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23.12.1924: Ebert Loses Libel Trial
"The essence of our constitution should above all be freedom. Freedom for all national comrades. But all freedoms which many people share, must have a constitution,” Ebert said.

But a lot of people were dissatisfied with the constitution of the Weimar Republic. Rightwing and leftwing parties stirred up public opinion against the Republic and its head of state. They insulted him personally and said he was corruptible and would exploit his position for personal gain.

"He may well have been annoyed by this," Werner Bramke, an historian from Leipzig said. "But I believe he was realistic enough to say to himself that a Social Democratic German President in a former monarchy would have to face up to harsh criticism and insults. And I also believe that he was not that sensitive. He had to put up with it."

Yet the opponents became more radical. From 1922 onwards Ebert took action, lashing out against civil servants and journalists in particular. Ebert famously took Erwin Rothart to court. The editor had accused Ebert of treason in the "Mitteldeutsche Presse".

Rothart had claimed that Ebert had weakened and betrayed the country as the strike leader in January 1918 when the armaments industry had downed tools. Ebert was made responsible for the ignominious defeat in the First World War as the workers did not produce any munitions during the strike. It was an absurd allegation.

"The accusation of treason completely enraged him,” according to Bramke. Ebert took legal action. The trial took place in Magdeburg.

The court pronounced a judgement on 23 December 1924. Rothart was sentenced to three months imprisonment, yet the accusation of treason remained. The court took the view that it had been proved that Ebert had betrayed his country in January 1918. The right wing extremists celebrated.

Ebert filed an appeal against the judgement. But he died at the end of February 1925 of a neglected appendicitis. He was just 54 years old.

Werner Bramke: "He took it very personally. And I believe that he did not really die of the consequences of a neglected appendicitis, but that it was also his psychological weakness. This great sense of hurt: I had really wanted to work with the patriots and now they slander me."

Following Ebert’s death the appeal was shelved without a verdict being passed. Rothart’s character assassination remained unpunished.
   
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Zitat des Tages
Which German chancellor, born on 23 December 1918 followed Willy Brandt?
  Walter Scheel
  Kurt Kiesinger
  Helmut Schmidt
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