Walther Rathenau

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Rathenau, Walther


Born Sept. 29, 1867, in Berlin; died there June 24, 1922. German industrialist, financier, political figure, and publicist.

In 1899, Rathenau became a member of the board of the German General Electric Company, and in 1915, chairman of the board. Politically he sided with the moderate wing of the German bourgeoisie, and in November 1918 he joined the German Democratic Party. He favored Germany’s strict adherence to the Peace Treaty of Versailles (1919). In May 1921, Rathenau became minister of reconstruction, and in February 1922, minister of foreign affairs. During the Genoa Conference in April 1922, he signed the Treaty of Rapallo (1922) with Soviet Russia. Rathenau was assassinated by members of a secret nationalist terrorist organization known as Consul.


Gesammelte Schrifien, vols. 1–6. Berlin, 1925–29.
Briefe, vols. 1–2. Dresden, 1926.
Tagebuch, 1907–1922. Düsseldorf, 1967.
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And I do so on behalf of the people of Jordan who, every day, through their words and actions, demonstrate the values that defined the life of Walther Rathenau. Values such as courage, compassion, equality, understanding, tolerance and mutual respect; in other words, basic human decency."
Shulamit Volkov is as sure a guide as one could hope for in navigating the terrain of Walther Rathenau's life and thought and turning it into a coherent and compelling narrative.
Walther Rathenau provides us with an important case study.
Galin Tihanov, a new voice in Musil research, then relates Musil in minute detail to the traditions of conservative (not simply right-wing) thought represented principally by Carl Schmitt, Walther Rathenau, and Othmar Spann, showing how such ideas are satirized through the person of Arnheim in Der Mann ohne Eigenschaften.
A good example of Haffner's journalistic flair is found in the following observations about Walther Rathenau, the German foreign minister who negotiated the Treaty of Rapallo, and Hitler: "If my experience of Germany has taught me anything, it is this: Rathenau and Hitler are the two men who have excited the imagination of the German masses to the utmost--the one by his ineffable culture, the other by his ineffable vileness.
Gentiles appear in these pages mainly as sidekicks (Marx's Friedrich Engels) or admirers (Walther Rathenau's Harry Kessler).
The intentions and activities of political and economic actors appear in new light by this recounting because they are no longer tied to specific side issues (such as Joseph Koeth with demobilization, or Walther Rathenau with fulfilment) but brought into a larger fabric.
Walther Rathenau, Hermann Keyserling, Alfred Schuler).
They serve as an important contrast to the troubled lives of other prominent members of the Jewish elite, such as Walther Rathenau and Gerson Bleichroder.
The principal victims were the Centre (Catholic) party parliamentarian Matthias Erzberger, who had signed the armistice agreement that signalled the country's catastrophic wartime defeat; Social Democrat Philipp Scheidemann, the prime minister responsible for replacing the monarchy with a republic; and, most spectacularly, Foreign Minister Walther Rathenau, a Jew whose policy of fulfilling the oppressive terms of the Versailles Treaty earned him the hatred of nationalists and anti-Semites alike.
Thomas Rink next discusses the question of "double loyalty," that is, the relationship between German and Jewish identity, in Fritz Rathenau, a cousin of the famous Walther Rathenau. Rink is particularly interested in Rathenau's thoughts and actions regarding assimilation and acculturation, antisemitism, and emigration; Rathenau's view of Zionism is also explored.