The “Iron Front” for the “Iron One” – Reich Presidential Election 1932

In 1931, the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD), the Reichsbanner Schwarz-Rot-Gold, the Federation of Republican War Participants, the General Confederation of German Trade Unions (ADGB), the General Confederation of Freelance Employees (AfA-Bund) and the Workers’ Gymnastics and Sports Federation (ATSB) formed the “Iron Front”. The goal was to protect the constitution of the Weimar Republic and to fight against anti-republican efforts. In addition to the NSDAP, the extreme right-wing conservative group Stahlhelm, Bund der Frontsoldaten and the KPD were seen as enemies of the Weimar Republic.

The “Iron Front” for the “Iron One” – Reich Presidential Election 1932

In 1931, the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD), the Reichsbanner Schwarz-Rot-Gold, the Federation of Republican War Participants, the General Confederation of German Trade Unions (ADGB), the General Confederation of Freelance Employees (AfA-Bund) and the Workers’ Gymnastics and Sports Federation (ATSB) formed the “Iron Front”. The goal was to protect the constitution of the Weimar Republic and to fight against anti-republican efforts. In addition to the NSDAP, the extreme right-wing conservative group Stahlhelm, Bund der Frontsoldaten and the KPD were seen as enemies of the Weimar Republic.

Since the term of Reich President Hindenburg (1847–1934) ended on May 5, 1932, new elections were required in the spring. There were a total of five candidates on the first ballot. Hindenburg, who did not actually want to run again due to his age, had been urged to do so not only by right-wing conservatives, but also by the Iron Front in order to prevent Adolf Hitler (1889–1945), and thus the NSDAP, from winning the election.

On March 13, 1932, Hindenburg narrowly missed securing an absolute majority, receiving 49.5% of the vote. Hitler was well behind with 30.1%, and Ernst Thälmann (1886–1944) of the KPD received 13.2% of the national vote. In the runoffelection held on April 10, 1932, Hindenburg received 53.1% of the vote, beating Hitler’s 36.8%.

Foto: Keystone View Co. Deutsches Historisches Museum, Berlin
March of the “Iron Front”

Election campaign rally in Berlin, July 14, 1932

Roter Pfeffer, vol. 5 / n. 3, 15.3.1932, p. 2 Deutsches Historisches Museum, Berlin
The “Iron Front” for the “Irons”

Ernst Thälmann, the Stalinist-oriented chairman of the Communist Party of Germany (KPD), described the Iron Front as a “terror organization of social fascism.” Duwdiwani caricatured the Iron Front‘s support of the right-wing conservative “Iron” Reich President Paul von Hindenburg during his re-election in 1932 in the communist satirical newspaper Roter Pfeffer. On the line on the right he signed “d”.

Election poster of the SPD: The Three Arrows

The three arrows symbolized the Iron Front‘s fight against monarchy, National Socialism, and Communism. The symbol was developed by Sergei Stepanowitsch Tschachotin (1883–1973) and SPD Reichstagsmember Carlo Mierendorff (1897–1943) and was used after February 1932.

poster collection by Karl Fritz, Landesarchiv Baden-Württemberg, Staatsarchiv Freiburg
Foto: Mario Küßner © Thüringisches Landesamt für Denkmalpflege und Archäologie, Weimar
Hindenburg statue at the Kyffhäuser monument

On May 6, 1939, a Hindenburg statue by the Thuringian sculptor Hermann Hosaeus (1875–1958) was inaugurated below the Kyffhäuser monument near Frankenhausen. The ten-ton, five-meter-high figure, made of Bavarian porphyry, was buried by the Red Army in 1945 and rediscovered in 2004 during the construction of a house.

Robert Becker: Der Wahrheit die Ehre! Das Reichsbanner Schwarz-Rot-Gold. Die vergessene »Judenschutztruppe« der Weimarer Republik. Wiesbaden 2000.

Wolfgang Benz: Im Widerstand. Größe und Scheitern der Opposition gegen Hitler. München 2019.

Sebastian Elsbach: Die Eiserne Front. Lebendiges Museum Online – Deutsches Historisches Museum. Berlin 2019.
Online: https://www.dhm.de/lemo/kapitel/weimarer-republik/innenpolitik/die-eiserne-front.html

Sebastian Elsbach: Das Reichsbanner Schwarz-Rot-Gold. Republikschutz und politische Gewalt in der Weimarer Republik. Stuttgart 2019.

Gedenkstätte Deutscher Widerstand (Hg.): Für Freiheit und Republik! Das Reichsbanner Schwarz-Rot-Gold 1924 bis 1933. Begleitband zur Ausstellung der Gedenkstätte Deutscher Widerstand. Berlin 2018.

Carsten Voigt: Kampfbünde der Arbeiterbewegung. Das Reichsbanner Schwarz-Rot-Gold und der Rote Frontkämpferbund in Sachsen 1924–1933. Köln u.a. 2009.

Benjamin Ziemann: Veteranen der Republik. Kriegserinnerung und demokratische Politik 1918–1933. Bonn 2014.