Matthias Erzberger

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Erzberger in 1919 as a member of the Weimar National Assembly

Matthias Erzberger (born September 20, 1875 in Buttenhausen , Kingdom of Württemberg ; † August 26, 1921 near Bad Griesbach in the Black Forest , Republic of Baden ) was a German publicist and politician ( center ) in the German Empire and in the Weimar Republic .

Erzberger became a member of the Reichstag in 1903, where he was best known as a critic of colonial policy. He participated in the exposure of several colonial scandals. In October 1918 he became a minister, in November 1918 he signed the Compiègne Armistice Agreement as agent of the Reich Government and head of the Armistice Commission , which effectively ended the hostilities of the First World War . Then, as Reich Minister of Finance from 1919 to 1920, he implemented the Erzberger Reform that was named after himthrough, which is considered to be the most extensive reform work in German tax and financial history. A smear campaign by the German national politician Karl Helfferich and the associated process forced him to resign in 1920. Colporteurs of the stab-in- the-back legend called Erzberger one of the " November criminals ".

In 1921, Erzberger was murdered by assassins from the right-wing terrorist organization Consul . As the "pacemaker of parliamentarism in an anti-parliamentary constitutional system" ( Theodor Eschenburg ), Erzberger was posthumously recognized, especially in West Germany after the Second World War.


Birthplace, today a memorial to Matthias Erzberger

Childhood, youth, studies, first job

Matthias Erzberger was born the son of the tailor and part-time postman Josef Erzberger and his wife Katherina (née Flad) in Buttenhausen. While the population of the small town consisted of about half each of Jews and Protestants , the Erzberger family from nearby Gundelfingen was one of the few Catholic families in the town. Matthias was the oldest of six children. In Bichishausen he attended the Catholic elementary school and lived with his paternal grandfather in Gundelfingen. One of his teachers recognized his talent and suggested that the parents provide their son with a teacher training program that the family could bear the costs. After finishing school, Erzberger first attended the preparation facility in Gmünd . There he skipped a class and completed the three-year course in two years. He then studied at the Catholic teacher training college in Saulgau , where he passed the elementary school teacher test in 1894 as the best of his year. During this time he was already grappling with political issues. Erzberger did not serve in the army because there was a surplus of able-bodied men in his home district in Württemberg. He was brought up to be an “ardent Catholic”; his religious views were the central guiding principles in all of his political thought and action.

Erzberger entered the Württemberg school service in 1894. After working as a trainee teacher in Marbach and Göppingen and as an official administrator in Feuerbach near Stuttgart , Josef Eckard discovered him in 1895 as a political talent. Eckard offered him a position as editor for the Catholic German Volksblatt in Stuttgart, which Erzberger immediately accepted. In order to counteract the Marxist movement, the People's Association for Catholic Germany was founded in 1890 , which Josef Eckard and Adolf Gröber had taken over. In preparation for the new task, Matthias Erzberger began studying constitutional law and economics in Freiburg in Üechtland in 1896 . At the same time he was involved in Catholic workers' associations and in the Center Party . Impressed by the centralized discipline and the cohesion of the socialist workers' associations and unions, Erzberger and other Christian delegates decided in 1897 at an international congress in Zurich to set up a Christian trade union movement throughout Germany. In 1899 Erzberger participated in the founding of Christian trade unions in Mainz, where he was the main speaker, a farmers' association and the Swabian handicrafts association.

In 1900, Erzberger married Paula Eberhard, the daughter of a wealthy businessman, in Rottenburg . The marriage had two daughters and one son. The son fell ill with the Spanish flu in 1918 as a soldier and died.

Until the election to the Reichstag, he devoted himself mainly to journalistic work, the central theme being the fight against Marxism; this struggle was based on the strong religious convictions of Erzberg and not on the desire to maintain the economic and social status quo in the empire. Since 1898 at the latest, he has been considered one of the “most tireless pamphleteers in Germany”. Erzberger's polemic against the Social Democrats was characterized by the at that time by no means self-evident effort to take the socialist arguments seriously, but to refute them from a Christian point of view.

Member of the Reichstag

Due to the elections of 1903 , Erzberger was elected to the Reichstag at the age of 28 as the youngest MP for the constituency of Württemberg 16 ( Biberach , Leutkirch , Waldsee , Wangen ) , sponsored by the MPs Adolf Gröber and Richard Müller . His election propaganda for the election was aimed at "painting the red ghost on the wall for the pious peasants, and he effortlessly succeeded in uncovering the weaknesses of the social democratic agricultural program." knew an outsider, much like the Social Democrats. He became one of the first bourgeois professional politicians , while at the same time financing himself as a political journalist: He wrote an abundance of articles for the Deutsche Volksblatt (Württemberg) and the center organ Germania . He also bought his own magazine and distributed some lurid revelatory stories about it, which he researched himself in connection with his work in the Reichstag.

Erzberger quickly worked his way up to an expert in military, colonial and financial policy and was appointed to the budget commission of the Reichstag (ie the budget committee) at Gröber's suggestion as early as 1904, after one year of membership in the Reichstag. Since the budget law of the Reichstag was its greatest influencing factor in the empire, the budget commission was also considered to be particularly influential. Erzberger's rapid rise created many opponents among the long-standing MPs. In the budget commission he first took on socio-political, then military-political tasks. In this context, the Prussian War Minister Karl von Eine expressed his appreciation of Erzberger: "He can always provide information right away and knows much better than my officers and officials."

Colonial policy and the Reichstag election in 1907

In 1905 and 1906, Erzberger uncovered several colonial scandals as the colonial policy spokesman for his parliamentary group and became known across the empire because colonial policy had been the focus of German attention since the beginning of the Herero uprising in 1904. Erzberger did not reject colonies in principle, not least with a view to the missionary idea, and in May 1905 even defended the campaign of the German colonial troops against the Herero in German South West Africa against attacks by the SPD, namely Georg Ledebour . However, he warned that the rights of Africans, who often had to do forced labor , should also be taken into account and that the sometimes inhuman working conditions in the colonies should be more closely monitored. Above all, however, he attacked, based on insider reports from officials in the Reich Colonial Office , mismanagement and misappropriation in the gray area of ​​ministerial bureaucracy and companies such as the German Colonial Society and the Woermann shipping company . Ernst II zu Hohenlohe-Langenburg had to resign as head of the colonial department in the Foreign Office, and with him the ministerial official Karl Helfferich lost his post. Erzberger's hatred haunted him until the end of his life. Conservative circles were outraged that a Swabian elementary school teacher could overthrow the Hereditary Prince Hohenlohe-Langenburg. On the occasion of the resignation of his relative, Kaiser Wilhelm II asked the then Reich Chancellor Bernhard von Bülow whether “there was no means at all to cover our civil servants 'and officers' world from the professional backstairs sneak, admirer and slanderer Erzberger? The outrage in these circles is strong and growing; it would be good if the government showed its teeth to him and the center. "

Erzberger's campaign contributed to the fact that the Bülow government resigned in the dispute over the budget for military use in the colonies in 1907 and there were new elections for the Reichstag (the so-called "Hottentot elections "). Bülow, conservatives and national liberals led their election campaigns against Erzberger and the center. Since the center and the SPD lost votes in the heated nationalist atmosphere, Bülow was able to form a conservative-liberal bloc without the center after the election . The center leadership and especially the right wing of the party resented this development and pushed him into the background for a while. Another reason was that the leadership hoped to win over the conservatives in the Reichstag, which demanded a political shift in weight to the right and a neutralization of the left wing with Erzberger. But as early as 1909, the German conservatives, together with the center, with the participation of Erzberger, overthrew the Bülow government, mainly because no agreement could be found on the (moderate) increase in inheritance tax - one of the tax increases that Bülow had due to an impending deficit of 500 million marks in the budget proposed. Erzberger had already taken a clearly oppositional stance towards Bülow in the context of the Daily Telegraph affair .

Although Erzberger had already played an influential to prominent role in and outside the party, he was not officially accepted into the center's parliamentary committee until February 7, 1912.

Development of political thought until 1914

In his satisfaction with the collapse of the Bülow bloc , Erzberger shared a general satisfaction with the political status quo for several years. In the so-called Oldenburg case , an unprecedented attack on the dignity of the Reichstag, he took a strikingly neutral stance and obviously attached more importance to solidarity with the anti-parliamentary ally than to defending the rights of the Reichstag. His progressive attitude was first revived with the discussion of the constitution of Alsace-Lorraine , in which he advocated extensive self-government. In his election brochure for the Reichstag election in 1912 , however, he avoided any attack against the anti-parliamentary forces in the Reichstag, with whom the center primarily worked until 1917.

Nevertheless, Matthias Erzberger realized more and more that the ruling political system in Germany urgently needed a renewal. In his pamphlet Politics and Völkerleben from 1914 he expressed his turn to parliamentarianism , which in his opinion inevitably asserts itself in every modern society. The still prevailing constitutionalism goes hand in hand with the rule of a "class-conscious, arrogant, inbreeding bureaucracy" which often governs - as in the Zabern affair - with severe disregard for public opinion. On the politicization of the masses and the democratization of society, he wrote in 1914:

“The politicization of the masses cannot be stopped; it is the completely natural product of modern conditions. In and of itself it is not an evil, but desirable for the life of the people and the state. Dull citizens and politically sluggish nations are not up to the demands of the present; Active political life generates participation in all public processes, gives a nation strength and courage to live, strengthens the sense of responsibility of those in power and rulers, is an indispensable control over their actions and omissions. Military duty and tax liability force citizens to be active politically in town and country. It goes without saying that this, operated in excess, has its disadvantages. "

- Matthias Erzberger : Politics and People's Life, p. 6.

His ideal remained throughout his life a "God-fearing country in which a believing spirit sustains political life":

“Even if purely political motives or questions of economic power seem to dominate the public market, it soon becomes clear that the core of the issue is religious. Religion is the queen of politics and the life of the people; it is the guiding star, source of heat, electricity and target in the same way. [...] Religion ennobles and ennobles politics, which without religion only sinks into a dispute about better feeding places. "

- Matthias Erzberger : Politics and People's Life, p. 75.

From his strictly religious orientation fed the initially steadfast hostility towards socialism and social democracy as its supposedly unbroken manifestation - an opinion from which he only deviated in the course of the world war. Before the war, this attitude helped him to consolidate his position at the center as the future leader of the entire party: "His unwavering hostility to socialism to a certain extent obscured his progressive democratic views, so that he was slowly becoming more comfortable with the right wing."

In terms of foreign policy, however, he continued to follow the prevailing zeitgeist for a long time and at that time was still convinced that Germany needed a strong army in order to be able to pursue its interests internationally. The confident assessment of Austria-Hungary's future and, as a result, Germany's close ties to the ailing alliance partner and the uncritical support for the naval policy are considered to be the main flaws in his foreign policy concept before 1914. Erzberger lamented, like the expensive armament, the trust of the peoples among one another and internally Progress was a burden, but saw no way of overcoming this spiral. Above all, he opposed unilateral disarmament in Germany as too great a risk. He believed that a strong Germany was the best guarantee for peace in Europe. As a result, he vigorously advocated the great army increases of 1911, 1912 and 1913. He was equally aware of the horrors of war and the immense economic chaos that the collapse of interdependent industrial nations would create. In contrast to his usual practice, however, he did not oppose this critical finding with any positive suggestions. He turned to the idea of ​​a League of Nations and disarmament only after the experience of the First World War.

First World War

At the beginning of the First World War , Erzberger was a clear supporter of far-reaching annexations and shared the majority view in the German Reichstag and in the Reich government. In September 1914, shortly before the German plan of attack on the Marne failed , he drafted a fantastic " war target program " that was hardly inferior to that of the most extreme conservatives. He published chauvinist appeals, particularly calling for the annexation of Belgium. In addition, Erzberger represented ruthless warfare. In newspaper articles he raved about "letting fire rain down from the sky". If you are able to "destroy all of London by one means, it is more humane than if you let a single German national comrade bleed on the battlefield, because such a radical cure leads to peace the fastest." Of these extreme demands Erzberger deviated only gradually, whereby no specific event and no precise point in time can be named from which the fundamental change of opinion took place, which made him a future champion for the League of Nations. It was not largely completed until July 1917, after its peace resolution, adopted on July 19, 1917 , had transformed German policy as a whole (see below). The most remarkable feature of his ascent is that, in contrast to the years before 1914, he dealt almost exclusively with foreign policy issues. In contrast to most of the annexationists, Erzberger was reasonable enough to drop the territorial claims in the further course of the war.

Central office for foreign service

Already in the first months of the war the mood of the population of many neutral states against Germany changed. Therefore officers of the Reichsmarinamt approached Erzberger with the suggestion to set up a central office for the control of the propaganda in neutral foreign countries. Although he had little experience in this field himself, he set up a news office in a very short time, which soon passed into the management of the Foreign Office . This was the first time that Erzberger entered the service of the executive. This office in Berlin, Budapester Strasse 14, formed the core of the “ Central Office for Foreign Service ” established in October 1914 . He held the strings in his own hand. The Foreign Office appointed the former German ambassador to Japan Freiherr Alfons Mumm von Schwarzenstein (1859–1924) to head the office . Erzberger developed numerous initiatives in order to quickly achieve the expected efficiency of the foreign intelligence service. For example, he published a multilingual dispatch service for foreign newspapers, had brochures, books and articles on German culture and the “will for peace” printed and distributed by various foreign publishers, brought several foreign-language newspapers into being, which were aimed at certain population groups, and stimulated the regular publication of a monthly "war chronicle" in seven languages. With this new office, Matthias Erzberger now had access to internal consultations in the Foreign Office, the War Ministry and the Reichsmarineamt, and was given access to secret documents and reports that shaped his level of knowledge and his own attitude towards war and the military. According to Wolfgang Ruge , Erzberger also "came into contact with numerous dubious figures from abroad". Dissemination and procurement of news abroad could hardly be separated from intelligence information work (espionage).

The work of the Central Office for Foreign Service bore fruit in the second half of 1916. Thus, despite the strictest border controls, Erzberger managed to set up a branch in Stockholm that maintained contacts with Russia. From mid-1916 onwards, this “Stockholm branch” provided important information on a regular basis, usually at intervals of 7 to 14 days. These came from the Russian Imperial Headquarters, from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in St. Petersburg and from the Ministry of the Interior in St. Petersburg. The news came partly from official, but also from secret official sources and was, as was confirmed in the files of the Reich Chancellery in 1919, of "considerable value" for the war. His personal assistant in those years was Heinrich Hemmer (1886–1942) , who worked in the Political Department of the Foreign Office . There were also offices in Switzerland (Bern), Holland (Rotterdam) and Denmark (Copenhagen, headed by Leo Winz ).

An important undertaking to influence Catholic public opinion in late 1914 was a fundraising for the benefit of the Vatican, which had gotten into serious financial difficulties. A private fund was topped up with funds that were made available to Erzberger by the Foreign Office for his propaganda work abroad. Pope Benedict XV gave him as a thank you, among other things. his cardinal's hat and a valuable ring that Erzberger still wore when he was murdered. During his three missions in Rome (see below) Erzberger was in close contact with the Pope.

However, Erzberger was never given a clearly defined position with explicit powers in his work, but was often hindered by the military. In addition, in the first weeks of the war, because of the invasion and riots in Belgium ( Rape of Belgium ), a largely unanimous negative opinion against Germany had formed in the world: threatening the equilibrium in Europe to work as a propagandist was to take on a task in which no great success was to be expected. Erzberger did his best under these very difficult conditions. "

Diplomatic initiatives 1915-16

Erzberger used his contacts with Austria-Hungary, Italy and the Pope, which he had established through the Catholic Church, for several diplomatic initiatives, which he undertook to a large extent bypassing the imperial government and which were intended to improve the German position in the war. From February to May 1915 he made three trips to Italy in order, together with the special ambassadors Bernhard von Bülow and Karl Macchio, to prevent Italy from entering the war on the side of the Entente. Erzberger saw that only a concession by Austria-Hungary to the demands of Italy could avoid war. Pope Benedict XV shared this view . , who received Erzberger on February 23, 1915 for a long private audience. Not the only, but the main topic of the conversation was how to prevent Italy from entering the war. Erzberger urged the Pope to use his influence in Vienna to reach concessions that could secure peace.

After his first trip to Italy, Chancellor Bethmann Hollweg, impressed by the report, arranged a personal audience with Kaiser Wilhelm II on March 1, 1915. Erzberger succeeded in convincing Wilhelm II of the need to influence Franz Josef. Erzberger's general assessment of the emperor was that he often evaded facts and “one had to deal with an extremely agile mind, who could only be held with great difficulty in the question to be decided, who almost always spoke and did not speak brought up and was not used to hearing or even considering a contrary, no matter how well-founded view ”. After all, Erzberger had the impression that "it is not too difficult to win the emperor for him if you have a clear, firm intention".

On April 3, 1915, the Pope granted him another audience on his second trip to Rome; on April 6, Erzberger met with Foreign Minister Sidney Sonnino and informed him of Germany's willingness to guarantee compliance with any agreement with Austria-Hungary. He had to take note that Sonnino found the Austro-Hungarian offer of March 9, 1915 inadequate and was annoyed by the conduct of negotiations by the Foreign Minister of the Dual Monarchy, Stephan Burián .

On his third trip to Italy in May 1915, he was in danger because the Italian government had already signed the London Treaty with the Entente, but without admitting this in talks with Erzberger, Bülow and Macchio. Erzberger again met Sonnino and Prime Minister Antonio Salandra . Since he and Bülow now rightly had the impression that the Italian government had decided to go to war, they now tried, using sometimes dubious methods, to work towards the overthrow of the Italian government. Among other things, the neutralist opposition was given a particularly wide-ranging offer. The mood in Rome had risen to the boiling point, the war proponents did not have a majority in parliament and the cabinet was divided, but the warlike agitation dominated the street, so that Erzberger and the Italian neutralists, which he also supported with financial support, feared for their safety. On May 13th, he was received by a crowd with the slogan "A basso Erzberger!" (Down with Erzberger) and a hail of stones. On May 17, Erzberger learned of Italy's promise to enter the war by May 26, 1915, and then left Rome. Erzberger subsequently participated in the bitter mutual accusations that Berlin and Vienna made in relation to Italy's entry into the war, including: he wrote a memorandum on June 9, 1915, which turned against the thesis of inevitable war.

In June 1915 the Chancellor sent Erzberger to Vienna and Budapest to persuade the Habsburg government to make concessions to the oppressed Romanians in Hungary and thus prevent Romania's entry into the war on the side of the Entente. Prime Minister István Tisza , however, was not prepared to make any concessions, and Erzberger emphatically dismissed it. Tisza's view that the Romanians would not enter the war even if they did not receive any concessions turned out to be correct only because the Romanians initially won through the German victories against the Russians, namely the breakthrough in the battle of Gorlice-Tarnów , were careful. In February 1916, Erzberger visited Bucharest on his way back from Turkey (see below) in order to assess the situation on the ground and to influence the Entente against entering the war. The liberal Prime Minister Brătianu had initially enforced Romania's neutrality in World War I, because the defensive alliance with the Triple Alliance did not oblige Romania to intervene; by August 1916 he was supposed to succeed in asserting entry into the war on the side of the Allies. In a conversation with the German-friendly but not very influential Romanian King Ferdinand I, Erzberger made undiplomatic suggestions on how to overthrow the government. According to his own account, he passed a “mistress” and a lot of money to the opposition leader and former Prime Minister Marghiloman in order to keep and support him in his agitation against entering the war.

Besides Karl Liebknecht (until 1916 a member of the Reichstag of the SPD ), Erzberger was the only known German politician who tried to stop the genocide of the Armenians , the persecution of the Greeks and the genocide of the Aramaeans in the Ottoman Empire . For this reason, among other things, he traveled to Constantinople in February 1916 to negotiate with the Young Turkish rulers who were allied with Germany , met Enver Pascha and Talât Pascha on February 10, 1916 and, at their request, prepared a memorandum on measures in favor of Christians in Turkey at. It referred explicitly only to the "Catholic Armenians" and was never answered or taken into account by the Ottoman government. Another concern of Erzberger was the release of the property of the confiscated French mission institutions and other Catholic property. However, he was only able to get German and Austrian Catholics admitted to work in schools and hospitals. Erzberger also tried to make the acquisition of the Cenacle in Jerusalem by German Catholics palatable to the Young Turks . The matter had occupied Christian circles for decades, Erzberger invested a lot of energy unsuccessfully on this question, which was not only rejected by the Turks, but also viewed as skeptical by the Vatican. The general failure of his mission in Turkey filled Erzberger with indignation and disappointment.

The diplomatic project that was most important to Erzberger personally during the war was the restoration of the pope's secular power. The position of the Pope after 1870 as a “prisoner in the Vatican” was seen by the Catholics of that time as a serious problem that seemed intolerable for those from Austria and Germany since Italy entered the war. In the winter of 1916/17, Erzberger took the lead in founding the International Catholic Union based in Switzerland, the main purpose of which was to find a satisfactory solution in this direction and which included Catholics from both war camps and from neutral countries. One of his many other initiatives in this direction was his “Liechtenstein Plan”, with which Erzberger approached the Pope, the Austrian imperial family and the Prince of Liechtenstein in 1916 . This plan provided for the conflict between Italy and the Holy See, which had existed since 1870, which was supposed to free the Pope from dependence on Italy, to be resolved by granting the Pope the neutral Principality of Liechtenstein as the Papal State instead of the Vatican. Soon all conceivable participants opposed the project.

In the aforementioned and other projects, Erzberger had hardly any diplomatic successes in the field of foreign policy until 1917. His work left the impression of great effort with only poor results, if one disregards the consolidation of his personal position. In contrast to most other members of the Reichstag, his work gave him extensive knowledge of the general war situation, which in 1917 was to prove to be an important factor in his rise to an opinion leader in parliament.

Resistance to submarine warfare

The submarine war was the most controversial domestic political controversy in warring Germany. The vulnerability of the submarines even to lightly armed merchant ships was an argument against the restrictions of the naval order. Conservative circles were betting everything on a decisive German victory in order to maintain their wavering domestic political position. Following the promises of the naval war command, the submarines were increasingly relied on, although the danger of the USA entering the war was certainly seen, but its importance was underestimated. Erzberger himself had advocated the introduction of submarine warfare in the winter of 1914/15, but changed his mind as a result of the Lusitania affair . When the question of unrestricted submarine warfare was discussed again in the winter of 1915/18, Erzberger turned against this form of warfare, less for humanitarian and international law reasons, but because, based on his good information, it seemed unlikely that this weapon would produce decisive results could bring about. In March 1916, he made proposals for a more militarily sensible alignment of the submarines, which the Navy rejected. Not least because of his assessment of the submarine weapon, Erzberger increasingly turned to the idea of ​​a mutual agreement based on the status quo ante. First and foremost, it was thanks to Reich Chancellor Bethmann Hollweg that the unlimited submarine warfare had not yet started in March 1916 and that its central proponent Tirpitz had to resign, but Erzberger and the Center supported the Reich Chancellor throughout the crisis.

Erzberger subsequently contributed to overthrow Erich von Falkenhayn and in his place installed the duo Paul von Hindenburg and Erich Ludendorff as the head of the Supreme Army Command (OHL), which should indirectly lead to the beginning of the unrestricted submarine war. The OHL was also to become the main opponent of Erzberger's domestic and foreign policy in the last third of the war. In October 1916, the right-wing parties brought the issue of submarine war back to the agenda, and this time Erzberger failed to keep the center going. With the approval of Erzberger, the center introduced a compromise resolution that left the decision to the Chancellor and the OHL. When Ludendorff demanded the start of the submarine war in January 1917, the Reich Chancellor agreed against better judgment because he knew that the Reichstag would now follow the OHL. All of Erzberger's efforts to prevent, postpone or mitigate the submarine war on the basis of calculations and realistic assessments by the USA were doomed to failure. His almost prophetic assessments, however, subsequently led to the fact that his abilities and his judgment were increasingly recognized by the Social Democrats and the Progressive Party, which enabled him to become an opinion leader in the majority of the Reichstag.

Participation in the "census of Jews"?

In October 1916, Erzberger demanded in the budget committee of the Reichstag that the Reich Chancellor should draw up and publish a "detailed overview of the entire personnel of all war societies [...] separated by gender, age of military age, income, denomination" as soon as possible. In addition to the Conservatives, the National Liberals and the Center Party, some SPD MPs also approved this motion . The national liberal MP Gustav Stresemann justified this procedure with the fact that one wanted to check the truth of the rumors about "Jewish shirking" and not give the impression that one had to hide something. The majority of the SPD as well as the left-wing liberals rejected the application because a distinction based on confessional criteria contradicts constitutional principles. It is only unclear whether Erzberger was already familiar with the War Minister's internal decree on the so-called Jewish census on October 1, 1916 and wanted to supplement it with his application, or whether he was not yet aware of the planned Jewish census in the army. In relative terms, as many Jewish as Christian soldiers served in World War I, and accordingly the proportion of those killed was roughly the same.

Negotiations with Russia, participation in Lenin's return, negotiations in Vienna

The collapse of the tsarist aristocracy raised high hopes in Germany. With the approval of the Chancellor and with the support of his Stockholm office, Erzberger met with the Russian State Councilor Joseph von Kolyshko at the end of March 1917 and entered into negotiations on a separate peace with Russia. In his Reichstag speech of March 29, the Reich Chancellor oriented himself on the proposals of Erzberger, who became the key interlocutor for further action after a declaration of the Russian provisional Russian government of April 9, 1917, which was understood as an offer of peace. Before his second trip to Stockholm, Alexander Parvus approached Erzberger on behalf of Robert Grimm and Fritz Platten with the wish to enable some Russian revolutionaries - including Vladimir Ilyich Lenin - to return to Russia. Erzberger welcomed this and urged the Foreign Office to grant this request. Together with Adolf Georg von Maltzan , he spoke to the Chancellor, whereupon Gisbert von Romberg , envoy in Bern, was instructed to sign a corresponding, momentous agreement with Lenin. As a result of the second meeting with Kolyshko on April 19, 1917 in Stockholm, a detailed armistice agreement was drawn up. The draft was initially enthusiastically received in the Foreign Office, and the Chancellor also expressed his agreement in principle. At the end of April 1917, Erzberger went to Vienna to counteract Austria's tiredness during the war, and on April 23 he spoke to Kaiser Karl on the matter . When he returned to Berlin on April 24, he found that in his absence the draft ceasefire agreement had sparked heated controversy. Kaiser Wilhelm and General Ludendorff felt betrayed because the Chancellor had not informed them of Erzberger's mission. Ludendorff immediately sent the industrialist Hugo Stinnes , who shared his extremely annexionist views, to Stockholm to influence Kolyschko to refrain from further negotiations with Erzberger, which he then succeeded in doing. Erzberger was indignant that the Supreme Army Command was trying to sabotage anything that could lead to a reasonable peace. His efforts were ultimately doomed to failure by the rise of Ludendorff and the weakness of Bethmann Hollweg.

Peace resolution July 1917

After Erzberger had advocated a “ victory peace ” at the beginning of 1916 , he advocated a “ mutual agreement ” from the end of the year . For him that was a political reorientation. The events of the Russian February Revolution also changed his mood and opinion. When the United States entered the war in April 1917, he realized that his own war goals of 1914 had been, or had become, completely unrealistic. Another factor was a secret report by the Austro-Hungarian Foreign Minister Ottokar Graf Czernin on April 12, 1917, which Emperor Karl I. Erzberger had given. Count Czernin had predicted the collapse of Austria-Hungary or a revolution in the event that the war continued for another winter.

Even before that, in March 1917, constitutional amendments were discussed in the Reichstag that aimed at increasing the influence of parliament; the idea of ​​subordinating the army to the government aroused the anger of the emperor and the military. On the other hand, it was becoming increasingly difficult for majority Socialists to justify their support for the war in front of their traditional supporters. Thus their approval of the renewed approval of the war loans was jeopardized. Erzberger's plan for a peace resolution primarily aimed to meet the political needs of the Social Democrats and to support Friedrich Ebert's position vis-à-vis Hugo Haase of the USPD. The peace resolution was to have hardly any foreign-policy consequences, but it was to have major domestic-political consequences.

During his Reichstag speech on July 4, 1917, Erzberger attacked the admiral's staff and pointed to the failure of the submarine war. His speech in the Reichstag on July 6, 1917 triggered a "sensation in all political circles": he gave the military false information about the effectiveness of the submarine warfare and advocated a "mutual agreement": Germany had to renounce annexations. The attack came as a surprise to the government and contributed to the replacement of Bethmann Hollweg, which Erzberger accepted approvingly, since he now saw the Chancellor as unsuitable for bringing about peace. On the same day, leading MPs from the MSPD, the Center and the Liberal Progressive Party agreed on the Intergroup as a coordinating body, which is considered the start of the parliamentarization of Germany and was accordingly interpreted by conservatives at the time as the “beginning of the revolution”. Due to the development initiated by Erzberger's speech and now supported by Chancellor Bethmann Hollweg, Hindenburg and Ludendorff, as chiefs of the Supreme Army Command, spoke to the Kaiser on July 7th and called for the Chancellor to be replaced, which the Kaiser initially refused, especially since he (like others also) apart from Bernhard von Bülow , who was unacceptable to him for personal reasons , saw no suitable successor, as Rudolf von Valentini , head of the civil cabinet , Erzberger explained on July 11th. Bethmann reached Hollweg with Kronrat and Kaiser on 9/10. July the promise that after the war the same electoral law would be introduced in Prussia instead of the three-class suffrage, which became known to the public on July 12th. The national liberal politician Gustav Stresemann also demanded the dismissal of Bethmann Hollweg in the Reichstag for other reasons, and the Crown Prince tried to exert influence accordingly . When Erzberger decided against the Chancellor in a conversation with the Crown Prince, this was immediately passed on to Ludendorff and he encouraged Ludendorff to decide to force Bethmann's dismissal by means of an ultimatum. Hindenburg and Ludendorff threatened to resign should the Chancellor not be recalled, which caused the Kaiser to back down. On the morning of July 13th, Bethmann Hollweg submitted his resignation, and the largely unknown Georg Michaelis was appointed as his successor .

On July 19, 1917, the majority of the Reichstag approved a very general peace resolution submitted by Erzberger , which Michaelis also skilfully defused and which therefore remained without consequences in terms of foreign policy. The main purpose of persuading the Social Democrats to further support the war effort has been achieved. At the same time began a "wild agitation" of the annexationists, namely that of the German Fatherland Party , which was in the process of being founded , against Erzberger. The fact that Erzberger succeeded in creating a majority from the Center, Progress Party and Social Democrats is considered one of his greatest achievements, because this meant a fundamental upheaval in German domestic politics and a constructive attempt to eliminate the structural flaws of the Bismack system . The new majority coalition represented a power that the government had to reckon with and whose weight would be considerably greater in the next chancellor crisis. Parliament had intervened on questions of foreign policy and warfare, which according to the constitution were reserved for the emperor, the military leadership and the government. Erzberger emerged from the events surrounding the peace resolution on the one hand as Germany's most powerful MP. His attempt to end the war with a mutual agreement contributed to its great popularity, especially among the underprivileged social classes. On the other hand, he became the most hated man in large parts of the upper class and in German circles who did not want to forego annexations and who rejected calls for a change in the social and political structure of Germany.

Papal peace note and advocacy for the peace of mutual understanding

Even before the adoption of the peace resolution, Nuncio Eugenio Pacelli, who later became Pope Pius XII. , to Berlin to vote for the peace note Dès le début from Pope Benedict XV. to advertise and discuss their content. On July 25, 1917, Pacelli met with Erzberger, who approved the proposals in principle. The papal note was announced to the world in mid-August 1917. Germany hesitated to answer, British Foreign Minister Balfour stated that a final answer could not be formulated until Germany gave its plans for Belgium. At the first conference of the Reich leadership and a committee made up of parliamentarians, Erzberger and others urged the newly appointed State Secretary for Foreign Affairs Richard von Kühlmann to include a waiver of Belgium in the reply, which the latter successfully opposed. The official reply from September 19 was very general and was felt by the Curia and abroad to be completely inadequate. Confidential negotiations that followed were just as unsuccessful due to the obstruction by Kühlmann and Michaelis.

Even though Erzberger internally at that time - possibly for tactical reasons - had not yet completely withdrawn from annexations, he nevertheless vigorously and publicly campaigned for a mutual agreement. Among other things, he gave a highly acclaimed speech in Biberach on September 16, 1917, the distribution of which was stopped in print by the military authorities:

“But we do not want a peace of violence and oppression, because such a peace harbors the seeds of new wars. We want the lasting reconciliation of the peoples and we are so optimistic to believe that the dawn of a righteous time will emerge from this bloodbath. "

- Matthias Erzberger

In this speech he also countered allegations by right-wing circles that he had sabotaged the submarine war when the chances of success were greatest. Erzberger proved with concrete figures that this was not the case, which in turn prompted the Reichsmarineamt to initiate criminal proceedings against him for treason, which the senior Reich attorney Arthur Zweigert wisely prevented. The Navy succeeded in banning the speech from being printed, and the authorities had an edition of Germania crushed, among other things , because it had printed excerpts from Erzberger's speech.

Since Michaelis had since proven incapable, the Intergroup Committee met on October 22, 1917 to request the emperor's dismissal - a further step on the way to a parliamentary system of government. However, the committee could not bring itself to push for the appointment of a parliamentary chancellor, but left the decision to the emperor, who appointed the frail 74-year-old Georg von Hertling , in accordance with the still valid constitution . Hertling asked Erzberger to be the first member of parliament for a meeting. The conservative Hertling made no secret of his indignation that the Reichstag, contrary to previous constitutional practice, wanted to control the selection of its closest employees, although on the other hand, prior to the acceptance of the Chancellery - also against previous practice - an in-depth political discussion with the parties had taken place . Hertling was also reluctantly forced by Erzberger and the national liberal Hartmann von Richthofen to accept the left-liberal Friedrich von Payer as Vice Chancellor.

Parliamentary government and armistice 1918

Villa Pasque memorial in La Capelle , the German Armistice Commission arrived here on the late evening of November 7, 1918; on the far left a representation of Erzberger
Erzberger's place of work in the Compiègne car (Mémorial de L'Armstice) from November 8th to 11th, 1918 and in further negotiations until mid-April 1919, Erzberger sat across from the Allied Commander-in-Chief Ferdinand Foch
Adoption of the commission after the signing of the armistice, Erzberger standing left of the center of the picture

On October 4, 1918, Erzberger was entrusted with the management of the business of a state secretary without a portfolio in the Baden cabinet , but, like the other newly appointed cabinet members, could not initially be formally appointed because they would then have lost their seats in the Reichstag under the still valid constitution. Only when the October Constitution came into force on October 28th this regulation ceased to exist and the appointment could be made formally.

In mid-October 1918, Erzberger's only son died of Spanish flu while doing military service .

On November 6, 1918 Chancellor decided Max von Baden in the wake of reports of the worsening military situation and the Kiel mutiny and the November Revolution that no later than November 8, "under all circumstances, negotiations with Marshal Foch are taken; a German delegation to conclude the armistice negotiations must therefore leave for the West today ”. The momentous , first in the cabinet meeting formulated November 2 idea of the Armistice Commission at all a civilian Secretary of State (de facto Minister ') involvement level, came even from Erzberger The originally intended for this purpose. Conrad Haussmann was, however, initially together with Gustav Noske sent to Kiel, to stop the sailors' uprising. When Haussmann returned on November 5, he was in a state of complete physical and mental exhaustion, so that the cabinet judged him to be obviously incapable of the task. The Chancellor proposed Erzberger as a representative of the War Cabinet for the negotiations, which he initially rejected, but then accepted at the insistence of all State Secretaries (de facto: Minister). Erzberger reached the Belgian Spa in the morning of November 7th, the Hotel Britannique there had been the headquarters of the main headquarters since February 1918 . Originally, General Erich von Gündell was designated as the first authorized representative of the Armistice Commission . Erzberger and Paul von Hintze , with the support of the Foreign Office and with the approval of the Reich Chancellery, agreed at short notice that Erzberger would take over the management, for which Erzberger had been given a blank power of attorney as a precaution in Berlin.

Erzberger appointed the other members of the Armistice Commission, which left Spa at noon on November 7 with five cars heading for the front. Before that, Erzberger had a conversation with Hindenburg, who stated that it was probably the first time in world history that not the military have decided on the armistice, but politicians; But he was entirely in agreement, especially since the Supreme Army Command no longer had to issue any political guidelines; the army needed rest under all circumstances. Hindenburg said goodbye to Erzberger with the words: "Travel with God and look for the best for our fatherland". The mission almost failed in Spa, as Erzberger's car was initially involved in a serious traffic accident. The Armistice Commission crossed the front in the evening of November 7, 1918 at what is now the Pierre d'Haudroy memorial in the municipality of La Flamengrie . On the way of the delegation today there are further memorials in La Capelle (Villa Pasques), Homblières (rectory) and Tergnier (near the train station, Rue Pierre Semard), where the delegation changed to a special train and then the clearing early in the morning on November 8th reached by Rethondes . In the four-day negotiations, only minor easing of the harsh armistice conditions could be achieved. Paul von Hindenburg and the OHL insisted on a signature in each case. For this reason, Erzberger was the first of the four-person German delegation to sign the Compiègne armistice early in the morning of November 11, 1918 , which ended the hostilities of the First World War at 11 a.m. French time on the same day.

Erzberger made numerous opponents through his actions in the last two years of the war and not least through his signature performance in Compiègne. In the last days of 1918 the " stab in the back legend " spread. Afterwards the "army invincible in the field" was "stabbed from behind" by the enemy within. In the person of Matthias Erzberger, these forces quickly found the person to whom the “blame” could be placed. Through his work in the armistice negotiations, he offered a larger area of ​​attack. Because actually these contracts should have been signed by members of the Supreme Army Command, who were responsible for the conduct of the war, at least in the years from 1916 onwards.

Time of the Weimar Republic

Erzberger (center) as a member of the German Armistice Commission with General von Hammerstein and Undersecretary Langwerth von Simmern in
Spa in 1918
Erzberger (center) and German delegation on the way to negotiations for a ceasefire extension. (Trier January 16, 1919, NARA document )

In January 1919, Erzberger was elected to the Weimar National Assembly. In Scheidemann's cabinet he was appointed head of the Armistice Commission to Reich Minister without portfolio and in this function he was responsible for overseeing the implementation of the armistice. Therefore, he was heavily involved in the difficult debates surrounding the acceptance or rejection of the Versailles Treaty . He was critical of the “Mantelnote” written by Foreign Minister Ulrich Graf Brockdorff-Rantzau , which rejected large parts of the contractual provisions as allegedly illegal. Behind the foreign minister's back, he made contact with the American officer Seymoor Conger and signaled to him that he could enforce acceptance of the treaty if the Entente were to waive individual provisions. US President Woodrow Wilson did not respond. Erzberger submitted a memorandum to the cabinet that attempted to predict the consequences of an acceptance and the consequences of a rejection. In the event of a rejection, Erzberger foresaw the occupation of Germany and the collapse of the German Empire. In the end, Erzberger won the Center and SPD parliamentary groups in the National Assembly to accept the treaty, provided that the war guilt article and the extradition demand were omitted. Later this condition also had to be dropped.

From 1919 Heinrich Hemmer worked as his personal advisor and secret councilor . Erzberger and Hemmer tried to set up a Reich authority to protect the constitution. On February 14, 1920, there was a cabinet proposal for the creation of a Reich Criminal Office into which an intelligence agency was to be integrated.

Reich Finance Minister, Financial Reform and Libel Process

Reich Ministry of Finance (approx. 1930)

On June 21, 1919, Erzberger became Reich Minister of Finance under Reich Chancellor Gustav Bauer ( Bauer cabinet ). His reform measures known as the Erzberger Financial Reform of 1919/1920 with 16 finance and tax laws are considered to be the most extensive reform work in German tax and financial history. In particular, this includes the amalgamation of the 25 tax administrations of the federal states of the former German Empire, the reorganization of a realm financial administration and the replacement of the different legal systems of the states by a uniform tax law. The measures brought a significant increase in the tax rate as well as a clear standardization and system of tax law. The core elements of the reforms were the Reich Tax Code , the Sales Tax Act, the Corporate Income Tax Act, the Reich Finance Administration Act and the State Tax Act , which centralized the financial equalization between the Reich, states and municipalities . Erzberger completely restructured the tax administration and thus laid the foundations for the German tax system that still exists today with the introduction of direct wage tax deduction . In his reform of the imperial finances in 1919, he also abolished the financial dependence of the central state on the federal states with the matricular contributions .

Stab in the back of the legend variant, postcard from around 1924: Philipp Scheidemann is about to stab German soldiers from behind. Behind him are Erzberger and two men stylized as Jews, sitting on money bags.

The centralization of tax revenues and the levying of a Reich emergency tax on assets to reorganize the Reich finances made Erzberger even more of a target and figure of hatred for right-wing propaganda, which was supported by wealthy circles. In particular, the DNVP MP Karl Helfferich , former Deutsche Bank director and State Secretary for the Interior , intensified his smear campaign against Erzberger. When Helfferich accused him in the brochure Fort with Erzberger (1919) of an "unclean mixture of political activity and his own financial interests", Erzberger felt compelled to report Helfferich for insulting. In the process, which took place at the same time as the difficult Reichstag negotiations about the financial reform, Erzberger had to testify and was cross-examined by Helfferich's lawyers, who revolved around details from the time of the World War. The German national press used these interrogations to portray Erzberger as the defendant. On March 12, 1920, the court sentenced Helfferich to a small fine and gave him "patriotic motives" on the grounds. The judges expressly confirmed several allegations that Helfferich had made against Erzberger, including the charge of multiple perjuries . The judgment is a well-known example of the typical political justice of the Weimar Republic of the judges, who were often "blind in the right eye". Erzberger resigned as Reich Finance Minister on the day of the judgment (one day before the start of the Kapp Putsch ) (successor: Joseph Wirth ). The Bauer cabinet ended on March 27, 1920.

Christian solidarism

After his resignation, Erzberger wrote the volume of memoirs Experiences in the World War and developed a reform program in several writings, which was committed to the concept of Catholic solidarism and linked to its beginnings in Württemberg social policy. In other writings he supported the policy of fulfillment of government Wirth . In order to refute the accusation of perjury remaining from the Helfferich trial, he reported himself to have committed perjury and was able to obtain an acquittal in this new trial. So he tried to prepare the ground for a return to political life. He managed to find support again in parts of the Center Party.


The German national propaganda against Matthias Erzberger triggered several assassinations on him. In August 1921, Erzberger fell victim to a political murder . On January 26, 1920, the former ensign Oltwig von Hirschfeld had shot at Erzberger twice when he was leaving the courthouse in Berlin-Moabit. Erzberger was slightly injured in the shoulder, and a second bullet ricocheted off a metal object in his pocket. Hirschfeld was sentenced to only 18 months in prison. The attack left Erzberger with a deep shock. Although he tried to return to politics, he feared the consequences: "The bullet that is supposed to hit me has already been poured," he confided to his daughter Maria.

The order to murder Matthias Erzberger was given in August 1921 by the former lieutenant captain Manfred von Killinger (1886-1944) in writing to the two former naval officers Tillessen and Schulz. On August 26, 1921, the former naval officers Heinrich Tillessen and Heinrich Schulz - both members of the right-wing organization Consul , the Freikorps Oberland and the Teutonic Order  - met Erzberger in Bad Griesbach in the Black Forest on a walk with his party friend Carl Diez . They shot the politician who was on vacation six times. Erzberger fell seriously injured down an embankment. Schulz then killed Erzberger at close range with two more shots in the head; Diez was also seriously injured. The crime was solved by the Baden Public Prosecutor Franz Schlimm. A memorial stone in a bend on Bundesstraße 28 between Bad Griesbach and Freudenstadt commemorates this bloody act.

Both assassins were able to flee abroad with the help of Killinger in August 1921. In 1933, they returned to Germany from Spain to be amnestied under the 1933 Exemption from Punishment Ordinance, which lifted sentences for crimes in the construction of National Socialism. In 1946 Tillessen was tried for the murder. The District Court of Offenburg acquitted him on November 29, 1946, applying the 1933 impunity ordinance. This judgment met with protest throughout Germany. It was overturned by a French high court in early January 1947, which referred the case back to the German judiciary. In March 1947, Tillessen was sentenced to 15 years imprisonment by the Constance Regional Court . On July 19, 1950, the Offenburg Regional Court imposed a sentence of 12 years in prison against the other perpetrator, Heinrich Schulz, including two years in pre-trial detention. Both lost only a small part of it and were released in 1952.

The funeral for Matthias Erzberger on August 31, 1921 turned out to be a political rally. Chancellor Joseph Wirth (1879–1956) gave the funeral speech. Erzberger was buried in the old Catholic cemetery in Biberach an der Riss. On August 31, rallies against the assassination took place in hundreds of German cities, the largest with around 500,000 participants in Berlin's Lustgarten . The SPD and ADGB had called for the rallies . USPD and KPD had joined.


Matthias Erzberger's grave is decorated with a large group of figures by the sculptor Friedrich Thuma and is located in the old Catholic cemetery in Biberach an der Riss .

In the years after the Second World War, streets and squares were named after Matthias Erzberger in many German cities, most recently in Freiburg im Breisgau in 2018 . In 1975 a commemorative stamp was issued by the Deutsche Bundespost.

Erzberger's birthplace in Buttenhausen was redesigned in 2004 to become the Matthias Erzberger Memorial . In Biberach a home and agricultural school was named after him, in Oberkirch (Baden) a bridge.

On August 26, 2011, the ballroom of the Federal Ministry of Finance in Berlin was named "Matthias-Erzberger-Saal". On March 23, 2017, the President of the Bundestag, Norbert Lammert, announced that the building used by the Bundestag would be called Unter den Linden 71, " Matthias-Erzberger-Haus ". On May 17, 2021, President of the Bundestag Wolfgang Schäuble inaugurated a portrait bust of Erzberger created by Bertrand Freiesleben in front of the building .

Reviews and aftermath

Kurt Tucholsky drew a bitter conclusion in his poem Obituary, published shortly after the murder . The last three stanzas were:

The German can't stand
that : that someone tells him the truth,
that someone without a lieutenant's
collar chases the Landsknechtgeist away.

So you fell.
        Behind your stretcher walk,
grinning, those who wanted the murder:
in uniform and in gowns
the wild Teutobold.

And as your blood wetted the stones,
the military breathes.
Condolences who are still rushing ...
You weren't the first - you're not the last.
Cheers Helfferich !
        It doesn't come any more.

In 1959, the German-American historian Klaus Werner Epstein published a fundamental biography of Matthias Erzberger, which was also published in German in 1962. Epstein particularly emphasized Erzberger's upheaval achievements in the key year 1917: under the pressure of the war, Erzberger had led the originally conservative, anti-liberal Center Party into an alliance with the left-wing liberals and the Social Democrats, recognized the irrationality of his own annexation program of 1914, as well as the need to compromise to find the Entente states and finally to bear the consequences of the war defeat. Epstein summed up the work and death of Erzberger as follows:

“The important role he had played since 1917, his passionate advocacy of democracy and international reconciliation, and his contestable personal characteristics made him a given object of hatred for all enemies of the Weimar Republic. The character assassination campaign against him inevitably led to the assassination attempt in 1921. He died a martyr for the cause of the republic, and with him German democracy lost one of its most courageous champions. "

Theodor Eschenburg wrote in 1973 that Erzberger was "one of the few martyrs in German history before the Hitler dictatorship". Even his opponents could not have denied "that he was one of the most interesting figures among the members of the 150-year history of German parliaments". Eschenburg sees its special importance in three areas: It is largely attributable to Erzberger that the Reich government and the National Assembly accepted the Versailles Peace Treaty in June 1919 . The financial reform of the Reich of 1920 was essentially his work. In "an infinite number of individual actions" since 1903, Erzberger had exhausted all possibilities as a member of the Reichstag to give the Reichstag greater status and influence in the empire. With that he had become the “pacemaker of parliamentarism in an anti-parliamentary constitutional system”.

Thomas Strobl , Chairman of the CDU Baden-Württemberg and Minister of the Interior and Deputy Prime Minister of the State of Baden-Württemberg, paid tribute to Erzberger on the 100th anniversary of his death as follows:

“Erzberger's outstanding historical achievement was to have, together with others, preserved the national unity of the Germans at the end of the First World War with the adoption of the Versailles Treaty. The rejection of the treaty demanded by the supposed “patriots” on the right, however, would have [...] resulted in the division of the empire into small states and the reorganization of Central Europe through a second Peace of Westphalia. Erzberger was aware that his actions would make him the most hated man in Germany. Still, he did not shrink back. He is characterized by the fearless courage to do the right thing for his country with great determination - that still demands the greatest respect today. "


  • Secularization in Württemberg. Stuttgart 1902. ( Digitized on Wikimedia Commons )
  • Contributions to parity in Württemberg. Stuttgart 1902.
  • Center politics in the Reichstag. 5 volumes, Koblenz 1904–1907.
  • The center's application for tolerance. Osnabrück 1905.
  • Customs Policy and Social Democracy. Munich-Gladbach 1905.
  • The chambers of labor in front of the Reichstag. Jena 1905.
  • The colonial balance. Images from German colonial policy based on the negotiations in the Reichstag in the 1905/06 session. Berlin 1906.
  • The new military pension laws. Berlin 1906.
  • Why was the Reichstag dissolved? An open word to the electorate. Berlin 1906.
  • Pictures from the Reichstag election campaign in 1907. The agitation of the opponents of the center highlighted according to their election papers. Berlin 1907.
  • The humor in the Reichstag. A systematically organized collection of parliamentary jokes. Berlin [1910].
  • Center politics in the Reichstag. Berlin 1910.
  • Do we have to choose the center? Center politics in the light of truth. Berlin undated [1911].
  • Politics and Peoples' Life . Würzburg undated [1914].
  • The League of Nations. The way to world peace . R. Hobbing, Berlin 1918.
  • The League of Nations as a Question of Peace: Speech given on December 27, 1918 at the Berlin Commercial College at the invitation of the elders of the Berlin merchants. Hobbing, Berlin 1919. ( digitized version )
  • Experiences in World War. Deutsche Verlags-Anstalt, Stuttgart, Berlin 1920. ( Digitized in the Internet Archive ).
  • Solidarism - Europe's salvation and future. Civic Association, Mönchengladbach 1921.

Films and radio broadcasts

  • Erzberger was portrayed by Joachim Wolff in Dieter Meichsner's television play November Criminal .
  • Pia Fruth, martyr of the Weimar Republic. The politician Matthias Erzberger. SWR2, October 31, 2014.
  • Klaus Gietinger, Bernd Fischerauer, violent peace. The legend of the stab in the back and the Treaty of Versailles, ARD-alpha, Germany 2010



Other literature

  • Christopher Dowe (Ed.), Matthias Erzberger. A Democrat in Times of Hate , Der Kleine Buch Verlag, Stuttgart 2013, ISBN 978-3-7650-8436-2 .
  • Christopher Dowe: The camera as a political weapon ?: Matthias Erzberger in the focus of the press photographers (= small writings / Foundation Reichspräsident-Friedrich-Ebert-Gedenkstätte , Volume 32). Reich President Friedrich Ebert Memorial Foundation, Heidelberg 2011, ISBN 978-3-928880-34-3 .
  • Christopher Dowe: Matthias Erzberger. A life for democracy . Kohlhammer, Stuttgart 2011, ISBN 978-3-17-021491-0 .
  • Theodor Eschenburg : Matthias Erzberger. The great man of parliamentarism and financial reform . Piper, Munich 1973, ISBN 3-492-00339-7 .
  • Reiner Haehling von Lanzenauer : The murder of Matthias Erzberger. Series of publications by the Legal History Museum. Karlsruhe 2008, ISBN 978-3-922596-75-2 .
  • House of History Baden-Württemberg (ed.): Matthias Erzberger, a pioneer of German democracy. Book for the permanent exhibition of the Matthias Erzberger Memorial in Münsingen-Buttenhausen. Stuttgart 2011, ISBN 978-3-933726-38-4 .
  • House of History Baden-Württemberg (Ed.): Matthias Erzberger. A democrat in times of hatred . G. Braun Buchverlag, Karlsruhe 2013, ISBN 978-3-7650-8436-2 .
  • Michail Krausnick , Günter Randecker: Murder Erzberger - Matthias Erzberger. Bankruptcy administrator of the empire and pioneer of democracy. A portrait . Norderstedt 2005, ISBN 3-8334-3586-0 .
  • Wolfgang Michalka (ed.): Matthias Erzberger: Reichsminister in Germany's hardest time . Edited on behalf of the Federal Archives . Verlag für Berlin-Brandenburg, Potsdam 2002, ISBN 3-935035-32-2 .
  • Alex Möller : Reich Finance Minister M. Erzberger and his reform work . Mommsen 1971.
  • Alfons Siegel: Ideas for creating peace at the end of the First World War and the East-West conflict. Developments and concepts by Matthias Erzberger and Dieter Senghaas. Agenda Verlag, Münster 2003, ISBN 3-89688-184-1 .
  • Alfons Siegel: League of Nations, Hexagon and the future of the UN. Kant references in peace concepts by Matthias Erzberger and Dieter Senghaas. In: Zeitschrift für Politik , Volume 55, 3/2008, pp. 337–361, ISSN 0044-3360.
  • Alfons Siegel: Erzberger's teachings for world peace. League of Nations, Solidarism and the Future of the UN. Biberacher Verlagsdruckerei, Biberach an der Riss 2018, ISBN 978-3-947348-22-0 .

Web links

Commons : Matthias Erzberger  - Collection of images, videos and audio files
Wikisource: Matthias Erzberger  - Sources and full texts

Individual evidence

  1. Cord Gebhardt: The case of the Erzberger murderer Heinrich Tillessen. A contribution to the history of justice after 1945. Mohr, Tübingen 1995, ISBN 3-16-146490-7 , p. 7.
  2. ^ Klaus Epstein: Matthias Erzberger and the dilemma of German democracy. Berlin 1962, pp. 17 f., 22 f.
  3. ^ Klaus Epstein: Matthias Erzberger and the dilemma of German democracy. Berlin 1962, p. 19.
  4. ^ Klaus Epstein: Matthias Erzberger and the dilemma of German democracy. Berlin 1962, p. 20.
  5. ^ Klaus Epstein: Matthias Erzberger and the dilemma of German democracy. Berlin 1962, p. 23 ff.
  6. ^ Kai-Britt Albrecht: Matthias Erzberger. Tabular curriculum vitae in the LeMO ( DHM and HdG )
  7. ^ Klaus Epstein:  Erzberger, Matthias. In: New German Biography (NDB). Volume 4, Duncker & Humblot, Berlin 1959, ISBN 3-428-00185-0 , pp. 638-640 ( digitized version ).
  8. Leaflet from the House of History Baden-Württemberg for schoolchildren ( Memento from November 12, 2013 in the Internet Archive ) (PDF; 1.3 MB)
  9. ^ Klaus Epstein: Matthias Erzberger and the dilemma of German democracy. Berlin 1962, pp. 26, 28, 30.
  10. ^ Klaus Epstein: Matthias Erzberger and the dilemma of German democracy. Berlin 1962, p. 32.
  11. ^ Matthias Erzberger: The social democracy in earlier days. Stuttgart 1903. p. 22 ff.
  12. ^ Theodor Eschenburg: Matthias Erzberger . Piper, Munich 1973, p. 15-18 .
  13. ^ Theodor Eschenburg: Matthias Erzberger . S. 22nd f .
  14. ^ Karl von Eine: Memories of a Soldier (1933) . P. 69. Quoted from Theodor Eschenburg: Matthias Erzberger, 1973, p. 23 .
  15. Christoph E. Palmer, Thomas Schnabel (Ed.): Matthias Erzberger 1875-1921. Patriot and visionary . Hohenheim-Verlag, Stuttgart 2006, ISBN 3-89850-141-8 , p. 151.
    Wolfgang Ruge: Matthias Erzberger. A political biography . Union, Berlin (GDR) 1976, p. 29-33 .
  16. ^ Winfried Speitkamp : German colonial history . Reclam, Stuttgart 2005, p. 139.
  17. ^ Wolfgang Ruge: Matthias Erzberger . Union, Berlin 1976, p. 32 f .
  18. ^ John CG Röhl : Wilhelm II. The way into the abyss, 1900-1941. , CH Beck, Munich 2008, ISBN 978-3-406-57779-6 , p. 549.
    House of History Baden-Württemberg (ed.): Matthias Erzberger, a pioneer of German democracy. Stuttgart 2011, p. 30 f.
  19. ^ Klaus Epstein: Matthias Erzberger and the dilemma of German democracy. Berlin 1962, p. 80.
  20. ^ Klaus Epstein: Matthias Erzberger and the dilemma of German democracy. Berlin 1962, p. 99 ff.
    Theodor Eschenburg: Matthias Erzberger . S. 26 f .
  21. ^ Klaus Epstein: Matthias Erzberger and the dilemma of German democracy. Berlin 1962, p. 102 ff.
  22. ^ Klaus Epstein: Matthias Erzberger and the dilemma of German democracy. Berlin 1962, p. 79.
  23. ^ Klaus Epstein: Matthias Erzberger and the dilemma of German democracy. Berlin 1962, p. 106 ff.
  24. ^ Klaus Epstein: Matthias Erzberger and the dilemma of German democracy. Berlin 1962, p. 113.
  25. ^ Klaus Epstein: Matthias Erzberger and the dilemma of German democracy. Berlin 1962, p. 114 f.
  26. On Erzberger's political views before 1914 see Klaus Epstein: Matthias Erzberger und das Dilemma der Deutschen Demokratie. Berlin 1962, p. 91 ff. (Foreign policy), 83 f. (Economic and social policy), p. 85 ff. (Church policy), p. 109 ff. (Domestic policy and parliamentarism).
  27. ^ Eg in the Anklamer Zeitung of February 18, 1915.
    Wolfgang Ruge: Matthias Erzberger . Berlin 1976, p. 45 ff .
  28. ^ Klaus Epstein: Matthias Erzberger and the dilemma of German democracy. Berlin 1962, p. 126 ff.
  29. ^ Walter Nicolai: Intelligence and Enlightenment . In: Max Schwarte (Ed.): The world struggle for honor and law . Deutsche Verlagsanstalten Stuttgart, 1921, p. 493.
  30. Wolfgang Ruge: Matthias Erzberger, Berlin 1976, p. 49 ff.
  31. ^ Fritz Fischer: German war aims. Revolutionization and separate peace in the East 1914–1918 . In: Historische Zeitschrift , Vol. 188, Issue 2, October 1959, pp. 249-310.
  32. ^ Wolfgang Ruge: Matthias Erzberger . Berlin 1976, p. 51 .
  33. ^ Klaus Epstein: Matthias Erzberger and the dilemma of German democracy. Berlin 1962, p. 185 f.
  34. State Archives Potsdam, Reich Chancellery files No. 1391/4, p. 37.
  35. ^ Klaus Epstein: Matthias Erzberger and the dilemma of German democracy. Berlin 1962, p. 183 ff.
  36. ^ Klaus Epstein: Matthias Erzberger and the dilemma of German democracy. Berlin 1962, pp. 123, 431.
  37. ^ Klaus Epstein: Matthias Erzberger and the dilemma of German democracy. Berlin 1962, p. 126.
  38. ^ Klaus Epstein: Matthias Erzberger and the dilemma of German democracy. Berlin 1962, p. 141 ff.
  39. ^ Matthias Erzberger: Experiences in the World War. Deutsche Verlags-Anstalt, Stuttgart, Berlin 1920, p. 49 ff. (Quote: p. 55). Klaus Epstein: Matthias Erzberger and the dilemma of German democracy. Berlin 1962, p. 144 f.
  40. ^ Klaus Epstein: Matthias Erzberger and the dilemma of German democracy. Berlin 1962, p. 146 ff.
  41. ^ Klaus Epstein: Matthias Erzberger and the dilemma of German democracy. Berlin 1962, p. 150 ff.
  42. ^ Klaus Epstein: Matthias Erzberger and the dilemma of German democracy. Berlin 1962, p. 159.
  43. ^ Wolfgang Ruge: Matthias Erzberger. Berlin 1976, pp. 51-55.
    Klaus Epstein: Matthias Erzberger and the dilemma of German democracy. Berlin 1962, p. 160 f.
  44. ^ Klaus Epstein: Matthias Erzberger and the dilemma of German democracy. Berlin 1962, p. 163 f.
    Matthias Erzberger: Experiences in the World War. Deutsche Verlags-Anstalt, Stuttgart / Berlin 1920, p. 102 ff.
  45. ^ Matthias Erzberger: Experiences in the World War. Deutsche Verlags-Anstalt, Stuttgart, Berlin 1920, p. 78 ff.
    Wolfgang Gust (Ed.): The genocide of the Armenians 1915/16. Documents from the Political Archive of the German Foreign Office. To Klampen Verlag, Springe, 2005, ISBN 3-934920-59-4 , p. 451 ff.
  46. ^ Klaus Epstein: Matthias Erzberger and the dilemma of German democracy. Berlin 1962, p. 161 f., 169 f.
    Matthias Erzberger: Experiences in the World War. Deutsche Verlags-Anstalt, Stuttgart / Berlin 1920, pp. 56 ff., 82 ff.
  47. ^ Wolfgang Ruge: Matthias Erzberger. Berlin 1976, p. 56 f.Klaus
    Epstein: Matthias Erzberger and the dilemma of German democracy. Berlin 1962, p. 164 ff.
  48. ^ Klaus Epstein: Matthias Erzberger and the dilemma of German democracy. Berlin 1962, p. 172.
  49. ^ Klaus Epstein: Matthias Erzberger and the dilemma of German democracy. Berlin 1962, p. 173 ff.
  50. ^ Klaus Epstein: Matthias Erzberger and the dilemma of German democracy. Berlin 1962, p. 177 ff.
  51. ^ Egmont Zechlin: German politics and the Jews in the First World War. Göttingen 1969, p. 525.
  53. ^ Klaus Epstein: Matthias Erzberger and the dilemma of German democracy. Berlin 1962, p. 186 ff.
  54. ^ Wolfgang Ruge: Matthias Erzberger . Berlin 1976, p. 59, 65 f .
  55. ^ Klaus Epstein: Matthias Erzberger and the dilemma of German democracy. Berlin 1962, p. 204 ff.
  56. ^ Theodor Wolff: Diaries 1914-1919. The First World War and the emergence of the Weimar Republic in diaries, editorials and letters from the editor-in-chief at the “Berliner Tageblatt” and co-founder of the “German Democratic Party”. First part, ed. by Bernd Sösemann. Boppard am Rhein 1984, ISBN 3-7646-1835-3 , p. 509.
  57. ^ Theodor Wolff: Diaries 1914-1919. The First World War and the emergence of the Weimar Republic in diaries, editorials and letters from the editor-in-chief at the “Berliner Tageblatt” and co-founder of the “German Democratic Party”. First part, ed. by Bernd Sösemann. Boppard am Rhein 1984, ISBN 3-7646-1835-3 , p. 511.
  58. ^ Ullrich: The nervous great power 1871-1918. The rise and fall of the German Empire. 2010, p. 522 ff.
    Gerhard Hirschfeld , Gerd Krumeich, Irina Renz in connection with Markus Pöhlmann (ed.): Encyclopedia First World War. Ferdinand Schöningh, Paderborn 2014, ISBN 978-3-8252-8551-7 , pp. 385, 465, 581 f., 711 f., 770 f.
    Klaus Epstein: Matthias Erzberger and the dilemma of German democracy. Berlin 1962, p. 206 f.
  59. ^ Klaus Epstein: Matthias Erzberger and the dilemma of German democracy. Berlin 1962, pp. 206 f., 232 ff.
    House of History Baden-Württemberg (Ed.): Matthias Erzberger, a pioneer of German democracy. Stuttgart 2011, p. 37 ff.
    Volker Ullrich : The nervous great power 1871-1918. The rise and fall of the German Empire. S. Fischer Verlag, Frankfurt am Main 2010, ISBN 978-3-596-17240-5 , p. 528.
    Gerhard Hirschfeld , Gerd Krumeich, Irina Renz in connection with Markus Pöhlmann (ed.): Encyclopedia First World War. Ferdinand Schöningh, Paderborn 2014, ISBN 978-3-8252-8551-7 , pp. 376, 437, 511.
  60. ^ Klaus Epstein: Matthias Erzberger and the dilemma of German democracy . Berlin 1962, p. 239 ff.
  61. ^ Klaus Epstein: Matthias Erzberger and the dilemma of German democracy . Berlin 1962, p. 244.
    House of History Baden-Württemberg (Ed.): Matthias Erzberger, a pioneer of German democracy. Stuttgart 2011, p. 39 f. (Quote: p. 40).
  62. ^ Klaus Epstein: Matthias Erzberger and the dilemma of German democracy . Berlin 1962, p. 248 ff.
  63. ^ Matthias Erzberger: Experiences in the World War. Deutsche Verlags-Anstalt, Stuttgart, Berlin 1920, pp. 311, 313.
  64. ^ Matthias Erzberger: Experiences in the World War. Deutsche Verlags-Anstalt, Stuttgart, Berlin 1920, p. 54.
  65. ^ Matthias Erzberger: Experiences in the World War . Deutsche Verlagsanstalt, Stuttgart, Berlin 1920, p. 325 ff.
    Klaus Epstein: Matthias Erzberger and the dilemma of German democracy . Berlin 1962, p. 308, 312 f.Eberhard
    Kolb : The Peace of Versailles. Verlag CH Beck, Munich 2005, ISBN 3-406-50875-8 , p. 33.
  66. ^ Matthias Erzberger: Experiences in the World War. Deutsche Verlags-Anstalt, Stuttgart, Berlin 1920, p. 326 ff.
    Klaus Epstein: Matthias Erzberger and the dilemma of German democracy. Berlin 1962, pp. 144 f .; Maxime Weygand : Le 11 November . Flammarion, Paris 1932. p. 23 ff.
  68. ^ Theodor Eschenburg: Matthias Erzberger . Munich 1973, p. 130-140 .
  69. Dirk Emunds, From the Protection of the Republic to the Protection of the Constitution? The Reich Commissioner for Monitoring Public Order in the Weimar Republic, Hamburg 2017, p. 17ff.
  70. Eike Alexander Senger, The reform of the financial administration in the Federal Republic of Germany. Springer-Verlag 2009; P. 33
  71. ^ Law on the Reich Finance Administration of September 10, 1919
  72. including the Reich Tax Code of December 13, 1919, Income Tax Act of March 29, 1920, Corporate Income Tax Act of March 30, 1920, Inheritance Tax Act of September 10, 1919
  73. ^ Stefan Homburg , General Taxation. 7th edition Vahlen 2015; P. 45
  74. Manfred Schäfers, Century Reform in Tax Law , FAZ of December 27, 2019, page 20
  75. Georg Heuberger (Ed.): Canceled. Postcards hostile to Jews. Based on the Wolfgang Haney Collection , Heidelberg 1999, p. 268.
  76. ^ Wolfgang Ruge: Matthias Erzberger . Berlin 1976, p. 118-122 .
  77. On the Erzberger judgment see for example Eberhard Kolb : Die Weimarer Republik . 6th, revised and expanded edition. Oldenbourg, Munich 2002, ISBN 3-486-49796-0 , p. 39f.
  78. ^ Wolfgang Ruge: Matthias Erzberger . Berlin 1976, p. 124-131 .
  79. ^ Jörg von Uthmann: Assassination. Murder with a clear conscience . Verlag Siedler, Berlin 2001, ISBN 3-572-01263-5 , p. 119.
  80. ^ Martin Sabrow: Organization Consul (OC), 1920-1922 . In: Historical Lexicon of Bavaria .
    Note: Killinger, the leading head in the Consul organization, was arrested in September 1921 and indicted in June 1922 before the Offenburg jury court. On June 13, 1922, he was acquitted on flimsy grounds. He had previously helped the two assassins to get out of the country.
  81. Heinrich Tillessen was the brother of one of the masterminds behind the murder of Walther Rathenau , Karl Tillessen , also an ex-officer and later an SS officer. Wolfram Bet , The Enemy Within . In: Die Zeit , No. 24/2003. On Heinrich Tillessen's curriculum vitae: For the national rebirth. Tillessen has not yet escaped . In: Der Spiegel , No. 1 of January 4, 1947.
  82. a b August 26, 1921 - Matthias Erzberger: Murder in Bad Griesbach. In: Retrieved May 15, 2018 .
  84. Heinrich Tillessen . In: Der Spiegel . No. 10 of March 8, 1947, p. 13. - Online here , accessed December 1, 2014.
  85. Cord Gebhardt: The case of the Erzberger murderer Heinrich Tillessen. A contribution to the history of justice after 1945. Mohr, Tübingen 1995 (contributions to the history of law in the 20th century, volume 14), ISBN 3-16-146490-7 . P. 328f.
  86. ^ Klaus Epstein: Matthias Erzberger and the dilemma of German democracy . Frankfurt am Main 1976.
    Jörg von Uthmann: Assassination attempt. Murder with a clear conscience . Verlag Siedler, Berlin 2001, ISBN 3-572-01263-5 , p. 124.
  87. ^ Wolfgang Ruge: Matthias Erzberger . Union, Berlin / GDR 1976, p. 8 .
  88. Patriot in danger. In: Die Zeit , No. 34/2011.
  89. Unter den Linden 71st German Bundestag, accessed on March 2, 2018 . / Robert Leicht : Too late and just in time
  90. ^ German Bundestag: Matthias Erzberger honored with portrait bust . (Accessed: August 24, 2021).
  91. Die Weltbühne, September 8, 1921, No. 36, p. 245. Online e.g. at Kurt Tucholsky: Obituary .
  92. ^ Carl E. Schorske: Matthias Erzberger and the Dilemma of German Democracy. By Klaus Epstein . In: The American Historical Review . tape 65 , no. 2 , January 1, 1960, p. 379 ff .
  93. ^ Klaus Epstein: Matthias Erzberger and the dilemma of German democracy. Berlin 1962, p. 449.
  94. ^ Theodor Eschenburg: Matthias Erzberger . Piper, Munich 1973, p. 7 .
  95. ^ Theodor Eschenburg: Matthias Erzberger . Piper, Munich 1973, p. 8 .
  96. Thomas Strobl: Hatred and agitation led to the murder of Matthias Erzberger . In: Frnakfurter ALllgemine ZEitung from August 26, 2021 (accessed: August 26, 2021).