Monday, June 24, 2013
Walther Rathenau "the best hope for the German Empire to turn into a strong republic" shot by assasins
On this day in 1922, Mid-summer Day, the German minister of foreign affairs Walther Rathenau was shot dead by masked assassins near his home in Berlin. New York's Evening World reported "Walther Rathenau was the best hope for the reorganization of the German Empire into a strong republic."
Devastated by Ranthenau's murder, support for the Weimar Republic initially increased, and June 24 became a day of public commemoration. But the death of a prominent Jewish banker, businessman and one of the founders of the German Democratic Party, turned pessimism about Germany's democratic future into panic. The tide of inflation--despite attempts from the US to help--flowed on. From June to December 1922, the exchange value of the mark changed from 1/3 to 1/100 of an American cent, and domestic prices multiplied more than 20 times.
Rathenau's ability to use his business skills to solve political problems was widely appreciated. The Ogden Evening Standard reported
"Dr. Rathenau was styled the 'wizard of the German empire' because, by his high powers of organisation, and business efficiency he devised expedients which kept 'the people eating the armies shooting' when the blockade had shut off the importation of raw materials during the war. After the war as minister of reconstruction, his meetings with the French minister Louis Loucheur brought about with business-like directness adjustments and accommodations which had been the dispair of diplomats.
He was of Jewish birth and was described as a man with great force and energy, business acumen, vision and initiative."
When the Nazis took over in 1933 reverence for Ranthenau was eradicated. Streets and schools were renamed, statues dismantled and the Walther-Rathenau-Museum, in his former mansion, destroyed.