Walther Rathenau, the son of Emil Rathenau, a successful Jewish businessman who founded Allgemeine-Elektrizitats-Gellellschaft (AEG), was born in Berlin on 29th September, 1867. He studied science and philosophy at Berlin University before obtaining his doctorate in 1889.
After university Rathenau joined AEG and by the outbreak of the First World War he was head of the company. He also worked for the government in the Raw Materials Department of the War Ministry.
After the war Rathenau helped form the German Democratic Party. He also wrote The New Economy (1918) where he rejected state nationalization of industry but instead advocated that employees should play a greater role in the management of companies.
In 1921 Karl Wirth appointed Rathenau as his minister of reconstruction. The following year he became foreign minister. He upset right-wing nationalists like Adolf Hitler by arguing that Germany should fulfill Germany's obligations under the Treaty of Versailles. However, at the same time he worked with Matthias Erzberger, the minister of finance, to try and show that the terms of the treaty were too harsh.
Rathenau also upset German conservatives by negotiated the Treaty of Rapallo with the Soviet Union. He was now criticized by the leaders of the Nazi Party who claimed he was part of a Jewish-Communist conspiracy. Walther Rathenau was assassinated by two right-wing army officers on 24th June, 1922.