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Kurt Schumacher
As witness during the Nuremberg trials
Leader of the Social Democratic Party
In office
10 May 1946 – 20 August 1952
Preceded by Hans Vogel
Succeeded by Erich Ollenhauer
Personal details
Curt Ernst Carl Schumacher

13 October 1895
Kulm, West Prussia, German Empire
Died 20 August 1952(1952-08-20) (aged 56)
Bonn, West Germany
Political party Social Democratic Party of Germany
Occupation Jurist

Kurt Ernst Carl Schumacher (13 October 1895 – 20 August 1952) was a German social democratic politician, who served as chairman of the Social Democratic Party of Germany from 1946 and was the first Leader of the Opposition in the West German Bundestag from 1949 until his death in 1952.

An opponent of Chancellor Konrad Adenauer's government, but an even stronger opponent of the East German Socialist Unity Party and communism in general, he was one of the founding fathers of post-war German democracy.

He was also a noted opponent of the far-right and the far-left, i.e. the Nazi Party and the Communist Party of Germany, during the Weimar Republic, and is famous for his description of the communists as "red-painted Nazis." He spent over ten years in Nazi concentration camps, where he was severely mistreated.


Kurt Schumacher was born in Kulm in West Prussia (now Chełmno in Poland), the son of a small businessman, member of the liberal German Free-minded Party and deputy in the municipal assembly.

The young man was a brilliant student, but when the First World War broke out in 1914 he immediately abandoned his studies and joined the German Army. In December, at Bielawy west of Łowicz in Poland, he was so badly wounded that his right arm had to be amputated. After contracting dysentery, he was finally discharged from the army and was decorated with the Iron Cross 2nd class.

He returned to his law and politics studies in Halle, Leipzig and Berlin, where he graduated in 1919.

In 1924, he was elected to the legislature in Württemberg. He became the SPD leader for Württemberg in 1928. In 1930, he was elected to the national legislature, the Reichstag.

Kurt Schumacher
Kurt Schumacher 1945

After the Nazis took control of Germany, Schumacher was arrested. He was beaten badly in prison. He was put into concentration camps for the next ten years. In 1943, Schumacher was set free because of his bad health. He was arrested again in 1944 and stayed in the concentration camps until the British set them free in April 1945.

After the World War II, Schumacher put the SPD back together. He was first chief of the Social democrats in West Germany after the WWII. He was also their first speaker in the federal parliament (Bundestag) and first leader of opposition in the Bundestag.

In 1952, Schumacher died in Bonn.

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