Wilhelm Gustloff

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For the ship, see MV Wilhelm Gustloff.

Wilhelm Gustloff (January 30, 1895 - February 4, 1936) was the founder of the Swiss NSDAP/AO (the Nazi party organization for German citizens abroad) at Davos. He remained its leader from 1932, until he was assassinated in 1936.[1]

Life and assassination[edit]

Gustloff (a son of a merchantman Herrmann Gustloff - info from Günter Grass's Crabwalk), who worked for the Swiss government as a meteorologist, joined the NSDAP in 1929. He put much effort into the distribution of the antisemitic propaganda book The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, to the point that members of the Swiss Jewish community sued the book's distributor, the Swiss NSDAP/AO, for libel. Gustloff was shot and killed in 1936 by David Frankfurter, a Croatian Jewish student incensed by Gustloff's antisemitic activism. Frankfurter surrendered immediately to the Swiss police and was sentenced to life imprisonment. However, he was pardoned and exiled at the end of World War II.

Aftermath[edit]

Gustloff was given a state funeral in his birthplace of Schwerin in Mecklenburg, with Adolf Hitler, Joseph Goebbels, Hermann Göring, Heinrich Himmler, Martin Bormann and Joachim von Ribbentrop in attendance. Thousands of Hitlerjugend members lined the route. His coffin, transported on a special train from Davos to Schwerin, made stops in Stuttgart, Würzburg, Erfurt, Halle, Magdeburg and Wittenberg. Gustloff's widow, mother and brother attended the funeral and received personal condolences from Hitler. Ernst Wilhelm Bohle was the first at Gustloff's funeral to recite a few lines in his honour.

Gustloff was proclaimed a Blutzeuge of the Nazi cause and his murder became part of the propaganda that served as pretext for the 1938 Kristallnacht pogrom. His wife Hedwig, who had been Hitler's secretary, received from Hitler personally a monthly "honorary pay" of 400 Reichsmark, the equivalent of some 13,000 Dollars today.

Namesakes[edit]

The German cruise ship MV Wilhelm Gustloff was named for Gustloff by the Nazi regime. The ship was sunk by a Soviet submarine in January 1945 in the Baltic Sea while carrying mostly civilian refugees from the advancing Red Army. More than 9,000 lives were lost, the greatest death toll from the sinking of a single vessel in human history. The disaster remains relatively little known.

The Wilhelm Gustloff Foundation or Wilhelm-Gustloff-Stiftung was also named for Gustloff. The small arms factory Berlin Suhler Waffen und Fahrzeugwerke was renamed Wilhelm Gustloff Werke in Gustloff's honour in 1939.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

Further reading[edit]

  • Peter Bollier, 4. Februar 1936: das Attentat auf Wilhelm Gustloff; in: Roland Aergerter (Hrsg.), Politische Attentate des 20. Jahrhunderts, Zürich, NZZ Verlag, 1999
  • Matthieu Gillabert, La propagande nazie en Suisse, L'affaire Gustloff 1936, Lausanne, Presses polytechniques et universitaires romandes, 2008
  • Emil Ludwig; Peter O. Chotjewitz; Helmut Kreuzer (Hrsg.), Der Mord in Davos, Herbstein, März, 1986
  • Roger Weston: Fatal Return, 2012. Novel linked to the history and sinking of the Wilhelm Gustloff.

External links[edit]