Götz Briefs (b. January 1, 1889, in Eschweiler d. May 16, 1974, in Rome) was a Catholic social theorist, social ethicist, social philosopher and political economist, who together with Jesuit Gundlach, influenced the social teachings of Pope Pius XI.


In 1908, Götz Briefs began to study history and philosophy at the University of Munich. As it was customary in German academic circles at the time, he frequently switched universities, moving in 1909 to Bonn, and later in 1911 to Freiburg. In Freiburg, he became a member of K.D.St. V. Wildenstein Freiburg im Breisgau, a Catholic student fraternity that belong to the Cartellverband der katholischen deutschen Studentenverbindungen. In 1911, he completed his doctoral dissertation with an investigation of the impact of the alcoholic beverage industry on market price structures. He was awarded the highest honor Summa Cum Laude for his dissertation and continued on the topic of profits with his Habilitation on the impact of average profits on the economy in 1913.

In 1919, he was named Professor for economics at the Albert-Ludwigs-Universität in Freiburg. Two years later 1921 he accepted a professorship at the Julius-Maximilian-Universität in Würzburg. In 1923 he returned to Freiburg and in 1926 to Berlin at the Technische Hochschule. In 1928, he founded an Institute for industrial sociology in Berlin.

After the National Socialists won the elections in Germany and took over the government, he, like many other outspoken Catholics, lost his career and was forced to leave his native country. Göetz Briefs emigrated to the USA, where he found a teaching position as guest professor at the Catholic University and later full professor at the Jesuit Georgetown University in Washington, D.C.

After being widowed during the war years, he married Elinor Castendyk in 1946, who later became known for her work on and translations of Romano Guardini. After his retirement, the couple lived in a mountain retreat near the Trappist monastery Holy Cross Abbey in Berryville in Clarke County, Virginia, which he frequented with his wife on a daily basis. Goetz Briefs had an impact on the social teachings of the Catholic Church and was considered a ghost writer of the encyclical Quadragesimo Anno of Pope Pius XI with his friend, the Jesuit Gustav Gundlach, with whom he spent his annual Summer vacations together. Göetz Briefs died in Rome of internal complications from an accident in the Vatican. After visiting Pope Paul VI he fell on the Vatican steps leading to Saint Peter's Plaza. He is buried in the Vatican's Campo Santo.

With Gustav Gundlach, Theodor Brauer, Paul Jostock, Franz H. Mueller, Heinrich Rommen and Oswald von Nell-Breuning he was a member of the "Königswinter Circle" at the Königswinter "Institute for Society and Economy". Briefs received multiple scholarships and six honorary doctorates.In addition:

  • 1959 The Distinguished Service Cross of the Federal Republic of Germany "Pour le merit"
  • 1968 The Star to the Order of Merit.

Göetz Briefs published approximately 350 scientific articles. The road "Götz-Briefs-Weg" in his hometown was named after him in 1989.

External links


This article incorporates information from the German Wikipedia.

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