Ernst von Weizsaecker

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Ernst von Weizsaecker (1882 – 1951) was a career German diplomat under the Weimar Republic and the Nazi Party, joining the foreign service in 1920. He rose to the rank of State Secretary of the Reich Foreign Office, serving from 1938 to 1943, at which time he transferred from the role of professional head of the ministry to become Reich Ambassador to the Holy See.

"Although he would later claim to loathe the boorish Nazis, he was a German nationalist and shared many goals with them: the repudiation of the Treaty of Versailles, a return to the status of a great power, and rearmament."[1]

WWII

Initial information from a report released by the present German Foreign Ministry, in October 2010, shows him supporting antisemitism in 1938. “The Jews will have to leave Germany, otherwise they will, one way or the other, be simply confronted with their own destruction,” he reportedly told a Swiss ambassador in 1938. He also recommended Thomas Mann be stripped of German citizenship for writing an anti-Nazi article. [2]

He held the SS rank of Brigadefuehrer. While SS ranks for civil servants often were honorary, Joschka Fischer, former foreign minister who started the study made the general observation, “The sentence that shocked me the most described how the co-operation between the foreign ministry and the [SS] was so close that the boundaries became fluid.” [2] During the trial, two memos from Heinrich Himmler to him were presented, which authorized the deportation of 6,000 French Jews. While Ambassador to the Holy See, he played a part in the deportation of Roman Jews.[1]

Czechoslovakia

He was aware of the Czech crisis in May 1938, writing that the Western press had humiliated Adolf Hitler in suggesting that he had called off his invasion of Czechoslovakia: "Hitler had embarked on no military enterprise, and thus could not withdraw from one. But unfortunate provocation from the foreign press really set Hitler going. From then on, he was emphatically in favor of settling the Czech question by force of arms."[3]

Ernst Woermann represented Weizsaecker in the field, providing military and financial assistance to the Sudeten German Party, and helped fabricate border incidents with Poland. [4]

Poland

In October 1941, he advised that Poland not be categorized as occupied territory, which would make international law applicable, "to which we doubtless shall not submit."[5]

Serbia

He was involved in correspondence from the Foreign Office plenipotentiary in Serbia, Felix Benzler [6], who wanted Serbian Jews deported rather than shot. This position was rejected by Adolf Eichmann and Foreign Office State Secretary Martin Luther. Weizsaecker appeared to be an intermediary; Joachim von Ribbentrop directly contacted Himmler to resolve the situation.

Russia

Reinhard Heydrich sent reports on Einsatzgruppen activity to Luther, who was responsible for police and SS liaison, and to Franz Rademacher, head of the Foreign Office Jewish desk. Rademacher's assistant, Fritz Gebhard von Hahn, summarized them. Summaries from both Hahn and Luther went to Weizsaecker and Ernst Woermann, who circulated them to interested parties in the Foreign Office. The summaries were initialed by 16 officials. [7]

Postwar

Convicted of war crimes in the Ministries Case (NMT), he was sentenced to five years' imprisonment, but his sentence was commuted after 18 months. His son, Richard, who later became President of Germany, was part of his defense team. The defense argued that while he could not stop the annexation of Austria and Czechoslovakia, he had helped prevent active combat. [8]

He claimed, in his defense, to be a member of the German Resistance; this is controversial. A defense attorney argued that he was "a leading member of the “political resistance” who used his position in the Foreign Office to soften the blow of Hitler’s policies. This was done through the power of appointment and by leaking information about Hitler’s plans to diplomats from other nations. Through the power of appointment, von Weizsäcker was also able to provide a safe harbor for officials conspiring against the Nazis."[9] German diplomatic historial Klemens von Klemperer said “Weizsaecker no doubt pursued what Hans Ruthfels called a Sonderpolitik designed to protect the integrity of the Foreign Service and especially to counteract the aggressive plans of the Foreign Minister, von Ribbentrop, and thus prevent the great war.”[10]

References

  1. 1.0 1.1 Peter Maguire (2001), Law and War: An American Story, Columbia University Press, p. 160
  2. 2.0 2.1 Derek Scally (25 October 2010), "German diplomats 'complicit in Holocaust'", Irish Times
  3. John Toland (1976), Adolf Hitler, Doubleday, p. 464
  4. Maguire, p. 161
  5. Christopher R. Browning (2004), The Origins of the Final Solution: The Evolution of Nazi Jewish Policy, September 1939-March 1942, University of Nebraska Press, ISBN 0-8032-1327-1, p. 214
  6. Browning, pp. 341-342
  7. Browning, pp. 491-492
  8. Maguire, p. 166
  9. Maguire, pp. 180-181
  10. Richard von Weizsaecker, From Weimar to the Wall, Broadway, 1999, p. 95 quoted by Maguire, p. 181