Bethmann-Hollweg, Theobald von

Bethmann-Hollweg, Theobald von tāˈōbält fən bātˈmän-hôlˈvāk [key], 1856–1921, German chancellor. A career civil servant, he became minister of the interior (1905) and secretary of state (1907), and in 1909 succeeded Bernhard von Bülow as chancellor. He favored some reform and worked for a comprehensive insurance law, extension of the franchise, and greater autonomy for Alsace-Lorraine; his legislative efforts were supported in the Reichstag by a coalition of conservatives and centrists. He, along with Admiral von Tirpitz and the Kaiser, bears heavy responsibility for World War I. He greatly increased the German peacetime army, and appearances to the contrary, was anxious to use the Austro-Serbian conflict to break the “encirclement” of the Allies. Although contemptuous of his ally, Austria-Hungary, he accepted the German General Staff's war aims for gaining equality with Britain and Russia by dominating a new “Mitteleuropa.” Nevertheless, Bethmann-Hollweg worked for US mediation of the war, and restricted submarine warfare to keep the US neutral. He was forced to resign by Conservatives angered by his promise of electoral reforms in Prussia, and was replaced (1917) by Ludendorff and Hindenburg.

See biography by K. H. Jarausch (1973).

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