See studies by H. K. U. Kessler (1928, tr. 1930, repr. 1969), D. Felix (1971), and H. Pogge von Strandmann (1985).
(born Sept. 29, 1867, Berlin, Prussia—died June 24, 1922, Berlin, Ger.) German industrialist and statesman. From 1915 he headed the AEG conglomerate developed by his father, Emil Rathenau (1838–1915). In World War I he organized the conservation and distribution of raw materials for the War Ministry. In 1918 he cofounded the liberal German Democratic Party and supported cooperation with the Social Democratic Party. After serving as minister of reconstruction (1921–22), he was appointed foreign minister and negotiated the Treaty of Rapallo with the Soviet Union. Reviled by extreme nationalists as a Jew and a promoter of “creeping Communism,” he was assassinated.
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In 1865, Rathenau was a partner in a factory, during which time (while traveling abroad) he recognized the possibilities of the then newly emerging electrical technology. In 1881, with the help of a bank group, he acquired the rights to manufacture products based on the patents of Thomas Alva Edison. In 1883 he formed the "German Edison Society for Applied Electricity" (Deutsche Edison-Gesellschaft für angewandte Elektricität), which in 1887 formed into Allgemeine Elektricitäts-Gesellschaft (or AEG).
In 1903, Rathenau was appointed general manager of AEG. Together with his competitor and business partner Werner von Siemens, they formed the Telefunken Gesellschaft für drahtlose Telegraphie mbH. Rathenau held numerous positions on the supervisory board of Berliner Handels-Gesellschaft und der Elektrizitäts AG vorm. W. Lahmeyer & Co.
Rathenau was married in 1866 to Mathilde Nachmann, daughter of a Frankfurt banker. One of his sons was the famous Walther Rathenau, a Weimar-era industrialist, politician, and progressive economist. Walther was assassinated in June 1922 by gangsters of the extreme right-wing. He had another son named Erich Rathenau.