Torgler, Ernst

(1893-1963)
   politician; last chairman of the KPD's Reichstag* faction. Born to woeful circumstances in Berlin,* he was unable to fulfill a childhood dream of becoming a teacher. After attending a business school, where he joined the socialist youth movement, he landed a minor busi-ness post. Already a member of the SPD, he served in World War I as a radio operator. In 1917 he joined the new USPD; one of the founders of the KPD, he adhered to the Party s ultraleft. After various functionary roles, Torgler was awarded a full-time appointment as Party secretary. He was elected to the Reichstag in December 1924 and became faction chairman in 1929.
   On 4 June 1932 Torgler engaged in a futile, if renowned, discussion with Wilhelm Abegg, State Secretary in Prussia s* Interior Ministry. Abegg was seeking an anti-Nazi affiliation between the SPD and the KPD. While neither part endorsed such cooperation, Franz von Papen* used the meeting as one of his excuses for ousting the Prussian government (see "Bloody Sunday"). On 12 September 1932, in the first parliamentary session after the 31 July elections, Torgler successfully moved to alter the Reichstag agenda and then requested that an emergency decree of 4 September be repealed (the decree called for a dramatic reduction in wages) and that Papen be censured. His motion, accepted by Reichstag President Hermann Goring* and supported by both the KPD and the NSDAP, subverted Papen s short-lived government.
   On 27 February 1933, the date of the Reichstag fire, Torgler was among the last deputies to leave the chamber. He was charged with complicity in the fire, but a lack of evidence brought his acquittal in December 1933; nonetheless, he was imprisoned until 1936. Meanwhile, in 1935 he resigned from the KPD. Remaining in Berlin, where he was employed by Electrolux, he joined the SPD after World War II.
   REFERENCES:Benz and Graml, Biographisches Lexikon; Hans Mommsen, "Reichstag Fire"; Schumacher, M.d.R.

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

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