Hans-Otto Meissner

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Hans-Otto Meissner (born June 4, 1909 in Strasbourg ; † September 8, 1992 in Unterwössen ) was a German diplomat and writer .

Live and act

Childhood and Adolescence (1909–1933)

Meissner was born in 1909 in Strasbourg, Alsace, as the eldest of two children of lawyer and civil servant Otto Meissner and his wife Hildegard Roos. A younger sister, Hildegard Meissner, was born in 1916.

Meissner spent the First World War with his mother and sister in Strasbourg, while the father was employed as an officer on various fronts and from 1918 as a diplomat in the Ukraine. Although the family still had the right to stay in Strasbourg, now France, after the annexation of Alsace by France at the end of the war, due to their origins - both parents and some grandparents were born in Alsace - they settled in Strasbourg when Otto Meissner was appointed head of the office of first Reich President of the Weimar Republic founded in 1919 , Friedrich Ebert , moved to Berlin.

Since Otto Meissner, as the closest colleague of the German head of state - initially Ebert until 1925, then Paul von Hindenburg until 1934 - was always obliged to keep himself at his disposal, he moved into his own official apartment in the Reichspräsidentspalais (Wilhelmstraße 73) in the Berlin government district, in the his son spent the rest of his childhood. Hans-Otto Meissner later recorded his experiences and observations as a member of the household of the head of state from 1919 to 1934 in a volume of memoirs ( Young Years in the Reich President's Palace ).

After attending the Mommsen-Gymnasium, the Wilhelm-Gymnasium, the Falck-Realgymnasium and the Arndt-Gymnasium in Berlin Dahlem (Abitur 1929), Meissner began to study law and economics. From 1929 to 1933 he attended the universities of Heidelberg , Lausanne , Grenoble , Freiburg im Breisgau , Berlin and Göttingen as well as the Trinity College of the British University of Cambridge . In Cambridge, John Maynard Keynes was one of his lecturers. While still a student, Meissner began to write articles for various newspapers and magazines, including for the cross-section . He passed his legal traineeship on July 20, 1933.

Diplomatic career (1933–1945)

After completing his studies at the University of Göttingen, Meissner worked for a few months in the Prussian judicial service in 1933. In December 1933 he passed the entrance exam for the Foreign Service . On December 12, 1933 he was accepted into the SS (membership number 241.955), namely into the so-called Motor-SS (since May 1, 1940 in the rank of Hauptsturmführer ). According to Meissner's own statements in his autobiography, Josias zu Waldeck and Pyrmont is said to have suggested this membership to him.

In February 1934 Meissner entered the diplomatic service as a senior civil servant with the rank of attaché . He initially belonged to Department IV "Eastern Europe, Scandinavia, East Asia". Ernst vom Rath was one of the young leaders who came with him into the civil service .

In 1934, Meissner was an eyewitness in the barracks of the Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler in Lichterfelde, the former main cadet institute - to which he and other members of the Berlin division of the Motor SS had been ordered to defend the institute in the event of an SA uprising of executions in the wake of the wave of political cleansing known as the “ Röhm Putsch ”.

On November 1, 1934 with a dissertation on Meissner was authorization and ratification of international treaties in accordance with German law Dr. jur. PhD.

From August 1935 to March 1936 Meissner was employed at the German embassy in London . After passing the diplomatic-consular exam on June 24, 1936, he was posted to the German embassy in Tokyo in September of the same year . There he worked from December 1936 to December 1938 - from July 1938 in the rank of legation secretary - under Ambassador Eugen Ott . During this time, on December 12, 1936, Meissner also became a member of the NSDAP (membership number 3.762.629). On September 22, 1937, he married Estelle Dittenberger. The marriage produced a daughter, Andrea Meissner (born March 1, 1943). From March 1939 until the declaration of war on September 3, 1939, he was deployed again at the German embassy in London.

From September 1939 to March 1940 he was employed in the information department of the Foreign Office in Berlin in Section II (Military Intelligence and Propaganda Service), and then from March to July 1940 at the German Embassy in Moscow . From August 1940 to January 1941 he served in the Wehrmacht (XXXXI Army Corps), and from January 1941 to March 1941 again worked at the embassy in Moscow. There followed, from March to December 1941, renewed service in the XXXXI. Corps of the German Army, in which he was promoted to Lieutenant in the Reserve (from November 1, 1941). After being wounded on the Eastern Front in the tank battle on the Dubysa in December 1941, he returned to the diplomatic service.

After he had already received the rank of Legation Councilor in August 1941 , Meissner was transferred to the German Consulate General in Milan in December under the name of a Consul , which he led until 1945. He also had the function of cultural advisor. In this function he took part in the conference of the anti-Jewish foreign action under Horst Wagner at the beginning of April 1944 in Krummhübel , where the "Judenreferenten" were (since there were no full-time Jewish officers, they were employees familiar with "Jewish affairs", mostly the cultural officers) of the embassies met to discuss an intensification of the Europe-wide persecution of Jews and an intensification of the propaganda measures against the public denunciation of the persecution of Jews by the Allies. According to the minutes of the conference, Meissner recommended "in anti-Jewish information work in Italy to highlight the strong Jewish involvement in prohibited activities (black market trafficking, sabotage, etc.)". The historian Sebastian Weitkamp assesses Meissner's statements documented in the minutes of the conference as "proposals for intensifying anti-Semitic propaganda". On May 1, 1944, Meissner was appointed Consul First Class.

In May 1945, two weeks after the end of the war, Meissner and his consulate personnel were arrested by American troops near Bellagio and interned in prison camp No. 334 near Scandicci . After a few weeks in this camp, he and his fellow prisoners were moved to a comfortable camp in a hotel complex in the seaside resort of Salsomaggiore . Meissner himself said later that a letter request for help on his part to Pope Pius XII. - a close friend of the Meissner family since his time as Nuncio in Berlin in the 1920s - led to this improvement in the situation.

After 1945

After the war, Meissner denied the authenticity of the minutes of the Krummhübler conference of April 1944 and, when interrogated in Allied custody on April 29, 1947, denied having made the anti-Semitic proposals documented there. After his release from American internment in October 1947, Meissner worked as a freelance journalist and writer. Until 1991 he published numerous travel reports, novels and biographies of great explorers. In addition, there were autobiographical writings and works on recent contemporary history. His books have been translated into numerous languages, including a. into Bulgarian, Danish, English, Finnish, French, Italian, Dutch, Norwegian, Polish, Portuguese, Russian, Swedish, Slovenian, Spanish and Czech.

In addition, he appeared publicly as President of the German Institute for Life Forms , an office to which he was elected on June 28, 1953 in Bad Pyrmont at the founding congress of the society. His choice was justified with his “merits in the revival of cultivated manners”. In 1956 Meissner married the writer Marianne Mertens for the second time.

Despite isolated criticism because of his past as a Nazi diplomat, Meissner received numerous honors in post-war Germany. In 1986, at the suggestion of Franz Josef Strauss, he was awarded the Great Federal Cross of Merit. In this context, there was controversy about his participation in the Krummhübler conference , with Meissner claiming to have driven to the conference unsuspectingly.

Fonts (selection)

Meissner's work as a writer can be divided into five groups:

Books on contemporary history and memories

  • (with Erich Ebermayer and Hans Roos): Companion of the devil. Life and death of Magda Goebbels . Hoffmann and Campe, Hamburg 1952
    • Revised new edition under the title: Magda Goebbels. A picture of life . Blanvalet, Munich 1978.
  • When the crowns fell . Brühlscher Verlag, Giessen 1956 (on the November Revolution 1918 ).
  • The seizure of power. A report on the technology of the National Socialist coup . With Harry Wilde . JG Cotta'sche Buchhandlung Nachf., Stuttgart 1958
    • Revised new edition under the title: January 30, 1933. Hitler's seizure of power . Heyne, Munich 1979.
  • The case concern . Factual report . Heyne, Munich 1977.
  • Strasbourg, o Strasbourg. A family story . Bechtle Verlag, Esslingen and Munich, 1988, ISBN 3-7628-0448-6 .
  • Young years in the Reich President's Palace. Memories of Ebert and Hindenburg 1919–1934 . Bechtle Verlag, Esslingen and Munich 1988, ISBN 3-7628-0469-9 .
  • In stormy times. As a diplomat in London, Tokyo, Moscow, Milan . Bechtle Verlag, Esslingen and Munich 1990, ISBN 3-7628-0491-5 .

Autobiographical travelogues

  • Tiger hunt in Siam . Franz Schneider, Munich 1954.
  • I went alone ... Big game hunting in Africa . Brühlscher Verlag, Giessen 1955.
  • Far East. Off the beaten track . Brühlscher Verlag, Giessen 1958.
  • Unknown Europe. A breviary for adventures off the beaten track . Cotta, Stuttgart 1959.
  • Enchanting wilderness. Hiking, hunting, flying in Alaska . Cotta, Stuttgart 1963.
  • The fifth paradise. Australia - people, animals, adventure . Cotta, Stuttgart 1965.
  • Dreamland Southwest. South West Africa - animals, farms, diamonds . Cotta, Stuttgart 1968.
  • Wild, rough land. Travel and Hunting in Northern Canada . Bertelsmann, Gütersloh 1969.
  • The miracle of the rising sun. Japan between tradition and progress . Bertelsmann, Gütersloh 1970.
  • In the magic of the northern lights. Travel and adventure in the Arctic Circle . Bertelsmann, Gütersloh 1972.
  • As wonderful as the first day . Bertelsmann, Gütersloh 1973.
  • Adventure Persia . Bertelsmann, Gütersloh 1975.
  • The star of California. Travel and adventure in the US Southwest . Bertelsmann, Gütersloh 1976.
  • It was never too far for me. Travel and adventure all over the world . Bertelsmann, Munich 1977.
  • Islands of the South Seas. Seven trips to paradise . Bertelsmann, Munich 1979.
  • Railway safari. On rails through five continents . Bertelsmann, Munich 1980.
  • The cold south. 12,000 nautical miles through Antarctic waters . Bertelsmann, Munich 1982.
  • Around Cape Horn. With water nomads, sheep farmers and gold prospectors on Tierra del Fuego . Bertelsmann, Munich 1987.
  • Himalayas. Travels through Nepal, Bhutan, Tibet, Sikkim and Ladakh . Bertelsmann, Munich 1991.

Biographies of great explorers

appeared as the series The Adventures of World Discovery

  • Scouts on the St. Lawrence River: Champlain 1609 . Cotta, Stuttgart 1966.
  • Single-handedly to the Mississippi: Radisson 1660 . Cotta, Stuttgart 1966.
  • Louisiana for my King: La Salle 1682 . Cotta, Stuttgart 1966.
  • ... still 1000 miles to the Pacific: Mackenzie 1792 . Cotta, Stuttgart 1966.
  • I didn't find gold in Arizona: Coronado 1542 . Cotta, Stuttgart 1967.
  • In Alaska I am the tsar: Baranow 1800 . Cotta, Stuttgart 1967.
  • The emperor gives me Florida: De Soto 1540 . Cotta, Stuttgart 1967.
  • Through the searing embers of the Sahara: Rohlfs 1865 . Cotta, Stuttgart 1967.
  • The Congo reveals its secret: Stanley 1871 . Cotta, Stuttgart 1968.
  • At the sources of the Nile: Emin Pascha 1885 . Cotta, Stuttgart 1969.
  • My hand on Mexico: Cortés 1519 . Cotta, Stuttgart 1970.
  • My life for the white wilderness: Amundsen 1905 . Cotta, Stuttgart 1971.
  • Scouting party through the Rocky Mountains: Lewis and Clark 1803-1806 . Mundus-Verlag, Stuttgart 1979, ISBN 3-88385-083-7 .

More non-fiction books

  • One behaves again . Brühlscher Verlag, Giessen 1950.
    • New edition under the title: Beat and good behavior. A guide for every occasion . Edited for Switzerland by Alice Bickel. Swiss publishing house, Zurich 1971.
  • That's how fast Germany's heart beats . Brühlscher Verlag, Giessen 1951.
  • That's how fast the world turns . Brühlscher Verlag, Giessen 1951.
  • The way up. The strategy in the struggle for life . Brühlscher Verlag, Giessen 1954.
  • Peoples, countries and rulers . Brühlscher Verlag, Giessen 1956.
  • The outwitted wilderness. About life and survival in the great outdoors . Bertelsmann, Gütersloh 1967 (one of the first comprehensive works on survival in German).

Fact-based novels that adapt historical events

  • Avalanches are also just snow . Brühlscher Verlag, Giessen 1951.
    • New edition under the title: Promises in the snow . Goldmann, Munich 1979.
  • The case concern. Novel based on facts . Andermann, Munich 1955.
  • Alatna . Mohn, Gütersloh 1964.
    • New edition under the title: Duel for life and death. Adventure novel . Heyne, Munich 1974.
  • Captain for sale. A cheerful novel based on sad facts . Mohn, Gütersloh 1968.
  • The lost ships of the Lapérouse . Bertelsmann, Munich 1984.


  • Hartmut Dietz: Meissner, Hans-Otto . In: Wilhelm Kühlmann (ed.): Killy Literature Lexicon . Authors and works from the German-speaking cultural area , 2nd edition, vol. 8: Marq – Or . De Gruyter, Berlin 2010, ISBN 978-3-11-022046-9 , p. 137.
  • Maria Keipert (Red.): Biographical Handbook of the German Foreign Service 1871–1945. Published by the Foreign Office, Historical Service. Volume 3: Gerhard Keiper, Martin Kröger: L – R. Schöningh, Paderborn u. a. 2008, ISBN 978-3-506-71842-6 , pp. 216-218.

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. Cf. Hans Otto Meissner. Young years in the Presidential Palace , S. 300. Online is the documentary The strange Cambridge , Cross Section, 10. Jg (1930), No. 12 (December), pp 796-798 available..
  2. ^ Meissner: Young Years in the Reich President's Palace, p. 366f. Meissner specifically points out that to Waldeck and Pyrmont, who was entrusted with the briefing of the new attachés, instructed him: “Most of your colleagues have joined the SS, others were satisfied with the SA [...] I take care of them Days for them to fix things. If they don't belong to a decent club by then ... ". In retrospect, this was "a good solution", since the Motor-SS was later seen "as a kind of sporting association" when "the SS had a very bad reputation."
  3. 1934 published by Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht in Göttingen.
  4. ^ Sebastian Weitkamp: Brown diplomats: Horst Wagner and Eberhard von Thadden as functionaries of the "final solution". JHW Dietz, Bonn 2008, pp. 276–283.
  5. ^ Conference of the "Judenreferenten" in Krummhübel, 3./4. April 1944 , in: Nazi Archive, Documents on National Socialism, accessed on June 27, 2014.
  6. ^ Sebastian Weitkamp: Brown diplomats: Horst Wagner and Eberhard von Thadden as functionaries of the "final solution". JHW Dietz, Bonn 2008, p. 283.
  7. Jump up ↑ Young Years in the Reich President's Palace, 1988. In the same place he mentions that Pacelli personally blessed him in the 1920s.
  8. ^ Sebastian Weitkamp: Brown diplomats: Horst Wagner and Eberhard von Thadden as functionaries of the "final solution". JHW Dietz, Bonn 2008, p. 282f.
  9. Hans-Otto Meissner: One behaves again. , 12th edition Brühlscher, Giessen; Cover text