A life dedicated to Social Democracy
Friedrich Ebert was one of the most outstanding personalities in German history. As leader of the Social Democratic Party (SPD), member of the revolutionary government during the autumn and winter of 1918/19 and first German President from 1919 until 1925, the tailor’s son from the old town of Heidelberg was instrumental in shaping the transition from Imperial Germany to the first German democracy and was largely responsible for the policies introduced during the first few years of the Weimar Republic.
Friedrich Ebert’s life was influenced by two different political systems: the monarchy and the republic. In the beginning he was himself a victim of injustice and discrimination. He was only young when he turned to the Social Democratic Party, which fought for liberty, equality and fraternity. At the end of the First World War, the arch-catastrophe of the 20th century, this energetic pragmatist is one of those who set the course for a German parliamentary democracy. In February 1919 he is elected the first democratic German head of state by the constituent National Assembly.
His time in office was hampered by foreign policy constraints and threats on the domestic front. Opposed by nationalists and communists alike, Friedrich Ebert fights hard to win the hearts and minds of his fellow citizens and make them embrace the Republic. With his consistent policies it was largely due to him that the young democracy mastered its most severe crises.
His early death at the age of 54 marked a watershed in the Republic, which was destroyed by Hitler’s dictatorship in 1933. As the founder and defender of the first German Republic, the Social Democrat Friedrich Ebert is considered one of trailblazers of German democracy in the 20th century.