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Wilhelm Hoegner

In office
1945 – 1946
Preceded by Fritz Schäffer
Succeeded by Hans Ehard
In office
1954 – 1957
Preceded by Hans Ehard
Succeeded by Hanns Seidel

In office
1945 – 1947

In office
1950 – 1954

Born 23 September 1887(1887-09-23)
Died 5 March 1980
Nationality German
Political party SPD
Occupation Lawyer

Wilhelm Hoegner (23 September 1887 in München - 5 March 1980 in München) was the second Bavarian prime minister (SPD) after World War II (1945-46 and 195457) and father of the Bavarian constitution. He has been the only Social Democrat to hold this office.



Wilhelm Hoegner was born in München in 1887, the son of Michael Georg Hoegner and Therese Engelhardt. Growing up in Burghausen, he studied law in Munich, Berlin and Erlangen. After graduation, he worked as a lawyer, then Staatsanwalt, a state prosecutor, and in 1919 he also became a member of the SPD. He married Anna Woock in 1918, who he had two children with. From 1924 to 1930, he was a member of the Landtag of Bavaria, the state parliament, for his party.

He was involved in the investigation into Hitlers Beer Hall Putsch in 1923 and through this became part of the opposition to the Nazis. He published, anonymously, a paper on the findings of the investigation, which is considered an important historical document due to the fact that the Nazis destroyed all official reports from the inquest after 1933[1]. He actively opposed Hitler in his time as a member of the German Reichstag from 1930 to 1933. For this reason, he was dismissed from government service after the Nazi takeover in 1933 and had to escape to Austria, and from there, in 1934, to Switzerland, where he worked as a free lance writer. He was in contact there with other German refugees from the Nazis and worked with them in an organisation called Demokratisches Deutschland, aimed against the Nazis.

Upon his return to Bavaria in June 1945, he served at the court in Munich. He became prime minister of Bavaria from 1945 to 1946, after the sudden dismissal of Fritz Schäffer[2], also holding the post of Minister of Justice until 1947. He became known in this time as the father of the new Bavarian constitution. After losing the elections in December 1946, he was replaced as Bavarian prime minister by Hans Ehard but remained as Minister of Justice. When his party decided to leave the coalition with the CSU, he opposed this move and temporarily lost influence within the SPD, resigning from his ministerial post.

From 1946 to 1970 he was again a member of the Bavarian parliament, the Landtag, leading the SPD fraction there from 1958 to 1962. He held the post of Minister of the Interior from 1950 to 1954, when Bavaria was ruled by a CSU-SPD coalition. During this time, he devoted a large amount of effort towards the reunion of the Palatinate with the rest of Bavaria, but ultimately failed, with only 7.6 percent of all eligible voters in the Palatinate opting for a reunion[3].

He became prime minister of Bavaria for a second time in 1954, when he lead a four-party coalition of conservative and liberal parties until 1957. The coalition fell apart before the end of its term after the 1957 federal elections and, as of 2008, Wilhelm Hoegner is still the last non-CSU prime minister of Bavaria.

He was also a member of the German Bundestag from 1961 to 1962.

While being a social democrat, Hoegner was not a socialist and preferred a common-sense approach to politics and the economy rather than radical theory's and inaction. He considered being a social democrat not to be incompatible to Christian ethics and values, an important factor in the traditionally conservative-catholic dominated state of Bavaria[4].

Hoegner died, aged 92, almost blind but mentally still in full capacity, on 5 March 1980 in Munich[5].


  • Honorary doctorate at the University of Munich

See also

Further reading

  • Die verratene Republik (in German), by Wilhelm Hoegner, Munich, 1979.
  • Der Volksbetrug der Nationalsozialisten (in German), by Wilhelm Hoegner
  • Der Schwierige Aussenseiter: Erinnerungen eines Abgeordneten, Emigranten und Ministerpräsidenten (in German), by Wilhelm Hoegner, München, publisher: Isar Verlag, 1959

"The Guilt of the Communists"

Hoegners book "Die verratene Republik", Munich 1979, contains a remarkable chapter with this title. Hoegner blames the German communist party, the KPD, to have played a decisive role in Hitler assumption of power. The declared main enemy of the communists was not Hitler or the conservative parties in Germany, but the SPD, the German social democrats, who were called by them the "social fascists". The intention of the communists was to bring Hitler to power whereafter a communist revolution in Germany should take place and a communist dictatorship should be established. Hoegner mentions astonishing facts in this chapter, e.g. that in the election of the president of the German Reich in 1932 500.000 communists had elected Hitler. See also Walter Kolbenhoff.



  1. ^ Anonym (= Wilhelm Hoegner): Hitler und Kahr. Die bayerischen Napoleonsgrößen von 1923, 1928 (in German) Historisches Lexikon Bayerns, accessed: 9 May 2008
  2. ^ "You Don't Know What You Want" Time Magazine, 8 October 1945, accessed: 9 May 2008
  3. ^ Pfalz (19./20. Jahrhundert) (in German) Historisches Lexikon Bayerns, accessed: 9 May 2008
  4. ^ Freedom with Responsibility: The Social Market Economy in Germany, 1918-1963 google book review, author: Anthony James Nicholls, publisher: Oxford University Press, page 251, accessed: 9 May 2008
  5. ^ Wilhelm Hoegner (in German), author: Hildegard Kronawitter, accessed: 9 May 2008
Preceded by
Fritz Schäffer
Prime Minister of Bavaria
1945 – 1946
Succeeded by
Hans Ehard
Preceded by
Hans Ehard
Prime Minister of Bavaria
1954 – 1957
Succeeded by
Hanns Seidel


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