Leo Wohleb

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Leo Wohleb in 1948 at the Rittersturz conference , right: Hanns Haberer

Leo Joseph Wohleb (born September 2, 1888 in Freiburg im Breisgau ; † March 12, 1955 in Frankfurt am Main ) was a German philologist, teacher and politician. From 1947 to 1952 he was President of the State of Baden .

education and profession

Childhood and youth

Leo Wohleb was the first child from the marriage of Joseph Wohleb to Luise Stephanie, née. Streicher, from Gottenheim am Tuniberg (Baden). The father, an accountant in a law firm and at the same time the clerk of the church tax fund of the parish of St. Martin , came from a long-established Freiburg bourgeois family. Like his brother Joseph Ludolph (1892-1960) and his sister Amelie, who was also born later, Leo was brought up in the Catholic tradition that was shaped by the church. His father was a member of the Baden Center Party , and Leo, too, felt, as he once wrote himself, out of tradition and conviction that he was connected to the social wing of the center, although without being politically active in the party itself.

In Freiburg's Berthold-Gymnasium , the young Leo received numerous class prizes and passed his Abitur in 1907 as the best of his year.


In the winter semester of 1907, Wohleb enrolled at the University of Freiburg in the subjects of Classical Archeology, Biblical Studies and Patrology , before switching to Classical Philology after a few semesters to improve his career prospects for teaching at grammar schools. He spent the semester before the first state examination, which Wohleb also passed with distinction, at the University of Greifswald . At that time he did not belong to any student body , but during his student days he devoted himself to social problems by discussing with workers of the Christian and free trade unions in factories. One of his role models was the Berlin student chaplain , Carl Sonnenschein , who called for practical social commitment as a means of rebirth for Catholic people in his secretariat for social student work .

Professional career until 1933

After the state examination in 1912, he completed his legal clerkship in Freiburg, before he was employed as a teaching trainee from 1914 at the Bruchsal grammar school. There he distinguished himself above all through his skill in the part-time organization of the municipal milk and cheese supply, which gave Wohleb, who was unfit for war, sympathy in the Karlsruhe Ministry of Education. Immediately before the end of the war, he was called to the ministry as a secretary (1918–1920), before returning to his first permanent position as a high school teacher at the Berthold High School, where he had attended school, for ten years.

In the following years he laid the foundation for the high reputation that he would soon enjoy both within the school administration and in the world of science and research. An investigation into the early Christian literary history and the revision of the Latin school grammar by Schmalz / Wagener established his reputation as an excellent teacher and scholar. Numerous other scientific articles and extensive scientific correspondence followed.

In 1921 he married Maria, geb. Clorer (1894–1982) from Breisach .

In 1929 he became a member of the scientific Catholic student association Unitas -Lichtenstein Freiburg.

His professional career reached its first high point in 1930 when he was appointed director of the Donaueschingen grammar school by the Baden Minister of Education, Adam Remmele , SPD . There, in addition to his official services, he set the tone above all as a political educator in the form of emphasizing his ties to the democratic Weimar government system and promoting himself on numerous occasions - as a keynote speaker on the evacuation of the Rhineland (1930) or on the Constitutional Day (1931) democratic engagement and against nationalist phrases. In this way he differed from many of his professional colleagues, who were distant from the parliamentary system and who, in some cases, willingly acted as intellectual champions of a National Socialist revolution.

In addition to his undisputed qualities as a scientist and educator, his loyalty to the constitution and system were undoubtedly the decisive criteria that qualified him for a management position in the Baden Ministry of Culture. In September 1931, he was transferred from Donaueschingen to Karlsruhe as a consultant for grammar schools and was promoted to the senior government council.

Professional activity and personal commitment 1933 to 1945

Leo Wohleb, who was not active politically at the time, survived the seizure of power of the Nazis first without drawbacks. On 6 February 1934 but he received a call of the NSDAP - Gauleiter and Reich Governor Robert Wagner , in which this Wohleb of an account of an alleged unequal treatment of the Hitler Youth against Catholic demanded youth organizations. Wohleb, who did not recognize the person he was speaking to on the phone, requested more information from the other person. Violent and aroused accusations of improper behavior by Wohleb towards a high representative of the party followed, with the consequence that it was impossible for the high school clerk to remain in the ministry.

When he was transferred to the post of director of the Hohenbaden grammar school in Baden-Baden - efforts to get Wohleb back into Donaueschingen failed due to the resistance of the local NSDAP there - the affair still ended lightly, which Wohleb primarily did to his superior in the ministry, who was a long-time party member Herbert Kraft had to thank. The Hohenbaden Gymnasium, a small institution with its 180 pupils, was supposed to offer shelter to the fired ministerial advisor until 1945, always eyed with suspicion by the local NSDAP, and also monitored by individual members of the college. In his résumé for the occupation authority, Wohleb describes his time in Baden-Baden as follows: “Active political activity was therefore out of the question in the first few years in Baden-Baden, especially since I was kept under surveillance by the post, as I learned in confidence , soon also (1935) was attacked in the Baden-Baden supplement of the 'Führer' for favoring non-Aryans and half- Arians and repeatedly had difficulties with the so-called sovereigns. Only gradually did I gain ground under my feet as the number of students at the grammar school grew, as the non-Nazi parents preferred to entrust their children to our institution, and we attracted attention through our performances of ancient tragedies and the achievements of the school. In 1938 or 1939 I began to give lectures on topics from the Greco-Roman cultural and urban history, which were heavily attended by opposing circles because of similar, historical parallels and which were also applauded by the compulsory party members. "

Political activity

Division of the occupation zones in the German south-west

The countries that emerged after the war in the southwest, the country (southern) Baden in yellow.

The plans of the three allied powers Great Britain, the USA and the Soviet Union envisaged that the German Reich should be divided into three occupation zones of roughly the same size in the event of the military defeat; they had made this more precise again at the Yalta Conference in January 1945. According to these plans , the provisional French government, formed in August 1944 under General de Gaulle , was excluded from having an equal say in German affairs. France - in its self-image "first victim" of the war and thus first contender alongside the Soviet Union for the expected extensive reparations deliveries - did not want to accept this. Even the name of the French division under General de Lattre de Tassigny "Rhin et Danube", which took part in the conquest of the French eastern provinces under American command, was program. At the beginning of April, French troops crossed the Rhine at Speyer and Philippsburg . The two state capitals Stuttgart and Karlsruhe played central roles in de Gaulle's military-political objectives ; With these bargains in hand, the French head of government wanted to achieve a separate zone of occupation vis-à-vis the Allies. He therefore gave de Lattre de Tassigny the order, after the conquest of Karlsruhe at the beginning of April 1945, to seize the Württemberg state capital before the Americans. This succeeded: On April 22nd, the Lord Mayor of Stuttgart handed over the city. De Gaulle created a fait accompli: despite protests by the Americans, he set up military governments in Karlsruhe and Stuttgart and endeavored to establish a uniform civil administration for both countries. State directors for culture, justice, finance, etc. have been appointed.

The Americans did not fully accept the unilateral delimitation of the occupation zones in southwest Germany, which France had made, which contradicted valid agreements. Under threat of massive economic pressure, they managed to get the French troops to retreat behind a line south of the Karlsruhe-Ulm motorway at the beginning of July 1945, leaving them the administrative and economic centers of Baden and Württemberg, Karlsruhe and Stuttgart. However, this did not change the fact that the German southwest was from now on no longer divided into north and south by a historical border into west and east, but along an arbitrary line that merely corresponded to the traffic-related calculations of the US military authorities. The Americans took this into account very quickly when they forcibly united their parts of the old southwest German states and on September 19, 1945 proclaimed the state of Württemberg-Baden . Baden and Württemberg had thus effectively ceased to exist.

Baden's coat of arms

Freiburg and Tübingen became the seat of French military governments, and German administrations under French control were immediately established in the same cities. The two states of (Southern) Baden and Württemberg-Hohenzollern emerged from these administrations .

Political advancement from 1945 to 1947

1945: Member of the cultural administration in Karlsruhe and Freiburg

As one of the few unencumbered civil servants in the higher service, Wohleb was able to pick up where he had to stop in 1934 just a few weeks after the end of the war: as a consultant for higher education in the newly established cultural administration in Karlsruhe.

When North Baden was added to the American zone of occupation and the French occupying power moved the German administration from Karlsruhe to Freiburg, Wohleb followed the move of the religious administration that had formed for the French zone of occupation to Freiburg in September 1945.

As early as November 1945, Wohleb, who was meanwhile the new head of the university department of the cultural administration, joined the Christian-Social Volksbund. A few days later, on December 20, 1945, the Baden Christian Social People's Party (BCSV) with Leo Wohleb as its state chairman emerged from the Volksbund and other associations that were founded independently in the state.

Almost a year later, on December 3, 1946, after the BCSV emerged as the strongest force in the first elections, the French appointed him State Secretary for Culture and Education and President of the State Secretariat.

Term of office as President of Baden from 1947 to 1952

On June 24, 1947, Wohleb was elected President of the Baden state parliament, which met in the historic department store in Freiburg until 1951 . In doing so, he assumed political responsibility in a country under conditions that were by no means brilliant. Above all, the initially rigid economic policy of the French occupying power - dismantling, food removal, logging - met with great incomprehension and criticism from the population. However, the French democratization policy offered broad scope for a new democratic order, to which Wohleb and the administration he headed intensively. Until 1952 Leo Wohleb was to have a decisive influence on the fate of (southern) Baden and to become known to a wider public as the embodiment of the country.

Point of view in the bathing question

Leo Wohleb has remained known to a larger audience in connection with the Baden question, which was politically topical between 1948 and 1952 and which still stirs people's minds today.

On July 1, 1948, the military governors of the three western zones of occupation presented the Prime Minister with the Frankfurt documents , which were supposed to bring about the establishment of a West German state. In Document No. 2, the Prime Ministers were instructed to review the national borders drawn after the end of the war and to develop precise ideas about which border changes were necessary in order to create countries that were as balanced as possible in terms of area and population, the pillars of the federal system could submit. The deadline for the review was set very short at two months. Already at the first subsequent discussions it became clear that a general check of all national borders was impossible within this time. The only thing that seemed feasible was a new regulation of the border conditions in the German south-west, also because there was a need for action here, as stated by all the governments in the south-west. This resulted from the unsatisfactory situation for all involved, which had arisen through the division of the historical states of Württemberg and Baden into different occupation zones.

In the south-west state struggle that broke out between 1948 and 1952, documented extremely densely in his political files as well as in his correspondence, Wohleb consistently represented the Baden position: The country he ruled, which almost reached the city limits of Karlsruhe, claimed to be a legitimate heir and To be continuation of the old state of Baden, formerly Grand Duchy, and as part of the name of the whole. As a result, Wohleb was a strict opponent of a south-western state and demanded the restoration of Baden as a whole as an independent country.

Wohleb's grave in the Freiburg main cemetery

Wohleb ultimately failed in this project in the referendum of 1951, which was largely due to the voting modalities. After a trial vote carried out in 1950, in which there was a majority in southern Baden (and Baden as a whole) for the restoration of the old state of Baden, but in northern Baden, northern Württemberg and Württemberg-Hohenzollern for the formation of a state of Baden-Württemberg, the federal legislature decided to hold a referendum to be held in four voting districts across the south-western state, of which only three had to agree to the formation of the new state of Baden-Württemberg. The Federal Constitutional Court rejected an action against this mode with 6: 6 votes. As expected, in the vote that took place two months later, the traditional solution propagated by Wohleb was only able to achieve a majority again (62.2%) in southern Baden, while northern Baden with 57%, northern Württemberg and Württemberg-Hohenzollern voted with an overwhelming majority for the founding of the southwestern state. The fact that there was again a slim majority of 52.2% in favor of bathing independence in total bathing was irrelevant due to the voting mode. It was not until 1956, after Wohleb's death, that the Federal Constitutional Court granted the request to repeat the vote in the old state of Baden, since the division of Baden into two separate voting districts meant that the vote from 1951 did not meet the requirements of Art. 29 of the Basic Law and the will of the Baden population was overshadowed has been. The referendum in Baden to be scheduled by the federal legislature, however, was postponed several times and could only take place in 1970 after another complaint before the Federal Constitutional Court. It then resulted in a large majority of 81.9% in favor of remaining with Baden-Württemberg.

First envoy in Lisbon from 1952 to 1955, death and funeral

In 1952 the state of Baden came to an end, in the same year Federal Chancellor Adenauer appointed Leo Wohleb as First Envoy of the Federal Republic of Germany in Lisbon. As the last official act before his retirement, he accompanied the Portuguese Minister of Economic Affairs on a visit to Germany. Here Leo Wohleb died on March 12, 1955 of thrombosis and pulmonary embolism in the University Hospital Frankfurt am Main . At the time, rumors spread by Frankfurt Mayor Walter Kolb that he had died in a brothel, were refuted by research by the Frankfurt police chief, but they persisted for a long time; New published documents (including those from the State Ministry of Baden-Württemberg) confirmed the refutation in 2014. Leo Wohleb was buried in a state funeral on March 16, 1955 in the Freiburg main cemetery.


Individual evidence

  1. Wohleb's birth and death certificate in the Freiburg State Archives (copies subject to charge). A copy of the baptism certificate from September 8, 1888, made in 1936, incorrectly states both the father's first name and Leo's middle name with Jose f .
  2. ^ People from the country - Leo Wohleb ( Memento from April 25, 2012 in the Internet Archive ) (PDF). State Center for Political Education Baden-Württemberg. November 2008.
  3. Back to Baden . Der Spiegel 25/1956 of June 20, 1956, p. 12 and 14th
  4. BVerfGE 5, 34 - Baden vote , Rn. 29 ff.
  5. ^ The referendums of 1951, 1970 and 1971 . Website of the state center for political education Baden-Württemberg.
  6. Baden-Württemberg and the "Baden Question" (PDF; 52 kB). Timeline for the development of the federal state of Baden-Württemberg on Landeskunde online , accessed on December 30, 2013.
  7. Wulf Rüskamp: Southwest: History: For New Documents: Wohleb died in the hospital. Badische Zeitung, September 5, 2014, accessed on December 23, 2016 .
  8. a b Order of Merit in the inventory catalog of the Freiburg State Archives
  9. Agenda item for the 258th meeting of the Federal Cabinet on November 14, 1952 (RTF file; 15 kB)


  • Tobias Wöhrle: Leo Wohleb: A political biography. "Trustee of the old Baden tradition". Braun, Karlsruhe 2008, ISBN 978-3-7650-8399-0 .
  • Kurt high chair: Leo Wohleb. Educator and politician. DRW, Leinfelden-Echterdingen 2009, ISBN 978-3-87181-768-7 .
  • Kurt high chair: Leo Wohleb. Educator and politician: 1888–1955. In: Rainer Brüning, Regina Keyler (Hrsg.): Life pictures from Baden-Württemberg. Volume 24. Kohlhammer, Stuttgart 2013, ISBN 978-3-17-023441-3 , pp. 448-477.

Web links

Commons : Leo Wohleb  - Collection of pictures, videos and audio files