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.
What we do
We support and strengthen social democracy in particular by means of:
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.