Rudolf Hilferding, the son of wealthy Jews, was born in Vienna on 10th August, 1877. He obtained a doctorate in medicine became increasingly interested in politics and joined the Social Democratic Party (SDP) and became a teacher at their training centre in Berlin.
Hilferding published a series of books as a Marxist economics including Marx's System (1904) and Finance Capital (1910). These books apparently had a major influence on the ideas of Vladimir Lenin and the Bolsheviks in Russia. Hilferding also worked on the staff of Die Neue Zeit (1907-15), the newspaper founded by Karl Kautsky.
Hilferding broke with the left-wing of the Social Democratic Party by supporting Germany's participation in the First World War was conscripted into the medical service of the Austro-Hungarian Army. By 1918 Hilferding had changed his mind about the war and joined the more radical Independent Socialist Party. Other members included Kurt Eisner, Karl Kautsky, Eduard Bernstein, Julius Leber and Rudolf Breitscheild.
After the war he became editor-in-chief of Die Freiheit (November 1918 to March 1922). He also became one of the leaders of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) and was Germany's minister of finance under Gustav Stresemann (1923) and Hermann Muller (1928-29).
Hilferding, as a Jew and a leading socialist, was forced to flee from Germany after Adolf Hitler came to power in 1933. He lived in Denmark and Switzerland before moving to France in 1938. Rudolf Hilferding was handed over to the Nazis by the Vichy authorities and he died in prison on 2nd February, 1941, from injuries inflicted on him by the Gestapo.