Landsberg, Otto

(1869-1957)
   lawyer and politician; represented Friedrich Ebert* in the President's slander trial. He was born in the Upper Silesian village of Rybnik; his father was a Jewish veterinarian. He studied law in Berlin* and completed state exams in 1890, the year he joined the SPD. He established a legal practice in 1895 in Magdeburg, became an accomplished defense attorney, and served on the city council during 1903-1909. He failed in a 1907 Reichstag* bid, but sat in the chamber during 1912-1918, earning esteem as a legal expert.
   Landsberg was also respected for his courage and speaking ability. Sometimes breaching Party discipline, he nonetheless stood throughout the war with the SPD's reformist majority on key issues. While he opposed annexations, he voted regularly for war credits and favored retention of Alsace-Lorraine.* He fre-quently promoted democratization and abolition of Prussia's* three-class voting system. In October 1918 he was elected SPD faction leader.
   The apex of Landsberg's career was his appointment on 10 November 1918 to the Council of People's Representatives.* In support of Ebert, he championed parliamentary democracy via election of a National Assembly.* Since he also upheld Ebert's alliance with General Wilhelm Groener,* he became anathema to leftist colleagues. Elected to the National Assembly, he recommended the government's transfer to Weimar and then became Philipp Scheidemann's* Jus-tice Minister on 13 February 1919. He was among the delegation that traveled to France to sign the Versailles Treaty,* but was offended by its harshness and resigned rather than accept the terms.
   Landsberg joined the diplomatic service after his Versailles ordeal. He was assigned to Belgium, and his career ended abruptly when Belgium and France occupied the Ruhr in 1923. Thereafter reestablishing a legal practice in Berlin, he reentered the Reichstag in December 1924 and served until 1933 as faction legal advisor. In December 1924 he represented Ebert in the latter's infamous slander trial and then sat in 1925 as a witness in Munich's so-called Dolchstoss-prozess ("stab-in-the-back trial"). Opposed to amnesty for those involved in Feme murder (see Femegericht), he agonized over the social degeneration in-duced by the Republic's political battles.
   Although Landsberg never actively practiced Judaism, he was a long-term member of the Society to Combat Anti-Semitism* (Verein zur Abwehr des An-tisemitismus). In 1933 he fled to Holland. Friends concealed him during World War II.
   REFERENCES:Benz and Graml, Biographisches Lexikon; NDB, vol. 13; Ryder, German Revolution of 1918.

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

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