Baldur von Schirach

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Baldur von Schirach
Joachim von Ribbentrop and Baldur von Schirach crop.jpg
Flag of the Hitlerjugend Reichsjugendführer
In office
1931–1940
Appointed by Adolf Hitler
Preceded by Post created
Succeeded by Artur Axmann
Gauleiter of Vienna
In office
August 1940 – May 1945
Appointed by Adolf Hitler
Preceded by Josef Bürckel
Succeeded by None
Personal details
Born Baldur Benedikt von Schirach
9 May 1907 (1907-05-09)
Berlin, Kingdom of Prussia, German Empire
Died 8 August 1974 (1974-08-09) (aged 67)
Kröv, Rhineland-Palatinate, Federal Republic of Germany
Political party National Socialist German Workers' Party (NSDAP)
Spouse(s) Henriette von Schirach
(née Hoffmann; married 1932)
Children 4
Awards Hitler Youth Golden Honour Badge with Diamonds and Rubies

Baldur Benedikt von Schirach (9 May 1907 – 8 August 1974) was a Nazi youth leader later convicted of crimes against humanity. He was the head of the Hitler-Jugend (HJ, the "Hitler Youth") and later Gauleiter and Reichsstatthalter ("Reich Governor") of Vienna.

Early life[edit]

Schirach was born in Berlin, the youngest of four children of theatre director Rittmeister Carl Baily Norris von Schirach (1873–1948) and his American wife Emma Middleton Lynah Tillou (1872–1944). A member of the noble Schirach family, of Wendish West Slavic origins, three of his four grandparents were from the United States, chiefly from Pennsylvania.[1] Through his mother, Schirach was a descendant of Thomas Heyward, Jr. and an indirect descendant of Arthur Middleton, two signatories of the United States Declaration of Independence. English was the first language he learned at home and he did not learn to speak German until the age of five. He had two sisters, Viktoria and Rosalind von Schirach, and a brother, Karl Benedict von Schirach. His brother committed suicide in 1919 at the age of 19.

On 31 March 1932 Schirach married the 19-year-old Henriette Hoffmann, the daughter of Heinrich Hoffmann, Adolf Hitler's personal photographer and close friend. Schirach's family was vehemently opposed to this marriage, but Hitler insisted.[2] Gregor Strasser dismissively described Schirach as "a young effeminate aristocrat" upon whom Hitler bestowed both Henriette and the Hitler Youth position. Through this relationship, Schirach became part of Hitler's inner circle. The young couple were welcome guests at Hitler's "Berghof". Henriette von Schirach gave birth to four children: Angelika Benedikta von Schirach (born 1933), Klaus von Schirach (born 1935), Robert von Schirach (born 1938) and Richard von Schirach (born 1942). The lawyer and best-selling German crime writer Ferdinand von Schirach is the couple's grandson.[3]

Schirach was a published author, contributing to literature journals, and an influential patron of the arts.[4]

Schirach (extreme left) watches as Hitler greets his Chancellery chief Phillip Bouhler in Munich 1938.
Baldur von Schirach with Hitler, Bormann and Göring at the Obersalzberg.

Military career and the Nazi Party[edit]

Schirach joined a Wehrjugendgruppe (military cadet group) at the age of ten and became a member of the Nazi Party (NSDAP) in 1925. He was soon transferred to Munich, and in 1929 became leader of the National Socialist German Students' League (Nationalsozialistischer Deutscher Studentenbund, or NSDStB). In 1931 he was named as Reichsjugendführer (Youth Leader) of the Nazi Party, and in 1933 was made head of the Hitler Youth (Hitlerjugend) and given an SA rank of Gruppenführer. He was made a state secretary in 1936.

Schirach appeared frequently at rallies, such as the Nuremberg rally of 1934, when he appeared with Hitler in rousing the Hitlerjugend audience. The event was filmed for Triumph of the Will the propaganda film made by Leni Riefenstahl for the Nazi Party. Schirach set the militaristic tone of the youth organisation, which participated in military style exercises, as well as practising use of military equipment, such as rifles. When older, the members would become Wehrmacht soldiers, but in the final years of the Second World War they were recruited as young as 12 to fight in depleted army units. An entire division, the 12th SS Panzer Division Hitlerjugend, was recruited almost entirely from the Hitlerjugend, fought in Normandy in 1944, and committed several war crimes.

In July 1939, Schirach paid Passau a formal visit.[5] In July 1940, when a new play by Hans Baumann was staged there, Schirach insisted that 2,000 local Hitler Youth members be part of that performance.[6]

In 1940 Schirach organised the evacuation of five million children from cities threatened by Allied bombing. Later that year, he joined the army and volunteered for service in France, where he was awarded the Iron Cross before being recalled. He served with the 4th (Machine Gun) Company of Infantry Regiment Grossdeutschland in the rank of Gefreiter.[7] During the French Campaign he was promoted to Leutnant and decorated for bravery.[8] Schirach lost control of the Hitler Youth to Artur Axmann, and was appointed Governor (Gauleiter or Reichsstatthalter) of the Reichsgau Vienna,[9] a post in which he remained until the end of the war.

An anti-Semite and an anti-Christian,[10] Schirach was responsible over the next few years for sending Jews from Vienna to German death camps. During his tenure 65,000 Jews were deported. In a speech on 15 September 1942 he said that their deportation was a "contribution to European culture."[9] Later during the war, Schirach pleaded for a moderate treatment of the eastern European peoples and criticised the conditions in which Jews were being deported. He fell into disfavour with Hitler in 1943, but remained at his post in Vienna.[11]

Schirach was notoriously anxious about air raids. He had the cellars of the Hofburg Palace in the Vienna city centre refurbished and adapted as a bomb shelter, and the lower level of the extensive subterranean Vienna air defence coordination centre in the forests to the west of Vienna held personal facilities for him, as well. The Viennese promptly dubbed this C&C centre the "Schirach-Bunker".

Baldur von Schirach at the Nuremberg Trials (in second row, second from right)

Trial and conviction[edit]

Schirach surrendered in 1945 and was one of the officials put on trial at Nuremberg. At the trial Schirach was one of only two men to denounce Hitler (the other was Albert Speer). He said that he did not know about the extermination camps. He provided evidence that he had protested to Martin Bormann about the inhumane treatment of the Jews. Schirach claimed at the trials that the roots of his anti-semitism could be found in the readings of Henry Ford's The International Jew. He was originally indicted for crimes against peace for his role in building up the Hitler Youth, but was acquitted on that charge. However, he was found guilty on 1 October 1946 of crimes against humanity for his role in the deportation of the Viennese Jews to certain death in German Nazi concentration camps located in Poland. He was sentenced and served 20 years as a prisoner in Spandau Prison, Berlin.

On 20 July 1949 his wife Henriette von Schirach (3 February 1913 – 27 January 1992) divorced him while he was in prison.

He was released on 30 September 1966 after carrying out his full sentence, and retired quietly to southern Germany. He published his memoirs, Ich glaubte an Hitler ("I believed in Hitler") and died on 8 August 1974 in Kröv.

Trivia[edit]

Baldur von Schirach has been portrayed in film, television and theatre productions:

In fiction, Baldur von Schirach was portrayed in Philip K. Dick's 1962 prize-winning alternate history novel The Man in the High Castle, in a somewhat more sympathetic manner than other Nazi war criminals. The fictionalized account noted his efforts to mitigate racial exterminations of Slavs, and his calling for an end to certain forms of mercy killings and medical experimentation. Upon the death of Reichskanzler Martin Bormann, the Japanese see him as the most preferable successor (although, Joseph Goebbels ultimately prevails). In the novel, Schirach is also said to have been responsible for the completion of "Project Farmland", wherein the Mediterranean Sea was dammed and drained, reclaiming huge areas of farmland, à la Atlantropa.[14]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

Notes

  1. ^ Michael H. Kater, Hitler Youth, Harvard University Press, 2009, p. 17, ISBN 0674039351
  2. ^ The Mind of Adolf Hitler, Walter Charles Langer, New York 1972, pp. 99–100
  3. ^ Ferdinand von Schirach (September 23, 2011). "A Third Reich Past: Why I Cannot Answer Questions about My Grandfather". Spiegel Online. 
  4. ^ Gerwin Strobl (2007). The swastika and the stage: German theatre and society, 1933–1945. Cambridge University Press. pp. 9–. ISBN 978-0-521-88076-3. Retrieved 20 September 2010. 
  5. ^ Anna Rosmus Hitlers Nibelungen, Samples Grafenau 2015, pp. 212f
  6. ^ Anna Rosmus, Hitlers Nibelungen (Samples Grafenau, 2015), p. 255f
  7. ^ Spaeter, Helmuth, "The History of Panzerkorps Grossdeutschland" p.70 (English edition)
  8. ^ Spaeter, Helmuth, p. 137
  9. ^ a b Robert S. Wistrich (7 November 2001). Who's who in Nazi Germany. Psychology Press. p. 122. ISBN 978-0-415-26038-1. Retrieved 20 September 2010. 
  10. ^ Everette Lemons (4 January 2005). The Third Reich, A Revolution of Ideological Inhumanity: The Power of Perception. Lulu.com. pp. 240–. ISBN 978-1-4116-1932-6. Retrieved 20 September 2010. 
  11. ^ Baldur von Schirach
  12. ^ Nuremberg (2000) (TV) at the Internet Movie Database
  13. ^ Nuremberg: Nazis on Trial (2006) (TV) at the Internet Movie Database
  14. ^ Dick, Philip (1962). The Man in the High Castle. pp. 24, 98, 102. ISBN 978-0-547-57248-2. 

Further reading

  • Fest, Joachim C. and Bullock, Michael (trans.) "Baldur von Schrach and the 'Mission of the Younger Generation'" in The Face of the Third Reich New York: Penguin, 1979 (orig. published in German in 1963), pp. 332–354. ISBN 978-0201407143.

External links[edit]