Preuss, Hugo

(1860-1925)
   constitutional lawyer; known as the father of the Weimar Constitution.* Born in Berlin* to a Jewish businessman, he studied law at Berlin, where he completed his Habilitation in 1889. Politically left-liberal, he published the first of his articles on constitutional reform in 1885 and placed great hope in the brief reign of Kaiser Frederick III (1888). For forty years he was a prolific voice on constitutional and administrative issues. His unsuccessful attempts to gain appointment at his alma mater were thwarted by those opposed to his politics. In 1906, however, he became Professor of Con-stitutional Law at Berlin's Handelshochschule. Preuss joined Berlin's represen-tative assembly in 1895 and was elected as a member of the Progressive Party in 1910 to the city council. Viewing city politics as a microcosm of national politics, he worked to enhance self-administration at the local level in the belief that success would redound to the nation at large.
   For Preuss, the outbreak of war intensified the need for reform. In 1915 he published his philosophy in Das deutsche Volk und die Politik (German people and politics), and while he was serving in 1917 as rector of the Handelshoch-schule, he drafted the changes needed to recast Germany as a constitutional monarchy. The Council of People's Representatives* appointed him State Sec-retary at the Interior Ministry in November 1918. He soon laid the groundwork for the January 1919 elections of a National Assembly* and then drafted a new constitution, completed in late December 1918. Although the document ap-proved by the assembly in July 1919 contained the substance of his ideas, it did not retain his commitment to centralized government.
   Representing the DDP, Preuss served as Interior Minister from 13 February to 20 June 1919, resigning with Philipp Scheidemann* in protest to the Ver-sailles Treaty.* A man of biting wit and a loner within the DDP, he never again held national office. Yet while his public posture was restricted, he wielded considerable influence in 1919 as a member of Prussia's* constituent assembly and thereafter served until his death in the Prussian Landtag.
   REFERENCES:Benz and Graml, Biographisches Lexikon; Eyck, History of the Weimar Republic, vol. 1; Grassmann, Hugo Preuss; Stachura, Political Leaders.

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

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