Fehrenbach, Konstantin

(1852-1926)
   politician; last President of the Imperial Reichstag* and Chancellor during 1920-1921. Born to a school-teacher in the Baden town of Wellendingen, he studied theology and law (1871-1879) before becoming a trial lawyer in Freiburg. He entered the Baden Landtag in 1885 as a Center Party* deputy, but resigned his mandate in 1887 owing to differences with Theodor Wacker, Baden s Party leader (Fehrenbach was among the earliest Catholic* politicians to accommodate the Wilhelmine Reich). Re-elected to the Landtag in 1901, he remained in the chamber through 1913 and served as its President during 1907-1909. In 1903 he entered the Reichstag and was soon favored as an orator. His Zabern Affair speech of December 1913, supportive of the Alsatians against the military authorities, gained him notoriety. He succeeded Peter Spahn as Reichstag faction chairman in the summer of 1917 and was appointed leader of the chamber s multiparty steering committee in November 1917. Finally, in July 1918 he became Reichstag President, a position he also held in the Republic s National Assembly.*
   As Assembly President, Fehrenbach powerfully denounced the Versailles Treaty* on 12 May 1919 and predicted torment for Germany s enemies from children yet unborn; the speech endeared him to the political Right. On 25 June 1920, after long negotiations, President Ebert* convinced him to form the Re-public's first middle-party cabinet (i.e., comprised of the DDP, the Center, and the DVP). As a minority government, reliant on SPD goodwill for its existence, it ventured few initiatives for easing Germany s tense internal situation. Rep-resenting the country in reparations* conferences at Spa* (July 1920) and Lon-don* (March 1921), Fehrenbach s cabinet collapsed on 4 May 1921 when his DVP ministers, unwilling to be linked with the London Ultimatum, resigned.
   An esteemed member of the Center s moderate middle and a committed re-publican, Fehrenbach was valued for his tact, good humor, and parliamentary skill. Moritz Julius Bonn,* who served as his financial expert, labeled him "a good figurehead for the hinterland" with "no knowledge of international ques-tions, and no ambition to play a role on the international stage. His Reichstag career was crowned in 1923 when he succeeded Wilhelm Marx* (the new Chan-cellor) as faction chairman. He served also on the special Court for the Protection of the Republic and as deputy chairman of the Society to Combat Anti-Semitism (Verein zur Abwehr des Antisemitismus).
   REFERENCES:Becker, "Konstantin Fehrenbach"; Benz and Graml, Biographisches Lex-ikon; Bonn, Wandering Scholar; Ellen Evans, German Center Party; NDB, vol. 5.

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

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