Ignaz Petschek

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Ignaz Petschek, around 1923

Ignaz Petschek (born June 14, 1857 in Kolin ; † February 15, 1934 in Aussig ) was a Bohemian and, after 1918, Czechoslovak coal wholesaler and industrialist .


Ignaz Petschek came from a Jewish family. His father was the money lender Moses Petschek (1822–1888) from Petschek near Kolin, his mother Sara Petschek, nee. Wiener (1827-1894). He had two brothers, Isidor Petschek (1854-1919) and Julius Petschek (1856-1932) and a sister, Rosa Petschek (1858-1941). His paternal grandparents were the Kolin traders Israel Petschek and Alina Petschek, nee. Raudnitz.

In 1884 he married Helene Bloch (1862–1952) from Brno . They had seven children together: Friedrich Petschek (1884 - infant death after 2 weeks), Felix Petschek (1885 - infant death after 2 weeks), Ernst (1887–1956), Elise (1889–?), Karl (1890–?), Franz (1894–?), Wilhelm (1896–1980).


After attending six classes at the grammar school in Prague , Ignaz Petschek completed an internship at the Prague Bank Corporation. The bank owned a coal office in Aussig , where he was given a permanent position in January 1874. As a result of the liquidation of the Prague bank association, the Aussig wholesaler Eduard J. Weinmann took over the coal office in 1875 and hired Petschek initially as a traveler and later as an authorized signatory . In his work, he recognized the growing importance of lignite as an energy resource and went into self-employment at the age of 23.

He founded his first own coal trading company in 1880 under the name I. Petschek Aussig ad Elbe . As a commission dealer, he initially used the family capital and the contacts of the companies of his brothers Julius and Isidor. In 1882 he built up close business relationships with the Anglo-Austrian Bank and within a short period of time achieved a tenfold increase in lignite production in the North Bohemian plants owned by the bank. Ignaz Petschek is considered to be the actual founder of the coal commission business. From 1895 at the latest, he exclusively sold all of the lignite in the North Bohemian coalfield and became a shareholder in many mines. His success prompted him to actively participate in the coal and steel industry .

From 1905, Ignaz and Julius Petschek intensified their activities abroad, initially together, by acquiring shares in mining companies and joining the supervisory boards of coal companies and banks. In many mines, the brothers gained a majority or blocking minority through hostile takeovers and began to outbid each other. In Germany, Ignaz and Julius Petschek brought 27.8% of the lignite industry under their control by 1912. The magnitude of Ignaz Petschek's operations became clear with the spectacular takeover of Hohenlohe Werke AG in Upper Silesia . The company had a capital value of 80 million marks and around 10,000 employees. In August 1913 he bought shares in Hohenlohe Werke AG with a nominal value of 15 million through Deutsche Bank for 22 million marks and thus became the company's main shareholder.

While Ignaz Petschek lost the sales opportunities in the North Bohemian lignite mining area to his brother Julius at that time, he intensified his business activities in the West Bohemian region. In the Duxer and Falkenauer district in particular , he gained market power through the withdrawal of British investors who, shortly before the outbreak of the First World War, tried to sell their shares in Bohemian mines quickly and sold them to him below market value . In Germany, by 1915, the brothers controlled 37.77% of the briquette production in the Central German lignite mining area and 43.49% in the East Elbe mining area .

During the First World War there was a definitive break between the brothers. The cause was a power struggle in the Zeitz-Weißenfelser brown coal area for the majority of the Werschen-Weißenfelser Braunkohlen AG and Anhaltischen Kohlenwerke AG , which Julius Petschek ultimately won. Although both were active in the same business fields, they fought bitterly from then on and often argued personally in public in supervisory board meetings as well as in domestic and foreign courts.

The Petschek's trade and pricing policy in Germany drew devastating press coverage from 1915 onwards. Business editors, for example for the German daily newspaper , the Tälichen Rundschau (Berlin) or the Neue Freie Presse (Vienna) , repeatedly criticized the disadvantage of small shareholders and the rising energy prices associated with the monopoly acquired. The economically liberal Frankfurter Zeitung warned the Petscheks that “people not only grow with higher purposes, rather people also grow with higher duties”.

In the Duchy of Anhalt and the Kingdom of Saxony , the actions of the Petscheks between 1916 and 1917 contributed significantly to the enactment of so-called blocking laws and the introduction of mountain shelves , with which all coal fields that were not yet privately owned became state property. The Anhalt bill stipulated by name: “The Bohemian large coal merchants Petschek are trying to use a planned procedure to gain a decisive influence on the Central German lignite industry, with the aim of mastering the competition it disagrees with. This threatens to abolish the legally existing mining freedom through a private monopoly ”.

After the establishment of the Weimar Republic , Ignaz and Julius Petschek expanded their position of supremacy in Germany by acquiring additional blocks of shares in lignite plants, and by 1932 they had considerable influence on the Central German lignite syndicate and the East Elbe lignite syndicate. When they took over, the Petscheks benefited from the fact that they had become Czechoslovak citizens in accordance with the Washington Declaration in 1918 . This newly formed republic achieved an upswing in the early years that stood in stark contrast to the hyperinflation in Germany and Austria. In addition, there were nationalization plans of various imperial governments, which is why many shareholders saw it as a risk, especially in the early years of the Weimar Republic, to keep their mining shares and sold their shares to the Petscheks at below market value. Towards the end of the 1920s, the brothers controlled 50 percent of European coal production and 30 percent of German lignite plants. East of the Elbe, their share fluctuated between 66 and 70 percent.

In 1923 he founded Ignatz Petschek AG in Vienna as the sales branch of his Aussiger trading company for Hungary, Yugoslavia , Italy and Switzerland; Coal sales for Czechoslovakia remained in Aussig. He also increasingly concentrated on the Anglo-Saxon region. From the mid-1920s on, the Petscheks were among the most important industrialists and richest Jewish families in Europe. According to newspaper reports, Ignaz Petschek was the richest Czech ; in second place was the shoe manufacturer Thomas Bata .

With the acquisition of almost 80% of all shares in Hubertus Braunkohlen AG, he penetrated the Rhenish lignite mining district in 1926 . The company's coherent mine holdings near Cologne comprised the Hubertus, Hubertus Extension, Wiesgen, Walrafsgrube, Axersrott and Wurmsrott pit fields with a total area of ​​1,324,500 square meters. In the summer of 1929 Ignaz Petschek acquired the majority of shares in Ilse Bergbau AG , at that time the largest lignite company east of the Elbe, in the course of a hostile takeover . From then on, he encountered increasing resistance in Germany from politics, business and public opinion, which came about after a series of sensational trials ( BUBIAG ./. Ilse AG; VIAG AG ./. Ilse AG; etc.) in the spring of 1930 to the "Petschek Affair" unfolded.

According to reports, Petschek received financial support from the Prague government in taking over the Ilse mines, for which he is said to have thanked the Czechoslovak Foreign Minister Edvard Beneš in writing . Petschek described the letter as a forgery, whereupon the public prosecutor in Berlin initiated investigations. For German public opinion, the influence of foreign governments or companies on the energy industry in the German Reich was a highly sensitive political issue. Various state parliaments of the Weimar Republic and the Reich Economic Council dealt with the matter . In November 1931, the Saxon state parliament passed a memorandum to the Reichstag in which "the elimination of large circles of medium-sized trade through Ignaz Petschek's monopoly-like striving for power" was set out.

Politically, the Petschek brothers were close to the economically liberal German Democratic Party (DDP), whose members advocated a centrally governed unitary state and against the emergence of a welfare state . Several leading members of this party received high supervisory board or director positions in companies in which the Petscheks held the majority of shares. These included, among others, the Saxon State Minister Emil Nitzschke , the politicians Heinz Pulvermann and Walter Albert Bauer, and Eugen Schiffer , the first Reich Finance Minister of the Weimar Republic. In Central Germany Ignaz Petschek owned various newspapers, including the influential Neue Leipziger Zeitung .

Several domestic and foreign media described Ignaz Petschek as a prototype of a ruthlessly expansive entrepreneur. In contemporary literature , too , he is portrayed as a “businessman with a knife in it ”, “ speculator ”, “ war profiteer ” and “monopoly capitalist addicted to profits ”. The Caro-Petschek trial had a devastating effect on its image . In this lavish criminal process, which began as a banal family dispute in June 1932, scandalous business practices such as unfair competition , tax evasion , extortion , breach of trust , spying on lawyers, bribery of members of the Reichstag and journalists were exposed.

In contrast, Ignaz Petschek stood out in his place of residence Aussig (today Ústí nad Labem ) with large donations for charitable purposes. These included construction financing for an infant home, a children's pavilion in the Aussiger hospital, a sanatorium for tuberculosis patients and a child care home. In addition, numerous Petschek villas in Aussig and northern Bohemia testify to the family's wealth. Regardless of this, in the course of the 1920s he and his sons not only relocated the main focus of their business activities, but also their personal headquarters near their holdings in Central Germany. Only in old age did he retire completely to Aussig, where he died at the age of 77 one day after his golden wedding . Ignaz Petschek left an estimated net worth of RM 232 million . Adjusted for inflation, this sum corresponds to purchasing power of around 1.7 billion euros.

Corporate investments

Ignaz Petschek was a majority shareholder and member of the supervisory board in numerous companies in Germany and abroad. In Czechoslovakia , especially in the Sudetenland at that time , these included : the

In Germany, Ignaz Petschek held a majority stake in the following companies in 1934 :

  • Eintracht lignite works and briquette factory AG, Welzow ( Niederlausitz )
  • Eintracht Siedlungsgesellschaft mbH, Welzow
  • Freia Braunkohlenwerke AG, Risky ( Upper Lusatia )
  • Matador Bergbau GmbH, Reppist
  • Niederlausitzer Wasserwerk GmbH, Senftenberg
  • Landgesellschaft Eigen Scholle GmbH, Frankfurt (Oder)
  • Niederlausitzer Kohlenwerke AG, Berlin
  • Deutsche Industrie AG (finance and investment company), Berlin
  • Niederlausitzer Überlandzentrale GmbH, Calau
  • Bleichert'sche Braunkohlenwerke AG, Neukirchen-Wyhra
  • Kettwitzer Bergbau GmbH, Berlin
  • Phönix AG for brown coal utilization, Berlin
  • Heureka union, Mumsdorf
  • Ilse Bergbau AG , Senftenberg
  • Ilse Wohlfahrtsgesellschaft mbH, Senftenberg
  • Brown coal and briquette industry AG (Bubiag), Berlin
  • Frankfurt-Finkenheerder Braunkohlen AG, Berlin
  • Brown coal and briquette sales association GmbH, Frankfurt (Oder)
  • Brown coal works Leonhard AG, Zipsendorf
  • Braunkohlen AG Vereinsglück, Meuselwitz
  • Brown coal works Borna AG, Borna
  • Gas generator and lignite recycling company, Leipzig
  • Deutsche Kohlenhandelsgesellschaft mbH, Leipzig
  • Beutersitzer Kohlenwerke GmbH, Beutersitz
  • Rückersdorfer Kohlenwerke GmbH, Dobrilugk
  • Hubertus Braunkohlen AG, Brüggen
  • Carl Brendgen Brown Coal, Briquette and Tonwerke GmbH, Zieselsmaar
  • Concordia-Liblar GmbH lignite and briquette plant, Liblar
  • Coal source union, Kierdorf

In addition, there were numerous holding companies in Switzerland, the Netherlands, Luxembourg and Great Britain, which in turn were linked to company shares in various German holding companies , which made it difficult to gain insight into the ownership structure. These included in particular: the

  • Helimont AG, Glarus
  • Fides Trust Agreement AG, Zurich
  • NV Nederlandsche Maatschappij tot Beheer en Adminstratie
  • Internationale Investment Corp., Luxembourg
  • Sophie AG Investment AG Corp.
  • British Securities Estates Ltd.
  • Park Trust, Monte Carlo
  • Administration and trading company
  • German Industry AG
  • Ilse Bergbau AG


While the Prager Petscheks decided to give up their business in Central Europe and sell their shares, after Ignaz Petschek's death in 1934, his sons Franz and Wilhelm continued the business in Germany and Czechoslovakia. In the course of the Aryanization , the property of the Aussiger Petscheks was expropriated from 1939 to 1940.

This was done in Germany by a decree of the Reich Minister of Economics of March 1, 1939. Previously, the Ignaz Petschek heirs were requested in a letter from the Reich Ministry of Economics on January 19, 1939 to sell their company shares by February 28, 1939 at the latest due to existing tax debts. which the family saw no reason to. After a tax audit in 1938, the Berlin-Moabit tax office had sent back payment notices for the years 1925 to 1937 in the amount of 300 million Reichsmarks to the heirs, an amount that was above the estimated value of the Ignaz-Petschek Group. The authorities initially seized their bank deposits in Germany and, after the Munich Agreement, were given full access to the Ignaz-Petschek property in Aussig.

Ignaz Petschek's former works and holdings in joint stock companies in Germany were largely absorbed by the Reichswerke in the course of the expropriation . The majority of the shares of Ilse Bergbau AG acquired the richly owned VIAG . After a bidding process in 1940, Friedrich Flick acquired shares in Gruben owned by the Ignaz-Petschek Group in Geiseltal and Upper Silesia, as well as the majority of shares in Eintracht Braunkohlenwerke und Brikettfabriken AG in Welzow, which in 1944 was completely assigned to Friedrich Flick KG .

However, the assets of the Ignaz-Petschek Group in Germany were not expropriated without compensation in all cases. For example, the heirs received a reasonable compensation of 5,750,000 RM for the common shares of Hubertus Braunkohlen AG, which was higher than the market value of the Hubertus shares. The transaction was carried out by Deutsche Bank, which resold the shares to Hermann Josef Abs . Nevertheless, these cases were also expropriations, as the Petscheks were forced to sell their shares.

In Czechoslovakia, the entire company assets and property of the family were confiscated after the break-up of the rest of the Czech Republic by a decision of the Reich Protector for Bohemia and Moravia on October 28, 1939. In the North Bohemian Basin near Komotau , Brüx and Dux as well as in the Falkenauer Basin and Karlsbad , the former Ignaz Petschek property was incorporated into the Sudetenländische Bergbau AG , which in turn was owned by the Reichswerke.

Almost all members of the Petscheks had already left Aussig after 1934. Franz Petschek was the last to leave on March 16, 1939. According to authentic reports from contemporary witnesses, several trucks and cars in his convoy were completely loaded with gold. The family initially lived in the UK and later moved to the USA. Some family members of the Petscheks were put on the special wanted list GB for foreign exchange offenses and tax debts , a list of people who were to be arrested by SS special forces during an invasion of the British Isles.

The expropriations during the Nazi era were not revised after the Second World War . All members of the Petschek family declared themselves Germans in the last census in Czechoslovakia in 1930 , which means that they were considered enemies of the state in the re-established ČSR according to the Beneš decrees . In particular, the Czech communist propaganda presented the Petscheks as "ruthless capitalist industrialists" who "lived off work that was not done by others".

The Czech Ministry of the Interior issued Decree No. 108/1945 on the expropriation of the Petscheks on September 9, 1947, stating that “the Petscheks cultivated German culture both privately and publicly , and all Petschek companies were demonstrably German companies, who supported the Germanization of the Czechoslovak Republic ", since" all Petschek companies had German company names, all bookkeeping and correspondence were in German, only Germans held management positions in the company and Germans were preferred to Czechs when new employees were hired ". In October 1948 the Petschek villas in Aussig were confiscated and all mines were transferred to state ownership.

This did not change after the so-called Velvet Revolution . In 2008, the Czech Ministry of Finance rejected a request for the return of the Petschek heirs on the grounds that the assets were transferred at a point in time that is not covered by the Restitution Act. Even today, the Petscheks are predominantly described in Czech publications as “profit-hungry exploiters”, “whose claims and family history in the Czech Republic ended in 1948”. According to a survey from 2008, the majority of Czechs support the continued validity of the Beneš decrees. In conclusion , in June 2014, the Prime Minister of the Czech Republic , Bohuslav Sobotka , stated that the decrees cannot be questioned and that no debate will reopen on them.

In West Germany , the federal government granted extensive restitution payments to the Petschek heirs in the 1950s. At the same time, the family received back shares for various companies from Friedrich Flick KG in 1957 and DM 9,500,500 as compensation from Deutsche Bank in 1970. As the legal successor to the Reich's own VIAG, the Federal Republic of Germany transferred the remaining corporate assets of Ilse Bergbau AG back to the Ignaz-Petschek heirs. After many years of disagreement between the Petschek family and the minority shareholders about the entrepreneurial activity of Ilse Bergbau AG, the Petscheks sold their block of shares back to VIAG in 1963.

The Central German mines in the Soviet occupation zone were confiscated on the basis of SMAD order No. 124 of October 30, 1945. Numerous systems and machines were dismantled under the mantle of reparations . Quite a few pits and briquette factories lost up to 100 percent of their machine park, which resulted in a sharp drop in production. These transports of booty were not credited to the Soviet reparations account. The subsequent expropriation was not formally carried out by the SMAD, but by communist German henchmen. The mines in which the Petscheks were involved before 1939, like all companies with multiple locations in Central Germany, were not confiscated as a whole, but each pit individually by the eastern zonal country in which the pit was located. For the following years, the factories produced almost exclusively for the USSR . In April 1952, the SMAD allowed the GDR to “buy back” lignite plants in stages. However, only after the popular uprising of June 17, 1953, the reparations payments were completely stopped. Then the companies came into public ownership .

After German reunification , Ignaz Petschek's heirs raised claims for compensation amounting to billions of DM, including 400 million DM for lost mining rights to coal mines, from the Federal Agency for Unification-related Special Tasks . However, the expropriations could not be reversed. It had to be taken into account that most of the property was stock corporations, in which the Petscheks often owned the vast majority , but were not sole owners. The negotiations stretched out over several years. As part of a settlement, the Federal Republic of Germany agreed with the Petschek heirs in 2001 on non-published financial compensation.

Web links

Commons : Ignaz Petschek  - Collection of Images


Individual evidence

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