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Julius Leber at his trial

Julius Leber (16 November 1891 - 5 January 1945) was a German politician of the SPD and a member of the German Resistance against the Nazi régime.


Early history

Leber was born in Biesheim, Alsace, out of wedlock, to Katharina Schubetzer and later adopted by her Freemason husband Jean Leber. Leber ended his school days in Breisach in 1908 with a Mittlere Reife qualification from a vocational high school, having completed training in salesmanship in a wallpaper factory in Breisach. From 1910, he attended an Oberrealschule (a higher vocational school) and also wrote newspaper reports. To finance his training, he worked as a tutor.

After his Abitur in 1913, Leber studied national economics and history in Strasbourg (then Straßburg, Germany) and at the University of Freiburg im Breisgau. In this year, he also joined the Social Democratic Party of Germany (Sozialdemokratische Partei Deutschlands; SPD). In 1914, with the outbreak of the First World War, Leber volunteered for military service.

Military service

As a soldier, Leber was wounded twice, promoted to lieutenant, and served after the war in the Reichswehr (regular army) with border security troops in the east. At the time of the Kapp Putsch in 1920, he took the Weimar Republic's side. Afterwards, he quit the Reichswehr in protest, as some of its leaders had been behind the putsch. In his further studies after leaving the Reichswehr, Leber received a doctorate from the University of Freiburg.

Political career

In 1921, Leber became the editor-in-chief of the social-democratic newspaper, the "Lübecker Volksboten" – for which the then-student Willy Brandt also wrote in the early 1930s – and from 1921 to 1933 he was also a member of Lübeck city council. As a member of the Reichstag from 1924, he concerned himself above all with defence politics.


Resistance to National Socialism

After Adolf Hitler seized power in 1933, there was an attempt on Leber's life, after which he was seized, under pressure from Lübeck's workforce freed, and then arrested anew in March. From 1933 until 1937, Leber was held in the Sachsenhausen concentration camp, having been declared a "dangerous opponent of the régime". After his release, he worked as a coal dealer in Berlin-Schöneberg, which camouflaged his more important rôle in the resistance to the Nazi régime, in which he was supported by, among others, Gustav DahrendorfRalf Dahrendorf's father – Ernst von Harnack, and Ludwig Schwamb.

In 1940, Leber sought contact with the armed forces' leadership and got to know Claus Graf Schenk von Stauffenberg. Thereafter, he was also in contact with Carl Friedrich Goerdeler and the Kreisau Circle around Helmuth James Graf von Moltke. Stauffenberg's circle foresaw Leber as Germany's new Interior Minister after their planned coup d'état.

Arrest and execution

After being betrayed by an informer among an underground Communist group led by Anton Saefkow, with whom he had sought contact, Leber was arrested by the Gestapo on 5 July 1944, fifteen days before Stauffenberg's attempt on Hitler's life at the Wolf's Lair in East Prussia. On 20 October, Leber was the accused in a show trial before the Volksgerichtshof, alongside Adolf Reichwein, Hermann Maass and Gustav Dahrendorf. Leber was sentenced to death. The sentence was carried out on 5 January 1945 at Plötzensee Prison in Berlin.


Bridge in Berlin-Schöneberg named after Julius Leber

A bridge in Berlin-Schöneberg is named after Julius Leber and bears a commemorative plaque. The inscription reads "Julius Leber, member of the German Reichstag until 1933, sacrificed his life for FREEDOM and JUSTICE."


  • Dorothea Beck, Julius Leber. Sozialdemokrat zwischen Reform und Widerstand, München (Siedler) 1983.


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