German Empire (1871-1918) In the German Empire, the Imperial Chancellor (Reichskanzler) was appointed by the Emperor. The parliament (Reichstag) could do jack shit about it and was mostly there to argue about the budget or wait for the chancellor to initiate a bill (which they couldn't do themselves). The Reichskanzler was technically a one-man administration, who appointed secretaries to assist him.
- Otto Von Bismarck (1871-1890) — Proud owner of a Badass Moustache and a Bald of Awesome. Nicknamed "Der eiserne Kanzler" ("The Iron Chancellor"). Most famous for his Realpolitik that led to the unification of Germany (minus Austria), the creation of the welfare statenote and his complex system of alliances to keep the peace in Europe by isolating France and being allies or neutral with all other powers. Most infamous for his
attacks on neighboring nationsmanipulating neighboring nations into starting wars with him so he could have them trounced without being seen as the aggressor, censorship laws, anti-socialist law, and weakening the democratic organs of the German Empire via the constitution he wrote, blunders against the Catholic church (Kulturkampf - struggle about culture), and his complex system of alliances to keep the peace in Europe. He opposed German colonialism, but ended up getting colonies for Germany anyway. Emperor Wilhelm I mostly let Bismarck do whatever he wanted. Wilhelm II however, wanted to govern the country himself and forced Bismarck to resign after several disagreements over social reforms and anti-socialist laws. During his retirement, Bismarck warned the Emperor several times that his foreign policy would lead to war. He famously predicted both the trigger of World War One ("some damned silly thing in the Balkans") as well as the year it broke out. In 2003, he was voted 9th greatest German of all time.
- Leo von Caprivi (1890-1894) — Or, to give his full name, Georg Leo von Caprivi de Caprera de Montecuccoli, who was made a count in 1891. This former general, who also had been the head of the German navy from 1883 to 1888, had the thankless job of being Bismarck's successor, against whom almost anyone would've compared unfavorably. He began the implementation of Wilhelm II's "New Course" into German policy: Social reforms, more free trade and a pro-British foreign policy. The latter included giving up the good relations with Russia, since he himself admitted that he wasn't Magnificent Bastard enough to maintain Bismarck's complex foreign policy based on secret treaties. He finished the negotiations for the Zanzibar treaty, which traded land between Germany and the British Empire. A strip of land in Namibia is still named after him.
- Prince Chlodwig zu Hohenlohe-Schillingsfürst (1894-1900) — Elderly (he was already 75 in 1894) former prime minister of Bavaria and diplomat. He finished the Bürgerliches Gesetzbuch (BGB), the first civil code for all of Germany, which is still in force today.
- Bernhard von Bülow (1900-1909) — Had already been something of a "shadow chancellor" during the later years of Hohenlohe-Schillingsfürst. His ill-thought foreign policy poisoned the relations with Britain, which led to the creation of the Entente between Britain and France. With his statements of support of Austria-Hungary regarding the Balkans (Nibelungentreue) he helped laying the foundation for World War One. Critics claimed he was so slimy "compared to him, an eel is like a hedgehog!" The Daily Telegraph Affair (when Wilhelm II gave an ill-advised interview) destroyed his relationship with the Emperor and he had to resign. His posthumously published memoirs were so blatantly self-serving that the ex-Kaiser said Bülow was the only man he'd known who had died and then committed suicide.
- Theobald von Bethmann-Hollweg (1909-1917) — His pre-WWI foreign policy was geared towards improving Germany's relations with Britain and he attempted to reform Prussia's classist election system. He failed at both, and his influence on the Emperor was more and more eclipsed by that of the military. Trying to find compromises between the left and right wings of the Reichstag only earned him the loathing of both sides. The opinion of historians about him are mixed, especially about his role in the war and its outbreak. His failed attempts to reach a peace with the Entente earned him the hate of Hindenburg and Ludendorff and they forced him to resign.
- Georg Michaelis (1917) — "Georg who?" The obscure Prussian official Michaelis was pushed into office by the German High Command. He managed to turn the entire Reichstag against him after just five days in office and quickly noticed, that whatever makes a good chancellor, he didn't have it.
- Georg von Hertling (1917-1918) — Becoming chancellor during the military and economic collapse of the country, he struggled to implement democratic reforms to prevent a revolution in Germany, but lost support in the Reichstag when his reforms didn't go fast enough.
- Prince Maximilian of Baden (1918) — Hastily appointed when Germany needed a head of government with the support of the Reichstag and whom the Entente would negotiate with. He fired Ludendorff, ended the U-boat war, sued for peace and declared the abdication of Wilhelm II. He resigned on first day of the November Revolution, which ended the German Empire.
Revolutionary Period (1918-1919; sometimes lumped with the Weimar Republic)
- Friedrich Ebert (1918) — Social Democrat. He was proclaimed chancellor by Maximilian of Baden on the first day of the revolution without being asked beforehand. This was an attempt to "parliamentarize" the revolution, but the following day a revolutionary government, the Rat der Volksbeauftragten (Council of the People's Representatives) was instituted. This consisted of three representatives of the Majority Social Democrats and three Independent Social Democrats under the joint presidency of Ebert and Independent Social Democrat Hugo Haase. After the bloody suppression of the Spartakus rising, the Independent Social Democrats left the Council in protest and Haase was replaced as Ebert's colleague by Majority Social Democrat Philipp Scheidemann on 29 December 1918. The two oversaw the transition from the German Empire to the Weimar Republic, the beginning of the demobilisation and prevented a Bolshevist revolution with military force. Today, Ebert is more remembered for being the first President of the Weimar Republic.
Weimar Republic (1919-1933) In the Weimar Republic, which officially still called itself Deutsches Reich (German Empire), the Chancellor (Reichskanzler) and all ministers were appointed by the President (Reichspräsident; the "Ersatzkaiser"), but could be voted out of office by the lower house (Reichstag) with a simple majority. The Reichskanzler was a weaker figure than under the monarchy, as his ministers were not bound to follow any of his orders and the cabinet could overturn his decisions by majoritiy vote. Officially the head of the government only was called Reichskanzler since August 14, 1919; from February 1919 up until his official title was that of the Reichsministerpräsident.
- Philipp Scheidemann (1919) — Social Democrat. No documentary about general German history is complete without the footage of him proclaiming the republic from a balcony of the Reichstag building in 1918. The first Reichsministerpräsident opposed the Treaty of Versailles and chose to resign rather than to approve it.
- Gustav Bauer (1919-1920) — Social Democrat. Second Reichsministerpräsident and first Reichskanzler. He approved the Treaty of Versailles, but not without subtext of revenge. He lost the support of the SPD after the Kapp-Putsch and resigned.
- Hermann Müller (1920) — Social Democrat.
- Konstantin Fehrenbach (1920-1921) - Centre Party. He struggled with the gigantic financial demands of the Entente and had to resign when he failed to find support in the Reichstag.
- Joseph Wirth (1922) — Centre Party. His first administration resigned as a protest against the transfer of part of Upper Silesia to Poland by the Entente. He is most remembered for his famous speech after the assassination of foreign minister Walther Rathenau by right-wing extremists during his second administration: "The Enemy is to the right".
- Wilhelm Cuno (1922-1923) — Independent. A former director of the Hamburg-America shipping line. He too, struggled with the reparation payments. When France and Belgium occupied the Rhineland he encouraged "passive resistance" through general strikes and sabotage. This led to hyperinflation and he had to resign.
- Gustav Stresemann (1923) — Liberal Nationalist. One of the most well remembered chancellors of the Weimar Republic and recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize. He ended the passive resistance in the Rhineland, reached several agreements with the Entente regarding Versailles and did a monetary reform to end the hyperinflation. The Reichstag axed him anyway. He stayed Germany's foreign minister and played an important role in successive cabinets until his death of a stroke in 1929 which left a huge gap in Germany's diplomatic relations, especially those with France. A type of formal three-piece suit is named after him.
- Wilhelm Marx (1923-1925) — Centre Party. He stabilized the economy further and struggled with separatists sponsored by the French and Belgian occupation forces in the Palatinate and Rhineland.
- Hans Luther (1925-1926) — Independent. His majority in the Reichstag fell apart after he recognized the new eastern border. He was deposed later over a Flag dispute (black, red and gold vs. black, white, and red) with Hindenburg.
- (Otto Geßler (1926) — Democratic Party. Six days filler chancellor. Usually not mentioned or counted.)
- Wilhelm Marx (1926-1928) — Centre Party. In his second government, he brought Germany into the League of Nations and fired General Hans von Seeckt, who had turned the Reichswehr into a "state within a state".
- Hermann Müller (1928-1930) — Social Democrat. Considered the last democratic chancellor of the Weimar Republic as he was the last one to be supported by a majority in the Reichstag. His administration was toppled by a dispute over a 0.25% increase of the unemployment insurance payments.
- Heinrich Brüning (1930-1932) — Centre Party. Together with Hindenburg, he seeked to undermine the influence of the unstable Reichstag and ruled with presidential emergency decrees instead of laws under toleration by the SPD. His attempts to ease the Great Depression were a failure and the election of 1930 saw massive gains for the Nazis and Communists, which led to a massive withdrawal of foreign money from Germany. He, however, managed to have the reparation payments reduced to 3 billion goldmark (which were never paid) and banned the Nazi SS and SA. A dispute over agricultural aids with Hindenburg ended his administration. Historians views on Brüning are mixed.
- Franz von Papen (1932) — Centre Party (went independent after two days). He was installed by Schleicher, who needed someone to work Hindenburg. Schleicher openly admitted that Papen just was a figurehead. He used emergency decrees to unban the SS and SA, dissolve the Reichstag (which was once only minutes away from kicking him out) two times within the same year (which brought gains to the anti-democratic parties) and activate the Reichswehr to take over the State of Prussia with military force. Later, he tried to talk Hindenburg into a coup against the Republic, but was crossed by Schleicher. Became vice-chancellor during the early years of Nazi rule and was tried and acquitted after the war for his involvement in the Austrian "Anschluss".
- Kurt von Schleicher (1932-1933) — Independent. Backstabbing Papen had earned him a powerful enemy, as Papen still had a lot of influence over Hindenburg. Schleicher struggled against the anti-democratic parties in the Reichstag and attempted to split and weaken the Nazi Party. Papen quickly ganged up with Hitler against Schleicher. This led to Hitler's appointment as chancellor through Papen's influence on Hindenburg and the end of the Weimar Republic. Schleicher was killed by the SS during the Night of the Long Knives in 1934.
Nazi Germany (1933-1945)
- Adolf Hitler (1933-1945) — National Socialist (Duh). After being appointed, Hitler wasted no time and formed a coalition of anti-democratic/anti-communist parties, talked Hindenburg to give him more powers and used the Reichstag Fire to pass the Enabling Act (Reichsermächtigungsgesetz). In the Night of the Long Knives (aka Röhm-Putsch), Hitler's SS killed several SA competitors and drove many of his allies (including von Papen) out of politics. Upon Hindenburg's death, Hitler merged the offices of chancellor and president into one position called "(Supreme) Leader and Reich Chancellor" ("Führer und Reichskanzler"). As the years passed and the Nazis tightened their control over Germany, the trappings of parliamentary government faded away—the Cabinet met as a body for the last time in 1938, the Reichstag met for the last time in 1942, and in the later years Hitler was referred to only as Führer, with Reichskanzler being dropped. The rest is history. More about him on his own page.
- Joseph Goebbels (1945) — National Socialist. Nazi Germany's Minister of Propaganda. Hitler's political testament broke up his combined government office into President and Chancellor once again after his death. Grand Admiral Karl Dönitz became the new Reichspräsident, while Goebbels succeeded Hitler as Reichskanzler for a few hours before he took his own life as well (and those of his family). More about him on the Nazi Germany page.
- Johann Ludwig Graf Schwerin von Krosigk (1945) — National Socialist. Officially "Leading Minister of the acting Reich Government" and also foreign minister and finance minister under Dönitz. About a week in office, apart from finance minister, which he held since before Hitler's takeover. Since most of Germany was already occupied, his only significant act (as foreign minister) was to declare the unconditional surrender of the Wehrmacht.
Allied Occupation (1945-1949)
- From 1945 to 1949, Germany had no Chancellor, as it was ruled directly by the occupying Allied powers (The United States, United Kingdom, France, and Russia).
West Germany (1949-1990) Learning from the failure of the Weimar Republc, The Bonn Republic featured a largely depowered Federal President (Bundespräsident) and a much stronger lower house. The Federal Chancellor (Bundeskanzler) is directly elected by the parliament (Bundestag; the lower house) and runs the country indirectly through the ministers. His/her term is bound to that of the Bundestag and automatically expires with it. The Bundeskanzler can appoint and dismiss the Ministers through the Präsident.
- Konrad Adenauer (1949-1963) — Christian Democrat (i.e. Conservative). Nicknamed "Der Alte" ("The old one" - he was 73 years old in 1949 and died aged 91) and "the Fox of Rhöndorf". Won by just one vote - it is claimed, his own, but later became the only Federal Chancellor to govern without a coalition partner (from 1960 to 1961). Former Oberbürgermeister (mayor) of Cologne (since 1917) and a prominent politician of the Centre party, he had already been considered for the chancellor's office during the Weimar Republic. The Nazis destroyed his political career - and later even threw him in a concentration camp - for refusing to shake the hand of an influential Nazi leader. Adenauer oriented Germany towards the West (Westbindung), reconciled with France and, together with Ludwig Erhard, made the economic boom (Wirtschaftswunder) possible. Together with De Gaulle, he laid the foundation for the EU. He made Bonn, a dinky town on the Rhine within commuting distance from Rhöndorf (the village where he lived), the capital, and secured the return of the last Germany POWs from the Soviet Union in 1955. He played boccia at his vacation home on Lake Como and had seven kids and even more grandkids. (Helmut Kohl isn't among them, although he called himself "Adenauer's grandson".) Feared for his sharp tongue, he did not endear himself to the Austrians when he said about their demands for reparations that he would like to send Hitler's bones in lieu of payment. Had some memorable missteps such as publicly making snide comments about Willy Brandt's illegitimate parentage on the day the Wall was built (when Brandt was mayor of West Berlin) or the melodramatic Bundestag statement "We have an abyss of treason!" at the beginning of the Spiegel affair that resulted in the resignation of his minister of defence, Franz Josef Strauß. At the time, some of his policies were very controversial, especially the Westbindung and rearmament, which were seen by his critics has obstacles to German reunification and e. g. led to his minister of the interior, Gustav Heinemann leaving his cabinet and founding his own party.note With benefit of hindsight, many of Adenauers are now seen as inevitable under the conditions of the Cold War. Adenauer has also been criticized for allowing former Nazis into important government positions too easily (the most infamous case is that of the head of the chancellor's office, Hans Globke, the author of the official legal commentary to the Nuremberg Race Laws), but he also did a lot to bring the settlement of Jewish recompensation claims on the road and to usher in friendly relations between Germany and Israel. In 2003, he was voted greatest German of all time.
- Ludwig Erhard (1963-1966) — Christian Democrat, even though he apparently never officially became a member of the party which elected him as its chairman in 1966. Nicknamed "Der Dicke" ("The fat one"), he was Adenauer's unloved successor (unloved by Adenauer, that is). Although he came from Bavaria, he did not associate with the CDU's Bavarian sister-party, the Christian Social Union. The cigar smoking scholar is seen as the father of the social market economy (soziale Marktwirtschaft) and the economic boom in Germany. He, however, did this as Minister of Economy under Adenauer. As chancellor, Erhard improved relations with the USA and opened official diplomatic relations with Israel. The introduction of the Deutschmark is often misattributed to him, yet was ordered by the Americans. He only implemented it, though his timing was faster than expected and he had to talk himself out of trouble with General Clay (the head of the occupation forces in the Tri-Zone). As the first chancellor whose home was not in the Bonn area, he had the Kanzlerbungalow built as the official residence, which in its combination of modern architecture and small size has come to be seen as an embodiment of the modesty of the Bonn Republic. Erhard was brought down when the Free Democrats (liberals) ended the ruling coalition.
- Kurt Georg Kiesinger (1966-1969) — Christian Democrat. Nicknamed "Häuptling Silberzunge" ("Chief Silvertongue"/"Chief Sweettalker"), as he was the head of the first grand coalition with the Social Democrats and spent most of his time negotiating between the SPD and CDU/CSU. Ministerpräsident of Baden-Württemberg from 1958 to 1966. The overwhelming majority of the grand coalition, the introduction of emergency laws (Notstandsgesetze) and his past as a Nazi party member (he joined the party in 1933 and made a career as an official in the foreign ministry) made him the target of the rage of the emerging student movement.
- Willy Brandt (1969-1974) — Social Democrat. Born as Herbert Frahm in Lübeck, forced to flee the country (to Norway) when the Nazis came to power, for which he took Willy Brandt as his new name. His resistance to Nazism, emigration plus the fact that he was born to unmarried parents were still seen as "scandalous" enough in the early 1960s to be used as ammunition against him during his first national election campaigns. Gained international stature as Governing Mayor of (West) Berlin (1957-1966) around the time the Wall was built and then became Kiesinger's Vice-Chancellor. After the 1969 elections he headed the first West German government not to include the Christian Democrats. Received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1971 for improving Germany's relations with Eastern Europe and East Germany (Neue Ostpolitik). Most remembered for his genuflection (Kniefall) at the Warsaw Ghetto Memorial in Poland. Narrowly survived a vote of no confidence in 1972 after a number of Bundestag members deserted to the opposition; apparently at least two CDU members were bribed by the East German Staatssicherheit at the time. Brandt then no longer had a working majority but then forced a new election by deliberately losing a confidence vote. Halfway into his second term he had to resign after one of his closest advisors, Günter Guillaume, was revealed to be an East German spy. He commissioned the Brandt Report on the North-South divide and once again came to prominence as an elder statesmen when the Wall fell. In 2003, he was voted the 5th greatest German of all time.
- Helmut Schmidt (1974-1982, still alive as of November 14, 2014) — Social Democrat. Sometimes called "Schmidt-Schnauze" (roughly: Big mouth). A former Wehrmacht officer and academic economist (Diplomvolkswirt), he was one of the first prominent Social Democrats to take an active part in the building of the new (West) German army. Came to national attention during the 1962 storm flood in Hamburg, later served headed the ministries of defence, finances and the economy (not all at the same time) under Chancellor Brandt. He was the realist/pragmatist/cynical foil for Willy Brandt, the big idealist, which is reflected in another of his nicknames, "der Macher" (the doer or go-getter). Probably considered the most intellectual Federal Chancellor, he played the piano and the organ and had close friendships with people in the arts, most notably writer Siegfried Lenz. He ran the country during the terror of the Red Army Faction and worked on the expansion and development of the European Union, in the process of which he developed a political and personal friendship with France's liberal conservative president Giscard d'Estaing. Schmidt is very fluent in English, at one point he held a remarkably effective speech at a British Labour Party conference to help bring that party back on course re. Europe. At more than 90 years old, he now is unofficially the only man allowed to smoke on German televisionnote and was voted the most popular German politician of recent history in 2005. The university of the Bundeswehr in Hamburg was named after him during his lifetime, something that is extremely rare in modern Germany.
- Helmut Kohl (1982-1998, still alive as of November 14, 2014) — Christian Democrat. Former Ministerpräsident of Rhineland-Palatinate, he became chancellor through a motion of no confidence against Helmut Schmidt. He worked towards a Europe without borders (Schengen Treaty) and laid the foundation for the Euro. Was a favorite target for political cabaretists and caricaturists, just like Margaret Thatcher in Britain, although less for controversial policy (although there was some of that) and more for his personality — he had something of an aggressively anti-elitist and provincial style, with the prime emblem of that being his insistence that visiting heads of state be treated to Saumagen (a rustic dish that amounts to haggis, but made from pork and from his native Palatinate) when visiting Germany. Polls showed that he would lose the next election, but then the Wall came down. He wasted no time, promised Reunification as fast as possible and garnered the support of the allies of WWII for it. This earned him two reelections in the reunified Germany.
Berlin Republic (1990-present) The reunified Germany continued to use the West German system (see above).
- Helmut Kohl (1982-1998, still alive as of November 14, 2014) — Christian Democrat. That election? The CDU/CSU won it, as the east Germans were understandably suspicious of socialism and bore a great deal of goodwill towards Kohl personally. Some SPD types actually accused him of pursuing the "reunification as quickly as possible" policy in order to stay in power — which might have been true for all we know. After the Reunification, Kohl struggled with his promises that he had made to the east Germans. The high rates of unemployment resulting from unification and the economic measures that he imposed to cope with the cost of the process ended his chancellorship after 16 years. Due to his long rule, he is sometimes called "Der ewige Kanzler" ("The eternal chancellor"). His talent to a) make friends among the mighty of the world and b) neutralize his political enemies may have helped him stay in power that long.
- Gerhard Schröder (1998-2005, still alive as of November 14, 2014) — Social Democrat. Former head of the Young Socialists (1978-1980) and Ministerpräsident of Lower Saxony (1990-1998). Originally very pro-American (he supported the Afghanistan war), he later actively opposed the Iraq war and improved Germany's relations with France and Russia instead (most notably the controversial Baltic pipeline). Schröder did several social reforms that alienated many social democrats—his vaguely neoliberal orientation combined with his cigar-chomping ways to earned him the nickname "Genosse der Bosse" ("Comrade of the Bosses"), and these policies combined with his personal charisma have led many to call him the German Tony Blair. He proved to be quite the electoral Magnificent Bastard in 2005: when he felt that he had lost his support in the Bundestag, he filed a motion of no confidence against himself to trigger re-elections. He then turned on the charm and campaigned like hell, managing to get the SPD's share of the vote much higher than expected and forcing a grand coalition in the next Bundestag. He could have even stayed on as Chancellor if he hadn't promised not to enter in an alliance with the Left Party.
- Angela Merkel (2005-present) — Christian Democrat. First woman and first person from the former East Germany to have the job.note She is a Doctor of Physics (her Thesis was about quantum chemistry) who moved into East German politics around the time of the fall of the Berlin Wall; she was elected to the first, last, and only democratically-elected Volkskammer (parliament) of East Germany before it dissolved. Forbes lists her among the most powerful women in the world since 2006. In 2009, the Christian Democrats' traditional allies, the Free Democrats (FDP; free-market liberals) picked up enough seats to allow Merkel to shed the SPD and govern with their preferred partner; however, the FDP were completely wiped out in the 2013 elections, leaving another grand coalition the only workable alternative. As Chancellor, she is known more for being a faltering pair of hands at the helm, as opposed to the flashy media-genius of her predecessor. Also got embarrassed by being named "unfuckable lard-arse" - by Silvio Berlusconi nonetheless. Recently, Americans have been hearing her name in the news a lot, since it was revealed the American spy agencies were spying on her cell phone and her Internet searches.
Appearances of German Chancellors (except for Hitler, who has his own page) in fiction:
- Otto von Bismarck appears as a character in the historical novel Royal Flash, part of the Flashman series of books by George Mac Donald Fraser. In the novel, Bismarck is portrayed as a very aggressive and ambitious character with excellent horsemanship skills. In the film version, he was portrayed by Oliver Reed.
- After meeting Bismarck at the Congress of Berlin, Benjamin Disraeli cast him as the Count of Ferroll in his 1880 novel Endymion.
- In the 1941 film The Prime Minister, a biopic of Disraeli, Bismarck is shown ranting whilst his shadow falls across the map of Europe, implying that the 1870s Eastern crisis was caused by German desire to dominate the Balkans (a false implication, but the film was made in Britain during World War II).
- Bismarck appears as the German leader in several Civilization games.
- Much comedy has been made of Angela Merkel receiving an unwanted back rub from George W. Bush at a summit a few years back, mostly at the latter's expense.
- Here it is.
- After the revelation in 2013 that the US government had for years been spying on Merkel personally, the footage started making the rounds again with a new joke: that Bush was actually planting a bug on Merkel.