Friedrich Werner von der Schulenburg

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Friedrich Werner von der Schulenburg
Friedrich-Werner Erdmann Matthias Johann Bernhard Erich Graf von der Schulenburg.jpg
Born (1875-11-20)20 November 1875
Kemberg, German Empire
Died 10 November 1944(1944-11-10) (aged 68)
Berlin, Plötzensee Prison
Nationality German
Occupation Diplomat
Religion Protestant [1]
Spouse(s) Elisabeth von Sobbe (1908 - 1910)
Children Christa-Wernfriedis von der Schulenburg

Friedrich-Werner Graf von der Schulenburg (20 November 1875 – 10 November 1944) was an early Nazi supporter and German diplomat who served as the last German ambassador to the Soviet Union before Operation Barbarossa. He began his diplomatic career before World War I, serving as consul and ambassador in several countries.He turned against main Nazi Party, but remained supporter of Nazi ideology and German conquest of Europe. After the failed July 20 plot in 1944, Schulenburg was accused of being a co-conspirator and subsequently executed.

He was a Knight of Justice of the Order of St John, which was regarded with disfavour by the Nazis.[1]

Diplomatic career[edit]

Inscription on the ancient statue at the entrance of Persepolis. Envoy F.W. GRAF SCHULENBURG. 1926*1930*1931

Schulenburg was born in Kemberg, Saxony-Anhalt to Graf[2] Bernhard von der Schulenburg. He studied law in Lausanne, Munich and Berlin after a one-year stint in the military. In 1901, he joined the Foreign Office's consular service as a junior lawyer (Assessor). By 1903, he was already the vice-consul at Germany's consulate general in Barcelona, and in the years that followed, he found himself working at consulates in Lvov, Prague, Warsaw and Tbilisi. With the outbreak of World War I in 1914, von der Schulenburg returned to the military, and after the First Battle of the Marne was promoted to captain in October 1914 and put in charge of an artillery battery. In 1915, he went as German liaison officer to the Ottoman Army on the Armenian Front. In 1916, he took over leadership of the Georgian Legion in the struggle with Russia, until its collapse in 1917. During his time in the military, he received the Iron Cross and some high Turkish honours. After the German Empire's collapse, he was captured by the British and interned on the Turkish island of Prinkipo (now called Büyük Ada), returning to Germany in 1919. Von der Schulenburg returned to the Foreign Office Service and became consul in Beirut.

Baron Schulenburg served as the German ambassador to Persia/Iran from 1922 to 1931 (when his visit to the ancient monuments at Persepolis resulted in his engraving of his name at the Gate of All Nations seen in a photo in here). From 1931 to 1934 he served as the German ambassador to Rumania/Romania before being sent to Moscow as the last German envoy to the Soviet Union before the invasion of that country by Germany.

Noble estate[edit]

Burg Falkenberg today

In the 1930s, von der Schulenburg acquired the Burg Falkenberg, a castle in the Upper Palatinate. He had it converted and renovated to serve as a retirement home. This monumental work was undertaken between 1936 and 1939.

Resistance activities[edit]

After World War I, von der Schulenburg got his diplomatic career going again, becoming, among other things, an envoy to Tehran and Bucharest. In 1934, he was appointed German ambassador to the Soviet Union. Von der Schulenburg favoured an agreement between Germany and the Soviet Union, and was instrumental in bringing about the August 1939 German-Soviet Non-Aggression Pact. After the Soviet invasion of Poland, despite the state of war between Germany and Poland, he used his position as the most senior ambassador in Moscow to allow Polish diplomats (including ambassador Wacław Grzybowski) to leave the Soviet Union, when the Soviets tried to arrest them.

Schulenburg was kept in the dark about Germany's planned invasion of the Soviet Union. He only knew for certain that the invasion was taking place just hours before it was launched, when Foreign Minister Joachim von Ribbentrop cabled him a message to read to Soviet Foreign Minister Vyacheslav Molotov justifying the invasion. He did, however, get suspicions of what his government was planning to do in the spring. To the last, he tried to thwart any talk of invasion by means such as hinting at the country's military strength and the unassailability of its industrial reserves. He is quoted as having said to Molotov on the morning of the attack: "For the last six years I've personally tried to do everything I could to encourage friendship between the Soviet Union and Germany. But you can't stand in the way of destiny."

After the aggression began on 22 June 1941, von der Schulenburg was interned for a few weeks, and transferred to the Soviet-Turkish border. Thereafter, von der Schulenburg was assigned as leader of the Russia Committee, a Foreign Office post with no political influence that neutralized him. He later joined the conspiracy to overthrow Hitler in hopes of reaching quick peace agreement in the east. He was ready and willing to negotiate even with Joseph Stalin in the plotters' names. Had the plotters been successful in overthrowing Hitler, Schulenburg would have been a high-ranking official in the Foreign Office; some sources had him listed as foreign minister. Schulenberg's plans for post-Hitler goals in the East were familiar to Nazis on many points, and he believed that Russians and other Eastern European nations could be easily subjected to German supremacy as they were "young people untouched by western civilization" of "simple faith", in Schulenburg' Europe was to be dominated by Germany which would annex lands stretching up to Vilnius, Minsk and Lublin in the East, to Prague and Brno in the South, and Groningen and Liege in the west.[3]

After the failure of the attempt on Adolf Hitler's life on 20 July 1944, he was arrested and charged with high treason. On 23 October 1944, the Volksgerichtshof ("People's Court") sentenced him to death. He was hanged on 10 November 1944 at Plötzensee Prison in Berlin.

Marriage[edit]

He married from 1908 to 1910 Elisabeth von Sobbe (Burg bei Magdeburg, 14 March 1875 - Wolframshof, 6 July 1955), and had an only daughter:

  • Christa-Wernfriedis Hanna Margarete Engelberta Gräfin von der Schulenburg (Prague, 29 December 1908 - ?), married to Max Wolfgang, Freiherr von Lindenfels (Wolframshof, 12 July 1908 - Wolframshof, 28 November 1982)

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ "The Knights of Saint John in Germany". GREAT ORDERS OF CHIVALRY. Retrieved 21 Nov 2013. 
  2. ^ Regarding personal names: Graf was a title, translated as Count, not a first or middle name. Before 1919 preceding the first name, former titles are with people alive after 1919 dependent parts of the surname, thus preceding the main surname and not to be translated. The female form is Gräfin.
  3. ^ Alternatives to Hitler: German Resistance Under the Third Reich Hans Mommsen page 161

References[edit]

  • Schorske, Carl "Two German Ambassadors: Dirksen and Schulenburg" pages 477-511 from The Diplomats 1919-1939 edited by Gordon A. Craig and Felix Gilbert, Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1953.

External links[edit]

Diplomatic posts
Preceded by
Rudolf Nadolny
German Ambassador to Soviet Union
1934-1941
Succeeded by