Philipp Scheidemann Giving a Speech from a Window of the Reich Chancellery (Detail) (November 9, 1918)
Philipp Scheidemann (1865–1939) proclaimed the republic in Berlin on November 9, 1918, paving the way for Germany’s first democracy: “The old and rotten, the monarchy, has collapsed. Long live the new! Long live the German republic!” Scheidemann came from a humble background, and his education was largely the product of self-study; however, he acquired a reputation as an excellent public speaker. He rapidly climbed the SPD ranks to the party leadership. He became a member of the party executive committee in 1911, and in 1917 he was elected party leader with Friedrich Ebert. After the proclamation of the republic, Scheidemann became a member of the First Council of People’s Deputies. On February 13, 1919, he became Reich minister-president and thus the first head of a Weimar government, although he resigned already in June over the terms stipulated by the Versailles Treaty. After the Nazi seizure of power, he fled Germany for Denmark, where he died in 1939.