Stinnes, Hugo

   industrialist; with interests in coal mining, steel, electricity, newspapers, hotels, and shipping, this master of commercial combination was the most successful German industrialist of his age. Born in Mülheim to a prosperous coal-merchant family, he had only a brief technical education before he employed an innate talent at commercial expansion. Inher-iting the family firm, he applied courage and imagination to recast it in 1901 as one of the largest coal and steel combines in northwest Germany: the Deutsch-Luxemburgische Bergwerks- und Hutten-AG (German-Luxemburg Mining and Smelting Company). He soon became supervisory-board chairman of the Rhein-isch-Westfalische Elektrizitatswerk, and he and August Thyssen gained majority control of the company in 1905. Not only were his pre-1914 steel and electrical holdings Germany s largest, but his international trade in paper and petroleum was striking. By 1912, while sitting on the governing boards of twenty-two companies, he had enlarged Deutsch-Lux into a major vertical industrial con-glomerate.
   The casual observer mistook this somber and poorly dressed man for the model of modesty. But while Stinnes disdained the trappings of wealth, he nurtured a passionate vanity: he truly believed that what was good for his en-terprises was good for Germany. In World War I his annexationist demands exceeded those of colleagues. Preparing for victory, he created a new company in 1917 for overseas trade. Never opposed to dealing with organized labor, he indicated in 1917, when the idea of forming an employer-union compact was first raised, that his only concern was gaining union support for his annexationist aims in Longwy-Briey and Belgium. In the turmoil following on Germany s defeat, he was pleased to link his name on 15 November 1918 with that of Carl Legien,* president of the General Commission of Trade Unions, in the compact that heralded the Central Working Association* (ZAG).
   Neither Stinnes s zeal nor his business stature were impaired when Germany s defeat established the naivete of his faith in Erich Ludendorff.* In 1919 he joined the presidium of RdI; on 6 June 1920 he was elected to the Reichstag* as a member of the DVP. Devoid of monarchism,* he devised a nonsocialist plan for reconstruction through individualism and industrial integration. Because he was deemed the archetype of a predatory capitalist, his high profile dismayed DVP chairman Gustav Stresemann,* but Stinnes retained his parliamentary man-date until his death. After 1918 he purchased several newspapers,* including the Deutsche Allgemeine Zeitung. He also gained control in 1920 of the bulk of Germany's coal base by founding the Rheinelbe Union, an Interessenge-meinschaft that linked Deutsch-Lux with Emil Kirdorf s* Gelsenkirchener Bergwerke. Soon thereafter he and Carl von Siemens* formed the Siemens-Rheinelbe-Schuckert-Union.
   The June 1920 elections produced a governing coalition that included the DVP. Because of his prominence, Stinnes was asked to attend the Spa Confer-ence* of July 1920 as an industrial expert; the gesture nearly brought disaster. He was convinced that the only means to handle the Allies was via intransi-gence; his reckless comments at Spa almost led to an early Ruhr occupation.* Although his more evenhanded colleagues averted Allied action, Stinnes rein-forced French opinion that the only way to deal with the Germans was through ultimatums (he later recommended transforming reparations* into a private issue between German and French businessmen). His pugnacity was celebrated in Germany.
   Despite his Reichstag mandate, Stinnes argued that a parliamentary system was unsuited to Germany and that the Reich s future should be placed in the hands of entrepreneurs. He rarely attended Reichstag sessions, never addressed the chamber, and gave lukewarm support to the DVP in his own newspapers. Perhaps the country's greatest inflation* profiteer, he sought in 1923 to undo the collective bargaining system and extend the workday. Openly hostile to Stresemann, he opposed the Chancellor s foreign and domestic strategy during the Ruhr occupation.
   Stinnes was plagued by ill health at the end of his life and died at age fifty-four on 10 April 1924. By force of will he had consciously overextended his assets with bank credits. In the year after his death his industrial holdings (num-bering 1,664 firms) suffered massively under currency stabilization.
   REFERENCES:Benz and Graml, Biographisches Lexikon; Bonn, Wandering Scholar; Feldman, "German Business and Great Disorder; Wulf, Hugo Stinnes.

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

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  • Stinnes, Hugo — ▪ German industrialist born Feb. 22, 1870, Mülheim, Ger. died Apr. 10, 1924, Berlin       German industrialist who emerged after World War I as Germany s “business kaiser,” controlling coal mines, steel mills, hotels, electrical factories,… …   Universalium

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  • Stinnes-Legien-Pakt — Das Stinnes Legien Abkommen vom 15. November 1918 war ein Vertrag zwischen Spitzenvertretern der Gewerkschaften und der deutschen Industrie. Seinen Namen verdankt es den beiden federführenden Unterzeichnern: Carl Legien, dem damaligen… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

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  • Hugo Stinnes — (February 12, 1870 April 10, 1924) was a German industrialist and politician born in Mülheim, in the Ruhr Valley, North German Confederation. In 1890 he inherited his father s coal mining and other financial enterprises. At the age of 23 Stinnes… …   Wikipedia

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