Georg Michaelis

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Georg Michaelis
Bundesarchiv Bild 183-2004-0720-500, Georg Michaelis.jpg
6th Chancellor of the German Empire
In office
14 July – 31 October 1917
Monarch William II
Preceded by Theobald von Bethmann Hollweg
Succeeded by Georg von Hertling
Personal details
Born (1857-09-08)8 September 1857
Died 24 July 1936(1936-07-24) (aged 78)
Political party None as Chancellor, later the German National People's Party

Georg Michaelis (8 September 1857 – 24 July 1936) was Chancellor of Germany for a few months in 1917. He was the first non-noble to hold the office.


Michaelis, born in Haynau in the Prussian Province of Silesia, grew up in Frankfurt (Oder). He studied jurisprudence at the University of Breslau, the University of Leipzig and the University of Würzburg from 1876 to 1884, becoming a Doctor of Laws.

From 1885 to 1889 he lived and worked in Tokyo in Japan as a law professor of the Law School of the Society for German Sciences.[1]

After his return to Germany he became a member of the Prussian administration. In 1909 he won appointment as undersecretary of state to the Prussian Treasury in Berlin. From 1915 onwards he headed the Reichsgetreidestelle, an office responsible for the administration of Prussian corn and wheat in World War I.[1]

After the Reichstag and the High Command forced the resignation of Theobald von Bethmann Hollweg on 10 or 13 July 1917,[2] Michaelis became both Chancellor of Germany and Minister President of Prussia. But by that time it was too late for the parliamentary liberal reformers to reform the Diet, their champion was defeated.[clarification needed] On 19 July the Reichstag passed a Resolution for "a peace without annexations or indemnities".[3] The inability of the government to impose controls on rising prices, demands for wage increases, strikes, and mounting economic chaos, drove the 'political fixers' towards a military takeover of the reins of power. The Kaiser wanted a Chancellor who could manage the Reichstag, and the Army wanted a Chancellor who would bring about a 'German Peace'. But the candidate chosen as the new Chancellor was the Army's and not the Reichstag perceived to be dominated by the centre-left. "We have lost a statesman and secured a functionary in his place".[4] Michaelis was perceived to be a mere bureaucrat, rather than an orator of standing.

"Germany's first bourgeois chancellor"[5] was the only non-titled person to serve as chief minister during the Hohenzollern monarchy's 400-year rule over Prussia and Germany. But the army 'dictatorship' of Paul von Hindenburg and Erich Ludendorff of the General Staff remained in control behind the scenes.[6] In August, the naval mutinies at Wilhelmshaven led to executions. Michaelis blamed the socialists in the Reichstag hoping to split the coalition. But the Reichstag demanded his resignation, to replace him with a Centre party aristocrat, Georg von Hertling.[1] He remained in this position until 31 October 1917. when he was forced to resign after coming under fire for refusing to commit himself by endorsing a resolution passed by the Reichstag favoring peace without annexation or indemnities. Michaelis attempted to retain his role as Prussian Minister President, without success.

From 1 April 1918 to 31 March 1919 he served as Oberpräsident of the Prussian province of Pomerania.[1] After the end of World War I, he cooperated with the local workers' and soldiers' council. Nevertheless, the Socialist-dominated government of Prussia soon replaced him.

Michaelis worked in the fields of economic lobbying, in student organizations, in the synod of the Evangelical Church of the old-Prussian Union and became a member of the monarchist/national conservative German National People's Party (DNVP). In 1921, he published his memoirs, Für Staat und Volk. Eine Lebensgeschichte.

Georg Michaelis died on 24 July 1936 in Bad Saarow-Pieskow (Brandenburg) at the age of 78.


  1. ^ a b c d Chisholm 1922.
  2. ^ Strachan, Hew, "The First World War" (London 2003), p.263, 264, 266-67.
  3. ^ Strachan, p.263.
  4. ^ from remarks by Conrad Haussmann, a Social Democrat Member of Reichstag, in Hanssen, "Diary of a Dying Empire", p.231.
  5. ^ Daniel Hord (ed.), "The Private War of Seaman Stumpf" (London 1969), p.345; Strachan, p.266.
  6. ^ see: Martin Kitchen, "The Silent Dictatorship: The Politics of the High Command under Hindenburg and Ludendorff 1916-1918" (London 1976), 170-1.


  • Wikisource-logo.svg Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1922). "Michaelis, Georg". Encyclopædia Britannica (12th ed.). London & New York. 
  • Becker, Bert: Georg Michaelis: Ein preußischer Jurist im Japan der Meiji-Zeit; Briefe, Tagebuchnotizen, Dokumente 1885-1889. München: Iudicium 2001.
  • Regulski, Christoph: Die Reichskanzlerschaft von Georg Michaelis 1917: Deutschlands Entwicklung zur parlamentarisch-demokratischen Monarchie im Ersten Weltkrieg. Marburg: Tectum-Verlag 2003.
Political offices
Preceded by
Theobald von Bethmann Hollweg
Chancellor of Germany
Succeeded by
Georg Graf von Hertling
Prime Minister of Prussia