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.
|Minister President of Prussia|
6 April 1925 – 20 July 1932
|Preceded by||Wilhelm Marx|
|Succeeded by||Franz von Papen|
5 November 1921 – 18 February 1925
|Preceded by||Adam Stegerwald|
|Succeeded by||Wilhelm Marx|
27 March 1920 – 21 April 1921
|Preceded by||Paul Hirsch|
|Succeeded by||Adam Stegerwald|
|Born||28 January 1872|
Königsberg, East Prussia
(now Kaliningrad, Russia)
|Died||15 December 1955 (aged 83)|
Born in Königsberg, East Prussia, as the son of a railway employee, Braun attended Volksschule and completed an apprenticeship in lithography. In 1888, he joined the Social Democratic Party, which was then illegal. 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 Russian tsar but was not found guilty because of inconclusive evidence. Braun was active in supporting the rights of farm labourers in East Prussia, which was dominated by large landowners. From 1909 to 1920, he was a member of the board of the Deutscher Landarbeiter-Verband, a farmworker association, which he had cofounded. He also became an expert on agricultural issues within his party. Braun rose to chairman of the East Prussian Social Democratic Party, became in 1911 a member of the board of the national party and in 1913 was elected to the Prussian House of Representatives.
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 and came second. He withdrew his candidacy during the runoff 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.
Braun's coalition government was based on the SPD, the Centre Party and the German Democratic Party (until 1924 also the German People's Party). 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 and 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 nationwide ban on the Nazi-Sturmabteilung. However, those policies resulted in the enmity of the far right and the communists. He was not a social revolutionary, says Holborn, but was "a determined democratic reformer" and a shrewd coalition builder.
In the April 1932 Prussian elections, Braun's government lost its majority. Under the Prussian constitution, an incumbent government could not be deposed unless a prospective successor already commanded a majority. That measure, the constructive vote of no confidence, was intended to ensure that a government had sufficient support to govern. Neither of the other major parties, the Communist Party (KPD) and the National Socialist German Workers' Party (NSDAP), would support the governing coalition. However, neither of them could muster sufficient support to form government in their own right. The Communists and Nazis would not consider working with each other. Thus, Braun's coalition remained in office as a caretaker minority government.
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). 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 until 1945.
As an opponent of the Nazi regime, Braun decided to leave Germany and emigrated to Switzerland after Adolf Hitler became chancellor in January 1933. Braun's wife, Emilie, was terminally ill, and he followed her to Ascona on 4 April 1933 after she had been warned of his imminent arrest.
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 because they had decided to abolish Prussia and to divide its eastern part between Poland and the Soviet Union. Braun died in exile in Locarno in 1955.
- Archive of Otto Braun Papers at the International Institute of Social History
- Newspaper clippings about Otto Braun in the 20th Century Press Archives of the ZBW
| Prime Minister of Prussia
| Prime Minister of Prussia
| Prime Minister of Prussia
Franz von Papen