Unbenanntes Dokument


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 ( http://library.albany.edu/speccoll/findaids/ger003.htm ) which consists of nearly 50 cubic feet and another collection of the German Central Institute („Deutsches Zentralinstitut für Soziale Fragen-DZI“) in Berlin ( www.dzi.de ). 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.

With the „DNA“ of a Social Worker

Something like a solid stock of social genes may have made Walter Friedländer the great social worker which he undoubtedly was! But how can these „genes“ be identified and verified? In my interviews with Jewish colleagues, I was told that many of them, discriminated against and persecuted as they were, „got it double and triple-barreled...“ – being Jewish, socialist and even pacifist. This is certainly true of Walter Friedländer but actually not until he had to run for his life in 1933 when the Nazis took – and were given – political power. Actually, he was born into an era of Jewish emancipation that for the first time granted the Jewish population in Germany the full legal rights of citizenship. Discrimination did not end, as we know, but it is also known that this time of emancipation was the hopeful beginning of a tremendous influx of creativity particularly in the area of social concerns. „Those that had been unable to realise their full potential so far were as active as if they could make up for in the time span of one human life what their ancestors had been prevented from doing for centuries“ (Engelmann 1979).

Friedländer grew up at a time when other important milestones were set and the road was paved for social work as a profession – from a structural point of view:

  • With the ‘red handwriting on the wall‘, Bismarck introduced a variety of social insurance provisions in 1880, answering the demands of the social democrats and counteracting the threat of communism (see wikipedia: German Social Democracy).

  • After the foundation of the first and comprehensive public and private welfare organisation in Germany (today: Deutscher Verein für Öffentliche und Private Fürsorge www.deutscher-verein.de ), social programs sprang up all over Germany.

  • Voluntary social work activities including theoretical courses for women in 1893 and the first one-year full-time training courses (in 1899) lead to two year courses for
    professional social work (in 1908).

Walter Andreas Friedländer was born on September 20, 1891, in Berlin, the oldest son of Hugo Friedländer and Ernestine, née Lichtenstein. He was of Jewish descent but told me in an interview in 1982 that he identified more with the Quakers or, as they may be better known to others, the Friends Service Committee, as a religious group. Particularly through the emigration-immigration process, in which the Quakers were very active, he felt strongly associated with the Friends Service Committee. In autobiographical statements we read about the influences through his family and also through their political background:

  • His father, a Quaker, was one of the founders of the German Peace Society and took his son regularly to meetings of this group. His family supported his involvement in the early youth movement (Jugendbewegung) – and also later during the Weimar Republic.

  • His uncle, Hugo Haase, an attorney who defended poor people, was a member of the German parliament and Chairman of the Social Democratic Party (SPD) who left the party in 1917, co-founding and becoming Chairman of the peace-promoting USPD (Independent Social Democratic Party).

  • Friedländer attended the „Falk-Real-Gymnasium“ (highschool) in Berlin that was named in honour of Johann Daniel Falk, a social work pioneer in Weimar who gave hundreds of children homes in the wake of Napoleon’s armies.

This combination of hopeful societal changes and his personal heritage through the family and their immediate environment may have been the essence of a phrase from Goethe’s Faust: What you‘ve inherited from your fathers – You have to earn in order to possess. Walter Friedländer grew up under the influence of the critical wing of the socialist party and he continued in the footsteps of his elders. He slowly and steadily became politically active himself and studied subjects that we can find among many of our social work pioneers before they practised and became leaders of social work institutions and/or taught in schools of social work. So what was he going to study? Social work as a profession was in its beginning stage and for women only.

In search of a professional haven

In biographical reminiscences Friedländer himself very often referred to the influence of the German youth movement which, in short, marked an important change in the perception of and the activities of the younger generation (see wikipedia: German Youth Movement). This movement encompassed the proletarian as well as middle and upper classes. We should also not underestimate his school experiences in the Falk-Real-Gymnasium which implies an orientation with its ‚galleon figure’ Falk, one of the earliest founders of the Save the Children movement (Rettungshausbewegung) in Germany.

After graduation from the Falk High School in 1909, Friedländer studied a number of subjects, reported variously in the records: one biography speaks of law, economics and social sciences, another of philosophy and – more specifically – sociology, at the universites of Munich and Berlin. He graduated with a law degree in 1914, but continued later, passed the bar and earned a doctorate in philosophy in 1920. During his studies he was active in the socialist student organisation. As a junior barrister (Referendar) he practised in local and regional public administration services and at the German Central Committee for Youth Welfare and the German Association for Probation Services to Juvenile Courts. These theoretical studies and practical experiences seem to have given him the professional direction that he never left again. He also found the love of his life and was engaged with his fiancée Lina (Li) Bergmann. But before he could thrive on these foundations, dark clouds appeared on the horizon – World War I.

After the outbreak of the war, he was still able to continue with post-graduate studies at the University of Berlin and stay engaged in field practice in the office of the state attorney, in the prison and in the municipal administration of Berlin. But eventually, even his pacifism and that of his family could not prevent his being called up for military service although he was relieved of active or direct action at the front. Instead, and we can assume due to his experiences in the field of legal and social concerns, he was asked to work with the administration and particularly deal with legal issues of prisoners of war in German Prisoner of War camps – another role that he seemed to be predestined for in such trying times.

During the Weimar Republic – under the first democratic constitution

Friedländer returned to Berlin. He and his fiancée Li got married and while their daughter Dorothee was born in 1920, he also completed his doctorate and was admitted to the Berlin Bar. After briefly practicing law he was Assistant Judge of the Potsdam Juvenile Court. In 1921 he was elected to the City Council (Stadtrat), in Prenzlauer Berg, one of the largest and poorest districts of Berlin. From then on, almost through the entire period of the Weimar Republic, Friedländer served as City Commissioner of that district until he was driven away by the Nazis in January 1933. In that political as well as administrative function (as ‚Leiter des Wohlfahrts- und Jugendamtes’) he was in charge of the Public Child Welfare and General Assistance programs in Prenzlauer Berg. This not being enough, he was involved in many other innovative activities during that time period.

The war was over but not national as well as international conflicts. Much has been speculated and written about the end of this war and the ensuing challenges. After the fall of the Wilhelminian era and the rise of the democratic Weimar Republic another surge of hope motivated particularly those who wanted to move from quiet and obedient citizenship to active participation in political responsibilities. The new constitution presented a new platform for social development. For some time, Friedländer’s family had been working for this end on the federal, regional and local level. As we know only too well the Treaty of Versailles and the hopeful signs of the first democratic constitution in Germany did not last long. But in that relatively short period of time many things happened at once. Friedländer was involved in many of them. I find it rather difficult to provide a reasonable order of the concrete events within their larger context.

Many of the basic foundations for the welfare state in Germany were laid during that time, especially through the social democratic parties (SPD and later USPD) in which Friedländer was engaged. Together with a small group of well-known social democrats – i.e. Marie Juchacz, Helene Simon – they conceptualized and drafted the social democratic policy regarding child and youth welfare in the new republic. Particularly the new women who could vote and be elected for the first time – were setting the pace for a new understanding and practice of social justice. Some of the innovations were also noticed in other countries – for instance the first basic laws concerning general public welfare (‚Reichsfürsorgepflichtverordnung’ – now ‚Bundessozialhilfegesetz – BSHG’) and child and youth welfare (‚Reichsjugendwohlfahrtsgesetz’– now ‚Kinder- und Jugendhilfegesetz – KJHG’). One can find many such reports in the The New York Times and in other news media. It is particularly in the area of child welfare that Walter Friedländer was involved in many functions and left his mark. When Friedländer was still in Berlin, visitors came from other countries, among them Grace Abbott, head of the U.S. Children’s Bureau, and Sophonisba Breckenridge from the University of Chicago School of Social Service Administration (SSA).

The profession of social work comes of age

The schools of social work in Germany, coordinated by Alice Salomon, formed the German Association of Schools of Social Work towards the end of WWI. Shortly after the end of the war the German bureaucracy, both in the ministries of higher education as well as in social welfare, officially acknowledged the first curriculum (Studienordnung) for social work studies and a public accreditation (Staatliche Anerkennung) was given to graduates of such courses after they had mastered considerable field work. The reason for this dual approach was obvious: professional social work needed not only theoretical knowledge but substantial practical experience and application. This was clearly a milestone for the development of the profession of social work in Germany which – until then – was a women’s profession! There were some male teachers at the schools, i.e. Walter Friedländer. As Alice Salomon remembered, there were also two male students at her school at that time, but the official recognition of male social workers, through the so-called ‚Männererlass’, came later – 1927 in Prussia. Walter Friedländer was instrumental in that crucial phase of social work development, both in theory and in practice. He taught in several schools of social work and he contributed to the founding of the first two schools of social work in Berlin that admitted both women and men. Let me focus on the women first.

Friedländer lectured at two of the traditional women’s schools: the one that Alice Salomon had founded years ago and at the Social Pedagogic Seminar (Sozialpädagogisches Seminar), headed by Anna von Gierke, in Berlin-Charlottenburg. His teaching was mainly in the area that he was most experienced in: child and youth welfare. And he began to publish innumerable books and articles concerning almost all areas of public welfare. He was also in close association with the German Academy for Social and Educational Women’s Work, the so-called „Deutsche Frauenakademie“. Let me briefly point out the purpose of this academy because it turned out to be a sort of prototype for the current setting in which the majority of social workers are trained in Germany today: the universities of applied sciences – as contrasted to the traditional universities, in which theory and abstraction prevail. The founding and the goals of the „Deutsche Frauenakademie“ marked

  • the beginning of continuing education, learning as a life-long process, thus

  • enabling experienced women to move into leading positions in social work and

  • enabling and preparing experienced social workers for teaching in schools of social work;

  • stimulating, initiating and coordinating specific social work research (as demonstrated in 13 volumes of family related research from 1925 to 1933).

Unfortunately, it must be said here that the academy was dissolved shortly after the Nazi take-over. Research that was projected into the future was stopped and the accomplishments of the academy were more or less forgotten. Jewish colleagues whom I have interviewed throughout the years told me that the academy was – at times – attended by more Jewish women than gentiles. Well researched estimates also indicate that in 1933, proportionately more Jews were working in the helping professions than gentiles. I am mentioning this because Walter Friedländer was one of those many colleagues who were lost for the cause of social work in Germany. To me as a German, the atrocities committed are still horrifying and the losses still hurt!

Besides working in tandem in a leading position and teaching social work, Friedländer was involved in the development and in teaching at two of the first schools of social work that admitted women as well as men. Thorough grounding in very practical issues must have made him a very welcome and competent teacher. Not very many lecturers were so experienced in the work that they were preparing their students for. The key founders of the new schools, by the way, came from very similar political backgrounds to Friedländer himself.

One was a school initiated by a Christian socialist, Carl Mennicke, the Social Pedagogic Seminar of the German Academy of Political Science („Sozialpädagogisches Seminar der deutschen Hochschule für Politik“), the so-called Mennicke School, affiliated with the University of Berlin. The other school was founded by the Workers‘ Welfare Organisation (Arbeiterwohlfahrt) which was deeply rooted in the social democratic tradition. Not surprisingly, Friedländer was closely associated with both and not only after the foundation of the „AWO“ as one of the largest private Welfare Organisations at the end of the WWI.

Considering all these innovations, Walter Friedländer seemed to be at the peak of his life – privately as well as professionally. But soon, following the Wall Street Crash and the deterioration of the world economy, which affected many countries (as we are experiencing in the present economic crisis!), the situation became grim. Germany reverted back, not merely to the old monarchy, but to full-blown dictatorship.

„Mayday“ for Jews, socialists and other minorities

Big changes were expected to happen when Hitler came to power. But the violence on January 30th in 1933 that was directed at ‚old enemies‘ came rather suddenly and with great force. Particularly those citizens with socialist, or even communist inclinations, and particularly those with Jewish backgrounds, were the first targets of Nazi brutalities. Friedländer‘s career as a loyal and dedicated member of the social democratic party (SPD) was immediatly at stake. The socialists‘ „Workers‘ Welfare Organisation - AWO“ as well as another large private welfare organisation, more diversified and eclectic in nature, the DPWV (Deutscher Paritätischer Wohlfahrtsverband) were soon banned, and the Jewish Welfare Organisation (Zentralwohlfahrtsstelle der Juden – ZWST) was expelled from the League of Private Welfare and slowly doomed to extinction. Walter Friedländer lost his function as head of a big public welfare administration in Prenzlauer Berg, including his status of professor at different academies. In short, he became a persona non grata in the Third Reich. Not that he was formally dismissed at that time, but the attacks of the Nazis after Hitler was made Chancellor happened in a spontaneous pogrom-like manner. It seemed quite clear that with the liquidation of the social democrats‘ welfare Organisation, he was at very high risk: a) with a Jewish background, b) with pacifist convictions c) as an active member of the „AWO“, d) at the same time in a high ranking public position and e) as a longstanding and active social democrat (which, just to be sure, should not be mixed up with „national socialist“, for which the term„Nazi“ was coined).

In our interview approximately 50 years later, Walter Friedländer remembered, that he was not surprised about what was going to come, and he was prepared. He told me that he had made plans to attend an international conference in Geneva and that all travel arrangements had been completed. So when the Nazis stormed his office, he had already left but found his home ransacked. This is similar to how his daughter Dorothee describes his escape. Eye witnesses have described some of the brutalities on the job: „...when the brown hordes stormed city hall ... and pulled leading persons downstairs, abused them physically. ... It was terrible. They got them, from room to room. Later, 40 colleagues of those who worked in family welfare (Familienfürsorge, J.W.), were immediately discharged.“ And regarding Friedländer: „After they took city hall (at Prenzlauer Berg) and raised the new flag they first got the mayor. Friedländer had left, he had been tipped off, and was not in his office any longer. But they took along the mayor“ (Kramer 1983, 200). Friedländer never returned to his office. He had to dodge his persecutors and left for Switzerland by train. His wife and daughter joined him there in May 1933.

Rescue work for the rescued in Switzerland and in France

Self help among helpers is an issue that is rarely addressed. In my earlier research on expelled social workers, I was wondering how social workers have helped each other in times of need. What I mostly found were publications and many master’s theses with themes like social work with immigrants in general, with persons of various professions and backgrounds, with unaccompanied minors etc. It took time to find a collegial group in the United States, the „Hospites – ‚American Social Workers‘ Hospitality Group“, based in New York of which Jane Addams was a member (Sophia Smith Collection, USA). Very little is known about these efforts and they are worth further studies. But considering the violence of the Nazis and the first rush of expelled citizens of Germany, people like Walter Friedländer did whatever they could in order to create relief to everyone in need and not just a particular group. Since many of the „AWO“ members were hit, they tried to reassemble and founded a Workers‘ Welfare Organisation in Switzerland and later in France. He was offered employment by the French Minister of Education but this invitation evaporated with the fall of the French cabinet. Until December of 1936, Friedländer served as Associate Director of the „Service Juridique et Social“ for refugees – with focus on legal and social services. This work under the conditions of rising political tension between Germany and France is described as rather difficult in later accounts of former AWO-members. The efforts continued, though, and the AWO group also tried to reestablish a branch in the United States. Walter Friedländer was 45 years old when he started all over again in America.

Another beginning

„In the American tradition the story of the immigrant has a ‚happy end‘. The poor immigrant achieves fame and riches... But in fact, we know very little about him and what really happens to him after his arrival“ (Hutchinson 1953, VII). I did find out more about some of them but I cannot go into depth here. However, I want to provide a little background information that might be helpful to understand Walter Friedländer‘s situation a little better.

Considering the entire tragedy of the refugees‘ plight, the first ones to be expelled from Nazi Germany were „sort of“ fortunate. As part of the American New Deal, social welfare had markedly shifted from private to public welfare, and his expertise must have been very welcome during the Franklin D. Roosevelt Administration. Other German social workers and social scientists with similar experiences who were heading the black lists of the Nazis found refuge in institutions that were open to new social developments: for instance Hertha Kraus at Bryn Mawr in Philadelphia and Albert Salomon, among others, at the New School in New York City. It was still during the time period between 1932 and 1935 when more people left than entered the United States (Davie 1947, 21). It became more difficult to find a place in social work when the quota for refugees was increasingly filled up which happened only once in 1939 (Davie 1947, 29). And not everyone was as well known as Walter Friedländer. He was helped by those who had visited him in Berlin and knew that he was among the top experts of public social welfare in Germany. They called his work to the attention of Edith Abbott, Dean of the School of Social Service Administration in Chicago. He was sponsored by the SSA, obtained a lectureship and was invited to come with his family to the Midwest of the USA in 1936. He promptly applied for American citizenship. Later, we know, many of the immigrants to the United States not only lost their German citizenship but were deprived of their academic degrees.

The American magazine Social Work Today published a special issue about the newcomers and it would be most interesting to know if Walter Friedländer read it and what he thought of it. Just a brief excerpt from Joanna Colcord’s article, who wrote on behalf of the Committee for Displaced Foreign Social Workers:

„Most of the foreign social workers come from the public services and could easily adjust in this area. However, they cannot be officially employed in public services as long as they are not naturalized and that takes at least five years. ... The German social worker will most likely find a lack of concrete rules that may hinder him in his systematic thinking. Our flexible rules would leave them all at sea.“ Colcord, a well known and influential social worker, highlights the newcomers‘ knowledge and experience in questions of social insurances and public social welfare, „...something that we will have to wait for in the United States.“ She acknowledges „...the self-evidence and the acceptance of social work in the public sector.“ And she ends with hopes for the newcomers: „When they get oriented in our house and not any longer bump into the furniture, then they will be a support in the effort for American social work, for better standards and for a higher professional status“ (Colcord 1939, 38).

One thing seems to be clear: Particularly public welfare and social work in the public sector was Walter Friedländer’s ticket of admittance and after the arrival of the Friedländers in January of 1937 he continued along three lines: a) he founded and headed Self Help for Emigrés in Chicago, b) he lectured in Chicago’s School of Social Service Administration until 1943, and c) he served as Head Librarian of the Joint Library of the Jewish Charities of Chicago. In 1943 Friedländer was naturalized and became an American citizen. But he still identified with part of his past by joining The Council of a Democratic Germany. This council was founded 1944 in New York by Thomas Mann and other anti-Nazi exiles. At about the same time the Chairperson of the Department of Social Welfare of the University of California, Harry Cassidy, offered him a post. He gratefully accepted and so Berkeley became his home for the rest of his life. He started again as lecturer, then became Associate Professor in 1948, Professor in 1955 and Professor emeritus in 1959. It must have been a tremendous relief for him and his family to have a „Heimat“ again.

Home sweet home and yet - back to international social work

As life became more predictable and stable for him, Friedländer started into another productive phase. Among the introductory courses he taught was an undergraduate survey course covering the broad field of social welfare. It was, according to Californian colleagues, the origin of his popular book „Introduction to Social Welfare“, 1955. Among the overwhelming number and topics of his publications, the Introduction to Social Welfare appeared in five editions, the last one in 1980 co-authored with Robert Apte. This book has been translated into 10 languages. It is most likely the most widely used introductory text in undergraduate colleges and graduate schools in America and other countries. It is less known though that this book bears very many similarities to his very early German writings during the Weimar Republic, i.e. the Textbook for Social Welfare („Lehrbuch der Wohlfahrtspflege“), first published in 1927 in Berlin with a second edition in 1930, co-authored with Hedwig Wachenheim and other well known members of the AWO. The English book was definitely not a simple translation of earlier works but encompassed the entire breadth of public and private welfare, and it looks very much like the continuation of earlier thoughts including many additions and the adaptation to the American social context and complexities. Another one of his books, published in between the two of the ‚best sellers‘ which sheds light especially on public welfare, is Child Welfare in Germany Before and After Naziism, co-authored with Earl D. Myers, was published in 1940.

While at Berkeley, Friedländer taught at the Pacific School of Religion, Foreign Relief and Rehabilitation, and he was also involved in their practice projects. He served as consultant and executive secretary on the West Coast Panel of the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration – UNRRA, an organisation of the former League of Nations and the newly founded United Nations which dealt with the social upheaval and aftermath of WWII. It must have been an overwhelming task.

Walter Friedländer was a generalist in his efforts to counteract parochialism in social work and in social work education. After his very personal cross-national and cultural experiences he was a citizen of the world. In his teaching, writing, practice and in his community leadership he always considered multi-cultural and international aspects as an important if not innate dimension. He attended and actively participated in one of the first and largest international conferences ever, the „Quinzaine Social“ in Paris in 1928, from which three of the most important international bodies in social work originated:

  • for the institutions, GO-s, IGO-s and NGO-s in social work and social welfare, the International Council on Social Welfare – ICSW,

  • for the field of training and education in social work, the International Committee of Schools and now International Association of Schools of Social Work – IASSW, and

  • for the newly created profession of social workers, the International Federation of Social Workers – IFSW.

He also participated in the following world conference in Germany 1932. He vividly remembered the next one in England in 1936, where he met German officials in Nazi uniform. He confronted them and urged social workers from the international community not to recognize them as the rightful representatives of Germany. Walter got rather emotional when he told me this in the interview. He was afraid, he said, but he also felt safe among the majority of colleagues from other countries. His international engagement began very early and it began to sprout again more intensively towards the end of his life when he was not so directly bound to his daily tasks.

In spite of the fact that Walter Friedländer had never passed formal social work training, he definitely felt like a social worker and he positively identified with the profession. He was very active in the professional organisation: before the fusion of the American associations he was Chairman of the California East Bay Chapter of the American Association of Social Workers – AASW from 1946-47 and Chairman of the Joint Committee on International Social Work in Northern California from 1947-51. He remained active when the National Association of Social Workers – NASW – was founded: as a member of the Executive Committee and from 1955-56 he chaired the Commission on International Social Work of the Golden Gate Chapter of NASW. They regularly met in his home. International work called for outside contacts and involvement. For instance, as Delegate to the International Conference of Social Work 1961 in Rome, Italy. And he was still remembered in Berlin. Otto Suhr, the mayor and also a social democrat, asked him to come to Berlin as a Fullbright Professor at the Free University in 1956. He accepted and began to publish again in Germany.

Professor emeritus, restful retirement - Oxymoron!

Walter Friedländer had a long and active retirement and there was actually no time lapse between his regular teaching job and many following ones. He was very much in demand as a teacher, at home and abroad: 1959-60 at Michigan State University in East Lansing and 1963-64 also at the University of Minnesota. He was invited again to Berlin and he was very welcome there. His former home had been in West-Berlin while Prenzlauer Berg where he had worked was now in the eastern part of the divided city. He was invited to other German universities, i.e. to Cologne and Muenster/Westfalia and he gave lectures in Bonn, Heidelberg and Stuttgart. He taught in Zurich, Montreux, Lausanne and Geneva, Switzerland, and also in the UK, London. He was also a sought after researcher in the USA: In 1964 he served as Chairman of the Committee on Sociology and Social Work of the Society for the Study of Social Problems.

As an emeritus he seemed to have found the necessary time for more publications: He did not as in earlier times focus on welfare systems and institutuions as such but also on how the concrete work can be done: Together with others he wrote a well-used book on the Concepts and Methods of Social Work, Prentice-Hall in1958 with a second edition in 1976. This book lead to similar ones in other languages: in Italy to „Principi e metodi di servicio social (1963)“ in Germany – together with others – to the popular book „Grundbegriffe und Methoden der Sozialarbeit (1966 and 1974)“, and in Argentina to „Conceptos y metodos del servicio social (1969)“.

Three of his last publications should also be mentioned in this short and yet very long biography. He wrote about one of his earliest companions and on the foundation of social work: Helene Simon. Ein Leben für soziale Gerechtigkeit („ a life for social justice“) in 1962, on Individualism and Social Welfare . (1962) and on International Social Welfare (1975).

Walter’s wife Li passed away on June 6th 1977, and when I visited him two years before he died, he was living together with his daughter, involved in residential treatment for children, in Oakland, California. On December 20, 1984, Walter died in Oakland of a heart attack. His former colleagues Greenwood, Chermin and Specht at Berkeley wrote in an obituary:

„Friedlander enjoyed a long retirement ... He continued his voluminous world-wide professional correspondence. He worked till the end. In the morning of the day he died, he came, as he did each Thursday, to Havilland Hall to read the incoming letters and dictate his responses.“ (see Google: Walter Friedlander. Social Welfare: Berkeley)

An attempted conclusion

Walter Friedländer‘s long and full life and his deep and consistent engagement for marginalised and disadvantaged people show his commitment to social justice for each and everyone in the human family. It is difficult to find any more dominant motif in his life as we know it from the existing records. To be sure, Walter Friedländer was not a communist and while living in the USA, he was not considered to be one. I did not find any evidence that he was interrogated during the McCarthy era. But the German national socialists with their dogma on nationalism and Aryan superiority considered him to be a dangerous opponent of their doctrines. He was and remained a convinced and persistent reformer throughout his life. His publications, his teaching and his practice very clearly speak of the values and the convictions that are consistent with those of the social democratic movement.

On the other hand, Social Darwinism seemed to be the other side of the coin. Darwin’s theory of evolution had far-reaching implications for the way in which the relationship between the individual and society can be viewed. Certainly, Friedländer did not deny the theory of evolution. While still in Germany and increasingly so with the rise of Nazi ideology, Social Darwinism with the survival of the fittest, with eugenics and the eradication of ‚unworthy life‘ etc. turned the social democratic values upside-down. Simply put, this is part of the reason why social democracy, with the focus on interdependence and the principle that a chain is only as strong as its weakest link, was rejected so viciously. Social Darwinism was discussed in other countries as well but it did not lead to unspeakable atrocities. In the United States and perhaps elsewhere, the meaning of Social Darwinism took on another colour. It was more in tune with’rugged individualism’ and economic principles. It stands for the greatest possible market freedom and a minimum of governmental interventions. The New Deal represented a mild turn to the left after 1932. But a public sector with a social welfare and health care structure comparable to some European countries has never materialised in the USA. Many of the ‚evolving and surviving fittest‘ who made it to the top were very generous and donated millions to social and other causes – the commendable and welcome fruits of Civil Society. But these were neither guaranteed nor equally distributed and as such cannot serve as a solid basis for social equality. Walter Friedländer continued to argue for reasonable governmental regulations by which everyone is entitled to sustaining provisions – a) through due democratic process and b) including, of course, due participation and responsibilities of the beneficiaries of such provisions.

To sum it up, Friedländer was hardly directly involved in Amercian party politics. There never seemed to be a mainstream political party or a movement comparable to the European Social Democratic Movement in which he could have been involved. His work, however, was highly political and he left his traces mostly in the area in which he started much earlier – predominantly in public social welfare and for the creation of a welfare state that deserves the name. A sign of this seems to be the recent breakthrough in the area of healthcare reform in the USA during the recent Obama Administration. Walter Friedländer, most certainly, would be very pleased by this attempt and partial achievement. – In Germany, where Friedländer had so actively participated in party politics, he was also not directly involved in politics any longer. But throughout the years he was well remembered by colleagues and friends in many publications (i.e. Lemke 1981, Harvey 1985 and 1991, Rawiel 1993) and he has a prominent place in curricula of schools of social work (i.e. http://www.uni-siegen.de/fb2/siso/archiv/hering/sitzung_08.pdf and http://forge.fh-potsdam.de/~BiB/gruender/gruenderinnen.pdf).

For his comprehensive work, Friedländer received a number of high honours during his life time:

  • A Fullbright Teaching Fellowship at the Free University of West-Berlin in 1956;

  • an Honorary Degree of Doctor in the Humanities from the Institute of Applied Research at the London University in 1973;

  • the Great Cross of Merit of the German Federal Republic (Grosses Verdienstkreuz der Bundesrepublik Deutschland); 1976, for his contributions to the development of social services in Germany;

  • the Marie Juchacz Medal (Marie Juchacz Medaille der AWO) in 1976;

  • Social Worker of the Year Award of the National Association of Social Workers, Golden Gate Chapter, in 1971;

  • an Outstanding Social Worker Citation of the Oakland City Council in 1978.

After his death in 1984 his friends and colleagues created The Walter Friedlander Fund to Promote Education in International Welfare. Among various projects, the fund sponsors an annual lecture at Berkeley by someone who has contributed significantly to international social welfare. – At the Workers’ Welfare Organisation (AWO) in Germany, an educational program (the Walter Friedländer Bildungswerk Berlin) was founded in his honour.

With this, Walter Friedländer will hopefully bring back life into our memories. For me compiling this sketch was an almost overwhelming experience, just as it was when I met with him in person 27 years ago. Again, I hope that I have not missed and misinterpreted too much. At times, I have been rather closely associated with social democrats in Germany and in the United States with some while I lived there for several years. I have observed societal changes and political responses to those changes. While there seems to be a thin growing edge on collective thinking and responsibilities in US social politics, I find that social democracy in Germany has lost some of the earlier zeal and concrete goals that were at the root of Friedländers dedication to social justice. I personally would like to see the reappearance of someone like Walter Friedländer and his far-reaching visions and perseverance. A more extensive biography, still to be written, could possibly bear the title: A Life For Social Democracy.

[1] In English often spelled Friedlander or Friedlaender.

[2] Dr. phil. Joachim Wieler, Dipl.Soz.Arb. (FH), Master of Social Work (MSW/ACSW), Professor emeritus of the Dept. of Social Work, Fachhochschule / University of Applied Sciences Erfurt. Teaching and research areas: Methods and Institutions of Social Work, Professional History and International Social Work.



Selected books by Walter Friedländer:

Lehrbuch der Wohlfahrtspflege. Co-authored by Hedwig Wachenheim et al. Berlin: Hauptausschuss für Arbeiterwohlfahrt e.V., 1927; 2nd ed. 1930.

Child Welfare in Germany Before and After Naziism. Co-authored by Earl D. Myers. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1940.

Introduction to Social Welfare. NY: Prentice-Hall, 1955; later eds. 1957, 1968, 1974, 1979.

Sosval Refah Hizmetine Baslangio. Ankara: Senyuva Matbaasi, 1966, Hindustani translation. Lucknow, India: Univ. of Lucknow Press, 1971.

Concepts and Methods of Social Work. Co-authored by Henry S. Maas, Gisela Konopka and Genevieve W. Carter. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1958; 2nd ed. 1976.

Grundbegriffe und Methoden der Sozialarbeit (together with others). Neuwied: Luchterhand, 1966.

Principi e metodi di servizio. Tr. Emma Fasolo. Bologna: Societa Editrice il Mulino, 1963.

Conceptos y metodos del servicio social. Buenos Aires: Editorial Kapeluscz, 1969.

Individualism and Social Welfare. An Analysis of the System of Social Security and Social Welfare in France. NY: Free Press of Glencoe, 1962.

Helene Simon. Ein Leben für soziale Gerechtigkeit. Bonn: Arbeiterwohlfahrt Hauptausschuss, 1962.

International Social Welfare. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1975.

Internet sources:

Deutscher Verein für Öffentliche und Private Fürsorge: http://deutscher-verein.de

Deutsches Zentralinstitut für Soziale Fragen: http://dzi.de

German and Jewish Intellectual Emigré Collection: http://library.albany.edu/speccoll/findaids/ger003.htm

On various relevant topics: http://wikipedia (in English and German)

On curricula in Germany: http://forge.fh-potsdam.de/~BiB/gruender/gruenderinnen.pdf and http://www.uni-siegen.de/fb2/siso/archiv/hering/sitzung_08.pdf

Walter Friedlander, Social Welfare: Berkeley (Google)

Image Source

Harvey, E. 1991: Arbeit für soziale Gerechtigkeit: Leben und Wirken von Walter Friedländer. Berlin: Walter Friedländer Bildungswerk, p. 74.

Secondary and tertiary literature:

Colcord, J. 1939: Refugee Social Workers, in: Social Work Today, Sept. 1939, pp 38-38.

Davie, M. 1947: Refugees in America. New York, London: Harper, p 21.

Engelmann, B. 1979: Deutschland ohne Juden. München, p 46.

Harvey, E. 1985: Sozialdemokratische Jugendhilfereform in der Praxis: Walter Friedländer und das Bezirksjugendamt Berlin Prenzlauer Berg in der Weimarer Republik, in: Theorie und Praxis der Sozialen Arbeit, 6, pp. 218-229.

Harvey, E. 1991: Arbeit für soziale Gerechtigkeit. Leben und Wirken von Walter Friedländer. Walter Friedländer Bildungswerk Berlin.

Hutchinson, E.P. 1953: Forword, in: The Refugee Intellectual. New York 1953: D.P. Kent Editor, p VII.

Kramer, D. 1983: Das Fürsorgesystem im Dritten Reich, in: Baron, R: (ed.): Geschichte der Sozialarbeit.. Weinheim-Basel: Beltz, pp 173-217.

Lemke, L. 1981: Walter Friedländer zum 90. Geburtstag, in: Theorie und Praxis der Sozialen Arbeit, 9, pp 349-50.

Rawiel, K. 1993: A. Friedländer – ein Leben für die soziale Arbeit, in: Rundbrief Gilde Soziale Arbeit, 1, pp 53-57.

Wieler, J. 1989: Emigrierte Sozialarbeit nach 1933, in: Otto, H.-U. & Sünker, H. (eds.): Soziale Arbeit und Faschismus. Frankfurt/Main: Suhrkamp, pp 306-327.

Wieler, J. 1995: Destination Social Work – Emigrés in a Women’s Profession, in: Quack, S. (ed.): Between Sorrow and Strength – Women Refugees of the Nazi Period. Washington and Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp 265-282.

Wieler, J.. together with Zeller, S. 1995:: Emigrierte Sozialarbeit – Portraits vertriebener SozialarbeiterInnen. Freiburg i.B.: Lambertus.

Author´s Address:
Dr Joachim Wieler
Merketalstrasse 19
D-99425 Weimar
Tel: ++49 3643 503217
Email: wieler@fh-erfurt.de or j.wieler@t-online.de