Silverberg, Paul

(1876-1959)
   industrialist; a leading figure in the RdI. Born in the town of Bedburg, near Cologne, to a Jewish industrialist (he was baptized a Protestant*), he took a doctorate in law and founded a legal practice. Upon his father s death in 1903 he dissolved the practice to become General-direktor of the family s lignite (brown coal) industry. He acquired a neighboring firm in 1908; the resultant Rheinische AG für Braunkohlenbergbau und Briket-tenfabrikation (Rheinbraun) was Germany's largest lignite-mining firm.
   Although Silverberg was calculating and opportunistic, he was one of indus-try s more progressive minds. An early member of the RdI, he sat on the So-cialization Commission* and sponsored selective cooperation with labor. In January 1923, with inflation* accelerating, he introduced a plan inspired by Hugo Stinnes* for reconstructing the economy. His 1926 speech at the annual RdI meeting, claiming that business had come to accept the Republic, provoked controversy and was condemned by some associates. Revealingly, he boasted that in the Republic s early years (when he had apparently supported SPD pol-icies) business had consciously subverted socialization by regularly proposing new ways to achieve it.
   Instrumental in creating the Rhenish lignite cartel, Silverberg became super-visory board chairman in the mid-1920s of Harpener Bergbau, a giant bitumi-nous (soft coal) firm. A patron of vertical concentration, he maintained key holdings in public utilities and the electrical industry. Politically enigmatic, he joined the DVP in 1926. In 1928 he entered the Ruhrlade, a secret industrial lobby founded by Paul Reusch* to wield political influence. He had once been a sponsor of Gustav Stresemann s* foreign policy, but his politics shifted to the Right with the onset of the depression.* After promoting Heinrich Brüning,* he grew uneasy with the Chancellor s economic policies and eventually rejected his offer of a cabinet post.
   Fearing socialization through a "black-brown alliance" of the Center Party* and the NSDAP, Silverberg defended the antilabor cabinet of Franz von Papen* in 1932. Yet upon Papen's demise he bolstered Kurt von Schleicher's* efforts to court both Gregor Strasser* and the trade unions,* and encouraged a plan to lift the moratorium that was protecting bankrupt Junkers.* After January 1933 he vainly tried to placate the NSDAP with protestations of loyalty. Soon forced to yield his positions, he fled to Switzerland, where, despite appeals to come home, he remained after 1945.
   REFERENCES:David Abraham, Collapse of the Weimar Republic; Meynen, "Dr. Paul Silverberg"; Neebe, Grossindustrie; Turner, German Big Business and "Ruhrlade."

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

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