In Memoriam Franz Oppenheimer

Year Book of the Leo Baeck Institut, 10, 1965, pp. 137-149.

[p. 137] On the 30th of September 1943, in his eightieth year, Franz Oppenheimer died in Los Angeles, a poor, ill, lonely man. He had arrived there three years earlier after a painful Odyssey around half the world, only to spend the end of his life struggling with the vicissitudes that are the typical fate of the refugees of our days. A few casual obituaries were not enough to remind a world then locked in a desperate struggle with the enemies of humanity, of the passing of a social prophet, the author of the most comprehensive System der Soziologie ever written, the admired teacher of generations of social scientists all over Central Europe, the enthusiastic reformer who, at the Zionist Congress of 1903, was the first to offer a comprehensive programme for the economic reconstruction of what was to become the State of Israel.

True, in 1964, using the occasion of the centenary of his birth, the academic authorities in Berlin, Frankfurt am Main and Jerusalem, together with surviving friends led by his most illustrious student: Bundeskanzler Ludwig Erhard, paid a belated tribute to Oppenheimer's memory. But there is no denying the fact that his image as a most colourful personality, a scholar of the broadest scope, an indomitable fighter for social justice and human betterment and, last but not least, as a great Jew, has faded. In this country a small group of social scientists connected through the American Journal of Economics and Sociology tries to keep his teaching alive. To the wider Anglo-American public he is today only a name.

One may think little of the verdict of posterity. But one cannot but feel shocked and pained that an eclipse should be so rapid. More important, we must ask ourselves what can be done to assure Oppenheimer a place in the historical records worthy of his achievements.

To answer this question we must try to evaluate Oppenheimer's stature - as a man, a scholar and a practical reformer - from the distance that separates our time from his. An almost unbridgeable gulf lies between the present and the era in which Oppenheimer grew to maturity of thought and action. In conjuring up the vision of that era - an era of apparent political stability and peaceful evolution, dominated by a universal faith [p. 138] in the ultimate goodness of Man and thus in the inevitability of human progress - we seem to speak of a lost paradise. This is certainly an exaggeration, and we shall presently see that Oppenheimer himself was fully aware that the foundations on which his world rested were more than shaky. And yet those who are rooted in that past, among them many of the surviving German Jews, share in the experience so strikingly demonstrated by the case of Oppenheimer: time seems somehow to have passed them by. Thus in trying to understand his historical role we may find a clue to our own fortune.


Oppenheimer was born in 1864 as the elder son of the Rabbi of the Berlin Reform Congregation, possibly the first such congregation ever established. The time, the place, and the family surroundings in which he spent his childhood and adolescence left indelible traces in the intellectual and emotional posture of the mature man. There and then his attitude was formed as a Jew, a German and, in his words, as a middle-class reformer for whom liberty was the ultimate value.

Oppenheimer grew up during that brief period in German history when the large majority of Jews was not conscious of any real or potential conflict between their Jewish and their German loyalties. How far the emphasis was on the latter, can be judged by his father's dictum - the earliest which Oppenheimer could remember: "I am a German, and as such I am loyal, sincere and without falsehood." No less revealing is a little poem which the son composed at the age of fifteen, as the first rumblings of political antisemitism sounded. There he exulted in the thought that more than ten generations of his ancestors had lived along the Rhine, that an uncle had died fighting against the Danes and a cousin had fallen in the Franco-Prussian war, both of them battling for Germany's honour. Who then, he concluded, would dare to deny him the status of a true, a native German?

In the light of recent history such protestations make us uncomfortable. But let us beware of hypocritical hindsight. Would not most American Jews, in substituting Guadalcanal and Normandy for Alsen and Mars la Tour, speak today in a similar vein? What we meet here is a frame of mind, mutatis mutandis typical for most Westernized Jews, in which Kant and Goethe took precedence over Torah and Talmud, and the Bible itself was read in Luther's translation. Thus it is not surprising that, among the friends of his younger years, Detlev von Liliencron, Richard Dehmel, later on his brother-in-law, and Otto Erich Hartleben played a leading role.

And yet all his life Oppenheimer was a proud Jew, unafraid of demonstrating his solidarity at considerable risks. The story is widely remembered when, as a student, he challenged an entire antisemitic fraternity [p. 139] to a hundred duels with heavy sabres. It was he who exposed the antisemitic machinations of the Prussian War Ministry during the First World War. But most important, he identified himself with the Zionist movement from its early beginnings and stood by it even in the face of serious ideological differences. What then were the foundations on which his Jewish consciousness rested?

It certainly was not religious orthodoxy. Soon he transcended even his early Reform Judaism, declaring himself "fully assimilated" and "confessionally neutral." Nor was he inspired by nationalist or racial convictions. Rather he denounced extreme forms of Jewish nationalism as the ,,photographic negative of antisemitism" and a danger to the true aspirations of Zionism, which he interpreted as the wish to build up Palestine as a "Levantine Switzerland".

It is easy to state what type of Jew Oppenheimer did not want to be. It is more difficult, as is again true of many Westernized Jews, to dig down to his real roots. In strongly denouncing those Jews who tried to conceal their origin, he sometimes spoke of his Jewish "Stammesbewusstsein," a term probably best rendered as consciousness of belonging to a unique historical group. In this attitude belief in the message of the Prophets - that "purest embodiment of what is truly humane" - mingled with a naive pride of ancestry, which made him trace his pedigree back to the tribe of Juda and the House of David. Another element, revealing what Leopold v. Wiese called his magnificent animality, was his admiration for the Maccabees. It found characteristic expression in a Memorial speech for the victims of the Russian pogroms of 1905. There he contrasted the newest martyrs with the earlier victims of Kischinew who surrendered to mass slaughter without offering resistance, thus "poisoning our sorrow with contempt."[2] But now in Odessa and Kiev a Haganah had been formed whose members fought and died as "true heirs of the Maccabees". Had Oppenheimer lived to witness the Israeli War of Independence he would have hailed it as the consummation of that spirit.

Unwritten but strict social rules have always limited the vocational prospects of a German Jew. These rules became decisive for Oppenheimer's original choice of a career. By talent as well as by interest he was marked out for the study of history and the humanities, fields which then included what we call today the social sciences. But coming from a family of modest means he had to prepare for a living. He chose the study of medicine which he viewed with less reservations than theology, law or a technical profession, though by no means with enthusiasm. It may seem a pity that he thus spent ten years of his adult life on the preparation for, [p. 140] and the building up of, a medical practice. But in retrospect he himself felt that his training in the natural sciences, especially in biology, played a significant part in shaping his outlook as a social researcher. So did his daily encounter with disease and general misery in one of the poorer districts of Berlin. Perhaps even more important was the insight that only by struggling with concrete experience could a scientist come to grips with the real forces operating in his field.

But his spare time was filled with economic and historical studies. He found, in the "Ethical Club" and in some of the Berlin "salons" then seething with intellectual excitement, an audience for his gradually forming ideas. There he met Gustav Landauer, Wilhelm Boelsche and, above all, Theodor Hertzka, author of Freiland, disciple of Henry George and exponent of agrarian socialism. Under his influence but already showing independent reasoning he published his first pamphlet Freiland in Deutschland, which contains the core of his later doctrine: to conquer capitalist exploitation and instability through cooperative land settlement.

In 1896, at the age of 32, the time had arrived for a radical break with his professional past. Oppenheimer liquidated his medical practice, devoting himself from now on exclusively to social theory and experiment. But it took another thirteen years until the halls of a university were opened to him. In the meantime a very successful journalistic career offered him the material basis for scientific free-lancing. Some of his most original works date from that period: his first demonstration in Grossgrundeigentum und Soziale Frage of the disastrous role which large landed property has played in social history, his critique of Malthus and Marx, and that little masterpiece of socio-political analysis: Der Staat (The State), of all his writings the best known in Anglo-American scholarly circles.

When finally in 1909 Adolph Wagner and Gustav Schmoller admitted him as Privatdozent at Berlin University, his struggle for recognition was only transferred to another stage. Imperial Germany had no Chair to offer to one of the very few economic theorists then worthy of the name, to a unique pedagogical talent who filled the Auditorium Maximum to overflowing and whose seminars attracted a student elite. Not before 1919, i.e. after the eclipse of Imperial Germany, was he offered a full professorship, which the University of Frankfurt specially created for him and which he occupied up to his retirement in 1929.


No one knew better than Oppenheimer himself what stood in his way. I well remember the day in Spring 1914 when Georg Simmel, who himself had been kept waiting for thirty years, was finally appointed to a Chair in Strassburg. I naively suggested to Oppenheimer that now his time had [p. 141] come too. "Don't confuse the issues," he replied. "Who in all Prussia worries about metaphysics? I am attacking the big landowners!"

This now leads us directly to our main topic: the content of Oppenheimer's economic and social theory and his manifold attempts to apply it in practical experiments. The fundamentals of his teaching were first systematically expounded in his Theorie der reinen und politischen Ökonomie, published in 1910. This book became later the third of the four volumes of his System der Soziologie, a monumental work of more than four thousand pages comprising, besides economics, general sociology, political theory and a socio-economic history from the paleolithic age to modern capitalism. His mere capacity for absorbing and coherently presenting such a wealth of material has been equalled among social scientists only by Max Weber, who was his intellectual and moral peer, perhaps endowed with greater sensitivity for the darker aspects of Western society but lacking Oppenheimer's gift for system building.

Oppenheimer's message was defined by himself as "Liberal Socialism," a "third way between capitalism and communism." Defiantly he took up Goethe's famous challenge that he who promises simultaneously freedom and equality is a dreamer or a mountebank. It was the very essence of his teaching that economic liberty as embodied in free market relations was fully compatible with persistent equality of opportunity for all. Evidently such a proposition contradicted the basic tenets of most classical and modern economists, and also seemed to run counter to all historical experience. It was equally at loggerheads with the Marxian prophecy, and Oppenheimer fought all his life a two-front battle against bourgeois liberalism and orthodox socialism. How could such a seemingly paradoxical position be defended?

The answer lies in what he called his "agrocentric" conception of economy and society. What he meant was that orthodox Economics and Marxism, though radically opposed to each other in the diagnosis as well as in the therapy of our socio-economic ills, yet agreed on one central point. Both searched for the clue to the understanding of modern capitalism in the urban sphere and, especially, in the organization of modern industry. For Oppenheimer the strategic region was the agrarian sector with its peculiar order of land ownership.

Far from claiming priority for this idea, he never tired of pointing to certain passages in Adam Smith and even Marx himself, in which his revolutionary truth was anticipated. This truth proclaims that social inequality cannot arise so long as every one who wants to, has access to free land. Conversely once such access is blocked and land ownership has become a monopoly, the landless masses of the population are compelled to sell their services at a discount. This discount reduces wages in town and country below the true renumeration of work, which is the equivalent of its product. The surplus accrues as unearned income in the [p. 142] form of rent and capital profit to the owners of the means of production.

But it is essential to realize that, contrary to Marx's conception, the industrial means of production (plant and equipment) play only a secondary role in this process of exploitation. So long as the industrial worker has the alternative choice of settling on the land, his wage cannot fall below the income of an independent farmer. It reduces to a proletarian level only once this outlet is closed. In other words, industrial capitalism understood as a social organization in which the masses of the population are exploited, is a derivative of agrarian capitalism, itself the heritage of the feudal appropriation of land by a politically dominant minority.

Such a diagnosis of the roots of economic misery and social injustice points to a very simple cure. Oppenheimer saw no need for violent revolution and the subsequent nationalization of the means of production, measures which in his view were bound to stifle individual initiative and to purchase equality at the price of surrendering liberty. There was, in his view, nothing wrong with the prevailing institutions of private property and of free competition in the labour and commodity markets. When Marxists attacked these institutions for having worked badly in the past, they failed to see that true competition never existed, and could not exist so long as land ownership was monopolized.

To establish full competition in agriculture and industry this monopoly must be broken through a policy of comprehensive resettlement. Nothing else will stop the continuous flight of agricultural workers from the land, which creates a steady oversupply of labour in industry, keeping down wages and mass purchasing power. Conversely transformation of the agricultural worker into an independent farmer or, still better, into a member of a producers' cooperative - a solution which combines the technical advantages of large-scale production with the psychological stimulus of permanent lease-hold - will indirectly promote the economic and social ascent also of urban labour. By raising the demand of the agricultural sector for industrial products it will expand the domestic market; by absorbing the landless proletariat it will do away with the urban reserve army and permit industrial wages to rise in accord with the rising productivity of industry.

Putting the blame for the social ills and economic imbalances of industrial capitalism on a constant oversupply of labour was again not Oppenheimer's discovery. It had been the focal point of social critique since Malthus's days. What was new in Oppenheimer's thesis was the source to which the existence of such a reserve army of labour was attributed. For Malthus the seat of the evil was the natural increase of population, which was said to rise in geometric progression. Since, however, the means of sustenance could be expected to expand only at an arithmetric rate, emergence and persistence of a surplus population appeared inevitable. Marx, on the other hand, derived the presence of an industrial [p. 143] reserve army from the labour-displacing character of modern technology. Thus to safeguard his own explanation pointing to a mass flight from the land, Oppenheimer had to refute these earlier hypotheses.

He did so in two impressive monographs written during the early years of the century. In first attacking Malthus he made ingenious use of Marx's emphasis on industrial technology. He could show that the fetters of the so-called law of decreasing returns on land, which in the past had indeed limited the output of food and raw materials, had been broken with the introduction of improved methods into Western agriculture. And he concluded that, with the prospect of further technical progress, any addition to world population would easily be sustained. Against Marx's pessimism he cited the experience of the nineteenth century during which industrial employment had, in the long run, not only absorbed all the technologically displaced workers, but also most of the agrarian influx.

Still, even if these arguments were to be accepted as proof for Oppenheimer's diagnosis, he had to meet one formidable objection to the proposed therapy. Assuming that the political resistance against the transformation of agrarian ownership could be overcome, was it physically possible to settle the large masses of landless proletarians? Was not, in other words, all usable land fully occupied? This certainly had been the traditional view, and the experience with free land in the overseas colonies, above all during the early period of American settlement, was regarded as a temporary exception only to confirm the rule.

Oppenheimer's answer to this challenge reminds us of the story of Columbus's egg. He simply calculated the total amount of fertile land which this planet has to offer, and came up with the startling result that, with the then prevailing agricultural technology, no less than 10 billion farmers could be settled, equivalent to a total world population of 30-40 billions. With the advanced technology of today requiring no more than one farmer to sustain ten people the figure might easily be more than doubled. Even in as densely settled a country as Imperial Germany the available area would have sufficed to double the farming population.

This was not to deny that the available land was "fully occupied." But the meaning of this notion was then legal, not technical. To be specific, half the acreage in early twentieth century Germany was owned by 200,000 large estates, leaving five million small farmers to divide themselves in the other half. There was meaning in the slogan that the Germans were a Volk ohne Land. Yet the remedy was not conquest of foreign territory, but such change in domestic land ownership as would admit the people to its natural heritage.


A cursory presentation cannot do justice to the many valuable contributions, critical and positive, which Oppenheimer made to theoretical [p. 144] and practical Economics.[3] But it suffices as an explanation of his lasting concern with practical experiments, especially in the field of agrarian settlement.

Between 1893 and 1920, Oppenheimer tried four times to translate his theoretical postulates into practice. Three of his experiments with agricultural producers' cooperatives were undertaken in Germany; one, and the best known, in Palestine. In each case he wanted to test three propositions. First, in the face of many failures with industrial producers' cooperatives it had to be shown that the psycho-sociological relations among the members were different in agriculture, promoting solidarity in work and daily living. Second, proof had to be given that such cooperative organization was equal if not superior to individual farming when judged by the criteria of productivity and of variety of outputs. Last but not least, the favourable effects should extend to the sphere of urban activities, directly by attracting non-agricultural producers - artisans, retailers and members of the professions; indirectly by gradually absorbing unemployed industrial workers and thus raising urban wages.

The most that can be said in retrospect is that the results did, in principle, not refute Oppenheimer's programme. Among the German trials the earliest one, though quite successful from the business point of view, was too small in scope to have wider social consequences. The next one failed, partly because the wrong soil had been chosen, partly because of an unfortunate sequence of rainy and drought seasons. The last one, established after the First World War with the support of the Prussian Ministry of Agriculture, prospered during the twenties in spite of the vicissitudes of inflation and deflation. A generous system of profit-sharing and a well planned mixture of cooperative and individualized activities combined the technical advantages of large-scale and of small-scale farming, under the guidance of a trained administrator. Alas, the subsequent political developments made it impossible to bring the work to full fruition and to expand it, as was intended, into a growing cluster of associated settlements.

It was the role of the administrator that became the problem at Merchaviah, Oppenheimer's Palestinian experiment, started in 1911. He had presented his ideas two years earlier at the Hamburg Zionist Congress, and his major proposals had received the full backing of the Organization. They stressed the agrocentric nature of the planned colonization and the political imperative of lodging the ownership of land, in accord with the ancient law of Israel, in the community at large. The Zionist leaders also [p. 145] shared, in principle, Oppenheimer's belief in the social and technical superiority of cooperative settlement. But the specific form in which the first settlements were established at Kinereth and Deganiah was the Kvutzah, where the direction of life and work was in the hands of a committee elected by and from the workers themselves. Oppenheimer, on the other hand, was convinced that, in view of the urban origin and the lack of experience of most workers, such a degree of self-government was incompatible with the requirements of productive reconstruction. Therefore he insisted that during the initial phase, the direction at Merchaviah be placed in the hands of a trained expert.

Controversy has raged ever since whether it was this arrangement and the ensuing resistance of the workers against an alleged Simon Legree, or rather the repercussions of the war in the Middle East, hostility of the neighbouring Arabs and communist influences, that caused the experiment to fail. As knowledgeable a person as Arthur Ruppin later warned against making a principle out of a purely pragmatic issue. In his opinion complete self-government was the proper form of organization in small Kvutzoth, whereas large ones might well benefit from the services of an administrator. Subsequently in the so-called Moshavim Shitufiim, which have since been copied in countries like Burma, Oppenheimer's solution has been successfully applied during the early stages when new settlers are to be trained. Therefore experience in Israel can after all be quoted as at least a partial confirmation of his vision.


During the First World War Oppenheimer was engaged in many official activities. Though he never cherished any illusions about the final outcome, he felt the moral obligation to offer his services in tackling the manpower and food problems. Above all, he wanted to make the authorities understand the plight of the Eastern Jews then under German occupation.[4]

The military breakdown and ensuing political change seemed to offer a strategic opportunity for realizing his ideas on the large scale. But in vain did he try to enlist the leading politicians of the Weimar Republic for a radical solution of the land problem in the Eastern provinces of Prussia. His own failure in this respect, and that of others, were dearly paid for during the critical months of 1932. We must not forget that it was the unholy alliance between East Elbia and Rhenish-Westfalian heavy industry which finally brought Hitler to power. One of the strongest motives behind this desperado policy was the hope that a belated attempt at large-scale agrarian resettlement could be warded off.

[p. 146] While response to the exciting events of the day claimed Oppenheimer's attention for the better part of a decade, work on his magnum opus steadily progressed. It filled almost completely his spare time during his tenure at Frankfurt. At first sight one might say that his System der Soziologie is an outgrowth of his earlier work in Economics. But this is true only in the sense that for Oppenheimer Economics never was a self-contained body of specialist doctrines. In the classical and Marxist tradition he maintained a unitary view of the social process, and it is only the elemental significance of Man's relation to Matter which made him place economic activity - the disposal of Matter - in the centre of social analysis.

It was the phenomenon of human migration that became for Oppenheimer the key to the understanding of all social dynamics. Originally migration was conceived by him in the narrow terms of the so-called Law of von der Goltz, according to which the agricultural regions of modern Germany contributed to migration into the cities in direct proportions to the size of land ownership. But more and more migration revealed itself as the revolutionary force which dominated all past history. First set in motion at the end of the last ice age, it transformed the prehistoric order of scattered settlements into ever growing political units which took the form of historical States and Empires.

Recognition of this process was bound to destroy once and for all the naive belief in what Marx had called the "children's primer," namely the belief that the stratification of all known societies and their more or less rigid class structure was the result of peaceful competition in which the more intelligent and industrious members of the group gradually gained at the expense of the fools and loafers. Rather it was forcible superposition ("Überlagerung") of peaceful agrarian settlements by a conquering group usurping all privileges, in particular the legal title to land, that created the "State" as we know it.

Though domination and exploitation now appeared as the major themes of historical development, the picture was not all dark. Agglomeration in ever larger units made progressive division of labour and thus rising productivity possible. It also furthered work discipline which the ruling minority enforced upon the subjected majority. Above all, history presents us periodically with countervailing movements of emancipation. Originally they emanated from the rulers themselves in the interest of social cohesion, as is illustrated in Mosaic Law, Solon's legislation or the social teachings of the Church. But since the end of the middle ages the subjected masses themselves have seized the initiative, seeking liberation in peasants' wars, political revolutions, national emancipation from colonial rules, and in the proletarian protest as organized in the socialist movements. All these events can be understood as successive waves of migrations - horizontal ones in the original conquests, the settlement [p. 147] of ever more distant regions and continents, and the movement from the land to the cities; vertical ones in the form of the emancipation of slaves, of proletarians and colonial dependencies, and ultimately of the largest contingent of oppressed in all civilizations: women and children.

Again the origins of this truly dialectic vision of history pre-date Oppenheimer. Saint Simon and the other utopian socialists, Herbert Spencer, Friedrich Ratzel, not to mention Marx, had held similar views. But not before Oppenheimer had the basic idea been worked out systematically and with so much historical detail. At the Zürich Congress of social scientists in 1928 his grand design received the endorsement of leading sociologists and anthropologists - one of the rare occasions when he found himself applauded by his peers.


In his Lebenserinnerungen, Oppenheimer reports an amusing story. It concerns Paul Ehrlich, the famous bacteriologist, who had supervised Oppenheimer's medical dissertation. One day many years later when both men had achieved fame, Ehrlich spoke to him of two character types, one endowed with "panoptic" eyes, the other with "monomanic" eyes. The former, he said, sees everything but dimly; the latter sees always only one thing, but this he sees with perfect accuracy. "You and I," he concluded, "have monomanic eyes."

There is perhaps no better key to the understanding of Oppenheimer's achievements, but also of the difficulties he met with in finding adequate recognition on the part of those who make scientific public opinion. Even the all too brief survey given here leaves no doubt about the originality and fertility of his thinking over the entire range of social research. But if he remained an outsider all his life, and if even today he cannot compete in the textbooks and official histories of his science with men of much lesser stature, a chief reason lies in what Ehrlich called his monomanic outlook.

Let us be fair and give even the devil its due. Singlemindedness and concentration on one issue at the cost of ignoring qualifications and of injustice to opposing viewpoints, mark the work of the great "doers":

statesmen, military commanders, revolutionary leaders, religious saviours. The traditional virtues of a scientist, be he a student of nature or of society, are different. He sees the world as an interplay of many tendencies, as often conflicting as they are concordant. This is especially true of the social field, where the elementary forces cannot be neatly isolated in the laboratory and where most relationships are mutual. Subtle evaluation of each thread in the texture may still in the end lead to a synthesis. But the implied message speaks to us through a highly complex polyphony rather than through a clarion call.

[p. 148] This was not Oppenheimer's approach, and it is easy to discover both exaggerations and omissions in his work Ruppin's comments cited above are a case in point. More fundamental for social theory is the question whether Oppenheimer was right in raising "flight from the land" to the sole cause of social disorder and, in particular, of the industrial reserve army. When looking at the contemporary plight of most underdeveloped countries, can we really dismiss the Malthusian hypothesis as a mere illusion? And, whatever role technological unemployment may have played in the past, did Marx not show uncanny foresight as to the dangers of the cybernetic revolution which is upon us? Finally, can agriculture serve as a boundless receptacle for employment-seeking workers, considering its rapidly rising capital intensity coupled with the well-known limitations of demand for its output? If thus the diagnosis of the ills seems to be more complex than it appeared to Oppenheimer's " monomanic" eyes, therapy too is likely to extend beyond the breaking of the monopoly on land.

And yet when all this is conceded it is not enough to explain, much less to justify, the peripheral place in which Oppenheimer was kept while alive, or the near eclipse of his scientific memory. To understand this, we must realize that it is his merits rather than his failings that stood and still stand in his way. The identity of the analytical thinker with the practical reformer, the striving for an all-encompassing "system", his philosophical beliefs in Man's innate capacity to recognize what is true and good - a belief that made him choose Leonard Nelson as his preceptor - all this was and is in conflict with the spirit of an age of excessive specialization and of intellectual and moral skepticism. Oppenheimer's fate is the fate of a generation brought up in the traditional values of l9th century culture, but exposed to the positivist and existentialist trend of the twentieth century. This conflict, and there I return to the beginning, makes him a symbol for what has happened in different ways to many others who, like him, are rooted in the old world in every sense of the word.

But when considered more detachedly the story of Oppenheimer invites us to something better than mere resignation. It we take note of the influence his teaching had on the building of a Soziale Marktwirtschaft in post-war Germany, on the agrarian reforms in Eastern Europe, on the reconstruction of the Jewish homeland, not to mention the modern theory of market socialism or the interpretation of social history, we can happily say that he is very much alive. True, were it not for Chancellor Erhard's generous acknowledgement, few Germans today would know the grandfather of their Wirtschaftswunder. In a similar roundabout way it is through the work of his pupils, to mention only Eduard Heimann and Alexander Rüstow, that he fertilized the theory of both modern socialism and modern liberalism. But is not what really matters the objective even [p. 149] if anonymous fruits of our life and work, rather than any glory that radiates back from them on our passing egos? This is not said as a defence for a false historical record. But it helps us to remember what the builders on the old cathedrals knew well: that the worth of our achievements must not be measured by the applause that greets our person.

For some of the biographical data I have drawn on Franz Oppenheimer's Lebenserinnerungen "Erlebtes, Erstrebtes, Erreichtes," first published in 1931, and reissued in an enlarged edition by Joseph Melzer, Düsseldorf in 1964. See also Alex Bein, Franz Oppenheimer als Mensch und Zionist, and Walter Preuss, Franz Oppenheimer's wissenschaftliche Bedeutung, in Bulletin des Leo Baeck Instituts, Nr. 25, 1964, and Robert Weltsch's comments in Year Book IX, 1964, pp. XXIV-XXVII.
To similar feelings the Hebrew poet Chaim Nachman Bialik had given expression in his famous poem "In the City of Murder" after the Kischinew pogrom in 1903. -Ed.
They include, to mention only some, a new version of the labour theory of value coupled with an effective critique of the prevailing utility concept, a highly original theory of distribution, and a novel study of the psychology of competition with far reaching consequences for the understanding of such divergent topics as business cycles and producers' cooperatives.
This was the object of his activity as a member of the Komitee für den Osten, to which reference is made in LBI Year Book IX in Z. Szajkowski's essay (pp. 131-178) and in the Introduction (pp. XXIV-XXVII).