Kurt Schumacher

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Kurt Schumacher (between 1945 and 1948)

Kurt (officially Curt) Ernst Carl Schumacher (born October 13, 1895 in Culm , West Prussia ; † August 20, 1952 in Bonn ) was a German politician , from 1946 to 1952 party leader of the SPD and from 1949 to 1952 opposition leader in the German Bundestag . From 1945 to 1949 Schumacher played a key role in the reconstruction of the SPD in West Germany and was Konrad Adenauer's great opponent . Even if Schumacher largely failed in the long term with his political ideas, he was one of the founding fathers of the Federal Republic of Germany . His strict rejection of the Socialist Unity Party of Germany (SED) should be emphasized , whereby he decisively shaped the profile of social democracy in the Federal Republic.

Kurt Schumacher on the 2 DM coin (1979–1993)
100 Pf 100th birthday stamp (1995)


Childhood and School Time, 1895–1914

Schumacher's birthplace
in Culm (today Chełmno)

Schumacher was born as the fourth child and only son of the Protestant merchant Carl Schumacher and his wife Gertrud born Meseck was born on October 13, 1895 in Culm , West Prussia , 30 km from the border of the Russian part of Poland . The entry in the registry office was for Curt Ernst Carl Schumacher. His father was not only successful in business, but also politically active. The supporter of the left-liberal German Radical Party held the office of Culmer City Councilor for many years; Most likely (exact dates are not available) the Polish MPs also supported him. The Schumachers had extensive family ties with the city's ruling elite.

From 1911 his father was also a member of the district council, in 1914 and 1917 he represented Culm in the negotiations of the Reich Association of German Cities. During this time Kurt Schumacher read the Socialist monthly magazine  - the magazine of the revisionist wing of the SPD - and March , a left-liberal magazine published by Hermann Hesse and Ludwig Thoma . The boy from a middle-class family was considered a staunch Social Democrat at school, but suffered from the loneliness that such an attitude brought with it within West Prussian society.

Memorial plaque, Kurt-Schumacher-Haus,

In a self-portrait that Schumacher made in 1924 to apply to a doctoral supervisor, he wrote: “My interest in historical, political and philosophical things brought me close to socialism very early on. The nasty and unfavorable environment that a small town in Eastern Germany is for such interests has inevitably led me to stencil my views at a very early stage - at the latest since my 15th year I counted myself internally to the Social Democratic Party. However, these 'templates' lacked some of their dangerousness because I became a social democrat in the party sense through reading Bernstein's (which strikes me as something very strange today). ”The influence of Eduard Bernstein and his position against orthodox Marxism accompanied Schumacher his entire life long.

Schumacher's classmates were mostly Poles  - there were 8 Germans and 14 Poles in his senior year. At the grammar school in Culm, the use of the Polish language had been banned a few years before Schumacher started school; a ban that was ritually repeated every year in a large gathering. Through his classmate and friend Franciszek Raszeja , Schumacher was accepted into the traditional but forbidden Philomaths Association of Poles and thus got to know their attitudes and Polish culture.

War volunteer, 1914

At the first possible opportunity, Schumacher volunteered shortly after the beginning of World War I on August 2, 1914 - without realizing how this would affect his school career. Among other things, his decision came from the consideration that the border town of Culm was in acute danger of becoming a front-line town and a victim of a siege. He returned briefly to school to take the secondary school diploma. His (not self-chosen) essay topic in high school related to the contemporary Schiller topic: Will, I exclaim, fate ends with us, that's how it dies nicely, the weapon in my hands. Even decades later, Schumacher was deeply impressed by the fact that in the days that followed, most of his Polish classmates on the German side also volunteered for the war - mainly out of motivation to fight against Russia.

As a soldier, Schumacher was seriously wounded on December 2, 1914 near Bielawy west of Łowicz in Poland , so that his right arm had to be amputated. The 1.85 m tall Schumacher lost weight from 72 to 43 kg in the following months and suffered from dysentery . On October 10, 1915, Schumacher was officially discharged from the military. For the loss of his right arm, he received the Iron Cross, second class, as well as a monthly pension of 33.75 marks plus a war allowance of 15 marks and the simple mutilation allowance of 27 marks.

Culm fell to Poland after the First World War. The decision was accompanied by violent disputes within the city. Parts of his family moved to the remaining German Empire, others stayed in Poland. Schumacher experienced most of the events on site, as he was doing his legal clerkship at the Culm district court.

Studies and doctorate, 1915–1926

In 1915 he began studying law and economics at the Martin Luther University in Halle-Wittenberg , Leipzig University and, since 1917, in Berlin . When asked about the time in Halle (Saale) and Leipzig , he later expressed himself very cautiously, both politically and personally, according to his colleague and close confidante Annemarie Renger .

He finished his studies in 1919 with the state examination in law and became a member of the Reich Labor Ministry . Since he no in Berlin PhD supervisor thought he was in 1926 at the Westphalian Wilhelms University in Münster Dr. jur. PhD. His doctoral supervisor was the well-known constitutional lawyer Johann Plenge , who was close to the national-conservative Lensch-Cunow-Haenisch group within the SPD during the First World War . The topic of his dissertation , which he completed magna cum laude , was: The struggle for the state idea in German social democracy.

Schumacher's dissertation has been seen by many commentators as a substantive declaration of commitment to the SPD. The party fought until the November Revolution became the main party in the state and had to work with the state apparatus. Schumacher tried to address this problematic situation in his dissertation. In it he placed the two theorists of social democracy, Ferdinand Lassalle and Karl Marx , side by side, who for Schumacher represented the main types of all socialist politicians : Marx, who "philosophized the state away from the ultimate goal" in order to create the "myth of the emancipated individual", while Lassalle sees the “highest human ideal” in the “workers' state”. In the situation, Schumacher clearly decided in favor of Social Democracy as the state party  - he described what he believed to be the need to integrate the workers into the state as a whole, he called for the need to "consolidate state sentiments and strengthen the will to defend themselves, especially against Russia."

In the SPD

During his time in Leipzig and Halle, Schumacher kept his distance from the party. The cities were strongholds of the USPD , the then extra-parliamentary and political strike -oriented style of politics repelled him.

In 1917 he joined the SPD-affiliated association of war participants and war invalids . His membership card bore the number 116 of an organization that already had over 650,000 members in 1920. After several years of hesitation, which was extremely unusual for Schumacher, he joined the SPD on January 8, 1918, at the time of the German Empire and months before the November Revolution . As an academic in the SPD, he belonged to a clear minority among the Social Democrats as well as in academic circles. During the revolution he was, among others, together with Otto Braun , a member of the Berlin workers and soldiers council. In 1920 the SPD also became his employer: he became the political editor of the social democratic Stuttgart newspaper Schwäbische Tagwacht . In Stuttgart Schumacher stood out as a passionate speaker and an early opponent of the National Socialists. In 1924 he became chairman of the Reichsbanner Schwarz-Rot-Gold in Stuttgart . In 1930 he became chairman of the SPD in Stuttgart, the district association of the Württemberg SPD with the largest number of members.

Communists and National Socialists

Schumacher began at an early age to deal with both Communists and National Socialists  - both of which he resolutely rejected. According to Schumacher's assessment, the actions of the later Communist Party of Germany (KPD) and the resulting reactions from the political right had played a major role in narrowing the scope for a real democratic revolution fatefully. After its Bolshevization, the KPD fought against the SPD as its "main enemy" and equated social democracy and fascism as "twin brothers" ( Stalin ). Schumacher, on the other hand, reproached the KPD, which was comparatively strong in his Stuttgart environment, that it had no internal party democracy and was completely controlled from Moscow, its relationship to democracy and violence was the same as that of the NSDAP. A collaboration with the KPD was therefore inconceivable for Schumacher.

Schumacher first dealt with the NSDAP in more detail in 1923. In his opinion, anti-Semitism is the only bond that holds the movement together, National Socialism believes only in violence, and the postulated right of the people to self-determination thus becomes a farce.

Member of the Land and Reichstag, 1924–1932

In 1924 he became a member of the state parliament of Württemberg . Since 1928 he was a member of the executive committee of the SPD parliamentary group . In 1931 he left the state parliament. Schumacher was one of the few leading politicians in the SPD whose social-democratic socialization took place primarily in the Weimar Republic; In his political assessment of the situation, he drew fewer parallels to the Empire than most of his colleagues and thus had a more open eye for new developments in the Weimar period.

In the Reichstag election on May 20, 1928 , Schumacher lacked a few votes; in the election on September 14, 1930 he was elected to the German Reichstag for the first time . He appeared as a staunch opponent of the policy of tolerance towards the Brüning cabinet (see: Brüning cabinet I = 1930–1931; Brüning cabinet II = 1931–1932). Since 1932 he was a member of the SPD parliamentary group executive. He gave only one speech in the Reichstag , namely on February 23, 1932. He mainly attacked the NSDAP: "The whole National Socialist agitation is a constant appeal to the weaker self in people"; For the first time, the NSDAP had "succeeded in completely mobilizing human stupidity in German politics." By July 20, 1932, the date of the Prussian strike , Schumacher saw himself in unconditional opposition to advancing political developments.

After the National Socialists came to power, 1933

Like many contemporaries, Schumacher underestimated National Socialism for a long time. In February 1933 he was still convinced that the DNVP chairman Alfred Hugenberg was the real center of power in the Hitler government: “Hitler has the appearance of power for himself in Germany,” wrote Schumacher on February 4, 1933. “The cabinet is called Adolf Hitler, but the cabinet is Alfred Hugenberg. Adolf Hitler is allowed to speak, Alfred Hugenberg will act ”.

Schumacher remained a member of the Reichstag even after the Reichstag elections on March 5, 1933 . He was one of the few parliamentarians who worked on Otto Wels ' speech , with which he formulated the SPD's no to the Enabling Act . The core statement, “Freedom and life can be taken from us, but not honor”, ​​determined all of Schumacher's behavior during the Nazi era. On June 10, he pleaded for the party's illegal work at a meeting of the SPD parliamentary group in the Reichstag, and also on June 19 at an SPD Reich conference. In contrast to the party leadership, which believed that it couldn't get worse than it was in the days of Bismarck's Socialist Law , he was the representative of an unyielding attitude towards the National Socialists. From June 13, 1933 on, Schumacher was wanted on a wanted list.

Imprisonment, concentration camp, 1933–1945

On July 6, 1933, a good two weeks after the SPD was banned, Schumacher was arrested in Berlin after attending a secret social democratic meeting in the Black Forest . Schumacher got the chance to sign a declaration of renunciation of political activity and thereby buy his freedom. He refused. He was then held in various concentration camps for a period of nine years, nine months and nine days , first in Heuberg concentration camp until December 1933 , then in Oberer Kuhberg concentration camp in Ulm until July 1935 , then in Dachau concentration camp and temporarily in Flossenbürg concentration camp .

As a World War II veteran, Schumacher could hope for a slight consideration, but risked his life several times through repeated contradictions and even a hunger strike . In the concentration camp, he refused to have any contact with communist prisoners because he believed them to be complicit in the Nazi takeover.

On March 16, 1943, as a seriously ill man, he was released to Hanover , where he had to stay forcibly. After the assassination attempt on July 20, 1944 , Schumacher was imprisoned again from August 24 to September 20, 1944, initially in the Gestapo prison in the former Israelite Horticultural School in Ahlem , and later in the Neuengamme concentration camp . After that, Schumacher had to stay in Hanover until the city was liberated by Allied troops on April 10, 1945.

Reconstruction of the SPD, 1946

Rally in Iserlohn 1946

Immediately after the end of the war and Germany's liberation from National Socialism , Kurt Schumacher began rebuilding the SPD . Like August Bebel , Schumacher was described as a true tribune of the people, rousing speaker, leader who believed in who belonged to the SPD ( Peter Lösche ). He always encouraged his comrades to continue, even if it no longer seemed worthwhile. He had a good relationship with the youth in the SPD; she admired him because of his strict rejection of National Socialism.

As early as May 6, 1945 - at a time when the formation of political parties was still forbidden by the British occupying power - Schumacher was elected local chairman by around 130 social democratic functionaries in Hanover.

Schumacher showed great organizational skills in the post-war chaos and in a short time rose to become the undisputed leader of social democracy in the western zones of occupation. In July 1945 eleven West German party districts commissioned “the former Reichstag deputy Dr. Kurt Schumacher with the organizational and political leadership of the party throughout the Reich ”. Schumacher agitated violently against the KPD and declared it to represent the interests of a “foreign power”. He always called this power Russia and spoke of a “clash of so very different cultures”. In doing so, he turned against the efforts to work together between social democrats and communists, which were also widespread in the western zones .

After twelve years of tyranny, the SPD was re-established at the Wennigs conference from October 5 to 7, 1945. At what was known as the first central gathering of social democrats in the Bahnhofs-Hotel Petersen in Wennigsen (Deister), social democrats from the SPD districts of the western zones, representatives of the Berlin central committee of the SPD (including Otto Grotewohl ) for the four-sector city of Berlin and the Soviet zone of occupation ( SBZ) as well as the London exile board . However, the British occupation forces enforced that the representatives from the British zone and from London had to meet separately from the others. Only Schumacher was allowed to speak at both meetings. Only after a violent commotion was Grotewohl allowed to speak. The assembly commissioned Schumacher to lead the reconstruction of the SPD in the three western occupation zones . At the end of 1945 Schumacher pushed through the final break between the SPD in the western zones and the Berlin Central Committee of the SPD, led by Grotewohl.

On May 10, 1946, four weeks after the elimination of social democracy in the Soviet occupation zone, which he strongly opposed, through the compulsory merger of the SPD and KPD to form the SED, Schumacher was elected party chairman of the SPD with 244 of 245 votes. The office of Dr. Schumacher in Hanover developed into the de facto party headquarters, his employees such as Erich Ollenhauer , Annemarie Renger, Egon Franke , Alfred Nau , Herbert Kriedemann and Herta Gotthelf formed the organizational framework of the SPD.

Kurt-Schumacher-Haus , Berlin-Wedding

Schumacher wanted to avoid the mistakes of the Weimar Republic and, in his content-related concepts, drew on considerations from the Weimar period and on those of the Social Democrats in exile. His influence on the development of the SPD away from the class party with a Marxist program towards a pluralistic left people's party was contradictory. On the one hand, he did not come from a typical SPD background, belonged to a new generation in relation to the leaders of the Weimar Republic and had given up on any revolutionary prospects shaped by Marxism on a theoretically sound basis. For him, the party was not primarily a workers' party , but a party of freedom and justice. The workers were supposed to play an equal role in the state, but Schumacher no longer strived for a workers state . His positions, especially his patriotism, opened up the SPD to voters and members who had previously been closed to it. On the other hand, it also nipped in the bud internal party discussions that were repeatedly suggested by Carlo Schmid , for example . The suggestions that arose in particular through the sojourn of many Social Democrats in exile therefore took years longer to become effective within the party.

Authoritarian leadership style

Schumacher saw the party as the most important bearer of the political system. In view of the great tasks in the post-war chaos that early West German politics had to face, but certainly also due to personality, the unity of the party was one of the most important goals for him.

One of Kurt Schumacher's often-criticized characteristics was his authoritarian leadership style. Willy Brandt , who was completely different in this respect, characterized him in his book Links und frei as follows: "I understood - somewhat reluctantly - the magnetic effect it exerted on many. He did not ask, he demanded. He did not weigh arguments against one another, but rather threw the result of his reflections into the audience - and this with considerable vocal effort. "

Schumacher demanded iron party discipline from the members of the SPD and was an advocate of compulsory parliamentary groups . There were only a few within the SPD who contradicted him, let alone questioned his claim to leadership. The parliamentary group member Heinrich Ritzel explained the fact that Schumacher received hardly any opposition even in internal party discussions, with the sharp nature of Schumacher's argumentation, which many "fell silent at an early stage"; others “remained silent about the man who exuded something like inviolability through his physical suffering.” One of the few who openly criticized Schumacher's style was the former President of the Reichstag, Paul Löbe . In a letter to Schumacher he wrote: "You know how much we all value you [...] that no other opinion at all should be voiced in the party than yours, seems to me to have asked a little too much [...] probably ten times Enjoyed me asking, is there nobody there to tell Kurt that openly? Yes, yes, there are people who seem to be afraid of it. Ultimately, however, a healthy policy cannot only be pursued by offending the others on the right and left three times a day. "

SPD politicians who publicly expressed a dissenting opinion were sharply attacked by him, such as Wilhelm Hoegner and Wilhelm Kaisen . In the Hoegner case, the almost militant centralist clashed with the equally vehement Bavarian federalist. While Hoegner criticized Schumacher's "dictatorial airs", Schumacher saw in Hoegner a separatist who competed with the Bavarian party about who was the more convinced Bavarian. With the help of his office, the Bavarian SPD (which Hoegner's positions were also far exaggerated) and the former London emigrant Waldemar von Knoeringen , Schumacher finally succeeded in isolating Hoegner within the SPD. In the Paul Löbe case, Schumacher justified his attitude as follows: “Individual freedom of expression is also guaranteed in public. But once decisions are made, they have to be respected. Even after a resolution has been passed, the discussion cannot start anew every moment. ”For Schumacher,“ democratic freedom ”lay“ in the integration into the big idea, the practical design of which is democratically fixed. ”

In contrast to possible opponents, however, Schumacher clearly had the advantages on his side. He had a coherent political concept for the post-war period, he had the esteem and respect of party members, the political will and an organization to enforce this will - all factors that the others lacked.

First opposition leader in the Federal Republic, 1946–1952

In 1946, Schumacher turned down the Allies' offer to become Prime Minister of Württemberg-Baden because he did not want to limit his actions regionally. Instead, he was elected Chairman of the Zone Advisory Council in the British Zone of Occupation that same year .

Distribution of votes for the 1949 Bundestag election

In the 1949 Bundestag election , Kurt Schumacher was elected to the first German Bundestag as a member of the Hanover-South constituency with 55.1% of the valid votes cast there . Nationwide, the SPD lost 29.2% of the votes to the CDU / CSU , who received 31.0% of the votes, according to initially contrary forecasts .

In contrast to many others in the SPD, namely the state politicians Wilhelm Kaisen (Bremen), Max Brauer (Hamburg) and Hermann Lüdemann (Schleswig-Holstein), Schumacher spoke out decisively against a grand coalition and thus for an opposition role for the SPD. The two undisputed party leaders of the major parties were against strong internal party opposition for a clear directional decision through the elections. Also personally, both a Minister Schumacher in an Adenauer cabinet and the reverse constellation would have been difficult to imagine. At an election meeting in October 1946, Schumacher saw the role of the SPD in the opposition as a possibility. The Social Democrats “were not afraid of a dangerous life in the opposition either, because we Social Democrats tell ourselves that it is better for us and the world if the opposition should be supported by an internationalist democratic party than by chauvinists and nationalists and all reactionaries who say yes Immediately crawled into the CDU, as far as they are not in the east of the Reich with the SED. "

Konrad Adenauer became the first Federal Chancellor and Kurt Schumacher became the first opposition leader to be his opponent in the Bundestag. In contrast to the practice in the Weimar Republic , he always understood the opposition role to be constructive. In Schumacher's opinion, the opposition should not primarily criticize the government, but should itself be in a position to come up with better or at least equivalent solutions. With this parliamentary style change, he left behind perhaps his most important legacy for the political system of the Federal Republic . In comparison with the "fox" Adenauer, his biographer Peter Merseburger describes him as a "lion" based on Machiavelli's terminology. Extremely strong-willed, polemical and apparently unswerving in his ideas, he was what contemporaries saw as an equally charismatic counterpart to the first Federal Chancellor. The Prussian socialist Schumacher was in the early postwar years in the public opinion the clear dominant politicians of West Germany. Only with the election of the Rhenish Catholic Adenauer as Chancellor and the final physical decline of Schumacher that began almost at the same time did this picture change.

Schumacher was the undisputed leader of the SPD parliamentary group. Although he failed with the plan to have faction compulsory written into the rules of procedure, he practiced it consistently. Based on the Weimar experience in particular, he was of the opinion that parliament, like a government capable of acting, needed a united opposition that would be able to take over the government. In the German tradition, this is how he created the (unofficial) office of opposition leader.

In September 1948, Schumacher's left leg had to be amputated due to arterial circulatory disorders ;

In 1949 Schumacher ran in the elections for the office of Federal President , but was defeated by the FDP candidate Theodor Heuss , who was also supported by the Union parties. This candidacy of Schumacher was not to be understood in the sense of a withdrawal from active politics to take on a more representative task. By putting himself up for election, Schumacher prevented ever louder demands from coalition circles to elect an SPD politician to head the state.

Private life and death

As a law student in Leipzig he met his cousin Dora, with whom he - apart from his time in the concentration camp - maintained a lifelong love affair. However, he refused to marry her. I never clung to people , he said later - but then they shouldn't make any demands on him.

Schumacher was a chain smoker and suffered a stroke in 1951. On August 20, 1952, the seriously ill politician died in Bonn. He was buried in Hanover in the Ricklingen city cemetery , where his grave is kept as an honorary grave . Hundreds of thousands of people stood on the streets between Bonn and Hanover and paid their last respects. The Süddeutsche Zeitung wrote in its obituary: “We need you, although you are our opponent, and we know it. [...] And the further comforting part is that it did not flow towards any mediocre and moderately lukewarm personality, not a 'miraculous innkeeper', but a strict, dismissive, inexorable one. ”His death mask was made in 2018 from the estate of Annemarie Renger at the German Resistance Memorial Center passed on.

Schumacher's political ideas

Central to Schumacher's political ideas is the concept of the people in its two levels of meaning: both as a concept for the third estate , the exploited and oppressed masses, and in the sense of a state people. Kurt Schumacher wanted a democratic and socialist, undivided Germany, if possible within the borders of 1937 . Germany should regain its sovereignty as quickly as possible and take its place among the free peoples of Europe. He stood in the tradition of the revolution of 1848 and the November revolution of 1918 , he fought for a unitarian constitutional state , free elections , party democracy , parliamentarism , the overcoming of the authoritarian state and the capitalist class society . For him, the SPD was the only party that was neither burdened by National Socialism nor by Stalinism. The Social Democrats are therefore the only ones in a position to lead a free Germany into a free Europe and thus contribute to reducing tension between the great powers .

Plate at the Kurt Schumacher Monument, Berlin

In his political conceptions, Schumacher had the advantage and disadvantage of never having had administrative power. An advantage because he never had to measure his ideas against reality, impracticable plans were not obvious and internal contradictions were less obvious; a disadvantage, as he was hardly exposed to any pressure to study. He was able to maintain his positions, even in a world-historical situation that was changing rapidly. So he led the SPD into a programmatic isolation. The SPD was unable to free itself from this situation until the late 1950s.

The political scientist Franz Walter takes the view that Schumacher's person and in particular his rhetoric, which sprang from the “implacable, shrill, hurtful and apodictic style of agitation of the 1920s”, had a real-political damage to the SPD: Social Democrats, but put off potential sympathizers. He led the SPD to a dead end on all crucial issues. [...] The Social Democrats sat sulky and phlegmatic in their wagons and waited for the crisis in Erhard's market economy. Incidentally, they cultivated socialist customs, took their red carnations for a walk on May 1st and solemnly swore solidarity. In the years of upheaval in the young republic, this did not exert a great deal of attraction on young people. "


Schumacher was shaped by the programmatic legacy of the Bebel SPD. For him, overcoming the class struggle was one of the central political goals. In his opinion, this can only be done by nationalizing key industries. He was just as deeply influenced by the failure of the Weimar Republic and believed that one of the causes was the lack of democratization of the economy. In the post-war chaos in particular, he pleaded - similar to the Labor Party in Great Britain, but also to significant parts of the CDU - for a planned economy in order to ensure that the population was supplied with essentials.


For Schumacher, democracy and the participation of the people in power could best be achieved with free and general elections. Because of the numerical superiority of the people over the traditional functional elites, elections are the surest way to remove the privileges of the functional elites. He rejected concepts such as that of the Bolsheviks , who aimed to rule the people only after a period of proletarian dictatorship . For him, only democratic procedures led to popular rule.


Kurt Schumacher's reply to the communist social fascism thesis , according to which communists are nothing more than “ red-painted Nazis ”, is well known. After introducing this expression in 1930 as the “red-painted double edition of the National Socialists”, Schumacher tightened the tone in May 1946 by speaking of “red-painted fascists ”. Shaped by experiences in the early 1920s, when Schumacher was outraged by the KPD's Schlageter course and its accusations of fascism against the SPD, his basic attitude towards the communist party did not change after that. He accused the KPD of "class treason" because they had undermined the Weimar Republic instead of defending it. This was what made the rise of the National Socialists possible. Communist overthrow attempts in Hungary, Italy and the Balkans would have weakened the democratic workers and democratic bourgeoisie, so that as a result, fascist parties in particular would have benefited from the new balance of power.

For Schumacher, even when it was re-established in 1945, the KPD was a willless enforcement body of Soviet foreign policy; in their evocations of democracy and German unity he saw mere tactics. With a neo-nationalist language that is "the same as that of old Nazism", the KPD and later the SED pursued a "national Russian policy with national German phrases." On January 30, 1951, he responded to a negotiation offer by the People's Chamber in the Bundestag with his usual caustic sharpness: "The German democrats can only negotiate with Germans about Germany, but not with Russians, whose Germanness is a mere externality."

Although there were voices in the SPD that advocated joining forces with the communists, and a common anti-fascist front was formed by communists and social democrats in other countries such as Italy and France , Schumacher already made a clear separation from the few in the summer of 1945 Months later prepare for the union with the KPD party leadership of the SPD in the SBZ under Otto Grotewohl. The separation of the SPD from communism that he enforced determined the party well into the 1970s; Only this demarcation isolated organized communism from its most important contact partners, the SPD and the trade unions it dominated , and thus prevented its influence on the center of society.


The political scientist Hans-Peter Schwarz described Schumacher as “nationally with a roar.” In an appeal from 1945, Schumacher wrote: “No matter how serious the crime of German Nazism against the world may be, the German people cannot and must not do without it. to assert one's empire […] as a national and state whole. For the working masses, the idea and fact of the German Reich are a necessity not only in terms of national politics, but also in terms of class politics. Your political and economic liberation struggle is doomed to failure without this basis. "

Born in Prussia, he was firmly convinced that one of the worst mistakes of the Weimar Left was to leave the “national idea” to the Conservatives and National Socialists. The SPD should never again be discredited as nationally disloyal. With passion, however, he attacked forces that he believed had made a pact with National Socialism. For him the contrast was not between national and international, but between national and nationalistic. In 1947, nationalism was for him "the current form of nihilism in the world" and should therefore be profoundly rejected. He saw the role of the SPD in the negotiations with the Council of Europe in 1950 as "making nationalism impossible by safeguarding national rights and being able to crush it with the consent of the whole people."

However, his way of expressing patriotism made it easy for his opponents to isolate him as a left nationalist in foreign policy. In particular, since Schumacher had already sat in the concentration camp as an active resistance fighter - while many Western statesmen had courted Adolf Hitler - he believed that he could afford to appear at eye level, if not out of a feeling of moral superiority over the victorious powers . Their perception that Schumacher had resisted as an individual, but was by no means a typical German, he could not or did not want to see. Even after the war, the western states cooperated with the representatives of the classes and strata who, in Schumacher's opinion, had only inadequately defended the republic. He came into the situation of being decried abroad as a German nationalist, while those who, in his opinion, had been the stirrup holders of National Socialism were being courted again.

Kurt-Schumacher-Platz, Berlin-Reinickendorf

After the experiences with the Versailles Treaty and the German compliance policy , Schumacher believed that hardship alone would be necessary to regain national equality for Germany on the international stage. Schumacher's position on European unification and the West's integration of the Federal Republic remained incoherent. On the one hand, his passionate rejection of the Soviet Union and the real socialism practiced there in the situation of the beginning of the Cold War put him de facto on a relationship with the West. On the other hand, he opposed the steps that practically supported this definition: the Council of Europe , the Coal and Steel Community and the European Defense Community . In his opinion, these made German reunification difficult or impossible. Critical of France, Great Britain and especially the USA , which he perceived as a capitalist supremacy , he refused to take steps that would have concretized a link to the West. Compared with the values ​​of the Enlightenment and a liberal socialism, he felt the factual situation in these countries to be deeply unsatisfactory and could not bring himself to work with them.

Schumacher made a name for himself in the Bundestag as a sharp opponent of the policy of integrating Konrad Adenauer with the West. He saw in this the danger of an imminent reunification. In the course of the disputes over the Petersberg Agreement , he referred to Adenauer as the “Federal Chancellor of the Allies ” on the night of November 24th to 25th, 1949 , after which he was expelled from the Bundestag for 20 days. But already in the next meeting, on December 2, 1949, the exclusion was lifted in the wake of a discussion between Adenauer and Schumacher. Schumacher found similarly harsh words in 1952 in the discussion about the German Treaty , which brought rearmament while at the same time gaining sovereignty for the Federal Republic and which seemed to make reunification impossible for a long time. Anyone who agreed to this contract, he rumbled, “stop being a German”.

Schumacher is also the author of the magnet theory that was later adopted by Adenauer .

Schumacher exonerated the Wehrmacht soldiers and the members of the Waffen SS from collective accusations of guilt and campaigned for their reintegration into society, provided they had not committed any crimes.

Estate and honors

Willy Brandt at the opening of an exhibition on Kurt Schumacher, Bonn 1977

There is no collected estate of Schumacher. Most of his older records and personal documents were destroyed by the National Socialists.

Numerous streets, bridges and squares, schools and other buildings (especially regional SPD party headquarters) were named after Kurt Schumacher.


  • Germany's Currency Problem . (sine nomine) , London 1945, DNB  990545563 (with Walter Fliess).
  • What will happen to Germany? Schumacher responds to the SPD party congress, Hanover, 1946 . State Executive Committee of the SPD Bavaria, Munich 1946, DNB  454522851 .
  • Student and Politics (address) . Phönix-Verlag, Hamburg 1946, DNB  454522843 .
  • Socialism - a present day task. At the SPD party congress (speech given), resolutions . SPD, Hanover 1946, DNB  577000667 .
  • Principles of socialist politics (speech by the 1st chairman of the Social Democratic Party of Germany at the 1st post-war party conference of the SPD on May 9 in Hanover) . Phönix-Verlag, Hamburg 1946, DNB  831191406 .
  • For peace, freedom and socialism. Speech at a rally of the Social Democratic Party on January 12, 1946 . Swabian Printing House , Stuttgart 1946, DNB  454522789 .
  • Social Democracy in the New Germany. The lecture was given on January 27, 1946 . Phönix-Verlag, Hamburg 1946, DNB  454522835 .
  • The presentation in the Berlin Post Stadium. Accepted at the party congress in Hanover . (sine nomine) , (sine loco) 1946, DNB  577000659 .
  • Tasks and goals of the German social democracy. Presentation given at the SPD party congress in Hanover in May 1946 . SPD Groß-Hessen, Frankfurt am Main 1946, DNB  577000594 .
  • Speech at the district convention of the Social Democratic Party on the Alexanderhöhe near Iserlohn on March 1, 1947 . Hamburg printing and publishing house Auerdruck, Hamburg 1947, DNB  578643243 .
  • Europe, democratic and socialist . SPD-Verlag, Frankfurt am Main 1947, DNB  454522762 .
  • Germany and Europe. Speech at the SPD party conference in Nuremberg in 1947 . SPD Hessen, Frankfurt am Main 1947, DNB  800968778 .
  • After the collapse. Thoughts on Democrat and Socialism . Phönix-Verlag, Hamburg 1948, DNB  454522878 .
  • The opposition program. The 3 chairmen of the social democratic parliamentary group on the goals of the opposition . Neuer Vorwärts-Verlag, Hanover 1949, DNB  454522800 (with Erich Ollenhauer and Carlo Schmid ).
  • The people should decide . Board of the SPD, Hanover 1950, DNB  577000632 .
  • There is only one truth. At the Hamburg party congress of the Social Democratic Party of Germany in May 1950 . Board of the SPD, Bonn 1950, DNB  577000640 (with Erich Ollenhauer).
  • Germany's contribution to peace and freedom. The politics of the German social democracy in the current situation. Paper at the joint meeting of the SPD bodies on September 17, 1950 in Stuttgart . Board of the SPD, Hanover 1950, DNB  577000616 .
  • Let the people decide! For German equality. Speech on November 8, 1950 . Board of the SPD, Hanover 1950, DNB  577000675 .
  • Through free elections for the unification of Germany . Board of the SPD, Hanover 1951, DNB  577000624 .
  • Germany's demand. Same risk, same sacrifice, same opportunities! Board of the SPD, Hanover 1951, DNB  991486692 .
  • The role of the “People's Police” in the Soviet Zone . Board of the SPD, Bonn 1952, DNB  990794717 .
  • Speeches and writings . ariani Verlagsgesellschaft, West Berlin 1962, DNB  454522746 .
  • Freedom and peace. Words from Kurt Schumacher . 2nd Edition. Landsmannschaft West Prussia, Münster 1971, DNB  751015105 (first edition: 1970).
  • Bundestag speeches . AZ-Studio, Bonn 1972, DNB  730270092 .
  • The struggle for the state idea in the German social democracy . Kohlhammer, Stuttgart / West Berlin / Cologne / Mainz 1973, ISBN 3-17-001181-2 (reprint of Schumacher's dissertation from 1920).
  • Speeches - writings - correspondence. 1945–1952 . Dietz, West Berlin / Bonn 1985, ISBN 3-8012-1107-X .
  • Kurt Schumacher in the "Swabian Tagwacht" on democracy and communists. Articles and speeches (1926–1933) . Trafo-Verlag Weist, Berlin 1995, ISBN 3-930412-79-9 .

See also


  • Helmut Bärwald : Kurt Schumacher. Association of Expellees , Bonn 1995, ISBN 3-925103-76-7 .
  • Ulrich Buczylowski: Kurt Schumacher and the German question. Security policy and strategic offensive conception from August 1950 to September 1951 , Seewald, Stuttgart-Degerloch 1973 (series of publications by the Studiengesellschaft für Zeitprobleme eV Zeitpolitik, Volume 13), ISBN 3-512-00338-9 .
  • Dieter Dowe (Ed.): Kurt Schumacher and the "new building" of the German social democracy after 1945. Proceedings. Historical Research Center, Bonn / Bad Godesberg 1996, ISBN 3-86077-461-1 .
  • Lewis J. Edinger: Kurt Schumacher. Personality and political behavior. Cologne / Opladen 1967 (orig. Stanford, Cal. 1965).
  • Helga GrebingSchumacher, Kurt Ernst Karl. In: New German Biography (NDB). Volume 23, Duncker & Humblot, Berlin 2007, ISBN 978-3-428-11204-3 , p. 740 f. ( Digitized version ).
  • House of the history of the Federal Republic of Germany (Ed.): Kurt Schumacher and his politics. Scientific symposium on October 30, 1995. Argon, Berlin 1996, ISBN 3-87024-793-2 (conference proceedings, focus on his political conceptions from 1945).
  • Peter Merseburger : Kurt Schumacher: Patriot, People's Tribune, Social Democrat , Pantheon, Munich 2010, ISBN 978-3-57055139-4 .
  • Theo Pirker : The SPD after Hitler. The history of the Social Democratic Party of Germany 1945–1964. Munich 1965.
  • Ulla Plener : The enemy brother: Kurt Schumacher. Intentions, politics, results 1921 to 1952. On the relationship between social democrats and other leftists from a historical and current perspective. Edition Bodoni, Berlin 2003, ISBN 3-929390-66-3 .
  • Waldemar Ritter : Kurt Schumacher An investigation of his political conception and his conception of society and the state. Publishing house Dietz, Hanover 1964.
  • Volker Schober: The young Kurt Schumacher 1895–1933. (= Political and social histories of the historical research seminar of the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung . Volume 53). Dietz, Bonn 2000, ISBN 3-8012-4110-6 (Scientific biography over the early years).
  • Günter Scholz: Kurt Schumacher. Düsseldorf et al. 1988, ISBN 3-430-18036-8 .
  • Martin Schumacher (Hrsg.): MdR The Reichstag members of the Weimar Republic in the time of National Socialism. Political persecution, emigration and expatriation, 1933–1945. A biographical documentation . 3rd, considerably expanded and revised edition. Droste, Düsseldorf 1994, ISBN 3-7700-5183-1 .

Web links

Commons : Kurt Schumacher  - Collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Bataillon Bansa (1st Battalion Infantry Regiment No. 21), 3rd Company: Musk. Kurt Schumacher - Culm - wounded; Prussian loss list No. 142, p. 4709 / German loss list (February 5, 1915).
  2. On the “ social fascism thesisHeinrich August Winkler : The appearance of normality. Workers and the labor movement in the Weimar Republic 1924 to 1930 . JHW Dietz Nachf., Berlin 1985, ISBN 3-8012-0094-9 , pp. 679-685, Stalin quotation p. 679.
  3. Quoted from: Michael Grüttner , Das Third Reich. 1933–1939 (=  Handbook of German History , Volume 19), Klett-Cotta, Stuttgart 2014, pp. 499–506, quotation: p. 48.
  4. U. Plener: SPD 1945-49. Pp. 63, 68; F. Moraw: The slogan of "unity". Pp. 78, 122 ff.
  5. ^ F. Moraw: The slogan of "Unity". S. 121, 124 ff. Report of the American. Secret Service FIS. In: U. Borsdorf, L. Niethammer (Ed.): Between Liberation and Occupation . Wuppertal 1976, pp. 208-228.
  6. ^ Peter Brandt: Democratic Socialism - German Unity - European Peace Order: Kurt Schumacher in Post-War Politics (1945–1952) .
  7. Volker Klimpel: Famous amputees. In: Würzburg medical history reports. 23, 2004, p. 323 f.
  8. Whoever wanted to be Federal President. on: morgenpost.de , June 10, 2016.
  9. Volker Klimpel (2004), p. 323.
  10. ^ Franz Walter: In the autumn of the people's parties. A little story of the rise and fall of political mass integration . transcript Verlag, Bielefeld 2009, ISBN 978-3-8376-1141-0 , p. 64.
  11. a b Mike Schmeitzner : Kurt Schumacher's concept of totalitarianism. Political intention and practical effectiveness. In: Mike Schmeitzner (Ed.): Criticism of totalitarianism from the left: German discourses in the 20th century . Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2007, ISBN 978-3-525-36910-4 , pp. 253-257.
  12. Michael F. Feldkamp : The interjection "The Federal Chancellor of the Allies!" And the parliamentary settlement of the conflict between Konrad Adenauer and Kurt Schumacher in autumn 1949. In: Markus Raasch, Tobias Hirschmüller (ed.): Von Freiheit, Solidarität und Subsidiarität - State and society of modernity in theory and practice. Festschrift for Karsten Ruppert on his 65th birthday (= contributions to political science. Volume 175). Duncker & Humblot, Berlin 2013, ISBN 978-3-428-13806-7 , pp. 665-708.
  13. ^ Henning Koehler : Adenauer. A political biography. Propylaeen, Berlin 1994, p. 677.
  14. ^ Schumacher at the 1st party congress of the SPD in the western occupation zones in May 1946 in Hanover
  15. See Schumacher's letter to Liebermann Hersch of October 30, 1951, cited above. in: Jeffrey Herf : Divided Memory. The Nazi Past in the Two Germanies, Cambridge, Mass .: Harvard University Press, 1997, p. 278 f.
  16. Schools in Anderten, Berlin, Bremen, Frankfurt, Hanover, Ingelheim am Rhein , Karben , Reinheim , Nidderau- Windecken .
  17. luftwaffe.de
  18. Kurt Schumacher Ring
  19. ^ Matthias Gebauer, DER SPIEGEL: New government aircraft named after Kurt Schumacher - DER SPIEGEL - Politics. Retrieved August 20, 2020 .
This article was added to the list of excellent articles on July 28, 2004 in this version .