Konstantin von Neurath

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Konstantin von Neurath

SS-Gruppenführer (since 1943 SS-Obergruppenführer)
Dr. jur. h. c. Konstantin Freiherr von Neurath
as Reichsprotektor in 1939

Reichsminister of Foreign Affairs
 Weimar Republic
 National Socialist Germany
In office
1 June 1932 – 4 February 1938
President Paul von Hindenburg
Adolf Hitler (as The Führer)
Chancellor Franz von Papen
Kurt von Schleicher
Adolf Hitler
Preceded by Heinrich Brüning
Succeeded by Joachim von Ribbentrop

In office
21 March 1939 – 24 August 1943
(since 1941 leave of absence)
Appointed by Adolf Hitler
Preceded by Office established
Succeeded by Reinhard Heydrich (de facto)
Wilhelm Frick (de jure)

Born 2 February 1873
Kleinglattbach, Kingdom of Württemberg, German Empire
Died 14 August 1956
Enzweihingen, Baden-Württemberg, West Germany
Political party Independent (1932–1937)
NSDAP (1937–1945)
Spouse(s) ∞ 1901 Marie Auguste Moser von Filseck
Children 2
Alma mater Friedrich Wilhelm University
University of Tübingen
Cabinet Hitler Cabinet
Military service
Allegiance  German Empire
 National Socialist Germany
Service/branch Flagge und Wappen, Deutsches Reich, Königreich Württemberg, valid from 1817 to 1918.png Army of Württemberg
Iron Cross of the Luftstreitkräfte.png Imperial German Army
Flag Schutzstaffel.png SS
Years of service 1892–1914 (reserves)
1914–1916
1937–1945
Rank Hauptmann der Reserve
SS-Obergruppenführer
Unit Grenadier-Regiment „Königin Olga“ (1. Württembergisches) Nr. 119
Battles/wars World War I
Awards Iron Cross
Wound Badge
Order of Merit of the German Eagle

Konstantin Hermann Karl Freiherr[1] von Neurath (b. 2 February 1873; d. 14 August 1956) was a German aristocrat, lawyer, officer and diplomat, who served as Foreign Minister of Germany between 1932 and 1938. He served as Governor of the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia between 1939 and 1943. At the Nuremberg Show Trials Neurath was sentenced to fifteen years imprisonment.

Life

Konstantin von Neurath as a student in Tübingen, around 1896
Konstantin Freiherr von Neurath with Princess Bismarck – Ann-Mari, née Tengbom (1907–1999), the wife of Otto Fürst von Bismarck (1897) – at a reception in London 1931
Generalfeldmarschall August von Mackensen (de), right next to him diplomat Konstantin Freiherr von Neurath
Bundesarchiv N 1310 Bild-135, Konstantin von Neurath.jpg

Von Neurath was born at the manor of Kleinglattbach (since 1972 part of Vaihingen an der Enz) in Württemberg, the scion of a Swabian dynasty of Barons (Freiherren). His grandfather Constantin Franz von Neurath had served as Foreign Minister under King Charles I of Württemberg (reigned 1864-1891); his father Konstantin Sebastian von Neurath (d. 1912) had been a Free Conservative member of the German Reichstag parliament and Chamberlain of William II (d.1921), the last reigning King of Württemberg.

He studied law in Tübingen and in [[Berlin]. After graduating in 1897 he initially joined a local law firm in his home town. In 1901 he entered into civil service and worked for the Foreign Office in Berlin. In 1903 he was assigned to the German embassy in London, at first as Vice-Consul and from 1909 as Legation counsel (Legationsrat). Following the visit of the Prince of Wales to the Kingdom of Württemberg in 1904, as Lord Chamberlain to King William II, he was created an Honorary Knight Grand Cross of the Royal Victorian Order.[2] Neurath's career was decisively advanced by Secretary of State Alfred von Kiderlen-Waechter. In 1914 he was sent to the embassy in Constantinople.

During World War I he served as an officer with an infantry regiment until 1916 when he was badly wounded. In December 1914 he was awarded the Iron Cross. He returned to the German diplomatic service in the Ottoman Empire (1914–1916), where he witnessed the Armenian Genocide. In 1917 he temporarily quit the diplomatic service to succeed his uncle Julius von Soden as head of the royal Württemberg government.

Political career

In 1919 von Neurath with approval by President Friedrich Ebert returned to diplomacy, joining the embassy in Copenhagen as Minister to Denmark. From 1921 until 1930 he was the ambassador to Rome; he was not overly impressed with Italian Fascism. After the death of Gustav Stresemann in 1929, he was already considered for the post of Foreign Minister in the cabinet of Chancellor Hermann Müller by President Paul von Hindenburg, but his appointment failed due to the objections raised by the governing co-alition parties. In 1930 he was appointed Ambassador to London.

Von Neurath was recalled to Germany in 1932 and became Minister of Foreign Affairs in the "Cabinet of Barons" under Chancellor Franz von Papen in June. He continued to hold that position under Chancellor Kurt von Schleicher and then under Adolf Hitler from the Machtergreifung on 30 January 1933. During the early days of Hitler's rule, von Neurath lent an aura of respectability to Hitler's foreign policy.

In May 1933, the American chargé d'affaires reported that "Baron von Neurath has shown such a remarkable capacity for submitting to what in normal times could only be considered as affronts and indignities on the part of the National Socialists, that it is still quite a possibility that the latter should be content to have him remain as a figurehead for some time yet".[3] He was involved in the withdrawal of Germany from the League of Nations in 1933, the negotiations of the Anglo-German Naval Agreement (1935) and the remilitarization of the Rhineland. Not until 1937, did von Neurath became a member of the National Socialist Party. He was awarded the Golden Party Badge and was given the honorary rank of a SS-Gruppenführer in the SS.

Nevertheless on 4 February 1938, von Neurath was dismissed as Foreign Minister in the course of the Blomberg–Fritsch Affair. He was said to feel his office was becoming marginalised and that he was not in favour of Hitler's war plans, which were detailed in the Hossbach Memorandum of 5 November 1937. He was succeeded by Joachim von Ribbentrop, but remained in government as a Minister without portfolio. He was also named as President of the "Secret Cabinet Council," a purported super-cabinet to advise Hitler on foreign affairs. He openly objected to making any secret pact with the Soviet Union, and greatly disliked von Ribbentrop for his negotiating the non-aggression pact with them.

In March 1939, von Neurath was appointed Reichsprotektor of occupied Bohemia and Moravia. The unreliable Shirer stated that Hitler chose von Neurath in part to pacify the international concerns over the German occupation of the rump Czech lands.[4] Soon after his arrival at Prague Castle, von Neurath agreed to institute harsh press censorship and banned political parties and trade unions. He ordered a harsh crackdown on violent protesting students in October and November 1939 (1200 student protesters went to concentration camps and nine were executed). He also ensured Jews were treated in accordance with the Nuremberg Laws. Hitler, however, felt his rule was too lenient, and in September 1941 he was relieved of his day-to-day powers and replaced by Reinhard Heydrich and Kurt Daluege. Von Neurath already attempted to resign in 1941 but his resignation was not accepted until August 1943, when he was succeeded by the former Minister of the Interior Wilhelm Frick. In June of that year von Neurath had been raised to the rank of an SS-Obergruppenführer.

Trial and imprisonment

Von Neurath was tried at the Nuremberg Show Trials in 1946, where he took the ordeal with surprising calm. He was defended by Otto von Lüdinghausen. The Allies accused him of "conspiracy to commit crimes against peace"; "planning, initiating and waging wars of aggression"; "war crimes" and "crimes against humanity". Baron von Neurath's chief defence strategy was predicated on the fact that his successor and fellow defendant Joachim von Ribbentrop was more culpable for the crimes committed in the National Socialist state. The American psychiatrist Dr.Dunn, who examined von neurath, charactised him as "a quiet, soft-spoken professional diplomat whose manner was most correct and polished. He made no complaints in spite of his age and his sever hypertension, and had a relatively high IQ of 125." The International Military Tribunal acknowledged the fact that von Neurath's "crimes against humanity" were allegedly mostly conducted during his short tenure as actual Protector of Bohemia and Moravia, especially in quelling Czech partisans and the summary execution of several terrorists. The tribunal came to the consensus that von Neurath, though a willing and active participant in "war crimes", held no such prominent position during the height of the Third Reich's rule and was therefore only a minor adherent to the alleged atrocities committed. He was found guilty by the Allied powers on all four counts and was sentenced to fifteen years imprisonment.

Von Neurath was held as a "war criminal" in Spandau Prison, Berlin, until November 1954, when he was released in the wake of the Paris Conference, due to his ill-health. He retired to his family's estates in Enzweihingen, where he died from a heart attack two years later, aged 83.

Carlos Porter

The revisionist Carlos Porter has written that

"Von Neurath was the victim of a major forgery, Document 3859-PS. The Czechs re-typed an authentic document, making extensive alterations and additions, and presented a "photocopy" of their "copy" (with typewritten signatures) to the Tribunal. The original document was in Czechoslovakia. On this document, nearly everything is wrong: German bureaucracy was extremely complex, and many prosecution documents bear wrong addresses, false references, and incorrect procedural markings which are not immediately obvious. In relation to this document, Von Neurath said, "I regret to say that you are lying" (XVII 67 [79]; 373-377 [409-413]). Von Neurath was convicted of closing Czech universities (not a crime under international law when performed by an occupation government) and shooting 9 Czech student leaders after a demonstration. These crimes were "proven" with various documents: USSR-489, a "certified true copy", certified by the Czechs; USSR-60, a "report" of a "War Crimes Commission", quoting the "statements" of Karl Hermann Frank, which were not appended to the report; and USSR-494, an "affidavit" signed by Karl Hermann Frank 33 days before his execution. The statements attributed to Frank in the War Crimes Report were, of course, not signed or dated, and the original documents were in Czechoslovakia (XVII 85-90 [98-104]).[5] Much of the "evidence" concocted against Von Neurath, Schacht, Von Papen, Raeder, and others came from the affidavits of an elderly American diplomat living in Mexico (Documents 1760-PS; 2385-PS; 2386-PS; EC-451). The diplomat, George Messersmith, was claimed to be too old to come to court (II 350 [387]); it was denied, however, that he was senile (II 352 [389]). The "evidence" consists of Messersmith's personal opinions as to the motivations and character of other people. Von Neurath's case appears at XVI 593-673 [649-737]; XVII 2-107 [9-121]; XIX 216-311 [242-345])."[6]

Familiy

Freiherr von Neurath was the son of Konstantin Karl Sebastian Ludwig Peter Julius Freiherr von Neurath (1847–1912), Königlich Württembergischer Oberstkammerherr and member of the Reichstag, and his wife Mathilde Berta Clementine Sophie Wilhelmine Auguste, née Freiin von Gemmingen-Hornberg (1847–1924). His grandfather was the lawyer and diplomat Konstantin Franz von Neurath.

Marriage

On 30 May 1901, Neurath married the banker's daughter Marie Auguste Moser von Filseck (1875–1960) in Stuttgart. They had three children:

  • Konstantin Alexander Freiherr von Neurath (1902–1981)
  • Winifred Mathilde Christine Helene Freiin von Neurath (1904–1985), ∞ 1926 Hans Georg von Mackensen, politician
  • Dorothee (d. 1910), who died shortly after birth

Konstantin Alexander Freiherr von Neurath (son)

  • Law studies and doctorate (Dr. jur.)
  • 1925 to 1926 Education at the Embassy in Rome (private secretary of his father, the Ambassador and later Foreign Minister Konstantin von Neurath)
  • ∞ I. Meesow 26.12.1928 Charlotte-Helene („Lottelene“) von Dewitz (1895–1950), daughter of the royal Prussian captain and landscape director a. D. Oskar von Dewitz on Meesow and Lisbeth, née von Loeper.
  • 1931 to 1933 research assistant at the Federal Foreign Office
  • 1933 Entry into the Foreign Service (diplomat)
  • 1934 to 1936 as attaché at the Embassy in Rome
  • 1934 Entry into the NSDAP
  • 1936 to 1940 Legation in Brussels, first as Legation Secretary, from 1938 as Legation Counselor (Gesandtschaft Brüssel, zunächst als Legationssekretär, ab 1938 als Gesandtschaftsrat)
  • 1940 to 1941 at the Consulate General in Milan
  • 1941 bis 1943 as Sonderführer of the Wehrmacht representative of the Foreign Representative of the Federal Foreign Office at the Afrikakorps
  • 1944 Consul in Lugano[7]
  • Post-war period: Director at Siemens-Argentina Buenos Aires, executive director and director (Direktor bei der Siemens-Argentina Buenos Aires, Geschäftsführender Vorstand und Direktor)
  • ∞ II. (civil) Enzweihingen 28.8.1951, (ecclesiastical) Dänischenhagen near Kiel 4.9.1951 Irmgard Gertrud Leonie Charlotte von Dewitz (b. 18.12.1915 in Braunschweig)

Memberships

  • 1894 Corps Suevia Tübingen (later honorary member)
  • 1933 Akademie für Deutsches Recht
  • 30 January 1937 NSDAP (Mitgliedsnummer 3.805.229)
  • 18 September 1937 Allgemeine SS (SS-Nr. 287.680)
  • 1939 Reich Defense Council (Reichsverteidigungsrat)

Awards, decorations and honours

  • Royal Victorian Order, Honorary Knight Grand Cross on 28 April 1904 as Vice Consul in London
  • Wurttemberg Silver Wedding Medal 1911
  • Friedrich Order (Friedrichs-Orden), 1st Class
  • Order of the Red Eagle (Roter Adlerorden), 4th Class (according to other sources 3rd Class)[8]
  • Order of the Crown (Belgium), Commander

WWI

  • Iron Cross (1914), 2nd and 1st Class
    • 2nd Class on 16 October 1914
    • 1st Class on January 1915
  • Military Merit Order (Württemberg), Knight's Cross (Ritterkreuz)
  • Order of Franz Joseph, Commander in 1915 (according to other sources, Grand Cross)
  • Gallipoli Star, Eiserner Halbmond
  • Order of Osmanieh, 2nd Class
  • Albert Order (Albrechts-Orden), Knight's Cross 1st Class with Swords (according to other sources, Officer's Cross)
  • Order of Saint Alexander, 1st Class with Swords
  • Wilhelmskreuz (Württemberg) without Swords
  • Wound Badge (1918) in Black
  • Landwehr service award (Württemberg), 1st Class

Third Reich

Honours

  • Honorary doctorate (Dr. jur. h. c.) of the University Camerino
  • Honorary citizen of Kleinglattbach, 1933
  • Honorary citizen of Stuttgart, 1938

External links

Further reading

References

  1. Regarding personal names: Freiherr (de) is a title of German nobility (Deutscher Adel), somtetimes translated as Baron, not a first or middle name, but connected with the surname, for example Sigismund Freiherr von Falkenstein, not Freiherr Sigismund von Falkenstein. The female forms are Freifrau, if married, and Freiin, if not.
  2. London Gazette: no. 27675, p. 2999, 1904-05-10. Retrieved 2010-06-29.
  3. Weinberg, Gerhard The Foreign Policy of Hitler's Germany Diplomatic Revolution in Europe 1933-36, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1970, page 36.
  4. William Shirer, The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich (Touchstone Edition) (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1990)
  5. NOT GUILTY AT NUREMBERG: The German Defense Case http://cwporter.com/innocent.htm
  6. This, however, seems unlikely given the fact that Messersmtih left Berlin in 1934; although he was next in Vienna until 1937, Austria was still an independent republic, so before anything like a "war crime" could take place. At the time of the Nuremberg Show Trials Messersmith was still actively working, as Chairman of the board of the Canadian-owned Mexican Power and Light Co.
  7. MEMORANDA FOR THE PRESIDENT: SUNRISE, CIA-Akten
  8. Neurath, Freiherr von, Konstantin Hermann Karl
  • Lattimer, Dr. John K., Hitler and the Nazi Leaders, Ian Allan Publishing, Shepperton, Surrey, U.K., 1999, p.189-191.ISBN: 0-7110-2700-5. Not a credible book but a source all the same. Lattimer was a USA physician at Nuremberg.