Raiffeisen, Friedrich Wilhelm (frēˈdrĭkh vĭlˈhĕlm rĪfˈĪˌzən) [key], 1818–88, German leader in the cooperative movement. Between 1845 and 1865 he was mayor of several German towns. After the agricultural crisis of 1846–47 Raiffeisen came to the conclusion that the chief need of the people was for credit. He used his own limited fortune to start a system of rural credit cooperatives and banks; in 1872 he founded a regional cooperative bank and in 1876 a national one; in 1877 he unified the entire system. It was an early form of credit union. The Raiffeisen banks continue to be successful in Germany and the Netherlands.
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