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Löbe in 1924
|President of the Reichstag|
25 June 1920 – 28 May 1924
7 January 1925 – 30 August 1932
Paul von Hindenburg
|Succeeded by||Hermann Göring|
December 14, 1875|
|Died||August 3, 1967
Bonn, West Germany
|Political party||Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD)|
Life and career
Löbe was born in Liegnitz (present-day Legnica) in the Prussian province of Silesia. The son of a carpenter, he had to work as a waiting-boy helping to support the family. Finishing school he was trained as a typesetter at a printing shop in Breslau (Wrocław) and after his journeyman years worked in Dessau, Anhalt and Thuringian Ilmenau.
To support his mother, he returned to Silesia in 1898, taking up a job at the Breslau Volkswacht newspaper. Shortly afterwards he was appointed editor-in-chief, a post he held until 1920. His journalistic work often landed him in prison, for instance, when he called on readers to come to a demonstration to protest against the Prussian three-class franchise. In 1901 he married Clara Schaller. Löbe was dispensed from conscription in the German Army and did not serve in World War I on account of an illness in his lungs.
During the Nazi years, Löbe worked at the Walter de Gruyter academic publishing house. In the end of World War II Löbe found himself in Glatz (Kłodzko), from where he was expelled according to the resolutions of the Potsdam Agreement. He joined the staff of the daily newspaper Das Volk, and later became co-publisher of the Telegraf in Berlin. He died in West Germany's capital, Bonn and is buried in an Ehrengrab at the Berlin-Zehlendorf cemetery.
Löbe joined the SPD in 1895 and in 1898 he founded the local branch of the SPD in Ilmenau. In 1899 he became party chairman in Middle Silesia and was elected to Breslau's city government in 1904. He served as a member of the Silesian provincial Landtag diet from 1915 to 1920. During World War I he together with Karl Liebknecht was known as a "leftist" opponent of SPD leader Friedrich Ebert and the party's Burgfrieden policies.
Upon the German Revolution of 1918–1919 Löbe declined to join the Council of the People's Deputies and the cabinet of his party fellow Chancellor Philipp Scheidemann. Instead he became vice president of the constituent Weimar National Assembly and from 1920 to 1933 he was a member of the German Reichstag, serving as its president (1920–24 and 1925–32) and vice-president (1932–33).
In 1921 he became a member of the Prussian state council. Löbe played a vital role in overcoming the divergences with the USPD deputies. Upon Ebert's death in 1925, he refused to run as SPD candidate in the presidential election against the conservative Paul von Hindenburg, a task then performed by the Prussian Minister-president Otto Braun, who was defeated in the first round. Löbe was a member of the Reichsbanner Schwarz-Rot-Gold organization and briefly acted as SPD party chairman in early 1933, preparing the Sopade exile in Prague, before the party was banned on June 22.
Löbe was imprisoned by the Nazi authorities shortly after the Machtergreifung on 30 January 1933, and again in 1944 after the 20 July Plot because of his connections with the resistance circle around Carl Friedrich Goerdeler. Löbe was interrogated by the Gestapo and deported to Gross-Rosen concentration camp. The plotters had designated him for Reichstag President, a fact that luckily remained concealed.
After World War II, he was instrumental in the reconstruction of the SPD. Löbe was a member of the Parlamentarischer Rat between 1948 and 1949 and the deputy chairman of the SPD faction. From 1949-53, he was a member of the West German Bundestag parliament in Bonn. Löbe was the oldest MP of the Bundestag in its first legislative period, though he was not an elected member, but rather appointed by the Senate of West Berlin as their non-voting delegate. The second oldest member was Chancellor Konrad Adenauer, whom Löbe survived by three and a half months.
From 1949 to 1954 Löbe was President of the German Council of the European Movement and in 1954 he became President of the Kuratorium Unteilbares Deutschland. In 1951 Löbe was awarded the Grand Cross of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany. In 1955 he became an honorary citizen of Berlin. One of the new parliamentary buildings which serves Bundestag members in Berlin is named after Löbe.
At the time of Löbe's state funeral at the Rathaus Schöneberg on 9 August 1967, Andreas Baader (the later Red Army Faction militant), the author Hans Magnus Enzensberger, and others in a satirical rally carried a coffin bearing the words “SENAT” to the front of the city hall. From inside the coffin, the Kommune 1 activist Dieter Kunzelmann, wearing a nightgown, and fellow demonstrators passed out leaflets proclaiming “Today you want to celebrate Paul Löbe up the chimney […] We want to bury a few smart corpses that are slowly stinking to high heaven,” followed by a list of the current members of the Berlin Senate. Although 24 of the demonstrators were arrested, some participants evaded the police, including Baader, Enzensberger and another later RAF terrorist, Gudrun Ensslin.
- Löbe, Paul, Erinnerungen eines Reichstagspräsidenten, Berlin 1949, republished as Der Weg war lang: Lebenserinnerungen, Berlin, 1953, 1954, 2002 (fifth edition).
- Löbe, Paul, "Gegenwartsfragen des Parlamentarismus," in: Für und Wider. Lebensfragen deutscher Politik, Offenbach am Main, 1952, pp. 39 to 48.
- Löbe, Paul, "Aus dem Parlamentarischen Leben," in: Hessische Hochschulwochen für Staatswissenschaftliche Fortbildung, Volume 3, 1953, pp. 312 to 318.
- Klaus Stern und Jörg Herrmann, Andreas Baader: Das Leben eines Staatsfeindes (Munich: dtv, 3rd ed. 2007), p. 86.
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