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German History in Documents and Images
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Friedrich Ebert (1918)
Friedrich Ebert (1871-1925), SPD leader since 1913, was appointed Reich Chancellor by predecessor Max von Baden on November 9, 1918, because the SPD was the strongest party in the Reichstag. At the time, Ebert’s primary concerns were to avoid a bloody revolution, such as had occurred in Russia, and to determine and legitimize Germany’s new constitutional order via a national assembly. This 1918 photo postcard presents Ebert as “National [or People’s] Reich Chancellor”; however, he only held this title for one day because the Council of People’s Representatives was established the next day to assume the business of government. Ebert served as one of two chairs in the council. Soon after the national assembly election on January 19, 1919, he was elected Germany’s first president. For many, he was a controversial choice for the office. The radical left despised him as a “traitor to the working class” and an “agent of the bourgeoisie,” whereas National Socialists later sought to besmirch him as “November criminal.”