Berlin (Jun. 24)
The powerful Republican forces in Germany, organised in the Reichsbanner, the Social Democratic Party, the Centre (Catholic) Party, and the Democratic State Party, observed solemnly to-day the tenth anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Walter Rathenau, who was murdered by antisemites almost outside his home in the Koenigsallee on June 24th., 1922.
A memorial gathering was held to-day in the Assembly Hall of the Reichstag, at which representatives of the Government and leading politicians spoke.
Memorial gathering were also held outside Dr. Rathenau’s house in the Koenigsallee, at the side of a tree which still bears the marks of two bullets fired by the assassins, and at the graveside in the Jewish Cemetery. Many thousands of Republicans assembled in the Cemetery, and nearly a thousand Republican banners of branches of the Reichsbanner were stacked over the Rathenau family vault.
The general press, except for the Nazi papers, is full of tributes to Dr. Rathenau’s memory.
The “Berliner Tageblatt”, the “Vossische Zeitung”, and the “Vorwaerts” publish editorials praising Dr. Rathenau as philosopher, statesman, financier, diplomat and all-sided genius.
When Dr. Rathenau was murdered ten years ago, Germany and all Europe and America were aghast. About half a million people filled the Jewish cemetery for the funeral, and the late President Ebert, the first President of the Republic, speaking in the Reichstag before the cortege left, said that the crime was a blow aimed at the very heart of the Republic.
Dr. Rathenau’s mother, Madame Mathilda Rathenau, who died in July 1926, at the age of 82, was a pathetic figure at the funeral, leaning on the arm of Professor Albert Einstein, who was an intimate friend of her son.
A few months later, when the murderers were put on trial, she sent a letter to the mother of one of the murderers, Techow, in which she wrote:
Tell your son that I forgive him in the name of my murdered son. If he had known him, he would sooner have shot himself than this most noble man.
THE “PROTOCOLS” BEHIND THE MURDER
In pronouncing the sentences on the murderers, the President of the Court said that behind them stood that fanatical antisemitism which had produced the notorious “Protocols of the Elders of Zion”, which was responsible for planting murderous instincts in immature minds. The murder of Rathenau, he went on, was one of the most dastardly crimes in history, and much of the distress in Germany would have been averted if Rathenau had remained alive. He hoped that Rathenau’s death would serve as the great sacrifice which would clear the poisoned air in Germany.
After the conclusion of the evidence, before sentence was pronounced, the Public Prosecutor, Dr. Ebermayer, delivered a short address, in which he said that the murder of Rathenau was not a crime against Rathenau himself, but against the whole German people, who by his death had lost one of its best and most capable brains. The murderers had held Rathenau to be a danger to the country because he was a Jew. The prisoners were only inexperienced immature schoolboys who had been led astray by the lies in the antisemitic press.
DR. RATHENAU THE ALL-SIDED GENIUS
Dr. Walter Rathenau was the son of Emil Rathenau, the founder of the General Electric Company, whom he succeeded as its head. He was a cousin and a close friend of the great painter, Professor Max Liebermann.
He himself was the founder of the nitrogen industry in Germany. In addition to being an industrialist, a financial magnate and a statesman, he was also a technician, a physicist, a philosopher, and a writer on national economy, sociology and ethics. He was talented, too, in music and painting. At the University, he did brilliantly in physics, mathematics and chemistry.
He was a keen student of German foreign policy long before the war, and wrote a great deal on this subject. He was an outstanding advocate in his writings and speeches for an understanding and close friendship between Germany and England, which would have averted the Great War. When the war broke out he organised the provision of raw material for war manufactures in Germany. In 1917, he was the chief opponent to Ludendorff’s idea of a ruthless submarine warfare.
He had always been a man of advanced democratic ideas and when the Revolution came he was in the forefront of the Republic movement. He had a vision of a new Europe, in which there would be no enmities and no national hatreds. This was the theme of his book “Of Coming Things”, which ran into 55 editions.
It was this policy that he afterwards tried to pursue in his work as Foreign Minister, seeking to restore Germany to her place in the concert of the nations, and to promote peace and understanding, particularly with England and France.
In 1920 he was one of the German experts at the Spa Conference, and in 1921 he was adviser to the London Conference. The same year he was appointed Minister for Reconstruction in the German Federal Ministry. When Erzberger was assassinated, he succeeded him as Foreign Minister, declaring at the time that he knew that he would also be assassinated, but he would not allow that knowledge to deter him from his duty to his country.
WHEN OFFICE WAS NOT OPEN TO A JEW HE COULD HAVE OBTAINED IT BY BAPTISM: BUT THAT WOULD HAVE BEEN ACTING AGAINST MY CONVICTION AND GIVING MY CONSENT TO THIS BREACH OF RIGHTS
In a letter which Rathenau wrote about a year before the end of the war under date of December 12th., 1917 to Frauvon Hindenburg, the wife of Field-Marshal von Hindenburg, now President of the Republic, who had urged him to take up politics, he said:
If I had wanted to take up politics, you know that all outside circumstances would have prevented it. Even if I and my ancestors have served our country according to the best of our ability. I, as you know, being a Jew, am a second-class
citizen. I could not become a political official-in time of peace not even a lieutenant. By changing my faith I could have escaped this bar, but that would have been acting against my conviction, and giving my consent to the breach of rights committed by the ruling class.
Rathenau has been described as the most capable man in the German Government since the Revolution. In education and culture he was said to have been the superior of any European statesman of the time. He was a marvellous orator, and he spoke English, French and Italian fluently.
The anniversary of Rathenau’s death has been observed each year by the organised Republican movement in Germany.
The late Deputy Dr. Ludwig Haas, speaking at one of these memorial meetings, held at his graveside, said:
We remember Walter Rathenau not only on the anniversary of his death. We think always of this great man, this great Republican and great statesman, who laid the foundations of Germany’s foreign policy. He unbolted the door which had barred Germany from the world. He compelled the world to hear Germany’s voice. Rathenau’s work is to-day a part of history. When he placed himself at the service of the Republic, he knew well that he was endangering his life, but he did not shrink from the danger and he did his work till he fell at the hand of the assassins.