 1889 at Kassel. His wife was Johanna (Hanne) Dibbern (1864–1926). They had three daughters: Lina (1889–1933), Liese (1891–1955) and Hedwig (1893–1935). [1] From 1895 to 1903, he worked as an editor at social democratic newspapers at Gießen ( Mitteldeutsche Sonntagszeitung ), Nuremberg, Offenbach and Kassel. [1] [2]

Anti-Socialist Laws Law of german Empire

The Anti-Socialist Laws or Socialist Laws were a series of acts, the first of which was passed on October 19, 1878 by the German Reichstag lasting until March 31, 1881, and extended four times. The legislation was passed after two failed attempts to assassinate Kaiser Wilhelm I by the radicals Max Hödel and Dr. Karl Nobiling; it was meant to curb the growing strength of the Social Democratic Party, which was blamed for influencing the assassins.

Nuremberg Place in Bavaria, Germany

Nuremberg is the second-largest city of the German federal state of Bavaria after its capital Munich, and its 511,628 (2016) inhabitants make it the 14th largest city in Germany. On the Pegnitz River and the Rhine–Main–Danube Canal, it lies in the Bavarian administrative region of Middle Franconia, and is the largest city and the unofficial capital of Franconia. Nuremberg forms a continuous conurbation with the neighbouring cities of Fürth, Erlangen and Schwabach with a total population of 787,976 (2016), while the larger Nuremberg Metropolitan Region has approximately 3.5 million inhabitants. The city lies about 170 kilometres (110 mi) north of Munich. It is the largest city in the East Franconian dialect area.

Offenbach am Main Place in Hesse, Germany

Offenbach am Main is a city in Hesse, Germany, located on the left bank of the river Main and part of the Frankfurt Rhein-Main urban area. Offenbach has a population of 126,934.

Political career and World War I

In the German federal election of 1903, Scheidemann was elected from the SPD to the German Reichstag for a constituency in Solingen; he retained this seat until 1918. In 1906, he also became a member of the city council of Kassel, a position he held until 1911, when he became part of the executive committee of the SPD party secretariat. [2]

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.

Solingen Place in North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany

Solingen is a city in North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany. It is located on the northern edge of the region called Bergisches Land, south of the Ruhr area, and, with a 2009 population of 161,366, is after Wuppertal the second largest city in the Bergisches Land. It is a member of the regional authority of the Rhineland.

After the German federal election of 1912, Scheidemann was the first social democrat to become "1st Vice-President" of the Reichstag. [1] When August Bebel, long-time leader of the SPD, died in 1913, Scheidemann and Hugo Haase became joint chairmen of the SPD parliamentary group. [2] His oratory skills, pragmatism, sense of humour and middle-class manners won him appreciation beyond his own party. [1]

August Bebel German social democrat politician

Ferdinand August Bebel was a German socialist politician, writer, and orator. He is best remembered as one of the founders of the Social Democratic Workers' Party of Germany (SDAP) in 1869, which in 1875 merged with the General German Workers' Association into the Socialist Workers' Party of Germany (SAPD). During the repression under the terms of the Anti-Socialist Laws, Bebel became the leading figure of the social democratic movement in Germany and from 1892 until his death served as chairman of the Social Democratic Party of Germany.

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.

Although he voted for the Imperial war loans in 1914 at the start of World War I, Scheidemann later argued for a Verständigungsfrieden (compromise peace) without annexations or reparation demands (it also became known as Scheidemannfrieden). Scheidemann tried to mediate between the moderate and more extreme left of his party, but could not prevent the eventual split. In 1917, the SPD split on the issue of continued funding for the war effort and Scheidemann became chairman of the "Majority" SPD, alongside Friedrich Ebert. [2] In January 1918, during the "January strike," he was a member of the "Executive Council". He joined the new government of Prince Maximilian of Baden in October 1918 as Staatssekretär (literally "Secretary of State", but at the time used for top-level cabinet-rank positions today usually referred to as ministers) without portfolio. [2] This was the first time members of the SPD had served in the Imperial government, although the party had had the largest number of seats in the Reichstag since 1912. Scheidemann was chosen for the position due to his popularity. [1]

German Revolution

Scheidemann's proclamation on the Reichstag balcony, 9 November 1918 Ausrufung Republik Scheidemann.jpg
Scheidemann's proclamation on the Reichstag balcony, 9 November 1918

On 9 November 1918, Chancellor Max von Baden unilaterally announced the abdication of the German Emperor Wilhelm II and the renunciation of the hereditary rights to the throne of Crown Prince Wilhelm. However, he and SPD leader Friedrich Ebert both still hoped to retain the monarchy in face of the revolution. Maximilian von Baden preferred a younger son of Wilhelm II to succeed to the throne. Around noon, Friedrich Ebert arrived at the Imperial chancellery and demanded that the authority to govern be handed over to him and the SPD. Maximilian von Baden resigned and unconstitutionally designated Ebert his successor as "Imperial chancellor" and "Minister-President" of Prussia. All of the Secretaries of State, including Scheidemann, remained in office. Ebert issued a proclamation asking the masses on the streets to remain quiet and to go home. [3] :86–88

Ebert and Scheidemann then went to the Reichstag building for lunch and sat at separate tables. A huge crowd assembled outside, and there were calls for a speech. Ebert refused to speak to the crowd, but Scheidemann stood up and rushed to a window facing it. [3] :88–90 According to Scheidemann's own recollection, someone told him along the way that the Spartacist (communist) leader Karl Liebknecht intended to declare Germany a Soviet Republic. [4] Scheidemann then made a spontaneous speech that closed with these words: [4] [5] :7

The old and rotten, the monarchy has collapsed. The new may live. Long live the German Republic!

When he returned to the Reichstag dining room, a furious Ebert confronted him. Ebert pounded the table with his fist and shouted, "You have no right to proclaim the Republic! What becomes of Germany, a Republic or whatever, that is for the constituent assembly to decide!" [3] :90

Later that day, in spite of Scheidemann's announcement, Ebert asked Prince Maximilian to stay on as Imperial regent, but was refused. [3] :90 In fact, Scheidemann's speech was without legal authority. Wilhelm II had not really abdicated, although he soon fled to the Netherlands and did sign an abdication later in November 1918. As of 9 November 1918, Germany was legally still a monarchy. [3] :92 Both Ebert and Scheidemann at this point hoped to preserve the existing structure of government under a Chancellor Ebert, restore calm and deal with the pressing issue of the armistice with the Allied powers. Yet the revolution seemed likely to force the SPD to share power with those on the far left: the Spartacists and the Independents of the USPD. [3] :96 In the afternoon of 9 November, Ebert grudgingly asked the USPD to nominate three ministers for a future government.

Ebert's plans were thrown into disarray when a group known as Revolutionary Stewards (Revolutionäre Obleute) then forced the SPD leadership to join with the revolutionary forces. That evening a group of several hundred followers of these non-union workers' representatives occupied the Reichstag and held an impromptu debate. They called for the election of soldiers' and workers' councils the next day with an eye to name a provisional government: the Council of the People's Deputies (Rat der Volksbeauftragten). [3] :100–103 The SPD leadership managed to co-opt that process and sent three delegates to the Council set up on 10 November: Ebert, Scheidemann and Otto Landsberg. Ebert became joint Chairman with Hugo Haase of the USPD. Scheidemann was a member of the Council of the People's Deputies for its whole period of existence, from 10 November 1918 to 13 February 1919. [2]


In the German federal election held on 19 January 1919, Scheidemann was elected to the Weimar National Assembly. On 13 February 1919, the newly elected provisional German President Ebert asked him to form the first democratically elected government of Germany. A few months later, in June, he resigned with his cabinet in protest over the harsh terms imposed by the Treaty of Versailles.

Scheidemann's government adopted a law in the National Assembly on 6 March 1919 that, in the words of one historian, "greatly modified and liberalized the code of military justice" causing a leap into the realms of social policy. [6] In February 1919, as a concession to the mass movement in the Ruhr, labour minister Gustav Bauer decreed the setting up of workers chambers for the mining industry commencing a political struggle for Workers Councils representation of boards of directors. [7] On 18 March 1919, a regulation issued by the Demobilisation Office introduced the eight-hour working day for office employees, [8] while a government declaration made that same month accepted workers' committees "as official representatives of the economy." [9]

Later life and death

From June to December 1919, Scheidemann once again was a member of the SPD party executive. [2] In the elections of 6 June 1920, Scheidemann was re-elected to the Reichstag, this time for Hesse-Nassau. [1] From 1920 to 1925, Scheidemann was also mayor of Kassel. [2]

For many on the extreme right, Scheidemann had become a personification of the hated republican, democratic system. They even coined the term Scheidemänner to use as a derogatory way of referring to the supporters of the Weimar Republic. [1] On 4 June 1922, he was attacked with prussic acid (hydrogen cyanide), but escaped mostly unharmed. In December 1926, he exposed the clandestine cooperation between the Reichswehr and the Red Army. Since this was in violation of the Treaty of Versailles, the revelation caused the resignation of the third cabinet of Chancellor Wilhelm Marx. [2]

Scheidemann remained in the Reichstag throughout the period of the Weimar Republic, writing political treatises that were widely read. [1] The Nazi Seizure of Power in 1933 caused him to emigrate in early March via Salzburg, Prague, Switzerland, France and the USA to Denmark. [2] There he pseudonymously wrote articles on the political situation in Germany for Danish workers' newspapers. [1]

Philipp Scheidemann died on 29 November 1939 in Copenhagen. [1]

The Copenhagen Municipality sent his ashes to Kassel in 1953.



See also

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  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 "Biografie Philipp Scheidemann (German)". Bayerische Staatsbibliothek. Retrieved 2 August 2013.
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 "Biografie Philipp Scheidemann (German)". Deutsches Historisches Museum. Archived from the original on 11 July 2014. Retrieved 2 August 2013.
  3. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Haffner, Sebastian (2002). Die deutsche Revolution 1918/19 (German). Kindler. ISBN   3-463-40423-0.
  4. 1 2 "Bericht über den 9. November 1918 (German)". Deutsches Historisches Museum. Archived from the original on 12 July 2014. Retrieved 2 August 2013.
  5. Sturm, Reinhard (2011). "Weimarer Republik, Informationen zur politischen Bildung, Nr. 261 (German)". Bonn: Bundeszentrale für politische Bildung. ISSN   0046-9408 . Retrieved 9 August 2013.
  6. R.M.Watt, The Kings Depart: The Tragedy of Germany: Versailles and the German Revolution
  7. Feb 22 1919, German Worker chambers in mining industry
  8. Weimar Republic: Fowkes and the eight hour working 20 day employees
  9. German Labor government Nov 1918
Political offices
Preceded by
Wilhelm Solf
Colonial Minister of Germany
Succeeded by
Johannes Bell
Preceded by
Siegfried Graf von Roedern
Finance Minister of Germany
Succeeded by
Eugen Schiffer
Preceded by
Friedrich Ebert
Chancellor of Germany
Succeeded by
Gustav Bauer