Otto zu Stolberg-Wernigerode

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Otto Graf zu Stolberg-Wernigerode , from 1890 Prince of Stolberg-Wernigerode (born October 30, 1837 in Gedern , † November 19, 1896 at Wernigerode Castle ) was a German politician of the imperial era and Vice Chancellor under Otto von Bismarck .

Portrait of Otto zu Stolberg-Wernigerode, around 1866

Childhood and youth

Otto zu Stolberg-Wernigerode was born on October 30, 1837 as the third and last child of Hereditary Count Hermann zu Stolberg-Wernigerode and his wife Emma, ​​née Countess zu Erbach-Fürstenau , at the castle in Gedern, Hesse . The father died, only 39 years old, shortly before Otto's fourth birthday from desperation over the loss of his eldest son Albrecht. Otto initially received home tuition, from the fall of 1850 he attended the Eilersche educational institution in Freiimfelde near Halle (Saale) . Since he did not feel comfortable there, the head of the family, his grandfather Henrich , sent him to the grammar school in Duisburg . There he was considered a mediocre student with a tendency to loiter and inattentive. After graduating from high school in the summer of 1856, Otto studied constitutional law , history and economics in Göttingen and Heidelberg , with a groom and valet available to him in addition to an “escort” . Otto did not achieve a formal degree, instead a long trip in the summer / autumn of 1858 to Switzerland and Italy completed his training.

Assumption of power and military service

Otto's guardian and grandfather Henrich died in February 1854, but had stipulated that Otto would not be allowed to succeed him until he was 21, the age of majority at the time . In the meantime, his uncle Botho zu Stolberg-Wernigerode and a nephew of his grandfather, Wilhelm zu Stolberg-Wernigerode , acted as guardians. Botho headed the administration of the county de jure during the time of guardianship and de facto also in the first years after that, when Otto was hardly present in Wernigerode.

Although as a member of a mediatized family, he was not obliged to conscription , Otto , who was concerned about his reputation , had already been employed as an officer à la suite in the Prussian army during his studies in February 1857 . In January 1859 he began his actual military service as a second lieutenant in the Gardes du Corps regiment . Otto did not take his regular officer examination until March 1860. In May 1861, he retired from active service, but was subsequently promoted. During his military service he established close contacts to the future Kaiser Wilhelm I and his son Friedrich Wilhelm as well as to other members of the high nobility , but also to the heads of the Prussian administration and to the foreign diplomats present in Berlin . Participation in the coronation of Wilhelm I in Königsberg in October 1861 and the visit to the World Exhibition in London in August 1862 broadened the horizon as did Otto's personal contacts, including the then Prince of Wales , who later became King Edward VII.

First years as "governing" count

Although the county of Wernigerode was part of the Kingdom of Prussia , the respective head of the count's family had certain special rights as the successor to the lords who had ruled this territory sovereignly. He had a seat and vote in the provincial parliament of the province of Saxony , because of the county of Hohnstein in the first chamber of the state assembly of the Kingdom of Hanover and because of the rule of Gedern also in the first chamber of the state estates of the Grand Duchy of Hesse . Also, he was allowed to appoint some of the acts in the county officials and clergy itself and for the rest of the Prussian government, at least personnel proposals present . Until 1848 the count also had jurisdiction in his county.

As long as Prussia was an absolute monarchy, the type and scope of these special rights were stipulated in contracts between the crown and each of the 20 or so noble families. After the revolution of 1848 , however, the Prussian state parliament , especially its liberal members, claimed a right of co-determination. This first affected the recession, which was newly concluded in 1862, according to which

  • the hitherto standing only Count Consistory of the county to the Prussian Oberkirchenrat assumed
  • the organization of the courts newly regulated and
  • an option for the abolition of the previous exemption from tax on property was agreed

has been. A commission of the state parliament submitted a report after a constitutional investigation of the similar contracts concluded with several noblemen, according to which both the right to present judges and other judicial officials and any tax exemption are incompatible with the Prussian constitution . Even if the government ultimately did not follow the opinion of the MPs, this “interference of the subjects ” in the lordly contractual relationships caused Otto considerable anger and worry.

In the autumn of 1862 Otto took part in the negotiations of the Provincial Landtag in Merseburg for the first time and was immediately elected to the Provincial Committee, the governing body of the Landtag under the chairmanship of the Landtag Marshal , Otto's uncle Botho. Since the summer of 1863 Otto tried to found a conservative provincial association in order to support the government under Otto von Bismarck , which was in conflict with the army and the constitution, in the upcoming elections for the House of Representatives in October , but this did not come into being until December 15, 1863. Otto became its first president. At the celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Province of Saxony in September 1865, Otto had his first long personal conversation with Bismarck, during which he made a good impression. Immediately after the celebration, the Prussian Crown Prince and his wife Viktoria visited Wernigerode for the first time.

Otto had been a member of the Order of St. John since 1859 , initially as a (minor) "Knight of Honor" appointed by the king, as he had not yet reached the age of 30. Because of this membership, Otto was assigned to the troops occupying the Kingdom of Hanover in the war of 1866 as an orderly officer , where he took care of the establishment of hospitals and other needs of the wounded. After the end of the war Otto was promoted to Rittmeister .

The further political rise

In 1867 Otto ran as an expressly pro-government candidate for the constituent North German Reichstag in an electoral district that included both the county of Wernigerode and the area around Halberstadt . Through massive influence on the voters, which was also discussed in the North German Reichstag on March 8, 1867 after the elections, he succeeded in winning the mandate. As one of the youngest MPs, Otto acted as provisional secretary at the opening session . He did not formally join any parliamentary group , but sat in on the newly founded free conservatives . His stay in Berlin also gave him the opportunity to deepen contacts with members of the royal family, Bismarck and other leaders in Prussian society. He was no longer elected to the first ordinary North German Reichstag elected on August 31, 1867. Instead, Stolberg-Wernigerode was appointed the first upper president of the newly established province of Hanover on September 14, 1867 . The Prussian state government hoped through him, who had also been a Hanoverian citizen until 1866, to integrate the new province more quickly into the state. This was largely achieved in his term of office, which lasted until 1872, because he actively campaigned for the greatest possible self-government in the province and only cautiously changed the administrative structures. At the same time as the appointment as senior president, Stolberg-Wernigerode was promoted to major .

After his 30th birthday, Stolberg-Wernigerode took the hereditary seat of his family in the manor house itself and for this reason was already regularly in Berlin, where there were usually talks with Bismarck or the respective Prussian interior minister. On the other hand, the Berlin and Hanoverian offices put so much stress on him that he gave the administration of the county almost entirely to civil servants through powers of attorney .

On March 3, 1871, the elections for the first Reichstag of the German Empire took place. Stolberg-Wernigerode saw no chance for himself in the home constituency of Magdeburg 8 against the old liberal August von Bernuth , to whom he was defeated in 1867, and therefore ran in the constituency of Hanover 5, to which u. a. Melle , Diepholz and Wittlage belonged. His candidacy was also supported by the National Liberal Party , as the most promising opposing candidate, Ludwig Brüel, was a member of the particularist German-Hanoverian party . Likewise in 1871 Stolberg-Wernigerode was appointed Landtag Marshal of the Provincial Landtag of the Province of Saxony, so that in addition to his official activities, he also held three parliamentary mandates. This meant an extremely unsteady life in which he saw his wife and children only rarely and briefly.

In August 1872 the president of the Prussian mansion, Otto's uncle Eberhard zu Stolberg-Wernigerode, died unexpectedly . Bismarck was looking for a loyal successor to pass the upcoming Kulturkampf Acts and the new district order , as the sharp opposition of the old conservatives around Hans Hugo von Kleist-Retzow had already become clear in the House of Representatives. Bismarck's choice fell on Otto, who agreed on the condition that he would soon be released from his office in Hanover. On October 22, 1872 he was elected President of the Manor with 84 of 167 votes, and on February 27, 1873 he was recalled as Chief President.

For the Reichstag election in 1874 , Stolberg-Wernigerode again changed the constituency. Now he entered the constituency of Hanover 13, which included Goslar and Zellerfeld as well as the Count Ilfeld . He defended this mandate for the Reichstag election in 1877 , but left the Reichstag when he was appointed Deputy Chancellor in 1878 because of the statutory provisions.

In the spring of 1876, both houses of the Prussian state parliament approved a law that decisively changed the legal relationships of all three lines of the Stolberg count's house: at least de jure , they largely lost their privileges in administration and jurisdiction on October 1, 1873: the count's government was dissolved and a district administrator and head of office were appointed by the provincial government; in addition, the votes cast in the state parliaments of the provinces of Saxony and Hanover were lost. Since then, Stolberg-Wernigerode no longer referred to itself as the Governing Count. De facto , however, the counts largely retained their previous influence.

In the autumn of 1875, a question of court rank and disputes over precedence at the St. Petersburg Tsar's court brought Bismarck to the need for personnel changes. The previous German ambassador in Vienna , Hans Lothar von Schweinitz , was transferred to Petersburg and Stolberg-Wernigerode was appointed his successor in Vienna. At times Herbert von Bismarck and Bernhard von Bülow were among his employees . Until his recall in July 1878, Stolberg-Wernigerode enjoyed the special trust of both Emperor Franz Joseph I and the Austro-Hungarian Foreign Minister Count Andrássy .

Vice Chancellor

Directly from the Vienna office, Stolberg-Wernigerode was appointed first deputy of the Reich Chancellor and Vice President of the Prussian Ministry of State in accordance with the Deputy Act passed in March 1878 . He was therefore considered to be the likely successor of Bismarck. His greatest achievement in this position was undoubtedly in the autumn of 1879, when he was able to break the resistance of Kaiser Wilhelm I against the planned dual alliance with Austria , with which the important alliance of the two states against Russia could be signed. In April 1880 he introduced the Samoa bill to the Reichstag for Bismarck , who was unable to attend due to illness , which, however, was rejected by the MPs with 128 to 112 votes, which caused a setback for German colonial policy. Due to frequent differences of opinion with the "Iron Chancellor", the Count resigned from the office of Vice Chancellor on June 20, 1881.

Further offices and honorary offices

However, he remained loyal to Prussia and the imperial family and took over the post of chief treasurer in 1884 (until 1894). From 1885 to 1888 he was Minister of the Royal House . In 1890 Emperor Wilhelm II authorized him to use the title of imperial prince from 1742, which his ancestor Count Christian Ernst refused to accept . In 1884 he became a corps bow bearer of the Saxo-Borussia . He died at the age of 59 in Wernigerode .

The high regard in which his life he enjoyed, is especially evident through the many offices he held outside politics: Chancellor of the Order of St. John (1872-1876) and the Black Eagle , Chairman of the Extraordinary General Synod of the Evangelical Church of the older provinces of Prussia from 1875, of the Central Committee of German Associations and the Prussian Association of the Red Cross .

The Ottofels near Wernigerode was named after him.

Feudal lord and industrial magnate

Stolberg-Wernigerode was one of the richest men in Prussia throughout his life. The basis for this were the large forests as well as the iron works and foundries in the Harz Mountains.

In 1891 he became a member of the Astrolabe Company .


Memorial plaque in Gederner Schlosspark with wrong date of death

Even before Bismarck, Otto zu Stolberg-Wernigerode advocated a social policy with comprehensive care for the welfare of the workers, whose miserable living conditions he recognized. With concessions to the working class, he wanted to reduce the influence of social democracy and maintain the existing order. As a member of the Association for the Improvement of Rural Working Conditions, which was primarily intended to maintain the economic conditions of his time in the interests of the large landowners, this was a central concern of his. Although he agreed to Bismarck's strict socialist laws of 1878, he was by no means an ardent supporter of this body of law because he presumably foresaw its failure.

The count also belonged to those aristocratic circles that showed themselves to be very attached to their homeland. He resided with his family in Wernigerode Castle. In the years 1862 to 1893 he had the castle rebuilt on a large scale by the architect Carl Frühling , thereby creating a model of north German historicism . In the office there, he drafted the Stolberg social legislation , which for the first time set up a labor health insurance fund, a pension fund and accident insurance in the county. He also contributed a lot to the economic development of the area. He owned 520 km² of real estate and numerous factories, including in Ilsenburg and Magdeburg , which brought him around 1.5 million marks in the 1870s. Since he had access to progressive circles of the upper class, he was able to keep his property up to date economically. Among other things, he built sugar factories; The products of his ironworks in Ilsenburg were highly praised internationally and received numerous awards, for example at the World Exhibition in Paris in 1867 .


On August 22nd, 1863, Otto married his then 26-year-old cousin, Princess Anna Reuss zu Köstritz , in Stonsdorf in Lower Silesia , whom he had known from childhood because both mothers were sisters. On August 28, the couple arrived in Wernigerode, where Otto had organized a reception with great pomp. Over the course of time, the marriage resulted in four sons and three daughters, Otto largely leaving their upbringing to his wife.


  • Konrad Breitenborn : In the service of Bismarck. The political career of Count Otto zu Stolberg-Wernigerode. Verlag der Nation, Berlin 1984 (4th, modified edition, ibid 1986, ISBN 3-373-00394-6 ).
  • Konrad Breitenborn: Count Otto zu Stolberg-Wernigerode (1837-1896). German nobleman and politician of the Bismarckian era. Selected documents. Verlag Jüttners Buchhandlung, Wernigerode 1993, ISBN 3-910157-01-7 .
  • Konrad Breitenborn (ed.): The memoirs of Prince Otto zu Stolberg-Wernigerode (1837-1896). Verlag Jüttners Buchhandlung, Wernigerode 1996, ISBN 3-910157-03-3 .
  • Heinrich Heffter : Otto Fürst zu Stolberg-Wernigerode (= historical studies. H. 434). Volume 1. Edited by Werner Pöls. Matthiesen, Husum 1980, ISBN 3-7868-1434-1
  • Olesya Herfurth, André Niedostadek : Otto Graf and Prince zu Stolberg-Wernigerode - pioneers of social law. In: Legal Tribune ONLINE of November 19, 2016 .
  • Wilhelm Herse : Otto Prince of Stolberg-Wernigerode. In: Central German Life Pictures. 1. Volume: Pictures of the 19th Century. Self-published by the Historical Commission, Magdeburg 1926, pp. 344–356.
  • Eduard JacobsStolberg-Wernigerode, Otto Fürst zu . In: Allgemeine Deutsche Biographie (ADB). Volume 54, Duncker & Humblot, Leipzig 1908, pp. 551-564.
  • Steffen Wendlik: Otto Fürst zu Stolberg-Wernigerode (1837–1896) - nobleman, politician and entrepreneur. In: Philipp Prince of Stolberg-Wernigerode, Jost-Christian Prince of Stolberg-Stolberg (ed.): Stolberg 1210–2010. On the eight hundred year history of the sex. Verlag Janos Stekovics, Dößel 2010, ISBN 978-3-89923-252-3 , pp. 246-277.

Web links

Commons : Otto zu Stolberg-Wernigerode  - Collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Konrad Breitenborn : In the service of Bismarck - The political career of Count Otto zu Stolberg-Wernigerode , Verlag der Nation, Berlin 1984, ISBN 3-373-00394-6 , p. 25.
  2. ^ Konrad Breitenborn : In the service of Bismarck - The political career of Count Otto zu Stolberg-Wernigerode , Verlag der Nation, Berlin 1984, ISBN 3-373-00394-6 , p. 45.
  3. ^ Konrad Breitenborn : In the service of Bismarck - The political career of Count Otto zu Stolberg-Wernigerode , Verlag der Nation, Berlin 1984, ISBN 3-373-00394-6 , p. 71/72.
  4. ^ Konrad Breitenborn : In the service of Bismarck - The political career of Count Otto zu Stolberg-Wernigerode , Verlag der Nation, Berlin 1984, ISBN 3-373-00394-6 , pp. 105/106.
  5. ^ Konrad Breitenborn : In the service of Bismarck - The political career of Count Otto zu Stolberg-Wernigerode , Verlag der Nation, Berlin 1984, ISBN 3-373-00394-6 , pp. 125-128.
  6. ^ Konrad Breitenborn : In the service of Bismarck - The political career of Count Otto zu Stolberg-Wernigerode , Verlag der Nation, Berlin 1984, ISBN 3-373-00394-6 , p. 154.
  7. ^ Konrad Breitenborn : In the service of Bismarck - The political career of Count Otto zu Stolberg-Wernigerode , Verlag der Nation, Berlin 1984, ISBN 3-373-00394-6 , pp. 194 and 204.
  8. ^ Konrad Breitenborn : In the service of Bismarck - The political career of Count Otto zu Stolberg-Wernigerode , Verlag der Nation, Berlin 1984, ISBN 3-373-00394-6 , pp. 239 and 251.
  9. Kösener Corpslisten 1960, 66 , 899
  10. On his socio-political initiatives in autumn 1878 cf. Collection of sources on the history of German social policy from 1867 to 1914 , Division I: From the time when the Reich was founded to the Imperial Social Message (1867–1881) , Volume 1: Basic issues of state social policy. The discussion of the workers' question on the government side from the Prussian constitutional conflict to the Reichstag election in 1881 , edited by Florian Tennstedt and Heidi Winter with the assistance of Wolfgang Ayaß and Karl-Heinz Nickel, Stuttgart a. a. 1994, no. 150 and No. 153.
predecessor Office successor
Henrich Count of Stolberg-Wernigerode
predecessor Office successor
Hans Lothar von Schweinitz German ambassador to Austria
Heinrich VII. Reuss zu Schleiz-Köstritz