- Politician and journalist
- Minister-President of the Free and Independent Rhenish Republic
Born in Würzburg, Matthes worked as a journalist and became involved politics. This helped him get a job as the editor-in-chief of the SPD’s (Social Democrats’) party newspaper in Aschaffenburg. Yet in 1920, Matthes was excluded from the SPD. One year later, he was sentenced to six months in prison for libel and insults. Following this, he moved to the Rhine-Main area. Once there, he helped found separatist groups such as the Rheinischer Unabhängigkeitsbund (Rhenish independence league) and the Vereinigte Rheinische Bewegung (united Rhenish movement). In 1923, Matthes was a co-founder of the Free and Independent Rhineland Republic and became the Minister-President of the Rhenish Republic. Paul Tirard, the French High Commissioner and President of the Rhineland Commission, recognized Matthes’ cabinet as the region’s legitimate government. Yet its power relied solely on the French Rhineland-protection forces. Without backing for Matthes’ government from the people, his entire cabinet had to prematurely step down. Matthes then fled to France. After France’s capitulation, Matthes was extradited to the Nazi government and died in Dachau concentration camp in 1943.