This Day In History: Water Rathenau Was Put In Charge of Raw Materials for Germany’s War Effort (1914)

Deutscher Sturmwagen in Roye
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The need to efficiently use raw materials was vital. If the Germans could not find certain supplies such as rubber and chemicals then they would be defeated. they did not have the resources of Britain and France. Berlin knew that if its armies were to be victorious they needed to have the appropriate materials for their armaments industry in particular.
Rathenau, the son of AEG’s founder, had approached the German War Department  with the  idea of centralizing the management of the war production process under a single body. This would mean that there was a rational and efficient way of sourcing and storing resources that were needed for the armaments industry.  He had the idea later of extending the body to all the occupied territories. This was to prove to be a brilliant idea.
ADN-ZB/Archiv Konterrevolutionärer Kapp-Putsch vom 13.-17.3.1920 in Berlin Die etwa 5.000 Mann starke Marinebrigade II unter dem Befehl von Kapitän Hermann Ehrhardt marschiert, aus Döberitz kommend, in den frühen Morgenstunden des 13. März in Berlin ein. Die Brigade bildet die militärische Stoßkraft des von Wolfgang Kapp und General Walther von Lüttwitz geführten Putsches. Kapitän Ehrhardt (links, im Auto sitzend) beim Einmarsch der Marinebrigade am 13. März in Berlin. 12289-24 [Scherl Bilderdienst]
Rathenau during the Kapp Putsch
 Each commodity used in war production would have its own raw materials company, with a board of directors drawn from the firms that used the given commodity.Rathenau convinced Falkenhayn, that he could combine the free market approach with state control to ensure that Germany had an effective war production process. Falkenhayn was convinced and made Rathenau the head of what became the KRA.This was the German war production body and as a result one of the most important men in Germany.  This was extraordinary for the time as Rathenau was a Jew and the German military was anti-Semitic. However, Rathenau did not serve in the position long as many refused to serve under a Jew. He was forced to resign and rejoined AEG, the firm that his father had found.

Rathenau  remained active in politics, and supported the virtual military dictatorship of Paul von Hindenburg and Erich Ludendorff, in August 1916. However, he began to oppose some of the duo’s policies such as the unrestricted submarine warfare. After the German Revolution, he served as minister for reconstruction from 1919 to 1921 and became foreign minister in 1922 in the Weimar Republic. Ratheneau was a brilliant figure and helped to steer the Weimar Republic through its various crises. He became a hated figure because of his policies, especially with the right,  after signing the controversial Treaty of Rapallo with the Soviet Union. the Treaty established diplomatic relations between the two countries. Rathenau was assassinated  in Berlin by right wing terrorists.

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