August 5th in German History: The Death of Wilhelm Marx

Reichskanzler Wilhelm Marx (cropped).jpg
Wilhelm Marx.

The Weimar Republic suffered from political turmoil during its short existence. The humiliation of the Great War and financial turmoil led to the collapse of government after government, and numerous changes to Germany’s laws were made. However, there were those who tried to create a stable and democratic Germany. One such man was Wilhelm Marx, German Chancellor and politician, who died on August 5th, 1946.

Marx was born in 1863 to a Catholic rector. By 1881 he passed the university entrance exam and studied law. He joined a Catholic student organization, which at the time were repressed as part of Germany’s Kulturkampf. He married in 1891 and by 1894 became a judge. He entered political life in 1899 and by 1921 had risen to the position of President of the Centre Party. The new Weimar government did not discriminate against Catholics as Imperial Germany had, which allowed him to further his political career. Politically, he favored adherence to the Treaty of Versailles in order to deter the Allied nations from occupying more German territory. In 1923 he first formed a minority government and became Chancellor. He attempted, and largely succeeded, to stabilize the currency through the introduction of a new currency. He also reconciled with Bavaria’s right-wing government. His government signed on to the Dawes Plan, which restricted reparation payments and so stabilized European diplomacy. His government fell in December of 1924 and lost the presidential election of 1925 to Paul von Hindenburg. He considered leaving politics, but in 1926 was appointed Chancellor by Hindenburg after the government of Hans Luther fell. During his second term, he oversaw Germany’s entrance into the League of Nations and the institutions of several social programs. His government fell in June 1928 as his coalition with the right-wing parties broke over education reform. He retreated from prominence by the end of 1928 as the Centre Party lost power and in 1932 he left the Reichstag. He was fortunate in escaping persecution by the Nazi government, and in 1946 he died in the City of Bonn.

Germany’s short period of democracy in between Monarchism and Nazism saw the lack of stability that usually accompanies the transition to a democratic form of government. Marx’s total of just three years as Chancellor was the longest of all Weimar Chancellors. People like Wilhelm Marx were vital supports of the republic, but despite their best efforts, they were unable to hold back the tide of extremism that would sweep the Weimar Republic into the ash heap of history.

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