German Democratic Party

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Paper flags from the election campaign of the DDP in the election for the Berlin city council in 1929

The German Democratic Party ( DDP ) was a left-wing liberal party in the Weimar Republic . In addition to the German People's Party (DVP), it represented political liberalism between 1918 and 1933. It emerged in 1918 from the Progressive People's Party , which in 1917/1918 with Friedrich von Payer participated in the last two governments of the German Empire .

After the constitution of the Weimar Republic, from 1919 the DDP had a  share in the cabinets of the first German state to be composed according to pluralistic democratic guidelines in changing coalitions - beginning with the Weimar coalition - in almost all imperial governments until 1932 . Before the Reichstag election in 1930 (September 14, 1930), it united with the National People's Association , which belonged to the nationalist and anti-Semitic Young German Order . The party was now called the German State Party (DStP) and kept the name, although the Volksnationalen soon left the party. Because of the Volksnationalen, members of the left wing of the DDP had left their party and, towards the end of the republic, founded the Radical Democratic Party , which was unsuccessful in parliament . Others joined the SPD .

After the seizure of power by the National Socialists, the German state party was under the direct circuit dissolved on June 28 1933rd


Weimar Republic

Creation of the DDP

On November 16, 1918 exactly one week after the revolution in Berlin, the appeared in the morning edition of the Berliner Tageblatt under the heading The great democratic party one of the chief editor of the Berliner Tageblatt , Theodor Wolff authored and signed by 60 well-known personalities call for establishment of a new democratic Political party. “On November 20, 1918” - literally in the daily newspaper and almost identically in the Vossische Zeitung  , which also sympathized with the new party - “the Progressive People's Party and a considerable part of the National Liberals signed the November 16 appeal for the principles This call united. ”Four days later, members of the Progressive People's Party and the liberal wing of the National Liberal Party founded with the publicist Theodor Wolff and professors such as Max Weber (1864–1920), Alfred Weber (1868–1958) and Hugo Preuss (1860–1925 ) the German Democratic Party (DDP).

The liberal Progressive People's Party, which emerged in 1910 from the Free People's Party , the Free Social Union and the German People's Party (DtVP) of the Kaiserreich , and the comparatively small “left” wing of the former National Liberal Party of the Kaiserreich merged into the new party in 1918. The DDP united democratic, liberal, national and social positions, but distinguished itself from the annexation policy of the former national liberals of the empire. The main representative of this direction Gustav Stresemann (he still saw himself as a monarchist at the time) thereupon founded a party that was rather hostile to the republic, the German People's Party (DVP) .

No other party identified as fully with the parliamentary democracy of the Weimar Republic as the DDP; no other party was so clearly committed to individual freedom and social responsibility. With Hugo Preuss, Max Weber, Friedrich Naumann (1860-1919; he was elected DDP chairman at the 1st party congress in July 1919) and with Conrad Haußmann (1857-1922, Vice President and Chairman of the Constitutional Committee of the National Assembly) came the decisive ones Creator of the Weimar Constitution from among the ranks of the DDP.

The party strove for a unified federal state and demanded - like almost all other parties - the revision of the Versailles treaty. The DDP committed itself to the League of Nations as an institution for a peaceful balance of interests between the states. In terms of social policy, the party was close to the reform efforts of the Hirsch-Duncker trade unions and, through cooperation with the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD), sought a balance between the social and economic policy ideas of workers and bourgeoisie. The DDP supported the principle of the private sector, but called for state intervention. Because of its clear commitment to liberalism and the parliamentary system, the DDP was the target of constant attacks from the ranks of the German National People's Party (DNVP) and the German Nationalist Party.

Portrait of Friedrich Naumann , first chairman of the DDP, by Max Liebermann

The DDP program was a synthesis of liberal and social ideas. In the pre-war period, Friedrich Naumann , who also became the party's first chairman, had tried this; he was a Protestant theologian and came from the Christian social movement. Supporters and members of the party were mainly recruited from the professions, teachers and university lecturers, i.e. from the educated middle class . It was also supported by senior executives and civil servants, by industrialists mainly involved in the chemical and electrical industries, by medium-sized companies and by liberal Jews .

Prominent members of the DDP were Naumann Hugo Preuss (the "father" of the Weimar Constitution ), Foreign Minister Walther Rathenau , the publicists Theodor Wolff and Georg Bernhard von der Vossische Zeitung , the later first Federal President Theodor Heuss , Wilhelm Külz , the philosopher Ernst Cassirer , Nobel Peace Prize laureate Ludwig Quidde , pacifist Hellmut von Gerlach , Eduard Hamm , union leader Anton Erkelenz , Reich Minister of Justice Erich Koch-Weser , long-time Hamburg mayor Carl Wilhelm Petersen , Berlin Mayor Gustav Boess , member of the Reichstag and later Federal Minister Ernst Lemmer , the later first Minister-President of Baden-Württemberg , Reinhold Maier , the later first Minister-President of Saxony-Anhalt , Erhard Hübener (the only non-Communist Prime Minister of the Soviet occupation zone in Germany), the member of the state parliament and head of the Hirsch-Duncker woodworkers' association Fritz (Fri edrich Heinrich) Varnholt, the later President of the Reichsbank Hjalmar Schacht , the writer and pacifist Harry Graf Kessler and, for a short time, the sociologist Max Weber . The DDP offered politically active women of the Weimar Republic a home. Examples include Gertrud Bäumer , Helene Lange , Adelheid Steinmann , Marianne Weber and Marie-Elisabeth Lüders , who later became President of the German Bundestag .

Alongside the SPD, the DDP was one of the most resolute supporters of the Weimar Republic. Strongholds of the party were in Berlin , Potsdam , Schleswig-Holstein , Württemberg , the Weser-Ems area and especially in Hamburg , where the temporary party chairman Carl Wilhelm Petersen was first mayor and thus head of government.

In the first nationwide elections of the young republic to the National Assembly , the DDP achieved 18 percent and in 1919/1920 formed the “ Weimar Coalition ” with the SPD and the center as the first government of the Weimar Republic. If the party had around 800,000 members a year after it was founded, the number of members of the DDP fell to 117,000 by 1927. Despite its steadily dwindling size, the DDP played an important political role in the first years of the republic. On the one hand, through its middle position between the SPD and the center, it helped to stabilize the Weimar coalition in Germany and especially in Prussia . An example here is the State Secretary in the Prussian Ministry of the Interior, Wilhelm Abegg , who reorganized and modernized the Prussian police. On the other hand, the members of the DDP formed an important reservoir of personnel for high positions in public administration . No other party could provide civil servants to this extent who both had the technical training and were loyal to the democratic system of the Weimar Republic , which was not the case with most of the monarchist and anti-democratically minded civil servants who had been taken over from the monarchy at the time.

Decline in the 1920s

Willy Hellpach at the lectern (upper half of the picture), the 1925 DDP candidate in the Berlin Sports Palace in the first round of the presidential election
Otto Geßler , long-time Reichswehr Minister and temporarily provisional Chancellor with party membership in the DDP

As early as 1920, the DDP lost a large number of votes to the DVP , DNVP and interest parties , as there was disagreement about how to deal with the Versailles peace treaty , which some MPs approved. This went hand in hand with a loss of members, finances and publications. Major newspapers such as the Vossische Zeitung or the Frankfurter Zeitung were close to the DDP, but the party was never able to establish an important party journal such as the Vorwärts (SPD) or later the Völkischer Beobachter (NSDAP). In the public, there was in part the - factually false and anti-Semitic - prejudice that the DDP was the "party of high capital". In the later years the NSDAP took advantage of this by defaming the DDP as "the Jewish party".

Another reason for the descent was a program of "social capitalism", in which workers and entrepreneurs mutually recognize "duty, right, achievement and profit" and solidarity between employees, employees and entrepreneurs should prevail. With rising unemployment and economic difficulties under the pressure of the Versailles Treaty, however, this visionary idea was completely unrealistic.

Renaming to German State Party

Erich Koch-Weser , party chairman and minister

In July 1930, the DDP united with the People's National Reich Association, initially for the upcoming Reichstag election for the German State Party . This brought violent conflicts within the party, because it was about the political arm of the conservative-anti-Semitic Young German Order of Artur Mahraun . After this merger, many members of the left wing, including Ludwig Quidde and Hellmut von Gerlach , left the party and in 1930 founded the politically largely unsuccessful Radical Democratic Party . However, immediately after the Reichstag election, the Young German Order broke away from the DDP, which nevertheless formally renamed itself the German State Party in November 1930.

Until 1932 the DStP was involved in the majority of the Reich governments , but only reached about one percent in the elections of that year and sank to insignificance. The DStP received its five seats in the Reichstag due to the elections of March 5, 1933 with the help of a list connection with the SPD. In contrast to the SPD , the five members of the DStP voted for the Enabling Act , which de facto disempowered the Reichstag . Your "yes" to the Enabling Act was justified by the MP Reinhold Maier . The final sentence of his speech read:

"In the interest of the people and fatherland and in the expectation of a lawful development, we will put aside our serious concerns and agree to the Enabling Act."

- Reinhold Maier

Party leaders of the DDP and the DStP

year Political party Chairman
1919 DDP Friedrich Naumann
1919-1924 DDP Carl Wilhelm Petersen
1924-1930 DDP Erich Koch-Weser
1930-1933 DStP Hermann Dietrich
Gertrud Bäumer, 1927

Well-known members of the DDP or DStP

Ordinary and extraordinary party conferences of the DDP and the DStP

Ordinary party congresses of the DDP date place
1. Ordinary party congress 19. – 22. July 1919 Berlin
2. Ordinary party congress 11-14 December 1920 Nuremberg
3. Ordinary party congress 12-14 November 1921 Bremen
4th Ordinary Party Congress 9-10 October 1922 Elberfeld
5th Ordinary Party Congress 5th-6th April 1924 Weimar
6th Ordinary Party Congress 4th-6th December 1925 Wroclaw
7th Ordinary Party Congress 21.-24. April 1927 Hamburg
8th Ordinary Party Congress 4th-6th October 1929 Mannheim
Extraordinary party congresses of the DDP date place
Extraordinary party congress 13-15 December 1919 Leipzig
Extraordinary party congress 1st – 2nd November 1924 Berlin
Extraordinary party congress November 8, 1930 Hanover
Party congresses of the DStP date place
1. Ordinary party congress 27.-28. September 1931 Berlin

Development after the Nazi seizure of power

Self-dissolution in 1933

Since they had been won by means of election proposals from the Social Democratic Party, the mandates of the Reichstag members of the DStP expired in July 1933 due to the provision of Section 1 of the Ordinance on Safeguarding the Governance of the National Socialist Reich Minister of the Interior, Frick , who cited Section 18 of the Provisional Act on Harmonization of the countries with the Reich of March 31, 1933 ( Reichsgesbl. I p. 153) on July 7, 1933.

The self-dissolution of the DStP, forced by the National Socialists , took place on June 28, 1933. With the law against the formation of new political parties passed on July 14, the existence of a single party in the German Reich , the NSDAP , was enshrined in law and any activity for other parties was made a criminal offense.

Resistance to National Socialism

Individual members of the DStP participated in the resistance against National Socialism . The only left-liberal resistance group, the Robinsohn-Strassmann group , consisted mainly of former DDP / DStP members. A bourgeois resistance group with around sixty members was the Sperr-Kreis in Bavaria. It consisted of the diplomat Franz Sperr and the former Weimar Reich Ministers and DDP members Otto Geßler and Eduard Hamm . Many former members of the DDP or the Radical Democratic Party were forced to flee into exile because of their stance against the regime or their pacifist attitudes , among them Ludwig Quidde and Wilhelm Abegg , others were murdered by the National Socialists, including Fritz Elsas .

DDP politician after the Second World War

Former members of the DDP were instrumental in founding the FDP (e.g. Theodor Heuss , Thomas Dehler or Reinhold Maier) or LDPD (e.g. Wilhelm Külz , Eugen Schiffer or Waldemar Koch ) after the Second World War , others left to the CDU (including Ernst Lemmer and August Bach ) or the SPD (including Erich Lüth ). There were also a few former DDP politicians in other German parties.

The youth organization Young Democrats , which was close to the DDP at the time , continued to exist until 2018 after a checkered history .

Election results of the DDP or (from 1930) the DStP

Reichstag elections 1919 to 1933

Results of the Reichstag elections including the election
to the constituent national assembly (1919).

January 19, 1919 18.5% 75 seats List of members
June 6, 1920 08.3% 39 seats List of members
May 4, 1924 05.7% 28 seats List of members
December 7, 1924 06.3% 32 seats List of members
May 20, 1928 04.9% 25 seats List of members
September 14, 1930 03.8% 20 seats List of members
July 31, 1932 01.0% 04 seats List of members
November 6, 1932 01.0% 02 seats List of members
March 5, 1933 00.9% 05 seats List of members

Prussian state elections 1919 to 1933

Elections to the Prussian state parliament 1919 to 1933
1919 16.2% 65 seats
1921 05.9% 26 seats
1924 05.9% 27 seats
1928 04.4% 21 seats
1932 01.5% 02 seats
1933 00.7% 03 seats

See also


  • Rainer Erkens, Horst R. Sassin : Documents on the history of liberalism in Germany 1930–1945. Comdok, St. Augustin 1989, ISBN 3-89351-026-5 .
  • Volker Stalmann: Bernhard Falk (1867-1944). Memories of a liberal politician (= sources on the history of parliamentarism and political parties. Volume III / 12). Droste, Düsseldorf 2012, ISBN 3-7700-5310-9 .
  • Konstanze Wegner (edit.): Left liberalism in the Weimar Republic. The governing bodies of the German Democratic Party and the German State Party 1918–1933. Introduced by Lothar Albertin (= sources on the history of parliamentarism and political parties. Volume III / 5). Droste, Düsseldorf 1980, ISBN 3-7700-5104-1 .


  • Lothar Albertin : Liberalism and Democracy at the Beginning of the Weimar Republic. A comparative analysis of the German Democratic Party and the German People's Party (= contributions to the history of parliamentarism and political parties. Volume 45). Droste, Düsseldorf 1972, ISBN 3-7700-5070-3 .
  • Ewald Grothe / Aubrey Pomerance / Andreas Schulz (eds.): Ludwig Haas. A German Jew and a fighter for democracy. Droste, Düsseldorf 2017, ISBN 978-3-7700-5335-3 .
  • Jens Hacke : the existential crisis of democracy. On the political theory of liberalism in the interwar period. Suhrkamp, ​​Berlin 2018, ISBN 978-3-518-29850-3 (also: Humboldt University, habilitation thesis, 2017).
  • Jürgen C. Heß : It should be all of Germany. Democratic nationalism in the Weimar Republic using the example of the German Democratic Party (= Kiel historical studies. Volume 24). Klett-Cotta, Stuttgart 1978, ISBN 3-12-910820-3 .
  • Larry Eugene Jones: German Liberalism and the Dissolution of the Weimar Party System 1918–1933. University of North Carolina Press, Chapel Hill 1988, ISBN 0-8078-1764-3 .
  • Dieter Langewiesche : Liberalism in Germany , Suhrkamp, ​​Frankfurt a. M. 1988, ISBN 3-518-11286-4 , pp. 240-286.
  • Werner Schneider: The German Democratic Party in the Weimar Republic. 1924-1930. Fink, Munich 1978, ISBN 3-7705-1549-8 .
  • Joachim Stang: The German Democratic Party in Prussia. 1918–1933 (= contributions to the history of parliamentarism and political parties. Volume 101). Droste, Düsseldorf 1994, ISBN 3-7700-5178-5 .
  • Werner Stephan : Rise and Decline of Left Liberalism 1918–1933. The history of the German Democratic Party. Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, Göttingen 1973, ISBN 3-525-36162-9 .

Web links

Commons : German Democratic Party  - collection of pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Horst Wagner: The founding of the DDP in 1918 . In: Berlin monthly magazine ( Luisenstädtischer Bildungsverein ) . Issue 11, 1998, ISSN  0944-5560 ( ).
  2. ^ "The German Democratic Party (DDP)" on the website of the German Historical Museum, Berlin.
  3. ^ DHM-LEMO: DDP as guardian of democracy, 3rd section .
  4. ^ Call for elections by the DDP. In: Der Demokratie 5 , 1924, p. 86, quoted in Schneider, p. 58.
  5. ^ Heinrich August Winkler: The long way to the west. German History 1806–1933 , Bonn 2002, p. 487.
  6. ^ Christof Brauers: The FDP in Hamburg 1945 to 1953 . Munich 2007, p. 75 ff.
  7. ^ German Democratic Party (DDP) / German State Party 1918–1933 ( German Historical Museum ).
  8. ^ Official minutes of the Reichstag session of March 23, 1933, see. DStP .
  9. Negotiations of the Reichstag, stenographic report, March 23, 1933, p. 25 C , p. 38.
  10. ^ Konstanze Wegner (edit.): Left-wing liberalism in the Weimar Republic. The governing bodies of the German Democratic Party and the German State Party 1918–1933. Introduced by Lothar Albertin (= sources on the history of parliamentarism and political parties. Volume III / 5). Droste, Düsseldorf 1980, p. XX.
  11. Text of the ordinance for safeguarding governance of July 7, 1933 in the Reichsgesetzblatt in retro-digitized form at ALEX - Historical legal and legal texts online .
  12. Text of the law against the formation of new parties from July 14, 1933 at
  13. ↑ In addition: Manuel Limbach: Citizens against Hitler. Prehistory, structure and work of the Bavarian »Sperr-Kreis«. Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, Göttingen 2019 (= series of publications by the Historical Commission at the Bavarian Academy of Sciences , Volume 102).
  14. ^ In addition: Rainer Erkens / Horst R. Sassin: Documents on the History of Liberalism in Germany 1930–1945 , St. Augustin 1989; Eric Kurlander: Living with Hitler. Liberal Democrats in the Third Reich , New Haven / London 2009; Horst Sassin: Liberals in the Resistance. The Robinsohn-Strassmann Group 1934–1942 , Hamburg 1993; Horst R. Sassin: Resistance, Persecution and Emigration Liberal 1933–1945 , Bonn 1983.