Hermann Müller (Reich Chancellor)

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Hermann Müller (1928)

Hermann Müller (born May 18, 1876 in Mannheim , † March 20, 1931 in Berlin ; to distinguish Hermann Müller by his constituencies, also called Müller-Breslau or from 1920 Müller-Franken ) was a German politician . From 1919 to 1928 he was one of the chairmen of the SPD . In the Bauer cabinet he was Reich Minister for Foreign Affairs from 1919 to 1920 , before he was briefly Chancellor of the German Reich from March to June 1920 . In the same year Müller took over the chairmanship of the SPD parliamentary group until 1928, when he became Chancellor for the second time. On March 27, 1930, Müller had to resign because his parliamentary group refused to accept a compromise in the unemployment insurance reform that the other coalition parties had already agreed on. Until his resignation, he was the last Chancellor to rely on a parliamentary majority, before Heinrich Brüning entered the presidential cabinet of the Weimar Republic . Müller belonged to the republic protection organization Reichsbanner Schwarz-Rot-Gold .

Early years

Hermann Müller was the son of the sparkling wine manufacturer Georg Jacob Müller. He and his family moved to Niederlößnitz near Dresden in 1888 . There he was head of the Bussard champagne cellar . From 1882 Müller attended schools in Mannheim, Kötzschenbroda and Dresden. Influenced by his father, who was a supporter of Ludwig Feuerbach , Müller did not belong to any denomination. The school years at the Realgymnasium in Dresden-Neustadt were formative. One of Müller's youth experiences was getting to know Karl May in Radebeul . After his father's death in 1892, he had to leave school without a high school diploma. He then completed a commercial apprenticeship at Villeroy & Boch in Frankfurt am Main and then worked as an assistant in Frankfurt and Breslau .

Hermann Müller on the class photo of the sixth at the Mannheim grammar school in 1885. Back row, 5th from the left

The commercial activity obviously didn't appeal to him. Instead, he became involved in organizing clerks. He joined the SPD in 1893 and the free trade unions a year later . He initially worked as a freelancer at the social democratically oriented Schlesische Volkswacht and from 1899 to 1906 as an editor at the Görlitzer Volkswacht.

He married Frieda Tockus in 1902 († 1905). She was of Jewish origin; her father was a cantor . She died a few weeks after their daughter Annemarie was born. He later married Gottliebe Jaeger. From this marriage Erika Biermann emerged, who later became Rudolf Breitscheid's secretary .

Politics in the pre-war period

From 1903/04 to 1906 he was a city councilor in Görlitz . At the same time he was also chairman of the local social democratic sub-district. The SPD chairman August Bebel became aware of Müller through his work . As early as 1905, Bebel wanted to have him elected party secretary. Since the strong union wing of the party saw Müller as a representative of the extreme left in the party, he was not elected. In his place was Friedrich Ebert selected. In the following year he was elected as party secretary to the executive committee. There he headed the section for the party press. In this position he set up an SPD news office to make the party newspapers more independent of the bourgeois news agencies. He also participated in intra-party arbitration proceedings and was a member of the Central Office for Working Youth . There he met with Ludwig Frank and Karl Liebknecht , among others . Despite later political differences, he maintained a personal respect for the latter and sharply condemned his murder.

SPD party executive in 1909. Back row: Luise Zietz , Friedrich Ebert , Hermann Müller, Robert Wengels . Front row: Alwin Gerisch , Paul Singer , August Bebel , Wilhelm Pfannkuch , Hermann Molkenbuhr

In 1908 he ran for election to the Prussian state parliament for the Brandenburg-Westhavelland district , in vain because of the three-class voting rights . Despite all his loyalty to Bebel, he did not always share his positions. In 1910, Müller still advocated the exclusion from the party for those southern German Social Democrats who wanted to vote for the budgets of their countries against all party convention resolutions.

Because of his language skills, the board of directors often gave him contact with the foreign socialist parties whose congresses he attended. Within the SPD, Müller was regarded as an expert on the situation abroad and as a kind of “informal foreign minister” of the SPD. This experience benefited him during the Weimar Republic. During the second Morocco crisis in 1911, he and Ebert pleaded for the SPD to adopt a wait-and-see approach and refused to consult with the foreign socialists. This earned him the criticism of Otto Wels , who applied in vain at the next party congress not to re-elect Müller and Ebert. This conflict did not prevent a good personal relationship with Wels. Possibly because Müller turned against Otto Braun's election to the party executive in 1909 , the relationship with him was always tense.

Since August Bebel fell ill in 1910, Müller belonged to the party's closest leadership circle. Ever since he sharply attacked Rosa Luxemburg in 1911 , it was clear that Müller did not belong to the extreme left wing. He was a centrist who opposed both the Luxembourg left and the revisionists. Ebert and Müller pushed through the establishment of a party committee as the highest body of the party between party congresses.

First World War and Revolution

At the beginning of 1914 at the party congress of the French socialists, he assured that the close friendship of the workers' movement of the peoples was growing stronger. In the same year he was also a guest at the Labor Party conference in England. When war loomed in the summer, Müller urged party chairman Ebert to go to Switzerland in order to avoid a feared arrest by the German military authorities. Müller himself traveled to Paris to negotiate a joint approach with the French sister party. When he got there, Jean Jaurès had just been murdered. An agreement was not reached, also because of reservations on the French side. At the time, Müller also did not know that the SPD parliamentary group in Berlin had already decided to approve the war loans . His report on the failed negotiations in France seemed to confirm the decision.

After the outbreak of war, Müller moved to the right, was close to the circle around Eduard David and supported the truce policy . When there were disputes between the left wing and the board of directors over the course of the Stuttgart day watch , Müller and Ebert traveled to Stuttgart and reported the newspaper to the board of directors because of alleged financial shortfalls. In the spring of 1916 Müller received the order from Vorwärts to carry out a preliminary censorship. He decided whether articles could appear or not. Within the party, Müller had lost influence in favor of Ebert and Philipp Scheidemann during the war.

As a result of a by-election, Müller was a member of the Reichstag for the constituency of Reichenbach - Neurode from 1916 to 1918 .

Together with Ebert, Scheidemann and other delegates, he traveled to Stockholm in 1917 for the Socialist Conference . The hope of a rapprochement with the parties of the war opponents did not come true. While the rest of the delegation soon left, Müller stayed in Sweden for some time so that, weakened as a result of the poor diet in Germany, he could regain his strength.

Müller was against the bourgeois annexation demands and pleaded for the independence of Belgium after the war. However, he pleaded for the adoption of the dictated peace of Brest-Litovsk . He also stood up for the entry of the SPD into the government of Max von Baden .

After the outbreak of the November Revolution , Müller and Gustav Noske were sent to Kiel at the beginning of November 1918 to influence the revolutionary sailors. From November 11 to December 21, 1918, Müller was a member of the Executive Council of the Workers 'and Soldiers' Councils in Greater Berlin , then a member of the Central Council of the German Socialist Republic until the Scheidemann government was formed . He became one of three chairmen of the Central Council. As such, he campaigned quite successfully for the positions of the SPD and the early election to a national assembly .

Government participation and opposition

Cabinet peasant

In 1919/1920 he was a member of the Weimar National Assembly , where he was on the board of the SPD parliamentary group. In June 1919 he was elected party chairman together with Otto Wels, after Ebert and Scheidemann held office as Reich President and Reich Minister President respectively. There was a division of tasks between Müller and Wels. Müller was mainly responsible for parliamentary group work and external representation. Wels took over the actual internal party organization. When in doubt, Wels was stronger than Müller based on the apparatus. However, Müller, although a man of balance, with limited speaking skills, without charismatic aura and sharp personal contours, was more popular within the party than Wels. Until 1928 Müller remained one of the party leaders alongside Wels and, from 1922, Arthur Crispien .

After the Scheidemann cabinet resigned in the summer of 1919, he rejected Ebert's request to form a new government. Instead, Müller was Reich Minister for Foreign Affairs from June 21, 1919 to March 26, 1920 in the Reich government led by Chancellor Gustav Bauer . In this function he also signed the Versailles Treaty together with the Center Member Johannes Bell . He was defamed as a traitor by the nationalist right. For Müller, the conditions were hardly bearable, but in his opinion, given the current situation, a signing could not be avoided. In the later period, the revision of the treaty was one of his foreign policy goals. Nevertheless, during his short term in office, Müller paved the way for the policy of understanding that his national-liberal successor Gustav Stresemann prominently continued. He benefited from the fact that even before the war he had cultivated contacts with the socialist parties in western countries and promoted them as party chairman.

Within the Foreign Office, he implemented an organizational reform designed by Undersecretary Schüler. Then the diplomatic and consular services were merged and the service was opened to newcomers. Together with Otto Braun, those involved in the Kapp-Lüttwitz Putsch regarded Müller as "particularly perishable."

William Orpen : The Signing of Peace in the Hall of Mirrors . The signing of the Versailles Treaty on June 28, 1919 - Hermann Müller can only be seen from behind

With the beginning of the Kapp-Lüttwitz Putsch, Müller and other members of the government moved to Stuttgart. After the dismissal of the Bauer cabinet , Müller was Reich Chancellor for the first time from March 27 to June 6, 1920 ( Müller I cabinet ). With his coalition government, Müller was unable to meet the expectations of the trade unions and many social democrats for a “workers' government”. He found it difficult to move the DDP and the Center to a position that was not entirely contrary to that of the unions. The government was not a new political start. Rather, he was Chancellor of a transitional government until the first regular Reichstag election. During his term of office, as a result of the putsch, the final suppression of the Ruhr uprising and the unrest in central Germany fell. In addition, he campaigned for the dissolution of the more right-wing resident police. The establishment of the second socialization commission , in which representatives of the USPD were also involved, fell during his term of office. The Spa Reparations Conference was also imminent. At times the Rhine-Main area was occupied by Allied troops.

The Reichstag election of 1920 ended with a heavy defeat for the Weimar coalition parties . Müller himself was elected in a Frankish constituency. He was a member of the Reichstag until his death. To distinguish it from MPs of the same name, it has since been called Müller-Franken instead of Müller-Breslau as before. The formation of a government including the USPD failed. The SPD thus went into opposition. From 1920 to 1928 Müller was chairman of the SPD parliamentary group in the Reichstag. In doing so, he achieved the expansion of the SPD's political leeway. Together with Otto Braun and Eduard Bernstein , he succeeded in pushing through a resolution at the Görlitz party congress that basically enabled a coalition with the previously avoided DVP.

But Müller also made it clear that the opposition role did not mean a rejection of the state. Domestically, the parliamentary group criticized Constantin Fehrenbach's government, but supported the government's reparations policy. Müller also emphasized that the SPD wanted to take over government responsibility again, should the situation require it.

But when the SPD took part in government under Joseph Wirth and in 1923 under Gustav Stresemann , he himself did not belong to the cabinet. He focused on integrating the former members of the USPD into the SPD faction. His political stance was not always without contradictions. In 1923, he refused to give up the eight-hour day with the aim of stabilizing the currency. But he also made a significant contribution to the renewal of the Stresemann cabinet. However, after the government had acted much harder against the left-wing governments in Saxony and Thuringia ( German October ) than against right-wing activities in Bavaria, Müller advocated an end to the grand coalition.

From then until 1928, the SPD was in the role of an opposition party. At the party congress of 1924 after the defeat in the Reichstag election in May 1924 , the party leadership was sharply attacked by the left wing because of the coalition policy. Robert Dißmann from the German Metalworkers' Association pleaded for a "policy of unconditional class struggle" regardless of bourgeois coalition partners. Müller argued that the SPD has only participated in governments in recent years if it had to do so, in particular for reasons of foreign policy. He pushed through a motion that coalition policy was a mere question of tactics, not principles.

In foreign policy, however, Müller continued to support Stresemann's course. This applies in particular to rapprochement with the Western powers and accession to the League of Nations . Towards the end of 1926, the Reich government under Wilhelm Marx offered the formation of a grand coalition including the SPD, not least to prevent a debate about military cooperation between the Reichswehr and the Red Army, as announced by the SPD. Müller was ready to do so, but could not prevail in the parliamentary group.

Chancellor of a grand coalition

→ Main article Cabinet Müller II

Cabinet Müller II

The Reichstag election of 1928 resulted in significant losses in seats for the bourgeois parties and substantial gains for the SPD. On June 28, 1928, Müller was reappointed Reich Chancellor ( Müller II cabinet ). In the DVP in particular, there were considerable reservations about working with the SPD. In order to get his party behind him, Stresemann pushed through that Müller should first form a "cabinet of minds" without a formal coalition statement from the parties involved. It was not until the spring of 1929 that there was a real coalition government in the form of a grand coalition made up of the SPD, DDP, DVP, BVP and the center. From the beginning, the government was burdened by the conflicts between DVP and SPD. The continued existence of the government had a lot to do with the personal good relations between Müller and Stresemann.

On the political agenda, among other things, was the question of a new regulation of reparations payments or the evacuation of the occupied Rhineland . Domestically, there were conflicts over the construction of new ironclad ships . The SPD, which had started with the slogan “Child feeding instead of armored cruiser” during the election campaign, found it difficult to agree. In order to avoid a premature end of the government, the social democratic ministers in the cabinet approved the construction. However, the majority of the group forced them to reject the proposal in parliament. Hermann Müller was weakened by the conflict and also came under pressure from within the party from Otto Braun. The dispute with the DVP occurred during the Ruhreisen dispute in autumn 1928, which was carried out as a fundamental dispute by the entrepreneurs. Müller succeeded in mediating here. But a short time later there was a dispute over budgetary policy. In line with business associations, the DVP called for taxes to be cut and social benefits to be cut. The SPD could not agree to this. This question remained a constant issue until the end of the coalition.

In September 1928, Müller traveled to Geneva to the League of Nations on behalf of Foreign Minister Stresemann, who was ill. It was true that there was a heated debate with the French Foreign Minister Aristide Briand , but on the sidelines of the negotiations, Müller succeeded in obtaining assurance from the western victorious powers that he would negotiate the reparations question and the evacuation of the Rhineland. These negotiations formed the basis for the Young Plan of 1929. On the other hand, there were considerable differences with Poland and the USSR. Among other things, this blamed the government for violent clashes between communist demonstrators and the police in early May 1929 ( Blutmai ).

Müller was already in serious health condition at the beginning of 1929. Since April he suffered from a gallbladder infection. Due to an accident on admission to a hospital, the bladder burst and an emergency operation was necessary. Still ill and against the will of the doctors, Müller got through the dispute over unemployment insurance and the Young Plan.

Behind the scenes, the right-wing parties tried to force the SPD out of the government. The government was once again held together by the popular initiative stoked by the extreme right and the referendum on the Young Plan at the end of 1929. However, no compromises between the coalition parties were possible on the issue of unemployment insurance and budget policy.

In order to save the coalition, he was ready to make substantial concessions. This included the dismissal of the social democratic finance minister Rudolf Hilferding . But on March 27, 1930, he resigned from his office because the SPD parliamentary group in the Reichstag did not approve a coalition compromise on unemployment insurance . His hope that the Reich President Paul von Hindenburg would let him continue to rule with the help of the emergency ordinance law was not fulfilled when he instead instructed Heinrich Brüning to form a government. Müller felt abandoned by his own party and the Reich President. After the Reichstag elections of September 1930 and the successes of the NSDAP, he called on his party to tolerate the Brüning government.


Funeral procession for the late Hermann Müller
Funeral procession for Hermann Müller (the catafalk is flanked by members of the Reichsbanner Schwarz-Rot-Gold )
Gravestone of Müller

Hermann Müller died on March 20, 1931 of the consequences of a biliary operation . In a great funeral procession, the SPD paid his last respects. Reich President Hindenburg had rejected a state act for the former Chancellor, but at least 50,000 people took part in the funeral procession in Berlin, and another 350,000 people lined his way. Although it was not an official state funeral, it was very similar to one. One of the last mass demonstrations for the democratic republic is associated with Müller's name. "Both the chairman of the French socialists, Léon Blum , and the ambassador of France came to Müller's funeral - a clear indication of Müller's contribution to Franco-German reconciliation." On the way through the government district, members of the Reich government, the Prussian government, joined forces State government and the Reichsrat join the train. Only the Reichswehr did not participate. Hermann Müller's grave is located at the Socialist Memorial at the Friedrichsfelde municipal cemetery in Berlin.


In 1979, Reichskanzler-Müller-Strasse in Mannheim was named after Hermann Müller. Since 2011, a " Berlin memorial plaque " has been in memory of Müller on the house he died at Derfflingerstraße 21 in Berlin-Tiergarten .


  • Hermann Müller-Franken: The November Revolution - Memories . The Bücherkreis GmbH , Berlin 1928.
  • Hermann Müller-Franken: From the fall of the monarchy to the Weimar Republic: The November Revolution of 1918 . Severus Verlag, Hamburg 2017. ISBN 978-3-95801-735-1 (reprint of the 1928 edition)
  • Hermann Muller . In: Franz Osterroth : Biographical Lexicon of Socialism . Deceased personalities . Vol. 1. JHW Dietz Nachf., Hanover 1960, pp. 228-230.
  • Martin Vogt: Hermann Müller . In: Wilhelm von Sternburg (Ed.): The German Chancellors. From Bismarck to Kohl. Berlin, 1998 ISBN 3-7466-8032-8 , pp. 191-206.
  • Martin Vogt:  Müller, Hermann. In: New German Biography (NDB). Volume 18, Duncker & Humblot, Berlin 1997, ISBN 3-428-00199-0 , pp. 410-414 ( digitized version ).
  • Eugen Prager : Hermann Müller and the press. In: Messages from the Workers Press Association. Issue 312 (April 1931), pp. 1-2.
  • Andrea Hoffend: “Courage to take responsibility” - Hermann Müller. Brandt publishing office, Mannheim. 2001, ISBN 3-926260-49-1 ( Small publications of the Mannheim City Archives. No. 17).
  • Rainer Behring: pioneer of social democratic foreign policy. Hermann Muller. In: Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. April 26, 2006, p. 8.
  • Bernd Braun: The Chancellor of the Weimar Republic. Twelve résumés in pictures . Düsseldorf, 2011, ISBN 978-3-7700-5308-7 , pp. 134-167.
  • Rainer Behring: Hermann Müller and Poland. On the problem of the foreign policy revisionism of the German social democracy in the Weimar Republic . In: Archives for Social History 55, 2015, pp. 299–320.
  • Rainer Behring: Hermann Müller (1876–1931) and the opportunities of the Weimar Republic. In: Peter Brandt / Detlef Lehnert (ed.): Social Democratic heads of government in Germany and Austria 1918–1983. Bonn 2017, ISBN 3-8012-0495-2 , pp. 127–157.
  • Peter Reichel : The tragic chancellor. Hermann Müller and the SPD in the Weimar Republic. Munich 2018, ISBN 978-3-423-28973-3 . The historian Hans Günter Hockerts wrote a review of this biography: Forgotten Champion , in: Süddeutsche Zeitung No. 29 v. February 4, 2019, p. 13.
  • Rainer Behring: Hermann Müller and the foreign policy of the Weimar Republic. On the social democratic quality of republican foreign policy. In: Andreas Braune / Michael Dreyer (eds.), Weimar and the new order of the world. Politics, economics, international law after 1918. (Weimarer Schriften zur Republik, Vol. 11.) Franz Steiner Verlag, Stuttgart 2020, ISBN 978-3-515-12676-2 , pp. 3–25.

Web links

Commons : Hermann Müller  - Collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. We owe this to Hans Günter Hockerts, em. Professor of Contemporary History at the LMU Munich. According to Hockerts, the marriage sheds light on Müller's stance on anti-Semitism; so he turned resolutely against the Nazi "movement" inciting Jews.
  2. Hans Günter Hockerts, Forgotten Champion , in: Süddeutsche Zeitung No. 29, v. February 4, 2019, p. 13. The article by Hockerts is the review of the Müller biography by Peter Reichel (see literature).
  3. ^ A b Heinrich August Winkler: Weimar 1918–1933. The history of the first German democracy. Munich, 1993, p. 128
  4. ^ Heinrich August Winkler: Weimar 1918–1933. The history of the first German democracy. Munich, 1993, p. 335
  5. Hans Günter Hockerts , Forgotten Champion , in Süddeutsche Zeitung No. 29 v. February 4, 2019, p. 13.
  6. Hockerts, ibid. See also the study by Matthias Bauer: The Transnational Cooperation of Socialist Parties in the Interwar Period . Düsseldorf (Droste) 2018. ISBN 978-3-7700-5339-1 (Ph.D. Scholarship of the German Historical Institute London 2010; as a dissertation at LMU 2013)
  7. ^ Heinrich August Winkler: Weimar 1918–1933. The history of the first German democracy. Munich, 1993, p. 118
  8. ^ Heinrich August Winkler: Weimar 1918–1933. The history of the first German democracy. Munich, 1993, p. 163
  9. ^ Heinrich August Winkler: Weimar 1918–1933. The history of the first German democracy. Munich, 1993, p. 263
  10. ^ Heinrich August Winkler: Weimar 1918–1933. The history of the first German democracy. Munich, 1993, p. 319
  11. Hans Günter Hockerts, ibid.
  12. to August 1931 Pierre Jacquin de Margerie
  13. Hockerts, ibid.
  14. a b Forward 07/08/2011, p. 32
  15. MARCHIVUM: Mannheimer street names, Chancellor-Müller-Strasse. Retrieved April 28, 2019 .