Symposium in Memoriam of Gerald D. Feldman

October 23 - 24, 2008
Conference at the Deutsche Bank AG/Dresdner Bank AG, Berlin
Cosponsored by the GHI Washington, the Allianz AG, C.H. Beck, Deutsche Bank, Dresdner Bank, Evonik, the European Association for Business and Financial History, the Gesellschaft für Unternehmensgeschichte, the Alfred und Cläre Pott-Stiftung, and the Stifterverband für die Deutsche Wissenschaft

Conveners: Hartmut Berghoff (GHI Washington), Michael Jurk (Dresdner Bank AG), Martin L. Müller (Deutsche Bank AG), Andrea H. Schneider (Gesellschaft für Unternehmensgeschichte), Dieter Ziegler (Universität Bochum)

  • Event Report

    Speakers: Johannes Bähr (Universität Frankfurt/M.), Volker Berghahn (Columbia University), Hartmut Berghoff (GHI Washington), Christoph Buchheim (Universität Mannheim), Philip Cottrell (University of Leicester), Barbara Eggenkämper (Archiv der Allianz AG), Peter Eigner (Universität Wien), Jeffrey Fear (University of Redlands), Martin H. Geyer (LMU München), Manfred Grieger (Historische Kommunikation Volkswagen AG), Herbert Hansmeyer (Allianz AG), Peter Hayes (Northwestern University Evanston), Peter Hertner (Universität Halle-Wittenberg), Carl-Ludwig Holtfrerich (FU Berlin), Heidrun Homburg (Universität Freiburg/Br.), Tessen v. Heydebreck (Deutsche Bank), Harold James (Princeton University), Jürgen Kocka (WSB Berlin), Urte Kocka, Werner Plumpe (Universität Frankfurt/M.), Norma v. Ragenfeld-Feldman, Manfred Rasch (ThyssenKrupp Konzernarchiv), Gerhard A. Ritter (LMU München), Reinhard Rürup (TU Berlin), Edith Sheffer (University of California Berkeley), Fritz Weber (Universität Wien), Harald Wixforth (Universität Bochum), Dieter Ziegler (Universität Bochum).

    On October 31, 2007, Gerald D. Feldman died at the age of 70. He was "one of the most respected and influential historians of his generations" (H-German), and his books on the social, political, and economic history of the Weimar Republic and National Socialism were both masterpieces of scholarship and standard reading for anyone wishing to understand what occurred in Germany in the first half of the twentieth century. Feldman served as president of the Friends of the German Historical Institute Washington and was a member of its academic advisory board.

    Grateful for his intellectual and organizational work, the GHI Washington was one of the initiators of an academic symposium to commemorate and discuss Feldman's life and legacy. With the co-sponsorship of leading German companies and the organizational support of the Gesellschaft für Unternehmensgeschichte, this symposium became a major event within the German historical profession, which was attended by over four hundred people.

    The symposium began on the evening of October 23 in the Atrium of the Deutsche Bank in Berlin with an academic appraisal and private memories. After a presentation of Richard Wagner's "Siegfried-Idyll", Jürgen Kocka traced Feldman's academic career and characterized the most important of his twelve books, fifteen edited books, and more than 130 articles. Based on intensive archival studies, Feldman's work was engaged, yet distant, readable, yet of exhaustive length and depth. He acted as an important organizer of historical research and received many prestigious fellowships and prizes, while never losing his close contact with colleagues, archivists, and doctoral students. Highly personable, he established academic and private networks in Berkeley and Berlin, Munich and Vienna. Kocka's more general remarks were followed by three more private recollections. Barbara Eggenkämpfer spoke about Feldman's work as historian, mentor, and friend during the project on the history of the Allianz AG that began in 1997. Urte Kocka gave insights into the Kockas' friendship with "Gerry and Norma" – praising their humor, their love of good food and long operas. Most touching was the contribution of Edith Sheffer, Feldman's last doctoral student at Berkeley: He was "a lot like my dad" she said, the first reader of her writing and an inspiring and stimulating teacher. She continues using his "stolen jokes" in her seminars, and is, to this day, "still writing for him."

    The second day of the symposium was dedicated to Feldman's main research topics. Four panels analyzed his oeuvre and presented new research. The first panel was devoted to the war economy during the First World War, the topic of Feldman's dissertation and first book, Army, Industry, and Labor in Germany, 1914-1918. Chaired by Volker Berghahn, three lectures analyzed the role of banks and heavy industry in the German war effort. Werner Plumpe presented some insights from his current research project on Bayer's CEO Carl Duisberg. Harald Wixford examined the foundation and financing of the growing network of German war societies, a corporatist form of public-private partnership. Manfred Rasch's presentation covered a neglected field of business history – the history of aristocratic entrepreneurs—arguing that the growing disorder of the war was reflected in the difficult balance between economic rationality and the struggle for a more and more authoritarian monarchy.

    The second panel focused on the history of the German inflation, which Feldman had analyzed in his groundbreaking monograph Iron and Steel in the German Inflation, 1916-1923 and in his opus magnum The Great Disorder: Politics, Economics, and Society in the German Inflation, 1914-1923. Carl-Ludwig Holtfrerich (panel chair) and Gerhard A. Ritter acclaimed these books and the work of the inflation project financed by the Volkswagen foundation since 1977. While both scholars concentrated on the German experience, Fritz Weber and Philip Cottrell emphasized the overall European context. Weber examined the expansion of Bavarian banks into Austria as a result of prewar investments, the loss of former territory, and the dubious activities of some Austrian bankers. Although taking place in a highly politicized context, the German expansion was cautious and based on economic rationality. Cottrell's presentation investigated the "rocky path" to Austrian reconstruction in 1920/21. After the relative failure of the League of Nations' reconstruction plan and the cooperation of central banks, the reconstruction became a matter of business – with disastrous consequences in the autumn of 1921. Martin H. Geyer set a different tone, analyzing the war and inflation period with the tools of cultural history. Material want and injustice, he argued, are crucial in understanding this era because they built the basis for an economy of justice, in which right stood against order and justice against law. Therefore, terms like dictatorship and democracy must be used in a more cautious and differentiated way by historians.

    During the 1990s, banking history became the center of Feldman's research. The third panel, chaired by Christoph Buchheim, therefore examined the history of banking during the interwar period. Peter Hertner's lecture concentrated on Feldman's micro-sociological approach and highlighted his methodological pluralism and concentration on actors and mentalities, arguing that Feldman practiced a new political history, a trend again becoming fashionable at present. Jeffrey Fear gave an interesting account of varieties of capitalism by comparing German and American banking regulation politics. Despite similar debates and main arguments, the political consequences were quite different. Although both German and American small banks started out with comparable market shares of 20-25% in the late nineteenth century, German governments strengthened the smaller banks to support middle-sized companies, whereas in the United States smaller banks lost their position already before the First World War because of the different structure of the banking business and their failure to lobby for their own interests politically. Peter Eigner widened this comparative perspective in a lecture on the Austrian banking sector and the dominant role of Rudolf Sieghart, the CEO of the Österreichische Bodencreditanstalt. Sieghart established a personal network of subtle corruption that infiltrated both the political and the economic sphere. Eigner argued against the demonization of leading bankers and explained Sieghart's strategy as typical for this branch, which failed to adapt to the changing economic and political conditions. At the end of the panel, Harold James highlighted some essentials of the 1931 banking crisis. In contrast to the current financial crisis, politicians then were unwilling to support the banks, initially the Danat-Bank, as the risks were considered too high. Paradoxically, however, the ensuing crisis resulted in a state-dominated banking sector, already before the Nazi seizure of power.

    The fourth panel dealt with business history during National Socialism – a topic that had attracted Gerald Feldman since the early 1990s. Reinhard Rürup started with a summary of a research project on the history of the German Research Foundation (Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft) and the Kaiser-Wilhelm-Society. Rürup argued that scientists saw the Nazi regime, above all, as an opportunity for intensified research, and therefore cooperated with the regime and supported its racial policy and war preparations. The emerging question of individual and corporate scope was picked up by Johannes Bähr's comparision of two leading entrepreneurs. While Paul Reusch, the conservative CEO of the Gutehoffnungshütte, kept a relative distance from the Nazi regime until he lost his position in 1942, Friedrich Flick embodied the systematic cooperation with and the support of National Socialist policy. Therefore, the scope of individual options remained broader than often suggested. The cooperation between state and companies was closely analyzed in Manfred Grieger's lecture on the construction of two new dams in the Harz region. Grieger gave detailed archival insights into the problems of acquiring a labor force and building materials from 1938 onwards, which resulted in the systematic exploitation of forced laborers. Heidrun Homburg added two French case studies from the electrical industry, which again stressed the heterogeneity of German occupation policies.

    The symposium closed with concluding remarks by co-organizers Dieter Ziegler and Hartmut Berghoff,: who are preparing a book with papers from the symposium, which will be published by C.H. Beck in 2009. In addition to this symposium, the Stiftung DGIA has established a new Gerald D. Feldman travel grant to support German-American archival work. The Friends of the German Historical Institute Washington seek to to establish an annual Feldman Lecture. Following the program Norma von Ragenfeld-Feldman expressed her gratitude for this event and ended with touching words, including Mascha Kaleko's poem "Memento": "Before my own death is me do not fear for. Only before the death of those, which are me close. How am I to live, if they are no longer there?"

    Uwe Spiekermann

  • Picture Gallery
  • Program

    October 23 - 24, 2008
    Academic Symposium in Memory of Gerald D. Feldman

    Conference at the Deutsche Bank AG/Dresdner Bank AG, Berlin,

    Cosponsored by the GHI Washington, the Allianz AG, C.H. Beck, Deutsche Bank, Dresdner Bank, Evonik, the European Association for Business and Financial History, the Gesellschaft für Unternehmensgeschichte, the Alfred und Cläre Pott-Stiftung, and the Stifterverband für die Deutsche Wissenschaft. Conveners: Hartmut Berghoff (GHI Washington), Michael Jurk (Dresdner Bank AG), Martin L. Müller (Deutsche Bank AG), Andrea H. Schneider (Gesellschaft für Unternehmensgeschichte), Dieter Ziegler (Universität Bochum).

    Thursday, October 23, 2008

    18.00 Begrüßung: Dr. Clemens Börsig (Vorsitzender des Aufsichtsrats der Deutschen Bank AG)

    18.10 Richard Wagner, Siegfried-Idyll WWV 103 (Orchester Akademie der Berliner Philharmoniker)

    18.30 Würdigung: Prof. Jürgen Kocka (Wissenschaftszentrum Berlin)

    19.15 Erinnerungen: Barbara Eggenkämper (München) Dr. Urte Kocka (Berlin) Edith Sheffer (Berkeley)

    19.45 Empfang

    Friday, October 24, 2008

    09.00 Begrüßung: Herbert Hansmeyer (ehem. Mitglied des Vorstands der Allianz AG)

    09.10 Sektion I: Die Kriegswirtschaft im Ersten Weltkrieg

    • Leitung: Prof. Volker Berghahn (Columbia University, New York
    • Carl Duisberg und die Zentralarbeitsgemeinschaft: Prof. Werner Plumpe (Universität Frankfurt am Main)
    • Die Gründung und Finanzierung von Kriegsgesellschaften im Ersten Weltkrieg: Dr. Harald Wixforth (Universität Bochum)
    • Adelige Unternehmer im Ersten Weltkrieg – eine Momentaufnahme aus dem Jahre 1915: Prof. Manfred Rasch (ThyssenKrupp Konzernarchiv)

    Diskussion

    10.30 Kaffeepause

    10.50 Sektion II: Die Geschichte der Inflation

    • Leitung: Prof. em. Carl Ludwig Holtfrerich (FU Berlin)
    • Gerald D. Feldman und die Geschichte von Inflation und Wiederaufbau in Deutschland und Europa: Prof. em. Gerhard A. Ritter (Berlin)
    • Die Expansion der bayerischen Banken nach Österreich in der Inflationszeit nach 1918: Univ. Doz. Fritz Weber (Universität Wien)
    • Austrian reconstruction 1920/21 – a matter for business or the League of Nations?: Prof. Philip Cottrell (University of Leicester)
    • Recht, Gerechtigkeit und Gesetze. Weltkrieg, Inflation und die Logik des Ausnahmezustandes in der Zwischenkriegszeit: Prof. Martin H. Geyer (LMU München

    Diskussion

    12.30 Mittagspause

    13.30 Sektion III: Banken in der Zwischenkriegszeit

    • Leitung: Prof. Christoph Buchheim (Universität Mannheim
    • Großbanken, Politik und Wirtschaftspolitik in Deutschland, 1914–1929: Gerald D. Feldmans Ansatz zu einer politischen Bankengeschichte: Prof. Peter Hertner (Universität HalleWittenberg)
    • German and American Populism: Divergent Effects on Banking Regulation after World War I: Prof. Jeffrey Fear (University of Redlands)
    • Rudolf Sieghart und die österreichische Bodencreditanstalt: Prof. Peter Eigner (Universität Wien)
    • Origins and Consequences of the 1931 banking crisis revisited: Prof. Harold James (Princeton University)

    Diskussion

    15.10 Kaffeepause

    15.30 Sektion IV: Unternehmen und Unternehmer im «Dritten Reich»

    • Leitung: Prof. Peter Hayes, (Northwestern University, Evanston)
    • Kaiser Wilhelm Gesellschaft und Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft. Wissenschaft und Wissenschaftspolitik im Nationalsozialismus: Prof. em. Reinhard Rürup (Berlin)
    • Paul Reusch und Friedrich Flick. Zwei Unternehmensstrategien in den 1930er Jahren: Dr. Johannes Bähr (Berlin)
    • Wasser und Zwangsarbeit. Talsperrenbau im Harz und industrielle Interessen, 1938–1945: Dr. Manfred Grieger (Historische Kommunikation der Volkswagen AG)

    Diskussion

    16.50 Kaffeepause

    17.10 Sektion IV: Fortsetzung

    • Die deutsche Feindvermögensverwaltung im besetzten Frankreich – Grundzüge und Fallbeispiele aus der elektrotechnischen Industrie: Dr. Heidrun Homburg (Universität Freiburg i. Br.)
    • Wirtschaftspolitik und NS Verbrechen im «Dritten Reich». Eine Auseinandersetzung mit Adam Toozes «Ökonomie der Zerstörung»: Prof. Ulrich Herbert (Universität Freiburg i. Br.)

    Diskussion

    18.10 Ausblick: Prof. Hartmut Berghoff, Prof. Dieter Ziegler

    18.30 Empfang im Staffelgeschoss

    Program (PDF file)