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Theobald von Bethmann Hollweg


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(b. 29 Nov. 1856, d. 2 Jan. 1921).

Chancellor of Germany and Minister President of Prussia 1909–17 From 1899 the chief commissioner (Oberpräsident) of the Prussian province of Brandenburg, he became Prussian Minister of the Interior (1905) and German Secretary of State for Home Affairs (1907). Bethman Hollweg tried to avoid the failure of his predecessor, von Bülow, to build a parliamentary majority for his government. As Chancellor, therefore, he tried to seek the consent of parliament as little as possible, with the result that urgently needed reforms, most importantly of the country's finances, could not take place. This political stalemate, and Germany's increasing inability to find the necessary finances to keep up with the arms race, contributed directly to the sense of crisis that led Germany into World War I. More directly, his contribution to the outbreak of the war lay in his unconditional support of Austria after the assassination of the Archduke Francis Ferdinand at Sarajevo in 1914, in the hope that any ensuing war would be restricted to Russia. From 1916 Bethmann Hollweg was forced to acquiesce in Hindenburg's direction of the war.

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