Oskar von Hindenburg
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Oskar von Hindenburg
Oskar von Hindenburg, April 1930
|Birth name||Oskar Wilhelm Robert Paul Ludwig Hellmuth von Beneckendorff und von Hindenburg|
|Born||31 January 1883|
Königsberg, Prussia, German Empire
|Died||12 February 1960 (aged 77)|
Bad Harzburg, Lower Saxony, West Germany
|Allegiance|| German Empire|
|Years of service||1903–1934, 1939–1945|
|Battles/wars||World War I|
Oskar Wilhelm Robert Paul Ludwig Hellmuth von Beneckendorff und von Hindenburg (31 January 1883 – 12 February 1960) was a German Generalleutnant. The son and aide-de-camp to Field Marshal and Reich President Paul von Hindenburg had considerable influence on the appointment of Adolf Hitler as German chancellor in January 1933.
Oskar von Hindenburg was born in Königsberg, East Prussia (present-day Kaliningrad, Russia), the only son of Paul von Hindenburg (1847–1934) and his wife Gertrud Wilhelmine (1860–1921). He had two sisters, Irmengard Pauline (1880–1948) and Annemarie (1891–1978). In 1921, he married Margarete von Marenholtz (1897–1988), the couple had four children.
He followed his father into the Prussian Army and joined the 3rd Foot Guards regiment in 1903, where he befriended Kurt von Schleicher. Initially, his career did not prosper, as Hindenburg's superiors considered him to be of low intelligence. Nevertheless, after his father became a German World War I hero upon the Battle of Tannenberg, Oskar von Hindenburg's career started to advance thanks to his surname. A General Staff officer at the Armeeoberkommando during the war, he achieved the rank of Hauptmann (Captain) in the 20th Division.
After the war, he continued his career within the newly established German Reichswehr, where he was promoted to Major and acted as his father's liaison officer. After his father became Reich President of the Weimar Republic in 1925, Major von Hindenburg acted as his father's aide-de-camp. As his father's closest friend and advisor, he exercised considerable power behind the scenes as he largely controlled access to the President. It was in large part due to his friendship with the younger von Hindenburg, that von Schleicher became Chancellor and one of the elder von Hindenburg's closest advisors. Because of this influence on the President beyond any control by constitutional means, the publicist and writer Kurt Tucholsky spoke of him as "... the son of the president, not designated by the Reich's constitution ...".
In a meeting with the "camarilla" around Franz von Papen and State Secretary Otto Meissner on 22 January 1933, Oskar von Hindenburg, who like his father had long been opposed to making Hitler chancellor, was persuaded to support the plan to have Hitler appointed but having von Papen control him from behind the scenes as Vice-Chancellor. At the same time, Oskar was stuck in the major Eastern Aid (Osthilfe) scandal, concerning a Weimar Republic programme for developing the agrarian economy in eastern Germany. Moreover, he was under pressure due to his manor in Neudeck, which the German government with large contributions from German industrialists on initiative of Elard von Oldenburg-Januschau gave to President Hindenburg on the occasion of his 80th birthday on 2 October 1927. The president had titled the deed in the name of his son Oskar, according to his political opponents ostensibly to avoid payment of inheritance taxes. Shortly after Hitler's appointment, Hindenburg and his descendants were officially exempt from taxes by law.
After his father's death, Major von Hindenburg made a radio broadcast on 18 August 1934, in which he asked the German people "in accordance with my father's intention" to vote 'Yes' in a plebiscite that took place the next day. The question posed in this plebiscite, was whether the German people approved of Hitler merging the offices of President and Chancellor into one. The speech text was published in all major newspapers. The "Yes" vote amounted to over 90%. In fact, Hitler had decided to succeed Hindenburg as Führer und Reichskanzler a long time before.
World War II
Discharged from active military service in the rank of Major General in 1934, Oskar von Hindenburg had retired to Neudeck manor. During World War II, Oskar von Hindenburg was again appointed General commanding in East Prussia, where he supervised several prisoner of war camps. Promoted to Generalleutnant in 1942, he finally requested permission to resign because he considered the position to be a demotion when compared to his previous military and government positions. As a member of the Führerreserve, he lived in Neudeck until the advance of Red Army troops late in the war forced him to flee to his brother-in-law in Medingen. Previously, he had supervised the dismantling of the Tannenberg Memorial honoring his father's 1914 victory over the Russians. He also had his parents' remains moved west. In the 1950s, Polish authorities razed the site, leaving few traces.
In the Nuremberg trials, Oskar von Hindenburg was a witness against Franz von Papen. In 1956, he won a lawsuit against South German Publishers, which in 1954 posthumously published the book by Baron Erwein von Aretin, Crown and Chains. Memories of a Bavarian Nobleman alleging that in 1930 Oskar von Hindenburg had obtained illegal funding from the Eastern Aid programme. Oskar von Hindenburg lived in Medingen, West Germany after the war. Having suffered a heart attack in early 1960 he traveled to a spa in Bad Harzburg, where he died on 12 February 1960. He was buried at Waldfriedhof Medingen.
Allegations that President Hindenburg appointed Hitler Chancellor because of pressure from his son Oskar have never been conclusively established. Nevertheless, Franz von Papen, who had served previously as Reich Chancellor until he was supplanted by Schleicher in December 1932, was negotiating behind Hitler's back to again be named chancellor of a presidential government (a government that would rule by decree under Article 48 of the Weimar Constitution) and almost succeeded, had it not been in large part for the influence of Oskar von Hindenburg on his father. While other factors are important, without the behind the scenes influence of Oskar von Hindenburg and State Secretary Meissner, Papen would have had a much tougher time convincing President Hindenburg to invite "that Bohemian corporal" and the Nazi Party to form a government at all.
William Shirer, in his book The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, states that Oskar von Hindenburg was promoted to Major General after the plebiscite unifying the offices of President and Reich Chancellor and that he remained a loyal Nazi. While he did fade from the history of the Third Reich after this plebiscite, Shirer argues that this final act in Hitler's consolidation of power was vital and without Oskar von Hindenburg's earlier influence with his father on behalf of Hitler's bid to be invited to form a government after the fall of Chancellor von Schleicher on 28 January 1933, Hitler might not have ascended to power at all.
The other obvious influence in Hitler's favour was the likelihood of a coalition government with the conservative German National People's Party (DNVP). This almost fell apart at the last minute as well—the coalition partners were so intent arguing over prospective cabinet appointments (the Nazis were ultimately outnumbered in the Cabinet 8-3) that they left Reich President Hindenburg waiting well past the appointed time for the meeting at which Hitler was named chancellor. The president almost cancelled the meeting in exasperation. Hitler being named chancellor was not certain until it was announced and it was Oskar von Hindenburg and his work with his father that (in Shirer's view) tipped the balance in Hitler's favour. Shirer also claims that Hindenburg Junior received 5,000 additional acres to his estates at Neudeck in addition to rapid advancement in the German Armed Forces.
Secret British MI5 files declassified in February 2014 allege that President Paul von Hindenburg created a last will and testament that would have rejected Hitler's claim to the Reichstag and urged the nation to embrace democracy. According to these files, President von Hindenburg drew up the will as a "bomb timed to go off posthumously to blow Hitler off course." However, as soon as Hitler heard about the will, he reportedly ordered his henchmen to capture the document. Major von Hindenburg is alleged to have duly handed it over, and it was never seen again. Instead, the Nazis published Hindenburg's 'political testament' - a glowing endorsement of Hitler and his political goals that many historians believe was a forgery. citation needed
- Fischer, Klaus. Nazi Germany: A New History. New York: Continuum, 1995.
- Hiss, O.C. Hindenburg: Eine Kleine Streitschrift, Potsdam: Sans Souci Press, 1931.
- William Shirer, The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich
- Snyder, Louis Leo The Encyclopedia of the Third Reich, New York: McGraw-Hill, 1976.
- Henry Ashby Turner Hitler's Thirty Days to Power: January 1933, Reading, Mass.: Addison-Wesley, 1996.
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