Scheidemann, Philipp

(1865-1939)
   socialist politician; member of the Council of People's Representatives* and Chancellor. Born to a working-class family in Kassel, he was a skilled printer when he joined the SPD at eighteen. Three years later, with the Party banned, his journalistic career began with an illegal newspaper* in his home city. From 1895 he held editorial posts with SPD papers in Nuremberg and Offenbach, including the Mitteldeutsche Sonntagszeitung. In 1905 he became editor of the Kasseler Volksblatt.
   Having failed in 1898 at his first bid for the Reichstag,* Scheidemann entered the chamber in 1903 and served for thirty years. He joined the SPD's board of directors in 1911 and soon became a Party leader. An adept orator and, after August Bebel's death in 1913, faction cochairman in World War I, he backed Party policy on war credits, but countered expansionists by demanding a peace without annexations or indemnities. In 1917 he warned of a Bolshevik-style revolution if fundamental reform were not forthcoming. Marked by a quick wit and lack of dogmatism, he was widely popular with colleagues. When the SPD split in 1917 (see Independent Social Democratic Party of Germany), he became second in line of leadership to Friedrich Ebert.*
   In October 1918 Scheidemann became Prinz Max* von Baden's State Sec-retary. On 9 November, as a proponent of the Kaiser's abdication, he resigned. The same morning, lacking Ebert's consent, he proclaimed the formation of a republic from a Reichstag balcony with the words "Es lebe die deutsche Re-publik." Ebert was furious. During the ensuing weeks of interim government, however, Scheidemann was a member of the Council of People's Representa-tives. After the National Assembly* elections, the newly elected President Ebert appointed him Chancellor (the formal title was Ministerpräsident until 1920) of a cabinet embracing the SPD, the DDP, and the Center Party.* But the Versailles Treaty* elicited his angry resignation on 20 June 1919; his ill-fated words before the Assembly were "what hand would not wither which placed this chain upon itself and upon us?" Within months he was assailing the government's policy vis-a-vis the Freikorps.* Remaining in the Reichstag, where his attack on De-fense Minister Gustav Noske* helped oust his former colleague in the aftermath of the Kapp* Putsch, Scheidemann served also as Oberburgermeister of Kassel from December 1919 until 1925. On 4 June 1922 members of Organisation Consul* attempted to blind him as he strolled in Kassel by dowsing his face with prussic acid.
   Scheidemann's enmity toward the Reichswehr* grew as time passed. On 16 December 1926, in a scathing attack before the Reichstag, he exposed the army's clandestine collusion with paramilitary groups and its secret dealings with the Soviet Union.* The speech alienated Centrist and DDP deputies, who believed it treasonous, and permanently damaged his reputation with fellow Social Dem-ocrats.
   A well-known opponent of the radical Right, Scheidemann fled Germany in June 1933. After sojourns in Prague, France, and the United States, he settled in Copenhagen.
   REFERENCES:Benz and Graml, Biographisches Lexikon; Eyck, History ofthe Weimar Republic, vol. 1; Scheidemann, Making of New Germany.

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

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