Stegerwald, Adam


Stegerwald, Adam
(1874-1945)
   trade-union* leader and politician; Labor Minister under Heinrich Brüning.* Born to a Catholic* farmer in the village of Greussenheim, near Würzburg, he grew up in impoverished circum-stances before apprenticing as a cabinetmaker. In the 1890s, while doing itin-erant work, he was attracted to the labor movement. After settling in Munich in 1896, he attended evening courses at the university and joined the Center Party.* He helped organize the Party's union movement in 1899 and was elected leader of the Central Organization of Christian Woodworkers the same year. In 1902 he became chairman of the new Gesamtverband der christlichen Gewerk-schaften (League of Christian Trade Unions), a position he held until 1929. In 1908 he was elected secretary of the International Conference of Christian Trade Unions.
   Too young to remember Bismarck s struggle against the Catholic Church, Stegerwald championed the Wilhelmine Reich and its aggressive policies. Dur-ing World War I, which began while he was doing research in Africa, he served in the Treasury Office and the War Food Office. As head of a Christian, anti-socialist labor movement, he was favored by the regime and in 1917 became the first and only working-class member of the Prussian Herrenhaus. But while he supported extensive annexations, he opposed Prussia s* three-class voting system and promoted the extension of manhood suffrage within a constitutional monarchy. In November 1918, fearing rampant socialization, he condoned for-mation of the Central Working Association* and, with Gustav Hartmann of the liberal Hirsch-Duncker Federation of German Labor Associations, founded the German Trade-Union Federation* (DGB), a nonsocialist Spitzenverband. The DGB named him its first chairman. Elected in 1919 to both the National As-sembly* and the Prussian state assembly, he served as Prussia's first postwar Welfare Minister and then was Prime Minister during April-November 1921 (his resolution to govern without the SPD caused his cabinet to collapse). At the annual Christian trade-unions congress in November 1920 he proposed creation of a new interconfessional party that might combine elements of na-tionalism and democracy. This premature bid to create an ecumenical Volks-gemeinschaft (national community) found little support.
   Stegerwald s politics were erratic. Whereas he abhorred socialism, his con-servatism embraced an anticlerical bias that alienated many Catholics. He con-ceded the import of women* to Center Party strength, but nevertheless revered the Kaiserreich and thus was a bitter opponent of Matthias Erzberger.* Until the late 1920s he fostered coalition with the DNVP. Because of his labor role, his opinions fragmented the vote of Catholic workers and caused many defec-tions to the SPD. Joseph Wirth,* his antagonist after Erzberger s death, declared him the chief impediment to Party acceptance of the Republic. Although he was defeated in January 1922 for the Party chairmanship, he bided his time in the belief that he would succeed Wilhelm Marx* in December 1928. When the Party turned to Monsignor Ludwig Kaas,* Stegerwald s defeat was attributed to his unpopularity with civil servants (whose pay raises he opposed in the Reichs-tag*), his opposition to politically involved clergymen, and the Center s growing antilabor bias. His bitterness was eased in January 1929 upon his election as chairman of the Reichstag faction, an expression of support that led him to resign his trade-union positions.
   In April 1929, when Hermann Müller* reorganized his cabinet, Stegerwald became Transportation Minister. In March 1930 he accepted the Labor Ministry in Heinrich Brüning's first cabinet, a post he had rejected in 1920. Disliked by President Hindenburg* and supportive of Hans Schlange-Schoningen's* unpop-ular plan to settle unemployed workers on bankrupt estates, he nonetheless re-tained his ministry until Brüning's second cabinet collapsed in May 1932.
   Stegerwald assailed the reactionary policies of Franz von Papen.* Misjudging the NSDAP, he supported Hitler s* Enabling Act.* His political career over, he found no room in the labor movement after the NSDAP synchronized the move-ment. In 1944 he was erroneously arrested in connection with the plot to kill Hitler. He survived World War II and realized his Weimar-era dream in October 1945 when, just before his death, he helped found the Christian Social Union.
   REFERENCES:Ellen Evans, "Adam Stegerwald" and German Center Party; Morsey, "Adam Stegerwald"; Patch, Christian Trade Unions; Schorr, Adam Stegerwald.

A Historical dictionary of Germany's Weimar Republic, 1918-1933. .

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