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Joseph Koeth

Joseph Koeth
Reichsminister für wirtschaftliche Demobilmachung (Minister for Demobilisation)
In office
13 February 1919 – 30 April 1919
Chancellor Philipp Scheidemann (Ministerpräsident)
Preceded by post created
Succeeded by post abolished
Reichswirtschaftsminister (Minister for Economic Affairs)
In office
6 October 1923 – 23 November 1923
Chancellor Gustav Stresemann
Preceded by Hans von Raumer
Succeeded by Eduard Hamm
Personal details
Born (1870-07-07)7 July 1870
Lohr a. Main, Bavaria, Germany
Died 22 May 1936(1936-05-22) (aged 65)
Political party independent
Profession Military officer, politician
Religion Roman Catholic

Joseph Koeth (7 July 1870 – 22 May 1936) was a German military officer and politician. During World War I he served as head of the commodity office in the Prussian Ministry of War created by Walther Rathenau. After the German revolution of 1918, Koeth was in charge of economic demobilisation as a member of the first democratically elected government under Philipp Scheidemann. He again served briefly as a minister of the Weimar Republic under Gustav Stresemann in 1923.


  • Early life 1
  • Military career 2
  • Demobilisation and political career 3
  • Further career 4
  • Works 5
  • Honours 6
  • References 7
  • External links 8

Early life

Joseph Koeth was born on 7 July 18070 in Lohr a. Main, Lower Franconia, then a part of the Kingdom of Bavaria. His father, Joseph (1829-1913) was a lawyer. His mother, Susanne (1845- 1903) came from a farming family.[1]

He was married to Helene (1874-1958), née Fenkohl from Eastern Prussia (a sister of Gustav Fenkohl, a painter). They had one son, who was killed in war.[1]

Military career

After serving for eleven years in the Bavarian Army, Koeth joined the Prussian Army in January 1900 as a Premier-Lieutenant. He had attended the War Academy at Munich for three years (1895-98) but was not awarded the full qualification to join the general staff, despite excellent performance.[1][2]

He then served for nine years as a chief of battery in the 4th Badische Feldartillerie-Regiment Nummer 66 and in the training regiment Feldartillerie-Schießschule at Jüterbog (after 1904). After August 1909, Koeth worked at the Prussian Ministry of War (Feldartillerie-Abteilung, A 4). In March 1912, he was promoted to Major.[1]

After the start of World War I, Koeth briefly served as Abteilungskommandeur (Battle of the Marne, static battles in the Champagne). However, in early October 1914 he returned to department A4 in the Ministry. In late February 1915, after working as an acting head of department, he succeeded Walter Rathenau as head of the Kriegsrohstoff-Abteilung (KRA, commodity department), without having had any prior experience in this field. His task was to provide war production with the required raw materials. He succeeded in this work through a system of Planned economy, systematic recycling of used materials and by accessing new sources of commodities. The work of his office (employing around 2,500 people at the end of the war) was highly regarded and brought him the recognition of the military command, industrialists and trade unions. However, in 1916/17 there were sharp differences with general Wilhelm Groener, head of the Kriegsamt, in connection with the Hindenburg Programme and the Gesetz über den vaterländischen Hilfsdienst. The cooperation with Groener's successor, Heinrich Scheuch, went more smoothly. In March 1917, Koeth was promoted to Oberstleutnant and Abteilungschef (head of department).[1]

Demobilisation and political career

On 11 November 1918, Koeth left active service with the rank of Oberst (colonel). Both industrialist and trade union organisations had already lobbied chancellor Max von Baden to put him in charge of demobilisation. Under the Council of the People's Deputies, Koeth became Staatssekretär (de facto minister) of the Reichsamt für wirtschaftliche Demobilmachung (office for demobilisation), a position created for him. When the cabinet of Philipp Scheidemann took office in February 1919, he became Reichsminister für wirtschaftliche Demobilmachung (Minister for Demobilisation) until the Ministry was dissolved on 30 April 1919.[1]

His difficult task was to move the German war economy to a peace footing against a backdrop of revolutionary conditions and with responsibilities and power structures still in flux. The economic depression with rising unemployment and the devaluation of the currency caused by the post-war slump presented important obstacles on the way towards an industrial structure geared to the new requirements of peace-time Germany. Although Koeth extensively intervened in the economy, he opposed socialisation of the factors of production as demanded by the left wing of the revolution. There was considerable overlap between Koeth's portfolio and the Ministries of Finance, Economic Affairs and Labour, resulting in conflicts with Eugen Schiffer, Rudolf Wissell and Gustav Bauer.[1]

Koeth also was the founding president of the German War Graves Commission in 1919 (until 1923).[3]

In March 1920, he took on the honorary chairmanship of the Geschäftsstelle für industrielle Abrüstung (Geifa) of the Reichsverband der deutschen Industrie/Sonderausschuß für industrielle Abrüstung (industrialists' organisation).[1]

In October and November 1923, Koeth was Minister of Economic Affairs in the second cabinet of Gustav Stresemann. It was so short-lived, though, that he was unable to make a major contribution to policy - although during his period in office the Papiermark was replaced with the Rentenmark, which laid the foundation for the stabilisation of the currency and the end of hyperinflation.[1]

Further career

He was a member of the supervisory boards of several large and mid-sized companies and, until February 1930, chairman of the Deutsche Weltwirtschaftliche Gesellschaft. He also advised the Reichswehr at times. Koeth spent his final years in complete retirement. He died on 22 May 1936 in Berlin.[1]


  • Rohstoffbewirtschaftung, in: Handbuch der Politik II, 1920, pp. 224-35.
  • Die wirtschaftliche Demobilmachung, Ihre Aufgaben und ihre Organe, in: Handbuch der Politik IV, 1921, pp. 163-68.



  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j "Biografie Joseph Koeth (German)". Bayerische Staatsbibliothek. Retrieved 7 April 2015. 
  2. ^ "Biografie Joseph Koeth (German)". Deutsches Historisches Museum. Retrieved 7 April 2015. 
  3. ^ "Chronik (German)". Volksbund Deutsche Kriegsgräberfürsorge e.V. Retrieved 7 April 2015. 
  4. ^ "Ehrenpromovenden der TH/TU Dresden (German)". Technische Universität Dresden. Retrieved 7 April 2015. 

External links

  • Joseph Koeth at the files of the Reichskanzlei
  • Press articles on Koeth at the digitalised archives of HWWA and IFW
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