The New Palgrave Dictionary of Economics

2018 Edition
| Editors: Macmillan Publishers Ltd

Helfferich, Karl (1872–1924)

  • K. Schmidt
Reference work entry


Helfferich was an economist with a particular expertise in currency problems; at times, he was also a civil servant, a banker and a politician. He was born in Neustadt/Palatinate and died in a railway accident in Bellinzona, Switzerland. Helfferich studied in Munich, Berlin and Strasbourg, where he took his PhD (1894). In the heated discussion during the years between 1895 and 1901 over whether or not Germany should stay with the gold standard or move to bimetallism, he fought vigorously for the former position. In 1899 he became a lecturer at the University of Berlin. From 1901 to 1906 he was in the Colonial Department of the Foreign Office in charge of currency and transport matters in the German colonies of that time. He then joined the Deutsche Bank, first in a high position in Istanbul and later as director in Berlin. Early in 1915 Helfferich became the secretary of state in the German Treasury Office. In financing the war, he made recourse far less to additional taxes than to borrowing, including borrowing from the Reichsbank – a method which was strongly criticized later on because of its inflationary consequences. In the following year Helfferich took the same post in the Office of the Interior, from which he resigned one year later. From 1920 until his death, Helfferich was a member of the German Reichstag and strongly influenced the policy of the Deutschnationale Volkspartei.

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  1. von Lumm, K. 1926. Karl Helfferich als Währungspolitiker und Gelehrter. Leipzig: Hirschfeld.Google Scholar
  2. Reichert, J.W. 1929. Helfferich, Karl. In Handwörterbuch der Staatswissenschaften, Supplement to 4th ed. Jena: Fischer.Google Scholar

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© Macmillan Publishers Ltd. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • K. Schmidt
    • 1
  1. 1.