Wissell, Rudolf

   politician and trade-union* official; the Republic's first Economics Minister. Born in Gottingen to a chief helmsman (Obersteuermann), he apprenticed as a metalworker. He joined the SPD in 1888 and took a job in Kiel in 1893, where he became active in the local metal-workers' union. In 1901 he became union secretary in Lübeck (he sat on the city assembly during 1905-1908). He moved to Berlin* in 1908 as second sec-retary in the Central Workers' Secretariat and he succeeded Robert Schmidt* in 1910 as first secretary, a post he retained until 1918. In March 1918 he gained a Reichstag* seat.
   During the November Revolution* Wissell served Carl Legien* as deputy chairman of the General Commission of German Trade Unions. When the USPD withdrew in December 1918 from the Council of People's Representatives,* he entered the interim cabinet with responsibility for social policy. He was elected to the National Assembly* and became Economics Minister in February 1919. In ensuing weeks he and Wichard von Moellendorff* drafted a plan for a quasi-corporatist economy that they submitted to the cabinet in May. Industrialists were ambivalent about the plan: while it appealed to their desire for self-government, it limited their freedom of action. Although the SPD provided spir-ited support, the cabinet struggled with the plan for two months. Finally, upon its rejection by the new cabinet of Gustav Bauer,* Wissell indignantly resigned his ministry on 12 July.
   A skilled writer who had edited a key trade-union newspaper* since 1916, Wissell retained sizable influence in labor circles. In January 1920 he entered the managing board of the new General German Trade Union Federation (ADGB) and took charge of its social-policy section. Succeeding years found him immersed as an arbitrator in labor disputes. He was a power in the Reichstag from 1920 and served in 1928-1930 as Labor Minister in Hermann Müller's* second cabinet. But his determined opposition to a bill reducing unemployment benefits doomed Müller's coalition in March 1930. Following imprisonment in May-June 1933 he lived in retirement in Berlin. After World War II he resumed his union and political activity.
   REFERENCES:Barclay, "Insider as Outsider" and Rudolf Wissell; Benz and Graml, Bio-graphisches Lexikon; Breitman, German Socialism; Feldman, Great Disorder.

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

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