Friedrich Ebert

“Democracy needs democrats”

Friedrich Ebert was the President of the Weimar Republic between 1919 and 1925. He strove to anchor parliamentary democracy, wanted to be President of all Germans and led a policy based on social equality. Born on 4 February 1871, this tailoring son of Heidelberg followed elementary studies and then became an apprentice saddler. During his year of companionship in 1899, he joined the SPD and campaigned in the trade union organization saddlers. He settled in 1891 in Bremen, where he first practiced his profession before becoming a hotelier. In 1893 he was hired as an editor for the daily “Bremer Bürger-Zeitung”, the local body of the SPD. Barely a year later, he was elected Party Secretary. In addition, he assumed the chairmanship of the drummers’ union in Bremen and was given a mandate in the Land Parliament.

In 1905, Friedrich Ebert moved to Berlin where he was elected to the National Directorate of the SPD. At 34, he was the youngest member and was responsible for organizational matters. In 1912, Ebert entered the Reichstag. The SPD then celebrated its greatest electoral success and became the largest parliamentary group. During the First World War, Ebert, President of the SPD since 1913, tried in vain to maintain the cohesion of his Party, while the granting of war credits caused significant dissensions with the radical wings.

After the abolition of the monarchy, Ebert briefly assumed the function of Imperial Chancellor during the November 1918 revolution. He succeeded in obstructing the establishment of a Soviet-style Council system and imposed the election of a democratic National Assembly. He thus spoke out clearly for parliamentarism – and this, despite internal resistance within the SPD – and allowed the establishment of a pluralistic and liberal social order.

President of the Republic, Friedrich Ebert had to face a number of crises from 1919. Government coalitions broke out, the economic situation became tense and political murders poisoned the atmosphere. In order to protect the parliamentary constitution of the state, Ebert also made unpopular decisions and was even the target of a slander campaign. His deep conviction was constantly that “democracy needs democrats”.

The Friedrich Ebert Foundation, founded in 1925 after the early disappearance of Ebert, continues to this day its political legacy.