Article Summary

A Place of Foundations and Endowments in German History: A Historical-Statical Approach.

Summary by: Adam Rakestraw.


Thomas Adam and Gabriele Lingelbach


Understanding foundations and endowments are important sources historically in Germany. Modern Germany should consider further organizing and structuring  philanthropy as a means of art finical. Germany has a record over 30 years of increase studies in philanthropic activities in society. Manuel Frey’s notion of Mazenatentum of collaborative effects between state and philanthropist has given way to German citizen self reliance in volunteering and contributing individuals self donating to public purposes. During the early 1900s-1950s of German modernization, state-centered financing was the researcher viewpoint over an assumption of individual philanthropic or private possibilities. This was due to a belief in self financing as becoming nonexistent in the modern era, only until the 1980s did researchers shift focus to private donorship.

Documents analyzed for article:

-R.F. Rauer’s 1866 book over Prussian civil society

-suggest philanthropy was an urban phenomenon and financed cultural and social infrastructure, usually from urban elites.

-Endowments created during the 19th century, anecdotal evidence suggests that German donors favored endowments over foundations

-Post WWII East German 1953 Survey over Philanthropy

-Group foundations into religious, private, and state: similar to Prussia structure

-Data comes from 25% of East German foundations registered in the period of 1919-1945

-Late 1900s Bavarian Statical Data of Philanthropy

– Bavaria possessed a significant number of foundations in small towns and villages: small foundations had an impact on their environment.

Historical perspective:

“Hans Liermann (1963) reminds us, German laws have traditionally not served to philanthropy’s advantage. This reflects the Germans states’ attitude toward philanthropy: They took advantage of philanthropic institutions for funding public institutions, yet abused the investment of philanthropic assets in state bonds to finance World War I. Even so, the German states were not willing to support philanthropy or safeguard it against unwanted intrusion. This fact is confirmed by the devaluation of war bonds in 1925, which lifted the debt burden from the German government yet left the philanthropic sector vulnerable to the actions of the East German government in the 1950s.”


The 19th and 20th centuries German individuals donated billions of marks to philanthropic institutions and promoted an atmosphere of philanthropic culture. This is due to a reaction against 19th-century German governments attitude toward state support. 20th century Germany sought to dismantle philanthropic endeavors due to hyperinflation and socialist state action in modernizing Germany. Therefore, philanthropy and civil society proved to be strongest in Germany during the time of authoritarian rule—the Wilhelmine Empire (1871-1918)—and not during the democratic systems of the Weimar Republic or post–World War II West Germany.

The limited involvement of the state in the funding of social, cultural, and educational institutions furthered individuals’ desire to provide funding for hospitals, museums, and research institutes. Post–World War II West Germany experienced a quick economic recovery and an immense growth of individual wealth, which could have resulted in a revival of philanthropy. However, the West German political system was founded on the belief that, in a modern society, the state had to assume responsibility for financing all aspects of public life. Philanthropy was considered outdated and thus marginalized in society. Research into individual private philanthropy began around the 1980s as a reaction to state financing philanthropy.


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