Book about history of the Hertie department store group published

Book cover: Verfolgt, “arisiert”, wiedergutgemacht? Wie aus dem Warenhauskonzern Hermann Tietz Hertie wurde

The study details the “Aryanisation” of the Hermann Tietz group during the Third Reich and the role played by Georg Karg, who later became CEO of the chain and founded the Hertie Foundation.

With their book Verfolgt, “arisiert”, wiedergutgemacht? Wie aus dem Warenhauskonzern Hermann Tietz Hertie wurde (English: Persecuted, 'Aryanised', compensated? How the Hermann Tietz department store group became Hertie), Professors Johannes Bähr and Ingo Köhler of the Gesellschaft für Unternehmensgeschichte (GUG, Business History Society) have published a historical study exploring the “Aryanisation” of the department store group Hermann Tietz during the Third Reich and the reparation process that took place in the years following the war. In their use of the term “Aryanisation”, the researchers refer to the displacement of Jewish people from German business and professional life under the Nazi regime; the term appears in quotation marks because of the racist ideology behind it.

The study was commissioned by the non-profit Hertie Foundation and was co-financed and supported by the Karg Foundation. The results were presented at a book launch on 5 December at the Jewish Museum in Frankfurt. The book is available in stores starting today. More information on the event and the study results can be found on the websites of the Hertie Foundation  and the GUG .

Georg Karg and the beginnings of “Hertie”

Bähr and Köhler’s study brings to light many new details on how the Jewish family who owned the Herman Tietz company was forced by a banking consortium supported by the Nazi government to leave their own company. The authors describe it as the “largest Aryanisation in the early years of the Nazi regime”. The main beneficiary of this “Aryanisation” was Managing Director Georg Karg, who led the Hertie department store group in the post-war period as its second acquirer, and whose entrepreneurial actions laid the foundations for the later Hertie Foundation.
The foundation created by Karg and his descendants is today one of the largest independent foundations in Germany. Its work focusses on two major themes: brain research and strengthening democracy. In 2003, the Hertie Foundation established the international Hertie School in Berlin.

History as a warning and a reminder

“The study provides a scholarly basis for reappraising the history of the Hermann Tietz department store chain during the Nazi era. The results of the study are both a warning and a reminder to keep the history of the Jewish Tietz family and their business partners alive. As a university, it is crucial for us to remember and communicate the entrepreneurial achievements of this Jewish family and the harrowing details of their expropriation and expulsion. It is our responsibility to actively integrate this into our university life,” says Cornelia Woll, President of the Hertie School.

Frank-Jürgen Weise, Chairman of the Board of the Hertie Foundation, says: 
“The Hertie Foundation emerged from entrepreneurial success in the post-war period, but Georg Karg laid the foundations for this earlier. That is why our responsibility includes not only analysing and publishing these findings, but also recognising the injustice done to the Tietz family and preserving their memory. We will deal with the results openly and transparently and, as a democracy foundation, will continue to use our legacy to promote the protection of Jewish life in Germany and combat antisemitism."

Numerous copies of the book will soon be available to students of the Hertie School in the university library. Moreover, on 29 February 2024 the Hertie School will hold a public event during which President Woll, Professor of Psychology and Public Policy Ruth Ditlmann, and representatives of the Her.Tietz Initiative will discuss the results of the study.

About the Her.Tietz Initiative
The student and alumni initiative Her.Tietz advocates the transparent research and reappraisal of the history of the Jewish department store Hermann Tietz, including the connection to the contemporary non-profit Hertie Foundation and the Hertie School. The initiative is supported by the foundation Stiftung Erinnerung, Verantwortung, Zukunft and the non-profit Humanity in Action.

About the authors 
Prof. Johannes Bähr studied history and political science in Freiburg and Munich. He received his PhD in 1986 and habilitated at the Freie Universität Berlin in 1998. Bähr is Associate Professor of Economic and Social History at Goethe University in Frankfurt.

Prof. Ingo Köhler studied history and literature in Bielefeld. He received his PhD in 2003 at the Ruhr University and habilitated at the University of Göttingen in 2012. Köhler is Managing Director of the Hessian Economic Archive in Darmstadt and Adjunct Professor of Economic and Social History at the University of Göttingen.