Research project on the history of the Bundesbank and its predecessors

Office building of the Bank deutscher Länder in Frankfurt am Main, Taunusanlage 4-6, year 1950. ©Bundesbank
Office building of the Bank deutscher Länder in Frankfurt am Main, 1950.
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.

Academic conference and volume of books planned

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 Bundesbank President 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.