About the Book
Who was this man Julius Barmat, who was arrested on New Year’s Eve 1924 in his mansion in the prestigious lakeside Berlin suburb Schwanenwerder? Was he a successful entrepreneur, who immigrated to Germany and made an essential contribution to securing the country’s food supply after World War I, failing only due to no fault of his own? Or was he rather, as some contemporaries charged, a fraudulent, corrupt, »Eastern Jewish« profiteer who aimed to make a quick fortune in the wartime and inflation era? Was his true allegiance with the German Kaiserreich or was he in fact if not a Bolshevist, then at least an opportunistic social democrat and a supporter of the Second International?
Julius Barmat was at the center of the most politically explosive financial scandal in Germany in the early twentieth century. Convicted on corruption charges by a German court in 1928 and released on parole the following year, Barmat resumed his business activities outside of Germany and was again indicted for corruption in the 1930s, following controversial banking transactions in Belgium, Switzerland, and France. Barmat died in 1938, before again standing trial and before the affair reached its climax with the collapse of the Belgian government.
Martin Geyer sets out in search of the story behind a man whose »Barmat Republic« became synonymous, in Germany and beyond, with questionable morals, corruption, and international fraud. Some saw these developments as representing the intrinsic flaws of the democratic political system, while others identified capitalism as the true culprit. Historian Geyer probes Barmat's controversial transactions during the period that spanned World War I, hyperinflation, currency stabilization, and the global economic crisis and examines the conflicts provoked by the scandal. The affair not only preoccupied prosecutors, the courts, and political leaders but also spawned a plethora of novels, plays, and works of art.
In reconstructing the story of Julius Barmat, the book foregrounds key issues in the interwar period: the limits of capitalism, the moral order of democracies, the external borders of the state, and, last but not least, the status of European societies' Jewish inhabitants before the rise of the National Socialist regime in Germany.