Braun, Otto

(1872-1955)
   politician; served as Prussian Prime Minister. Born in Konigsberg to a railway worker, he apprenticed as a printer before joining the SPD in 1889. He soon launched a career in Konigsberg's Party organization and assumed editorial and printing duties in 1893 with the SPD s Volkstribune (later the Konigsberger Volkszeitung). The assignment provoked numerous prison sentences; Hugo Haase,* a practicing attorney in Konigsberg, represented him in sixty-four trials over seventeen years. Yet he remained broadly engaged: he sat on the Hauptvorstand of the Bauernbund (Peasants' League) during 1909-1920, was part of the SPD's Parteivorstand during 1911-1917, and belonged to the Abgeordnetenhaus in 1913-1918. A great organizer, he was rarely attentive to theoretical issues. He served with the Berlin Workers and Soldiers Councils* during the November Revolution* and then became Prussian Agriculture Minister.
   Braun was elected to the National Assembly* in 1919, to the Reichstag* in 1920, and to Prussia's* Landtag in 1921. From March 1920 until July 1932— barring brief interludes in 1921 and 1925—he was Prime Minister of Prussia (from 24 April 1932, after losing a majority in state elections, as head of a caretaker government). Under his leadership Prussia was the first Weimar-era government to rule with a Great Coalition* (SPD, DDP, Center Party,* and DVP); indeed, Braun s tenacity at forming coalitions and his skill in making them work were crucial in establishing the democratic character of the SPD. In traditionally autocratic Prussia he became known as "the red Tsar, and while he could be autocratic, his state enjoyed unprecedented freedom. This ended on 20 July 1932.
   With powers granted by President Hindenburg,* Franz von Papen* became Reichskommissar for Prussia and dismissed Braun and his cabinet. Although the Supreme Court ruled the action unconstitutional on 25 October 1932, its decision allowed for misinterpretation. In early March 1933, after being dismissed a sec-ond time, Braun went into Swiss exile. Settling in Ascona, he became a Swiss citizen and refused to return to Germany after 1945. "Next to Ebert* and Stre-semann*," Hajo Holborn claimed, Braun "had the greatest personal influence in fashioning the democratic life of the Weimar Era.
   REFERENCES:Benz and Graml, Biographisches Lexikon; Brecht, Political Education; Holborn, "Prussia"; Orlow, Weimar Prussia, 1918-1925, Weimar Prussia, 1925-1933.

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

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