Seldte, Franz

   politician and industrialist; founder of the Stahlhelm,* Germany's largest veterans' association. Born in Magdeburg, he studied chemistry at Braunschweig's Technische Hochschule as preparation for work at his family's chemical and soda-water firm. A reserve infantry captain, he lost his left arm at the Somme (1916). Awarded the Iron Cross (First Class), he was subsequently a war correspondent.
   Returning to Magdeburg in November 1918, Seldte assumed control of the family business. He soon assembled several friends to discuss plans for a vet-erans' organization. Finding willing support, he founded the Stahlhelm on 25 December 1918. His initial impetus was comradeship, support of law and order, and a desire to assist returning veterans. But the unfolding of the November Revolution,* combined with the demands of the Versailles Treaty,* turned him and the Stahlhelm against the Republic.
   Seldte refused to join a party, but his hopes mirrored those of the DNVP. Although he helped concoct plans for a German dictatorship, his politics re-mained equivocal, and he was not involved in the 1920 Kapp* Putsch. In 1924 he and his moderate supporters countered an effort by the anti-Semitic* Theodor Duesterberg* to gain control of the Stahlhelm; they were soon forced, however, to make Duesterberg deputy chairman. As the Stahlhelm flourished with the addition of radical elements, Seldte's influence ebbed until Duesterberg became cochairman in 1927. With Seldte's blessing, the organization campaigned against the Young Plan* in 1929.
   By aligning the Stahlhelm in 1931 with the Harzburg Front,* Seldte under-scored his opposition to the Republic. While he generally stayed aloof from the Nazis during the Weimar years—he maintained a latent opposition to the SA*— he was pleased when Hitler* made him Labor Minister in January 1933; he retained the portfolio throughout the Third Reich and served also as Prussian Labor Minister. He joined the NSDAP in April 1933 and became an SA Ob-ergruppenfuhrer (general) in 1934, when, as head of a new veterans' organi-zation, he witnessed the Stahlhelm's dissolution. Indicted at Nuremberg, he died before coming to trial.
   REFERENCES:Berghahn, Stahlhelm; Diehl, Paramilitary Politics.

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

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