Herbert von Dirksen

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Eduard Willy Kurt Herbert von Dirksen (2 April 1882 - 19 December 1955) was a German diplomat who is best remembered as the last German Ambassador to Britain before World War II.

Biography[edit]

Dirksen was born to a recently ennobled family.[1] His mother was once helpful to Adolf Hitler, which benefited Dirksen's career in Nazi Germany.[2] In 1905, he graduated with a Referendar (junior barrister) legal degree and, in 1907, he went on a tour around the world.[1] After working as assistant judge, in 1910, Dirksen went on a four-month trip to Rhodesia, South Africa and German East Africa.[1] During World War I, Dirksen served in the German Army as a lieutenant and won the Iron Cross, Second Class.[1] After the war, he joined the German Foreign Office.[1]

From 1923–25, Dirksen served as German Consul in the Free City of Danzig.[1] In 1928, in a major promotion, Dirksen became the Ministerial Director of the East Division of the Foreign Office.[1] Later that same year, the Foreign Minister, Gustav Stresemann, appointed him the German Ambassador to the Soviet Union.[1] In early 1933, Dirksen was highly concerned that the anti-Communist rhetoric of the Nazis might damage the good state of German-Soviet relations.[3] In response, Prince Bernhard von Bülow, the State Secretary of the Auswärtiges Amt sought to reassure Dirksen that:"The National Socialists faced with responsibility are naturally different people and follow a policy other than that which they have previously proclaimed. That's always been so and is the same with all parties".[3] Despite Bülow's assessment, German–Soviet relations started to decline, which left Dirksen very worried.[3]

In May 1933, Dirksen had a meeting with Hitler in which he advised the Führer that he was allowing relations with the Soviet Union to deteriorate to an unacceptable extent.[4] Much to Dirksen's disappointment, Hitler informed him that he wished for an anti-Soviet understanding with Poland, which Dirksen protested implied recognition of the German–Polish border.[5] In August 1933, Dirksen was warned by the Soviet Premier Vyacheslav Molotov that the state of German–Soviet relations would depend on how friendly the Reich chose to be towards the Soviet Union.[6]

In October 1933, he became the German Ambassador to Japan. Shortly after his arrival in Tokyo, Dirksen became involved with the efforts of a shady German businessman, drug-dealer, Nazi Party member and friend of Hermann Göring, named Ferdinand Heye, to become Special Trade Commissioner in Manchukuo.[7] Dirksen's backing for Heye's schemes for a monopoly of Manchurian soybeans plus his advocacy of German recognition of Manchukuo brought him into conflict with his superior, the Foreign Minister Baron Konstantin von Neurath, who preferred better relations with China than with Japan.[8] In early 1934, Dirksen himself came into conflict with Heye over the latter's attempts to secure not just a soybean monopoly, but all German business in Manchuria.[9] In addition, Heye, acting on his own, informed the Japanese that German recognition of Manchukuo would soon be coming, a claim that strained German relations with both the Chinese (who were offended at the idea of German recognition for Manchukuo) and the Japanese (who were offended when German recognition did not come). The dispute was finally settled in February 1935 when Heye was finally disallowed by Hitler.[10]

In 1938–39, he was German Ambassador at the Court of St. James's. Dirksen's relations with his superior, Foreign Minister Joachim von Ribbentrop, were very poor. Dirksen despised Ribbentrop as "an unwholesome, half-comical figure".[1] In December 1938, the British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain gave a speech at a formal dinner of the correspondents of the German News Agency in London with Dirksen present.[11] When Chamberlain spoke of the "futility of ambition, if ambition leads to the desire for domination", Dirksen, who interpreted that remark as an implied criticism of Hitler, led all of the assembled German journalists in walking out in protest.[11] In 1939, Dirksen reported to Berlin that Britain would not honor the Anglo-Polish military alliance, and would back down if Germany invaded that nation. In August 1939 Dirksen reported that Chamberlain knew “the social structure of Britain, even the conception of the British Empire, would not survive the chaos of even a victorious war”, and so would abandon her commitments to Poland.[12] Dirksen’s main motive for reporting that Britain would do nothing in the event of German aggression against Poland was his very strongly held anti-Polish feelings.[citation needed] Dirksen strongly disliked Poland, and did not wish for any information that might dissuade Hitler from launching Fall Weiss from reaching him.[citation needed] Dirksen's family was also the largest landowner in the Polish corridor, land taken away from Germany after World War I. Dirksen's messages had the effect of convincing Adolf Hitler that any German attack on Poland would result only in a localized German–Polish war, not a world war. When Germany invaded Poland on 1 September 1939, this was followed by a British declaration of war on Germany on 3 September, an effect of which was the ruin of Dirksen's diplomatic career, and he never held a major post again.

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i Snyder, Louis "Encyclopedia of the Third Reich" New York: McGraw-Hill, 1976 page 68.
  2. ^ MacDonogh, Giles (2009). 1938: Hitler's Gamble. Basic Books. pp. 31–32. ISBN 9780465020126. 
  3. ^ a b c Kershaw, Ian Hitler Hubris, New York: Norton 1999 page 544.
  4. ^ Weinbeg, Gerhard The Foreign Policy of Hitler's Germany Diplomatic Revolution in Europe 1933-36, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1970, page 65.
  5. ^ Weinberg, Gerhard The Foreign Policy of Hitler's Germany Diplomatic Revolution in Europe 1933-36, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1970, page 66.
  6. ^ Haslam, The Soviet Union and the Struggle for Collective Struggle page 22
  7. ^ Weinberg, Gerhard The Foreign Policy of Hitler's Germany Diplomatic Revolution in Europe 1933-36, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1970, page 127.
  8. ^ Weinberg, Gerhard The Foreign Policy of Hitler's Germany Diplomatic Revolution in Europe 1933-36, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1970, page 128.
  9. ^ Weinberg, Gerhard The Foreign Policy of Hitler's Germany Diplomatic Revolution in Europe 1933-36, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1970, page 130.
  10. ^ Weinberg, Gerhard The Foreign Policy of Hitler's Germany Diplomatic Revolution in Europe 1933-36, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1970, page 131.
  11. ^ a b Maiolo, Joseph The Royal Navy and Nazi Germany, Macmillan Press: London, 1998 page 169
  12. ^ Overy, Richard & Wheatcroft, Andrew The Road To War, London: Macmillan, 1989 page 56

References[edit]

  • Dirksen, Herbert von "Moscow Tokyo London: Twenty Years of German Foreign Policy" Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press, 1952.
  • Snyder, Louis "Encyclopedia of the Third Reich" New York: McGraw-Hill, 1976.
  • 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.
  • Mund, Gerald "Herbert von Dirksen (1882-1955). Ein deutscher Diplomat in Kaiserreich, Weimarer Republik und Drittem Reich. Eine Biografie." Berlin: dissertation.de - Verlag im Internet, 2003.
  • Mund, Gerald: "Ostasien im Spiegel der deutschen Diplomatie. Die privatdienstliche Korrespondenz des Diplomaten Herbert von Dirksen von 1933 bis 1938." Steiner Verlag, Stuttgart, 2006 (= Historische Mitteilungen der Ranke-Gesellschaft, Beiheft 63).
  • Weinberg, Gerhard The Foreign Policy of Hitler's Germany Diplomatic Revolution in Europe 1933-36, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1970, ISBN 226-88509-7.
Diplomatic posts
Preceded by
Ulrich Graf von Brockdorff-Rantzau
German Ambassador to the Soviet Union
1928-1933
Succeeded by
Rudolf Nadolny
Preceded by
Willy Noebel
German Ambassador to Japan
1933-1938
Succeeded by
Eugen Ott
Preceded by
Joachim von Ribbentrop
German Ambassador to the Court of St. James's
1938–1939
Succeeded by
position was terminated on 3 Sept 1939, following declaration of war