Hans Luther

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Hans Luther (around 1925)

Hans Luther ( listen ? / I ) (born March 10, 1879 in Berlin ; † May 11, 1962 in Düsseldorf ) was a German politician, financial expert and Chancellor of Germany from January 20, 1925 to May 18, 1926 in the Weimar Republic Reichs . Audio file / audio sample

life and work


In 1904 Luther completed a law degree in Kiel , Geneva and Berlin with a doctorate. He was a member of the Academic Gymnastics Associations ATV Ditmarsia Kiel and ATV Kurmark Berlin .

Local politics

Initially, he embarked on an administrative career and was city councilor in Magdeburg from 1907 and mayor of Essen from 1918 to 1922 . In 1907 he married his first wife Gertrud Schmidt, with whom he had three daughters. The marriage ended in 1924. During his tenure in Essen, Luther founded the “Society for Science and Life in Rhenish-Westphalia”, which still exists today, in 1919 with the civil engineer and technical editor Heinrich Reisner , as well as the chemist Franz Fischer and the banker Wilhelm von Waldthausen Industriegebiet ”as the new“ umbrella company for scientific, cultural and economic endeavors ”, from which the initiative for the establishment of the Haus der Technik in Essen came years later .

Reich Minister

From December 1922 to October 1923, as a non-party who was close to the DVP , he was Reich Minister for Food and Agriculture in the Cuno and Stresemann I cabinets . He was then in the Stresemann II (October 6 to November 30, 1923), Marx I (to May 26, 1924) and Marx II (to January 15, 1925) Cabinets Minister of Finance . In this role, he contributed to the post- hyperinflation currency consolidation . This was also achieved by obtaining the appointment of Hjalmar Schacht as Reich Currency Commissioner, who later succeeded Rudolf Havenstein as President of the Reichsbank.


Reich Cabinet Luther I 1925

From January 1925, Luther headed a bourgeois coalition government ( Cabinet Luther I ) as Chancellor of the Reich , which, in addition to the Center , BVP , DDP and DVP, belonged for the first time to the right-wing national DNVP . As Chancellor of the Reich, he tried to restrict the rights of parliament in favor of the government. The coalition broke up after the Locarno Pact was signed when the DNVP left, but Luther continued to serve as head of government of a bourgeois minority government that served from January 20, 1926 to May 18, 1926 ( Luther II cabinet ).

In the eighth year of the Weimar Republic, the lack of national uniformity became increasingly evident. Reich President von Hindenburg therefore had the goal of creating at least a minimum of identification with the state structure that had emerged from the monarchy. To do this, he turned to the national flag. Article 3 of the Weimar Constitution read: “The colors of the empire are black, red and gold. The trade flag is black-white-red with the imperial colors in the upper left corner. ”(See Gösch (Flaggenkunde) .) Thus there were different flags for the official imperial representations abroad and the German merchant ships. In order to end this duality, Hindenburg asked Luther to issue a corresponding flag ordinance, according to which the black, red and gold jack should be introduced to sea. Luther followed this request and thereby triggered strong protests both among politicians and the rest of the population. The Reich President tried to intervene soothingly in this conflict. On May 9, 1926, he wrote an open letter to Luther. In it he emphasized that the intention of the change was only to end the existing flag dispute abroad . Nothing was further from him than removing the national colors determined by the constitution. However, this letter made Luther's situation worse than it helped. Now he was also accused of having had the document drawn up in order to shift political responsibility. So distressed, the Chancellor acted unhappily. First he let it be known that the regulation would remain in place but would not apply. When the DNVP insisted, however, he said exactly the opposite. Since he had now snubbed all political camps, there was a vote of no confidence in parliament , causing the Chancellor to fall on May 12, 1926. It was followed by the Marx III cabinet .

Withdrawal from politics

Luther, who himself sometimes referred to this event as a “fall from the window”, then withdrew from active politics. A short time later he was appointed to the board of directors of the Reichsbahn-Gesellschaft . He himself assessed the transfer of such an important position as one of the kindnesses of the Marx cabinet with which it wanted to support him at the start of a new career. Accordingly, of his work, it is only worth mentioning that he tried to get the third and fourth class abolished in passenger cars. However, his involvement here was only partially successful. The fourth class was abolished on October 7, 1928, but the third class was retained. The introduction of the two-class system, which is still valid today, did not take place across Europe until after the Second World War in 1956. About two years after he took up his position, he had to leave the position again because Prussia was claiming his place. However, Luther only resigned after losing a trial in the state court .

In the following years he took on a number of positions in supervisory boards and other areas of the financial and industrial economy. But above all, he devoted himself to the covenant for the renewal of the empire . Constituted in January 1928, Luther was both a founding member and the first chairman in the history of the covenant. Later this Reich Reform Association was often referred to in public as the "Lutherbund". The central goal was to overcome the existing division between the state and Prussia. It was assumed that Prussia was pursuing a hegemonic state orientation in the existing national construct to the detriment of the entire nation. A comprehensive division and disempowerment was proposed: Prussia should be allowed to retain its concept of the state and its state property for the sake of its historical significance, but it should be divided into several independent areas, which should be given the title of imperial provinces. These entities would have exercised real state and administrative powers. He only found a permanent new job, as he himself called it, when he was appointed to the joint management of the joint group of German mortgage banks established in 1924 in 1929. This position gave him the opportunity to gain a deep insight into the structure of the members as well as other German institutes.

Reichsbank President

Otto Geßler (left) and Hans Luther (right)

Luther had only been a member of this body for nine months when Hjalmar Schacht stepped down as President of the Reichsbank . In the interests of the currency, the Reich Cabinet around Chancellor Müller tried to find a successor quickly. Two candidates stood for election. In addition to Luther, the name of Carl Melchior was also brought into play. There was a cabinet debate in which each minister had to name his personal favorite with reasons. The majority were of the opinion that Schacht's successor should not be a Social Democrat or a Jew, which put Melchior out of the running. Luther was elected to the General Council of the Reichsbank on March 11, 1930. The next day he was appointed President of the Reichbank. In order to avoid the possible impression of conflicts of interest, he resigned from the community management and also resigned from the chairmanship of the Federation for the Renewal of the Reich. Successors to Luther at the head of the union were Siegfried von Roedern , who belonged to the NSDAP from 1935, and then the former Reichswehr Minister Otto Geßler .

Luther was controversial from the start of his new job. Compared to his predecessor Schacht, he was seen as weak in leadership and too dependent on the Reichsbank directorate. It was also criticized that he had no banking career, but had a political background, which raised doubts about his professional qualifications. Hans Luther himself was aware that members of the board of directors he led shared such reservations. However, he could not determine any negative effects on loyalty to him or on his work in general.

On March 27, 1930, the Müller II cabinet resigned and Heinrich Brüning became Chancellor. Although Brüning's working style was characterized by distance and reserve, a close relationship developed between him and Luther. At the invitation of the Reich Chancellor, the Reichsbank President took part in the deliberations of the Cabinet. In this way, important coordination between the central bank and the political leadership of the empire could be achieved quickly. Luther had his greatest test in the office of Reichsbank President during the banking and credit crisis of the summer of 1931. Long before it occurred, he had warned of the dangers that resulted from the so-called “ golden banking rule ” in the German credit system was injured at the time. According to this rule, the period at which a borrowed capital is available should coincide with its time of return. The withdrawal of funds from expiring loans by foreign countries without an inflow of foreign exchange of the same magnitude would have caused a funding gap. Although these facts were known, the real occurrence of the crisis took the Reich government and the central bank completely by surprise.

Various triggering factors can be cited in order to explain how this crisis came about. The first impetus arose from the collapse of Austria's largest private bank on May 11, 1931. The relevance of this event for the German Reich arose from the negotiations on a German-Austrian customs union taking place at that time. Foreign Minister Curtius therefore pleaded for German participation in the rescue of the bank. A bitter diplomatic dispute was already raging over the customs union plans, which was only intensified by this request. Although the credit institution was saved, international trust in Germany was severely damaged by this political move. The second important factor was disputes over the advisability of a revision step on the reparations issue. The aim was to reduce the burdens that the German Reich had to make as compensation and reparations for the consequences of the First World War. Although the opponents of the revision succeeded in convincing the Reich Chancellor, the Reich government formulated the declaration accompanying the emergency ordinance of June 5, 1931 against Luther's express will, so that doubts arose outside the German borders about the real goals of the Reich. As a result, foreign capital withdrew.

The economic consequences were enormous. The foreign exchange deductions that the Reichsbank had to record were so high that they fell below the legally permissible cover limit. Various financial institutions also came into economic hardship. For example, DANAT-Bank and Dresdner Bank had to report their insolvency. Luther agreed with the Reich Cabinet that, in order to safeguard the situation, July 14th and 15th, 1931, would be declared bank holidays and the bank counters would remain closed on those days. Regarding the shortfall in cover, he tried to convince the presidents of the most important European central banks to grant Germany a rediscount loan. However, these efforts were unsuccessful. Ultimately, the decisive measures to overcome the crisis were found at the political level.

Due to his willingness to take out massive loans, he supported Adolf Hitler's job creation program , but spoke out against the fact that more loans should also be taken out for armament.

On March 17, 1933, he was replaced by Hjalmar Schacht .

During his tenure as President of the Reichsbank Luther was probably due to his controversial monetary policy on April 9, 1932 on the Potsdamer station slightly injured in a gun attack by the lawyer Max Roosen and an accomplice.

Ambassador of the German Reich

During the time of National Socialism , Luther was the German ambassador to the USA from April 15, 1933 to 1937 as the successor to the resigned Friedrich-Wilhelm von Prittwitz and Gaffron .

post war period

After World War II , he served as Chairman of the various positions on the development of the West German banking and 1952-1955 Expert Committee on the delimitation of the Länder in the discussion of the breakdown by country involved.

Also from 1952 he worked as an honorary professor for political science at the Munich School of Politics . In 1953 he married Gertrud Mautz for the second time. In 1960 Luther published his memoirs under the title “Politicians without a Party”.


The Hans-Luther-Allee in Essen was named after him.

Hans Luther is a descendant of Jakob Luther , a brother of Martin Luther .

See also

Fonts (selection)

  • From Germany's own strength , published by Georg Stilke, Berlin 1927.
  • Politicians without a party , Stuttgart. 1960.
  • Before the Abyss 1930–1933. President of the Reichsbank in times of crisis , Propylaea, Berlin 1964.


  • Karl Erich Born:  Luther, Hans. In: New German Biography (NDB). Volume 15, Duncker & Humblot, Berlin 1987, ISBN 3-428-00196-6 , pp. 544-547 ( digitized version ).
  • Bernd Braun: The Chancellor of the Weimar Republic. Twelve résumés in pictures . Düsseldorf, 2011, ISBN 978-3-7700-5308-7 , pp. 338-371.
  • Maria Keipert (Red.): Biographical Handbook of the German Foreign Service 1871–1945. Published by the Foreign Office, Historical Service. Volume 3: Gerhard Keiper, Martin Kröger: L – R. Schöningh, Paderborn et al. 2008, ISBN 978-3-506-71842-6 , pp. 144-146

Web links

Commons : Hans Luther  - Collection of pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Altherrenbund des ATB (Ed.): 100 Years Academic Gymnastics Federation 1883–1983 Melsungen 1983, pp. 194-196.
  2. ^ Franz von Papen : From the failure of a democracy . Hase & Koehler, Mainz 1968, p. 18 ff.
  3. www.epoche2.de: The discontinuation of the 4th carriage class for the timetable change on October 7, 1928 , accessed on March 26, 2015
  4. Hans Luther: Before the Abyss 1930-1933. Reichsbank President in Times of Crisis , 1st edition, Propylaen, Berlin 1964, p. 31 f.
  5. ^ Federation for the Renewal of the Reich, Guidelines. Retrieved March 25, 2016 .
  6. Before the Abyss, 1930–1933. Reichsbank President in Times of Crisis , 1st edition, Berlin 1964, p. 40 f.
  7. Before the Abyss, 1930–1933. Reichsbank President in Times of Crisis , 1st edition, Berlin 1964, p. 74 f.
  8. historisches-lexikon-bayerns.de , version of January 13, 2009
  9. Before the Abyss, 1930–1933. Reichsbank President in Times of Crisis , 1st edition, Berlin 1964, p. 37.
  10. Before the Abyss, 1930–1933. Reichsbank President in Times of Crisis , 1st edition, Berlin 1964, p. 115.
  11. ^ Heinrich Brüning: Memoirs 1918–1934 , Deutsche Verlags-Anstalt, 1st ed., Stuttgart 1970, p. 119.
  12. Before the Abyss, 1930–1933. Reichsbank President in Times of Crisis , 1st edition, Berlin 1964, p. 65.
  13. ^ For further information on the banking and credit crisis of the summer of 1931 see: III. The banking and credit crisis at the Federal Archives
  14. A detailed description of the coverage limit problem in: Gerhard Schulz: Von Brüning zu Hitler. Between democracy and dictatorship. The change in the political system in Germany 1930–1933 , Volume 3, 2nd edition, De Gruyter, Berlin / New York 1992, pp. 403 ff.
  15. Before the Abyss, 1930–1933. Reichsbank President in Times of Crisis , 1st edition, Berlin 1964, p. 158 ff.
  16. III. The banking and credit crisis at the Federal Archives
  17. Knut Borchardt : The assassination attempt on Luther 1932 . In: Karl Dietrich Bracher u. a. (Ed.): State and parties. Festschrift for the 65th birthday of Rudolf Morsey. Duncker & Humblot, Berlin 1992, ISBN 3-428-07422-X , pp. 689-709