Bernhard Dernburg

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Bernhard Dernburg (July 1931)

Bernhard Dernburg (17 July 1865 – 14 October 1937) was a German liberal politician and banker. He served as the secretary for Colonial Affairs and head of the Imperial Colonial Office from May 1907 to 9 June 1910, and as the minister of Finance and vice-chancellor of Germany from 17 April to 20 June 1919.

Background and banking career[edit]

Born in Darmstadt in the Grand Duchy of Hesse, Bernhard Dernburg was the son of publisher and politician Friedrich Dernburg (1833–1911), a member of the National Liberal Party, belonging to a distinguished Jewish family. Friedrich Dernburg had converted to Lutheranism and married Luise Stahl, the daughter of a Lutheran minister. Bernhard Dernburg was a Lutheran. He made a career in banking, including at the Deutsche Bank, and became Director of Deutsche Treuhand-Gesellschaft in 1889. He subsequently joined the management of the Bank für Handel und Industrie (Darmstadt). In 1901, he founded the Deutsch-Luxemburgische Bergwerks- und Hütten-AG together with Hugo Stinnes, which became one of the largest companies in its field. He served as a board member of a number of large industrial companies.

Political career[edit]

In 1906, Dernburg entered politics as Prussian Representative at the Federal Council. In 1907, he was appointed Secretary of State for Colonial Affairs and head of the Imperial Colonial Office. As Secretary, he pursued a reformist course in German colonial policy.

Dernburg resigned from this post in 1910. During 1914 and 1915, while Germany was at war with Britain but the USA was still neutral, Dernburg was based in the United States and represented German viewpoints in the propaganda campaign against Britain.[1]

Following the First World War, he co-founded the liberal German Democratic Party, served as a member of its national board, and was elected to the Weimar National Assembly. From 17 April to 20 June 1919, he served in the cabinet of Philipp Scheidemann as Federal Minister of Finance and Vice Chancellor.

He was a member of the Reichstag, representing the German Democratic Party, from 1920 to 1930. He died in Berlin on 14 October 1937.[2]


  • Koloniale Finanzprobleme, 1907
  • Koloniale Lehrjahre, 1907
  • Südwestafrikanische Eindrücke, 1909
  • Industrielle Fortschritte in den Kolonien, 1909


  1. ^ Historical Dictionary of European Imperialism, edited by James Stuart Olson, Robert Shadle, 1991, pg 170
  2. ^ Historical Dictionary of European Imperialism, edited by James Stuart Olson, Robert Shadle, 1991, pg 170

Further reading[edit]

  • Schiefel, Werner (1974). Bernhard Dernburg 1865–1937. Kolonialpolitiker und Bankier im wilhelminischen Deutschland (in German). Zürich: Atlantis-Verlag. ISBN 3761104456.
  • Bartmuss, Hartmut (2014). Bernhard Dernburg: Kolonialpolitiker der Kaiserzeit (in German). Berlin: Hentrich und Hentrich Verlag Berlin. ISBN 978-3955650346.
  • Press, Steven (2021). Blood and Diamonds: Germany's Imperial Ambitions in Africa. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. ISBN 9780674916494.

External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by Head of the Colonial Department
Succeeded by
as State Secretary for the Colonies
Preceded by
Secretary for the Colonies
Succeeded by
Preceded by Deputy Minister President of Germany
Succeeded by
Minister of Finance