Elizabeth Haas Edersheim
"A tribute to Peter F. Drucker" - Page 3


Vienna 1909

In the early 20th century, Vienna was the prosperous capital of the dual monarchy of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and home to many of the world’s foremost musicians, artists, authors, philosophers, and scientists.  In that city, in this remarkable era, Gustav Mahler, Johann Strauss, and Anton Bruckner were composing music being performed by orchestras in the greatest concert halls and opera houses in the world.

Peter Drucker was born in this imperial capital in 1909, a year after Kaiser Franz Josef’s 60th Jubilee.  His Vienna was continuing to flourish while the rest of the empire was beginning to crumble.  After nearly 800 years of continuous Hapsburg rule, ethnic tensions were on the rise, with people from the Balkans to Bohemia clamoring for self-determination and Germanic groups calling for closer ties with Germany.  Within the governing structure of the constitutional monarchy, reformers pushed for increasing democracy and market improvements.  All the while, the future of the Austro-Hungarian Empire was regarded as clouded by the prospect that the arguably far less capable Archduke Ferdinand was in line to succeed the aging Kaiser. 
The Hapsburg monarchy’s fall from power after World War I and the ensuing years of chaos left Vienna and the old regime in a shambles and defined the world of Peter Drucker’s youth.

Adolph Bertram Drucker  (1876-1967)

The Druckers came to Austria from Holland, where the family had worked as printers (Drucker means “printer” in Dutch) primarily producing editions of the Koran that were sold on the black market in the Ottoman empire for considerable profit.  After the family relocated to Vienna, Peter’s great-grandfather continued as a printer, but his grandfather forged a new family profession as an Austrian civil servant in customs.  Peter’s father, Adolph Drucker, was the younger of two children and also entered the civil service, rising to the senior civil servant at the Austrian Ministry of Economics at an early age.  A prominent liberal, Adolph retired from the civil service in 1923 in protest against the government’s increasing deference to the Roman Catholic Church.  He taught at the Schwarzwald School and later became an international lawyer. 

Adolph’s prominence and status as Grandmaster of the Austrian Freemasons made him a particular target of the Nazi regime, and Peter’s parents were singled out by the Nazi secret police when they entered Austria in 1938.  Through a case of mistaken addresses on the part of the Nazis, Peter’s parents evaded arrest and were able to flee Austria to Zurich and then the United States. In the United States, Adolph became a professor of International Economics at the University of North Carolina before moving to a similar post at American University in Washington, D.C. and ultimately on to Berkeley to teach European literature at the University of California.  Note: Peter and Doris had been in America for about a year before his parents joined them.

As reflected in the diversity of Adolph’s professional positions, his intellectual interests were wide ranging.  While still in government service in Austria, he participated in the founding of the Salzburg Festival (a major international musical event) and served for many years as the festival’s chairman of the board.  During Peter’s childhood years, Adolph hosted weekly dinners at their house with guest lists that included eminent economists and lawyers as well as musicians, mathematicians, and philosophers; thereby exposing his son to a wide spectrum of ideas from a very young age.

Caroline Bond Drucker  (1885-1954)

Peter’s mother’s family came from Prague and Vienna, and Peter’s maternal grandfather (Ferdinand Bond) was a banker and one of the founders of the Anglo-Austrian bank (one of the major banks of the Austro-Hungarian Empire).  He died in 1899 when Peter’s mother was 14.  Shortly thereafter, her mother, Olga Bond, had a long siege of illnesses including rheumatic fever, yet was always on the go.
She was a strong, insightful woman whom Peter admired and wrote about in Adventures of a Bystander.

After graduation, Caroline went on to be one of the first women in Austria to study medicine, even attending lectures in psychiatry given by Sigmund Freud – yet another place where she was the only woman.  As Peter relates, “she used to recount with some amusement how her presence embarrassed Freud in discussing sex and sexual problems.”

Despite being an academic and social scientist like his father, Peter was always much closer to his mother. “I am very much her son.  Where my father had principles, she had perception.  Till the last years of her life, when she was very ill, we always understood each other without having to discuss anything.”  The confluence of their two personalities can easily be seen through the myriad of medical examples to be found in Peter’s writing. From a very early age her weekly dinners for fellow professionals brought countless prestigious surgeons, psychologists, pediatricians, and even statisticians to the family table.