Lutz Graf Schwerin von Krosigk

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Lutz Graf Schwerin von Krosigk
JohannLudwigGrafSchwerinvonKrosigk26zl.jpg
Leading Minister of the German Reich
In office
1 – 23 May 1945
President Karl Dönitz
Preceded by Joseph Goebbels (Reich Chancellor)
Succeeded by None (occupation by the Allied powers)
Foreign Minister
In office
2 – 23 May 1945
President Karl Dönitz
Chancellor Himself as Leading Minister
Preceded by Arthur Seyss-Inquart
Finance Minister
In office
1 June 1932 – 23 May 1945
President
Chancellor
Preceded by Hermann R. Dietrich
Personal details
Born Johann Ludwig Graf Schwerin von Krosigk
22 August 1887
Rathmannsdorf, Anhalt, Germany
Died 4 March 1977(1977-03-04) (aged 89)
Essen, West Germany
Political party None
Spouse(s) Ehrengard von Plettenberg
Children 9
Alma mater University of Halle
University of Lausanne
Oriel College, Oxford
Occupation Officer, jurist, minister
Religion Protestant[1]

Johann Ludwig Graf[2] Schwerin von Krosigk, born Johann Ludwig von Krosigk and known as Lutz von Krosigk (22 August 1887 – 4 March 1977) was a German senior government official who served as Minister of Finance of Germany from 1932 to 1945.

A non-partisan moderate conservative, he was appointed to the post by Franz von Papen in 1932. At the request of President Paul von Hindenburg, he continued in that office under Kurt von Schleicher and Adolf Hitler. During May 1945, after the suicides of Hitler and his designated successor Josef Goebbels, he also served in the historically unique position of Leading Minister of the German Reich, the equivalent of a Chancellorship, in the short-lived Flensburg government of President Karl Dönitz. Schwerin von Krosigk also held the essentially nominal offices of Foreign Minister and Finance Minister in the provisional government that controlled only a small, progressively shrinking portion of Germany, due to the rapid advance of the Allied forces who finally dissolved it and arrested its members.

Besides Adolf Hitler himself, he and Wilhelm Frick were the only members of the Third Reich's cabinet to serve continuously from Hitler's appointment as Chancellor until his death, despite not being a Nazi Party member.

At the 1949 Ministries Trial, he was convicted of war crimes and sentenced to 10 years in jail, but was granted amnesty in 1951. He later worked as an author and publicist.

Early life[edit]

He was born Johann Ludwig von Krosigk in Rathmannsdorf, Anhalt, Germany to a father from an old noble family of Anhalt and a mother who was a daughter and heiress of a Count (Graf) von Schwerin, a member of the same family as Richardis of Schwerin, Queen of Sweden. He studied law and political science at Halle, at Lausanne and as a Rhodes Scholar at Oriel College, Oxford. During World War I, he served in the German Army, finally as a First Lieutenant, and was awarded the Iron Cross. Krosigk married Baroness Ehrengard von Plettenberg (1895–1979) on 7 February 1918, with whom he had four sons and five daughters. In 1922, he became an Oberregierungsrat (senior government official) and 1929, ministerial director and superior of the budget department at the finance ministry. In 1931, he joined the department of reparations payments, formed to deal with the reparations Germany owed the Allied Powers after World War I.

Nazi years[edit]

Pre-World War II[edit]

The cabinet in February 1934. Schwerin von Krosigk is second from left, talking to Franz von Papen.

Schwerin von Krosigk was appointed Minister of Finance by Franz von Papen in 1932, and continued in that office at the request of President Paul von Hindenburg under Kurt von Schleicher and throughout the period of Nazi rule. Several members of his family took part in assassination attempts against Adolf Hitler. Schwerin von Krosigk was rarely seen in public appearances, and Hitler did not have regular cabinet meetings (the cabinet didn't meet at all after 1938). He was thus more an administrator of the finance ministry rather than a political figure.

World War II[edit]

On 1 May 1945, after Goebbels's suicide, Reichspräsident Karl Dönitz asked Schwerin von Krosigk to become the Chancellor (Reichskanzler) of the Acting Government. He declined but did accept the position of "Leading Minister".

Rapidly advancing Allied forces limited the jurisdiction of the new German government to an area around Flensburg near the Danish border, where Dönitz's headquarters were located, along with Mürwik. Accordingly, this administration was referred to as the Flensburg government. Dönitz and Schwerin von Krosigk attempted to negotiate an armistice with the Western allies while continuing to resist the Soviet Army. On 7 May 1945, Dönitz authorized the signature of the German Instrument of Surrender to the Allies, which took place in Rheims before General Dwight D. Eisenhower; Dönitz would later authorize the German military to sign another instrument of surrender in Berlin, in a ceremony presided over by the Soviets. The speech by Winston Churchill announcing victory to the British people is evidence of a de facto recognition of the Flensburg Government's authority, for Churchill stated that the surrender was authorized by "Grand Admiral Dönitz, the designated Head of the German State". However, after the unconditional surrender, the Flensburg government was mostly treated as inconsequential by the western military command. On 23 May 1945, the Flensburg Government was dissolved by order of the Supreme Allied Commander and its members arrested as prisoners of war.

Schwerin von Krosigk was tried at Nuremberg along with other leading members of the German government during the time of Nazi government. Found guilty in the Ministries Trial in 1949, he was sentenced to ten years' imprisonment, but was released during an amnesty in 1951.

After World War II[edit]

In later years, Schwerin von Krosigk wrote several books on economic policy and two versions of his memoirs. In a broadcast to the German people on 2 May 1945, he became one of the first commentators to refer to an "Iron Curtain" across Europe, a phrase he had picked up from an article by Joseph Goebbels[3] and which was later made famous by Winston Churchill.

Schwerin von Krosigk died in 1977 in the city of Essen, North Rhine-Westphalia, West Germany, aged 89.

Works[edit]

  • Es geschah in Deutschland, 1951.
  • Die große Zeit des Feuers – Der Weg der deutschen Industrie, 3 volumes, 1959.
  • Alles auf Wagnis – der Kaufmann gestern, heute und morgen, 1963.
  • Persönliche Erinnerungen, memoirs, 3 volumes, 1974.
  • Staatsbankrott (Studie über die deutsche Finanzpolitik von 1920 bis 1945), 1975.
  • Memoiren (short version of Persönliche Erinnerungen), 1977.

Footnotes[edit]

  1. ^ Johannes Hürter, "Schwerin von Krosigk, Johann Ludwig Graf", Neue Deutsche Biographie 24 (2010), pp. 79–80.
  2. ^ Regarding personal names, Graf is a German noble title, usually translated as "Count", but, since the end of the German monarchy in 1918, has been seen as part of the person's family name. The feminine form is Gräfin.
  3. ^ "Das Jahr 2000", Das Reich, 25 February 1945, pp. 1–2

External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by
Hermann R. Dietrich
Minister of Finance
1932–1945
Succeeded by
Fritz Schäffer (West Germany)
Hans Loch (East Germany)
Preceded by
Joseph Goebbels
(as Chancellor of Germany)
Leading Minister of Germany
(Flensburg Government)

1–23 May 1945
Succeeded by
Allied military occupation 1945–1949
Konrad Adenauer (West Germany)
Otto Grotewohl (East Germany)
Preceded by
Arthur Seyss-Inquart
Minister of Foreign Affairs
1–23 May 1945
Succeeded by
Konrad Adenauer (West Germany)
Georg Dertinger (East Germany)