Hamm, Eduard

(1879-1944)
   bureaucrat and politician; served as Eco-nomics Minister in the first two cabinets of Wilhelm Marx.* Born in Passau, he studied law and completed state exams in 1905. Having assumed a position with the Bavarian Justice Ministry, he became an assistant prosecutor in 1906 and a district judge in 1909. He entered the Bavarian Interior Ministry in 1911 and then went to Berlin* in 1916 to represent Bavaria* at the War Food Office. He returned to Munich in 1917 as head of Bavaria's Fat Office (an outgrowth of the blockade*) and became embassy counselor in Bavaria's Foreign Ministry in 1918.
   Already active in liberal groups before World War I, Hamm joined the DDP in 1918 and was elected to both the National Assembly* and the Bavarian Landtag. In May 1919 he entered Johannes Hoffmann's* government as Ba-varian Minister of Trade, Industry, and Transportation; he retained the office through three successive cabinets. Growing tension between Berlin and Bavaria, chiefly owing to the latter's cavalier response to the Law for the Protection of the Republic,* led Hamm to resign his ministry on 31 July 1922. He then enjoyed some success as a mediator between the Bavarian and Reich govern-ments, with Bavaria finally recognizing the law. Late in 1922 Wilhelm Cuno* appointed him State Secretary in the Chancellery; when Cuno resigned in August 1923, Hamm quit the post.
   On the occasion of Hitler's* Beerhall Putsch,* Hamm instructed Gustav von Kahr,* then Bavaria's General State Commissioner, to remain loyal to Berlin and avoid extending concessions to the NSDAP. On 30 November 1923 Marx appointed him Economics Minister, a portfolio he held until 15 January 1925 and through which he helped stabilize Germany's currency while reinvigorating the country's lethargic railway system. The highly influential German Industry and Trade Congress* (DIHT) appointed him general secretary of its ruling pre-sidium in 1925, a post he retained until the NSDAP forced his resignation in 1933. During these years he published the Deutsche Wirtschaftszeitung (German economic newspaper) and advanced a free-trade policy that placed him consis-tently at odds with the protectionism of the Reichslandbund* and heavy industry. Initially wary of Kurt von Schleicher,* he advised Hindenburg* to keep the beleaguered Chancellor in late January 1933. After Hitler's appointment he re-sumed a private legal practice, focusing chiefly on insurance questions. In each of his cabinet positions Hamm encountered especially burdensome tasks. As Trade Minister, he guided Bavaria to a peacetime economy amidst currency collapse. He became federal Economics Minister on the occasion of major currency reform. As general secretary of DIHT, he represented German business both in the good years that followed currency stabilization and in the lean years of depression.* After Hitler's appointment he maintained contact with former DDP colleagues; one of these introduced him to the resistance leader Carl Goerdeler.* Arrested because of complicity in the July 1944 attempt on Hitler's life, Hamm escaped the Gestapo's brutality by leaping through an open window to his death. Hans Luther* called him "an especially sincere, clever, and uncommonly industrious man of great modesty" (NDB).
   REFERENCES:Benz and Graml, Biographisches Lexikon; Larry Jones, German Liberalism; Leber, Conscience in Revolt; NDB, vol. 7; Pois, Bourgeois Democrats; Turner, German Big Business.

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

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