Friedrich Wilhelm Raiffeisen was born into a family of farmers on March 30, 1818 in the German province of Westfalia.  He was the seventh of nine children.  His primary schooling was due to the support of his god father who was a priest.  After primary school, he was then enlisted into the military, but fell ill, enough to where his eyesight was greatly affected in 1842.  After leaving the military, he began working for the Koblenz city government.  Within a couple of years Raiffeisen became the mayor of a couple of cities including Weiherbusch, Westerwald; Flammersfeld, Westerwald; and Heddesdorf, Westerwald.  He was married to Emily Stock in 1845.

Many areas in Central Europe were experiencing poverty, including Weiherbusch.  Farmers, craftsmen, and even relatives and friends of Raiffeisen were struggling to survive.  With the lack of support from the government and private loans, many of these people were indebted to “loan sharks.”  Being aware of the plights of those around him, he began to seek ways to help his fellow villagers.

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With his own money and the contributions from wealthy villagers, Raiffeisen was able to create a charitable funds in the form of loan societies.  However he soon realized that the only true way he could help the farmers and people in the villages is to help them help themselves. With the unions and cooperatives in place, famers were able to sell their products and compete in the market.  In 1846 Raiffeisen established the first credit union.  In 1872, Raiffeisen created a regional cooperative credit union by uniting local unions, and the central office was opened in 1877.

Raiffeisen adopted the two crossed horse heads as his banks emblem, which symbolizes protection and security, which is what his bank represented.  Traditionally, the gable cross was attached to the attic of villagers homes as a means to protect them from danger. The Raiffeisen Bank Group has protected workers and businessmen from unfair loans and businesses that took advantage of the workers dependency on them.  It also provided workers and businessmen a way to gain financial and home security that went beyond paying back their credit.  So now, each time the gable cross is sighted, it is often associated with the Raiffeisen Bank Group and the great works they have done.

Raiffeisen died on March 11, 1888, and by the time he died, his first credit union flourished into 425 societies in Germany and 120 in Austria.  He was buried at the Heddesdorf cemetery.  He lost his wife in 1863 due to an epidemic, where he also caught typhus.  He had three children from this marriage, one named Amalia Raiffeisen, who assisted her father as his personal secretary when he started to lose his sight at age 47.  He remarried in 1867 to Maria Panseroth, a widow, and the couple remained childless.  His second wife died in the year 1900.

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Raiffeisen has left a legacy that has made the Raiffeisen Bank Group become the financial pillar it is today.  The group has many cooperative and societies that serves many trades, and they havebanks spread all over Europe.  They continue to support businessmen, craftsmen and others with the intention of helping them help themselves, just as Raiffeisen intended.

The legacy of Friedrich Wilhelm Raiffeisen has not ended there.  You see his name in almost every village and town in Austria, whether it is Raiffeisen Square or Raiffeisen Street.  There is also a bridge in his name and museum in Weiherbusch.   The Raiffeisen name has proven to be a name that can be trusted and will continue to be so for many years to come.