Hellmut von Gerlach

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Hellmut von Gerlach

Hellmut Georg von Gerlach (born February 2, 1866 in Mönchmotschelnitz , Province of Silesia , Prussia , † August 1, 1935 in Paris ) was a German publicist , politician and pacifist .


Memorial plaque on the house, Genthiner Strasse 48, in Berlin-Tiergarten

Hellmut von Gerlach was born as the son of the landowner Max von Gerlach (1832–1909) and his wife Welly nee. Peyer (1837–1899) born in Mönchmotschelnitz. His paternal grandfather was Karl von Gerlach (1792–1863), police chief in Berlin, district president in Cologne and Erfurt and a maternal great-grandfather Johann Gottlieb Koppe (1782–1863).


Hellmut von Gerlach attended high school in Wohlau . After studying law in Geneva , Strasbourg , Leipzig and Berlin , Gerlach entered the Prussian civil service. During his studies he became a member of the VDSt . He earned his first journalistic spurs as an employee of the German Adelsblatt .

Gerlach worked as a trainee lawyer in Lübben , Berlin , Schleswig and Magdeburg . Then he became a government assessor and deputy district administrator for the Duchy of Lauenburg district in Ratzeburg . In 1892 he left the civil service to devote himself to political and journalistic work. At first he was close to the Christian-social, anti-Semitic wing of the conservatives around Adolf Stoecker . From 1892 to 1896 he was editor of the Christian social daily newspaper Das Volk . In June 1894 Gerlach contacted Friedrich Engels by letter and visited him in London. Under the influence of Friedrich Naumann , Gerlach developed a liberal political stance. With his brother Naumann, he founded the National Social Association in 1896 .

From 1898 to 1901 and again from 1906, Gerlach was editor-in-chief of the Berlin weekly newspaper Die Welt am Montag . In his contributions he called for political reforms to parliamentarise the empire. Gerlach worked intensively on two constituencies in order to get into the Prussian House of Representatives and the Reichstag for the National Socialists . In the Prussian electoral district of Lingen - Bentheim in the far west of the province of Hanover on the Dutch border, he founded National Social Workers 'Associations, which were popular in the textile workers' communities of Nordhorn , Schüttorf and Gildehaus as well as among the railway workers in Lingen an der Ems. In 1898 he won so many electors that in alliance with the center in this part of the former Reichstag constituency of Ludwig Windthorst, despite the election pressure against his supporters and the Center Party, Gerlach's election to the Prussian House of Representatives seemed close. Then the national liberal manufacturers offered the hitherto hated center to elect a center man in order to prevent Gerlachs from winning. Since he organized the so far tolerant workers, he and the National Socialists became the enemy of the factory owners for a few years. The center accepted the offer of the National Liberals, so that the voting behavior of the National Liberals caused quite a stir. Although von Gerlach had a very active press organ to support him in the Schüttorfer Zeitung he had bought and he was able to increase his number of votes in the next election in 1903, his application was just as unsuccessful as the candidacies in the Reichstag constituency " Meppen " in January and June 1903.

Gerlach's political work in the Reichstag constituency Marburg - Frankenberg - Kirchhain was more successful. As the only National Socialist, he belonged to the Reichstag from June 1903 to January 1907. There he joined the left-liberal Liberal Association as an intern , as the National Social Association had disbanded after the election defeat in 1903. He was elected with the help of the center and the SPD . In 1907 he lost the constituency to an employee of the German Land Association . In 1908 Gerlach left the Liberal Association and became a co-founder of the Democratic Association (DV). When its chairman, Rudolf Breitscheid, resigned from office and switched to the SPD after unsuccessful participation in the Reichstag election in 1912 , Gerlach, who was the only DV candidate in the runoff election in his traditional constituency of Marburg-Frankenberg, took over the chairmanship of the association.

During the First World War , Gerlach took a pacifist stance. He supported the reformer Helene Stöcker . Convinced of the German war guilt, he called for a policy of understanding in his newspaper Welt on Monday . In 1918 he and Friedrich Naumann were among the founders of the left-liberal German Democratic Party ( DDP ) and the German Peace Society . In 1918/1919 he was Undersecretary of State in the Prussian Ministry of the Interior . In this office he campaigned for German-Polish reconciliation and as a result was exposed to severe hostility.

In 1919 Gerlach joined the Council of the International Peace Bureau. As a journalist, he fought against attempts at political overthrow by right-wing circles. So he stood up for the fulfillment of the Versailles Treaty and denounced the illegal rearmament . In the world on Monday , he was particularly committed to a Franco-German understanding. In 1920 he narrowly escaped an assassination attempt by nationalist circles. In 1922 he left the DDP and in 1926 became chairman of the German League for Human Rights . In this function he took part in several international peace congresses. In 1930 Gerlach became a founding member of the politically ineffective Radical Democratic Party .

In 1932 Gerlach took over the political management of the magazine Die Weltbühne for the imprisoned Carl von Ossietzky . After the takeover of the Nazis in March 1933 Gerlach went into exile in Austria ; it was on the First Expatriation List of the German Reich of 1933, which came into force and was published in August . At the invitation of the French League for Human Rights, he moved to Paris, where he continued his journalistic and pacifist engagement and warned against the National Socialist regime.

Gerlach successfully nominated Carl von Ossietzky for the Nobel Prize.

In 1948, the Hellmut von Gerlach Society was founded in Germany to promote German-Polish understanding.

Hellmut von Gerlach married Hedwig Wiesel (1874–1956) in 1904, with whom he had a son and a daughter.


  • Social democratic or national social. Speech battle between Molkenbuhr and von Gerlach zu Emden on November 15, 1899. Emden 1900.
  • The free-thinking association in parliament. Berlin 1907.
  • Parliament. Rütten and Loenig, Frankfurt am Main 1907.
  • The history of Prussian suffrage. Book publisher Die Hilfe, Berlin-Schöneberg 1908.
  • August Bebel . A biographical essay. Langen Verlag, Munich 1909. Digitized .
  • My experiences in the Prussian administration. Die Welt am Montag, Berlin 1919.
  • The collapse of German policy towards Poland. New Fatherland, Berlin 1919.
  • Ed .: Letters and telegrams from Wilhelm II to Nikolaus II (1894–1914). Vienna 1920.
  • A Confession of German Guilt: Contributions to German Warfare. Edited by Walter Oehme . With a foreword by Helmut von Gerlach, Neues Vaterland, Berlin 1920.
  • The German mentality. 1871-1921. Peace through Law, Ludwigsburg 1921.
  • Memories of a Junker. Welt am Montag, Berlin 1924.
  • The great time of lies. Verlag der Weltbühne, Charlottenburg 1926. The chapters had all appeared in the Weltbühne. New edition: Hellmut von Gerlach: The great time of lies. The First World War and the German Mentality (1871–1921). Edited by Helmut Donat and Adolf Wild. With an afterword by Walter Fabian . Donat, Bremen 1994, ISBN 3-924444-78-1 .
  • From right to left. Edited by Emil Ludwig . Europa Verlag, Zurich 1937 (autobiography, published posthumously). Introduction by Emil Ludwig. 1978 new edition by Gerstenberg, Hildesheim, and 1987 by Fischer Taschenbuch Verlag.


  • Dieter Düding : The National Social Association 1896 to 1903. The failed attempt at a party-political synthesis of nationalism, socialism and liberalism (= Studies on the History of the 19th Century , Volume 6), Munich and Vienna 1972.
  • Joachim Gauger: History of the National Social Association including a description of its ideal and actual origins - as part of a Protestant party history , (Diss. University of Münster) Wuppertal-Elberfeld 1935.
  • Ursula Susanna Gilbert : Hellmut von Gerlach (1866-1935). Stations of a German liberal from the German Empire to the “Third Reich” , Frankfurt / Main 1984. ISBN 3-8204-5446-2 .
  • Ruth Greuner : Transformations of an upright. Life picture Hellmut von Gerlachs , book publisher Der Morgen, Berlin 1965.
  • Bernd Haunfelder : The Liberal Members of the German Reichstag 1871-1918. A biographical manual. Aschendorff, Münster 2004, ISBN 3-402-06614-9 , pp. 153-154.
  • Karl Holl : Hellmut von Gerlach. In: Helmut Donat , Karl Holl (ed.): The peace movement. Organized pacifism in Germany, Austria and Switzerland (= Hermes Handlexikon ), Düsseldorf 1983, pp. 156–159.
  • Erhard Kiehnbaum: Was Engels friends with an officer in the Prussian-German general staff? In: Contributions to Marx-Engels research , Volume 10, Berlin 1981, pp. 99-108.
  • Christoph Koch (Ed.): From Junker to Citizen. Hellmut von Gerlach - Democrat and Pacifist in the Empire and Republic. Meidenbauer, Munich 2009. ISBN 978-3-89975-156-7 ( review ).
  • Helmut Lensing: The elections for the Prussian House of Representatives in the constituency of Lingen-Bentheim 1867–1913. In: Osnabrücker Mitteilungen. Volume 98, Osnabrück 1993, pp. 161-204.
  • Helmut Lensing: The elections to the Reichstag and the Prussian House of Representatives in Emsland and the Grafschaft Bentheim 1867 to 1918. Party system and political conflict in the constituency of Ludwig Windthorst during the Empire (= Emsland / Bentheim. Contributions to history , volume 15), Sögel 1999.
  • Helmut Lensing: Election manipulation in the Lingen-Bentheim state electoral district. In: Osnabrücker Mitteilungen. Volume 104, Osnabrück 1999, pp. 253-275.
  • Adrien Robinet de Clery:  Gerlach, Helmut v .. In: New German Biography (NDB). Volume 6, Duncker & Humblot, Berlin 1964, ISBN 3-428-00187-7 , p. 301 f. ( Digitized version ).
  • Carl Schneider: The journalism of the national-social movement 1895-1903 , Wangen i. A. 1934 (Diss. University of Berlin).
  • Franz Gerrit Schulte: The journalist Hellmut von Gerlach , Saur, Munich 1988. ISBN 3-598-20549-X .
  • Martin Wenck: The history of the National Socials from 1895 to 1903 , Buchverlag der Hilfe, Berlin 1905.
  • Marc Zirlewagen:  Gerlach, Hellmuth (Georg) von. In: Biographisch-Bibliographisches Kirchenlexikon (BBKL). Volume 24, Bautz, Nordhausen 2005, ISBN 3-88309-247-9 , Sp. 685-690.

Web links

Commons : Hellmut von Gerlach  - Collection of images, videos and audio files
Wikisource: Hellmut von Gerlach  - Sources and full texts

Individual evidence

  1. Hellmut von Gerlach: Memories of a Junkers , pp. 97-99.
  2. Burkhard Gutleben: "Association for a critical examination of the political situation"? The Democratic Association (1908–1918). In: Liberal ISSN  0459-1992 , Vol. 30, 1988, H. 1, p. 90.
  3. Helene Stöcker: Memoirs . Edited by Reinhold Lütgemeier-Davin a. Kerstin Wolff . Böhlau, Cologne 2015, p. 275 et passim.
  4. Michael Hepp (Ed.): The expatriation of German citizens 1933-45 according to the lists published in the Reichsanzeiger . tape 1 : Lists in chronological order . De Gruyter Saur, Munich 1985, ISBN 978-3-11-095062-5 , pp. 3 (reprinted 2010).
  5. nomination. In total, Ossietzky was nominated 93 times until he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for 1935 in 1936 (cf. nobelprize.org ).