Bundesbank to study the tricky history of German central banking during Nazi period…

Interesting bit and one is already looking forward to read the findings of this monetary history project:

The Deutsche Bundesbank is facilitating an extensive academic appraisal of the history of the Reichsbank, the Bank deutscher Länder and the early years of the Bundesbank. The study is set to examine the period from 1923 to 1969 from economic, social and cultural perspectives.

The experts leading the project are Prof. Albrecht Ritschl, Head of the Economic History Department at the London School of Economics, and Prof. Magnus Brechtken, Deputy Director of the Institut für Zeitgeschichte in Munich, who share responsibility for managing the specialist project. In doing so, the two researchers are not bound by any guidelines with regard to the project’s content or any other instructions from the Bundesbank. “This was self-explanatory to us, too,” emphasised Michael Best, Director General Communications. “After all, the Bundesbank is an institution that attaches the greatest importance to its own independence.

After signing the agreement with the Deutsche Bundesbank on 3 November, Professors Ritschl and Brechtken introduced the concept for their research project. Their study will focus on the evolution of the Reichsbank into the Bank deutscher Länder and finally into the Bundesbank, as well as on the occupants of key positions in the Bundesbank and its predecessors. Although there are already isolated studies on these topics, as Professors Brechtken and Ritschl explained, there still has not been a comprehensive academic exploration of the issues.

The study period begins in 1923/24, when the new currency stabilised after the hyperinflation phase and Hjalmar Schacht began his first tenure as President of the Reichsbank, and ends in 1969, with the departure of Karl Blessing, the last BundesbankPresident who had belonged to Hjalmar Schacht’s inner circle of staff.

The research project is to run over a period of four years and is divided into two blocks, each comprising four subprojects. The first block, headed by Prof. Brechtken, focuses on the biographies of the first Bundesbank President, Wilhelm Vocke, and his successor, Karl Blessing, as well as a group biography of the senior management at the Bundesbank in its early years. Moreover, as part of a country study on occupied Poland, the role of the Reichsbank as a player in the war of aggression will be examined. The second block, headed by Prof. Ritschl, places a particular focus on the central bank’s institutional self-conception and areas of political activity in Germany between 1924 and 1969. This block also takes a look at the gold and foreign exchange transactions of the Reichsbank in the Third Reich. Further subprojects are devoted to the topic of foreign exchange policy as an exploitation policy (as part of a study on western Europe in the period between 1940 and 1944) as well as the involvement of the Reichsbank in the financial exploitation of Greece between 1941 and 1943.

Once the study has been completed, there are plans to publish the results of the eight subprojects, each in a separate book, in both German and English. Furthermore, the future perspectives of the research project will be discussed within the framework of an academic conference, for which a volume of books will also be published in German and English.

There is more here:

Albrecht Ritschl, a professor at the London School of Economics, and Magnus Brechtken, an expert in Nazi history at the Institute of Modern History in Munich, have been selected to lead the investigation. While a number of studies have explored the Reichsbank’s ties to the Nazi regime, as Ritschl explains in the Times, “some unpleasant questions were not asked.” The new study, by contrast, aims to be uncompromising and comprehensive. It is expected to fill eight volumes once it is finished.

Some uncomfortable truths about the Bundesbank’s past have already come to light. Take Karl Blessing, a former bank president, long hailed for his hardline stance on inflation during the postwar years. Though he has long been seen as a Nazi opponent—German officers who tried unsuccessfully to assassinate Hilter had, in fact, tapped Blessing as a possible economics minister for their new government—while researching the biography of Albert Speer, Hitler’s architect, Ritschl uncovered a 1941 letter from Blessing asking to take possession of a Berlin apartment, which had been confiscated from its Jewish owners.

 At the time, Blessing sat on the board of Kontinentale Öl, a company that exploited oil reserves in Nazi Germany-occupied countries, Jeremy Gray explains in the English-language financial publication Handelsblatt Global. Blessing wanted the apartment to be allocated to the company—and his letter suggests that he was not only aware of Nazi persecution of the Jews, but also willing to profit from it.

The new study will also probe the Nazis’ theft of gold from other central banks, according to Claire Jones of the Financial Times. Yet another topic of investigation will be the Reichsbank’s role in the exploitation of foreign economies. In Nazi-occupied Greece, for instance, the Reichsbank helped drive local inflation, exacerbating the conditions of a famine that struck the country, most drastically between the winter of 1941 and 1942.

Bundesbank president Jens Weidmann and vice-president Claudia Buch view the fact-finding project, as a necessary development for the bank. “[T]here is a great deal of awareness that we need to uncover all that we can about this most dark of eras in German history,” Michael Best, a spokesperson for the Bundesbank, tells Jones. “It is our responsibility to know exactly what happened, it is as simple as that. You clearly cannot reverse the past, but you can face it and provide knowledge of it to future generations.”

Looks like lots of skeletons in the closet and interesting to see how many come out..

Amazing to see Bundesbank being comfortable doing research in a period which is seen as problematic in non-German areas. And here we have central banks who are always hiding things from researchers on matters which pales compared to what Bundesbank is trying to uncover.


One Response to “Bundesbank to study the tricky history of German central banking during Nazi period…”

  1. Bundesbank to study Central Banking during Nazi era | MERCIAR BUSINESS CONSULTING Says:

    […] https://mostlyeconomics.wordpress.com/2017/11/08/bundesbank-to-study-the-tricky-history-of-central-b… […]

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