Karl Wirth

Karl Wirth

Political and public figure in Germany
Date of Birth: 06.09.1879
Country: Germany

Biography of Karl Wirth

Karl Wirth was a German politician and public figure who served as the Chancellor of Germany from 1921 to 1922. He was also the Minister of Foreign Affairs and later the Minister of Internal Affairs from 1930 to 1931. Wirth was born into a family of a factory engineer and went on to graduate from the University of Freiburg, where he studied mathematics, natural sciences, and economics.

During World War I, Wirth was unfit for military service and instead served as a Red Cross medic on the Western Front. He became the leader of the left-wing Catholic Centre Party and a member of the Reichstag from 1914 to 1918 and again from 1920 to 1933. In 1918, during the November Revolution, Wirth was appointed as the new Minister of Finance for Baden, as a staunch supporter of the republic.

After the resignation of Gustav Bauer's government, Wirth became the Imperial Minister of Finance in the cabinet of Socialist Democratic Chancellor Hermann Müller, replacing Matthias Erzberger. Following the resignation of the government of Constantin Fehrenbach under pressure from the London Ultimatum of the Entente, Wirth, at the age of 41, was appointed as the new Chancellor of Germany on May 10, 1921. However, in October 1921, he resigned in protest against the division of Upper Silesia after a plebiscite. Just three days later, President Friedrich Ebert tasked him with forming a new cabinet of ministers from the ranks of socialists, liberals, and Catholic centrists.

Wirth's government signed the Soviet-German Rapallo Treaty in April 1922, which brought both countries out of international isolation. In a speech delivered to the Reichstag on June 24, 1922, following the assassination of his Foreign Minister Walter Rathenau by right-wing terrorists, Wirth declared that "the enemy is on the right!" In 1924, he joined the Reichsbanner, an organization established to protect the republic from extremists, and in 1925, he left his own Centre Party faction, which he had already criticized for its collaboration with the nationalist National Socialist German Workers' Party, as a protest against its social policies.

In April 1929, Wirth was appointed as the Reich Minister for Occupied Territories in Müller's second cabinet. After Müller's resignation in March 1930, he was transferred to the position of Minister of Internal Affairs in the cabinet of Heinrich Brüning, remaining in office until October 1931.

In 1933, Wirth vehemently opposed the rise of the Nazis and delivered an emotional speech against the Enabling Act in the Reichstag, which granted Hitler dictatorial powers. He was then forced to emigrate to neutral Switzerland, settling in Lucerne. From 1935 to 1939, he lived in Paris before returning to Lucerne. During the war, Wirth maintained connections with the anti-fascist underground and informed the Vatican about the persecution of Jews in Nazi-occupied Europe. He returned from exile in 1948.

In 1953, Wirth founded and led the neutralist party Union of Germans Fighting for Unity, Peace, and Freedom in the Federal Republic of Germany (FRG). He was an opponent of militarism in the FRG and advocated for friendly relations with the Soviet Union. From 1952, he was a member of the World Peace Council.