Walther Rathenau (September 29 1867 - June 24 1922, assassinated) was a (Jewish) German industrialist and politician. He served as Reichsminister des Auswärtigen (Minister of Foreign Affairs) when he was assasinated in 1922. After World War I he concluded a rapprochement between Germany and Soviet 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 Soviet 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 compulsury 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.
- 1908 Reflektionen
- 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