Otto Abetz

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Otto Abetz
German diplomat Otto Abetz.jpg
Birth name Otto Friedrich Abetz
Birth date 26 March 1903 (1903-03-26)
Place of birth Schwetzingen near Heidelberg, Grand Duchy of Baden, German Empire
Death date 5 May 1958 (aged 55)
Place of death Ruhr area near Langenfeld, West Germany
Allegiance  National Socialist Germany
Service/branch Hitlerjugend Allgemeine Flagge.jpg Hitler Youth
Flag Schutzstaffel.png SS
Rank SS-Brigadeführer
Battles/wars World War II
Awards War Merit Cross (1939)
Relations ∞ 1932 Suzanne de Bruycker

Otto Friedrich Abetz (26 March 1903 – 5 May 1958) was a German art teacher, diplomat and the Francophile German Ambassador to France during the Second World War. His primary objective in that role was to secure French collaboration with Germany. He was described by the Comte Fernand de Brinon as "a true friend of France".[1][2] In 1958, he and his wife were burned to death in a never fully explained motor 'accident' between Köln and Dusseldorf.


SS-Standartenfuhrer Otto Abetz, Hitler’s ambassador to Vichy France.jpg
Otto Abetz II.png

Otto Friedrich Abetz[3] was born in Schwetzingen, Grand Duchy of Baden, German Empire. The family moved to Karlsruhe in 1909. He was member of the nationalist youth organisation "Wandervogel" (Wandervogelbewegung) from 1913 to 1924. Otto achieved his Abitur at the Goethe-Realgymnasium Karlsruhe in 1921 and matriculated at Karlsruhe (Badische Landeskunstschule Karlsruhe) from 1922 to 1926 (Graduation: State examination in drawing theory). He first worked as an art and biology teacher at a girls' school, but in January 1935 he entered the German Foreign Office under Baron Konstantin von Neurath, and later, Joachim von Ribbentrop. Abetz's subsequent activities as the National Socialist Party representative in Paris, where he had been active since 1933, led to his expulsion from France in 1939.

HJ and SS

HJ-Unterbannführer Abetz became Baldur von Schirach's France advisor (Referent) in 1934 and joined the SS rune.png on 1 August 1935 (SS-Nr. 253.314). In January 1935, he had joined Joachim von Ribbentrop's 'Ribbentrop bureau'. He was main consultant for foreign policy (außenpolitischer Hauptreferent). Abetz was able, thanks to regular stays in Paris, to expand his personal network and played a leading role in founding the Comité France-Allemagne, which included numerous important politicians, professors and writers.

Abetz became member of the NSDAP on 31 December 1937 with effect from 1 May 1937 (NSDAP-Nr. 7.011.453). In the early summer of 1939, Abetz gained respect among Adolf Hitler, when, due to his spirited agitation during the “Danzig Crisis”, he was expelled by the French government.

From 1940 to 1942 and again 1943 to 1944, he was Envoy (6 April 1940), then Ambassador (5 August 1940) of the German Reich to the Petain government with his headquarters in Paris. On 9 November 1940, he was promoted to SS-Standartenführer and in January 1942 to SS-Brigadeführer.


From left to right: German film actress and occasional screen writer Gisela Uhlen (1919–2007), Rudolf August Emil Otto Schleier (1899–1959) and Ambassador Otto Abetz in France. Schleier belonged to the so-called Abetz group, which was flown to German-occupied Belgium on 14 June 1940 and from there to Paris, which was currently under German occupation. In Paris, Schleier initially held the title of Consul General; After Abetz became ambassador, he was appointed envoy (second class at the end of 1941 and first class in April 1943). During Abetz's absence, Schleier took over his business in Paris.

Following the German defeat of France in May 1940 and the Armistice in June 1940 he returned to Paris, and in November received accreditation as German Ambassador – a post he held for four years.

The French government had moved first to Rouen, then Bordeaux, then Clermont-Ferrard, and finally to to the spar-town of Vichy, but remained responsible for the civil administration for all France including the German Military Zone. Abetz therefore had much contact with the Minister of State for Franco-German relations, Jacques Benoist-Méchin, who had a somewhat romantic faith in Franco-German friendship and who had even written a book in favour of the absorption of the Ukraine by Germany. Abetz was proud of the levels of collaboration and "normality" which he and they achieved, notably in Paris, where Abetz boasted of the continuing intellectual and cultural life of the capital that continued to flourish, the opera continued its programmes, and famous conductors were brought to Paris for concert performances, including Herbert von Karajan; writers such as Drieu La Rochelle, Alfred Fabre-Luce, Louis-Ferdinand Céline, Georges Suarez, Robert Brasillach, and others appeared prominently; and high proportions of painters and musicians, theatre and cinema people 'collaborated'.[4] In return for the co-operation or 'collaboration' he was getting from France, Abetz managed to gain "concessions and facilities for the French Government" including the release of 150,000 French POWs.[5]

One of Abetz's suggestions was that all émigré and stateless Jews in the German Military Zone in France should be expropriated and expelled to the Free Zone. He regarded anti-semitism as an important lever in undermining the grip of the army and church in France and replacing it by a pro-German, anti-clerical, populist mass movement. Abetz, like Admiral Darlan, stated on a number of occasions that the so-called "resistance" was essentially communist.[6]

Martin Luther, the Director of the Department for German Internal Affairs, stated on 15 August 1940 that Hitler had told Abetz that "he intended to evacuate all Jews from Europe after the war".[7]

At his own post-war trial Pierre Laval said:

"I don't know if Abetz was a Nazi at heart. It was one of those questions it was better not to be put to a German, even if one was on friendly terms with him [...] I believe Abetz was loyal to his chiefs, and even moreso towards his country. But if he was Nazi by conviction – and I am not absolutely sure that he was - he was certainly not Nazi by temperament."[8]

After the Invasion in Normandy and his necessary dismissal as ambassador, with the enemy at the gates of Paris, he retired to his villa in Baden-Baden. In October 1945, he was tracked down by the French police in a sanatorium in the Black Forest, where he was recovering from an illness, and transferred to a Paris prison.


In July 1949, he was convicted and sentenced to twenty years' hard labour by a Far-Left Paris military tribunal[9] for the usual elastic charge of "war crimes" and his attitude towards the Jews. However, he was pardoned by the French president after intercession by the German Federal Government and was released on 17 April 1954. He then joined the editorial team of the newly founded Rheinisch-Westfälische Zeitung in Essen. He wrorked as a rapporteur on French issues and as a lecturer.


Abetz died on 5 May 1958 in his car near Langenfeld on the A 3 motorway between Cologne and the Ruhr area after his car left the road at high speed. His wife also died in the accident. The car's steering failed and the cause of the accident could not be fully determined. The car had recently been given to him by a Frenchman as a "present". The couple was buried in the main cemetery (Hauptfriedhof) in Karlsruhe.


Otto was the son of Otto Abetz (1863–1928) from Rastatt; civil servant (Beamter), 1903 Rentamtmann, 1909 Domain Council (Domänenrat) in Karlsruhe and his wife Anna Wilhelmine Laumann (1864–1935) from Guntersblum near Worms. He had two siblings:

  • Maria; ∞ Friedrich Bentmann (1900–1980), Gymnasium teacher and literary scholar
  • Karl (1896–1964), 1933 state forester in Braunschweig; 1933 member of the NSDAP; 1935 full professor of forest policy at the University of Freiburg im Breisgau, 1942–1945 general advisor Reich Forestry Office (Berlin), here a close employee of State Secretary Friedrich Alpers (1901–1944), briefly imprisoned in 1945 and dismissed from his professorship, Professor again in 1949. In addition, he volunteered as head of the business administration department at the Baden-Württemberg Forestry Research and Research Institute until his death.


On 1 September 1932, Otto Abetz married his fiancée Suzanne Sidonie de Bruycker (1899–1958) from Houplines near Lille, the French secretary of his friend Jean Luchaire, head of the Press in Paris, 1940-44.[10] Luchaire had described the appointment of Abetz as Ambassador to Paris as "a Godsend to France". Otto and Suzanne had two children. Their son Bernhard "Bernd" Abetz (1933–1994) was a lawyer and politician (Free Democratic Party; FDP).[11]



  • HJ-Unterbannführer (equivalent to a Major) on 31 July 1934
  • HJ-Oberbannführer (equivalent to a Brigadier) on 9 November 1937
  • HJ-Gebietsführer (equivalent to a Major General) on 30 January 1941[12]

SS rune.png

Awards and decorations

Otto Abetz (1).png


  • Pétain et les allemands. Memorandum sur les rapports franco-allemands, Gaucher, Paris 1948
  • D'une prison. Précédé du Procès Abetz vu par Jean Bernard-Derosne. Suivi des principales dépositions, du réquisitoire et de la plaidoirie de Me René Floriot, Paris 1950
  • Das offene Problem: Ein Rückblick auf zwei Jahrzehnte deutscher Frankreichpolitik, Greven, Köln 1951
  • Histoire d'une politique franco-allemande. Mémoires d'un ambassadeur, Stock, Paris 1952
  • Mémoires d'un Ambassadeur, Paris 1953



  1. Werth, Alexander, France 1940-1955, London, 1957, p.127.
  3. Otto Friedrich Abetz
  4. Werth, 1957, pps:45, 82.
  5. Werth, 1957, pps:84, 102.
  6. Werth, 1957, p.133.
  7. Documents on German Foreign Policy 1918-1945 by a large editorial board, Her Majesty's Stationary Office, London, 1957, p.484.
  8. Werth, 1957, p.110, citing Y.F. Jaffré's book Les derniers propos de Pierre Laval.
  10. Werth, 1957, p.130.
  11. Abetz, Otto (NDB)
  12. Abetz, in "Allgemeine SS - Polizei - Waffen SS 2" by Thierry Tixier