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Otto Braun (28 January 1872 – 15 December 1955) was a German Social Democratic politician who served as Prime Minister of Prussia for most of the time from 1920 to 1932. After the Nazis seized power in 1933, Braun went into exile in Switzerland.

Otto Braun
Bundesarchiv Bild 102-10131, Otto Braun.jpg
Minister President of Prussia
In office
6 April 1925 – 20 July 1932
Preceded byWilhelm Marx
Succeeded byFranz von Papen
In office
5 November 1921 – 18 February 1925
Preceded byAdam Stegerwald
Succeeded byWilhelm Marx
In office
27 March 1920 – 21 April 1921
Preceded byPaul Hirsch
Succeeded byAdam Stegerwald
Personal details
Born28 January 1872 (1872-01-28)
Königsberg, East Prussia
Died15 December 1955(1955-12-15) (aged 83)
Locarno, Switzerland
Political partySPD

Life and careerEdit

German EmpireEdit

Born in Königsberg, East Prussia, as the son of a railway employee, Braun attended Volksschule and then completed an apprenticeship in lithography. In 1888, he joined the Social Democratic Party, illegal at the time. He advanced in the typical manner for a local functionary: chairman of the local Arbeiter-Wahlvereins (the legal front of the party) and later publisher, editor and printer of the party newspaper Volkstribüne (later Königsberger Volkszeitung). In 1904, he was one of several social democrats charged with high treason for smuggling pamphlets calling for the toppling of the Tsar into Russia but was not found guilty, due to inconclusive evidence. Braun was active in supporting the rights of farm labourers in East Prussia, dominated by large landowners. From 1909-20, he was a member of the board of the Deutscher Landarbeiter-Verband, a farmworker association, which he had co-founded. He also became an expert on agricultural issues within his party. Braun rose to chairman of the East Prussian Social Democratic Party, in 1911 became a member of the board of the national SPD and in 1913 was elected to the Prussian House of Representatives.[1]

During World War I he supported the Burgfriedenspolitik policy of the majority SPD. His only child died in the war: his son had volunteered for service and died of diphteria in 1915.[1]

Weimar RepublicEdit

After the German Revolution Braun became Prussian Minister for Agriculture. In 1919, he was elected to the Weimar National Assembly. Following the abortive Kapp-Lüttwitz Putsch in March 1920, Braun became Minister President of Prussia, a position in which he served from 1920 and 1932, except for brief periods in 1921 and 1925. He also held a seat in the Prussian Landtag (1913–33) and in the Reichstag (1920–33). He was the Social Democratic presidential candidate in the first round of presidential elections in 1925, coming second. He then withdrew his candidacy during the run-off in order to help the Centre Party's Wilhelm Marx defeat Paul von Hindenburg, who had not stood in the first round. Marx was eventually defeated by Hindenburg.[1]

Prussian Prime Minister Otto Braun (left) in 1925

Braun's coalition government was based on the SPD, the Centre Party and the DDP (until 1924 also the DVP.) It was one of the strongest democratic bastions of the Weimar Republic, as Braun worked closely with his Ministers of the Interior, Carl Severing and Albert Grzesinski. During his tenure, the Prussian government enacted a partial land reform as well as a school reform. Prussia became a modern Free State, based on civil servants and security forces who felt loyal to the new republican state. Braun managed to introduce a temporary Reichs-wide ban on the Nazi-Sturmabteilung. However, these policies resulted in the enmity not just of the far-right but also of the communists.[1] He was not a social revolutionary, says Holborn, but was "a determined democratic reformer" and a shrewd coalition builder.[2]

In the April 1932 Prussian elections, Braun's government lost its majority. Under the Prussian constitution, an incumbent government could only be deposed only if a prospective successor already commanded a majority. This measure, called a "constructive vote of no confidence," was intended to ensure that a government had sufficient support to govern. Neither of the other major parties – the Communists (KPD) and Nazis (NSDAP) – would support the governing coalition. However, neither the Communists nor the Nazis could muster sufficient support to form government in their own right. The Communists and Nazis would not consider cooperating with each other either. Hence Braun's coalition remained in office as a caretaker minority government.[1]

Braun's government was deposed in the Preußenschlag of July 1932, when Reich Chancellor Franz von Papen, himself governing without a parliamentary majority, assumed direct control of Prussia's administration as Reichskommissar (commissioner).[1] Braun, however, remained de jure Prime Minister and continued to represent the state of Prussia in the Reichsrat until January 1933, when Papen became Prime Minister for two months. Hermann Göring then held the office for the next twelve years until 1945.

As an opponent of the Nazi regime, Braun decided to leave Germany and emigrated to Switzerland after Adolf Hitler attained the office of Chancellor in January 1933. Braun's wife Emilie was terminally ill and he followed her to Ascona on 4 April 1933, after being warned of his imminent arrest.[1]

Later lifeEdit

At the end of the Second World War, Braun approached the Allies to reinstate the previous democratic Prussian government, but they were not receptive to his proposition due to their earlier decision to abolish the state of Prussia and divide East Prussia between Poland and the Soviet Union. Braun died in exile in Locarno in 1955.


  1. ^ a b c d e f g "15.12.1955: Otto Braun gestorben (German)". Friedrich Ebert Stiftung. Retrieved 14 July 2015.
  2. ^ Hajo Holborn, A History of Modern Germany, 1840-1945 (1969) p 591

External linksEdit