Walter Friedländer (1891- 1984) – Between Social Democracy and Social Darwinism


  • Joachim Wieler


If the profession of social work is to have a future we must know where it came from, and the series of portraits of our pioneers is one of the paths into the origins of that profession. I feel grateful to the publishers for this online-journal and also honoured to be asked to continue the series on pioneers in social work. I gladly comply because, in connection with my research on Alice Salomon and other social workers who were expelled from Germany and other Nazi-occupied territories (Wieler1989 and 1995) I had the pleasure and privilege of meeting and interviewing Walter Friedländer shortly before he passed away. It is years ago that I visited him in his home among stacks of books and piles of papers. My memories are vivid. I still see his sparkling eyes and hear his soft voice with a very heavy German accent. I was most impressed by his memory of historical events and people which, it seemed, only a large hard-drive could retain these days. Now, I wish I had asked more questions but instead, we will have to rely largely on primary and secondary literature and box upon box of archival materials. I draw heavily on the comprehensive German and Jewish Intellectual Emigré Collection ( ) which consists of nearly 50 cubic feet and another collection of the German Central Institute („Deutsches Zentralinstitut für Soziale Fragen-DZI“) in Berlin ( ). Some of the more current archival materials were lost in a flood, and much of Friedländer’s early memorabilia up to 1933 was lost in Germany. There are also internet resources with widely differing information. I hope that I will not have overlooked too much in order to do justice to this remarkable pioneer and colleague. In order to appreciate and pay tribute to Walter Friedländer and his contributions we will have to reconsider the historical and international context of more than the 93 years of his life span: the German Monarchy, the Weimar Republic, Nazi-Fascism, Swiss, French and American exile and numerous visits to other countries.






Historical Portraits