Dittmann, Wilhelm

(1874-1954)
   politician; represented the USPD on the Council of People's Representatives.* He was born in the town of Eutin near Lübeck, where his father was a master millwright. After a difficult youth he became a carpenter and in 1894 joined both the woodworkers' union and the SPD. Strongly influenced by Ferdinand Lassalle and August Bebel, he had little interest in Marxist theory. He held various editorial posts for the Party before his 1906 election to Frankfurt's city council. After three years as editor of So-lingen's Bergische Arbeiterstimme, he was elected in 1912 to the Reichstag* (he retained his mandate until 1933). Already a prominent radical, his belief that Germany was responsible for the war's inception led him to oppose war credits in December 1915; he was soon among those who split from the SPD. In April 1917 he became the USPD's secretary, a position he retained until January 1922. In February 1918, because of his role in the prior month's strikes, he was sentenced to five years' imprisonment. He was amnestied, amidst Ar-mistice* negotiations, in October 1918.
   On 10 November 1918 Dittmann was among three individuals selected by the USPD to serve on the six-member Council of People's Representatives. Although he and his colleagues resigned their seats on 29 December, the overall experience recast Dittmann as one of the USPD's more cautious members. He remained in the Party executive even after the radical wing triumphed in De-cember 1919, and he was among the delegates who attended the Moscow Com-intern congress in the summer of 1920. Thereafter he opposed the decision to unite with either the Comintern or the KPD. Moved by the 1922 assassination* of Walther Rathenau,* Dittmann recom-mended that the USPD, diminished by its split in late 1920, reunite with the SPD. He then served as secretary of the SPD's Parteivorstand. A member of Berlin's city council during 1921-1925, he never again associated with the ex-treme Left; indeed, his hostility to communism was evident when, in a speech to the 1929 Party congress, he argued that Germany's proletariat enjoyed greater socialization than Russia's. Joined by his friend and colleague Artur Crispien,* he fled to Switzerland in February 1933, wrote his memoirs, and returned to Bonn in 1951 to work in the SPD's archives.
   REFERENCES:Morgan, Socialist Left; NDB, vol. 4; Stachura, Political Leaders.

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

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