Schumacher, Kurt

(1895-1952)
   politician; combined a relentless commitment to socialism with unqualified nationalism. Born in middle-class circumstances in the West Prussian town of Kulm (now Poland's* Chelmno), he soon became aware of the ethnoreligious conflict between Germans and Poles. In August 1914 he requested emergency exiting exams (Notabitur) from Gymnasium and volunteered for the army; four months later a shrapnel wound cost him his right arm. Awarded the Iron Cross (Second Class), he lived with pain the remainder of his life. After a year of convalescence he began studies in law and political science (he took a doctorate in 1926). In January 1918, with Konrad Haenisch as his sponsor, he joined the SPD. A dynamic spokesman for the Party and the Association of Disabled War Veterans, he served during the Revolution with Greater Berlin's* Workers' and Soldiers' Council.*
   After the war Schumacher passed state exams and worked briefly for the Labor Ministry. He was well into his doctoral work when he set his thesis aside in 1920 to assume editorial duties in Stuttgart for the Schwabische Tagwacht, an SPD newspaper*; the next decade was devoted to politics in Württemberg. He was a hard worker, unsparing in his attacks on opponents, and his dedication attracted leading functionaries. Meanwhile, young Social Democrats were drawn by his charisma and intellect. Caustic and sometimes ruthless, he relished battle and seemed to provoke it. Although older functionaries viewed him with sus-picion, he was elected to Wurttemberg's Landtag in 1924 (where he soon mas-tered complex legislative issues), became chairman of the Stuttgart Party organization in July 1930, and gained a Reichstag* seat in September 1930. Joining his faction's executive, he attracted a small number of younger SPD deputies to a more militant support of the Republic. He was an outspoken critic of Chancellor Heinrich Brüning.*
   Schumacher despised federalism; in his first Landtag speech he argued that nothing was more important than "the unity of the Reich." Lumping the KPD and the NSDAP together as enemies of the democratic order, he organized his first anti-Nazi demonstration in 1921. In a 1932 parliamentary clash he gained fame by calling Joseph Goebbels* a "presumptuous dwarf." Never a pacifist, he advocated a strong defense (albeit one committed to the Republic), was re-sponsible in 1924 for organizing the Stuttgart unit of the Reichsbanner,* and helped form the Iron Front in December 1931. Although his view of Marxism has inspired debate, his doctoral thesis, which treated the working-class party in a bourgeois state, fostered a reformism worthy of Ferdinand Lassalle.
   A critic of Franz von Papen* and Kurt von Schleicher*—he dubbed them cryptofascists—Schumacher believed that should the NSDAP come to power, its tenure would be brief. He refused to go into exile when Hitler* became Chancellor. Arrested in July 1933, he spent ten years in concentration camps— eight at Dachau. Near death, he was released in March 1943. After World War II, his health irrevocably damaged, he became SPD chairman and leader of the Bundestag faction. He was praised for his courage, but because he mixed rigid nationalism with an autocratic nature, his death was greeted with both tears and relief.
   REFERENCES:Benz and Graml, Biographisches Lexikon; Cook, Ten Men; Edinger, Kurt Schumacher; Flora Lewis, "Hard-Bitten Herr Schumacher."

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

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  • Schumacher, Kurt —   Geboren in Culm (Westpreußen) am 13. Oktober 1895, verlor Schumacher als Kriegsfreiwilliger im 1. Weltkrieg einen Arm; er studierte Jura und Nationalökonomie. 1918 wurde er Mitglied des Berliner Arbeiter und Soldatenrates. 1920 24 war er… …   Universal-Lexikon

  • Schumacher, Kurt — ▪ German politician born October 13, 1895, Kulm, Germany died August 20, 1952, Bonn, West Germany       German politician and first chairman of the revived Social Democratic Party of Germany (Sozialdemokratische Partei Deutschlands; SPD) after… …   Universalium

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