Heinrich Brüning, the son of a wine merchant, was born in Munster, Germany, on 26th November, 1885. Brüning studied history in Munich, Strasbourg and London where he carried out research into British railways.
In 1920 Brüning became an official of the German Trade Union Federation. A member of the Catholic Centre Party (BVP), Brüning was elected to the Reichstag in 1924. He became the party's spokesman on economic issues and in 1929 became leader of the BVP.
In 1928 Hermann Muller became chancellor in a coalition government that included the Social Democratic Party, the Catholic Centre Party and the Nationalist Party (DNVP). When Muller resigned in March 1930, Brüning was asked to become the new chancellor.
Brüning attempted to halt the growth in German unemployed that followed the Wall Street Crash by increasing taxation and by imposing high tariffs on foreign imports. He also reduced government expenditure by lowering unemployment benefits. The policies were not successful and by 1930 unemployment reached 4 million.
In the General Election that took place in September 1930, the Catholic Centre Party won only 87 seats. The party was now much smaller than other parties such as the Social Democrat Party (143) and the Nazi Party (107). Brüning remained in power but now persuaded a more nationalistic foreign policy in an effort to please the growing shift to the right in German politics.
Brüning's economic policies proved to be ineffective and with Germany's unemployment rate continuing to grow the country's president, Paul von Hindenburg, forced him to resign in May, 1932, and he was replaced as chancellor by Franz von Papen.
When Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party gained power in 1933 Brüning left Germany and emigrated to the United States. Brüning was appointed as professor of political science at Harvard University (1937-1951). He also worked at the University of Cologne (1951-55) before returning to the United States. Heinrich Brüning died in Norwich, Vermont, on 30th March, 1970.
In Berlin I saw Brüning, the Chancellor, who was Snowden's German counterpart - a puritanical ascetic and a bit of a masochist, with considerable charm. His sole indulgence was black coffee and a cigar, which he offered to me. He was a willing listener to the deplorable advice tendered to him by Dr Sprague, the emissary of the Bank of England. This, of course, was to continue his policy of deflation at all costs; and was designed primarily to maintain the value of the fantastic investments made by the City to Germany, at the instigation of Mr Norman. Under various 'standstill' agreements, funds which would otherwise have left Germany accumulated in blocked accounts, producing a state of false liquidity. In the end most of the money invested in Germany by Britain was irretrievably lost; and the industrial paralysis in Germany, which was soon to bring the Nazis to power, prevailed. Brüning was a lonely, saintly man, upon whom the burden of responsibility bore heavily.