Kirdorf, Emil

(1847-1938)
   industrialist; exemplar of the "reactionary monopoly capitalist." He was born near Duïsseldorf in the town of Mettmann; his father was a textile manufacturer. Upon the collapse of the family's business in 1871, he left textiles and, prodded by an older brother, joined the recently formed Gelsenkirchen Mining Company (GBAG) as trade director. Despite a lack of mining expertise, Kirdorf soon guided the firm's fortunes. He built GBAG into Germany's largest coal producer and became managing director in 1892. Known as "the Bismarck of the coal industry," he competed with Hugo Stinnes* and August Thyssen and guided GBAG's vertical expansion in 1902-1903 into iron and steel.
   Kirdorf was an outspoken reactionary before World War I. Condemning the Kaiser's lifting of the Anti-Socialist Law as dangerous (he so disliked Wilhelm that he rejected an offer of ennoblement), he joined and promoted imperialist organizations such as the Pan-German League. During the war he was an ardent annexationist.
   When the Versailles Treaty* forced divestment of much of his plant (the loss of iron mines in Lorraine was a blow), Kirdorf belatedly embraced an October 1918 proposal of Stinnes and Albert Vogler* to form an Interessengemeinschaft among several of Germany's largest iron, steel, and finished-products concerns (including that of Carl von Siemens*); the resulting Siemens-Rheinelbe-Schuckert-Union, which lasted five years, was succeeded in 1926 by the mam-moth United Steel combine. Not surprisingly, Kirdorf was a resolute opponent of the Republic (he labeled the regime the "rule of rabble"), a champion of the Dolchstosslegende,* and a supporter of the 1920 Kapp* Putsch. Although he was a member of the DNVP, the Party so alienated him by cooperating with the Republic that he switched to the NSDAP in 1927. Seeing in Hitler* a chance to triumph against democracy, socialism, and ultramontane Catholicism,* he distributed Hitler's pamphlet, Der Weg zum Weideraufsteig (The road to resur-gence), to prominent industrialists. But the socialist rhetoric of the Party's left wing soon alienated him; in August 1928 he rejoined the DNVP.
   Kirdorf's role in financing Hitler's rise remains a topic of debate; having celebrated his eightieth birthday in 1927, he had relinquished much of his fi-nancial power by the time he met the Nazi leader. Although he was not anti-Semitic, he retained a public friendship with Hitler even after his withdrawal from the NSDAP; this probably benefitted Hitler more than money. He returned to the NSDAP after Hitler's seizure of power.
   REFERENCES:Feldman, Great Disorder and Iron and Steel; NDB,vol. 11;Turner, "Emil Kirdorf" and German Big Business.

A Historical dictionary of Germany's Weimar Republic, 1918-1933. .

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