Karl von Hofmann

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Karl von Hofmann, 1867. Graphic by Hermann Scherenberg.

Karl Hofmann , from 1882 von Hofmann (born November 4, 1827 in Darmstadt , † May 9, 1910 ibid) was a German politician . From 1872 to 1876 he was Prime Minister of the Grand Duchy of Hesse . He was then President of the Reich Chancellery from 1876 to 1879 ; As such, he became State Secretary in the resulting Reich Office of the Interior in 1879 , until he had to resign in 1880 due to differences of opinion with Otto von Bismarck and was then the last to head the Reich Office for Alsace-Lorraine until 1887.


His parents were the court lawyer in Darmstadt Heinrich Karl Hoffmann (1795-1854) and his wife Sophie Volhard (1798-1857). The painters Rudolf and Heinrich Ferdinand Hofmann were his brothers.

Hofmann studied law at the Hessian Ludwig University , where he joined the Old Giessen fraternity in Frankonia in 1845 . After completing his studies, he tried in vain to be admitted to the bar. In 1858, however, he came to the Hessian Foreign Ministry as a councilor . He accompanied the envoy of the German Confederation , Friedrich Ferdinand von Beust , to the (inconclusive) conference in London (1864) to clarify the Schleswig-Holstein question . Two years later he took part in the negotiations on peace with Prussia after the German war as Hesse's representative . In 1867 he rose to the position of Hessian envoy in Berlin and a member of the Federal Council in the North German Confederation for the Grand Duchy of Hesse . Despite his high-pitched voice, he proved to be an excellent speaker in parliament. It was difficult for him to reconcile his policy with the reactionary and particularist views of Karl Friedrich Reinhard Freiherr von Dalwigk . His dismissal took place in 1871, Friedrich Freiherr von Lindelof followed him for a year and a half. On September 13, 1872 Hofmann became President of the entire Ministry in Hesse, which was now incorporated into the German Empire .

In the Bundesrat, especially with his national German attitude, Hofmann carried out long-awaited reforms in the Grand Duchy, among other things he reorganized the relationship with the Catholic Church in accordance with the Prussian May Laws of 1875 . In May 1876 he moved to the Reich Chancellery , where he replaced Rudolph von Delbrück as President on June 1, 1876 . However, his position was far less independent than that of Delbrück, he was always supposed to act according to Bismarck's intentions or directives on internal politics. Three years later - after the Reich Chancellery was dismantled / converted into a Reich Office of the Interior - he received the post of State Secretary in the Reich Office of the Interior (on December 24, 1879) and (on March 24, 1879) the Prussian Minister for Trade and Industry . On May 23, 1878, Hofmann introduced the Socialist Law to the Reichstag for Otto von Bismarck, who was unable to attend due to illness, and vigorously defended the draft. A disagreement with the Reich Chancellor in preparation for the statutory accident insurance led to his overthrow in August 1880, he resigned and only two months later took over the State Secretary in the Reich Office for Alsace-Lorraine in Strasbourg , which he held until the Reichstag election in 1887 . Wilhelm I raised him to the hereditary Prussian nobility in 1882 . In 1889 he became Vice President of the German Colonial Society and in 1891 he was appointed to the Colonial Council. From 1887 to 1904 he was a member of the board of the German Colonial Society for South West Africa .

Karl von Hofmann died in Darmstadt in 1910 at the age of 82. He was buried in the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Cemetery in Charlottenburg - Westend near Berlin. The grave has not been preserved.


Karl von Hofmann married Cora Kekulé von Stradonitz (1835–1897). From this marriage sprang:

  • Sophie (* 1860) ∞ Justus Carriere
  • Ludwig (1861–1945) ∞ Eleonore Kekulé von Stradonitz (* 1876)
  • Heinrich (1863–1921), Lieutenant General ∞ Freiin Asta von Grüter-Diepenbroik (1875–1940)
  • Maria (* 1865) ∞ Justus Thiersch (1859–1937), district doctor, son of Carl Thiersch
  • Cornelie (* 1866) ∞ Max von Kaisenberg (1862–1916), Lieutenant Colonel


  • Helge Dvorak: Biographical Lexicon of the German Burschenschaft. Volume I: Politicians. Sub-Volume 2: F-H. Winter, Heidelberg 1999, ISBN 3-8253-0809-X , pp. 378-379.
  • Frank Zimmer: Karl von Hofmann and the German question. On Hesse-Darmstadt politics in the time of the establishment of the Empire. Phil. Diss. Mainz 1992.
  • Frank Zimmer (ed.): From the North German Confederation to the German Reich. Legation reports and letters from the Grand Ducal Hessian envoy Karl Hofmann from Berlin 1866-1872. Hessian Historical Commission Darmstadt 2001, ISBN 3884430378 .
  • Thiersch, Justus: Carl Thiersch; his life , p.186 family tree.
  • Morsey, Rudolf: The highest Reich administration under Bismarck, Münster 1957.
  • Tennstedt, Florian / Winter, Heidi: "The state has little love - active as well as passive". The beginnings of the welfare state in the German Reich. Results of archival research on the emergence of statutory accident insurance, [Part 1], in: Zeitschrift für Sozialreform 39 (1993), pp. 362–392.

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. On his socio-political activities cf. Collection of sources on the history of German social policy from 1867 to 1914 , Section I: From the time when the Empire was founded to the Imperial Social Message (1867-1881). Volume 2: From liability legislation to the first accident insurance proposal , edited by Florian Tennstedt and Heidi Winter, Stuttgart / Jena / New York 1993; Pp. 73, 89, 91f., 104f., 108ff., 114, 116, 117, 118, 119-122, 145, 147, 151f., 160f., 171-173, 176f., 188f., 192, 207 , 214f., 220, 222, 223, 224, 225, 227f., 231-237, 242, 276, 280, 300, 310, 316, 324, 402, 505, 532, 554, 575; and ibid, 3rd volume: Workers' protection , edited by Wolfgang Ayaß , Stuttgart a. a. 1996, pp. 333, 394 f., 407, 413, 424f., 452 f., 455ff., 473, 474ff., 478, 494, 496f., 497ff., 499ff., 510, 512f., 539ff., 548, 551, 554f., 558–561, 568, 587f., 592, 595f., 597f., 602 f., 603 f., 611 f., 624 f., 627, 645 f., 649, 652, 653 ff., 662, 674, 681 ff., 691 ff., 713.
  2. ^ Hofmann, Karl , in: Heinrich Schnee (Ed.): Deutsches Kolonial-Lexikon . Volume 2, Quelle & Meyer, Leipzig 1920, p. 70.
  3. ^ Hans-Jürgen Mende : Lexicon of Berlin burial places . Pharus-Plan, Berlin 2018, ISBN 978-3-86514-206-1 , p. 475.