Ernst Ritter Seidler von Feuchtenegg

Ernst Seidler von Feuchtenegg was born on 5 June 1862 at Schwechat in Lower Austria. He was a jurist and lawyer, a politician, and a professor at the university in Vienna. He was appointed Chancellor of the Austrian Empire on 23 June 1917 and replaced Heinrich Graf von Clam-Martinic. His brief time as chancellor introduced a strange calm whereas his brief predecessors had only anarchy and despair in the Reichsrat.

It is Seidler who convinced Kaiser Karl to grant amnesty to such political prisoners as Karl Kramar and other Czech autonomists in the hope that this show of mercy would unite the fragmented parliament. However, this was not to be. The Czechs grew even more loud than they had ever been before, and caused shockwaves through the other nationalities. However, Seidler was strong enough to weather their recriminations and carry on with daily business in spite of endless threats from his enemies.

Like his predecessors, the food issue was the most pressing concern after the nationalism theme. In reality, the food crisis was balancing out after a tough dip during the winter in 1915. The slide in calorie intake was downward to be sure, but not as drastic. Seidler was determined to keep requisitioning at a civilised level to prevent hoarding by the rural folk. After all, the strength of the war was to be found in the cities, in the factories, not in the fields. Should the fields be choked, however, so would the factories. Seidler himself summed up the challenges on 29 June 1917, shortly after taking office: “The essential thing is to requisition the new harvest thoroughly, but I should like to sound a warning against carrying things to extremes. Farmers are beginning to get tired and depressed by the hardships of war. It is necessary to raise the productivity of agriculture, but I ask that this not proceed too rigorously, lest production be jeopardised.”

This referred to the requisitioning of Austrian cereals, but what of Hungarian foodstuffs? For the period of 1917, Hungarians were reneging on their promised allotment of grain to Austria. The result was a deficit in calories for Austrians. In fact, Hungarians were averaging 20 percent more calories than Austrians from 1917 on. In January 1918, Seidler made a panicked appeal: “I urgently request the execution of the repeatedly mentioned majour deliveries of cereals and maize as soon as possible, because without them, the complete collapse of the provision of bread and flour is unavoidable.”

Exhausted by this and the fact that the war was taking a turn for the worse, he finally resigned on 27 July 1918, and was replaced by Maximilian Hussarek von Heinlein.

Ernst Ritter Seidler von Feuchtenegg died in Vienna on 23 January 1931.

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