4 February 1874 Robert Liefmann, Professor of Economics born #otdimjh
Robert Liefmann was born the son of the wealthy Jewish merchant Sammy Liefmann and his wife Auguste Juliane. He studied economics and law in Freiburg, Berlin, Munich and Brussels.
At the suggestion of Max Weber , he did his doctorate on business associations and antitrust and received his habilitation (after studies in England) with Magnus Biermer in Gießen in 1900. In 1904 he became an associate professor in Freiburg im Breisgau, where he was appointed full professor of economics.
In 1907 he undertook an extensive study trip through the USA, where his main areas of research were in economic organizational forms and the connections between business and psychology. In addition to corporate forms in the narrower sense, his institutional economic interests primarily concerned with cartels and trusts. Even before the First World War , Liefmann was regarded not only in Germany, but also abroad as a luminary in the field of cartel law. In 1913 he attracted public attention through his controversy with Wilhelm Merton about the role of the Metal Company and its subsidiary, the Metal Bank, in the international metal trade.
During the First World War, Liefmann was a balloon pilot in the Vosges for a few months before he was transferred to higher education. In the early twenties he developed myasthenia , which meant that he was temporarily dependent on a wheelchair.
In 1933, his teaching position at the girls’ school and his approval for health insurance were withdrawn in the course of the first National Socialist measures. He was also excluded from the university. Although his parents had joined the Protestant faith and Robert, like his sisters, had been baptized as a Protestant, they were considered to be full Jews. Despite the circumstances, the family did not want to leave their homeland and Robert Liefmann even set aside a large amount in his will as a foundation for the University of Freiburg, with the aim of promoting the further development of his economic theory teaching.
On October 22, 1940, he and his sisters Else and Martha and all Jews from Baden and the Palatinate were deported to Camp de Gurs in southern France at the foot of the Pyrenees. There they lived separately from each other under the most primitive conditions. With the help and mediation of the secretary of the World Council of Churches in Geneva , Adolf Freudenberg , who was married to Elsa Liefmann, a cousin of the siblings, they were granted a holiday in February 1941. However, Robert Liefmann was already doomed to die and died a few days later in Morlaàs, 50 km away . It is also tragic that a little later he received permission through the University of New York to emigrate. Only his sisters were able to leave the country or flee to relatives in Switzerland.
In Germany, the family’s assets were confiscated, the property sold, and the house at Goethestrasse 33 was expropriated by the German Reich. The building was used by the Gestapo until the end of the war. Then it was confiscated by the French occupying powers, whose military police used it as a base. It then was transferred to the state of Baden-Württemberg , which established a police station there from 1949 to 2000. Today the Liefmann House is used as a guest house by the University of Freiburg. In memory of those humiliated by the National Socialists, Marlis Meckel reconstructed their life paths in 2006 and placed solperstein (“stumbling block”) in their memory. The first solperstein was for Robert Liefmann in front of his former home, Goethestrasse 33. The inscription reads:
Prayer and reflection: A great mind whose views on economics have continued to influence thinking of cartels and the metal broking industry but caught up in the torrents that flowed through Germany and led to his death. How much of a disciple of Yeshua was Liefmann? Only God can judge! How Jewish? Enough to lose his life and his contribution to knowledge, civilization and the betterment of humanity cut short. Oh Lord, forgive us our sins as we forgive the sins of others, knowing that you, the Judge of all nations, will act justly and show mercy. In our Messiah Yeshua’s name, who reconciles Israel and the nations we pray. Amen.
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