Chancellor of Germany

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Generaloberst (Colonel General) with the rank as Generalfeldmarschall Otto Fürst von Bismarck was Bundeskanzler of the North German Confederation and first Reichskanzler of the German Empire

The head of government of Germany is called Chancellor (German: Kanzler or Bundeskanzler). The position is equivalent to that of a Prime Minister in other countries (the latter term is not used, since its direct German equivalent, Ministerpräsident, is used exclusively for the heads of government of the Länder). The current Chancellor of Germany is Olaf Scholz, elected in December 2021. He is from the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD).


The office of Chancellor has a long history, stemming back to the Holy Roman Empire, when the office of German archchancellor was usually held by archbishops of Mainz. The title was, at times, used in several states of German-speaking Europe. The modern office of chancellor was established with the North German Confederation, of which Otto von Bismarck became Bundeskanzler (meaning "Federal Chancellor") in 1867. With the enlargement of this federal state to the German Empire in 1871, the title was renamed. The Reichskanzler served both as the emperor's first minister and as presiding officer of the Bundesrat, the upper chamber of the German parliament. He was neither elected by nor responsible to Parliament (Reichstag). Instead, the chancellor was appointed by the emperor. With Germany's constitution of 1949, the title of Bundeskanzler was revived.

Federal Chancellor of the North German Confederation (1867–1870)

The head of the federal government of the North German Confederation, which was created on 1 July 1867, had the title Bundeskanzler. The only person to hold the office was Otto Graf von Bismarck, the prime minister of Prussia. The King of Prussia, being the bearer of the Bundespräsidium, installed him on 14 July. Under the constitution of 1 January 1871, the king had additionally the title of German Emperor. The constitution still called the chancellor Bundeskanzler. This was only changed in the new constitution of 16 April 1871 to Reichskanzler. The office remained the same, and von Bismarck was not even re-installed.


From 1871 to 1945 the full term was Reichskanzler: Imperial Chancellor or Chancellor of the Empire (until 1918) as well as Chancellor of the Reich (until 1945). After WWII, both the Federal Republic of Germany (1949) and the Republic of Austria (1918–1938, also since 1945) use the term Bundeskanzler for the head of state, the Bundespräsident of both nations is de facto subordinate to the Bundeskanzler.

In Switzerland, the Federal Chancellor (Bundeskanzler) is the head of the Federal Chancellery (Bundeskanzlei), the oldest Swiss federal institution, established at the initiative of Napoleon in 1803. The officeholder acts as the general staff of the seven-member Federal Council. The Chancellor is not a member of the government and the office is not at all comparable to that of the Chancellor of Germany or the Chancellor of Austria.


German Empire
Name Took office Left office
Otto Fürst von Bismarck (1867–1871; Bundeskanzler) 18 January 1871 20 March 1890
Leo Graf von Caprivi 20 March 1890 26 October 1894
Chlodwig Fürst zu Hohenlohe-Schillingsfürst 29 October 1894 17 October 1900
Bernhard Fürst von Bülow 17 October 1900 14 July 1909
Theobald von Bethmann-Hollweg 14 July 1909 13 July 1917
Georg Michaelis 14 July 1917 1 November 1917
Georg Graf von Hertling 1 November 1917 30 September 1918
Max Prinz von Baden 3 October 1918 9. November 1918
Weimar Republic
Name Took office Left office
Friedrich Ebert (Social Democratic Party; SPD) 9 November 1918 11 February 1919
Philipp Scheidemann (SPD) 13 February 1919 20 June 1919
Gustav Bauer (SPD) 21 June 1919 13 March 1920
Wolfgang Kapp unofficial (Kapp Putsch) 14 March 1920 17 March 1920
Gustav Bauer (SPD) 18 March 1920 26 March 1920
Hermann Müller (SPD) 27 March 1920 8 June 1920
Konstantin Fehrenbach (Zentrum) 25 June 1920 4 May 1921
Joseph Wirth (Zentrum) 10 May 1921 14 November 1922
Wilhelm Cuno 22 November 1922 12 August 1923
Gustav Stresemann (Deutsche Volkspartei; DVP) 13 August 1923 23 November 1923
Wilhelm Marx (Zentrum) 30 November 1923 15 January 1925
Hans Luther 15 January 1925 12 May 1926
Otto Geßler (Deutsche Demokratische Partei; DDP) acting 12 May 1926 17 May 1926
Wilhelm Marx (Zentrum) 17 May 1926 12 Juny 1928
Hermann Müller (SPD) 28 June 1928 27 March 1930
Heinrich Brüning (Zentrum) 30 March 1930 30 May 1932
Franz von Papen (Zentrum) 1 June 1932 17 November 1932
Kurt von Schleicher 4 December 1932 28 January 1933
National Socialist Germany
Name Took office Left office
Adolf Hitler (NSDAP) Führer und Reichskanzler (Reichspräsident and Reichskanzler) 30 January 1933 30 April 1945
Joseph Goebbels (NSDAP) 30 April 1945 1 May 1945
Name Took office Left office
Johann Ludwig Graf Schwerin von Krosigk
Leiter der Geschäftsführenden Reichsregierung
2 May 1945 23 May 1945

Federal Republic of Germany

Standard of the Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany.png

Chancellor of the Federation or Federal Chancellor (Bundeskanzler) in the Bundeskanzleramt (Federal Chancellery) has been used again since 1949. Originally the term "Bundeskanzler" was used in the North German Confederation for Otto von Bismarck (1867–1871), who would become Reichskanzler after the creation of the second German Empire (Reichsgründung) in 1871.

Bundeskanzler (selection)