Schiffer, Eugen

(1860-1954)
   politician; the Republic's first Finance Minister. Born to middle-class circumstances in Breslau (now Poland's* Wro-claw), he studied law before launching a judicial career in the Prussian civil service.* But he turned to politics in 1900 after his appointment in Magdeburg as a magistrate. On the right wing of the National Liberal Party, he sat in Prussia's* Abgeordnetenhaus during 1903-1918 and held a concurrent Reichs-tag* mandate during 1911-1917. In July 1917 he championed Matthias Erzber-ger's* Peace Resolution. He served with the Treasury Office from 1917 until the November Revolution,* and was retained by Friedrich Ebert* as Treasury Secretary during the Armistice* period; upon election to the National Assem-bly,* he became Finance Minister under Philipp Scheidemann.* Advocating a laissez-faire policy that embraced international cooperation and free trade, he favored using taxation to reduce domestic purchasing power and check infla-tion.* As early as December 1918 he opposed the planned-economy proposals of Rudolf Wissell* and Wichard von Moellendorff,* and he resigned his min-istry in April 1919 when the National Assembly approved a socialization bill. A sharp critic of those who financed Germany's war effort, he upheld Erzber-ger's tax proposals in late 1919.
   A conservative member of the DDP and a monarchist at heart, Schiffer served as faction chairman in the National Assembly (from June 1919) and the Reichs-tag (until October 1924). Combining the offices of Vice Chancellor and Justice Minister under Gustav Bauer* (June 1919 to March 1920), he volunteered to remain in Berlin* as Bauer's surrogate during the Kapp* Putsch. On 17 March, upon accepting Walther von Lüttwitz's* resignation as Berlin's military com-mander, he appointed Hans von Seeckt* as the general's successor. Although he was a fearless emissary, his mediation with the Kapp regime alienated trade unionists and compelled his resignation.
   Schiffer returned to the Justice Ministry under Joseph Wirth* (May-October 1921). Sponsoring administrative and judicial reform, he founded the Admin-istration Academy (Verwaltungsakademie) in Berlin. From October 1921 to May 1922, as Wirth's commissioner at the Geneva negotiations over Upper Silesia,* he helped draft the German-Polish Convention of May 1922. The next year he was a delegate to the International Court in The Hague. A sponsor of the Dawes Plan,* he was increasingly frustrated by the DDP's failure to establish a middle-class platform; he left the Party in October 1924 to organize the Liberale Ver-einigung (Liberal Association). When his organization failed to generate a useful relationship with either the DDP or the DVP, he retired from politics and re-sumed his legal career in Berlin.
   Schiffer had Jewish ancestry. As the key figure during the Nazi era of a liberal group known as the "Schiffer Circle" (it included the resistance leader Helmuth James von Moltke), he was fortunate to survive the Third Reich. Residing in East Berlin after World War II, he championed German unity and was elected to the governing committee of the Soviet Zone's Liberal Democratic Party.
   REFERENCES:Feldman, Great Disorder; Harold Gordon, Reichswehr; Larry Jones, German Liberalism; Kent, Spoils of War; Stachura, Political Leaders.

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

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