- (1877-1941)politician; served as Finance Min-ister in two Weimar cabinets. The Vienna-born son of a Jewish businessman, he took a doctorate in medicine in 1901 and worked briefly as a Viennese children's doctor. But it was as a Marxist economist that he made his name. During 1904-1923 he assisted Viktor Adler, the Austrian socialist, with publi-cation of Marx-Studien. His keen knowledge of economics was underscored by Finanzkapital, a 1910 publication. In 1906 he relocated to Berlin* and joined the SPD. During 1907-1916 he served on the editorial board of Vorwärts.* As the paper's political editor in 1914, he opposed the SPD's official policy when war broke out, but he worked to avoid a Party rift. He was conscripted into the Austrian army's medical service in May 1915 and served for the balance of the war in field hospitals.Influenced by his pacifism, Hilferding joined the USPD in 1918 and became editor of the Party daily, Freiheit, a position he retained until the USPD dis-solved in 1922. He took German citizenship in 1919 and became prominent in the USPD's right wing, speaking eloquently in opposition to unity with the KPD. During 1919-1921 he served with the Socialization Commission,* vainly urging a limited nationalization of the coal industry. After he facilitated the 1922 re-unification with the SPD, he edited the SPD's key theoretical journal (Die Ge-sellschaft), assisted in shaping the SPD's 1925 program, served continuously on the SPD's Parteivorstand, and sat in the Reichstag* during 1924-1933. He was Finance Minister first under Gustav Stresemann* (August-October 1923) and then from June 1928 in Hermann Muller's* second cabinet. As the SPD's eco-nomics authority, he espoused the concentration of capital under a democrati-cally elected hierarchy. Although his financial wizardry was considerable, his inability to translate theory into practice was a severe handicap to both his ministry and the cabinets he served. In December 1929 he resigned his portfolio in protest against Reichsbank President Hjalmar Schacht's* interference with financial policies.After fleeing to Switzerland in March 1933, Hilferding assisted socialist ref-ugees. In 1938 he went to Paris to write for Neue Vorwarts. He was desperately seeking a visa in 1940 for Switzerland when he and his friend Rudolf Breit-scheid* were delivered to the Nazis; the Gestapo executed him in Paris.REFERENCES:Benz and Graml, Biographisches Lexikon; Breitman, German Socialism; Morgan, Socialist Left; NDB, vol. 9; Smaldone, "Rudolf Hilferding."
A Historical dictionary of Germany's Weimar Republic, 1918-1933. C. Paul Vincent.
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