Karl Strölin was born in 1890 into a religious family in Berlin, Germany. As the son of an Army General, he first pursued a career as an officer and took part in the First World War. In 1920, he was forced to leave the military along with thousands of other officers per the disarmament provisions of the Versailles Treaty. He received his doctorate with a thesis on the situation of workers and the middle class before and after World War I. In 1923 he joined the newly founded National Socialist German Workers Party (Nazi Party), and after it was banned in the mid-1920s, joined again in 1931.
In 1931, Strölin stood as the NSDAP candidate in Stuttgart’s mayoral election against the incumbent Karl Lautenschlager. Strölin had to accept significant defeat, receiving only 26,000 votes to Lautenschlager’s 115,000. Nevertheless, Strölin won in subsequent local elections for Stuttgart City Council and became Chairman of the Nazi faction.
After the Nazi seizure of power on 30 January 1933, he deposed Lautenschlager and took over the post of Lord Mayor of Stuttgart. Supported by Wilhelm Murr, Gauleiter of Württemberg, Strölin removed not only mayor Lautenschlager, but also all the SPD deputies from the City Council. Within weeks, he also dismissed hundreds of employees in the entire city government and replaced them with Nazi party members.
Strölin saw his most important city management tasks to be urban planning and housing. On May 1, 1933, just weeks after taking office, he incorporated the independent towns of Weilimdorf, Mühlhausen and Zazenhausen North of Stuttgart into the city. There he created space for new housing, but per Nazi doctrine he allowed only “racially upstanding" candidates (the so-called Aryans) to move there.
In 1933, among many other appointments, Strölin became Chairman of the Deutsches Ausland-Institut (DAI). This organization, originally designed in 1917 for the care and documentation of ethnic Germans abroad, became deeply involved in Nazi Volkstum racial policies.
During his tenure as mayor, Strölin travelled repeatedly to Berlin to promote his city to those in power. As a result, Stuttgart received the honorary title "City of the Volksdeutsche" from Adolf Hitler. Strölin rose up into the senior leadership of the Nazi party.
World War II
Between 1941 and 1945, Strölin was at least partly responsible for the deportation of more than 2,000 Jews from Stuttgart Nordbahnhof to the concentration camps. With few exceptions, all were murdered in the Holocaust. They are commemorated today by a Memorial entitled „Zeichen der Erinnerung“ (Signs of Memory) on the former freight railway premises.
As the war turned against Germany, Strölin had contact with Leipzig Mayor Carl Friedrich Goerdeler, who was involved in the July 20 Plot to assassinate Hitler. Following the failure of the plot, Strölin's home was searched but nothing incriminating was found. Nevertheless, he was discharged from the leadership of the Nazi party and remained Lord Mayor of Stuttgart in name only.
In April 1945, as French and American troops were advancing on Stuttgart, Gauleiter Wilhelm Murr called for the city to be defended at all costs. As a former army officer Strölin knew the city could not possibly be defended in its valley location. The city center had already been heavily damaged by Allied bombing raids, and ground combat would not only destroy remaining intact buildings and utilities but also kill thousands more inhabitants. Through his personal intervention he prevented demolition of the bridge over the River Neckar, over which the main water supply lines ran into Stuttgart.
Strölin then secretly contacted the French Army and offered the peaceful surrender of his hometown. When Strölin’s contacts with the enemy were discovered, an arrest warrant was issued against him. However, the radio operator who received the transmission refused to pass on the message. Thus were saved not only Strölin from the firing squad, but also the city from total destruction.
On 21 April 1945, The French 5th Armored Division occupied areas of Stuttgart on the left bank of the Neckar largely without a fight. American troops advanced into the neighborhoods on the right bank of the Neckar up to Bad Cannstatt. The next day Strölin surrendered the city to a French General and suggested the non-Nazi affiliated and unencumbered lawyer Arnulf Klett as the new mayor.
Because Strölin was a prominent Nazi, he was imprisoned by the Allies and spent time in Prisoner of War Camp No. 32 (Camp Ashcan) at Bad Mondorf, Luxembourg. He was later released after Denazification and classified as "less incriminated". However, he never expressed regret about his Nazi past. Rather, until his death Strölin saw Nazism as a good political idea in principle which had only been betrayed by Hitler and his entourage. In 1950, he published a book "Stuttgart in the Final Stages of the War". In the early 1950s he obtained a pension before the Court of the City of Stuttgart. In later life he was attacked not only by left for his political past, but also by far right circles because he "betrayed Germany with his contacts with the resistance".
Strölin is buried at the Waldfriedhof in Stuttgart.
- The City of Stuttgart on their former Lord Mayor Karl Strölin
- Information about Karl Strölin at www.wirtemberg.de
- Karl Strolin's Curriculum Vitae at www.zeichen-der-erinnerung.org
- Ernst Klee: Das Personenlexikon zum Dritten Reich. Wer war was vor und nach 1945. Fischer Taschenbuch Verlag, Zweite aktualisierte Auflage, Frankfurt am Main 2005, ISBN 978-3-596-16048-8, p. 609.
- Stuttgarter Zeitung "Von Zeit zu Zeit" (in German). May 2008. Retrieved 16 November 2009.
- Shelby Stanton, World War II Order of Battle: An Encyclopedic Reference to U.S. Army Ground Forces from Battalion through Division, 1939–1946 Revised Edition, Stackpole Books, 2006