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German Fears in Economic Modelling

A Cultural Genealogy
Les peurs allemandes dans la modélisation économique. Une généalogie culturelle
Till Düppe
p. 1-26


Lors de l’Expo 58, la première Exposition universelle après la Seconde Guerre mondiale, Wilhelm Krelle construit un simulateur du circuit économique. La machine était une manifestation matérielle de la distinction entre les objectifs économiques et les mécanismes pour les atteindre, ce qui a imprégné la mentalité de nombreux économistes néo-keynésiens après la Seconde Guerre mondiale. Dans cet article, je présente une généalogie culturelle de cette mentalité à travers le parcours atypique de Wilhelm Krelle, une généalogie qui révèle une expérience profondément allemande. Contrairement à la séparation entre la rationalité économique et la sphère normative, je démontre comment la préférence de Krelle pour la modélisation économique mécanique a été nourrie par des valeurs prussiennes, militaristes, nationalistes et par la foi protestante.

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1. The Simulator

  • 1 Citations with an asterisk are translated from German by the author.
  • 2 Letter from rector of University of Zürich to rectors of all Swiss universities, November 23, 1957; (...)

1Brussels, April 1958, first World’s Fair after World War II. After a long period of conflicts and crises, all nations around the globe could again show their forward-looking optimism, and share the prospect of building a truly modern world. One of the pieces in the Swiss pavilion was a large contraption made of several transparent tubes. The contraption, called the Kreislaufsimulator, depicted the flow of money through a national economy. It was created by an economist, Wilhelm Krelle, with the help of an engineer, Paul Weber, both from the University of Commerce of St. Gallen. It was designed to visually represent the system of a national economy through a hydrodynamic machine pumping oil—a “hydraulically based calculating machine,” as Krelle and Weber called it (1958, 396*).1 It was 1.5 meters wide, 0.65 meters deep, and 2.60 meters tall; it weighed 800 kilograms and contained 25 liters of oil. It was so large that the University of Zürich had to give up its exhibition space to St. Gallen.2 It took four months to build at a total cost of 11.000 Swiss Francs (equivalent to about 50.000 USD today). This was quite an investment, and it took several attempts to convince other research departments at St. Gallen that the simulator was a worthy contribution to the greater good of global culture.

2In addition to its transparent tubes, the simulator had one main pump and six side pumps; all could be regulated to pump more or less oil. The quantity of money flowing in the economy was represented by the velocity of the oil. The choice of the material of the tubes was important, as it had to resist the acidity of the oil. Krelle and Weber chose Plexiglas. For the pumps, it was important that there was not too much noise—noise in their view would suggest a poorly functioning economy. The valves proved to be their own challenge: they had to regulate the speed in such a way that the variation would change in a linear manner, which was technologically difficult given that the tubes were circular.

Figure 1: Front (left) and back of the simulator

Figure 1: Front (left) and back of the simulator

Source: Krelle and Weber (1958, 409, 410).

  • 3 More known in the English-language literature is the Newlyn-Philips Machine built in 1949, known as (...)

3Krelle’s World’s Fair contribution was not the first or only machine which represented the circular flow of the economy. Constructing such machines was “in the air” among those post-war economists trained in the neo-Keynesian framework.3 Like the other machines, Krelle’s simulator was built to represent a Keynesian national accounting model: income, employment, consumption, investment, government expenditures, and imports and exports, excluding the banking sector. In total, thirty-two streams were built, representing thirty-two equations. Seventeen streams were fixed by definition (such as public income = taxes + tariffs). One definitional relation closed the circular flow to avoid leaks in the machine: Total income = consumption + investment + net exports. Eight equations were called “exogenous relations” which could not be changed by the user but represented the structure of a nation (propensity to import, indirect taxes, etc.). The machine thus provided a common structure for all existing economies, while at the exhibition, it was set to the parameters of the Swiss economy. Finally, there were seven “exogenous values,” such as total demand, wage index, transfer payments, government expenditures, private investments, and exports. These latter values were represented by seven buttons that the exhibition visitor could play around with.

When the machine is turned on, the main and secondary pumps start up and set the oil in the tubes in motion … From this basis, one can now adjust all fifteen exogenous variables individually or in certain combinations to new values and immediately read off the effect of these changes. (Krelle and Weber, 1958, 401, 404*)

4The simulator, in other words, was a material manifestation of the clear-cut distinction between economic goals and the mechanics that were put into work in order to achieve these goals. Hydraulic Keynesianism in the 1960s gave mechanical form to a distinction that was long present in the history of economic methodology, the distinction between “normative” goals that are independent of the “positive” means to realize them.

  • 4 Krelle referred to Röpke’s mockery of the “circular economy engineers” (Kreislaufingenieure), who m (...)

5As much as the machine might say about national economies, Krelle knew that the simulation of aggregates tells very little about individuals.4 Even if there is harmony on the aggregate level, for individuals, there can be “entirely unacceptable states of individual economies.”

A model of the circular flow can not represent the drives and motives that keep the economic process going, but only their effects, insofar as they express themselves in transactions ... The circulation image gives a superficial picture of the economy, an ex-post painting, so to speak. The multifaceted interwoven network of motives, expectations, fears, opportunities, risks must be imagined ‘behind’ or ‘below’. (Krelle and Weber, 1958, 396*)

  • 5 The history of the normative-positive divide in economic methodology goes back to John Stuart Mill (...)
  • 6 This refers to the study of Adorno et al. (1950) that impressed an entire generation of intellectua (...)

6The same can be said about the motives, expectation, fears, opportunities, risks that were behind the building of the machine, behind the image of the economy as a machine, and behind the desire to separate economic means from normative goals. What I propose in the following is to dig these out, that is, to provide a cultural genealogy of the mentality that nourished Krelle’s preference for mechanical economic modelling. The connecting point will be this one distinction that informed the mentality of economists after World War II, the separation of political goals from the economic mechanism that brings them about.5 The pragmatism of ‘making things work’, which is the kernel of this mentality, is rooted in an aversion against quarrels about goals. The positive-normative divide helps to downplay and avoid conflicts between value systems, and ultimately turns out to be a strategy within a specific value system. The need to avoid conflict, as the case of Krelle shows, can be deeply grounded in German history and the psychological constitution of what has been called the “authoritarian personality” that grew up before, and took part in the violence during World War II.6

  • 7 The question of continuity and discontinuity in Germany’s intellectual history during and after Naz (...)
  • 8 Establishing a relationship between Protestantism and economic rationality, even if in a very diffe (...)

7I thus trace the fascination of presenting the economy as a machine—playing around with buttons, while observing the mechanism at work—to different cultural spheres which increasingly reveal the moral and psychological constitution of Krelle’s epistemic preference. As is sufficiently recognized in the literature, his modelling strategy was linked to a specific notion of economic policy, known as hydraulic Keynesianism, and popular in the Germany of the 1960s. In the second section, I show how Krelle used the positive-normative divide in order to pursue Christian values in the name of economic rationality. Krelle’s mentality also implied a specific attitude when confronting other epistemological values, in particular a hegemonic attitude. In section three, I show how Krelle used the positive-normative divide to justify excluding non-technical economists at the University of Bonn in the name of objective research quality. Furthermore, the post-war generation brought about its scientific artefacts against the background of war memories; I will show in section four how Krelle used the same positive-normative divide, in a quasi-Darwinist fashion, when justifying his militarist spirit as an officer that allowed the National Socialist regime to lead Europe into the worst disaster of the 20th century.7 I will close in section five with Krelle’s memories of his childhood during the Weimar Republic, his education in Prussian culture and Protestant values, including difficult family relationships, that together created the psychological needs, to which his epistemic preference were a response. Using Krelle’s self-testimony in his journals and letters, I thus argue that his preference for mechanical economic modelling was consistent with (rather than caused by) a conservative, conformist, and obedient personality witnessing a deeply German experience of the mid 20th century. His preference was nourished by Prussian values of militarism, nationalism, and the Protestant faith.8

  • 9 For the telling example of Jan Tinbergen, see the recent book by Dekker (2021).
  • 10 This historiographical approach of “personalizing” economic reasoning of the post-war period has be (...)

8As with any individual, Krelle is a unique case. The lives that informed the intellectual passion of those who advanced a very similar kind of modeling—for instance, Jan Tinbergen, Lawrence Klein, and William Phillips—are very different from that of Krelle.9 The psyche and morale that nourishes a specific kind of modelling task can vary as much as the individuals underlying economic aggregates. Life paths evade rigid causal reasoning, but they allow us to observe patterns of meaning and reasoning in different contexts that are unrelated in macro-historical accounts.10 This cultural genealogy reminds us to consider the entirety of individual lives, embedded in larger cultures when thinking of epistemological issues in economics. More concretely, the Krelle case increases the burden of proof for those who still use the positive-normative divide when describing their professional ethos. And ultimately, it shows the importance of rethinking the psychosocial conditions which made mechanical reasoning an attractive intellectual endeavour.

2. Economic Policies

  • 11 Krelle got to know Klein in 1954 in Michigan while on a Rockefeller visit. As Klein said of Krelle (...)

9The idea of a model which represents the global economy as a set of differently tuned national economies—be they capitalist, socialist, or developing—had its peak in the so-called Project LINK during the 1970s. This project was one of the most ambitious efforts to put the post-WWII neo-Keynesian vision into place (Klein, 1976; Krelle and Klein, 1983; Krelle, 1980; Bodkin et al., 1991). It was supposed to be nothing short of a quantitative model of the global economy. Crossing all political ideologies, the project began with thirteen OECD countries, along with some developing and socialist countries, and grew into a model encompassing all of the industrial countries, all major socialist countries, and all major developing countries (Klein, 1976, 436). What at the Brussel’s Fair was a simple machine to fine-tune a single country’s economy, Project Link translated into actual global policies: managing global trade, creating global incentives, thinking of global growth rates, and perhaps assessing global transfers. While Lawrence Klein, one of the leading figures in Keynesian macro-econometrics, was the American host of Project LINK, Wilhelm Krelle was its German engine.11

  • 12 “The LINK project involved a new set of considerations because we had to learn to manage data that (...)
  • 13 This was a problem Krelle worked on (see Krelle and Klein, 1983).

10Despite the increased capacities of computers, data analysis in these days remained a matter of diligence, routine, and discipline (rather than a matter of creativity and imagination) that fitted Krelle’s work spirit well. Krelle was known to work for fourteen hours a day and do head stands to fight tiredness, his assistant Helmstädter recalled (1987, 104). Technical limitations certainly still plagued the project, but the biggest obstacle was institutional, the collection of data of the same quality.12 Differences in national accounting prevented the reproduction of the machine-like management of the global economy. These difficulties increased once the Bretton Woods system broke down, as flexible exchange rates complicated the model.13 The model simply circumvented this problem by linking nations by trade, without comparing the national measures behind it. That is, the structural equivalence of economies, as supposed by the economic simulator, was in reality impossible to establish.

  • 14 Other early attempts were made for example by Grüning (see Krengel, 1979). Erich Preiser was one of (...)
  • 15 See in retrospect Krelle (1984a) and his national accounts (Krelle, 1959).
  • 16 See for the history of Keynesianism in Germany Hagemann (2019). Note that the history of Keynesiani (...)

11On a national level, however, prospects were better. There, macro-econometrically speaking, Krelle had already made it. In the late 1950s, in Heidelberg under the supervision of Erich Preiser, Krelle created what was one of the first effective input-output national accounts for Germany at the Institute for Econometric Research.14 The “colossal painting” of the economy, as he called it, became later known as the “Bonn model.” (Nützenadel, 2005, 117) They produced medium-run predictions of four to five years. His model was used as a basis for decisions made by the German Council of Economic Experts (Sachverständigenrat), and was used by the statistics office for their national accounts.15 During the 1960s, it was Krelle who popularized the image of hydraulic Keynesianism in Germany, complementing the politics of the social democrat’s minister of economic affairs, Karl Schiller.16 In Keynesian economics, less so in ordoliberalism, nations remained the ultimate unit, and thus the interest of economic analysis. Macro-econometric modelling of this period was to increase the rationality of economic policies, the goal being given by the national interest.

  • 17 See Krelle (1962). His Keynesian teacher Erich Preiser had already studied inequality (Preiser, 195 (...)
  • 18 See Die Zeit, 1971 (31), July 30; Krelle et al., 1968.

12Krelle added his share to this national cause. Since 1973, he had been a member of the scientific council at the ministry for the economy (wissenschaftliche Beirat beim Bundesministerium für Wirtschaft), the leading dozen economists advising the government in economic policy. His positions were eclectic and at times puzzling. In public, he became specifically known for his contributions to wealth and income distribution.17 His 1968 report on the “corporate rent shareholding of employees”, known as the Krelle-report, caused great public debate. He proposed employer shareholding as a measure to resolve inequality, since, as he had shown, only 1,7% of all private households hold 70% of all economic assets.18 In the same vein, he was known for arguing for higher inheritance taxes such that “a Krupp-inheritor could no longer lead the sweet life of a slacker and playboy.” (cited in Bongard, 1969*) He also promoted the inclusion of workers in entrepreneurial decisions of big companies, on which he advised the government (1968-1970).

13At the same time, he also was a consulting member of the board of directors of the Krupp consortium (1972-1990). There he argued against the labor unions and their autonomy in wage bargaining. He took part in the decision to close down plants, in particular the steel mill Rheinhausen. Again, the normative-positive divide reappeared when he spoke of the necessity of this decision in a quasi-Darwinist fashion. As he explained to his family:

  • 19 Krelle wrote yearly summaries of family events as copied letters to be sent to friends before Chris (...)

As bitter as it was, it [the decision] was not difficult for me. It was clear that this had to be done in order to save the whole [enterprise]. … If you can only survive by the amputation of one limb, one has to decide for the surgery, as deplorable the loss might be. (Family Year letter, 1988, December 17*)19

14When it came to the promotion of goals, Krelle became known in public as a Christian economist active in the Protestant church. He was a member of the chamber for social order (Sozialkammer) of the Protestant church (1963-1985) and a member of the Synod of the Protestant church (1973-1985). In several church publications, he argued against the irrationality of Christian charity. He read the Bible as ‘an economic guide’, arguing for rational measures for redistribution in the sense of Christian social ethics (1984b). Also regarding peace and disarmament, he took “rational positions”: “I was a member of the working group ‘securing peace’ in the Protestant Church, where I prevented the church from engaging in illusionary ‘peace offensives’—an argument which was not very popular with many members of the church.” (Family Year letter, December 13, 1999*)

15In Germany’s political post-war discourse, Krelle stood for the idea of introducing economic rationality in several institutional contexts, be it economic policy, military policy, or the social policy of the church. His economic harshness and moral intentions might have seemed contradictory to some, but they were motivated by a simple link between Protestant faith and economic rationality: he wished to establish equality of opportunities between agents, such that the competition was fair, the best would win, and the weak would lose. People without ambition did not deserve to profit from the common good. In other words, his representation of the economy as a value-free mechanism was compatible with, and thus could be nourished by his Protestant faith, which taught him that hard work should pay off and that the worthy are to be separated from the unworthy. The equality of agents as well as entire nations with respect to the (anonymous) economic mechanism was thus a means to realize his Protestant values of giving to the diligent, and punishing the idle.

3. University Policies

  • 20 When speaking of literary, verbal economics, I refer to those approaches still present in German ec (...)
  • 21 This section is largely based on Hesse (2010), and Düppe (2018).

16The same year in which the simulator was exhibited in Brussels, 1958, Krelle joined the department of economics in Bonn, then still was a stronghold of ordoliberal economics. Krelle replaced the prominent Erwin von Beckerath, a central visionary of West Germany’s social market economy. Beckerath’s chair was the chair for economic theory, the meaning of which was wide open in the early 1960s—descriptive theory in the sense of the historical school, conceptual theory in the sense of ordoliberalism, and technical theory in the sense of Keynesian economics.20 Thanks to Krelle’s active hiring strategy, after only two decades, Bonn would be the first department in Germany from which verbal, non-technical, economics had disappeared completely.21

17The battle took place on two fronts. Krelle had to convince the established economists that the new hires who came mostly from mathematics departments could pass as economists, and he had to convince the new hires that they fit into an economics department. His overall argument was to favor “research quality,” as if there was only one “positive” standard that could be applied to both literary and technical economists. As we are going to see, he played down the conflict between standards of quality to the point that what in fact was a hegemonic mission appeared as a competition between equals—thus the same pattern of thought that he applied in economic policy.

18The first three hires were decisive: new chairs in statistics and in sociology, and a new hire in business economics (Betriebswirtschaftslehre). As a young dean, Krelle orchestrated all three hires. After consulting Erich Gutenberg, whom he knew from the Theoretical Section of the German Economics Association, Krelle placed Gutenberg’s promising pupil and son-in-law Horst Albach in the chair for business economics. Albach quickly became familiar with the methods of operations research, as well as friends with Krelle. The early close connection between business economics and economic theory, excluding traditional and more “soft” elements of managerial training, has contributed significantly to the economics brand in Bonn.

  • 22 About the Cowles Commission as the hotbed of economic modelling techniques in the U.S, see Düppe an (...)
  • 23 Only in 1972 did the University of Bonn formalize the application procedures, which until then were (...)

19For the chair of statistics, Krelle tried to persuade a German-speaking econometrician from the US to return to Germany. Gerhard Tintner, a student of Oskar Morgenstern and since 1938 at the Cowles Commission, was listed first; Martin Beckmann, also from the Cowles Commission but by then at Brown University, was listed second; and Krelle’s colleague from St. Gallen, Hans Paul Künzi, was listed third.22 Being at the top of the list implied a formal offer, or “call” (Ruf), which could be used at one’s home-university to renegotiate professional conditions.23 After Tintner declined the offer, Krelle tried to convince Beckmann, who expressed concerns that he was not right for the job: “My main concern is that I am not a statistician and do not even have formal training in it. That is why I do not feel at home in the statistical branches of econometrics.” (August 9, 1960, folder “Soziologie”*, FA) But when Krelle promised a separate institute for operations research and allowed him to continue his post at Brown, Beckmann accepted. Beckmann’s research on optimization problems in transportation fitted well with Albach’s and Krelle’s toolbox (Koopmans and Beckmann, 1957). Linear (and non-linear) programming brought together the new triumvirate of Krelle, Albach, and Beckmann, a critical partnership of young, like-minded, research-oriented economists who would shape the department’s future. Jointly, they founded the German Society for Operations Research in order to draw other departments into their new economics (Krelle, 1987).

20While Krelle was busy importing new expertise into economics, a spin-off of traditional elements of economics took place: notably, a chair for political science and another for social and economic history were created in the neighbouring philosophy faculty. In a strategic fashion, Krelle argued that the same should not happen to the chair of sociology. The segregation of sociology, he wrote, would

promote the tendency of a division of economics and social science disciplines at the University of Bonn … Such a division can only be a detriment to sociology and to political science, which attains the character of a historical science, and is likewise a detriment to economics, which would be deprived of its sociological and political elements. (Folder “Soziologie”*, FA.)

21This commitment to sociology, rather than an expression of genuine pluralism, was an effective valve for his claim to freedom of choice in other positions. The ultimate hire, Gottfried Eisermann, would play no role whatsoever in the department. He could not alter the further separation of sociology and political science, which founded their own institutes at the faculty of philosophy in the course of the seventies. The segregation of economics in the social sciences became an irreversible reality.

  • 24 Since in Germany university professors are public servants, the provincial Ministry of Education in (...)
  • 25 Folder “Neue Lehrstühle 1963”, FA.
  • 26 Folder “Neue Lehrstühle 1963”*, FA.

22In 1962, the Ministry approved a second chair for economic theory, which opened up the divisions between the old literary and the new technical style of economics.24 After lengthy discussion, the committee put two names on the list, both in first place: Beckerath’s former assistant and Walter Eucken’s successor in Freiburg, Heinz Müller, and Krelle’s successor as an assistant to Preiser in Heidelberg, Alfred Eugen Ott. The faculty vote was five for Ott with four abstentions, which caused the literary economists—Fritz Meyer, Ernst Kamp, the retired Beckerath, and Eisermann—to submit a “special vote” (Sondervotum) against the decision.25 They opposed the “institutional-legal approach” to the “mathematical-quantitative approach” in economic theory and asked for a balance between the two. The latter, they argued, lacks policy relevance, which requires “a close and, to date, not yet smooth cooperation of economists with scholars in law, sociology and other humanities.”26 They asked for a candidate who covered “those fields of applied economic theory, which are not covered by the modern approach of mathematical research.” Krelle’s reply reflects his overall department policy and the strategic use of the positive-normative divide. In a highly conflicted situation, he played on the difference between political ideology and scientific reason, downplaying the existing conflict between epistemic standards.

[The opponents] basically say that Müller, in contrast to Ott, represents neoliberal economic policy … The fact that one’s theoretical work serves one or the other political position, however, is as irrelevant, to quote Stackelberg, as the question to print one’s books in Antiqua or in Fraktur. In economic theory, the normative aspects are largely absent. It’s only a matter of right or wrong … In this respect, German theoretical economics lost its connection with the international development. (Folder “Neue Lehrstühle 1963”*, FA)

  • 27 In-house hires, that is, hiring a professor from one’s own university, is against the academic code (...)

23After the rector of the university, who had to decide about the special vote, felt unable to do so, the committee was changed, followed by three years of repeatedly failed hiring attempts. In the face of a difficult market for economists, the faculty agreed on an in-house hire, Krelle’s assistant in Heidelberg and in Bonn, Ernst Helmstädter.27

24Half-and-half was the score in the early 1970s: half non-technical economists, half technical economists. The breakthrough came with the retirement of the ordoliberal Hans Meyer and the replacement of his chair in economic policy—which was so far considered the normative and non-technical approach to economics at the department. Initially, in addition to Meyer’s chair, a second chair for economic policy with a “social-political” orientation was planned that prefigured a renaissance of the old, normative, style of economics. In May 1972, the two positions were announced for the first time. Three candidates, two of them non-technical economists, were put on the list, but all declined their offers after negotiations with the university about the professional conditions as well as renegotiations with their home universities. In a second round, no candidate was considered of sufficient quality. In a third round, two other German-based non-technical economists were listed, but declined too. On the fourth list, again three economists declined their offers. Five years had elapsed since Meyer’s retirement, and apparently no qualitative economist wished to join the stronghold of scientific rigor in Bonn. In order to put an end to this search, Krelle brought up the idea to move Carl Christian von Weizsäcker from his former chair in theory to Meyer’s policy chair, making the search into one for a replacement for Weizsäcker’s theory chair who could have been found quite easily. The sign of the changing identity of the discipline could not have been more apparent. Ten years before, Weizsäcker’s research would have been considered pure theory, but now it could be regarded as ‘theoretical foundations of economic policy’. After student resistance was quelled by the ministry of education, Weizsäcker became a professor of economic policy, and as a theoretician, Martin Hellwig, professor on the associate level, succeeded to Weizsäcker’s chair in economic theory. Krelle clearly changed the rules of the game to the extent that economic policy was no longer equated with verbal, non-technical economics, and economic theory no longer with technical economics. All economics became technical.

25When Kamp retired in 1977, the influence of those who did not support the new line was lost. On the occasion of his 70th birthday, Kamp declined the usual honors of the faculty. In a letter to the dean he wrote:

To tell the full truth, I must add that my personal absence also corresponds to my overall mood these days. This is so because, in Bonn, the development of quantitative methods, which is so important for economics, was so influential and the qualitative methods, which are indispensable to economics, have been so obviously marked down that a personal celebration becomes intolerable to me … We all know that disagreement, also in science, can be fruitful. In order to work and live with them, tolerance and respect for the other is required. (14.6.1979, folder “Kamp”*, FA)

26After his retirement, Krelle was celebrated for his life-time work. The department held a two-day colloquium for his farewell in December 1984. Nobel Prize winners Gérard Debreu and Lawrence Klein were present. Klein praised his work: “A research generation has run its course, and the entire professional world is the better for it.” (14.6.1979, folder “Kamp”*, FA) After the celebrations, in response to all the encomiums, Krelle quoted Luke 17, verse 10: “So you also, when you have done everything you were told to do, should say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty’.” (Folder “Krelle”*, FA) In the final report of a large research project, he wrote:

  • 28 Krelle was replaced by Reinhard Selten, later the first German Nobel laureate in economics.

Closing a long and, as this report shows, successful activity is, of course, also sad ... But as the death of individuals has its good sense within the overall development of a species, so is also the death of institutions, considering the organizational forms in which science unfolds. (Krelle, 1986: vii*)28

  • 29 This procedure was called “phasing out” (Abwicklung). It referred to a formal shutting down and the (...)

27Critical of the communist regime throughout his life, 1989 was a happy moment for Krelle. After the German reunification in 1990, known for having set up a leading department in West Germany, Krelle was asked to reform the economics faculty at Humboldt University in Berlin that should transition from a faculty ingrained in the socialist state to a competitive research faculty. Krelle thus led the committee that decided who of the East German professors would continue to be economists at Humboldt University. The old contracts were turned into temporary contracts, such that the local professors had to reapply and now compete with western economists to regain their old positions.29 Though it was not Krelle who was responsible for the political goal that the faculty had to adopt western standards, it was his duty to see that the goal was met, which he did assiduously and thoroughly.

28His decisions were firm and determined. He compared the situation with the Silesian hand weaving of the 19th century that had to give way to machine weaving, a difficult but necessary social change. Again, as there is justice in having a winner and loser in economic competition, there is also justice in the fair competition of scientific quality. And if the scientific quality of the former socialists did not meet that of those who received their PhDs from Bonn or Boston, it was just to decide against them—ignoring the fact that Western publications, for example, were censored in the GDR. Again, what was in fact an hegemonic mission appeared as a competition between equals. Hardly any of the thirty professors of the old regime made it to the new one. One spoke of a ‘clearcutting’ (Kahlschlag), a ‘human drama’: “All attempts to rescue some of the ideas of the older educational system that were worth keeping were futile,” a committee member from the old faculty recalled. (Kolloch, 2001, 298*) Avoiding the underlying conflict, however, he presented his decisions as reasonable as necessary.

29The new faculty earned a respectable reputation as a new center of economic research and granted Krelle an honorary doctorate in December 1994 (Plinke, 1997). He was praised as someone who “as a human being is an example for all who are becoming scientists.” (cited in Fink, 2011) Not everyone agreed. It is unclear who began the search into Krelle’s past, but soon one could read about it in the press: Krelle had been an SS soldier. Military archives proved it. Orders he signed, though not formulated, were cited: “The principle: fanatic fight for every meter of homeland, which will cost the enemy streams of blood … must be our sacred duty.” (February 2, 1945, cited in Junge Welt, 17.02.2007, p. 8*) That was not the Krelle whom students knew from classes on distribution theory; thus, students asked the university to withdraw the honorary doctorate. The university set up a committee that commissioned a military expert for a report, which was adopted by the university Senate in June 1996: yes, Krelle had been an officer in an SS corps, but most likely was never a member of the SS, and refused requests to leave the Wehrmacht. This is what mattered for Krelle, but his public image was nevertheless tarnished. His name was now associated with the SS officer who kicked out the socialist economists from Humboldt University, as if it were a late echo of his early career. Had West Germany done as thorough a job of denazification as did the GDR (or as he did at Humboldt in 1990), Krelle could not have had an academic career at all, many thought. And so Krelle aged in desperation over his broken public image.

4. War

30Krelle was 17 years old when Hitler took power at the end of January 1933. He had been active in the National Socialist (NS) movement even before that, had read Mein Kampf, had gone to the meetings of the brown shirts, had cycled day and night to see one of Hitler’s speeches, and had been a local leader in the Hitler Youth (Gefolgschaftsführer). Responsible for around one hundred members, he had organized scout activities and went from village to village to recruit new members. At the “day of the national rising,” January 30, 1933, he walked in line at the torchlight procession of the NS in Nordhausen. Others were watching in silence. He was about to have a career in the party, but the so-called Röhm affair in June 1934 changed his mind. Having never used a weapon against a person, he was called to stand up against Röhm’s police, the SA. He no longer wanted be associated with the NSDAP, but wished to remain true to the German cause the party represented. “I wanted to get out of this unpleasant, sometimes disgusting Nazi environment. But then, all that was left was the Reichswehr (the German Army then Wehrmacht).” (Krelle, 1993, I, 46, 50*)

  • 30 Krelle (1993, I and II; Private archive Heide Krelle).
  • 31 Censorship was carried out selectively by the Feldpostprüfstelle, and included the letters of offic (...)
  • 32 Autobiography as the attempt to make sense of one’s own experiences is an appropriate source for un (...)

31This is how Krelle, later in 1993, begins to describe his autobiographical memories of the rise of National Socialism. He put them in writing after he had been diagnosed with cancer, but before his SS past became public in Berlin. He wrote about five hundred pages, which also included two earlier attempts of putting his memories into words, still in a more heroic tone, dating from the 1960s.30 He also selected copies of letters sent to his wife as a soldier to both prove his earlier thoughts and to distance himself from them (army letters were censored, and thus may or may not reflect his actual thoughts).31 Krelle must have played with the idea of publishing these memoirs; however, in the end he gave the two bounded typescripts to his family members only. That is, Krelle worked through, and thus modified, war memories at several points of his life. The war remained with him for his entire life, including his professional engagements described so far.32 In fact, the patterns of reasoning observed so far, were compatible, and thus possibly nourished by, the way he thought about his career as an officer in World War II.

  • 33 Such orders were not uncommon in the last year of the war (see Kunz, 2005, 119).

32In 1935, at age 19, Krelle joined the Army as an ensign. In Poland in 1939, though only in an engineering troop, he was active in battle and captured a bridge, which won him the Iron Cross Class II. When Hitler broke the pact with Stalin by attacking the Soviet Union in June 1941, he recalls that he did not wonder but trusted that Hitler’s choice of political goals was reasonable and that it was up to him to achieve them—which he continued to believe until May 1945. In 1941, he was wounded in Greece in a bunker attack and received Hitler’s deed of honor as well as the Iron Cross Class I. After the promotion to Captain in September 1942, he became the commander of a tank battalion with Erwin Rommel in the African corps. Again, he was seriously wounded. In January 1944, he was ordered to the General Staff training. After this Staff training, he received the order to join a SS division, as the 3rd General Staff Officer of the newly formed 13th SS-Corps under the command of SS-Gruppenführer Hermann Prieß.33

  • 34 This difference was a persistent belief among many of Krelle’s generation, despite the fact that th (...)

33So far, Krelle described the pride in his career, and presented himself as a conscientious and righteous soldier. The order to change from the Wehrmacht to the SS, however, put Krelle in a moral conflict. For him, the differences between the Wehrmacht and the SS were of a moral kind: the difference between an orderly Prussian institution and a corrupt party system, between German nationalism and Aryan racism, between the reason of military strategy and the mania of political power, and in particular between the Wehrmacht that draws from Christian values and the SS’s atheism.34 In retrospect, he recalled a conversation with his wife:

In consternation, Ali (my wife) and I sat in our apartment and discussed the situation. Should I ask the Army Office for a different post? ... After a long discussion, two reasons kept me from doing so. First, I believed that I’m in God’s hands. If he thinks that such a strange task is right for me, I cannot know better. His will must be done. ... The second reason, however, was probably more decisive - in any case, I recall my arguments with Ali very precisely. During the war, … I had to give commands that put soldiers in critical situations that were at least as unpleasant as the command I got ... Now that I’m in such a situation and have received an unpleasant order, should I then try to evade it? (Krelle, 1993, II, 82*)

34These two reasons—be they the actual ruminations of an obedient soldier or rationalizations of a conscious-ridden old man—are worth noting as they parallel the patterns of thought observed in other domains of Krelle’s life. As mentioned, Krelle was deeply Protestant. His maternal grandfather was a Protestant minister. “Christianity in the Lutheran garb shaped my youth in the parental home. We lived in the history of Magdeburg and the Mark Brandenburg and were proud of the family, of Prussia and Germany. The commitment to these communities was a matter of course.” (Krelle, 1993, II, 5*) In Prussian culture, faith in God and Emperor, nationalism, militarism, obedience, sacrifice and hard work for the common good were all closely knit together. Being duteous was to worship, and to show being worthy of, God. As in his later economic policy advice or when doing his duty as department chair, Krelle also tried to view his activities as an NS soldier in the light of Protestant faith. This was the source of his moral values, of his working spirit, and of his commitment to the national cause that he lived out before and after 1945.

35In battle, his Protestant belief helped him to make sense of the war and, in particular, help him to accept the fear of death when taking cover in trenches under artillery attack or moving under hostile fire. He had the 15th Gospel of John in mind: “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” (Krelle, 1993, I, 68*) Rather than being driven by hate, as he explained in his memoirs, war for him was God’s way of showing who had a further task on earth, be it for the individual or the nation for which he fought. If he were killed, his life would be fulfilled by dying for his country. The fact that he survived the war was understood by Krelle as a sign that God had chosen him for further work on earth. Such a construed notion of religious faith might explain what he wrote to his parents on August 29, 1944, after the recruitment to the SS: “Do not worry that I become a different person by wearing a different uniform. I believe that, also in the SS, I can act for the good in accordance with my religious principles.” (Krelle, 1993, II, 86*)

36After he accepted the post with the 13th SS corps in Bernau, Gruppenführer Prieß asked him to resign from the army and formally become a member of the SS. While his Protestant faith made him accept the order to transfer to the SS, the same faith made him refuse to sign up for membership. He recalled long discussions with Prieß about the existence of God and his role in the war. In particular, he recalled his opposition to the anti-Semitism of the NSDAP because he thought that “the hate against what is Jewish also affects Christianity.” (Krelle, 1993, II, 93*) Having declined in writing on October 29, it might have influenced Prieß’s decision not to recruit him for the Battle of the Bulge in December 1944, the last German offensive on the Western front; Krelle would have willingly gone, but it was just as well that he did not, given the serious war crimes that were committed during the so-called Malmedy Massacre: one hundred U.S. prisoners of war were executed for which Prieß was later convicted (Remy, 2017).

  • 35 For a military history of the 17th division, see Spiwoks and Stöber (1976), and more recent and mor (...)
  • 36 April 7, 1945, Dalkingen, shooting of eight Concentration Camp prisoners who remained from a prison (...)

37Instead, on January 4, 1945, Krelle was transferred as 1st General Staff Officer to the 17th SS-Panzergrenadier Division, as well as promoted to Major, the equivalent of the SS Sturmbannführer.35 They were supposed to fight “to the last man” in order to hold the last line which separated the enemy from German territory, the Siegfried Line. Once the line was lost and the remaining troops moved southeast into German territory, isolated war crimes were committed—there are records of shootings of lost concentration camp prisoners and of civilians who prepared white flags for the arrival of U.S. forces. Krelle claimed that he was not aware of these crimes, that he could not possibly monitor the individual actions of more than 10.000 soldiers.36 To the contrary, he thought that the courage of his soldiers deserved respect, as he had written some months before to his wife, following the war propaganda of the NS regime, as he showed in a letter to his wife dating 9 October, 1944: “The whole world has to respect the German soldiers who in the fifth year of war, outnumbered in weapons, equipment and soldiers, always do their duty and never give up.” (in Krelle, 1993, II, 86*)

  • 37 This took place in Hir el Ksiba. The deaths were related to a lack of coordination with the artille (...)

38This helps to understand the second reason for which Krelle agreed to wear an SS uniform. Being an officer required absolute obedience to orders—that is to act without questioning their meaning, without feeling responsible for the overall political goal, and to accept casualties. In Africa, as a commander, he sent eleven soldiers to a meaningless death.37 At the Siegfried Line thousands of soldiers died under his command—the record reports that only 800 out of the 12,000 soldiers in his division survived. In public, he would later claim about the latter losses that he prevented more casualties from occurring. In private, the former would gnaw at his conscience for years to come as a symbol of the tragedy of war. “One cannot give a soldier at the front or a lower officer the right to decide case by case if a command is ‘good’ … Otherwise you would risk the cohesion of the troops: no one could rely on one another.” (Krelle, 1993, I, 89*)

39Krelle’s preference for simple mechanical reasoning echoed his Prussian virtues of discipline and the rule-based structure of the army. The rationality he represented as an economist, in particular the separation of economic goals and the impersonal economic mechanism, resonated well with his Prussian values of viewing moral and political life as a matter of rules, protocols, and duty rather than sentiments and affections. And this meant to be obedient, to accept sacrifices, to follow rules as meticulously as possible, to trust the decisions of the higher ups without questioning the choice of goals.

40Absolute obedience, the acceptance of casualties, the suppression of one’s doubts, and the irrational fact that others died next to him while he survived clearly required strategies to deal with feelings of guilt. Krelle’s most important strategy is deeply rooted in Prussian culture: hard work. It is by means of utmost obligation and effort that he could make up for those who sacrificed their lives. “I am glad, my dearest,” he wrote to his wife December 6, 1944, “that I can relieve the guilt for all soldiers on the front lines by hard work.” (in Krelle, 1993, II, 96*) Hard work, for Krelle, was both a cure for guilt and a means to keep going.

  • 38 Heide Krelle, November 2015 in Villingen.

41But the underlying motivation for accepting the delirium of war was a deep desire that remained present throughout Krelle’s entire life, the desire to achieve something extraordinary and noble—to stand out in comparison. His nationalism was a manifestation of the wish to enter historical memory. He thought of the great battles of Frederick II of Prussia and compared himself to Carl von Clausewitz, of whose nationalist oath he always carried a copy. On Christmas Day 1943, he wrote to his wife: “When the New Year begins, we will toast with a full glass of champagne and vow to never be frivolous (kleinmütig), never to be frightened, and even if it looks bad to always believe in our fatherland and our future.” (cited in Krelle, 1993, II, 49*) Reading at the front line about Bach, he wrote to his wife on 29 September, 1944: “I hope that, like Bach, I can bring about something that goes beyond the mere demands of daily life.” (in Krelle, 1993, II, 106*) Krelle’s professional ambition was, rather than the self-sacrifice for a greater good, the expression of an exceptionalism, an elevated sense of his self, and thus of vanity (Eitelkeit), as his daughter Heide called it in a personal conversation.38

42And in this respect, the German surrender in May 1945 meant multiple disappointments: that his sacrifices (and those of so many others for which he had to make up) were pointless; that nobody was celebrating or even acknowledging his courage; and worst, that the NS regime had not only fought for the “noble” goals he had in mind: the rigid separation of goals and means broke apart once the full truth of what he knew from rumors was revealed—the Holocaust. And since the SS would become a symbol, not only of so many war crimes but also of the genocide, Krelle, poised to be a hero before the end of the war, faced being a pariah after the war. Commenting in retrospect, he signalled understanding of the gaps in his justification of his NS involvement: “After all, everyone will be responsible for what he has done, if he had insight into all of the activities or not. And if he is not prosecuted, so remains one’s own conscience as a prosecutor.” (Krelle, 1993, I, 89*)

  • 39 Krelle, Family Chronicle 1945. Krelle kept a diary beginning with his return from the war about fam (...)

43Note, however, that the less he identified with the crimes that became public, the less he had to question his noble motivations. Having survived the war, he must have been chosen by God for a further task on earth. And so the first entry in the post-war family chronicle reads: “1945—the war is lost, Germany destroyed and separated, but our will as such remains, and the hope to turn around our destiny.”39 And he had to take on this task in obligation towards all those whom he sent to death and who died beside him in the trenches. And this task, as we have seen in the preceding sections, would turn out to be a modernizer of German economics.

44In 1945 he was twenty-seven years old, and had never pursued any other career than that of a soldier preparing for and fighting in battle. His personality, and the patterns of thought arising from them, were formed.

5. Ignominy

45One of young Wilhelm’s first childhood memories, before his personality was formed, was of a holiday at the Baltic Sea at age seven. The beach chair was decorated with the black, white, and red flag of the German Empire to display the love of their country. The flag, officially abandoned, represented a Germany that was on eye-level with Britain and France, as well as the courage of German soldiers in WWI. The post-1919 German black, red, and gold flag, instead, stood for defeat, degradation, social disorder and the economic decline of the Weimar Republic. The family decided not to accept Germany’s loss, which Krelle compared with Prussia’s defeat against Napoleon, who had won the battle but had in the end lost the war. The First World War had ended too early.

46In contrast to his war memories, Krelle did publish his childhood memories of the Weimar Republic in a collection of essays (1993b). He thought of them as sufficiently typical and telling of the period, that he wished to expose them to the public. In fact, the images he relied on are common topoi in the cultural history of the Weimar Republic, in particular with respect to the origin of the so-called authoritarian personality. Young Wilhelm was disciplined, and eager to be the best in class. Intellectually he felt superior throughout his education, he had the reputation of being a know-it-all. In 1929, at age 13, when the Dawes plan was to be replaced by the Young plan that limited the reparation payments to end in 1988, he gave a short speech at school:

There I stood before the class, and started talking about enslavement until 1988, longer than we would live. All our lifetime we had to pay tribute, and we would not experience an independent Germany any more … But then I was already at the end. I did not know any more. I stammered a few more repetitions of the same sentences and then walked back to my place, quite ashamed. (Krelle, 1993, I, 15*)

47Krelle could observe as a child the deployments of several groups in his home town Magdeburg—nationalist, communists, veterans—which he saw as a symptom of a state falling apart. Only the military, not politics or society, represented order. History and military history went hand in hand in his mind. The history of Germany was the history of the holy German Empire. Frederick II of Prussia and even Charlemagne were his points of reference when thinking of his Heimat. As a young boy, he read Ernst Jünger’s Storm of Steal, resulting in an admiration of the life of a soldier, and the romanticism of death. The fall of the German Empire was the beginning of a “deplorable special role of Germany”, suggesting a disability to be ashamed of. “We felt the discriminatory treatment of Germany by the victorious powers like a personal insult.” (Krelle, 1993, I, 16*) Krelle’s ambitions and nationalism, as he presented them, were nourished by the fear of humiliation that he learned to associate, as a child, with the ignominy of the Weimar Republic.

  • 40 Georg Schumacher, son-in-law, personal conversation, June 2016 in Nördlingen.

48But his shame attached to the Weimar Republic, and thus his nationalism and exceptionalism might have had a source within his family. As his memoirs suggest, and as his children later believed, his father symbolized this weakness to him. Willy Krelle was a bank clerk. He was bullied by his boss, and had a hard time during the Great Depression deciding whom to grant and deny credit. Always in danger of losing his job, he suffered from stomach ulcers and pneumonia. When his father was replaced in his position, they would ask themselves, Krelle recalled: “Again, a burden for the whole family: Would he survive? Would he keep his position? What should happen if not?” (Krelle, 1993, I, 29*) The family was in a continuous state of worry for their father’s rank and health, and little Wilhelm despised him for that. “Imagine that! He failed because he was not able to deny credit during the crisis,” Krelle’s son-in-law recalled him saying.40

49Krelle’s professional ambition as a soldier and as an economist was the inversion of the contempt for his father; his desire for the noble, the reverse of a fear of failing at the simple tasks of daily life. The weakness associated with the Weimar Republic, his own harshness in moral questions, and thus his inclination to separate the moral from the factual was a sublimation of the shame he felt regarding his father.

6. Concluding Remarks

  • 41 As witnessed by the success of Mirowski (2002), and Erickson et al. (2013).

50In the history of science, the transformation of the social sciences after World War II has been an ongoing fascination of at least the last few decades of research.41 Systems analysis, operations research, cybernetics, programming, simulation and other modelling techniques have become part and parcel of our understanding of 20th century science. The idea of a more rational policy that is immune to ideological failure is acknowledged as the driving force of this movement. The case of Krelle is an important reminder of a fact which is too often overlooked in this literature, that post-war scientists lived against the background of memories of violence during the war. It reminds historians of a question that was second nature to the children (now retired) of those who lived through the war, as the last remark by Krelle’s son-in-law shows: In what way was their parents’ professional career a response to or a way to make sense of their wartime experiences and deal with those memories?

51When accepting the fact that embodied memory matters, including childhood memories, historians do not have to buy into psychological theories of the “authoritarian personality”. The claim that childhood experiences are important for individual lives is not monopolized by a psychoanalytical framework. To repeat, there is no way to generalize the case of Krelle (we would not need history to understand it). Others with the same war experiences might have ended up with different modelling preferences, and the same modelling preference could arise from any number of different experiences of the war. What we have observed in the preceding genealogy of Krelle’s self-testimony are patterns of meaning and reasoning that cross the contexts of his Prussian childhood, his engagement in World War II, his activism in the economics department in Bonn and in economic policy after the war. We have observed that the positive-normative divide that was vital for the ethos of the post-war economist was both a strategical element of Krelle pursuing his own agenda, as well as compatible with, and thus possibly nourished by, the mentality of Prussian Protestantism and militarism.

52The case of Krelle is thus simply a reminder that epistemic preferences in science are responses to larger cultural patterns and to each individual’s quest to make sense of himself. And this is particularly true for the generation at hand which built their careers on cultural artefacts that are so removed from their historical sources, such as Krelle’s simulator exhibited at the Brussels World’s Fair. The post-war fascination for the technical in economic modelling, which was part of a larger fascination for a “modern” society, was a way to avoid unresolved conflicts of the past—conflicts that continue informing the patterns of reasoning cherished by the economic profession until today.

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1 Citations with an asterisk are translated from German by the author.

2 Letter from rector of University of Zürich to rectors of all Swiss universities, November 23, 1957; St. Gallen University Archive, Dufourstrasse 50, 9000 St. Gallen, Switzerland.

3 More known in the English-language literature is the Newlyn-Philips Machine built in 1949, known as “Moniac”, which was also a hydraulic machine (see, for example, Morgan, 2012, chapter 5). There is no evidence that Krelle knew of Moniac, and he does not refer to any other comparable machine. Technically, there appears to be a difference of the treatment of stocks and flows (as the velocity, rather than the quantity, of the fluid represents the pecuniary measures). But more importantly, the genealogy that I present in the following is of an entirely different kind than the one provided in the literature. The following account is less about the interaction of economic concepts and engineered materials than about the resemblance of patterns of meaning of the mechanical image of the economy and other parts of Krelle’s life.

4 Krelle referred to Röpke’s mockery of the “circular economy engineers” (Kreislaufingenieure), who missing out the “vital situation” of the economic agent (Röpke, 1958*).

5 The history of the normative-positive divide in economic methodology goes back to John Stuart Mill in his attempt to rescue Ricardo’s free market theories (see for example Colander and Su, 2015). It had been a topic in the great confrontations of the early 20th century between the Austrian and the historical school, as well as between marginalist and institutionalist economists in the U.S.; while the former argued for a separation of the normative and the positive, the latter asked for inclusion of the two, notably in response to the social question. Lionel Robbins and Milton Friedman are two other landmarks for drawing on this distinction. While Keynes himself added little to it, in the wake of Paul Samuelson’s adaptation of Keynes, the distinction became a place-holder for what was called “economic engineering”. Without going into the conceptual history of this distinction, the following account embeds the distinction in a highly particularistic fashion in German cultural history.

6 This refers to the study of Adorno et al. (1950) that impressed an entire generation of intellectuals to think of Nazism as the symptom of a psychological damage. The same idea found entrance in popular culture; think, for example, of the movie The White Ribbon by Michael Haneke.

7 The question of continuity and discontinuity in Germany’s intellectual history during and after Nazism, is well established in the history of science (see, for example, Miller, 2002, on the historians Otto Brunner and Gerhard Oestreich). However, the case of Krelle is a case of a soldier becoming scientist without academic background during the war. For a biographical account of Krelle highligthing questions of moral coherence, see Düppe (2020).

8 Establishing a relationship between Protestantism and economic rationality, even if in a very different fashion, is of course not novel at all, if one thinks of Max Weber (2002). Next to memories of Krelle’s family members and former colleagues, the main sources of this article are unpublished diaries, family letters, and the memoires of Krelle himself. I use these sources solely to understand his own way of reasoning about his life as it echoes his reasoning in science (rather than as a source of evidence for historical facts beyond his own perspective). Access to Krelle’s personal papers has been granted by his family. The author has encouraged the Krelle family to make his personal papers public.

9 For the telling example of Jan Tinbergen, see the recent book by Dekker (2021).

10 This historiographical approach of “personalizing” economic reasoning of the post-war period has been used in previous work (see Düppe and Weintraub, 2014), and conceptualized in Düppe (2019). Inspired by the phenomenological notion of embodied reason, it is shared by historians of science such as Thomas Söderqvist (2003); it draws more largely on the cultural history of mentality, and is open to the reasoning of psychobiography (Elms, 1994). Without being committed to a specific psychological theory, the aim is to recount how epistemic virtues are embodied, to what scientific personae they give rise, and to what psychological needs they respond. I consider this approach imperative when dealing with the generation at hand: post-war scientists living with memories that found little cultural expression during the 1950s and 1960s.

11 Krelle got to know Klein in 1954 in Michigan while on a Rockefeller visit. As Klein said of Krelle in a recommendation letter: “I was impressed by his knowledge of modern economics at the time of his American visit and by the enthusiasm with which he embraced the subject … Krelle was a founding member and inspirational factor in the development of this project (LINK).” (May 8, 1986, folder “Krelle”,* Archive University Bonn, Faculty of law and economics, Institut für Deutsche und Rheinische Rechtsgeschichte, Adenauerallee 24-42, hereafter FA)

12 “The LINK project involved a new set of considerations because we had to learn to manage data that were of very different quality among countries, and we had to learn to manage very large heterogeneous data files. Also we had to solve much larger equation systems. At the same time, hardware and software improved enormously, and we are able to handle the problem and do much more than we ever thought possible.” (Klein, 1976, 436)

13 This was a problem Krelle worked on (see Krelle and Klein, 1983).

14 Other early attempts were made for example by Grüning (see Krengel, 1979). Erich Preiser was one of the leading Keynesian economists at the time. Krelle would later recall having learned more from Preiser than from his PhD supervisor Walter Eucken in Freiburg since also Preiser held “some kind of libertarian socialism with religious shades” (Krelle, in Bongard, 1969*; see also Krelle, 1968; Blesgen, 2000).

15 See in retrospect Krelle (1984a) and his national accounts (Krelle, 1959).

16 See for the history of Keynesianism in Germany Hagemann (2019). Note that the history of Keynesianism in West Germany in relation to more market-oriented ordo-liberalism is less clear-cut as it was in Britain and the U.S. For most of the time, the two doctrines informed politics simultaneously, not the least because their differing methodologies suggested a complementary relationship.

17 See Krelle (1962). His Keynesian teacher Erich Preiser had already studied inequality (Preiser, 1953).

18 See Die Zeit, 1971 (31), July 30; Krelle et al., 1968.

19 Krelle wrote yearly summaries of family events as copied letters to be sent to friends before Christmas (private archive, Heide Krelle).

20 When speaking of literary, verbal economics, I refer to those approaches still present in German economics during the 1960s that do not use formal models. This includes late students of the historical school, ordoliberalism, institutional economics, and sociology, as well as economic history and the history of economic thought. Notably, the historical school was always against a strict separation of the positive and the normative, saying that economics should be based on notions of national morals and customs and also serve the advancement of the nation—the reason for which the historical school easily offered itself to National Socialism (see Düppe, 2015; 2017).

21 This section is largely based on Hesse (2010), and Düppe (2018).

22 About the Cowles Commission as the hotbed of economic modelling techniques in the U.S, see Düppe and Weintraub (2014).

23 Only in 1972 did the University of Bonn formalize the application procedures, which until then were in parts based on mere personal negotiations. It was thus not the case, as it was after 1972, that all listed candidates actually submitted formal applications.

24 Since in Germany university professors are public servants, the provincial Ministry of Education in charge of universities has to approve both the opening of new posts and to confirm the offer (“call”) to a professor.

25 Folder “Neue Lehrstühle 1963”, FA.

26 Folder “Neue Lehrstühle 1963”*, FA.

27 In-house hires, that is, hiring a professor from one’s own university, is against the academic code in many German universities to avoid patronage; though included in provincial law, it cannot actually be enforced as it is against constitutional law.

28 Krelle was replaced by Reinhard Selten, later the first German Nobel laureate in economics.

29 This procedure was called “phasing out” (Abwicklung). It referred to a formal shutting down and then reopening of those faculties that were “ideologically biased”—philosophy, law, history, pedagogy, and economics (see Düppe, 2015; forthcoming).

30 Krelle (1993, I and II; Private archive Heide Krelle).

31 Censorship was carried out selectively by the Feldpostprüfstelle, and included the letters of officers (see Leleu, 2015).

32 Autobiography as the attempt to make sense of one’s own experiences is an appropriate source for understanding patterns of meaning and reasoning, which is the focus of this article. Tensions with historical research on the actual events are to be expected and can thus help contextualize these patterns. I will point to them whenever necessary. For more on this tension and the historiographical approach, see Düppe (2019).

33 Such orders were not uncommon in the last year of the war (see Kunz, 2005, 119).

34 This difference was a persistent belief among many of Krelle’s generation, despite the fact that the Wehrmacht also committed serious war crimes (see Hartmann et al., 2005).

35 For a military history of the 17th division, see Spiwoks and Stöber (1976), and more recent and more general in English, Citino (2017).

36 April 7, 1945, Dalkingen, shooting of eight Concentration Camp prisoners who remained from a prisoners’ transport at the train station in Ellwangen (trial at provincial court in Ellwangen in October 1950); April 8, 1945, Ebrantshausen, shooting of a civilian who prepared a white flag for the arrival of U.S. forces (trial at provincial court in Landshut in September 1950); April 17, 1945, Burgthann, shooting of a mayor flying a white flag as commanded by the U.S. forces (trial at court in Nuremberg, October 1958); April 25, 1945, Dietfurt, shooting of a Jewish dentist (trial at provincial court in Regensburg, May 1952). See Rüter and Mildt (2010). For Krelle’s reaction, see Förster (2004).

37 This took place in Hir el Ksiba. The deaths were related to a lack of coordination with the artillery. The casualties, 11 killed and 34 wounded, were meaningless, as the British gave up the emplacement anyway. Krelle might have planned to publish this episode as a separate memoir, as it is written in a different style, earlier than 1993 (Krelle, 1993, II).

38 Heide Krelle, November 2015 in Villingen.

39 Krelle, Family Chronicle 1945. Krelle kept a diary beginning with his return from the war about family activities. Private archive Heide Krelle.

40 Georg Schumacher, son-in-law, personal conversation, June 2016 in Nördlingen.

41 As witnessed by the success of Mirowski (2002), and Erickson et al. (2013).

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Titre Figure 1: Front (left) and back of the simulator
Crédits Source: Krelle and Weber (1958, 409, 410).
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Till Düppe, « German Fears in Economic Modelling »Œconomia, 12-1 | 2022, 1-26.

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Till Düppe, « German Fears in Economic Modelling »Œconomia [En ligne], 12-1 | 2022, mis en ligne le 01 mars 2022, consulté le 09 août 2022. URL : ; DOI :

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Till Düppe

Université du Québec à Montréal,

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