Social Democratic Party of Germany

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Social Democratic Party of Germany
Logo of the SPD
2019-09-10 SPD regional conference team Esken Walter-Borjans by OlafKosinsky MG 0453 (cropped) .jpg2021-12-07 Signing of the coalition agreement for the 20th parliamentary term of the Bundestag by Sandro Halank – 100.jpg
Party leader Saskia Esken
Lars Klingbeil
Secretary General Kevin Kühnert
vice-chairman Klara Geywitz
Hubertus Heil
Thomas Kutschaty
Serpil Midyatli
Anke Rehlinger
Federal Managing Director Jessika Wischmeier
Federal Treasurer Dietmar Nietan
Honorary Chairman Willy Brandt (†)
founding May 23, 1863 ( ADAV )
August 8, 1869 ( SDAP )
May 27, 1875 (unification)
October 12 - 18, 1890 (SPD)
Place of establishment Leipzig (ADAV)
Eisenach (SDAP)
Gotha (Association)
Halle (Saale) (SPD)
Headquarters Willy Brandt House
Wilhelmstrasse 140
10963 Berlin
Youth organization Jusos
newspaper Forward
Party-affiliated foundation Friedrich Ebert Stiftung
Alignment Social Democracy
European Federalism
Colours) Red ( HKS 14 )
Bundestag seats
Seats in state parliaments
Government grants 54,378,689.41 euros (2020)
Number of members approx. 404,305
(as of November 2020)
Minimum age 14 years
Average age 60 years
(as of December 31, 2015)
Proportion of women 32.6 percent
(as of December 31, 2018)
International connections Progressive Alliance (full member)
Socialist International (observer status)
European party Party of European Socialists (PES)
EP Group Progressive Alliance of Social Democrats in the European Parliament (S&D)

The Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD) is a political party in Germany .

The first forerunners of the party are the General German Workers' Association, founded in 1863, and the Social Democratic Workers' Party , founded in 1869 , which merged in 1875 to form the Socialist Workers' Party of Germany . The party gave itself its current name in 1890. It is considered the oldest still existing party in Germany . From 1890 to 1930 it was always the party with the strongest vote in all Reichstag elections, and in the Weimar Republic , Friedrich Ebert, was the first republican head of state in German history . She was a founding member of the Second International and the Socialist Workers' International .

During the National Socialist dictatorship , the SPD, which had previously been the only party to vote against the Enabling Act , was banned and then operated in exile under the name Sopade . After the Second World War , in October 1945 established that the SPD was in the Soviet occupation zone with the KPD to SED forced united . In West Germany, and thus later in the reunified republic , the Godesberg program , with which the SPD gave up its commitment to Marxism , established itself as one of two large popular parties alongside the CDU . Despite heavy losses since 1990, the SPD (as of 2020) is the party with the largest number of members in Germany with a good 400,000 members .

She was from 1966 to 1982, from 1998 to 2009 and has been a member of the federal government again since 2013 . She was either in a grand coalition junior partner under a chancellor of the CDU or presented with Willy Brandt , Helmut Schmidt and Gerhard Schröder himself the head of government. After becoming the strongest force in the federal election in 2021 for the fourth time since the Second World War, it formed a traffic light coalition with Bündnis 90 / Die Grünen and the FDP . Since December 8, 2021, Olaf Scholz ( Scholz cabinet ) has been the fourth social democratic and ninth Federal Chancellor . Party chairmen have been Saskia Esken since 2019 and Lars Klingbeil since 2021 .

At the state level , it is the only party represented in all state parliaments with parliamentary groups. In ten countries, it is at the government involved in seven, it represents the head of government . It forms coalition governments with Bündnis 90 / Die Grünen ( red-green coalition ), the CDU ( red-black coalition ), the FDP ( social-liberal coalition ), the left ( red-red coalition ) or several of the above parties ( red- red coalition ) green coalition , traffic light coalition , Kenya coalition , black-red-yellow coalition ).

The SPD is part of the Social Democratic Party of Europe and sits as part of the parliamentary group of the Progressive Alliance of Social Democrats in the European Parliament , where it is the third largest party with sixteen members. She is a member of the Progressive Alliance and has observer status in the Socialist International (SI), of which she was a founding member.



The SPD sees “its roots in Judaism and Christianity , humanism and the Enlightenment , Marxist analysis of society and the experiences of the labor movement ” and sees itself as a “ left people 's party ”.

From 1950 the party's federal headquarters were located in a temporary building on the site of the Erich-Ollenhauer-Haus in Bonn , which was inaugurated in 1975 and which was replaced by the Willy-Brandt-Haus in Berlin in 1999 as federal headquarters.


The self- image of the SPD, which it also tries to pass on in its party programs, includes a concentration on political content and long-term goals that do not want to be given up in favor of a short-term personal impact. She understands her basic program as “moral justification for her politics”.

August Bebel (1863)
Ferdinand Lassalle (1860)

The following basic programs were adopted:

Initially, the SPD was a socialist workers' party. Increasingly, up to the Godesberg program, it is transformed into a social democratic people's party.

The current party program of the SPD, the "Hamburg Program", was decided in 2007. In it the goal is set down to govern with the help of the "solidary majority". The democratic socialism is described as "an order of business, government and society in the civil, political, social and economic rights are guaranteed for all people, all people a life without exploitation, oppression and violence, so in social and human security can lead ”as well as a“ vision of a free, just and solidary society ”, the“ realization ”of which is emphasized as a“ permanent task ”. "Social democracy" serves as the "principle of action".

According to the Hamburg program for the SPD, freedom , justice and solidarity are the basic values ​​of democratic socialism. So is the social justice one of its main policy guideline values. The coordinated social market economy is to be strengthened, and its income is to be distributed fairly, as this is seen as necessary for the prosperity of the population as a whole. The SPD believes that a strong state and a social welfare state capable of acting will be necessary in the future in order to be able to protect weaker sections of the population. To this end, it attaches great importance to a financial policy that is designed “not at the expense of future generations” and that ends or reduces national debt in the long term . Under the heading of a preventive welfare state , changes to the social system are welcomed, which are intended to strengthen personal responsibility and were implemented within the framework of Agenda 2010 .

In terms of social policy, the SPD advocates civil rights , opening up society and citizen participation according to its program . In terms of foreign policy, it wants to strengthen peace in the world by balancing interests. Globalization should be shaped “through a democratic policy”. She tries to expand and deepen European unification .


Foreign policy

The SPD sees peacekeeping at the center of its foreign policy. In doing so, it builds on dialogue and civil conflict resolution. She wants to secure human rights. In doing so, it sees itself as a partner of the West and NATO . The SPD advocates military operations by the Bundeswehr if diplomacy has been used sufficiently and no solution has been found. She rejects arms exports to dictatorships.

Security and Defense Policy

Until recently, the SPD has focused on active and pragmatic security and defense policy, such as the former Federal Defense Ministers Helmut Schmidt , Georg Leber , Hans Apel and Peter Struck . The basic stance clearly distanced to the Bundeswehr and NATO. The military and security policy views of the SPD parliamentary group leader Rolf Mützenich stand in sharp contrast to the western-oriented, NATO-friendly attitude of Foreign Minister Heiko Maas .

Educational policy

The SPD sees education as the key to social participation and prosperity. The central goal is educational equality and the opportunity for advancement for children from educationally disadvantaged backgrounds. She is critical of the federal and state ban on cooperation. She sees the expansion of comprehensive schools as a way of making the education system more permeable . The SPD strictly rejects tuition fees and has either abolished them or not introduced them at all in the federal states it governs. Early childhood education has a high priority within social democratic education policy. She would like to integrate children from migrant families into society.

Energy policy

The SPD rejects nuclear power. As a result of this, it has decided on the energy turnaround under the red-green federal government and wants to switch from limited energy sources to inexhaustible and from pollutant to low-pollutant resources. Jobs in industry, craft and service professions as well as in agriculture and forestry are to be created as a result. The SPD sees coal and gas-fired power plants as a bridge energy option in order to avoid a further increase in energy costs. It therefore stands for a climate-friendly energy policy that should be as inexpensive as possible. According to the SPD, the costs should be paid fairly by everyone.

European politics

The SPD sees itself as a progressive European party. The European integration is to be promoted and national sovereignty be handed over to the European Union. The European Parliament is to be strengthened in its rights, for example by introducing the right to make proposals. The European Commission is to be developed into a real government. The direct election of the Commission President is supported. To avoid wage dumping, Europe-wide minimum standards are to be introduced, depending on the respective member state. In the euro crisis, the SPD supports the rescue policy through the ESM and the fiscal pact , but at the same time wants targeted investments in the infrastructure and economy of the crisis countries in order to reduce unemployment.

Family policy

The SPD recognizes and welcomes the change in the roles of men, women and the classic family image towards more flexible and individual life plans. Families should be promoted more specifically in their individual designs.

She sees means, among other things, in a higher relief contribution for single parents and in an expansion of the splitting of spouses to a partner tariff that promotes families regardless of the chosen way of life. To this end, full equality between homosexual partners should be achieved. The marriage for all and the joint adoption rights for married same-sex couples were approved in the summer of 2017 by the SPD.

Domestic politics

Domestic politics should respect and safeguard the freedom and security of the citizens. Thus coexistence in society should be guaranteed through domestic politics. Crime is to be fought and the security apparatus to be expanded without affecting civil rights. The integration of immigrants is welcomed. The state should guarantee the participation and equal opportunities of the migrants. The SPD would like to achieve a welcoming culture. Educational qualifications obtained abroad should therefore also be recognized in Germany and receive dual citizenship. Asylum seekers are to be accepted by Germany and municipalities are to receive greater support from the federal government in their financial burden. Within the SPD, a points system is being discussed as an immigration right. Legal policy should promote a modern and tolerant society. To this end, for example, a statutory quota for women should promote the emancipation of women. The SPD supports direct citizen participation in democracy and referendums, also at the federal level.

Social policy

Labor and social policy are central to social democratic politics. The welfare state should act preventively and support people in the event of illness, disability or unemployment. The SPD relies on the principle of “promote and demand”, according to which recipients of unemployment benefit should enjoy financial security and at the same time be required to perform by reducing benefits if a job is rejected. People should be able to make a living from their work, which is why the SPD introduced a minimum wage of € 8.50, which has now been raised to € 9.19. Jobs are to be created and the long-term unemployed in particular are to be reintegrated into the labor market. Rents should only be allowed to rise up to a certain degree, which is why the SPD is calling for a rent brake.

Economic policy

The SPD stands for an economic policy that is about common good and progress. Since the economic and financial crisis, the SPD has stood for the regulation of international financial markets in order to restore the primacy of politics over the economy. The German social market economy is to be expanded internationally. In doing so, “[s] o much competition as possible, as much regulating state as necessary” is required. That is why the democratic state must remain capable of acting. Environmental sustainability and a targeted reduction in debt are welcomed.

refugee policy

The SPD wants to help refugees and offer them prospects. She advocates creating legal migration routes for asylum seekers and combating the causes of flight . The federal states and municipalities are to be supported in the accommodation and care of refugees and asylum seekers. The SPD advocates controlled family reunification for those only entitled to subsidiary protection . In the EU Parliament, the SPD is campaigning for family reunification to be extended to include adult and married siblings.


Organizational structure of the SPD


The members are organized in around 12,500 local associations, which hold regular general meetings and send delegates to the sub-district party conventions .

The 12,500 local associations are organized in 350 sub-districts, which regularly hold sub-district party conferences and send delegates to the state party conferences .

The 350 sub-districts are in turn organized into 20 districts, which regularly hold district party conferences, of which 600 delegates are sent to the federal party conference. If an SPD district is congruent with a federal state, it is called a state association. In federal states with several districts, the districts together form a state association. In addition, each district sends representatives to the party council .

In addition to this basic structure, there are a few additional levels of structure, which were mostly created for local political expediency, do not exist everywhere and in some cases only have limited rights (e.g. the right to submit applications to party conventions or to manage the treasury), for example the sections below the local association level . This includes in particular district associations as a subdivision of sub-districts that comprise more than one district ; However, the name "Kreisverband" is sometimes also used by sub-districts themselves, if their layout corresponds exactly to a district. In Bavaria, Rhineland-Palatinate and North Rhine-Westphalia, below the level of the regional association, which corresponds to the district in the sense used above, there are also so-called regions or (conceptually ambiguous) districts. In Rhineland-Palatinate and North Rhine-Westphalia, these regions represent the old party districts that existed until they were merged into a state district. In Bavaria, the district associations correspond to the administrative districts , which together with the district councils form an independent communal body there.

Party convention

Extraordinary party congress of the SPD in Bonn on June 14, 1987. Willy Brandt is elected honorary chairman for life

The federal party congress is the highest organ of the party. It determines the basic lines of SPD policy, adopts the party program, elects the party executive, the control commission and the federal arbitration tribunal. It also decides on the organizational statute , the statutes of the SPD.

Party executive

SPD federal party conference 2017 in Berlin

The party executive directs the official business between the party congresses. He was last elected by the delegates at the regular federal party conference on December 11, 2021 in Berlin . From the party executive committee emerges as the executive board the party presidium, to which the two chairmen, the deputy chairmen, the general secretary, the treasurer and the person responsible for the European Union as well as other assessors elected from the board members belong.

Chairperson Saskia Esken , Lars Klingbeil
vice-chairman Klara Geywitz , Hubertus Heil , Thomas Kutschaty , Serpil Midyatli , Anke Rehlinger
Secretary General Kevin Kühnert
Treasurer Dietmar Nietan
Responsible for the European Union Katarina Barley
Assessor Doris Ahnen , Florian von Brunn , Martin Dulig , Ronja Endres , Wiebke Esdar , Yasmin Fahimi , Kerstin Griese , Gustav Horn , Oliver Kaczmarek , Georg Maier , Bettina Martin , Matthias Miersch , Michelle Müntefering , Aydan Özoğuz , Katja Pähle , Boris Pistorius , Jessica Rosenthal , Michael Roth , Sarah Ryglewski , Dagmar Schmidt , Alexander Schweitzer , Andreas Stoch , Dietmar Woidke

Data from the regional associations

Regional association Chairman Members
(as of end of 2016)
in relation to those entitled to join
Result of the last election of the state parliament Result of the federal election in 2021 SPD head of government
Baden-Wuerttemberg Baden-Wuerttemberg Andreas Stoch 034,138 0.36% 11.0% ( 2021 ) 21.6% no
Bavaria Bavaria Florian von Brunn Florian von Brunn 058,296 0.52% 09.7% ( 2018 ) 18.0% no
Ronja Endres Ronja Endres
Berlin Berlin Franziska Giffey Franziska Giffey 017,145 0.55% 21.4% ( 2021 ) 23.5% Franziska Giffey ( Senate Giffey ), since 2021
Raed Saleh Raed Saleh
Brandenburg Brandenburg Dietmar Woidke Dietmar Woidke 005,995 0.27% 26.2% ( 2019 ) 29.5% Dietmar Woidke ( Woidke III cabinet ), since 2013
Bremen Bremen Reinhold Wetjen Reinhold Wetjen 004.140 0.70% 24.9% ( 2019 ) 31.5% Andreas Bovenschulte ( Senate Bovenschulte ), since 2019
Hamburg Hamburg Melanie Leonhard Melanie Leonhard 010,405 0.66% 39.2% ( 2020 ) 29.7% Peter Tschentscher ( Senate Tschentscher II ), since 2018
Nils Weiland Nils Weiland
Hesse Hesse Nancy Faeser Nancy Faeser 052.007 0.96% 19.8% ( 2018 ) 27.6% no
Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania Manuela Schwesig Manuela Schwesig 002,721 0.19% 39.6% ( 2021 ) 29.1% Manuela Schwesig ( Schwesig II cabinet ), since 2017
Lower Saxony Lower Saxony Stephan Weil Stephan Weil 056,886 0.82% 36.9% ( 2017 ) 33.1% Stephan Weil ( Weil II cabinet ), since 2013
North Rhine-Westphalia North Rhine-Westphalia Thomas Kutschaty Thomas Kutschaty 108.205 0.69% 31.2% ( 2017 ) 29.1% no
Rhineland-Palatinate Rhineland-Palatinate Roger Lewentz Roger Lewentz 036,308 1.02% 35.7% ( 2021 ) 29.4% Malu Dreyer ( Dreyer III cabinet ), since 2013
Saarland Saarland Anke Rehlinger Anke Rehlinger 018,131 2.04% 29.6% ( 2017 ) 37.3% no
Saxony Saxony Kathrin Michel Kathrin Michel 004,295 0.12% 07.7% ( 2019 ) 19.3% no
Henning Homann Henning Homann
Saxony-Anhalt Saxony-Anhalt Juliane Kleemann Juliane Kleemann 003,397 0.17% 08.4% ( 2021 ) 25.4% no
Andreas Schmidt Andreas Schmidt
Schleswig-Holstein Schleswig-Holstein Serpil Midyatli Serpil Midyatli 016,911 0.67% 27.2% ( 2017 ) 28.0% no
Thuringia Thuringia Georg Maier Georg Maier 003,726 0.20% 08.2% ( 2019 ) 23.4% no

Federal Arbitration Commission

The Federal Arbitration Commission is the highest party arbitration court of the SPD. It was set up to arbitrate and resolve disputes between the SPD or its branches and individual members and disputes about the interpretation and application of the statutes (in particular the organizational statute, electoral regulations). It serves to safeguard internal party democracy, to guarantee the membership rights of party members and to secure the order of the party. The chairman is Thorsten Jobs.

Working groups

The SPD has set up working groups for a number of target groups and subject areas; they have the right to submit proposals to the party congresses of the SPD and work semi-autonomously. Every SPD member who is younger than 35 is automatically a member of the Jusos . The ASF includes all female members of the SPD, the AG 60 plus automatically includes all SPD members who are older than 60 years. Membership in all other working groups is not automatic or compulsory. All working groups have the option of becoming a full member without belonging to the SPD (so-called supporter membership).

Working groups and forums

Joint meeting of various federal working groups (from left to right): Björn Engholm , Annemarie Renger and Herbert Wehner

The SPD has working groups, forums and project groups for some subject areas and target groups. There is the working group of formerly persecuted and imprisoned social democrats , the working group of Christians in the SPD , the working group of Jewish social democrats and the working group of Muslim social democrats. These four organizations are organized in a similar way to the working groups (with federal executive boards, federal conferences and regional sub-organizations), but do not have their rights. An initiative to found a secular working group was rejected by the party executive in 2018.

The objectives of the working groups are more internally oriented, they should enable SPD members of certain target groups or in certain subject areas to work together; some of the working groups also appear externally. The forums, on the other hand, have the primary goal of expanding the networking of the SPD with organizations in certain subject areas.

In contrast, the SPD Economic Forum is not a party forum, but a registered association closely related to the SPD .


In order to increase the proportion of women in management positions, a gender quota of 40% was introduced in 1988. This quota means that all board members and delegations must be at least 40% of each gender. Since considerably fewer women than men are involved as members of the SPD - the proportion of women among the members is 32% - this results in a disadvantage for men in internal party elections. For this reason, it is often referred to as a “ women's quota ”. The list of Bundestag and Euro lists is based on the " zip fastener " method, in which women and men are shown alternately.

Party newspaper

The SPD publishes the members' newspaper Vorwärts . The publisher is a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Deutsche Druck- und Verlagsgesellschaft . Vorwärts was founded in 1876 by Wilhelm Liebknecht and others, initially as a daily newspaper and later converted into a weekly magazine. Today it appears monthly.

Logo and colors

The color red , which characterizes the logo and corporate design of the party, is of paramount importance in the external communication of the SPD . White, purple, dark red and cyan blue complement the color scheme.

Party logos

Special logos



SPD contribution stamps
from 1923

The total income of the SPD in 2014 amounted to 161,826,665.18 euros. Its main sources of income include membership fees and government funds . The party donations are traditionally low in the SPD. The SPD has comparatively high income from business activities, investments and other assets.

Income of the SPD in 2014 EUR portion
Membership fees 49,984,619.90 030.89%
Mandate holder contributions and similar regular contributions 24,458,914.48 015.11%
Donations from natural persons 12,575,615.99 007.77%
Donations from legal entities 02,532,489.27 001.57%
Income from business activities and investments 02,134,003.78 001.32%
Income from other property 07,706,715.27 004.76%
Events, distribution of pamphlets and publications and other income-related activities 12,791,866.48 007.91%
State funds 48,648,864.36 030.06%
Other revenue 00993,575.65 000.61%
total ≈ 161,826,665 100%


Between 30% and 40% of donations from legal entities came from large donations of more than € 20,000 per donation. The following companies and associations were among the largest donors (legal entities, total donation sums from 2000 to 2008, from 2007 only donations of 50,000 euros or more):

  1. € 1,371,143 Daimler Chrysler AG
  2. 0€ 657,522 BMW AG
  3. 0€ 638,393 Allianz SE
  4. 0€ 365,820 Porsche AG
  5. 0302,115 € Chemical Industry Association e. V.
  6. 0€ 300,000 Deutsche Bank AG
  7. 0€ 300,000 E.ON AG
  8. 0€ 281,211 B.TV Television GmbH & Co. KG
  9. 0€ 277,258 Südwestmetall
  10. 0€ 250,000 Commerzbank AG


The party assets of the SPD amount to over 207 million euros (2014). This makes it the wealthiest party in Germany. Like the fortunes of most large parties , it has grown significantly in recent years.

Corporate investments

The SPD is the only political party in Germany that has large media holdings. Via the media holding Deutsche Druck- und Verlagsgesellschaft (ddvg), the SPD holds stakes in over 70 newspapers with a total circulation of over 6 million copies and 12 million readers, including Neue Westfälische , which was taken over 100% in 2016. The SPD has a 65.67% stake in Öko-Test Holding AG . This in turn is the sole owner of Öko-Test Verlag GmbH ( Öko-Test magazine ) and Öko-Test Media GmbH.

From May 2004 to 2006 ddvg held a 90 percent stake in Frankfurter Rundschau ; the newspaper had financial difficulties. The takeover was controversial; Critics expressed concern that a buyer could influence the coverage. In 2006 she sold 50% of the shares and one vote to the Cologne-based publishing group M. DuMont Schauberg .

The net income of ddvg 2008 amounted to 15.5 million euros in 2007 and 17.2 million euros, of which 11.4 million to the SPD as a shareholder paid were.

The SPD is also connected via a trustee at the concentration GmbH involved, which in turn manages as trustee the property of the SPD.


SPD members by gender, as of 2009

The minimum age of 14 years and the commitment to the goals of the party are membership requirements. Germans who live permanently abroad and foreigners who live in Germany can also expressly become members.

According to the inventory of April 2018, the SPD had 457,700 members. 54% of the SPD members are older than 60 years, 8% are younger than 30 years. 68% of the members are male, 32% female. 34% retirees , 23% civil servants , 15% employees , 8 % blue-collar workers , 5% unemployed , 5% housewives , 4% self-employed , 2% freelancers , 2% students and 2% no information.

In terms of language, it is common among SPD members to use a consistent duet and since the 1990s it has also been common practice to use their first name . They also consider and refer to one another as comrades . Members of the SPD are colloquially referred to as Sozis or (then often somewhat derogatory) Sozen.

Membership development

Membership development from 1946 to 2011
Party book of the SPD and SPD-Card (many discounts with the SPD-Card no longer exist since 2007)

Immediately after the end of the war, the SPD took over many members of socialist and social democratic exile and resistance organizations. In the first federal election in 1949 it had around 750,000 members again, until 1951 a temporary high of around 820,000 members was reached. In the course of the 1950s that number fell, reaching around 590,000 in 1958.

The number of members of the SPD has recovered since the 1960s and exceeded one million for the first time in 1977. The party lost membership in the 1980s but remained above the 900,000 mark. For a short time, the SPD recorded a slight increase in membership as a result of German unity . Since 1990 the SPD has suffered drastic membership losses of more than half, leaving it with 404,305 in 2020. The weighting of the social origins of the members has shifted significantly since the end of the 1950s, partly as a result of demographic developments. Up until then, workers and small employees made up the majority of the members, but in the following years this shifted in favor of civil servants and pensioners.


Membership in the SPD is or was incompatible with membership in one of the following organizations:

The following organizations are prohibited from working together:

In addition, as with most other parties in Germany, membership in a party, civic association or group that is competing in elections is not permitted.

Internal party currents

Internally, the SPD can be divided into more left-wing social democrats, who are organized in the Forum Democratic Left 21 and the parliamentary left , and moderately conservative social democrats who have come together in the Seeheimer Kreis . Most recently, a new generation has joined forces with the Berlin Network , which opposes the traditionalist wing formation. While the moderately conservative Social Democrats that of Gerhard Schröder endorse initiated reforms almost without reservation that left Socialists fight for a classic left and social welfare policy from which the SPD in its view in recent years mainly by the Agenda 2010 and as too economically liberal perceived Course has moved away.


1863 to 1918: Empire

1863 to 1914: foundation, socialist laws

Minutes of the Erfurt party congress of 1891
Share of votes of the parties in the Reichstag elections 1871–1912
Reichstag mandates of the parties 1871–1912

The SPD has several possible founding dates. She herself refers to the establishment of the General German Workers' Association (ADAV) by Ferdinand Lassalle , which took place on May 23, 1863 in the Leipzig Pantheon . The ADAV was led by Wilhelm Hasenclever from 1871 to 1875 . The Social Democratic Workers' Party (SDAP) founded by August Bebel and Wilhelm Liebknecht in Eisenach had existed since 1869 . The year 1875 is often mentioned as the actual constitution date, when the ADAV and the SDAP merged to form the Socialist Workers' Party of Germany (SAP) at the end of the unification party congress from May 22nd to 27th in Gotha .

From 1883, Die Neue Zeit, a theory magazine of the party existed, which was initially published covertly. The publication founded by Karl Kautsky would later become the scene of the most important theoretical debates of socialism and Marxism ( revisionism dispute ) and receive high attention worldwide. The appointment took place in 1923.

After the Socialist Law was repealed in the autumn of 1890, the party changed its name to "Social Democratic Party of Germany". A year later, she adopted the program of the same name at her party conference in Erfurt . The guidelines drafted by Karl Kautsky and Eduard Bernstein rejected reformism and came closer to Marxism again.

The early SPD was close to the trade unions and, like most socialist and social democratic parties in Europe in the 19th century, was ideologically oriented towards revolutionary Marxism . At the end of the 19th / beginning of the 20th century, Eduard Bernstein opposed his theory of revisionism to the SPD, which was still largely revolutionary . The revisionism theory prevailed in the party at the latest after the First World War . Essentially, this theory contains the desired socialist transformation of society through reforms after a democratically legitimized takeover of government through elections.

A similar fundamental dispute was the mass strike debate , which broke out under the influence of European strike movements, especially the Russian Revolution of 1905. Here the left wing around Rosa Luxemburg and partly the revisionist with the reformist trade unions grappled with the question of whether a strike could be used as a political weapon beyond the struggle to improve working conditions. The debate was formally ended in 1906 with the bow to the unions in the Mannheim Agreement .

The historical disputes over the Social Democrats (persecution, repression, especially under the Reich Chancellor of Otto von Bismarck  - see Socialist Law ) led to the fact that the party structure of the SPD developed the most intensively and achieved a high level of efficiency. Due to their critical social situation, the huge population group of workers had a high political potential. The SPD soon became the party with the largest number of members in Germany at the time. The state saw this as a threat. Field Marshal Alfred Graf von Waldersee , who had made a name for himself as a “political officer” and was a reactionary representative of state power, demanded violent action by the state against the Social Democrats. Or the Royal Prussian and Grand Ducal Hessian Railway warned against social democratic leaflets in their official gazette.

Share of votes and number of seats of the Social Democrats
in the Reichstag elections 1871–1912
year voices Seats
ADAV together with SDAP
1871 3.2%
1874 6.8%
1877 9.1%
1878 7.6%
1881 6.1%
1884 9.7%
1887 10.1%
1890 19.8%
1893 23.3%
1898 27.2%
1903 31.7%
1907 28.9%
1912 34.8%

The SPD gained more and more influence among the workers and therefore also in the Reichstag , despite persecution and oppression during the Bismarck era - partly because of its closeness to the trade unions . In 1890 - immediately after the Socialist Law was repealed - the party already received 19.8% of the vote, making it the party with the largest number of voters in the Reich for the first time. In 1912 it replaced the center as the strongest parliamentary group in the Reichstag with 34.8% (110 members) . After Bebel's death in 1913, who was seen as an integrating figure and mediator between the revolutionary and reformist wing of the SPD, the clearly moderate Friedrich Ebert took over the leadership of the party he shared with Hugo Haase .

1914 to 1919: First World War, split, November Revolution

After the SPD first organized large-scale demonstrations against an impending war and wanted to use their international contacts to mediate, the SPD parliamentary group in the Reichstag finally agreed to grant war bonds for the First World War , as the opinion spread within the SPD that war was inevitable. Only Karl Liebknecht ( Wilhelm Liebknecht's son ), who had been a member of the Reichstag for the SPD since 1912, voted against the loans in December 1914 after failing to take part in the first vote because of the party season. In 1915 he was followed by Otto Rühle . After an anti-war demonstration, Liebknecht was arrested in 1916 and sentenced to prison, from which he was only released immediately before the end of the war. Many members of the SPD, like party chairman Hugo Haase, increasingly disagreed with the war-approving attitude of their party, the so-called castle peace policy , and founded the USPD (Independent SPD).

The left-wing revolutionary Spartakusbund , which was founded in 1916 under the leadership of Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg after the exclusion of Liebknecht and others from the SPD as "Gruppe Internationale" and had agitated against the war, also joined the USPD and formed its left wing.

Not only the left “anti-revisionists” around Rosa Luxemburg migrated to the USPD, but also Karl Kautsky , the long-time editor of the journal Die Neue Zeit , as well as leading theorists of the reform wing such as the father of revisionism , Eduard Bernstein . In the remaining “majority SPD” ( MSPD ), instead of Kautsky and Bernstein, the former left anti-revisionists of the Lensch-Cunow-Haenisch group , who were close to the German-Russian publicist Alexander Parvus , influenced the theoretical debates from 1915 onwards . Their aim was to use the hoped-for German victory in World War I to implement the socialist social order in Europe and to free the Eastern European peoples from the “yoke of tsarism”.

Heinrich Cunow , ethnologist and lecturer at the party school of the SPD, replaced Kautsky in 1917 as editor of the Neue Zeit . He was later to become a co-author of the Görlitz and Heidelberg programs of the SPD. After 1918 Konrad Haenisch was first Prussian minister of education, then district president in Wiesbaden and finally one of the founders of the Reich Banner Black-Red-Gold , a non-partisan alliance of parliamentary-democratic parties dominated by the SPD to protect the Weimar Republic against its enemies on the political fringes. When many Social Democrats realized from 1917 onwards that the war would lead to defeat, the group's influence waned.

At the end of the First World War, when the military leadership of the Empire had already admitted the German defeat, the November Revolution followed the mutiny of the sailors in Wilhelmshaven and Kiel in 1918 , as a result of which the Kaiser abdicated and fled to Holland. The MSPD under Friedrich Ebert , to whom the government of Prince Maximilian von Baden had been handed over in the course of the revolutionary events , gave in to the pressure of events more than it was prepared to take over government. Ebert's considerations to forego the abolition of the monarchy in order to prevent a civil war turned out to be illusory.

The Spartakusbund and parts of the USPD advocated the formation of a soviet republic , as had been enforced in Russia a year earlier during the October Revolution . But of the active revolutionary soldiers 'and workers' councils that supported the revolution, only a minority had in mind the model of the successful overthrow of the Russian Bolsheviks . Most of them wanted to end the war and military rule. With this aim, they first stood behind the SPD leadership, which they trusted, and demanded the reunification of the majority SPD with the independent SPD. The SPD leadership then offered the USPD the formation of a council of people's representatives as the new government. This revolutionary government under the leadership of Ebert and Haase, made up of equal numbers of MSPD and USPD members, saw itself as a provisional solution for the phase of revolutionary upheaval and committed itself to a national assembly that would result from general elections soon as the constituent body.

Philipp Scheidemann (1918)

At the end of 1918, the coalition between the MSPD and the USPD failed due to the dispute over the use of the military against the sailors of the People's Navy Division in Berlin. The MSPD, which is now the only government, saw the unauthorized actions of individual councils as a betrayal of the democratic principles of the labor movement. Attempts to build up a democratic people's armed forces or to give majority social democratic volunteer associations a chance failed. When the People's Commissar Government was attacked during the Spartacus uprising in January 1919, the decision was made to trust the military of the old officers and the new Freikorps leaders.

With the bloody suppression of the Spartacus uprising and the Munich Soviet Republic by right-wing nationalist free corps recruited by Gustav Noske around the turn of the year 1918/19, the majority Social Democrats prevailed. Gustav Noske , who later became the first Reichswehr Minister of the Weimar Republic, was given the nickname "Bloodhound", which he basically gave himself when, when asked to put down the revolution, he said: "Someone has to give up the bloodhound". He was politically responsible for numerous murders committed by the Freikorps of many known and unknown, including supposed revolutionaries, including the murder of Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht on January 15, 1919, carried out by free corps soldiers led by Waldemar Pabst .

The role of Ebert, Noske and Scheidemann during the months of the November Revolution and its suppression has led to the historical accusation of various parliamentary and above all extra-parliamentary active left groups and parties against the SPD, the revolution and thus, to a large extent, their own supporters to have betrayed. By January 1, 1919, the Communist Party of Germany (KPD) was founded from the Spartakusbund and other left-wing revolutionary groups . This brought about the final separation between the revolutionary and reformist wings of social democracy.

The USPD, initially still relatively influential, which in recognition of its contribution to the resistance against the Kapp Putsch was able to achieve 17.9% of the vote in the 1920 Reichstag election , joined the KPD a few months after this election with its strong left-wing revolutionary wing (→  VKPD ) and was further ground up between the KPD and the SPD in the following years. After 1922, when a large part of the USPD returned to the SPD after a further split, it only played a marginal role as a small party in the Weimar Republic until it was absorbed by SAP, which was founded in 1931 .

1919 to 1933: Weimar Republic

In the young Weimar Republic , the SPD provided Friedrich Ebert as the Reich President from 1919 to 1925 and was represented in all Reich governments ( Friedrich Ebert , Philipp Scheidemann , Gustav Bauer , Hermann Müller ) until 1920 . On September 24, 1922, the reunification with most of the USPD took place at the unification party conference in Nuremberg; up to and including 1924, the party took part in elections under the abbreviation VSPD (United Social Democratic Party of Germany) . From then on, the SPD only participated in a few Reich governments, most recently from 1928 to 1930 in the Müller II cabinet ( Grand Coalition ) under Reich Chancellor Hermann Müller , while in Prussia with Otto Braun it was the prime minister almost continuously from 1920 to 1932.

As a “constructive opposition ”, the SPD tried to maintain its influence on Reich politics, as it feared that it would lose even more disappointed workers voters to the KPD through frequent government participation. Their social basis during the Weimar Republic was mainly the unionized skilled workers.

During the rise of the NSDAP , the SPD was able to keep its electorate, but it had little to oppose to the votes gained by the National Socialists, a large part of which came from the reservoir of non-voters and young voters. Due to its organizational encrustation, the impossibility of working with the KPD, which referred to the SPD as “social-fascist” , and - with the exception of the center - the marginalization of the bourgeois parties, it found no allies for the resistance against the approaching National Socialism.

SPD election poster (1919)
Share of votes of the SPD in the elections to the National Assembly in
1919 and in the Reichstag elections 1920–1933
year voices Seats
January 1919 37.9%
June 1920 21.7%
May 1924 20.5%
December 1924 26.0%
May 1928 29.8%
September 1930 24.5%
July 1932 21.6%
November 1932 20.4%
March 1933 18.3%

The policy of tolerance of the SPD parliamentary group towards the Brüning government from 1930 to 1932 led, especially among parts of the party youth and the left wing of the party, to growing criticism of the party and faction leadership and in 1931 resulted in the split off of part of the left party, which declared itself to be the Socialist Workers' Party of Germany ( SAP) formed.

In 1932 the SPD was robbed of its last bastion by the “ Prussian Strike ”.

1933 to 1945: National Socialism and World War II

Postage stamp for the 100th birthday of Otto Wels (1973; designed by Karl Oskar Blase )
Memorial plaque on Wilskistraße 78 in Berlin-Zehlendorf
Memorial plaque on the house, Krossener Strasse 22, in Berlin-Friedrichshain

On March 22, 1933 - a few weeks after taking office as Chancellor of the German Reich - Adolf Hitler presented his Enabling Act , which represented the most important step of the National Socialists in the abolition of the democratic constitutional state in a formally legal way, to the Reichstag. The SPD chairman Otto Wels also recognized this decisive blow against the constitution and thus the step to eliminate the Reichstag . The latter sharply criticized Hitler and accused him of violating the constitution. Despite the election terror by the SA, the 94 SPD MPs present, who had not been arrested or who had not fled, decided unanimously against the bill. The remaining 444 parliamentarians present agreed. The SPD's no votes preserved the honor of the democratic parties through the personal courage of a few, but since all the bourgeois parties approved this law, Hitler was able to achieve his goal and also formally remove the parties from the legislature.

During the Nazi era, the Social Democrats were among the first groups to be persecuted by the Nazis. After the party's facilities had already been confiscated and a large part of the party executive had emigrated, a rump group of the SPD parliamentary group in the Reichstag voted on May 17, 1933, under the impression of death threats, in favor of Adolf Hitler's foreign policy declaration . Due to the call by the SPD leadership to overthrow the National Socialist regime, Reich Interior Minister Wilhelm Frick banned the SPD on June 22, 1933 as an "anti-people and subversive organization"; in the days that followed, all other parties, with the exception of the NSDAP, dissolved themselves. On July 7th, the "Ordinance to Safeguard State Management" by Reich Minister of the Interior Frick abolished all SPD mandates in the Reichstag, in the state parliaments and local parliaments, and on July 14th the law against the formation of new political parties followed .

A professional ban was issued against individual SPD members, and the party's assets were confiscated. Numerous Social Democrats were subsequently taken into “ protective custody ” or abducted. Many members who could not or did not want to flee into exile died in concentration camps and prisons . A minority of the members of the SPD, partly as members of illegally continued party or Reich banner structures , partly in groups that were critical of the party executive, such as Neu Beginnen , the Revolutionary Socialists of Germany , the Socialist Front or the Red Shock Troop, resisted the Nazi regime . Individual well-known SPD members such as Julius Leber , Adolf Reichwein or Wilhelm Leuschner were involved in the planning that led to the attempted uprising on July 20, 1944 , or belonged to the Kreisau Circle . The majority of the party members remained resistant to the National Socialist ideology and maintained solidarity with one another, but were not involved in direct resistance activities. The exile organization SoPaDe was founded in Prague and later relocated to Paris and then to London.

1945 to 1949: post-war period

After the war, the rebuilding of the party began with the establishment of a central committee on June 15, 1945 in Berlin and local initiatives in all parts of the country. The chairman of the central committee was Otto Grotewohl , other prominent representatives were Gustav Dahrendorf , Annedore Leber , Erich W. Gniffke and Max Fechner . Kurt Schumacher worked from Hanover, starting from the office of Dr. Schumacher , against the recognition of the central committee in Berlin as a national rallying point and strove for an SPD limited exclusively to the western zones ; His office had no contact with Social Democrats in the Soviet Zone . The SPD was re-established at the Wennigsen conference in Wennigsen from October 5 to 8, 1945. Social Democrats from all parts of Germany, as well as the exiled executive committee in London, came together for what was known as the first central gathering of social democrats. Schumacher pushed through that the central committee should only be responsible for the Soviet zone of occupation and that he was appointed as the "representative for the western zones". After discussions and exchanges of letters between Schumacher on the one hand and Otto Brenner and Willi Eichler on the other, most of the members of the Socialist Workers' Party (SAP) and International Socialist Combat League (ISK) groups represented in the western zones (again) joined the SPD.

In West Germany

Kurt Schumacher, first post-war chairman of the SPD on the two DM coin

From May 9 to 11, 1946, the first party conference after the end of the war took place in a Hanomag hall in Hanover . The 258 delegates came from the three western zones and the four Berlin sectors. The eastern zone was not represented. In his programmatic speech on the tasks and goals of German social democracy , Kurt Schumacher repeated the criticism of the policies of the KPD / SED and raised the right to represent the social democrats in the Soviet Zone at the party congress. After Schumacher's speech, Viktor Agartz spoke about a socialist economic policy. At the party congress, which had previously adopted the new organizational statute, the delegates elected Kurt Schumacher as 1st chairman and Erich Ollenhauer and Wilhelm Knothe as deputy chairmen.

In East Germany

The KPD , whose new leadership, who had returned from Moscow, initially acted sharply against the spontaneous initiatives to form a unified workers' party, changed its attitude towards the end of 1945 and urged the SPD to unite the two parties, which was reinforced by reprisals from the Soviet occupying power . The KPD wanted power in East Germany and the SPD had the necessary base of 600,000 members. Otto Grotewohl's efforts to organize a Germany-wide party congress of the SPD, which was supposed to discuss and decide on this unification proposal, was resolutely rejected by Schumacher. The reestablishment of the party within the national framework is only possible after an all-German government has been formed, said Schumacher. Instead, he called on the central committee to dissolve the SPD in the Soviet occupation zone and to form a separate SPD in the western sectors of Berlin . He did not achieve the former, but then organized the latter himself together with some district chairmen from the western sectors. After the occupying powers had approved both workers' parties for the election to the city council of Greater Berlin (October 20, 1946), the SPD received 48.7% and the SED 19.8% of the vote.

Before that, at a party congress on April 21 and 22, 1946, the SPD and KPD were forced to unite to form the SED ( Socialist Unity Party of Germany ) in the Soviet Zone . This happened at the so-called “Unification Party Congress”, at which some SPD delegates from the Soviet Zone and KPD delegates from all over Germany were under the control of the Soviets. Numerous East German Social Democrats who refused to bow to the pressure fled to the western zones (such as Wilhelm Korspeter and Franz Unikower, who later became a member of the Central Council of Jews in Germany ). In many cases there were arrests (such as in the case of Dieter Rieke , Albert Thormann , Werner Rüdiger and Hugo Hose ) and executions of social democrats by communists such as B. in the case of the young Günter Malkowski . The local branches of the SPD in the Soviet-occupied sector of Berlin , consisting of members who had not joined the SED, existed until the construction of the Wall in 1961. As part of the transformation of the SED into a " party of a new type ", a hierarchically structured cadre party in Since the "party conferences" not provided for in the statute of the SED played a decisive role, the Social Democrats who remained in the SED were pushed further and further into the background. Many fell victim to the purges ordered by Joseph Stalin .

For the background and the further development, see the history of the SED .

1949 to 1990: Bonn Republic

1949 to 1966: Opposition in the Bundestag

In the first federal elections in 1949 in the Federal Republic of Germany , the SPD led by Kurt Schumacher was just behind the CDU / CSU led by Konrad Adenauer . It became an opposition party, which it remained until 1966.

In West Germany, the SPD was initially extremely critical of the social market economy designed by the federal government and called for the nationalization of all basic industries. In contrast to Adenauer's policy of integration into the West , the SPD placed the reunification requirement overly closely related to the USA and Western Europe. SPD concepts on Germany policy from this time consider a political neutrality of Germany possible and speak out strictly against a rearmament of the country. In contrast, a group of remigrants led by Brandt and Ernst Reuter , mainly from West Berlin , campaigned for the SPD to be more oriented towards the West. They were supported by a group of liberal American occupation officers around Shepard Stone .

After disappointing election results for the Social Democrats in the federal elections in 1953 and 1957 , in which Erich Ollenhauer was defeated by Chancellor Adenauer as candidate for chancellor , there were signs of a change in policy. The Godesberg program of 1959 marked the programmatic change from a workers' party to a people 's party, which had long since taken place . With a keynote address on foreign policy by Wehner in 1960, the SPD finally accepted ties to the West and dropped its 1959 plan for Germany .

This opening had a positive effect on the results of the federal elections in 1961 and 1965 ; Another reason was that the Governing Mayor of Berlin Willy Brandt was a new top candidate.

In an article for a rororo paperback published by Martin Walser , Günter Grass coined the term “old aunt” for the SPD in 1961.

1966 to 1969: First Grand Coalition

As part of the grand coalition from December 1966 to the federal election in September 1969 , the SPD appointed government members for the first time in the post-war period (see Kiesinger cabinet ); under Chancellor Kiesinger it was a junior partner with Willy Brandt as foreign minister . The FDP could hardly do any opposition work due to its small number of seats . An extra - parliamentary opposition (APO) with an increasingly socialist-revolutionary spirit developed, among other things from the student movement , which was mainly supported organizationally by the Socialist German Student Union ( SDS ). In 1967/1968 in particular, in the course of student protests against the planned emergency legislation, there were massive demonstrations and, in some cases, militant riots against the government of the grand coalition.

On the agenda of the first grand coalition were the introduction of the emergency laws , the continued payment of wages in the event of illness , the stability law and the creation of community tasks . The introduction of a majority electoral system , originally planned by the SPD and above all by the Union, failed due to resistance from the SPD base. For example, at its party congress in Nuremberg in 1968, the SPD voted for a postponement of the electoral law reform, which was then no longer implemented due to the social-liberal coalition.

In terms of economic policy, the SPD set new trends , especially with its Minister of Economics, Karl Schiller . The Stability Act implemented a new, demand-oriented economic policy in Germany, through which the Federal Republic was able to leave its first recession from 1966 behind.

Despite all the great differences between the governing parties, the Kiesinger government worked together relatively closely and was able to implement almost all of its projects despite the very short term of not even a full legislative period. A good example is the collaboration between Karl Schiller and the then Federal Finance Minister Franz Josef Strauss (CSU), which together became known as " Plisch and Plum ".

Nonetheless, this coalition was always seen only as a “marriage of convenience” and an interim solution.

Willy Brandt (left) at a meeting with US President Richard Nixon (1971)

1969 to 1974: Social-liberal coalition under Willy Brandt

In the election of the German Federal President in 1969 on March 5, an SPD politician became Federal President for the first time , the previous Federal Minister of Justice Gustav Heinemann . This majority was made possible by Willy Brandt and the FDP chairman Walter Scheel , who negotiated that the FDP members of the Federal Assembly vote for Heinemann. Heinemann was only able to prevail in the third ballot. In his inaugural speech, he spoke of a “piece of power change”.

Due to the outcome of the 1969 Bundestag election , the SPD was able to appoint the Federal Chancellor for the first time. The SPD and FDP together received a majority against the CDU / CSU. Although Helmut Schmidt and Herbert Wehner voted against such a coalition, Willy Brandt formed a social-liberal coalition with the FDP under the motto Dare more democracy and was then elected Chancellor ( Brandt cabinet ).

Under Willy Brandt as part of the follow Ostverträge a detente with the states of the Warsaw Pact and a comprehensive program of reforms in the legal policy , the education policy and family policy . It is precisely because of these reforms that the social-liberal coalition was viewed by the general public after 20 years of government participation by the Union parties as a “new beginning”.

The kneeling of Warsaw on December 7, 1970 at the memorial of the ghetto uprising of 1943, which received worldwide attention , symbolically initiated the policy of détente that later resulted in the Eastern Treaties with Poland and the Soviet Union. In addition, there was the basic treaty with the GDR. In 1970 he met the Chairman of the GDR Council of Ministers, Willi Stoph , in Erfurt, initially for the first German-German summit in the Erfurter Hof and then in Kassel . The Erfurt “Willy, Willy” calls were clearly related to Brandt and irritated the GDR rulers. An agreement with Czechoslovakia followed . For his Ostpolitik, Brandt received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1971 .

The new Ostpolitik met with opposition from some of the MPs in the governing coalition. Some of them switched to the opposition CDU / CSU, which meant that the coalition lost its majority. The attempt by the opposition to replace Willy Brandt with Rainer Barzel by means of a constructive vote of no confidence in 1972 failed, however, surprisingly. Today we know that two members of the Bundestag were bribed by the East German Ministry for State Security ("Stasi"). In the new elections that followed , the SPD won the highest percentage of votes in its history and became the strongest parliamentary group for the first time .

In the wake of the oil crisis in 1973, the second recession of the postwar German history and the Guillaume affair , in which the narrow Brandt Leaders Guenter Guillaume as DDR - Spy in the Chancellery unmasked, Willy Brandt joined in May 1974 as Chancellor back (totally for most surprising), but remained party chairman. Helmut Schmidt became chancellor.

1974 to 1982: Social-liberal coalition under Helmut Schmidt

Helmut Schmidt as Federal Chancellor at the time (1977)

Schmidt continued the reforms of Willy Brandt in his government policy and at the same time was able to overcome the first oil crisis, whereby the Federal Republic was able to cope with the resulting recession a lot better than most other industrial nations.

Schmidt prevailed against Helmut Kohl in the 1976 general election . The CDU / CSU became the strongest force, but the SPD, together with the FDP, was able to win an absolute majority of the Bundestag mandates and thus continue the social-liberal coalition.

In September and October 1977 there was the so-called German Autumn , which was marked by attacks by the Red Army Faction (RAF). Helmut Schmidt appointed the Great Crisis Team , to which members of all parliamentary groups in the German Bundestag belonged, thereby creating a bipartisan consensus. The government took a tough line against terrorists, "The state should not allow itself to be blackmailed".

In the 1980 federal election , the social-liberal coalition prevailed over the Union parties, led by Franz Josef Strauss.

On September 17, 1982, however, the FDP terminated the coalition. There is no consensus in history with regard to the reasons: while Henning Köhler, for example, emphasizes the neoliberal turnaround of the FDP, which Otto Graf Lambsdorff marked with his concept for a policy to overcome weak growth and fight unemployment , Joachim Scholtyseck believes that this is in the background The SPD has increasingly turned away from the NATO double decision - against the line of Helmut Schmidt.

1982 to 1990: Again in the opposition

With a constructive vote of no confidence , large parts of the FDP, together with the CDU / CSU, elected Helmut Kohl as the new Federal Chancellor.

The first years in the opposition were marked by a content-related readjustment of the party and the goal of adapting the content to the changing society, whereby this readjustment sometimes triggered emotional debates within the party.

Hans-Jochen Vogel at an SPD party conference (1988)

In the federal elections in 1983 and 1987, their candidates for chancellor Hans-Jochen Vogel and Johannes Rau lost to Helmut Kohl.

On October 7, 1989, the Social Democratic Party in the GDR (SDP) was founded in Schwante near Berlin . September 1990 was absorbed by the SPD. The founding members of the SDP included Angelika Barbe , Martin Gutzeit , Markus Meckel , Stephan Hilsberg and Ibrahim Böhme .

Oskar Lafontaine at a meeting of the Prime Ministers with Johannes Rau in Bonn (1986)

Saarland's Prime Minister Oskar Lafontaine criticized the planned expansion of the area of ​​validity of the D-Mark in the GDR on July 1, since he feared a significant increase in unemployment in East Germany in the event of rapid monetary union . In addition, in contrast to Kohl, he advocated a tax increase, since in his view otherwise it would not be possible to finance German unity without a sharp rise in national debt. In contrast, the SPD chairman and internal party competitor Hans-Jochen Vogel took a positive stance on the currency reform. A skeptical attitude towards rapid economic reunification initially received support in the party and in the surveys, and in January 1990 the SPD also achieved its best result in Saarland in the state elections in Saarland under Lafontaine with 54.4%. As a result, Lafontaine was elected Chancellor candidate of the SPD in March with clear approval, also from Hans-Jochen Vogel. The situation changed for the SPD, however, with the unification process, during which Lafontaine was temporarily suspended due to an assassination attempt in which he was critically injured. Chancellor Helmut Kohl received consistent praise from the media for his foreign policy, including after the state visit to Gorbachev and the signing of the two-plus-four contract , and the SPD candidacy was already judged to be hopeless. In this spirit of optimism, the media and voters, especially in East Germany, largely followed the government's optimistic ideas (“ Blossoming Landscapes ”). In addition, the problem arose for the SPD in the east that it was portrayed by the media in the election campaign as being close to the SED. In view of the situation, Richard Schröder, as the parliamentary group leader of the Eastern SPD, also relied on speed with the implementation of a monetary union in order to achieve unity as quickly as possible. Willy Brandt also changed his previously skeptical attitude and welcomed the rapid unification: “Now what belongs together is growing together”. The historian Heinrich August Winkler describes the SPD as a Janus-headed party because of its attitude towards the national unity of Germany : "One of its faces was the patriotic of Willy Brandt, the other the postnational that of Oskar Lafontaine."

In the GDR, the Social Democratic Party obtained only 21.7% of the vote on March 18, 1990 in the election to the People's Chamber . She then participated from April 12 to August 20, 1990 as a junior partner in the first free and democratically elected government of the GDR under Prime Minister Lothar de Maizière (CDU).

Since 1990: Berlin Republic

1990 to 1998: All-German opposition

In the first all-German federal election in reunified Germany on December 2, 1990, the SPD was defeated by the black-yellow coalition with 33.5% of the votes. The party, united since September 26, 1990, achieved 35.7% in the electoral area West and 24.3% in the electoral area East .

In the following opposition years, the positions on the right to asylum and on foreign deployments of the Bundeswehr were controversial within the party , with the position in the media for the restrictions on rights and approval of the deployments predominating. With the so-called Petersberger Wende , the SPD finally agreed to limit the number of asylum seekers and Bundeswehr missions abroad.

From May 1991 to May 1993, Schleswig-Holstein's Prime Minister Björn Engholm was Federal Chairman of the SPD and also the party's candidate for Chancellor-design . He resigned prematurely after it became known that he had made a false statement in the context of the Barschel affair (see also “ Drawer affair ”). In this situation, the federal party decided on a completely new procedure for determining the next party chairman. For the first time, a member survey was carried out on the party leadership among the SPD members, which Rudolf Scharping won with around 40% ahead of Gerhard Schröder and Heidemarie Wieczorek-Zeul .

The Chancellor candidate Scharping stood in the election campaign together with Gerhard Schröder and Oskar Lafontaine as a so-called Troika . Determining topics of the government program for election were among other things plans to reduce unemployment and the development towards an "ecological market economy". The SPD also explicitly criticized the fact that a large part of the costs of the unit were passed on to the social security funds and turned against privatization plans in the health care system. In the 1994 federal election , the SPD received 36.4% of the vote. It was thus able to increase its votes, but despite the fact that after the sobering development of the unit, Kohl's popularity fell significantly, it did not achieve a majority. In 1995, Scharping was defeated by the then Saarland Prime Minister Oskar Lafontaine in the vote for the party chairmanship.

Gerhard Schröder during a campaign speech for the 2005 Bundestag election

1998 to 2005: Red-Green under Federal Chancellor Gerhard Schröder

It was not until the federal election in 1998 that the SPD succeeded in returning to government with the then Prime Minister of Lower Saxony , Gerhard Schröder , as candidate for chancellor , this time in a red-green coalition with Bündnis 90 / Die Grünen . This was a novelty in the history of Germany. For the first time, parties that traditionally classify themselves as “left of center” received more than 50% of the vote. For the first time, a federal government was completely voted out.

Due to the fact that representatives of the new social movement came to the government for the first time, people soon spoke of the "Red-Green Project", which was supposed to embody a change in the political culture of Germany.

In 1998/1999 the Kosovo war broke out , in the course of which the Schröder I cabinet decided to deploy the Bundeswehr abroad for the first time .

The SPD chairman Oskar Lafontaine became finance minister , but resigned from all political and party offices in March 1999 because of differences with Schröder. Federal Chancellor Gerhard Schröder then became the new SPD chairman.

On May 23, 1999, Johannes Rau was elected Federal President . This is the first time the SPD has appointed the Federal President since Gustav Heinemann .

During the Red-Green government, all political fields were renewed, such as the modernization of citizenship law, tax reform, pension reform , nuclear phase-out , eco-tax , the introduction of the partnership institute or reforms in the education sector.

In the federal election in 2002 , the Bavarian Prime Minister Edmund Stoiber ( CSU ) ran as the Union's candidate for chancellor against Chancellor Schröder. The SPD lost 2.4 percentage points and the Greens gained 1.9 percentage points; red-green received 1.2 percentage points more votes than the Union and FDP combined. The PDS failed at the five percent hurdle . Despite almost the same number of second votes with the Union parties (SPD: 18,488,668; CDU / CSU: 18,482,641), the SPD was just about the strongest parliamentary group due to overhanging mandates .

The government strictly refused to allow Germany to participate in the Iraq war , which is why Gerhard Schröder earned a reputation as "peace chancellor".

In 2003 the Agenda 2010 was presented. A huge reform package of the German social system and labor market , which was implemented by 2005. Among other things, it provided for social cuts and a liberalization of the economy in order to combat unemployment. It was perceived as negative by large parts of the SPD supporters due to the social cut. Today the SPD sees the agenda as a decisive factor for the subsequent positive economic development in Germany. The extent to which Agenda 2010 actually contributed is, however, controversial; Other factors, such as wage restraint that began before Agenda 2010, could also have been the cause.

After losing state elections , the SPD received 21.5% in the European elections on June 13, 2004, its lowest result in a nationwide election since the existence of the Federal Republic of Germany. Regular voters felt alienated by the politics of Agenda 2010 and stayed away from the election. Many others perceived the course of the SPD, which met criticism not only from other parties but also within the SPD membership, as divided. The decline in membership that began in the early 1980s accelerated. Sections of the left wing, close to the union, split off after heated debates and in 2004 first founded the association Wahlalternative Arbeit und Social Justice , from which a new party, WASG , emerged in January 2005 , which was politically to the left of the “ New Center ” SPD .

On May 25, 2005, immediately after the state elections in North Rhine-Westphalia ( North Rhine-Westphalia ) that the SPD had lost , the former party chairman Oskar Lafontaine resigned because of the government's policy ( Agenda 2010 , Hartz IV ), which in his opinion was incompatible with the principles of social democracy the SPD and a few weeks later became a member of the WASG , after the latter had entered into a left-wing alliance with the PDS for the federal election in autumn 2005.

An early federal election had been announced by the Chancellor and the SPD party leadership after the defeat in the state elections in North Rhine-Westphalia. The goals of the SPD for the elections on September 18, 2005 were: Remaining in government responsibility and continuing the reforms with greater consideration of social aspects.

2005 to 2009: Second Grand Coalition

After the SPD had become almost as strong as the Union parties in the Bundestag election and the Union was unable to form a coalition with the FDP, the CDU, CSU and SPD agreed after lengthy exploratory talks on a grand coalition under Angela Merkel as Chancellor.

Other coalitions had also been discussed beforehand. A traffic light coalition made up of the SPD, the Greens and the FDP and the so-called Jamaica coalition between the CDU / CSU, the FDP and the Greens were discussed. A red-red-green coalition made up of the SPD, the Left Party and Bündnis 90 / Die Grünen was excluded from all parties.

Reasons for the loss of the red-green majority were seen mainly in the fact that a party "left" of the SPD (Left Party) was able to establish itself for the first time.

After the successful signing of the coalition agreement, Chancellor Angela Merkel, elected by 397 members of the German Bundestag , proposed eight SPD ministers to join the grand coalition , including Franz Müntefering as Minister of Labor and Vice Chancellor . After the appointment by Federal President Horst Köhler , the 8 federal ministers of the SPD now formed the first Merkel cabinet with the 7 other federal ministers of the Union and Chancellor Merkel .

The Second Grand Coalition, like the first, undertook special main tasks in order to take advantage of the opportunities offered by absolute majorities in the Bundestag and Bundesrat. The first was to achieve a balanced budget, i.e. a budget without net borrowing, until 2011. One measure was the increase in VAT to 19% (January 1, 2007), which the SPD rejected in the 2005 election campaign. In the federalism reform , the relationship between the Federation and the Länder was reorganized. In addition, the Konrad shaft was decided to be the first repository for light and medium-level radioactive waste and thus for 90% of the nuclear waste generated in Germany.

The Brandenburg Prime Minister Matthias Platzeck , who had taken over the party chairmanship from Franz Müntefering after an internal party dispute over the election of the General Secretary, resigned as SPD chairman on April 10, 2006 after five months for health reasons. His successor was the Minister-President of Rhineland-Palatinate, Kurt Beck , who until then was one of the deputy chairmen.

Frank-Walter Steinmeier as Federal Foreign Minister at the time (2005–2009, 2013–2017), Vice Chancellor (2007–2009) and Acting Federal President (since 2017)

On September 7, 2008, Kurt Beck announced his resignation as party chairman at a closed meeting of the party leadership. His deputy Frank-Walter Steinmeier , who had been nominated as candidate for chancellor for the 2009 Bundestag election on the same day , took over the party chairmanship on a provisional basis until Franz Müntefering, nominated by the party presidency, was elected as the new chairman at a special party conference. On July 30, 2009 Steinmeier presented his “ Team Steinmeier ” for the federal election, which, in addition to the then federal ministers with SPD party membership, only included politicians who were relatively unknown at the time.

2009 to 2013: renewed opposition

In the federal election on September 27, 2009, the SPD dropped from 34.2% to 23.0% of the votes, so that a majority for a government coalition made up of CDU / CSU and FDP was possible. As a result of the election defeat, the party chairman Franz Müntefering announced his resignation at the party congress in November 2009. The former Federal Environment Minister Sigmar Gabriel was elected as his successor, and the previous deputy party chairman Andrea Nahles became the new general secretary. The former Federal Ministers Peer Steinbrück and Frank-Walter Steinmeier also resigned as deputy party chairmen, followed by Manuela Schwesig , Klaus Wowereit , Olaf Scholz and Hannelore Kraft . Two years later, the ranks of the vice-chairmen were expanded to include Aydan Özoguz , who is of Turkish origin . Chancellor candidate Frank-Walter Steinmeier, on the other hand, was elected as the new leader of the SPD parliamentary group just two days after the federal election.

In the following state elections, the SPD was able to achieve primarily successes. In North Rhine-Westphalia, Hamburg, Schleswig-Holstein and Lower Saxony, Hannelore Kraft, Olaf Scholz, Torsten Albig and Stephan Weil succeeded in replacing their Christian Democratic predecessors as heads of government. In Baden-Württemberg, the Social Democrats, as junior partners of the Greens , succeeded in attaining participation in the government and in sending the CDU, which had ruled since 1953, into the opposition. In 2012 , the opposition was able to take on the role of junior partner of the CDU in Saarland . In the remaining elections to the state parliaments, the SPD was able to maintain its status as a senior or junior partner in the respective state government . In the state elections in Rhineland-Palatinate in 2011 alone , the party lost its absolute majority in the mandate and has since led a coalition with the Greens . Thus, the then black-yellow coalition no longer had a majority in the Federal Council. Instead, there is currently a majority of the SPD, Greens, Left and SSW .

Since the CDU has recorded an even more rapid loss of membership in recent times, the SPD has again been the party with the largest number of members in Germany since July 2012.

Peer Steinbrück , SPD candidate for Chancellor in the 2013 federal election

During a joint press conference, party leader Sigmar Gabriel and parliamentary group leader Frank-Walter Steinmeier announced, in the presence of former Federal Finance Minister Peer Steinbrück, that Steinbrück would run as Chancellor candidate in 2013 against Chancellor Angela Merkel. He was unanimously nominated by the SPD party executive on October 1, 2012. Steinbrück announced that he was aiming for a new edition of the red-green coalition at the federal level. Steinbrück ruled out alliances of his party with the Pirate Party Germany or the party Die Linke after the federal election in 2013 . He also stated that he did not want to become minister again under Chancellor Angela Merkel. On December 9, Steinbrück was elected Chancellor candidate of the SPD with 93%.

In 2013 the SPD also left the Socialist International (SI) after criticizing the SI because some member parties were run by “criminals” who had been involved in human rights violations. Since then she has only had observer status within the organization. The SPD then founded the Progressive Alliance , which was joined by numerous other parties around the world.

2013 to 2017: Third Grand Coalition

Sigmar Gabriel as former SPD party chairman (2009–2017), Federal Minister of Economics (2013–2017), Federal Foreign Minister (2017–2018) and Vice Chancellor (2013–2018)

In the 2013 federal election , the SPD only managed to gain 25.7% of the votes, which was not enough for a red-green government. However, the FDP , the previous coalition partner of the CDU and CSU parties , did not gain enough votes to remain in the Bundestag. Thus, the Union was looking for a new party to play the role of coalition partner, which led to exploratory talks with the SPD.

Before the federal election, the SPD decided to hold a member vote for the first time on the content of a possible coalition agreement . Its result should be implemented if at least 20% of the SPD members would take part in the vote.

After more than three quarters of the votes cast had voted in favor of a grand coalition, with party members voting more than 70%, the SPD re-entered a coalition with the CDU / CSU. On December 17, 2013, the new federal government was sworn in in the Merkel III cabinet. SPD party leader Sigmar Gabriel took over the position of Vice Chancellor and Federal Minister of Economics. As in 2005 to 2009, Frank-Walter Steinmeier was again Federal Foreign Minister. He held the office until the end of January 2017 and then resigned from office due to his candidacy in the election of the Federal President on February 12, 2017 . His successor was Sigmar Gabriel, whose office as Federal Minister of Economics was again taken over by Brigitte Zypries .

The SPD was able to assert itself in the coalition agreement on many topics, for example the introduction of a minimum wage of € 8.50, a statutory quota of 40% for women in listed companies, network expansion, a reform of the Renewable Energy Sources Act (EEG), a Nursing reform, Elterngeld Plus , the expansion of day-care centers, the introduction of a rent brake, the abolition of the obligation to opt in favor of dual citizenship and a pension reform (including minimum pension, pension at 63).

Martin Schulz as then President of the EU Parliament (2012-2017)

For the European elections in 2014 , the European party families are providing Europe-wide top candidates for the office of Commission President for the first time . The President of the European Parliament , the German Martin Schulz, stood for European social democracy . The SPD posted the second best result after the Union with 27.3% and thus improved by 6.5% compared to 2009.

At the beginning of the 2017 election year, Sigmar Gabriel renounced the candidacy for chancellor and spoke out in favor of Martin Schulz as the top candidate and SPD chairman. After Schulz was nominated by the SPD party executive on January 29, 2017, the SPD increased significantly in surveys nationwide, in some cases by up to 8%. Within a few days, the SPD also had several thousand party entries. The surge in popularity known as the “Schulz-Zug” lasted only a few months, and the SPD lost the state elections in Saarland , Schleswig-Holstein and North Rhine-Westphalia .

2018 to 2021: Fourth Grand Coalition

In the 2017 Bundestag election , the SPD received its worst result in a Bundestag election with 20.5%. Immediately after the result, the SPD declared that it would not be available for a new edition of the grand coalition and would go into the opposition.

From the state elections in Lower Saxony on October 15, the SPD emerged as the strongest force and has since led a coalition with the CDU.

After the negotiations for a black-yellow-green alliance (“Jamaica coalition”) made up of the CDU / CSU, FDP and Greens failed on November 19, the SPD executive committee initially renewed its refusal to join a new government. After a meeting between Schulz and Federal President Steinmeier, then Secretary General Hubertus Heil declared that they would “not shut themselves off from discussions”.

On November 30, the party leaders of the SPD, CDU and CSU met for a meeting with the Federal President, in which the possibility of forming a government was discussed. After five and a half days of exploratory talks, the party leaders presented a 28-page paper on January 12, 2018. On January 21, at a special party congress of the SPD in Bonn, 56.4% of the delegates voted in favor of entering into coalition negotiations with the CDU / CSU.

The leaders of the CDU , CSU and SPD when the coalition agreement 2018–2021 was signed

On February 7, 2018, the leaders of the Union and the SPD agreed on a coalition agreement . After Martin Schulz's resignation as party leader, Olaf Scholz took over the post of SPD party chairman on February 13 as the longest-serving party vice-president until a successor was elected by a federal party congress. In the member vote, the result of which was announced on March 4, 2018, 66% of the SPD members opted for a grand coalition. On March 9, the SPD presented its ministers to the Merkel IV cabinet , which was sworn in on March 14.

Andrea Nahles as former SPD party leader (2018-2019)

On April 22, 2018, another SPD special party conference elected Andrea Nahles as the new chairwoman. In a battle vote against the Mayor of Flensburg, Simone Lange (27.5%), Nahles received around 66% of the delegate votes, the second worst result in the history of an SPD chairman election, but the best in an election with several candidates. On October 14, 2018, the SPD achieved 9.7% in the state elections in Bavaria, its worst result to date in a state election in Germany. The SPD also suffered significant losses in the state elections in Hesse , which took place shortly afterwards, and for the first time only became the third strongest force in Hesse.

The subsequent election year of 2019 was also marked by heavy defeats for the party. In the European elections, with 15.8 percent, it achieved the worst all-German result since 1887 and for the first time in the history of the Federal Republic is only the third strongest in a nationwide election. The following state elections also ended without exception with losses for the party, although in Bremen it was behind the CDU for the first time since the Second World War and only had single-digit results in Saxony and Thuringia . With 7.7 percent in Saxony, it not only got its worst state election result, but is also the smallest parliamentary group in a state parliament consisting of more than three parliamentary groups for the first time.

Norbert Walter-Borjans and Saskia Esken as the acting SPD party chairman duo (since December 6, 2019)

After Andrea Nahles' resignation as party and franchise leader on June 3, 2019, the new party leadership was determined in a member survey . In the runoff election in November 2019, Saskia Esken and Norbert Walter-Borjans prevailed with 53.1 to 45.3 percent of the votes against Klara Geywitz and Olaf Scholz . The formal election took place at the federal party conference on December 6, 2019. Esken was elected with 75.9 percent of the delegate's votes and Walter-Borjans with 89.2 percent of the delegate's votes. The choice of Esken and Walter-Borjans is sometimes characterized as a "shift to the left". At the same time, the party congress decided on a new welfare state concept “to leave Hartz IV behind” and “to further develop the welfare state in the 21st century”. With this, the party wants to leave its "Hartz IV trauma" behind and be perceived as a left-wing party again.

On August 10, 2020, the party executive nominated Olaf Scholz as candidate for chancellor for the federal election in 2021 at the suggestion of party chairmen Saskia Esken and Norbert Walter-Borjans . At the time, he was the most popular SPD politician in polls, but was controversial among the left wing of the party.

Since 2021: Traffic light coalition under Olaf Scholz

In the federal election in 2021 , the SPD gained 5.2 percentage points and, with 25.7 percent, became the strongest force in a federal election for the first time since 2002. After the election, she negotiated with Bündnis 90 / Die Grünen and the FDP to form a traffic light coalition . On October 26, 2021, Bärbel Bas was elected for the third time as President of the Bundestag . The new government was sworn in on December 8, 2021 and Olaf Scholz was elected ninth Federal Chancellor by the 20th German Bundestag and heads the Scholz cabinet .

Election results

Reichstag elections 1871–1912

Reichstag election results 1871–1912
year voices Seats
1871 1 3.2%
1874 1 6.8%
1877 9.1%
1878 7.6%
1881 6.1%
1884 9.7%
1887 10.1%
1890 19.8%
1893 23.3%
1898 27.2%
1903 31.7%
1907 28.9%
1912 34.8%
1 Predecessor parties ADAV and SDAP together

Elections in the Weimar Republic 1919–1933

Reichstag election results 1919–1933
year Share of votes Seats
1919 1 37.9%
1920 21.7%
1924 (May) 20.5%
1924 (December) 26.0%
1928 29.8%
1930 24.5%
1932 (July) 21.6%
1932 (November) 20.4%
1933 18.3%
1 National Assembly elections

Bundestag elections since 1949

Graphic overview of the election results
Second vote share of the SPD in the 2017 Bundestag election by constituency 7.8–15% > 15–20% > 20–25% > 25–30% > 30–37.8%

Bundestag election results
year Number of votes Share of votes Seats Chancellor candidate
1949 06,934,975 29.2%
Kurt Schumacher
1953 07,944,943 28.8%
Erich Ollenhauer
1957 09,495,571 31.8%
Erich Ollenhauer
1961 11,427,355 36.2%
Willy Brandt
1965 12,813,186 39.3%
Willy Brandt
1969 14,065,716 42.7%
Willy Brandt
1972 17.175.169 45.8%
Willy Brandt
1976 16,099,019 42.6%
Helmut Schmidt
1980 16,260,677 42.9%
Helmut Schmidt
1983 14,865,807 38.2%
Hans-Jochen Vogel
1987 14,025,763 37.0%
Johannes Rau
1990 15,545,366 33.5%
Oskar Lafontaine
1994 17.140.354 36.4%
Rudolf Scharping
1998 20.181.269 40.9%
Gerhard Schröder
2002 18,488,668 38.5%
Gerhard Schröder
2005 16,194,665 34.2%
Gerhard Schröder
2009 09,990,488 23.0%
Frank-Walter Steinmeier
2013 11,252,215 25.7%
Peer Steinbruck
2017 09,538,367 20.5%
Martin Schulz
2021 11,955,434 25.7%
Olaf Scholz

European elections since 1979

Results of the SPD in the European elections 1979–2019
European election results
year Number of votes Share of votes Seats Top candidate
1979 11,370,045 40.8%
Willy Brandt
1984 9,296,417 37.4%
Katharina Focke
1989 10,525,728 37.3%
Gerd Walter
1994 11,389,697 32.2%
Klaus Hänsch
1999 8,307,085 30.7%
Klaus Hänsch
2004 5,547,971 21.5%
Martin Schulz
2009 5,472,566 20.8%
Martin Schulz
2014 7,999,955 27.3%
Martin Schulz
2019 5,914,953 15.8%
Katarina Barley


The SPD attracts votes from all walks of life, but there is still a high proportion of certain groups in the electorate. If, for historical reasons, it was primarily the “little man” who voted for the SPD in the past, the proportion of voters who come from the working class and low-income groups is much lower today than when it was founded. The proportion of employees with a higher school qualification and the self-employed has also risen steadily.

The party performed best in the over-60s group. Women and men are almost equally represented in the electorate.

Geographically, the electorate is concentrated in more Protestant areas in the west and north of the republic. Due to the strength of the Union in the south and the successes of the Left Party in the east, the SPD was barely able to gain a foothold in these areas. Furthermore, the SPD is increasingly chosen by people from a metropolitan area. It provides 42 of the 50 mayors of the most populous cities in Germany (as of 2019).



Federal Cabinet Members

Surname government office Beginning of the term of office Parl. State Secretary or Minister of State
Olaf Scholz Olaf Scholz Chancellor Chancellor December 8, 2021 Sarah Ryglewski (SPD)
Reem Alabali-Radovan (SPD)
Carsten Schneider (SPD)
Claudia Roth (Greens)
Nancy Faeser Nancy Faeser Federal Ministry of the Interior and for Homeland Federal Minister of the Interior and for Homeland December 8, 2021 Mahmut Özdemir (SPD)
Johann Saathoff (SPD)
Rita Schwarzelühr-Sutter (SPD)
Hubertus Heil Hubertus Heil Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs Federal Minister for Labor and Social Affairs March 14, 2018 Kerstin Griese (SPD)
Anette Kramme (SPD)
Christine Lambrecht Christine Lambrecht Federal ministry of defense Federal Minister of Defense December 8, 2021 Thomas Hitschler (SPD)
Siemtje Möller (SPD)
Karl Lauterbach Karl Lauterbach Federal Ministry of Health Federal Minister for Health December 8, 2021 Sabine Dittmar (SPD)
Edgar Franke (SPD)
Svenja Schulze Svenja Schulze Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development Federal Minister for Economic Cooperation and Development December 8, 2021 Niels Annen (SPD)
Bärbel Kofler (SPD)
Klara Geywitz Klara Geywitz Federal Ministry for Housing, Urban Development and Construction Federal Minister for Housing, Urban Development and Construction December 8, 2021 Sören Bartol (SPD)
Cansel Kiziltepe (SPD)
Wolfgang Schmidt Wolfgang Schmidt Head of the Federal Chancellery Federal Minister for Special Tasks and Head of the Federal Chancellery December 8, 2021

Heads of government in the countries

The SPD currently provides seven prime ministers and mayors of city-states.

Surname country Beginning of the term of office Cabinet or Senate Belonging to the state parliaments
Malu Dreyer Malu Dreyer Rhineland-Palatinate State coat of arms of Rhineland-Palatinate Rhineland-Palatinate January 16, 2013 Dreyer III cabinet SPD Landtag.svg
  • represented as an opposition party
  • as a small coalition partner in the government
  • as a major coalition partner in the government and the head of government
  • Stephan Weil Stephan Weil Lower Saxony Lower Saxony Lower Saxony 19th February 2013 Weil II cabinet
    Dietmar Woidke Dietmar Woidke Brandenburg State coat of arms of Brandenburg Brandenburg August 28, 2013 Cabinet Woidke III
    Manuela Schwesig Manuela Schwesig Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania 4th July 2017 Cabinet Schwesig II
    Peter Tschentscher Peter Tschentscher Hamburg State coat of arms of Hamburg Hamburg March 28, 2018 Tschentscher II Senate
    Andreas Bovenschulte Andreas Bovenschulte Bremen State coat of arms of Bremen Bremen 15th August 2019 Senate Bovenschulte
    Franziska Giffey Franziska Giffey Germany Location Berlins.svg State coat of arms of Berlin Berlin December 21, 2021 Senate Giffey

    The following politicians are deputy prime ministers in their countries under a head of government of the CDU or the left:

    Party leader

    Lars Klingbeil

    Saskia Esken Malu Dreyer Thorsten Schäfer-Gümbel Manuela Schwesig Andrea Nahles Olaf Scholz Martin Schulz Sigmar Gabriel Frank-Walter Steinmeier Kurt Beck Matthias Platzeck Franz Müntefering Gerhard Schröder Oskar Lafontaine Rudolf Scharping Johannes Rau Björn Engholm Hans-Jochen Vogel Willy Brandt Erich Ollenhauer Kurt Schumacher

    Before 1945

    Until the Second World War, the SPD was led by several chairmen at the same time. Therefore, the terms of office overlap.


    Western zones / Federal Republic of Germany
    SBZ / GDR

    Since 1990

    On September 27, 1990, the SPD united with its West German counterpart in the GDR.

    Federal Managing Director

    General Secretaries

    Chairwoman of the SPD parliamentary group

    Reich or federal level

    Heads of state

    The following SPD politicians were or are heads of state in Germany:

    Deputy Heads of State

    Heads of government

    The following SPD politicians were heads of government in Germany:

    Deputy Heads of Government ( Vice Chancellor )

    Presidents of Parliament

    In Germany, the President of the Reichstag or Bundestag is traditionally made up of the strongest parliamentary group in parliament.

    Vice-Presidents of Parliament

    European level

    Group chairmen

    The following SPD politicians were chairmen of the parliamentary group of the Progressive Alliance of Social Democrats in the European Parliament :

    President of the European Parliament

    The following SPD politicians were President of the European Parliament :

    Vice-President of the European Parliament

    EU commissioners

    The following SPD politicians represented Germany in the European Commission :

    State level

    Heads of government

    Baden-WuerttembergBaden-Wuerttemberg Baden-Wuerttemberg

    BavariaBavaria Bavaria

    BerlinBerlin Berlin

    Note : Until 1951 with the title of Lord Mayor. Its position as a separate country has not been controversial until 1990; from 1949 West Berlin was de facto a state of the Federal Republic of Germany (see also the Berlin question ).

    BrandenburgBrandenburg Brandenburg

    BremenBremen Bremen

    HamburgHamburg Hamburg

    HesseHesse Hesse

    Mecklenburg-Western PomeraniaMecklenburg-Western Pomerania Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania

    Lower SaxonyLower Saxony Lower Saxony

    North Rhine-WestphaliaNorth Rhine-Westphalia North Rhine-Westphalia

    PrussiaPrussia Prussia

    Rhineland-PalatinateRhineland-Palatinate Rhineland-Palatinate

    SaarlandSaarland Saarland

    SaxonySaxony Saxony

    Saxony-AnhaltSaxony-Anhalt Saxony-Anhalt

    Schleswig-HolsteinSchleswig-Holstein Schleswig-Holstein

    ThuringiaThuringia Thuringia

    Related organizations

    All the chairmen of the German Trade Union Federation (DGB) and most of the chairmen of the branch unions were or are members of the SPD, however, unlike its predecessor , the DGB is committed to the principle of the unified trade union from the beginning and there are also some chairmen of other parties like the first chairman of the GEW Max Traeger (FDP), the former chairman of ver.di Frank Bsirske (B'90 / Greens), the former GdP chairman Hermann Lutz (CDU) or the board member of GdP Berlin Steve Feldmann ( BFB ).

    The federal committee of the SJD - Die Falken repealed the incompatibility decision in 2011, according to which membership in the SJD - Die Falken was incompatible with membership in parties other than the SPD, but emphasizes the historical and current embedding of the Falken in the social democratic family.


    • The archive of the SPD was integrated into the archive of social democracy in 1969 .
    • Manfred Bissinger , Wolfgang Thierse (ed.): What would Bebel say about that? On the current situation of social democracy. Steidl, Göttingen 2013, ISBN 978-3-86930-670-4 .
    • Manfred Blänkner and Axel Bernd Kunze (eds.): Red flags, colorful ribbons. Corporated Social Democrats from Lassalle to the present day, Dietz Successor, Bonn 2016, ISBN 978-3-8012-0481-5 .
    • Programmatic documents of the German social democracy. Edited and introduced by Dieter Dowe and Kurt Klotzbach . JHW Dietz Nachf., Berlin, Bonn-Bad Godesberg 1973. ISBN 3-8012-1068-5 .
    • Annekatrin Gebauer: The dispute over the direction of the SPD. Seeheimer Kreis and New Left in the intra-party power struggle. VS - Verlag für Sozialwissenschaften, Wiesbaden 2005, ISBN 3-531-14764-1 (At the same time: Koblenz-Landau (Pfalz), University, dissertation, 2003).
    • Timo Grunden, Maximilian Janetzki and Julian Salandi: The SPD. Anamnesis of a party. Nomos, Baden-Baden 2017, ISBN 978-3-8329-5362-1 .
    • Robert Hofmann: Critical history of the German social democracy 1863-2014: From the socialist future hope to neoliberal arbitrariness, Createspace 2015, ISBN 978-1-5142-2466-3
    • Willy Huhn : The statism of social democracy. On the prehistory of Nazi fascism. ça ira, Freiburg (Breisgau) 2003, ISBN 3-924627-05-3 .
    • Ralf Hoffrogge : Socialism and the labor movement in Germany. From the beginning until 1914. Schmetterling-Verlag, Stuttgart 2011, ISBN 978-3-89657-655-2 .
    • Anja Kruke, Meik Woyke (ed.): German social democracy in motion. 1848-1863-2013. JHW Dietz Nachf., Bonn 2012, ISBN 978-3-8012-0431-0 (2nd, improved edition, ibid 2013).
    • Detlef Lehnert : Social democracy between protest movement and ruling party 1848 to 1983 (= Edition Suhrkamp. Es. 1248 = NF 248). Suhrkamp, ​​Frankfurt am Main 1983, ISBN 3-518-11248-1 .
    • Elke Leonhard , Wolfgang Leonhard : The left temptation. Where is the SPD headed? be.bra-Verlag, Berlin 2009, ISBN 978-3-86124-633-6 .
    • Peter Lösche , Franz Walter : The SPD. Class party - people's party - quota party. On the development of social democracy from Weimar to German unification. Scientific Book Society, Darmstadt 1992, ISBN 3-534-10994-5 .
    • Rosa Luxemburg : The Crisis of Social Democracy. In: Rosa Luxemburg: Collected Works. Volume 4: August 4, 1914 to January 1919. 2nd edition. Dietz, Berlin 1979, pp. 49-164.
    • Ulrich Maurer : Is that what it was? An obituary for the SPD. VSA Verlag, Hamburg 2018, ISBN 978-3-89965-840-8 .
    • Bettina Munimus: Aging popular parties. New power of the elderly in the CDU and SPD? (= Studies of the Göttingen Institute for Democracy Research on the History of Political and Social Controversies. Volume 5). transcript, Bielefeld 2012, ISBN 978-3-8376-2211-9 (At the same time: Kassel, University, dissertation, 2012: People's parties in retirement? ).
    • Gero Neugebauer : The SPD. On new paths in the east? Volume 1: On the organization of the SPD in the east. Text and documents (= Berlin workbooks and reports on social science research. 86). Central Institute for Social Science Research, Berlin 1994, ISBN 3-93002-09-4
    • Holger Noß, Stefanie Brill, Holger Müller (eds.): The SPD book. Organization, history and people at a glance. Special section 100 years of Jusos 1904–2004. With a foreword by Franz Müntefering and Gerhard Schröder . Books on Demand GmbH, Norderstedt 2004, ISBN 3-8334-1331-X .
    • Heinrich Potthoff, Susanne Miller : A short history of the SPD. 1848-2002. 8th, updated and expanded edition. Dietz, Bonn 2002, ISBN 3-8012-0320-4 .
    • Sebastian Prüfer: Socialism instead of religion. The German Social Democracy before the Religious Question 1863–1890 (= Critical Studies in History . Volume 152). Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, Göttingen 2002, ISBN 3-525-35166-6 .
    • Max Reinhardt: Rise and Crisis of the SPD. Wings and representatives of a pluralistic people's party. Nomos, Baden-Baden 2011, ISBN 978-3-8329-6575-4 .
    • Carl E. Schorske : German Social Democracy, 1905–1917. The Development of the Great Schism (= Harvard Historical Studies. Volume 65, ISSN  0073-053X ). Harvard University Press, Cambridge MA 1955 (In German: Die Große Spaltung . Die deutsche Sozialdemokratie 1905–1917. From the American by Harry Maòr . Olle & Wolter, Berlin 1981, ISBN 3-88395-407-1 ).
    • Peer Steinbrück : The misery of social democracy. Comments from a comrade. CH Beck, Munich 2018, ISBN 978-3-406-72232-5 .
    • Hendrikträger: The opposition party SPD in the Federal Council. A case study analysis of the party-political use of the Bundesrat by the SPD in the 1950s and a comparison with the situation in the 1990s (= European University Theses. Series 31: Political Science. Volume 564). Lang, Frankfurt am Main et al. 2008, ISBN 978-3-631-57288-7 (at the same time: Jena, University, Master's thesis, 2007).
    • Franz Walter : Farewell to Tuscany. The SPD in the Schröder era. 2nd, expanded edition. VS - Verlag für Sozialwissenschaften, Wiesbaden 2005, ISBN 3-531-34268-1 .
    • Franz Walter: The SPD. From the proletariat to the new center. Alexander Fest, Berlin 2002, ISBN 3-8286-0173-1 ( The SPD. Biography of a party (= Rororo. Taschenbücher. 62461). Revised and expanded paperback edition. Rowohlt-Taschenbuch-Verlag, Reinbek bei Hamburg 2009, ISBN 978-3 -499-62461-2 ).
    • Franz Walter: Forward or Down? On the transformation of social democracy (= Edition Suhrkamp. Es . 2622). Suhrkamp, ​​Berlin 2010, ISBN 978-3-518-12622-6 .

    Web links

    Commons : Social Democratic Party of Germany  - collection of pictures, videos and audio files
    Wikisource: Social Democracy  - Sources and Full Texts
    Wiktionary: SPD  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

    Individual evidence

    1. a b party members: Greens are increasing, losses for AfD and SPD. Dpa message. Heilbronner Voice , February 14, 2021, accessed on December 6, 2021 . Likewise: Party members: Greens are increasing, losses for AfD and SPD. Dpa message. Süddeutsche Zeitung , February 14, 2021, accessed on December 6, 2021 .
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