Walther Rathenau (September 29, 1867 - June 24, 1922) was a German industrialist and politician, whose Jewish capitalist background was like a red flag to the post-war right-wing bulls. He served as Minister of Foreign Affairs for the Weimar Republic in 1922, prior to his assassination. After World War I he concluded a rapprochement between the German Weimar Republic and Bolshevist Russia, and his assassination may have significantly influenced the long-term political and economic development of Europe.
Rathenau is thought to be the basis for the German industrialist character Arnheim in Robert Musil's novel The Man Without Qualities.
In spite of his desire for economic and political cooperation between Germany and Russia, Rathenau remained skeptical of the Russian Bolsheviks' methods. In his Kritik der dreifachen Revolution ("Critique of the triple revolution"), he noted:
"We cannot use Russia's methods, as they only and at best prove that the economy of an agrarian nation can be leveled to the ground; Russia's thoughts are not our thoughts. They are, as it is in the spirit of the Russian city intelligence, unphilosophical and highly dialectic; they are passionate logic based on unverified suppositions. They assume that a single good, the destruction of the capitalist class, weighs more than all other goods, and that poverty, dictatorship, terror and the fall of civilization must be accepted to secure this one good. If ten million people must die to free ten million people from the bourgeoisie, then this is a harsh but necessary consequence. The Russian idea is compulsory happiness, in the same sense and with the same logic as the compulsory introduction of Christianity and the Inquisition." (p. 345 c.)
Son of the founder of the AEG company, Emil Rathenau (1838-1915)
1899 Member of the board of AEG
1902-1907 Proprietor of the "Berliner Handels-Gesellschaft"
1914 Development of the German war material supply in the Ministry of War
1915 President of AEG
1919 Help in preparation of the Paris Peace Conference
1920 Member of the commission for socialisation, participation in the Spa conference
1921 Minister for Reconstruction
1922 Appointment as Foreign Minister. As the German delegate he negotiated the Treaty of Rapallo (signed April 16). Nationalist and National-Socialist groups claimed he served the Communists.
On June 24, 1922, a group of extreme right-wing youths shot Rathenau in his car, near his house in Berlin, on the way to the ministry. A memorial stone in the Königsallee in Berlin-Grünewald reminds of the crime.
One of the assassins was the future writer Ernst von Salomon.
1912 Zur Kritik der Zeit
1913 Zur Mechanik des Geistes
1917 Von kommenden Dingen
1918 An Deutschlands Jugend
1919 Die neue Gesellschaft
1919 Der neue Staat
1919 Der Kaiser
1919 Kritik der dreifachen Revolution
Gesammelte Schriften in 6 Bänden
1924 Gesammelte Reden
1926 Briefe, 2 Bände
1927 Neue Briefe
1929 Politische Briefe