Herbert von Bose
Life and activities
Imperial Germany and Weimar Republic (1893–1933)
During the First World War Bose served as an Intelligence Officer in the Imperial German Army. After the war he continued to work in the field of intelligence gathering and espionage, first for the Black Reichswehr and later for the private Telegraph Union, a company owned by the politician and media mogul Alfred Hugenberg. In 1931 Bose was summoned to the Prussian State Ministry, where he was assigned to head the Press Department. On top of that he acted as a right-hand-man of the conservative politician Otto Schmidt-Hannover (DNVP). In the autumn of 1931 von Bose organised the so-called "Harzburger Tagung" (Harzburg conference) a gathering of right-wing political forces such as the NSDAP, the DNVP, the Agrarian Federation and the paramilitary Stahlhelm.
Although a confirmed anti-communist and skeptical about the functionality of democracy as a form of government, von Bose at that time came to reject National Socialism as a possible cure to the political ailings of Germany on various grounds, not the least of which was his personal detestation of the Nazi Party's leader, Adolf Hitler, whom he deemed a vulgar rabble-rouser.
Oppositional activities (1933–1934)
In early 1933 von Bose was appointed Chief of the Press Division in the office of Hitler's Vice-Chancellor Franz von Papen. Since von Papen failed in the task he had been assigned by Reichspresident von Hindenburg: to act as a "chaperon" and corrective of Hitler and the other radicals in the government, von Bose and the other leading men in Papen's staff decided to take care of that task by themselves. Together with his assistant Wilhelm von Ketteler, with Papen's speech writer and spin doctor Edgar Jung and Papen's aides Fritz Günther von Tschirschky and Hans Graf von Kageneck, von Bose formed a pocket of resistance against the National Socialist System that was later referred to as "the vanguard of conservative resistance".
In order to overthrow the not-yet fully consolidated regime von Bose and his colleagues plotted to create an atmosphere of critical political tensions in Germany that would allow them to prompt the old President von Hindenburg – who retained the position of Commander in Chief of the Germany Army – to declare a state of national emergency. As a consequence the Hitler government was to be stripped of the executive power in Germany, which Hindenburg was to take over by himself (practically exercised by von Papen's aides themselves and the Generals), by the Reichswehr. The army was to disarm the SA- and SS-troopers by force and to apprehend the major Nazi leaders, except for Hitler and Göring. Those two were to join a Reich-directorate that was to consist of von Papen, former Chancellor Heinrich Brüning, conservative politician Carl Friedrich Goerdeler, the two Nazi leaders and the General Werner Freiherr von Fritsch. The ulterior motive of this motion was a tactical one: to calm the masses of Nazi-supporters to prevent them from resorting to active resistance against the conservative coup. Hitler and Göring were supposed to be jettisoned somewhere along the track as soon as the position of their conservative counterparts had consolidated.
In early June 1934 that plan was jeopardized when Hindenburg – earlier than in previous years – left for his estate of Neudeck in East Prussia and thus was getting increasingly difficult to get in touch with. On top of that it had become obvious at that time that Hindenburg had only a few more weeks to live and therefore could not be expected to return from Neudeck at all. Pressured by those turn of events von Bose and his colleagues decided to accelerate the eruption of the smouldering crisis that existed in Germany in those months due to the conflict between Hitler's SA, which demanded to be promoted to the position of Germany's regular army, and the Reichswehr, which intended to defend its own status.
While von Bose and von Tschirschky drew up a special dossier that was to be handed over to the old von Hindenburg in late June 1934, to convince him of the necessity of mobilising the Reichswehr against the SA and NSDAP, von Papen delivered his famed address at the University of Marburg on June 17, 1934, which criticized some of the excesses of Nazi rule and called for a cessation of violence and return of the rule of laws. This speech, which was merely delivered by von Papen and unbeknownst to the public written by Jung, was intended to serve as a signal to all opposing forces in Germany to prepare to act up against National Socialism and simultaneously to enforce the escalation of the SA-Reichswehr tensions to underline towards Hindenburg the theses presented in the Bose-Tschirschky Dossier.
However, even though the Marburg Speech turned out to be a success – as the American Ambassador to Berlin William Dodd noted in those days the provocative greeting "Heil Marburg" was omnipresent in Germany – the plan by Bose, Jung and Tschirschky did not come to fruition: The tentative attitude of von Papen, who could not bring himself to travel to Hindenburg immediately after the success of the speech became obvious, and the clumsiness of Hindenburg's son – who undexterously spilled the beans about the Bose-Tschirschky Plan to Army Minister von Blomberg and his Chief of Staff von Reichenau, who was in league with Heinrich Himmler and Reinhard Heydrich – squandered the opportunity of the situation.
In the morning of June 30, between 10.00 AM and 11.00 AM, hours before Papen was to finally fly to Neudeck, the Vice-Chancellery was occupied by an SS-squad and a few Gestapo inspectors. Bose was conducted into a conference room – allegedly to be interrogated – and shot from behind ten times as he took a seat. Von Tschirschky was arrested and later released, while Jung – who had already been arrested on June 25 – was shot later that day. The whole event took place as a part of the Blood Purge on June 30, 1934.
In his memoirs Inside the Third Reich, Albert Speer relates how he was ordered to rebuild the Borsig Palace and transfer the Sturmabteilung (SA) leadership in and have Papen's staff out within twenty-four hours. Speer writes:
"Twenty-four hours later they moved out. In one of the rooms I saw a large pool of dried blood on the floor. There, on June 30, Herbert von Bose, one of Papen's assistants, had been shot. I looked away and from then on avoided the room. But the incident did not affect me any more deeply than that."
- Larry Eugene Jones: "The Limits of Collaboration. Edgar Jung, Herbert von Bose, and the Origins of the Conservative Resistance to Hitler, 1933-34", in: Larry Eugene Jones/ James Retallack [Eds.]: Between Reform, Reaction, and Resistance. Studies in the History of German Conservatism from 1789 to 1945, Providence 1993, pp. 465–501.