Karl Helfferich, 1872-1924: Economist, Financier, Politician

Karl Helfferich, 1872-1924: Economist, Financier, Politician

Copyright Date: 1971
Pages: 462
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Karl Helfferich, 1872-1924: Economist, Financier, Politician
    Book Description:

    An irascible, brilliant man, trained as an economist, Karl Helfferich became one of Wilhelmine Germany's leading financiers in the years after 1905. During World War I, he held a series of important Reich offices and, after 1918, became a leading right-wing politician in the Weimar Republic. As creator of the basic plan to stabilize the mark in 1923, he played a major role in ending the catastrophic postwar inflation. John Williamson's biography of Helfferich thus reflects German controversies over the crucial political, economic, and social issues of the era 1895-1924: e.g., industrialization, colonial development, the Bagdad Railway and imperialism, unrestricted submarine warfare, wartime political reform, war aims, and postwar financial and foreign policy.

    Originally published in 1971.

    ThePrinceton Legacy Libraryuses the latest print-on-demand technology to again make available previously out-of-print books from the distinguished backlist of Princeton University Press. These paperback editions preserve the original texts of these important books while presenting them in durable paperback editions. The goal of the Princeton Legacy Library is to vastly increase access to the rich scholarly heritage found in the thousands of books published by Princeton University Press since its founding in 1905.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-7183-4
    Subjects: Business, History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
    (pp. v-viii)
  3. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-x)
    (pp. xi-2)
    (pp. 3-17)

    Neustadt an der Haardt, Karl Helfferich’s birthplace, was founded in the Middle Ages by the Count Palatine of the Rhine. The town was situated in a very exposed location—on the edge of the Pfalzerwald between Kaiserslautern and Speyer. The entire area became a battleground during the upheavals of the religious wars and the struggles for the left bank of the Rhine which followed. By the end of the long Napoleonic occupation in 1815, the Neustadter had seen a bewildering succession of dogmas and overlords come and go. Protestants and Catholics, French and Germans, kings, emperors, and republics—all had...

    (pp. 18-59)

    After Helfferich returned from Greece in late 1894, he visited Knapp in Strassburg to discuss the next stage in his academic career, the writing of hisHabilitationsschrift.This was the long scholarly monograph German universities required of a man to prove his competence to teach at the university level. His subject was the highly controversial reforms of the 1870’s which had introduced in Germany a unified gold currency and a central Reichsbank.

    His topic grew quite naturally out of his earlier work on the Currency Union. It revealed, nevertheless, that his interests were diverging significantly from those of most other...

    (pp. 60-110)

    In the winter of 1898–1899 when Helfferich was in Egypt recovering from his lung hemorrhages, he chanced to share a dinner table at Shepheard’s Hotel in Cairo with a certain Oskar W. Stuebel, a member of the German consular service who was vacationing in the city. As were so many, Stuebel was impressed with Helfferich’s “clear and forthright views.”¹ After he was appointed Director of the Colonial Division of the Foreign Office in 1900, he decided to take Helfferich into his office to assist in bringing a little order into the disorder prevailing in colonial monetary affairs. When Stuebel...

  8. [Illustrations]
    (pp. None)
    (pp. 111-150)

    Helfferich’s views on German economic development before 1914 are excellently summarized in his little book,Germany’s National Wealth,1888–1913.¹ Written to celebrate the silver jubilee of William IFs reign, the book rapidly went through a number of German editions and was translated into several foreign languages. A liberal journalist unkindly, but accurately, called the work “courtierly economics.”² That it was, but it was also more. First, it was one of the most influential early estimates of German national wealth, annual income, and annual economic growth. Corrected now in many particulars, it long remained the “best known” work on the...

    (pp. 151-196)

    Helfferich’s influence soon outgrew his original area of competence, the Treasury Office. Bethmann Hollweg found him a congenial spirit and a loyal and effective supporter, both within the cabinet and at Supreme Headquarters. Helfferich warmly admired his chief, whose greatness as a man and skill as a politician he was in a better position to see than most contemporaries. He supported Bethmann because he believed Bethmann’s foreign and domestic policies were the only practical ones. In foreign policy Bethmann sought to assert Germany’s position in a manner that would permit it to develop as a world power, while at home...

    (pp. 197-238)

    Helfferich was not one merely to accept the new submarine policy in silence. Even before the new policy was announced, his utterances provided the necessary clues to the initiated. The day following the decision, 10 January, he discussed Germany’s economic situation with Count Lerchenfeld. Helfferich painted a bright picture for the Count which contrasted markedly with the somber prospects he had presented to Stresemann not two weeks earlier. He also asserted that England had only three months’ grain supply left. He deduced that if the submarine war continued to be as successful as it was then, “serious difficulties were bound...

    (pp. 239-287)

    Except for his unpopularity in the Reichstag and in the press, Helfferich had to all appearances emerged from the July Crisis stronger than ever. Secure in the affections of the Kaiser and on good terms with the Supreme Command, he might logically have expected to wield great influence as mentor of the inexperienced Michaelis. The events soon gave the lie to such expectations. Yet since Heliferich’s influence declined only very gradually, it is difficult, lacking precise evidence, to date the stages of its decline. Kuhlmann’s appointment as Foreign Secretary probably represents the point at which Heliferich’s metamorphosis from an insider...

    (pp. 288-329)

    Once Germany had become a republic, Helfferich’s opportunities for political activity were naturally very much restricted. That would have been true even if he had had a more fortunate political past. Although the center of the political establishment was far to the left of where it formerly had been, Helfferich remained loyal to the old order. As a result, he had no place in the political establishment; for the first time he was an outsider, and necessarily a critic. But for Helfferich the role of opposition critic—although not the role of controversialist—was unwelcome and uncomfortable. He liked to...

    (pp. 330-364)

    Recalling an earlier remark, a contemporary aptly noted that the KappPutschwas “more than a crime, it was a mistake.”¹ Helfferich shared this view, but thePutschbrought him one solid gain. It encouraged the Socialist-led government of Hermann Muller to advance the Reichstag elections from the fall of 1920 to early June. In contrast to the situation before the elections to the National Assembly, the Nationalists now clamored for Helfferich’s services as a candidate. Placed on the party lists in a number of districts, he headed the lists in three, Hesse-Nassau, Hanover-South, and Hamburg. After election from all...

    (pp. 365-406)

    During the March budget debates, the Socialist Hermann Kahmann speculated with some misgiving about whether the campaign against Wirth and fulfillment would take the same fatal course as the earlier campaign against Erzberger.¹ Kahmann might well have wondered. It turned out that he had not mistaken the campaign’s effects, only the name of the victim. On the morning after Helfferich’s speech, Rathenau was machinegunned while riding in his open car on the way to the Foreign Office. The assassins were members of the Organisation Consul, the same secret band which the previous summer had murdered Erzberger. Helfferich was at a...

    (pp. 407-414)

    As the foregoing speculations about Helfferich’s political future suggest, it is difficult to sum up a man who dies in mid-career. Too many questions remain unanswered. It is as if we had a group portrait of Helfferich in various guises, but a part of the portrait has been torn away, and that part is of unknown size. Still, what remains of the portrait is clear enough. Although we cannot say what other likenesses Helfferich might have assumed, we can nevertheless say wherein the guises actually portrayed resemble those of contemporaries, and perhaps how our fragment contributes to a larger panorama...

    (pp. 415-424)
  18. INDEX
    (pp. 425-443)