Rathenau, Walther 1867–1922

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RATHENAU, Walther 1867–1922

PERSONAL: Born September 29, 1867, in Berlin, Germany; assassinated June 24, 1922, in Berlin, Germany; son of Emil (an entrepreneur) and Mathilde Rathenau. Education: Doctorate in physics, 1889. Politics: Democrat (German). Religion: Jewish.

CAREER: Industrialist, business executive, statesman, and author. Allgemeine Elektrizitatsgesellschaft (electric company), Berlin, Germany, member of research and management, beginning c. 1899, president, 1915–21; Government of Germany, War Raw Materials Department, director, 1914–15, member of German socialization committee, 1920, minister of reconstruction, 1921, appointed foreign secretary of Germany, 1922.


Walther Rathenau-Gesamtausgabe, G. Muller (Munich, Germany), 1900.

Impressionen, S. Hirzel (Leipzig, Germany), 1902.

Reflexionen, S. Hirzel (Leipzig, Germany), 1912.

Zur Kritik der Zeit, S. Fischer (Berlin, Germany), 1912.

Probleme der Friedenswirtschaft, S. Fischer (Berlin, Germany), 1917.

Deutschlands rohstoffversorgung, S. Fischer (Berlin, Germany), 1917.

Eine streitschrift vom glauben (letter), S. Fischer (Berlin, Germany), 1917.

Vom aktienwesen, eine geschaftliche Betrachtung, S. Fischer (Berlin, Germany), 1918.

Die neue Wirtschaft, S. Fischer (Berlin, Germany), 1918.

Rathenau-Brevier. Hrsg. von Erich Schairer (letters), E. Diederichs (Jena, Germany), 1918.

Von kommenden Dingen, S. Fischer (Berlin, Germany), 1918, translation by Eden and Cedar Paul published as In Days to Come, Allen and Unwin (London, England), 1921.

Gesammelte Schriften (collected works), S. Fischer (Berlin, Germany), 1918.

An Deutschlands Jugend, S. Fischer (Berlin, Germany), 1918.

Zeitliches, S. Fischer (Berlin, Germany), 1918.

Autonome Wirtschaft, E. Diederichs (Jena, Germany), 1919.

Der Kaiser, S. Fischer (Berlin, Germany), 1919.

Nach der Flut, S. Fischer (Berlin, Germany), 1919.

Kritik der dreifachen Revolution; Apologie, S. Fischer (Berlin, Germany), 1919.

Der neue Stät, S. Fischer (Berlin, Germany), 1919, translation published as The New Society, Harcourt, Brace, and Howe (New York, NY), 1921.

Die neue Gesellschaft, S. Fischer (Berlin, Germany), 1919.

Was wird werden?, S. Fischer (Berlin, Germany), 1920.

Der Kaiser; eine Betrachtung von Walther Rathenau, S. Fischer (Berlin, Germany), 1921.

Zur Mechanik des Geistes, S. Fischer (Berlin, Germany), 1922.

Cannes und Genua; vier Reden zum Reparationsproblem, mit einem Anhang, S. Fischer (Berlin, Germany), 1922.

Kunstphilosophie und Asthetik, zusammengestellt und eingeleitet von Wolfgang Schumann, G.D.W. Callwey (Munich, Germany), 1923.

Gesammelte reden, S. Fischer (Berlin, Germany), 1924.

Gesammelte Schriften (collected works), S. Fischer (Berlin, Germany), 1925–29.

Briefe (letters), 4 volumes, C. Reissner (Dresden, Germany), 1926–30.

Ausgewählte reden, von Walther Rathenau, edited with introductions and notes by James Taft Hatfield, Knopf (New York, NY), 1928.

Nachgelassene Schriften, S. Fischer (Berlin, Germany), 1928.

Briefe an eine Liebende (letters), C. Reissner (Dresden, Germany), 1931.

Blanche Trocard: Shauspiel in zwei Akten (play), Koetschau-Verlag (Berlin, Germany), 1947.

Walther Rathenau in Briefe und Bild (letters and photographs), A. Leber (Frankfurt, Germany), 1967.

Tagebuch, 1907–1922 (diary), Droste Verlag (Düsseldorf, Germany), 1967.

Hauptwerke und Gesprache, G. Müller (Munich, Germany), 1977.

Schriften (collected writings), Berlin-Verlag (Berlin, Germany), 1981.

SIDELIGHTS: Walther Rathenau was a German statesman and industrialist who came to prominence in the early twentieth century. The son of the famous German-Jewish entrepreneur Emil Rathenau, who had founded and directed Allgemeine Elektrizitatsgesellschaft, Germany's electric supplier, for many years, Walther studied electrochemistry, earning a doctorate in physics. After his father's death in 1915, Rathenau took over control of AEG. The indefatigable young man was involved in a wide variety of business enterprises. He also delved deeply into politics, philosophy, and economics, publishing many articles on these topics.

Believing that some economic planning was necessary to a healthy economy, Rathenau he organized the Ger-man War Raw Materials Department at the beginning of World War I. Despite these activities, he pressed for an early settlement of hostilities. At war's end Rathenau joined the German government, serving on the socialization committee and as a technician at the Spa Conference on Disarmament. Accepting the new Weimar Republic, the republican regime that was created after Germany's defeat and which lasted until 1933, Rathenau was named to the Ministry of Reconstruction in 1921, a post through which he hoped to rebuild the German economy. He is known for coauthoring and signing in 1922 the controversial Treaty of Rapallo, an arms and weapons agreement between Germany and Soviet Russia. German racists, however, believed Rathenau to be part of an alleged Jewish conspiracy to take over the world. On June 24, 1922, two young nationalist fanatics murdered him.

Throughout his lifetime Rathenau was a patron of the arts and an author, publishing, among other works, five didactic volumes on philosophical and contemporary issues. Since his death, a steady stream of his publications have continued to appear. These include collected works, correspondence, and even the play Blanche Trocard: Shauspiel in zwei Akten. In 1974 a number of people interested in protecting Rathenau's intellectual legacy founded the Walther Rathenau Society.



Felix, David, Walther Rathenau and the Weimar Republic: The Politics of Reparations, Johns Hopkins Press (Baltimore, MD), 1971.

Joll, James, Three Intellectuals in Politics, Pantheon (New York, NY), 1961.

Kessler, Harry, Walther Rathenau: His Life and Work, translated by W. D. Robson-Scott and Lawrence Hyde, Harcourt (New York, NY), 1930, reprinted, AMS Press (New York, NY), 1975.

Loewenberg, Peter, Walther Rathenau and Henry Kissinger: The Jew as a Modern Statesman in Two Political Cultures, Leo Baeck Institute (New York, NY), 1980.


Judaism, summer, 1995, Carole Fink, "The Murder of Walther Rathenau," p. 259.


Walther Rathenau Society Web site, http://www.walther-rathenau.de/ (July 22, 2004).

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