Hans Hermann Freiherr von Berlepsch

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Freiherr Von Berlepsch, Hans Hermann (b. March 30, 1843, Dresden; d. June 2, 1926, Seebach (Thüringen) was a Prussian lawyer, politician and social reformer. He became trade minister, and initiated the new exchange rate policy. He was a founder of the Internationale Vereinigung für gesetzlichen Arbeiterschutz (International Union for the Protection of Workers)


The youngest son of August Adolph Freiherr von Berlepsch studied jurisprudence in Göttingen, where, in 1862, he became a member of the Corps Saxonia. In 1872, he became district administrator in Kattowitz. In 1881, he was named Deputy governor (Regierungspräsident ) for Koblenz and in 1884 he accepted a similar position in Düsseldorf. In October 1889 von Berlepsch as appointed to the top position (Oberpräsident) of the Rhine province. While in this position, he served as a negotiator during a miner strike, which brought him into close contact with representatives of the workers' movement for the first time. It is said that he treated the labor leaders with respect, which was unusual for a Prussian nobleman of the time.

On 31 January 1890 Berlepsch took over the Prussian Ministry of Commerce and Trade based on his extensive knowledge of east west trade; in this function he was extensively involved in business politics during the Caprivi government. He served as Prussian Minister of Commerce and Trade (1890-1896). In the course of the industrialization of the German Reich Berlepsch was an early advocate for the interests of workers. Thus, he led the Berlin delegation to the German International Conference on the Protection of Workers in March 1890 and in late 1891 sponsored modification of German trade and industrial regulations. Berlepsch supported efforts for greater involvement of workers in the German nation and society in ways distinct from the "welfare service model" ("Fürsorgemodell") of the Bismarck social, or welfare state. In this way, he sought to undercut support for the radical and anarchist elements of the German labor movement. In June 1896 he was essentially forced out of office by violent resistance against to what were viewed as too-extensive sociopolitical reforms (“era mute”). He continued to seek ways to be of further use in solving the labor problem. After leaving office, Berlepsch continued to be involved with the Union for the Protection of Workers, and as a leader in German social reform on the international level.

A Note on Prussian/German Titles

The von in Berlepsch's family name, as in many cases (but not always), indicates that they were members of the hereditary Prussian landed nobility (Landherren). Likewise the title Freiherr indicates their place in that nobility; a position many authorities suggest is roughly comparable to the English "baron". Members of his class are also sometimes labeled Jünkers (pronounced younkers) in English-language publications.