Zeigner, Erich

(1886-1949)
   politician; Prime Minister of Saxony* dur-ing that state s confrontation with Berlin.* Born into middle-class circumstances in Erfurt, he studied law and political science and earned a doctorate before embarking upon a career in Saxony s judiciary. During August 1921 to August 1923, as Saxony s Justice Minister, he gained a reputation for a humane ad-ministration and loyalty to the Republic.
   Zeigner joined the SPD in 1919. He was identified with its left wing, and his name appeared on an Organisation Consul* death list of individuals deemed hostile to the nationalist cause. He was first elected to the Saxon Landtag in November 1922 and was appointed Prime Minister in March 1923. Although he led an all-SPD cabinet, it was supported by a KPD then pursuing a United Front* policy; Zeigner agreed, in exchange, to sponsor social measures and assist the KPD s formation of paramilitary units known as Proletarian Hundreds. Meanwhile, his censure of the army s reliance on Freikorps* units earned him the rancor of Defense Minister Otto Gessler.* On 10 October 1923, shocked by an attempted putsch of the Black Reichswehr* and the rise of extremism in Bavaria,* he formed a coalition with the Communists. With the KPD openly demanding an uprising against the Republic, and Zeigner defying orders to dis-band the Proletarian Hundreds, Gessler convinced Chancellor Gustav Strese-mann* to depose the Saxon government; Zeigner s cabinet was dissolved on 29 October.
   Zeigner reaped the hatred of the radical Right and the contempt of his own Party. In 1924 he was convicted of several crimes, including larceny and judicial corruption, committed while in office under pressure from a blackmailer. He served almost two years of a three-year sentence. With his career ruined, he left prison to teach at a Leipzig sports college while writing occasionally for SPD newspapers.* During the Third Reich he was repeatedly arrested. Deemed a proletarian hero after World War II, he served as Leipzig's Oberburgermeister until his death in 1949.
   REFERENCES:Angress, Stillborn Revolution; Harold Gordon, Reichswehr; Pryce, "Reich Government versus Saxony ; Stachura, Political Leaders.

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

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