• Photo: Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung The FES headquarters in Bonn and Berlin
    FES headquarters in Bonn and Berlin

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 of 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 tanks, academia and political practitioners meet, we create a public discourse for a just and sustainable economic and social order on a national, European and worldwide level.
  • 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 competitive 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 and provide support for sociopolitical and historical research.

Friedrich Ebert (1871-1925)

Photo: AdsD/FES

Friedrich Ebert held office as first democratic elected President of Germany from 1919 until 1925 within the so-called Weimar Republic. He advocated for the construction of parliamentary democracy, considered himself as president of everybody and practiced a policy which was attentive to social compensation.

Born February 4, 1871 as son of a tailor in Heidelberg, after finishing school he became a saddler. During his years of travel as craftsman he joined the SPD (Social Democratic Party of Germany) and became active in the association of saddlers. From 1891 onwards, he lived in Bremen, where he first worked in his profession and later on as innkeeper. In 1893 he got a permanent position as editor of “Bremer Bürgerzeitung” in Bremen, which was the local newspaper of the SPD. Already one year after, he was elected as party chairman. Additionally, he assumed chair of the saddler association in Bremen where he gained a mandate within the citizenry.

In 1905, Friedrich Ebert moved to Berlin and was elected into the SPD party executive. At the age of 34 he was its youngest member and dealt with organizational matters. In 1912, Ebert moved as Member of Parliament into the Reichstag. The SPD celebrated its biggest election victory and became the strongest fraction. During World War I Ebert, who was chairman of the SPD since 1913, vainly tried to keep together the, because of approval of  war credits, drifting factions of the party.

After the downfall of the monarchy, Ebert acted in the German Revolution of 1918 for a short time as President of the Reich. He managed to prevent a council system based on the Russian model and imposed an election to a democratic national assembly. Thereby he professed himself to – even against resistance within the SPD - parliamentarism and enabled an establishment of a liberal-pluralistic social order.

As President of Germany, from 1919 onwards Ebert had to deal with many crises. Governing coalitions broke down, the economic climate was tense and pollical murders poised the atmosphere. To protect the parliamentary form of the government, Ebert even made unpopular decisions and hazarded the consequences of personal aspersions. He firmly believed: “Democracy needs democrats.”

After his early death in 1925 the Friedrich-Ebert-Foundation was established. Thereby, his political legacy continues to live until today.


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