Wirth, Karl Joseph (kärl yōˈzĕf vĭrt) [key], 1879–1956, German statesman. A leader of the Catholic Center party, he succeeded (1920) Matthias Erzberger as minister of finance. In 1921, Wirth became chancellor, pledging the fulfillment of World War I treaty obligations. With Walter Rathenau he represented Germany at the Genoa reparations conference of 1922 and while there signed the Treaty of Rapallo with the Soviet Union. Currency inflation caused the fall of the Wirth ministry in Nov., 1922, but Wirth later held cabinet posts. He fled Germany in 1933, returned to West Germany after World War II, and favored a neutral, reunified Germany. Increasingly pro-Soviet, he received the Stalin Peace Prize in 1955.
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