Hjalmar Schacht: Wikis


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Hjalmar Schacht

In office
August 1934 – November 1937
President Adolf Hitler
Chancellor Adolf Hitler
Preceded by Kurt Schmitt
Succeeded by Hermann Göring

In office
Preceded by Rudolf E. A. Havenstein
Succeeded by Hans Luther
In office
Preceded by Hans Luther
Succeeded by Walther Funk

Born January 22, 1877 (1877-01-22)
Tinglev, then Kingdom of Prussia, German Empire, now Denmark
Died June 3, 1970 (1970-06-04) (aged 93)
Munich, Federal Republic of Germany
Political party None (honorary member of NSDAP)
Profession Banker, Economist

Dr. Hjalmar Horace Greeley Schacht (22 January 1877 – 3 June 1970) was a German economist, banker, liberal politician, and co-founder 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 became a supporter of Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party, and served in Hitler's government as President of the Reichsbank and Minister of Economics. As such, Schacht helped implement Hitler's policies of redevelopment, reindustrialization, and rearmament.

He was forced out of the government by disagreements with Hitler and other prominent Nazis by 1939, and had no role during World War II. He became a fringe member of the German Resistance to Hitler and was imprisoned by the Nazis after the 20 July plot. After the war, he was tried at Nuremburg but acquitted.

In 1953, he founded his own bank, and advised developing countries on economic development.


Education and rise to President of the Reichsbank

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. Schacht studied medicine, philology and political science before earning a doctorate in economics in 1899 — his thesis was on mercantilism.[1]

He joined the Dresdner Bank in 1903, where he became deputy director from 1908 to 1915. He was then a member of the committee of direction of the German National Bank for the next seven years, until 1922, and after its merger with the Darmstädter und Nationalbank (Danatbank), a member of the Danatbank's committee of direction. 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.

During World War I, Schacht was to assigned to the staff of General von Lumm, 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.[2]

After Schacht's dismissal from the public service, he had a 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 von Lumm's service.[2]

Despite the small 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.[3] After his economic policies helped reduce German inflation 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.[1] 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.[1]

Involvement with the Third Reich Government

Schacht at a meeting in the Reichsbank transfer commission in 1934

By 1926, Schacht had left the small German Democratic Party, which he had helped found, and was 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.[1]

Schacht's disillusionment with the existing Weimar government did not indicate a particular shift in his overall philosophy, but rather arose primarily out two issues: first, his objection to the inclusion of Socialist Party elements in the government, and the effect of their various construction and make-work projects on public expenditures and borrowings (and the consequent undermining of the government's anti-inflation efforts)[4]; second, on his fundamentally unwavering desire to see Germany retake its place on the international stage, and his recognition that "as the powers became more involved in their own economic problems in 1931 and 1932 ... a strong government based on a broad national movement could use the existing conditions to regain Germany's sovereignty and equality as a world power."[5] Schacht was convinced that if the German government were 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 got more than a third of the seats, Schacht and Wilhelm Kepler organized a petition of industrial leaders requesting that President Hindenburg appoint Hitler as Chancellor. After Hitler took power in March 1933, Schacht was re-appointed Reichsbank President on 17 March.

In August 1934 Hitler appointed Schacht as his 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[6] and was awarded honorary membership in the NSDAP and the Golden Swastika 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 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 around Hermann Göring.[7]

Göring was appointed "Plenipotentiary for the Four Year Plan" in 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 November 1937 he resigned as Minister of Economics and General Plenipotentiary in November 1937 at Göring's request. He remained President of the Reichsbank until Hitler dismissed him in January 1939. After this Schacht held the empty title of Minister without Portfolio, and received the same salary, until he was fully dismissed in January 1943.

Resistance activities

Schacht was 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.[8]Goerdeler, his colleague in 1935-36, was the civilian leader of the Resistance. 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, after 1941, Schacht took no active part in the 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.”[9]

After the attempt on Hitler's life on 20 July 1944, Schacht was arrested on 23 July.[1] He was sent to Ravensbrück, then to Flossenbürg,[1] 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 May 5, 1945 in Niederdorf, Dolomites.[10]

After the war

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 "crimes against peace" (planning and waging wars of aggression), but not war crimes or crimes against humanity.

Schacht pled 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 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, a liberal, 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.[11]. Eventually, the British had it their way.

Hjalmar Schacht (right) with Stafford Sands, while visiting the Bahamas in 1962

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.

Schacht died in Munich, Germany on 3 June 1970.


Schacht wrote 26 books during his lifetime, of which at least four have been translated in English:

  • The End of Reparations (1931)
  • Account Settled (1949) after his acquittal at the Nuremberg Trials
  • Confessions of the Old Wizard (1953)
  • The Magic Of Money (1967)


  • Gustave Gilbert, an American Army psychologist, examined the Nazi leaders who were tried at Nuremberg. He administered a German version of the Wechsler-Bellevue IQ test. Schacht scored 143, the highest among the leaders tested, after adjustment upwards to take account of his age.[12]
  • When he stabilized the mark in 1923 Schacht's office was a former charwoman's cupboard. When his secretary, Fraulein Steffeck, was later asked about his work there she described it:
What did he do? He sat on his chair and smoked in his little dark room which still smelled of old floor cloths. Did he read letters? No, he read no letters. Did he write letters? No, he wrote no letters. He telephoned a great deal — he telephoned in every direction and to every German or foreign place that had anything to do with money and foreign exchange as well as with the Reichsbank and the Finance Minister. And he smoked. We did not eat much during that time. We usually went home late, often by the last suburban train, travelling third class. Apart from that he did nothing.[13]

Portrayal in popular culture

Hjalmar Schacht has been portrayed by the following actors in film, television and theater productions;[14]

  • Felix Basch in the 1943 United States propaganda film Mission to Moscow
  • Wladyslaw Hancza in the 1971 Polish film Epilogue at Nurnberg
  • James Bradford in the 2000 Canadian/U.S. TV production Nuremberg
  • Stoyan Aleksiev in the 2006 British television docudrama Nuremberg: Nazis on Trial


  1. ^ a b c d e f Hjalmar SCHACHT, biography by Frédéric Clavert, author of a thesis on Schacht, Hjalmar Schacht, financier et diplomate 1930-1950, Univ. of Strasbourg, France, 2006 (French)/(English)/(German)
  2. ^ a b Peterson,Edward Norman. Hjalmar Schacht: For and Against Hitler. Christopher Publishing House (Boston: 1954) pg. 24-31
  3. ^ Peterson, Edward Norman. Hjalmar Schacht: For and Against Hitler. Christopher Publishing House (Boston: 1954) pg. 49-62
  4. ^ Simpson, Amos E. Hjalmar Schacht in Perspective. Mouton Group (Paris: 1969) pg. 30-32
  5. ^ Simpson, Amos E. Hjalmar Schacht in Perspective. Mouton Group (Paris: 1969) pg. 179
  6. ^ Persico, Joseph E. Nuremberg: Infamy on Trial. Penguin Group (New York: 1984) pg. 333(English)
  7. ^ Kershaw, Ian. Hitler Nemesis. New York: Norton (2000). pages 18-20
  8. ^ Gisevius, Hans Bernd (1998). To the Bitter End: An Insider's Account of the Plot to Kill Hitler, 1933-1944. New York: Da Capo Press. pp. 304-306. ISBN 0-306-80869-2. 
  9. ^ Peterson, Edward Norman. Hjalmar Schacht: For and Against Hitler. Christopher Publishing House (Boston: 1954) pg. 340(English)
  10. ^ georg-elser-arbeitskreis.de (German)
  11. ^ Taylor, Telford. The Anatomy of the Nuremberg Trials: A Personal Memoir. Alfred A. Knopf (New York: 1992) pg. 564-65
  12. ^ Gilbert, Gustave. Nuremberg Diaries. Da Capo Press (New York: 1947).
  13. ^ When Money Dies: The Nightmare of the Weimar Collapse Chapter 13: Schacht
  14. ^ "Hjalmar Schacht (Character)". IMDb.com. http://www.imdb.com/character/ch0053835/. Retrieved 20 May 2008. 

Further reading

  • Ahamed, Liaquat. Lords of Finance: The Bankers Who Broke the World. Penguin Books, 2009.
  • Weitz, John. Hitler's Banker: Hjalmar Horace Greeley Schacht. Boston: Little, Brown and Co. 1997. ISBN 0-316-92916-6.

External links


Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

Hjalmar Schacht

Dr. Hjalmar Horace Greeley Schacht (22 January 18773 June 1970) was Currency Commissioner and President of the Reichsbank under the Weimar Republic, and President of the Reichsbank under the Nazi regime between 1933 and 1939. Schacht was one of the primary drivers of Germany's policy of redevelopment, reindustrialization and rearmament, and was a fierce critic of his country's post-WW1 reparation obligations. Released from effective service to the Nazi government in 1939, Schacht ended WWII in a concentration camp, and was tried and acquitted at Nuremberg for his role in Germany's war economy. Schacht died in Munich, Germany on June 3, 1970.


  • My so-called foreign friends do neither me nor the situation nor themselves any good when they try to bring me into opposition to the allegedly impossible National Socialist economic theories and declare me to some extent the protector of economic reason. I can assure you that everything I say and do has the complete approval of the Fuhrer and that I would not say or do anything that does not have his approval.
    • Speech in Leipzig (4 March 1935), as quoted in The Trial of the Germans : An Account of the Twenty-Two Defendants Before the International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg (1997) by Eugene Davidson, p. 234
  • The Jews must realize that their influence in Germany has disappeared for all time. We wish to keep our people and our culture pure and distinctive, just as the Jews have always demanded this of themselves.
    • Speech in Koenigsberg (18 August 1935), as quoted in The Trial of the Germans : An Account of the Twenty-Two Defendants Before the International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg (1997) by Eugene Davidson, p. 235
  • It has been shown that, in contrast to everything which classical national economy has hitherto taught, not the producer but the consumer is the ruling factor in economic life.
    • As quoted Nazi Conspiracy and Aggression (1946) by the United States Department of State, Vol. 2, p. 746
  • The memory of war weighs undiminished upon the people's minds. That is because deeper than material wounds, moral wounds are smarting, inflicted by the so-called peace treaties. ... Material loss can be made up through renewed labor, but the moral wrong which has been inflicted upon the conquered peoples, in the peace dictates, leaves a burning scar on the people's conscience. ... The Versailles Dictate cannot be an eternal document, because not only its economic, but also its spiritual and moral premises are wrong.
    • On the Treaty of Versailles, as quoted in Nazi Conspiracy and Aggression (1946) by the United States Department of State, Vol. 2, p. 754
  • Colonies are necessary to Germany. We shall get them through negotiation if possible; but if not, we shall take them.
    • As quoted in Trial of the Major War Criminals Before the International Military Tribunal (1947) by the International Military Tribunal, Vol. 5, p. 134
  • One thing I fear, that you Americans will do the same thing that you did after the last war. I mean that you will pull out of here and leave Europe, then Russia will have her way. Private enterprise and individual rights will be lost just as much as under a Nazi government. Frightful!
    • To Leon Goldensohn (27 January 1946). Quoted in "The Nuremberg Interviews" - by Leon Goldensohn, Robert Gellately - History - 2004
  • There was only the choice between Communism and Hitler, and I will tell you why Hitler won. People will not give up religion, rights, freedom of personality, the opportunity to develop by individual effort - which includes private property. And the other reason for Hitler's winning is that if a whole people is treated as the Germans were, everyone will say, 'Are we worse people than others? Are we of a minor race?' Just as every single individual needs and must have self-respect, just as every family is proud of decent traditions, so every nation wants to maintain her individual manner, culture, language, and customs. It was in these respects that Communism failed. The Communists said that God was nonsense and stupidity and preached internationalism without maintaining the natural national feelings of a nation.
    • To Leon Goldensohn (10 March 1946). Quoted in "The Nuremberg Interviews" - by Leon Goldensohn, Robert Gellately - History - 2004
  • I was never in the army - I never had a uniform - I was never a soldier. I detest uniforms because they make one unfree. There is an old quotation that goes something like this: 'Your mind will be trained well, but confined to Spanish boots.' That quotation is very apt. It signifies how narrow the military mind becomes.
    • To Leon Goldensohn (18 May 1946). Quoted in "The Nuremberg Interviews" - by Leon Goldensohn, Robert Gellately - History - 2004
  • I have never believed in war. It is a crime against humanity whether you win or lose. I just read an article in this magazine I have in my hands that one day the moon will fall on the earth, but it is my feeling that until then, we should try to make the world a better place to live in.
    • To Leon Goldensohn (9 June 1946). Quoted in "The Nuremberg Interviews" - by Leon Goldensohn, Robert Gellately - History - 2004
Hjalmar Schacht at the Nuremberg Trials

Quotes about Schacht

  • Schacht is a disappointment because of another thing. If I would have had the terrible secrets of crimes committed by the Nazis in my hands, which Schacht said he possessed, then I would not have participated for ten years in a conspiracy. And I wouldn't participate in an Attentat solely in 1944, which incidentally was to be committed not by Schacht but by others - a cowardly Attentat at that, which meant placing a bomb under Hitler's table and then running off. If Schacht felt as nauseated by the Nazis as he now claims, he would have had to draw a pistol himself and shoot the man responsible for these dastardly actions, I mean Hitler himself. Anything else is unthinkable, with the knowledge that Schacht had.
  • He seems unable to brook any criticism or challenging of his stories or statements. My comments from time to time, my obvious failure to be convinced of his complete innocence and lack of guile were irritating to him, and his voice reached heights of shrillness at times. As ever, his is still the pose of outraged innocence, and the honest banker indignant.
  • The most dangerous and reprehensible type of all opportunists, someone who would use a Hitler for his own ends, and then claim, after Hitler was defeated, to have been against him all the time. He was part of a movement that he knew was wrong, but was in it just because he saw it was winning.
  • It was Schacht, the facade of starched respectability, who in the early days provided the window dressing, the bait for the hesitant, and whose wizardry later made it possible for Hitler to finance the colossal rearmament program and to do it secretly.
    • Robert H. Jackson
  • But Schacht was infinitely more reasonable than the Nazis. He was fundamentally a dynamic, changeable person. In the beginning, therefore, it was quite logical that he should be attracted by the dynamic, dramatic, short-term ideas of the Nazis. As I said, Schacht has intelligence, but is not particularly a man of principle, although I think he believes he is. But it is reasonable to assume that later on he differed with the Nazis. He was too intelligent to go along to the extremes, which they pursued in their folly.

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