Wilhelm Leuschner

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Wilhelm Leuschner on a German stamp.

Wilhelm Leuschner (15 June 1890, Bayreuth, Bavaria – 29 September 1944, Berlin-Plötzensee) was a social-democratic politician who opposed the Third Reich.

Wilhelm Leuschner, a stove fitter's son, was born in 1890. His father's name was also Wilhelm Leuschner, and his mother's name was Marie. Leuschner grew up in poverty.

In 1903, he began an apprenticeship as a wood sculptor. After finishing this in 1907, he joined the trade union and, on the occasion of the Jugendstil (Art Nouveau) Exhibition, he moved to Darmstadt, where he worked in a furniture factory.

In 1910, he joined the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD) and became more deeply involved with the union. He also wed Elisabeth Batz in 1911.

After fighting in the First World War on the Eastern Front in 1916, he became a city councillor and Chairman of the Darmstadt Unions in 1919. In 1924, he became a member of the Hesse Legislature (Landtag) for the SPD. In 1928 he became Hesse's interior minister. In the Landtag at that time, Leuschner often found himself at odds with jurist and fellow Landtag member Dr. Werner Best, who represented the NSDAP, and would later go on to become very prominent in the Nazi régime. In January 1933, Leuschner was elected to the board of the Allgemeiner Deutscher Gewerkschaftsbund ("Nationwide German Union Federation").

In April 1933, after the Nazis had seized power in Germany, Leuschner was forced to resign, and gave up his office of Hessian Interior Minister. The following May brought Leuschner's arrest in the course of the Nazis' union-breaking programme. In June, he was arrested once again, mistreated, and held for a year in prisons and concentration camps (Börgermoor and Lichtenburg).

In June 1934, he was released from the concentration camp and began to build up a resistance network. In 1936, he took over a small manufacturing workshop which produced pub utensils, but it soon became the hub of the "illegal Reich leadership of German unions".

Leuschner struggled actively in those resistance groups close to the unions and maintained contact with the Kreisau Circle, and from 1939, also with the resistance group around Carl Friedrich Goerdeler. After the planned coup d'état, Leuschner was most likely to become Germany's vice-chancellor. However, Claus von Stauffenberg's attempt on Hitler's life at the Wolf's Lair in East Prussia on 20 July 1944 failed to kill the Führer.

Leuschner was arrested on 16 August 1944, and was brought before the Volksgerichtshof, where he was sentenced to death. The sentence was carried out on 29 September 1944 at Plötzensee Prison in Berlin

The Bundesland Hesse awards a medal named "Wilhelm-Leuschner-Medaille".

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