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Friedrich Ebert

The Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES) - Foundation for social democracy!


About us:

The Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES) is the oldest political foundation in Germany with a rich tradition in social democracy dating back to its foundation in 1925. The foundation owes its formation and its mission to the political legacy of its namesake Friedrich Ebert, the first democratically elected German President.

The work for our political foundation focuses on the core ideas and values of social democracy - freedom, justice and solidarity. This connects us to social democracy and free trade unions. As a non-profit institution, we organise our work autonomously and independently.

Our goals:

We promote

- a free society, based on the values of solidarity, which offers all its citizens the same opportunities to participate on political, economic, social and cultural levels, regardless of their origin, sex or religion
- a lively and strong democracy, sustainable economic growth with decent work for all
- a welfare state that provides more education and improved healthcare, but at the same time combats poverty and provides protection against the challenges that life throws at citizens
- a country that is responsible for peace and social progress in Europe and in the world.

What we do:

We support and strengthen social democracy in particular by means of:

  • Political educational work to strengthen the civil society. Our political education programs in Germany motivate, enable, inform and qualify citizens to successfully engage in political, trade union and civil spheres. We improve citizens' participation in social discussions and decision-making processes.
  • Think Tanks: We develop strategies on the core issues of economic, social and educational policies as well as on key issues that advance democracy. At the crossroad where think thanks, academia and political practitioners meet, we create a public discourse for a just and sustainable economic and social order on a national, European integration process.
  • International cooperation: With our international network of offices in more than 100 countries, we support a policy for peaceful cooperation and human rights, promote the establishment and consolidation of democratic, social and constitutional structures and are pioneers for free trade unions and a strong civil society. We are actively involved in promoting a social, democratic and comparative Europe in the European integration process.
  • Support for talented young people with scholarship programs, in particular for students and doctoral candidates from low-income families or with a migrant background. This is our contribution to increasing educational democracy.
  • The collective memory of social democracy: Our archive, library and contemporary history projects keep the historical roots of social democracy and the trade unions alive provide support for sociopolitical and historical research.


Friedrich Ebert (1871-1925)

Friedrich Ebert served from 1919 to 1925 as the first President of the Weimar Republic. He advocated the development of parliamentary democracy, viewed himself as the president of all Germans, and was committed to a politics geared to social balance and compromise.

Born on February 4, 1871, in Heidelberg, the son of a tailor, Ebert went on from primary school to learn the saddler’s trade. During his journeyman years, in 1889, he joined the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD), at the same time becoming active in the saddlers’ union. In 1891 he was living in Bremen, where he worked first in his own trade, then as an innkeeper. In 1893 he was appointed to the editorial staff of the Bremer Bürgerzeitung, the local organ of the SPD.

A year later he was elected party chairman. In the same period he was also elected to the chairmanship of the Bremen saddlers’ union as well as to a seat on the Bremen city council.

In 1905 Ebert resettled in Berlin, where he was elected to the SPD’s executive party body. At the age of 34, and as its youngest member, he devoted himself chiefly to organisational matters. In 1912 Ebert was voted into the Reichstag, the Imperial Parliament, with the SPD posting its greatest-ever election victory and becoming the largest parliamentary party. During the First World War Ebert, who had been elected chairman of the SPD in 1913, sought, ultimately in vain, to hold together the party’s wings, which had become divided over the issue of war credits.

Following the demise of the German monarchy, Ebert, in the course of the November Revolution of 1918, briefly served as Chancellor. He succeeded in preventing the establishment of a system of workers’ councils patterned on the Russian Soviet model as well as in having an election called for a democratic German National Assembly. This was a clear commitment – in the face of resistance, even in the SPD – to parliamentary democracy, and it set the stage for the creation of an order of German society based on liberty and pluralism.

Elected President in 1919, he was to have many crisis to negotiate, with government coalitions disintegrating, the economic situation worsening, and political assassinations poisoning the political atmosphere. Convinced of the need to protect Germany’s new parliamentary democracy, Ebert made some unpopular decisions, and was subjected to libel and slander, some of it of a highly personal nature. On one point, though, he remained unshakable: "Democracy needs democrats."

Following his untimely death, in 1925, the Friedrich Ebert Foundation (FES) was established. And within FES, Friedrich Ebert's political legacy lives on today.