Friedrich Ebert (1871-1925)

Friedrich Ebert was a German politician and leader of the Social Democratic Party (SPD). Ebert began his professional life as a saddle maker, and became active in his labor union before joining the Social Democratic Party. While an elected member of the Reichstag (German legislature), Ebert became a leader of the SPD. He supported the war effort during World War One, although he opposed the expansionist war aims and lost three sons. Following the abdication of the Kaiser at the end of the war, Ebert was given the unenviable task of leading the transitional government. One of Ebert’s first challenges was a rebellion from the radical left, which he put down in alliance with the conservative generals. The National Assembly chose Ebert to serve as President of the Republic. Committed to democracy and to the Republic, Ebert struggled to represent all of the people of Germany.

Ebert considered himself to be a reformer, and not a rabble-rouser. He and the other Social Democrats respected authority and tried to avoid drastic changes. The SPD willingly promised that the new government would preserve German traditions and also allow army officers, bureaucrats, judges, and teachers to keep their jobs.

As President, Ebert was faced with many challenges, including terrorism, hyperinflation, and uprisings from both the left and the right. Ebert handled these challenges well enough so that he was certain to be chosen president in the 1935 popular election. However, Ebert died unexpectedly before the election, paving the way for the victory of World War One hero General Paul von Hindenburg. The election of Hindenburg proved to weaken the Republic considerably.

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