| HBS Case Collection
The Deutsche Bank (A)
Founded in 1870 to help finance surging German exports and imports, the Deutsche Bank soon moved into domestic banking. In fact, its founders aimed to create both a commercial bank and an investment bank under one roof—that is, a "universal bank." By the end of the nineteenth century, the Deutsche Bank was not only the largest bank in Germany, but also a strategic actor in the broader European market and, indeed, in the world economy. Over the first half of the twentieth century, however, the bank faced a series of national crises: defeat in WWI (1914-1918), revolution in 1919, hyperinflation in 1923, economic depression in the early 1930s, the rise of Hitler in 1933, another world war in 1939, and then total defeat in 1945. At the end of WWII, the Soviets closed the Berlin headquarters of the Deutsche Bank as part of their denazification effort. Meanwhile, the United States, Britain, and France, occupying the western portion of Germany, attempted to implement a policy of economic decentralization and broke what remained of the bank into small pieces. By 1950, facing a proposal from leading German bankers to allow the big banks to begin reconstituting themselves, the Allied powers and the new German legislature had to decide whether to accept this proposal or reject it.