Otto Gessler

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Otto Geßler (around 1923)

Otto Karl Geßler (born February 6, 1875 in Ludwigsburg , † March 24, 1955 in Lindenberg im Allgäu ) was a German politician ( DDP ) and Minister of Defense from March 27, 1920 to January 19, 1928 . Geßler was also Mayor of Regensburg from 1910 to 1914 and Lord Mayor of Nuremberg from 1914 to 1919 .

life and work

Gessler came from a petty-bourgeois background. He studied law in Erlangen , where he became a member of the music student association AMV Fridericiana Erlangen in the winter semester of 1894/95 , as well as in Tübingen and Leipzig , where he received his doctorate in 1900. In 1904 he became public prosecutor in Straubing , in 1906 trade reporter in Munich and in 1910 mayor of Regensburg and in 1914 mayor of Nuremberg .

Otto Geßler was one of the founders of the German Democratic Party (DDP) at the end of 1918 . On 25 October 1919 he took over the newly created post of reconstruction minister in the Cabinet Bauer . Two weeks after the Kapp Putsch , Hermann Müller (SPD) formed a new cabinet and appointed Geßler to succeed Reichswehr Minister Gustav Noske (SPD). Geßler headed this under several Chancellors (most recently in the Marx IV cabinet ) for almost eight years. As Reichswehr Minister, he worked closely with the head of the Army Command, Hans von Seeckt , who, however, hardly respected him as a “mere civilian”.

Otto Geßler and Hans von Seeckt (left), 1926

After the end of the "passive resistance" against the Ruhr occupation by the Stresemann government and the unconstitutional takeover of power by Gustav von Kahr in Bavaria, President Friedrich Ebert imposed a state of emergency over the entire Reich on September 26, 1923 . He transferred executive power - in the sense of the so-called civil state of emergency - to Reichswehr Minister Gessler. This delegated them to the military district commanders . On September 28, Gessler ordered the NSDAP newspaper Völkischer Beobachter to be banned after it had printed an offensive article against General von Seeckt and Reich Chancellor Gustav Stresemann . When Lieutenant General Otto von Lossow, as military district commander in Munich, refused to implement this, Gessler removed him from his office on October 20. The Bavarian State Commissioner General von Kahr then appointed Lossow as state commander and entrusted him with the management of the "Bavarian part of the Reichsheer". Despite this openly hostile behavior on the part of the Bavarian government, Gessler considered the execution of the Reich to be hopeless because the Reichswehr under Seeckt would not have been prepared to carry it out.

At the end of October and beginning of November 1923, however, Gessler ordered the military disempowerment of the state governments of Saxony and Thuringia , in which the KPD was involved. The Reichswehr carried out this willingly; 60,000 soldiers were deployed in Saxony alone. In order to suppress the Munich Hitler putsch on the night of November 8th to 9th, 1923, the Reich President then declared the "big", i.e. H. military, state of emergency, with which the executive power passed to General von Seeckt.

After Friedrich Ebert's death in 1925, Geßler intended to run as a collective candidate for the bourgeois parties for the election of the Reich President . But it failed above all because of the resistance of the Reich Foreign Minister Gustav Stresemann , who had concerns about foreign policy based on information from the German ambassador in Paris. Gessler's presidency in France could have given the impression that "political leadership would pass into the hands of the Reichswehr". In October 1926, Gessler obtained Seeckt's dismissal as head of the army command. Gessler's goal was a non-partisan, neutral Reichswehr . Despite frequent changes of government, he remained in office for almost eight years. On December 3, 1926, he resigned from the DDP. During this time, the attacks by the SPD against him became increasingly violent. Among other things, he was accused of being close to right-wing circles and big industry.

Geßler with his successor in the office of Reichswehr Minister, Wilhelm Groener (1928).

Because of the allegation of financial irregularities in his ministry in connection with the secret rearmament of the Reichswehr ( Lohmann affair ), Geßler had to resign on January 28, 1928, officially for health reasons. His successor was the non-party former General Wilhelm Groener .

From December 1928 to February 1932 Gessler was President of the Volksbund deutscher Kriegsgräberfürsorge . On March 31, 1931, he became chairman of the Luther Association ( Bund zur Renewung des Reiches ). In autumn 1931 his attempt to become Minister of the Interior in the Brüning II cabinet failed ; Brüning also commissioned Reichswehr Minister Groener to manage this ministry.

After the Nazi takeover of power in 1933, Geßler withdrew from politics. He was a member of the resistance group around Franz Sperr , had contacts with the Kreisau district , was initiated into plans for the resistance in 1944 and was scheduled in the Beck / Goerdeler shadow cabinet as political representative in military district VII (Munich) in the event of a successful coup . Two days after the assassination attempt on Adolf Hitler on July 20, 1944 , he was arrested and was interned in the Ravensbrück concentration camp until February 24, 1945 .

In 1945 he advised the Bavarian Prime Minister Fritz Schäffer . From 1949 to 1955 he was President of the Bavarian Red Cross , from 1950 to 1952 President of the German Red Cross and then its Honorary President.

From 1950 to 1955 Geßler was a member of the Bavarian Senate . In Nuremberg, Otto-Geßler-Strasse was named after him in the Schleifweg district ; there is also a street named in his honor in Ludwigsburg, Regensburg, Lindau and Lindenberg im Allgäu.



  • Otto Geßler: Reichswehr Policy in the Weimar Period. Deutsche Verlags Anstalt, Stuttgart 1958.
  • Otto Gessler: On the mayor's chair in Nuremberg during the World War. 1914-1918. In: Festgabe for His Royal Highness Crown Prince Rupprecht. Verlag Bayerische Heimatforschung, Munich 1953, pp. 98–126.


  • Fritz Beermann : Reichswehrpolitik in the Weimar Republic , in: Die Neue Gesellschaft 6 (1959), pp. 145–152.
  • Harold J. Gordon: The Reichswehr and the Weimar Republic 1919–1926 , Bernard & Graefe, Frankfurt a. M. 1959.
  • Thilo Vogelsang:  Geßler, Otto Karl. In: New German Biography (NDB). Volume 6, Duncker & Humblot, Berlin 1964, ISBN 3-428-00187-7 , p. 350 ( digitized version ).
  • Peter Hoffmann : Resistance, Coup, Assassination. The fight of the opposition against Hitler. Piper, Munich 1969, 1985.
  • Anton Schlögel : Five Presidents of the German Red Cross . In: Spirit and Shape of the Red Cross. 2nd edition, Bonn 1988.
  • Martin Schumacher (Hrsg.): MdR The Reichstag members of the Weimar Republic in the time of National Socialism. Political persecution, emigration and expatriation, 1933–1945. A biographical documentation . 3rd, considerably expanded and revised edition. Droste, Düsseldorf 1994, ISBN 3-7700-5183-1 .
  • Heiner Möllers : Reichswehr Minister Otto Geßler. A study on “non-political” military policy in the Weimar Republic (= European university publications . Series 3. History and its auxiliary sciences . Vol. 794). Lang, Frankfurt am Main a. a. 1998, ISBN 3-631-33191-6 .
  • Manuel Limbach: Bavarian liberals in the resistance against Hitler: Otto Geßler and Eduard Hamm . In: Heuss-Forum 10/2017.
  • Manuel Limbach: Citizens against Hitler. Prehistory, structure and work of the Bavarian "Sperr-Kreis" (= writings of the historical commission at the Bavarian Academy of Sciences . Vol. 102). Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, Göttingen 2019, ISBN 978-3-525-31071-7 .

Web links

Commons : Otto Geßler  - Collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. a b c d e f g Karl Eduard Haas: The Academic-Musical Association Fridericana in the Sondershäuser Association, formerly the Erlangen student choir , self-published, Erlangen 1982.
  2. a b Martin H. Geyer : Border Crossing. From state of siege to state of emergency In: Niels Werber u. a .: First World War. Cultural studies manual. JB Metzler, Stuttgart / Weimar 2014, p. 362.
  3. ^ Heinrich August Winkler : Weimar 1918–1933. The history of the first German democracy. 3rd edition, Verlag CH Beck, Munich 1998, pp. 211, 223.
  4. ^ Theodor Eschenburg , Ulrich Frank-Planitz : Gustav Stresemann. A picture biography. Deutsche Verlags-Anstalt, 1978, p. 97.
  5. a b c d e f : biographical table .
  6. ^ According to a table on the website of the House of Bavarian History, "arrested and interned in the Ravensbrück concentration camp; Torture; later imprisoned in various Berlin prisons ”.