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Friedrich Ebert: Germany
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Friedrich Ebert (1871-1925). Ebert was influential in securing SPD support for the war in 1914. On the eve of war he travelled to Switzerland to arrange the movement of SPD funds if the party was outlawed. As the leader of organized labour, Ebert had close relations with government and military authorities throughout the war. Two of his sons were killed during the war, something he used to emphasise his patriotism. On 9 November 1918 Ebert became Imperial Chancellor as revolution broke out in Berlin. He opposed the radical left, declaring, Without democracy there is no freedom. Violence, no matter who is using it, is always reactionary, but he compromised Weimar democracy by his dependence on the army command and his use of the para-military Freikorps against the left. Ebert headed a joint SPD-USPD government until elections were held to a National Constituent Assembly in January 1919. Ebert became president of the new Weimar Republic (Germany's first democratically elected head of state) and retained office in a turbulent period in German politics. Ebert reluctantly accepted the need for Germany to sign the Treaty of Versailles, at one point saying he might be prepared to resume the war. It was left to Johannes Bell (depicted by Sir William Orpen from behind) and Hermann Mueller (shown leaning over him) to sign on behalf of Germany. There were arguments among the Allies over how Germany should be treated, as France, Britain and the United States prioritised different objectives. In May 1919, the terms of the Treaty on reparations, war guilt clause, loss of territories in Europe and colonies, limitations on armed forces were presented to German representatives, precipitating opposition in government and the Armed Forces, and heated discussion in Cabinet. He continued as President until 1925, forced to confront the issues that arose from the Treaty and its political and economic consequences. After his death came the unravelling of the Treaty and the book examines how much of a part it played in creating the circumstances of the Second World War.

Harry Harmer is the author of Tom Paine: The Life of a Revolutionary (Haus, 2006). He has also written The Longman Companion to Slavery, Emancipation and Civil Rights, The Longman Companion to the Labour Party 1900-1998, Martin Luther King, The Failure of the Communists and The Failure of Political Extremism in inter-war Britain. He was the co-author of The Black Handbook: The People, History and Politics of Africa and the African Diaspora. Harry Harmer has a PhD in History from the London School of Economics.

Alan Sharp (editor) has been a senior manager in the eletronics and chemical industries. He is now a management consultant based in England and a director of Coverdale Scanas, a Danish consultancy firm. He has trained many top executives in business and governmental agencies in building effective teams.  

Reviews:

‘Harry Harmer gives a long overdue introduction in English to the saddler’s son who, though not present at Versailles, shakily presided over the establishment of Germany’s Weimar Republic. ... a beautifully produced series’ - Nigel Jones, Literary Review, November 2008

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