- (1863-1946)politician; chairman of the Center Party* (1922-1928) and Chancellor during the Republic's goldene zwanziger Jahre (the Golden Twenties). Born in Cologne to a parish school rector, he was a devout Catholic* throughout his life. After attending his father's school, he studied law and completed judicial examinations in 1888. He was appointed in 1894 to a district judgeship in Elberfeld and was serving as district court president (Land-gerichtsprasident) in Limburg in 1921, the year he became chairman of his Party's Reichstag* faction. On 27 September 1921 he was appointed senate president of Berlin's Kammergericht.Befriended as a student by Karl Trimborn—a Party leader during the late Kaiserreich—Marx was elected to the Prussian Abgeordnetenhaus in 1899 and retained his seat until 1921. During 1900-1902 he led the Windthorstbund, the Party's youth organization; he entered the Reichstag via special election in March 1910. Although he served as deputy chairman of the Party's Rhineland* branch in 1906-1919 (Trimborn was chairman), his court duties tended to hinder his political ambitions. But the deaths of Trimborn (1921) and Matthias Erz-berger* thrust him into the Party leadership. An expert mediator, associated with neither of the Center's political wings, he was the "man of the middle in the party of the middle." He supported both the fulfillment policy* of Joseph Wirth* and the passive resistance mobilized in 1923 against the Ruhr occupation.* His leverage was vital when Gustav Stresemann* formed his Great Coalition* in August 1923. When that unravelled in November 1923, President Ebert* turned to Marx, who, on 30 November, formed a minority cabinet. The Enabling Act* of 8 December 1923, operative until February 1924, gave him the power to implement the controversial currency reforms devised by Stresemann in mid-November. His government also enacted changes in criminal and civil court procedure, including the abolition of all-lay juries.The first of Marx's four cabinets collapsed on 26 May 1924 over the Reichs-tag's refusal to extend the Enabling Act. After minor changes, he introduced a second cabinet on 3 June 1924. In both instances he profited from the expertise of Stresemann at the Foreign Office and Hans Luther* at the Finance Ministry— the men who led the German team to the second London Conference* of July-August 1924. London generated the Dawes Plan,* thereby introducing some clarity to reparations.* But when the Dawes Plan provoked new Reichstag elec-tions on 7 December 1924, Marx lost the basis on which to maintain his cabinet; he resigned on 15 December.Marx served briefly in February-March 1925 as Prussian Prime Minister. On 18 March, after Ebert's death, his Party nominated him for President. Although he received only 4 million votes on the first ballot, he gained 13.7 million in the runoff as the representative of the Weimar Coalition.* But a so-called Reichsblock, a rightist coalition that persuaded Paul von Hindenburg* to run, gained the support of the DVP and the BVP; Hindenburg was elected with 14.6 million votes.Marx almost retired to private life after the campaign; however, he accepted the Justice portfolio when Luther formed his second cabinet on 26 January 1926. When this government fell four months later, Hindenburg turned to Marx. Al-though his third cabinet secured German entry into the League of Nations, it collapsed on 17 December when Philipp Scheidemann* exposed the Reichs-wehr's* secret dealings with the Soviet Union.* After weeks of Party infighting, Marx introduced his fourth and final cabinet on 29 January 1927. Yielding to Hindenburg's request, he asked the DNVP for support. The resulting Burger-block included three Nationalists and received reluctant support from the Center; indeed, the Party's left wing, led by Wirth, openly opposed Marx. Yet the cabinet designed a major piece of social legislation: Heinrich Brauns,* Labor Minister since 1920, fashioned an unemployment insurance law in July 1927 that granted relief to any citizen who was able and willing to work but could find no job. However, Marx's fourth cabinet is infamous for the bill of Finance Minister Heinrich Köhler* that raised civil-service* salaries by 21-25 percent; the measure, which reversed the frugality initiated in 1923-1924, was impossible to sustain after 1929. Whereas discord over foreign policy weakened Marx's last cabinet, it was the uproar over the School Bill* that destroyed it in February 1928; under an emergency decree he continued as Chancellor until June.When the elections of May 1928 brought the Center its smallest Reichstag faction since 1870, Marx decided to resign as Party chairman, effective 8 De-cember 1928. He remained in the Reichstag until July 1932, but played only a passive role. In March 1933 he moved to Bonn. The most successful Center leader of the Weimar era, he was denied the pension due him as a former Chancellor in July 1933.REFERENCES:Childers, "Inflation"; Ellen Evans, German Center Party; Eyck, History of the Weimar Republic, vols. 1-2; Hehl, Wilhelm Marx; NDB, vol. 16; Stehkamper "Wilhelm Marx."
A Historical dictionary of Germany's Weimar Republic, 1918-1933. C. Paul Vincent.
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