Paul Schiemann

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Paul Schiemann
Deputy of Saiema
In office
Personal details
Born (1876-03-17)17 March 1876
Mitau, Russian Empire
Died 23 June 1944(1944-06-23) (aged 68)
Rīga, Reichskomissariat Ostland
Nationality Baltic German
Political party Baltic German Democratic Party
Profession Journalist

Paul Schiemann (Latvian: Pauls Šīmanis; 17 March 1876 – 23 June 1944) was a Baltic German journalist, editor and politician who was known for his commitment to minority rights.


Carl Christian Theodor Paul Schiemann was born in Mitau in Courland, then part of the Russian Empire. He was educated in Germany, and served his army training in Lithuania. He came from a wealthy and conservative family (his uncle Theodor Schiemann, was a prominent supporter and historian to the German Empire), but his own political views were very liberal, and "made him an equally ardent opponent of both German National Socialism and of Soviet socialism."[1] Schiemann started his education in Jelgava Gymnasium but later his father sent him to finish his studies in Elberfeld. After graduation he studied law and history in universities in Berlin, Marburg and Konigsberg. However he left his studies as he was drafted in Russian imperial army. He served in Caucasus and later was trained as officer in Lithuania. He resumed his studies only in 1902 when he wrote his PhD thesis in University of Greifswald.

Later he traveled to Estonia and started work as a journalist. In 1903 he became editor of German language newspaper Revalsche Zeitung in Tallinn. He was also one of the founders of German association (Deutscher Verein) in Estonia. In 1907 he returned to Latvia and became chief editor of biggest German newspaper in Latvia Rigasche Rundschau. Until 1914 he published more than 600 articles and often was involved in heavy polemics with the conservative part of Baltic German society.

During World War I Schiemann fought in the Russian army, although his brother fought for the German army. During the buildup to the war, he was strongly against it, but was quoted as saying "War can only be objected to during times of peace".[2] After October Revolution he left army and returned to German occupied Riga. However due to his negative views towards Livonian Knighthood he was soon expelled from city. Schiemann went to Berlin where he worked in newspapers Frankfurter Zeitung and Preussische Jahrbücher. While in Berlin he published several anti-bolshevik articles.

In 1919 Paul Schiemann returned to Riga and again became editor of Rigasche Rundschau. He also was member of first provisional government Tautas Padome. Later he became leader of the Baltic German Democratic Party (DDP). This was often referred to as "Schiemann's Party" and was famed for practising 'above party' politics, most notably his constant fight for minority rights in post-war Latvia, particularly education. Schiemann led a coalition of Baltic German parties, the Committee of the Baltic German Parties, for most of the inter-war period. He was elected in all Latvian parliaments (Saeima) until K. Ulmanis coup in 1934. In 1927 Schiemann was offered post of prime minister but he refused. In 1929 he was Latvian delegate in League of Nations. During the buildup to World War II, Schiemann came under pressure from Baltic German society to abandon his uncompromising defense of the minorities, in particular the Jews. Schiemann dismissed this, and was one of the few voices in power that argued for the rights of Jews. This led to him having some quite vocal critics in Baltic German society.

Schiemann suffered from tuberculosis throughout the 1930s, and frequently visited Davos to recover. In 1930 he used one such trip to publish several extensive anti-nazi articles. In 1933 supporters of National Socialism took over Rigasche Rundschau and Schiemann was forced to left newspaper. In October he also left his position in Latvian parliament due to declining health and settled in Vienna. In 1937 he established Verband zur nationalen Befriedung Europas which tried to unite all german minority groups in Europe which was not in nazi influence. While in Vienna he wrote many articles most of them was published in Polish newspaper Der Deutsche in Polen. However his articles was also published in biggest Austrian newspapers (like Neues Wiener Tagblatt) After the Anschluss he returned to Riga. During the late 1930s he was quite unwell, but with war looming and minority rights becoming worse, he refused to leave his country in 1939 - and campaigned for other Baltic Germans to remain, where he felt their country needed them.

During the Soviet occupation of Latvia in 1940 Schiemann was not repressed. During the occupation of Latvia by Nazi Germany, Schiemann was confined to his house. It was surprising that he did not suffer a worse fate. Some theorize that this was perhaps due to his political opponents still holding him in high regard - but more likely his drastically failing health had much to do with it.

During the last two years of his life, and despite him suffering from severe tuberculosis, Schiemann hid a young Jewish girl called Valentina Freimane in his house. She credits him with saving her life, saying that she probably would not be around today if it were not for him.[2] Schiemann died in Riga shortly before the Soviet Red Army took control of Latvia for the second time. In 2000 he was posthumously bestowed the title of the Righteous Among the Nations by the Israeli institution Yad Vashem.[3]


  1. ^ Review: Defender of Minorities. Paul Schiemann, 1876–1944
  2. ^ a b John Hiden Defender of Minorities: Paul Schiemann, 1876–1944. C Hurst & Co Publishers (2004)
  3. ^ Paul Schiemann – his activity to save Jews' lives during the Holocaust, at Yad Vashem website; Karsten Brüggemann. (2005). "Defender of Minorities. Paul Schiemann, 1876–1944". Reviews in History. ISSN 1749-8155.