Delbrück, Hans

(1848-1929)
   historian and conservative activist; op-ponent of an ultra-annexationist program in World War I. Born in Bergen, he studied history and earned a doctorate in 1873 under Heinrich von Sybel. During 1874-1879, while tutoring a younger son of Crown Prince Friedrich Wilhelm (later Kaiser Friedrich I), he began a biography of Gneisenau (1882). The Gnei-senau work inspired his four-volume Geschichte der Kriegskunst im Rahmen der politischen Geschichte (History of the art of war as an aspect of political history), published during 1900-1920. Delbriick's theory of war as either a strat-egy of exhaustion (Frederick the Great) or a strategy of destruction (Napoleon) alienated numerous historical colleagues and frustrated a professorial appoint-ment until 1895; in 1896 he succeeded Heinrich von Treitschke at Berlin.*
   Delbruck was one of a long line of German historians to engage in politics. During 1882-1885 he represented the Free Conservative Party in the Abgeord-netenhaus; during 1884-1890 he served in the Reichstag.* In 1883 he joined Treitschke as coeditor of the Preussische Jahrbücher, a journal devoted to po-litical science, history, and literature. When politics induced a parting of the ways in 1889 (Treitschke labeled him a socialist), the journal's publisher pre-ferred Delbrück as sole editor. His own Politische Korrespondenzen, a monthly critique of policy, contains his political philosophy: on domestic issues—for example, nationality concerns, social questions, and electoral reform—his pro-gressivism led him to reproach the Conservatives and the National Liberals; regarding foreign policy, he went from promoting world empire to championing peaceful expansion and cooperation with Britain—ideas that inspired conflict with the Pan-German League. Despite his hope that Germany would acquire a colonial empire, he remained a steadfast adherent of the balance of power. The culmination of his political activity occurred during the war when, as a defender of Chancellor Bethmann Hollweg, he urged moderate war aims and abolition of Prussia's* three-class voting system.
   Delbrück resigned as editor of the Preussische Jahrbücher in 1919 and cam-paigned thereafter against the "lie" of German war guilt. Yet he was an equally tireless opponent of the Dolchstosslegende,* reserving his sharpest attacks for Alfred von Tirpitz* and Erich Ludendorff,* the "destroyers of the German Empire." He was a self-professed conservative, but his invective against na-tionalism, social reaction, and the egoism of the nobility often placed him in the camp of the SPD. In December 1924 he signed an open letter to Friedrich Ebert* declaring his support for "a person to whom our nation owes so much." In the final analysis, he was a traditional National Liberal who advocated con-stitutional monarchy, the rule of law, and the political predominance of the middle classes.
   REFERENCES:Richard Bauer, "Hans Delbrück"; Bucholz, Hans Delbrück; Eyck, His-tory of the Weimar Republic, vol. 1; Iggers, German Conception of History; NDB, vol. 3; Fritz Ringer, Decline ofthe German Mandarins.

A Historical dictionary of Germany's Weimar Republic, 1918-1933. .

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