Who's Who - Philipp Scheidemann

Philipp Scheidemann Philipp Scheidemann (1865-1939), the German socialist politician, ensured his place in history by declaring the creation of a German republic from the Reichstag balcony on 9 November 1918.

Born on 26 July 1865 in Kassel Scheidemann's early career was in journalism.  In 1903 he entered the Reichstag as a member of the Social Democratic Party (SPD).

An effective orator with determinedly anti-monarchist views, Scheidemann became one of the First World War's earliest and most enthusiastic supporters in 1914, albeit of a strictly 'defensive' war.

Coming out in strong opposition to the annexationist war plans of the Third Supreme Command (led by Paul von Hindenburg and Erich Ludendorff) he was vociferous in expressing his concerns during the Reichstag's war-aims debates in 1916-17.

It followed therefore that he should oppose the annexationist terms of the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk, imposed upon Russia in the wake of the latter's decision to leave the war in 1917.

With military defeat imminent Scheidemann was invited to join Max von Baden's final imperial cabinet as a minister without portfolio in October 1918.  With the SPD increasingly moving to the left in response to popular feeling Scheidemann, fearing extreme revolutionary measures, summarily and without first seeking approval from either party or government, announced the creation of a new German republic from the Reichstag balcony on 9 November 1918.

Thus Kaiser Wilhelm II's fate was sealed.  Ebert, appointed Chancellor in von Baden's stead on 9 November, had spent days agonising over the fate of the Kaiser and was inclined to support the creation of a constitutional monarchy.  Scheidemann's public announcement of the Kaiser's abdication however forced the matter.

From November until February 1919 Scheidemann served on the six-member ruling council of the interim government.  He became the Republic's first President in February before resigning four months later heavily tainted by association with the hated Versailles treaty (which he refused to sign).

He nevertheless remained a deputy in the Reichstag and as mayor of Kassel from 1920-25 until Hitler's rise to power forced his exile to Denmark in 1933, a figure reviled by rightist forces for his part in the creation of the Weimar Republic.

An assassination attempt having failed in 1922, Scheidemann died on 29 November 1939 in Copenhagen at the age of 74.

A "blimp" was a word applied to an observation balloon.

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