- SPD Chairman from 1919 to 1933
- Member of the National Assembly and the Reichstag
- Member of the Black-Red-Gold Banner of the Realm
A trained painter and decorator, Wels was not in the SPD’s leadership during the Kaiserreich. He did not start climbing the ranks of the party until the November Revolution. In November 1918, he joined the workers’ and soldiers’ councils in Berlin, becoming a city commander. His time in this office was cut off by an incident in December 1918. During their uprising, sailors captured Wels and did not release him until he made various concessions, including his agreement to resign. In February 1919, he became a Member of the National Assembly. Later that year, he was elected SPD chairman, together with Hermann Müller. Wels remained in this office until the Nazis seized power and he went into exile in 1933. On 23 March 1933, he made a last Reichstag speech on the Enabling Act that was to become famous, proclaiming that “you can take our lives and our freedom, but you cannot take our honor.” After 1933, he was very active in Sopade, the SPD’s exile organization, in Prague and Paris.