Wilhelm Cuno

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Wilhelm Cuno
Wilhelm Cuno, 1876-1933, half-length portrait, facing right LCCN2005680053.jpg
Chancellor of Germany
(Weimar Republic)
In office
22 November 1922 12 August 1923
President Friedrich Ebert
Preceded by Joseph Wirth
Succeeded by Gustav Stresemann
Personal details
Wilhelm Carl Josef Cuno

(1876-07-02)2 July 1876
Suhl, German Empire
Died3 January 1933(1933-01-03) (aged 56)
Aumühle, Weimar Republic
Political partyNone
Spouse(s)Martha Berta Wirtz

Wilhelm Carl Josef Cuno (2 July 1876 3 January 1933) 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.

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 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.

Occupation of the Ruhr Occupation of a German region by France and Belgium in 1923 to 1925

The Occupation of the Ruhr was a period of military occupation of the German Ruhr valley by France and Belgium between 11 January 1923 and 25 August 1925. The occupation was a response to the German Weimar Republic widely and regularly defaulting on reparation payments in the early 1920s. The total reparation sum of £6.6 billion had been dictated by the victorious powers in the Treaty of Versailles, and the reparation payments were due to last several decades.

Hyperinflation in the Weimar Republic

Hyperinflation affected the German Papiermark, the currency of the Weimar Republic, between 1921 and 1923. It caused considerable internal political instability in the country, the occupation of the Ruhr by France and Belgium as well as misery for the general populace.


Early life

Wilhelm Carl Josef Cuno was born on 2 July 1876 in Suhl, in what was then Prussian Saxony and is now in Thuringia. He was the son of August George Wilhelm Cuno (1848-1915) and his wife Catherina Elisabeth Theresia, née Daske (1852-1878). [1]

Suhl Place in Thuringia, Germany

Suhl is a city in Thuringia, Germany, located 50 kilometres SW of Erfurt, 110 kilometres NE of Würzburg and 130 kilometres N of Nuremberg. With its 37,000 inhabitants, it is the smallest of the six urban districts within Thuringia. Together with its northern neighbour-town Zella-Mehlis, Suhl forms the largest urban area in the Thuringian Forest with a population of 46,000. The region around Suhl is marked by up to 1,000-meter high mountains, including Thuringia's highest peak, the Großer Beerberg, approximately 5 kilometres NE of the city centre.

Province of Saxony province of Prussia

The Province of Saxony, also known as Prussian Saxony was a province of the Kingdom of Prussia and later the Free State of Prussia from 1816 until 1945. Its capital was Magdeburg.

Thuringia State in Germany

Thuringia, officially the Free State of Thuringia, is a state of Germany.

In 1906, Cuno, a Roman Catholic, married Martha Berta Wirtz (born 1879), daughter of Hamburg merchant Hugo Wirtz. They had three sons and two daughters. [1] [2]

Cuno studied law in Berlin and Heidelberg and was awarded a Juris Doctor. [1] He was a member of K.D.St.V. Arminia Heidelberg, a Catholic student fraternity that is a member of the Cartellverband der katholischen deutschen Studentenverbindungen.

Berlin Capital of Germany

Berlin is the capital and largest city of Germany by both area and population. Its 3,748,148 (2018) inhabitants make it the second most populous city proper of the European Union after London. The city is one of Germany's 16 federal states. It is surrounded by the state of Brandenburg, and contiguous with its capital, Potsdam. The two cities are at the center of the Berlin-Brandenburg capital region, which is, with about six million inhabitants and an area of more than 30,000 km², Germany's third-largest metropolitan region after the Rhine-Ruhr and Rhine-Main regions.

Heidelberg Place in Baden-Württemberg, Germany

Heidelberg is a university town in Baden-Württemberg situated on the river Neckar in south-west Germany. In the 2016 census, its population was 159,914, with roughly a quarter of its population being students.

Juris Doctor The Juris Doctor degree (J.D. or JD), also known as the Doctor of Jurisprudence degree (J.D., JD, D.Jur. or DJur), is a graduate-entry professional degree in law and one of several Doctor of Law degree

The Juris Doctor degree, also known as the Doctor of Jurisprudence degree, is a graduate-entry professional degree in law and one of several Doctor of Law degrees. The Juris Doctor is earned by completing law school in Australia, Canada, the United States, and some other common law countries. It has the academic standing of a professional doctorate in the United States, a master's degree in Australia, and a second-entry, baccalaureate degree in Canada.

Early career

He was employed by the Reichsschatzamt (Treasury) in 1907, initially as Regierungsassessor. Cuno was promoted in 1910 to Regierungsrat and in 1912 to Geheimer Regierungsrat. His tasks mainly involved preparing parliamentary bills and presenting them to the Reichstag. [1]

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.

During World War I, Cuno was involved in organizing food supplies for the German army, first directing the Reichsgetreidestelle from its inception until July 1916. He then was attached to Secretary of State (i.e. Minister) Batocki to help organize the Kriegsernährungsamt (war food department). In late 1916, Cuno was put in charge of the Generalreferat (section) on economic issues relating to the war at the Treasury. [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.

Adolf Tortilowicz von Batocki-Friebe German politician

Max Johann Otto Adolf Tortilowicz von Batocki-Friebe, usually known as Adolf von Batocki-Friebe was a German noble, lawyer and politician, and belonged to a Lithuanian noble family.

At the request of Albert Ballin, Cuno quit the civil service to join the Hapag shipping company as a director in November 1917. After Ballin's death in November 1918, Cuno was promoted to Hapag's general director in December. [1]

As an economic expert, Cuno participated in the post-war negotiations on the armistice, on reparations and peace terms and in other international conferences, including the Genoa Conference, which he left in protest after the signature of the Treatyof Rapello with the Soviet Union. Cuno was also an important negotiator in talks between the German shipping firms and the government, regarding compensation for the merchant ships delivered to the Allies under the terms of the peace treaty (1920/21). [1] [2]

In 1920, Cuno led Hapag into an alliance with United American Lines, helping to reestablish Hapag as a passenger line. He also unofficially represented the Reich's foreign policy interests during his travels abroad. [1]


Cuno, left, with German President Friedrich Ebert (1923) Bundesarchiv Bild 146-1973-076-58, Reichskanzler Cuno und Reichsprasident Ebert.jpg
Cuno, left, with German President Friedrich Ebert (1923)

Cuno rejected several proposals to assume the post of foreign minister (autumn 1922) or minister of finance (after Matthias Erzberger's resignation in 1920), but agreed to form a cabinet after the resignation of Joseph Wirth's second cabinet. Cuno was appointed Reichskanzler on 22 November 1922, by presidential decree and without a vote in the Reichstag. He was the first chancellor in the Weimar Republic who was not a member of a party. Politically, he was quite far from the president, Social Democrat Friedrich Ebert who selected him as chancellor. Cuno had a somewhat aloof position towards the republic and its parliamentary system. He held the Reichstag in fairly low esteem and felt the bickering between the parties to be distasteful. Cuno formed a government mostly composed of non-party economists and members of the German People's Party, German Democratic Party, German Center Party and Bavarian People's Party. The government was referred to, alternatively as a Geschäftsministerium, Regierung der Wirtschaft or Kabinett der Persönlichkeiten, emphasizing that it was not the result of an explicit coalition between the parliamentary parties. [1] [2] [3]

Hopes were high for this government of experts, led by a man with excellent connections abroad, to make headway in the difficult talks with the Allies. They were, however, disappointed. Cuno's plan to settle the reparations issue and to stabilize the Mark in the foreign exchange market was rejected by the Allies at the urging of French prime minister/foreign minister Poincaré. When Germany fell a bit behind on its shipments of wood and coal (made as reparations in lieu of lacking gold currency) the French declared this to be a deliberate breach of the agreements and on 11 January 1923 ordered troops to occupy the Ruhr (later joined by Belgians). This move, widely seen as illegal even outside Germany, caused the outraged Cuno government to call for passive resistance: Reparation shipments to France and Belgium were stopped, the mines were told not to make any more deliveries to these states, civil servants and Reichsbahn personnel were told to disobey orders by the occupation authorities. [1]

The Ruhr economy, the industrial heartland of Germany, came almost to a complete stop. Financial support payments by the Reich government to those inhabitants of the occupied zone affected by firm closures, deportations and arrests quickly added up to vast sums, mostly financed by printing money. This caused inflation to increase rapidly and the Mark to go into free fall. [1]

Attempts by the government to resume talks about reparations in May and June 1923 failed as Poincaré refused to negotiate unless passive resistance was ended first. A wave of strikes against the government began in August 1923. On 12 August 1923, Cuno and his cabinet resigned as a result of a vote of no-confidence initiated by the SPD. [1] [3]

Later life

Cuno retired from politics and returned to serve as a director at Hapag. In 1926, he once again became its director general. He was involved in negotiations about the release of German property impounded in the U.S. during the war and in working towards the merger with Norddeutsche Lloyd, which happened in 1930. [1]

During the 1925 election for Reichspräsident, Cuno was outspoken in his support for Paul von Hindenburg, rather than the candidate of the Centre Party, Wilhelm Marx. [2]

In 1932, Cuno joined Wilhelm Keppler to advise Adolf Hitler economically. [4]

Cuno died on 3 January 1933 at Aumühle near Hamburg. [1]

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  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 "Biografie Wilhelm Cuno (German)". Bayerische Nationalbibliothek. Retrieved 6 January 2015.
  2. 1 2 3 4 "Das Kabinett Cuno - Einleitung (German)". Bundesarchiv. Retrieved 6 January 2015.
  3. 1 2 "Biografie Wilhelm Cuno (German)". Deutsches Historisches Museum. Retrieved 6 January 2015.
  4. Christof Brauers: Die FDP in Hamburg 1945 bis 1953. Start als bürgerliche Linkspartei. Martin Meidenbauer Verlagsbuchhandlung, München 2007, ISBN   978-3-89975-569-5, p. 85.
Political offices
Preceded by
Joseph Wirth
Chancellor of Germany
1922 - 1923
Succeeded by
Gustav Stresemann