|Reich Minister of Economics|
3 August 1934 – 26 November 1937
|President||Adolf Hitler (as Führer)|
|Preceded by||Kurt Schmitt|
|Succeeded by||Hermann Göring|
|President of the Reichsbank|
12 November 1923 – 7 March 1930
|Preceded by||Rudolf E. A. Havenstein|
|Succeeded by||Hans Luther|
17 March 1933 – 20 January 1939
|Preceded by||Hans Luther|
|Succeeded by||Walther Funk|
Hjalmar Horace Greeley Schacht
22 January 1877
Tinglev, Province of Schleswig-Holstein, German Empire
|Died||3 June 1970 (aged 93)|
Munich, Bavaria, West Germany
|Resting place||Munich Ostfriedhof|
Hjalmar Horace Greeley Schacht (22 January 1877 – 3 June 1970) was a German economist, banker, centre-right politician, and co-founder in 1918 of the German Democratic Party. He served as the Currency Commissioner and President of the Reichsbank under the Weimar Republic. He was a fierce critic of his country's post-World War I reparation obligations.
He was never a member of the National Socialist German Worker's Party, but served in Adolf Hitler's government as President of the National Bank (Reichsbank) 1933–1939 and became Minister of Economics (August 1934 – November 1937).
While Schacht was for a time feted for his role in the German "economic miracle", he opposed Hitler's policy of German re-armament insofar as it violated the Treaty of Versailles and (in his view) disrupted the German economy. His views in this regard led Schacht to clash with Hitler and most notably with Hermann Göring. He was dismissed as President of the Reichsbank in January 1939. He remained as a minister without portfolio, and received the same salary, until he was fully dismissed from the government in January 1943.
In 1944 Schacht was arrested by the Gestapo after the assassination attempt on Hitler on 20 July 1944, because he allegedly had had contact with the assassins. Subsequently, he was interned until the end of the Third Reich in the concentration camps Ravensbrück and later at Flossenbürg. In the last days of the war, he was one of the 134 special and clan prisoners[a] who were transported by the SS from Dachau into the "Alpine Fortress" to Niederdorf in South Tyrol, where they were freed on 30 April 1945.
Despite this, he was tried at Nuremberg, but was fully acquitted.
Schacht was born in Tingleff, Schleswig-Holstein, Prussia, German Empire (now in Denmark) to William Leonhard Ludwig Maximillian Schacht and baroness Constanze Justine Sophie von Eggers, a native of Denmark. His parents, who had spent years in the United States, originally decided on the name Horace Greeley Schacht, in honor of the American journalist Horace Greeley. However, they yielded to the insistence of the Schacht family grandmother, who firmly believed the child's given name should be Danish. After completing his abitur at the Gelehrtenschule des Johanneums, Schacht studied medicine, philology and political science at the Universities of Munich, Leipzig, Berlin, Paris and Kiel before earning a doctorate at Kiel in 1899 – his thesis was on mercantilism.
He joined the Dresdner Bank in 1903. In 1905, while on a business trip to the United States with board members of the Dresdner Bank, Schacht met the famous American banker J. P. Morgan, as well as U.S. president Theodore Roosevelt. He became deputy director of the Dresdner Bank from 1908 to 1915. He was then a board member of the German National Bank for the next seven years, until 1922, and after its merger with the Darmstädter und Nationalbank (Danatbank), a board member of the Danatbank.
During the First World War, Schacht was assigned to the staff of General Karl von Lumm (1864–1930), the Banking Commissioner for Occupied Belgium, to organize the financing of Germany's purchases in Belgium. He was summarily dismissed by General von Lumm when it was discovered that he had used his previous employer, the Dresdner Bank, to channel the note remittances for nearly 500 million francs of Belgian national bonds destined to pay for the requisitions.
After Schacht's dismissal from public service, he had another brief stint at the Dresdner Bank, and then various positions at other banks. In 1923, Schacht applied and was rejected for the position of head of the Reichsbank, largely as a result of his dismissal from Lumm's service.
Despite the blemish on his record, in November 1923, Schacht became currency commissioner for the Weimar Republic and participated in the introduction of the Rentenmark, a new currency the value of which was based on a mortgage on all of the properties in Germany. Germany entered into a brief period where it had two separate currencies: the Reichsmark managed by Rudolf Havenstein, President of the Reichsbank, and the newly created Rentenmark managed by Schacht.
After his economic policies helped battle German hyperinflation and stabilize the German mark (Helferich Plan), Schacht was appointed president of the Reichsbank at the requests of president Friedrich Ebert and Chancellor Gustav Stresemann.
In 1926, Schacht provided funds for the formation of IG Farben. He collaborated with other prominent economists to form the 1929 Young Plan to modify the way that war reparations were paid after Germany's economy was destabilizing under the Dawes Plan. In December 1929, he caused the fall of the Finance Minister Rudolf Hilferding by imposing upon the government his conditions for obtaining a loan. After modifications by Hermann Müller's government to the Young Plan during the Second Conference of The Hague (January 1930), he resigned as Reichsbank president on 7 March 1930. During 1930, Schacht campaigned against the war reparations requirement in the United States.
Schacht became a friend of the Governor of the Bank of England, Montagu Norman, both men belonging to the Anglo-German Fellowship and the Bank for International Settlements. Norman was so close to the Schacht family that he was godfather to one of Schacht's grandchildren.
By 1926, Schacht had left the small German Democratic Party, which he had helped found, and began increasingly lending his support to the Nazi Party (NSDAP), to which he became closer between 1930 and 1932. Though never a member of the NSDAP, Schacht helped to raise funds for the party after meeting with Adolf Hitler. Close for a short time to Heinrich Brüning's government, Schacht shifted to the right by entering the Harzburg Front in October 1931.
Schacht's disillusionment with the existing Weimar government did not indicate a particular shift in his overall philosophy, but rather arose primarily out of two issues:
Schacht believed that if the German government was ever to commence a wholesale reindustrialization and rearmament in spite of the restrictions imposed by Germany's treaty obligations, it would have to be during a period lacking clear international consensus among the Great Powers.
After the July 1932 elections, in which the NSDAP won more than a third of the seats, Schacht and Wilhelm Keppler organized a petition of industrial leaders requesting that president Hindenburg appoint Hitler as Chancellor. After Hitler took power in January 1933, Schacht won re-appointment as Reichsbank president on 17 March.
In August 1934 Hitler appointed Schacht as Germany's Minister of Economics. Schacht supported public-works programs, most notably the construction of autobahnen (highways) to attempt to alleviate unemployment – policies which had been instituted in Germany by von Schleicher's government in late 1932, and had in turn influenced Roosevelt's policies. He also introduced the "New Plan", Germany's attempt to achieve economic "autarky", in September 1934. Germany had accrued a massive foreign currency deficit during the Great Depression, which continued into the early years of the Third Reich. Schacht negotiated several trade agreements with countries in South America and southeastern Europe, under which Germany would continue to receive raw materials, but would pay in Reichsmarks. This ensured that the deficit would not get any worse, while allowing the German government to deal with the gap which had already developed. Schacht also found an innovative solution to the problem of the government deficit by using mefo bills. He was appointed General Plenipotentiary for the War Economy in May 1934 and was awarded honorary membership in the NSDAP and the Golden Party Badge in January 1937.
Schacht disagreed with what he called "unlawful activities" against Germany's Jewish minority and in August 1935 made a speech denouncing Julius Streicher and Streicher's writing in the Nazi newspaper Der Stürmer.
During the economic crisis of 1935–36, Schacht, together with the Price Commissioner Dr. Carl Friedrich Goerdeler, helped lead the "free-market" faction in the German government. They urged Hitler to reduce military spending, turn away from autarkic and protectionist policies, and reduce state control in the economy. Schacht and Goerdeler were opposed by a faction centering on Hermann Göring.
Göring was appointed "Plenipotentiary for the Four Year Plan" on 18 October 1936, with broad powers that conflicted with Schacht's authority. Schacht objected to continued high military spending, which he believed would cause inflation, thus coming into conflict with Hitler and Göring.
In 1937 Schacht met with Chinese Finance Minister Dr. H. H. Kung. Schacht told him that "German-Chinese friendship stemmed in good part from the hard struggle of both for independence". Kung said, "China considers Germany its best friend ... I hope and wish that Germany will participate in supporting the further development of China, the opening up of its sources of raw materials, the upbuilding of its industries and means of transportation."
In November 1937 he resigned as Minister of Economics and General Plenipotentiary at both his and Göring's request. He had grown increasingly dissatisfied with Göring's near-total ignorance of economics, and was also concerned that Germany was coming close to bankruptcy. Hitler, however, knew that Schacht's departure would raise eyebrows outside Germany, and insisted that he remain in the cabinet as minister without portfolio. He remained President of the Reichsbank until Hitler dismissed him in January 1939. He remained as a minister without portfolio, and received the same salary, until he was fully dismissed in January 1943.
Following the Kristallnacht of November 1938, Schacht publicly declared his repugnance at the events, and suggested to Hitler that he should use other means if he wanted to be rid of the Jews. He put forward a plan in which Jewish property in Germany would be held in trust, and used as security for loans raised abroad, which would also be guaranteed by the German government. Funds would be made available for emigrating Jews, in order to overcome the objections of countries that were hesitant to accept penniless Jews. Hitler accepted the suggestion, and authorised him to negotiate with his London contacts. Schacht, in his book The Magic of Money (1967), wrote that Montagu Norman, governor of the Bank of England, and Lord Bearstead, a prominent Jew, had reacted favourably, but Chaim Weizmann, leading spokesman for the Zionist movement in Britain, opposed the plan. A component of the plan was that emigrating Jews would have taken items such as machinery with them on leaving the country, as a means of boosting German exports. The similar Haavara Agreement had been signed in 1933.
Schacht was said to be in contact with the German resistance as early as 1934, though at that time he still believed the Nazi regime would follow his policies. By 1938, he was disillusioned, and was an active participant in the plans for a coup d'état against Hitler if he started a war against Czechoslovakia. Goerdeler, his colleague in 1935–36, was the civilian leader of resistance to Hitler. Schacht talked frequently with Hans Gisevius, another resistance figure; when resistance organizer Theodor Strünck's house (a frequent meeting place) was bombed out, Schacht allowed Strünck and his wife to live in a villa he owned. However, Schacht had remained in the government and, after 1941, Schacht took no active part in any resistance.
Still, at Schacht's denazification trial (subsequent to his acquittal at Nuremberg) it was declared by a judge that "None of the civilians in the resistance did more or could have done more than Schacht actually did."
After the attempt on Hitler's life on 20 July 1944, Schacht was arrested on 23 July. He was sent to Ravensbrück, then to Flossenbürg, and finally to Dachau. In late April 1945 he and about 140 other prominent inmates of Dachau were transferred to Tyrol by the SS, which left them there. They were liberated by the Fifth U.S. Army on 5 May 1945 in Niederdorf, South Tyrol, Dolomites, Italy.
Schacht had supported Hitler's gaining power, and had been an important official of the Nazi regime. Thus he was arrested by the Allies in 1945. He was put on trial at Nuremberg for "conspiracy" and "crimes against peace" (planning and waging wars of aggression), but not war crimes or crimes against humanity.
Schacht pleaded not guilty to these charges. He cited in his defense that he had lost all official power before the war even began, that he had been in contact with Resistance leaders like Hans Gisevius throughout the war, and that he had been arrested and imprisoned in a concentration camp himself.
His defenders argued that he was just a patriot, trying to make the German economy strong. Furthermore, Schacht was not a member of the NSDAP and shared very little of their ideology. The British judges favored acquittal, while the Soviet judges wanted to convict. The British prevailed and Schacht was acquitted. However, at a West German denazification trial, Schacht was sentenced to eight years hard labor. He was freed on appeal in 1948.
In 1950, Juan Yarur Lolas, the Palestinian-born founder of the Banco de Crédito e Inversiones and president of the Arab colony in Santiago, Chile, tried to hire Schacht as a "financial adviser" in conjunction with the German colony. However, the plan fell through when it became news.
In 1953, Schacht started a bank, Deutsche Außenhandelsbank Schacht & Co., which he led until 1963. He also gave advice on economics and finance to heads of state of developing countries, in particular the Non-Aligned countries; however, some of his suggestions were opposed, one of which was in the Philippines by the former Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas head Miguel Cuaderno, who firmly rebuffed Schacht, stating that his monetary schemes were hardly appropriate for an economy needing capital investment in basic industry and infrastructure.
Indirectly resulting from his founding of the bank, Schacht was the plaintiff in a foundational case in German law on the "general right of personality". A magazine published an article criticizing Schacht, containing several incorrect statements. Schacht first requested that the magazine publish a correction, and when the magazine refused, sued the publisher for violation of his personality rights. The district court found the publisher both civilly and criminally liable; on appeal, the appellate court reversed the criminal conviction, but found that the publisher had violated Schacht's general right of personality.
Schacht died in Munich, Germany, on 3 June 1970.
Schacht wrote 26 books during his lifetime, of which at least four have been translated into English:
Hjalmar Schacht has been portrayed by the following actors in film, television and theater productions;
Hjalmar Schacht appears in the following works of fiction:
An effort to secure the immigration of Dr. Schacht, the former Ministry of Economy, was made by the Santiago German colony. They worked in league with the local Germany colony, whose President, Juan Yarur, one of the wealthiest industrialists in Chile, was to have engaged the doctor as "financial adviser." Timely publicity helped to frustrate the clever design.
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