Kurt von Schleicher

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Kurt von Schleicher (1932)

Kurt Ferdinand Friedrich Hermann von Schleicher (born April 7, 1882 in Brandenburg an der Havel , † June 30, 1934 in Neubabelsberg ) was a German officer , most recently a general of the infantry , and a politician . From the beginning of December 1932 to the end of January 1933 he was the last Chancellor of the Weimar Republic .

After he had belonged to the Prussian army in the Kaiserreich , Schleicher achieved a key position in the Reichswehr Ministry during the Weimar Republic , where he was appointed head of the ministerial office in 1929. As the confidante of Reich President Paul von Hindenburg , he played a key role in the overthrow of the Müller government in the spring of 1930 and in the installation of the two subsequent cabinets under Heinrich Brüning (March 1930) and Franz von Papen (June 1932). After serving as Reichswehr Minister under Papen, he succeeded Papen as Chancellor in December 1932. His concept of a cross-front government split by the National Socialists quickly failed. The Schleicher then sought dissolution of the Reichstag without new elections, so a coup , refused Hindenburg, followed Schleicher on January 28, 1933 resigned and retired to private life. On January 30, 1933, Adolf Hitler was appointed Chancellor in his place . Schleicher was shot a year and a half later in the course of the so-called Röhm Putsch .



Schleicher as a young lieutenant (1900)

Kurt von Schleicher was born in 1882 to the Prussian officer Hermann Friedrich Ferdinand von Schleicher (1853–1906) and his wife Magdalene (1857–1939), née Heyn, the daughter of a wealthy shipowner family from East Prussia. He had an older sister, Thusnelda Luise Amalie Magdalene (1879–1955), and a younger brother, Ludwig-Ferdinand Friedrich (1884–1923), who temporarily lived as a farmer in Canada.

From 1896 to 1900 he graduated from the Hauptkadettenanstalt in Lichterfelde near Berlin . On March 22, 1900 he was promoted to lieutenant and assigned to the 3rd Guards Regiment on foot (5th Company). There he met, among others, Oskar von Hindenburg , the son of the later Reich President , Kurt von Hammerstein-Equord , who later became Chief of Army Command (1930–1934), and Erich von Manstein , Field Marshal General in World War II . From November 1, 1906 to October 31, 1909, he served as an adjutant of the Fusilier Battalion in his regiment. After his appointment as Lieutenant on 18 October 1909 he became the Military Academy drafted and after their completion on September 24, 1913 directly to the General Staff ordered, where he at his own request of the railway department under Lieutenant Colonel Wilhelm Groener was assigned to the him in the the following almost twenty years continuously promoted Schleicher and played a decisive role in the career of his "son of choice" (according to Groener's will from April 1934). Here he met, among others, the later General Joachim von Stülpnagel and later Colonel Bodo von Harbou .

Promoted to captain on December 18, 1913 , Schleicher worked on the staff of the Quartermaster General at the beginning of World War I in August 1914 . During this time he met his future close friend and colleague Erwin Planck . He first attracted political attention when he wrote a memorandum during the Battle of Verdun in 1916, in which he turned against the oversized profits of certain industrial groups, which he branded as " war profiteers ". This year the memorandum circulated in the capital's leading political circles, where it was considered a sensation, and among others came into the hands of SPD chairman Friedrich Ebert , whose emphatic approval it met. This gave Schleicher a reputation for being liberal and even outspokenly social.

On May 23, 1917 he left the staff for a short time and was transferred to the 237th Division as the first general staff officer. In mid-August he returned to the Quartermaster General's staff. He was appointed major on July 15, 1918.

At the end of the war in 1918 he supported the alliance between the army leadership and social democracy . Friedrich Ebert and Otto Wels , for example, were rescued from the hands of rebel sailors through the Ebert-Groener Pact initiated by himself and his superior Wilhelm Groener and concluded by telephone . The pact meant, on the one hand, a certain stability for the new republic and, on the other, a separation of state and military. In the course of time, the Reichswehr developed , with great help from Schleicher, into a state within a state . In 1919 he took over the management of the political department in the troop office and became a close associate and advisor to the chief of the army command, General Hans von Seeckt . At the end of 1920 Schleicher developed his political credo, which, according to his colleague Eugen Ott , he remained true to until his resignation as Chancellor. Priority was given to the restoration or strengthening of state power, the rehabilitation of the economy and the restitution of external power through the revision of the Versailles Treaty .

In 1923 Schleicher played a key role in organizing the settlement of the state crisis that year - communist uprisings in Thuringia and Saxony, Hitler putsch in Bavaria and others - with the help of the emergency article of the Weimar constitution . After being promoted to lieutenant colonel on January 1, 1924 and serving in the army department, he was promoted to head of the newly created Wehrmacht department in the Reichswehr Ministry in February 1926 and a short time later to colonel . In the course of the transformation of the Wehrmacht department into the ministerial office, he was promoted to major general on January 29, 1929.

Head of the Ministerial Office

On February 1, 1929, his long-time mentor Wilhelm Groener, who had become Reichswehr Minister in 1928, made him his head of the ministerial office, which corresponded to the state secretary in other ministries. This made him the only officer in Prussian-German history who achieved a top position without ever having held a front or troop command. Schleicher understood his office politically from the beginning and developed a political strategy for a right turn. He saw the SPD as a central political problem , on which every Reich government had to rely given the given majorities and which provided the Prime Minister in Prussia. Because of the agitation of this party against the armored cruiser A and because of its hindrance to the illegal rearmament, which was carried out in eastern Prussia under the code name of border and state protection , Schleicher believed that the Reichswehr could no longer work with the SPD: In the Reich Ministry of the Interior, which was led by social democrats under Carl Severing, for example, he saw a lot of “poison men hostile to the military” at work. He therefore wanted to push her out of government responsibility both in Prussia and at the level of the Reich, where, as he feared, she would not be able to carry out the austerity measures that would be necessary with the Young Plan .

Schleicher now conceived the possibility of a "Hindenburg cabinet" without the SPD. As early as December 1929, in a conversation with the people's conservative Gottfried Treviranus and the State Secretary in the Reich Chancellery Hermann Pünder , Schleicher envisaged a new chancellor: the conservative parliamentary group leader of the center , Heinrich Brüning. He was supposed to lead a minority cabinet that would only depend on the confidence of the Reich President. It was hoped that the constitutionally required majority in the Reichstag would be achieved by gathering all the bourgeois forces, for whom Treviranus played a key role through the split in the German National People's Party that he initiated .

The plan only worked halfway: on March 30, 1930, as planned by Schleicher, Brüning became chancellor of a minority cabinet that governed under Article 48 of the Emergency Ordinance ; in the Reichstag elections of September 14, 1930 , however, the hoped-for strengthening of the center-right failed. The bourgeois rallying party hoped for by Treviranus had not materialized, and his people's conservatives remained below one percent; Rather, the second largest party was the NSDAP . To the disappointment of the Reichswehr and the Reich President, Brüning had to accept tolerance by the Social Democrats.

Schleicher in June 1932

Schleicher now developed a new plan: He wanted to bring the NSDAP closer to the state as a new mass party, thereby taming it and using it as a mass base for a real presidential cabinet. In government responsibility, the radicalism of the National Socialists would soon wear off. In addition, he wanted to lead the million-strong SA, together with other military associations, into a state umbrella organization in order to be able to use it to quickly rearm the Reichswehr. In March 1931, Schleicher began negotiations with the SA chief of staff, Ernst Röhm . These plans came to nothing when Groener, who in the meantime had also become Minister of the Interior, had the SA banned on April 13, 1932 under massive domestic political pressure from the federal states.

Because Groener was still Reichswehr Minister, Schleicher now feared that the Reichswehr would take the side of the forces loyal to the Republic against the National Socialists: This would mean that the non-partisanship they had sought since 1920 would be lost, as would the prospects of installing a government independent of the SPD and the To tame the NSDAP. Schleicher, who had been promoted to Lieutenant General in October , now began to intrigue against Groener and Brüning, whom he no longer expected to be able to break away from the Social Democrats. On April 28, 1932, he began secret negotiations with Hitler , who promised him that a new government would be tolerated in parliament if there were new elections and the SA ban was lifted. Without a written promise from Hitler, Schleicher accepted it.

These agreements made it easier for both Groener and Brüning to fall. After Groener's unsuccessful speech in the Reichstag on May 10, 1932, Schleicher forced his old sponsor out of office on May 12, 1932 by announcing that the generals, including himself, would otherwise resign. Joseph Goebbels noted with satisfaction in his diary: "We have received news from General von Schleicher: The crisis is continuing as planned." Next, Schleicher encouraged the DNVP and the Reichslandbund to protest at Hindenburg against Brüning's agricultural policy, which they denounced as the "previous crop of Bolshevism " . Hindenburg then dropped the Chancellor. As his successor, Schleicher had chosen the right-wing wing of the Center Party, Franz von Papen , with whom he had been friends since the joint general staff training. He thought nothing of Papen's qualification for office: to the astonished remark that Papen wasn't a head after all, he is said to have replied: “He shouldn't be either. But he's a hat. "

Reichswehr Minister

The Papen cabinet. Kurt von Schleicher is in the second row on the far right

On June 1, 1932, Schleicher was retired from General of the Infantry in order to be able to become Minister of Defense in the von Papen cabinet . As agreed, the new government dissolved the Reichstag and lifted the SA ban. During the election campaign, the violence of the re-legalized SA exploded, and Germany appeared to be on the verge of civil war. The Reichstag elections of July 31, 1932 made the NSDAP the strongest party. After the result of the negotiations at the Lausanne conference , which was disappointing for many , Hitler did not feel bound by his promise to tolerate his government. In negotiations that he conducted with Schleicher on August 6, 1932, he rejected his offer to join the cabinet as Vice Chancellor and claimed the office of Reich Chancellor for himself. Schleicher agreed and organized a joint meeting with the Reich President, who on August 13, 1932, however, resolutely refused to let Hitler run the government. The Papen cabinet thus had no prospect of a majority, as the opening session of the Reichstag on September 12 clearly showed: 42 MPs voted for the government and 512 against it. The result was the renewed dissolution of the Reichstag.

Kurt von Schleicher (right) with Franz von Papen as a spectator at a horse race in Berlin-Karlshorst, 1932

Schleicher did not give up his policy of taming yet. A “Reich Board of Trustees for Youth Enhancement” was founded to coordinate the military sports activities of all military associations, including the SA, and to place them under the control of the state. The background to this was the Geneva Disarmament Conference , which opened in February 1932 , from which the Germans hoped for equality in arms policy with the victorious powers. Once this was achieved, they wanted to use the large reservoir of the SA, which at least had basic military training, for a quick armament, as provided for in the Second Armaments Program decided by the Reichswehr in spring 1932 : According to this, a field army of 21 Divisions plus 39 border guards associations are created. This would have increased the Reichswehr to four times what was permitted in the Versailles Treaty and would have drawn level with the French army in terms of numbers.

As expected, the new election of the Reichstag on November 6th did not bring a majority for Papen, who therefore submitted his resignation on November 17th. There were voices in the cabinet in favor of Schleicher as his successor, but on December 1, 1932, Hindenburg preferred to appoint Papen again to form a government and indicated that he wanted to dissolve the Reichstag again, this time without new elections. Schleicher then had his confidante Lieutenant Colonel Ott present the results of a simulation game in the cabinet that predicted the inferiority of the Reichswehr to the forces of the SA and KPD in the event of a civil war that would result in an open breach of the Reich constitution by the government. The assembled ministers then refused Papen allegiance, and on December 3, 1932, Hindenburg appointed Schleicher Reich Chancellor, whereby he also took over the office of Reich Commissioner in Prussia. Papen never forgot his disembarkation by Schleicher. Previously good friends became political opponents.

Reich Chancellor 1932/1933

Despite the attempt to implement the transverse front concept by Hans Zehrer and the attempt to split the NSDAP with the support of Gregor Strasser , he did not succeed in putting his policy on a stable political basis. The financial support (from funds from the Reichswehr) and the support of the Vossische Zeitung did not bring about a better reputation among the population. On the one hand, he was ridiculed by the right as a “red general” due to his cross-front concept (including the involvement of workers' interests and their political representation), and on the other, viewed by the left as a reactionary person due to the Prussian strike. A letter to the Crown Prince dated December 27, 1932 precisely reproduced the political tensions and the threatened political disempowerment of Schleicher: “In Berlin, a front seems to be forming Stülpnagel - Papen - Hitler with the aim of overthrowing the Chancellor over the President before new elections. "

These political developments escaped the public at the end of 1932. Rather, Adolf Hitler and his National Socialists were seen disappearing from everyday political life or striving towards political decline. The Germany correspondent for the New York Times said at the time that Hitler had "probably missed his chance" and would now end up as a Bavarian provincial politician. In an editorial in the Frankfurter Zeitung at the turn of the year it was said: "Germany's hardest time of need has been overcome, and the way up is now free [...] The massive nationalist attack on the state has been repulsed."

Kurt von Schleicher as Reich Chancellor

However, political observers of the time noticed the duality of developments. Heinrich Brüning said of the current political situation: “The dangers for Schleicher increased, although externally his prestige did not decrease. On the contrary: thanks to his extremely skillful form of conversation, he not only succeeded in capturing more and more of the left press and gaining influence in the unions, but also in winning over individual personalities from the center through promises and appeals to their ambition. In particular Imbusch and others. "How dangerous the times really were for Schleicher is shown in a diary entry by Goebbels:" [...] there is a possibility that the Führer will have a meeting with Papen in a few days. This opens up a new opportunity. "

Behind Schleicher's back, Papen negotiated with Hitler on behalf of Hindenburg about his appointment as Reich Chancellor . The meeting between Papen and Hitler on January 4, 1933 in the house of the banker Kurt Freiherr von Schröder was decisive for the resignation . There Hitler and von Papen agreed on the principles of joint government cooperation. Since the journalist Hellmuth Elbrechter , a confidante of Schleicher and Gregor Strasser, had already found out about this planned meeting in advance, he was able to send a photographer on the spot who was able to take pictures of those involved as they entered Schröder's house. In the evening of the same day Elbrecht Schleicher presented the photos.

On January 5, the daily newspaper headline : "Hitler and Papen against Schleicher." Two days later, the same newspaper published additional articles on the meeting in Cologne with the titles "The counter-attack of the economy" and "The secret of the Cologne ricochet". There is a fairly precise description of who was the initiator and the driving force behind the merging of Hitler and von Papen. “The initiator of the conversation between Hitler and Papen can be identified as the Rhenish-Westphalian industrial group around the Stahlhelm ”.

Several improvised attempts by Schleicher to maintain his position failed. Attempts to get the leader of the DNVP Alfred Hugenberg to his side were just as unsuccessful as the subsequent involvement of Gregor Strasser, whose secret meeting with Hindenburg he arranged, in the government. Schleicher's request to Hindenburg to give him the power to dissolve the Reichstag without calling out new elections within the next two months (as the constitution stipulated) and thus to shake off the pressure of the anti-government majority in parliament was rejected by the Reich President. Proposals from Schleicher's environment to anticipate the impending disempowerment by the Reich President through a coup, as advocated in particular by Eugen Ott and Army Chief von Hammerstein ("Now you have to deploy the Reichswehr, otherwise there will be a disaster for the whole of Germany"), rejected Schleicher.

According to some contemporary witnesses, one reason for Schleicher's unwillingness to fight in this decisive phase was a chronically weakened state of health: Fritz Günther von Tschirschky reports that Walter Schotte , the editor of the Prussian Yearbooks , who consulted the same family doctor as Schleicher, of this end of 1932 I learned "under the seal of secrecy" that Schleicher suffered from anemia . As early as 1930, Schotte said, the family doctor “had to tell” Schleicher that “if he continued the tense life under great responsibility as before, [...] as a doctor only six years”. Ottmar Katz, the biographer of Hitler's later personal physician Theodor Morell , claimed - becoming more precise - that Schleicher suffered from pernicious anemia and was “seriously impaired” as a result. Schleicher's biographer Nowak explains his lethargy in the crucial phase, referring to reports from Groener's widow with a life-threatening illness, "(probably a carcinoma )". The National Socialists therefore murdered a man in 1934 "who in all probability only had a few months to live".

On January 28, 1933, after a conversation with Hindenburg, Schleicher announced the resignation of his government and recommended that the Reich President appoint Hitler as his successor. Reich President Hindenburg then replied to the general: “Thank you, Herr General, for everything you have done for the fatherland. Now let's see how, with God's help, the rabbit continues. ”Franz von Papen took over the government negotiations on the official order of Reich President Hindenburg and brought them to a conclusion on January 30th.

Life after the Reich Chancellorship (1933–1934)

Schleicher in February 1933 at the entrance to his official residence in the Reichswehr Ministry

After his resignation as Chancellor, Schleicher initially withdrew into private life. At the urging of his successor as Reichswehr Minister, Werner von Blomberg , he had to vacate his official apartment in the Reichswehr Ministry in February.

Together with his wife Elisabeth von Schleicher , whom he had married in 1931, a divorced wife of his cousin Bogislav, with her daughter, his long-time housekeeper Marie Güntel and a chauffeur, he moved into a villa in Neubabelsberg near Potsdam. In the next seventeen months he devoted himself primarily to private matters: for example, he reconciled himself with his political foster father Groener, with whom he had fallen out in 1932 in connection with a dispute within the Brüning government, and went on several trips with his wife.

With the new rulers, Schleicher was noticed by repeated expressions of disapproval in the social circle. He expressed himself several times in negative ways about the political events since January 1933 and made derogatory assessments of the leading men of the new regime. Personal friends like the French ambassador André François-Poncet and the diplomat Werner von Rheinbaben therefore issued warnings to him, in which they urged him to be careful. Eugen Otts' request to visit him in Japan for a while, until the political waves in Germany had calmed down, was rejected by Schleicher on the grounds that as a “Prussian general” he could not “evacuate”.

Assassination in 1934

Schleicher with his wife. Photo from 1931

On June 30, 1934, Schleicher and his wife were murdered in the course of the Röhm affair . The course of events was only clarified in West German historiography after the Second World War and was as follows: Around noon on June 30, a car with six civilly dressed members of the SD approached the SS Schleicher's villa in Neubabelsberg. Five of them entered the property, and two asked the housekeeper Marie Güntel to be admitted. This led them to Kurt von Schleicher's office. When Schleicher, unwilling to hear the unsolicited disturbance, answered yes to the question whether he was Kurt von Schleicher, the men shot him and killed him. His wife Elisabeth was also killed in the shooting. Then the men fled.

A little later, the local police from Potsdam and their homicide squad, who were immediately alerted, arrived. The investigation began with two prosecutors arriving at around 1:00 p.m. At first a murder without a political background was assumed. Then the prosecutors heard the rumor that a putsch against Hitler was going on from the SA around Ernst Röhm. They therefore initially suspected that the alleged putschists might have killed Schleicher. In any case, the investigators were soon sure that it could only be a question of political murder. And it was clear to them that Schleicher and his wife could not have been shot in self-defense. Court assessor Heinrich Grützner , one of the public prosecutors, reported to the Reich Ministry of Justice at 3:00 p.m. that Schleicher had been murdered for political reasons . The Ministry of Justice did not want to do anything, however, because the National Socialist leadership had meanwhile given indications of the course of events, because the Prussian Prime Minister and high NSDAP leader Hermann Göring announced in an official report and later in a press conference that as part of the resistance against In an SA putsch, Kurt von Schleicher and his wife had also been shot because they had resisted an intended arrest by attempting a lightning attack . Schleicher maintained relations that were dangerous to the state with the anti-state circles of the SA leadership and foreign powers . This declaration by Goering of June 30, 1934 clearly contradicted the results of the investigation by the public prosecutors. At 6:30 p.m., the Ministry of Justice forbade prosecutors to continue the investigation. The Gestapo had already cordoned off the Schleicher villa area beforehand.

At 11:30 p.m. on the same day, the State Secretary of the Prussian Ministry of Justice, Roland Freisler , accompanied by the Higher Government Council and personal adviser to Justice Minister Gürtner Hans von Dohnanyi , another ministry member and three Gestapo officials, came to the public prosecutor's office at Assessor Grützner's determine whether they have done their duty in good faith or acted with subversive intent . Freisler asked the assessor how he came to the conclusion that Schleicher had been murdered. Only when both public prosecutors assured that they had not reported their investigation results to anyone, nor did the uninvited visitors disappear. The next morning, the public prosecutors stated in a written report that they only got to know the "real" facts - as announced by Göring - after their own investigations. Justice Minister Gürtner met with Göring and they decided to cover up the investigation. Gürtner promised to destroy the investigation files. But Gürtner and his head of personnel, Nadler , left the investigation files intended for destruction intact. They hid it in the assessor Grützner's personal file. They were found there after 1945 and helped clear up the murder case. The bodies were confiscated and cremated by the Gestapo. The urn with Schleicher's (alleged) remains was finally buried in the Parkfriedhof Lichterfelde , Thuner Platz 2-4, in the FiW 81 department. The grave is one of the honor graves of the State of Berlin .

Kurt von Schleicher's death certificate dated July 2, 1934.
Honorary grave at the Parkfriedhof Lichterfelde in Berlin-Lichterfelde
Declaration by the "Reich Association of German Officers"

The circumstances of the crime, the perpetrators and the specific sponsors for the murder of Schleicher were not known in 1934 because the government did not want the crime to be cleared up, as it had commissioned it itself. On July 3rd, so retrospectively, all murders in the context of the "Röhm Putsch" were formally legalized by the law on measures of the state emergency service (Reichsgesetzblatt I, p. 529) passed by Hitler (according to the provisions of the Enabling Act ) .

After the end of National Socialism, the successful cover-up of the crimes meant that there was not even a trial in which the perpetrators could have been clearly identified. However, there was a confidante from circles of the Gestapo who had clashed with the Gestapo leadership in 1936 and was able to flee Germany in 1936. This confidante was SS member Heinrich Pfeifer , who in 1945 wrote a book under the name Heinrich Orb about his experiences in the Hitler state and also the murders during the purges during the Röhm putsch. This representation was not reliable in all respects, but was and is viewed by various historians - Shlomo Aronson , George C. Browder , Mario Dederichs and others - as a valid source for the description of the internals of the SD and the uncovering of the identity of the Schleicher murder . In 2012, the historian Rainer Orth took up this account and confirmed that information up to Pfeifer's escape from Germany in 1936 is essentially correct, but he also discovered some errors.

Aronson, Dederichs and Orth also thought it possible that the lawyer and SD employee Johannes Schmidt was the main culprit in the murder of the von Schleicher couple. Orth dealt with his book Der SD-Mann Johannes Schmidt , published in 2012 . The murderer of Chancellor Kurt von Schleicher? with this question and found out that only a small group of eleven people from the then numerically insignificant SD in Berlin and the general SS could be considered for the murder of Schleicher. Orb / Pfeifer, insider of the SD and the Gestapo, described Schmidt as the main culprit in his 1945 work. Orth was the first historian to follow the life of this Johannes Schmidt, who in the early days of the Federal Republic had always understated his role in the SD. On the basis of SS and SD files, Orth was able to prove that Schmidt was the deputy of the person responsible for the SD for the murders of the non-SA victims on June 30, 1934, Hermann Behrends . These connections were previously unknown, also because Behrends headed a secret office in Berlin in the months after the murders, which served to remove all traces of the murders.

Adolf Hitler, Hermann Göring , Heinrich Himmler or Reinhard Heydrich (or a combination of them) are usually accepted as initiators of the deed . Against the thesis that all four were involved in the murder plan, however, speaks that a few hours after the murder of Schleicher a second task force appeared in his house to arrest him. Hans-Otto Meissner , the son of Hindenburg's State Secretary Otto Meissner , reports in his memoirs that Hitler later "emphatically asserted" to his father that he had "absolutely nothing to do with the unfortunate accident [the murder of Schleicher]." . The older Meissner also later told his son how Göring had assured him, Meissner senior, after the war, during their mutual internment by the Americans, that there was “no intention of arresting or even shooting Schleicher”. "Other people" would have done this. Hitler was very angry about the liquidation of Schleicher because he needed the Reichswehr as a “pillar of his dictatorship” and the shooting therefore “did not fit into his concept”.

Several motives are discussed in research as the reason for the murder of Schleicher. The most commonly suspected motive is a desire of the National Socialists to take revenge on their adversary from the " fighting time " . Second, it is believed that those in power still saw a potential danger in the ex-chancellor. This is supported by, among other things, the hope expressed by Schleicher himself at the end of 1933 that “they [probably meant Hindenburg] would call him again to pull the cart out of the mud” after the National Socialist leaders had run down. In addition, in 1934 Schleicher still had a small but powerful following in the Reichswehr leadership, including Colonel General Kurt von Hammerstein-Equord . The journalist Hans Rudolf Berndorff , who is well known for Schleicher, believes that possession of Hitler's medical files from the hospital in Pasewalk cost him and Bredow their lives. In addition, the murders of June 30 / July 1, 1934 were generally intended to deter those willing to oppose.

Close co-workers and confidants

In the Reichswehr Ministry :

  • Ferdinand von Bredow : Since 1929 head of the defense department in the Reichswehr Ministry, from June 1932 to January 1933 also head of the ministerial office in the Reichswehr Ministry. Central employee of Schleicher and head of his intelligence service. Was also murdered as part of the " Röhm Putsch "
  • Adolf von Carlowitz : From 1929 to 1932 head of the press department in the Reichswehr Ministry, from 1932 to 1933 head of the press office in the Prussian State Ministry
  • Kurt von Hammerstein-Equord : Chief of Army Command since 1930, former regimental comrade and personal friend of Schleicher
  • Ferdinand Noeldechen : Schleicher's Adjutant from 1926 to 1933
  • Eugen Ott : From 1931 to 1933 head of the Wehrmacht department in the Reichswehr Ministry. In this capacity, significantly involved in the organization of Schleicher's politics

Other government agencies :

  • Erich Marcks : From August 1932 he headed the press office of the Reich Government as Reich Press Chief
  • Franz von Papen (1879–1969): was appointed Chancellor by the Reich President von Hindenburg on June 1, 1932 at the instigation of Schleicher, friend of Schleicher
  • Erwin Planck : From June 1932 to January 1933 State Secretary and head of the Reich Chancellery, friend of Schleicher

Other employees and supporters :

  • Hellmuth Elbrechte : Freelance editor of the act , Schleicher's advisor and his liaison to Gregor Strasser and other politicians
  • Carl Schmitt : Lawyer who used Schleicher through intermediaries in his writings to use the theoretical justification "for the legal safeguarding of measures that Schleicher wanted to enforce"
  • Crown Prince Wilhelm of Prussia : a close friend of Schleicher, with whom he regularly exchanged letters
  • Hans Zehrer : Editor-in-chief of the magazine Die Tat and the daily newspaper Tälichen Rundschau , journalistic supporter Schleicher and his unofficial mouthpiece

Judgment by contemporaries and posterity

From 1929 to 1932 Schleicher played a role in the political stage background that was barely visible to the general public , which made him one of the most powerful men in Germany during these years. The real source of Schleicher's power was the trust of Reich President von Hindenburg, who from 1929 to 1932 often relied on the council resolutions of his “dear young friend”, as he called Schleicher. For example, when he was appointed head of government in the spring of 1930, Hindenburg gave Chancellor Brüning the following instruction: “ Follow General von Schleicher. He's a smart man and knows a lot about politics. "

According to Hans-Otto Meissner, who, as the son of the State Secretary in Hindenburg's office - Otto Meissner - was able to observe Schleicher's work at close quarters , Hindenburg first valued Schleicher “ for the first time as a clever mind and hardworking officer from the Great Headquarters during the war. In addition, the Field Marshal General came from the same peace regiment […] [as Schleicher], which meant a lot at the time. “In the years from 1919 to 1929 Schleicher built up an almost invisible position of power as the right hand of every Reichswehr minister from Noske to Groener:“ Because he did not push himself into the foreground, but was satisfied with the work from the scenes, he never got into it in danger if one of the defense ministers had to leave the field again - Schleicher was firmly in the saddle. "

In contrast to the trust that Hindenburg had in Schleicher, there was a mistrust of large parts of the German public towards Schleicher: Regarded by the communist left and parts of the social democracy as a representative of the "counter-revolution", Schleicher was ironically seen in conservative circles - especially during his chancellorship - rejected as "red general". Schleicher's alleged intrigue and cunning were quoted again and again by contemporaries and posterity. In public he was seen as a “ field-gray eminence ” who pulls the strings of the German government out of the twilight. In this sense, the exile Sebastian Haffner described Schleicher in 1939 as an “intriguing office general” who was at the head of a “sphinx-like” army. English - speaking observers like John Wheeler-Bennett or Sefton Delmer bring up time and again that the name Schleicher sounds like the English word creeper for English ears to German ears , and that "Schleicher" as a speaking name outwardly expresses the character of its wearer in the best possible way would make visible.

However, there are also some positive perceptions against these negative images. The right-wing journalist Hans Zehrer said in the early 1930s that he could recognize the “coming man” in Schleicher. In the post-war period, Zehrer wrote that the general was the only one who had a plan to prevent the emergence of National Socialism. He had “steered towards the ultima ratio, the struggle” and wanted to start the “political alphabet” all over again and set a new constitution. According to Zehrer, Schleicher - whom he saw as a “type of the artistic military” - ultimately failed because of National Socialism. He had failed because of the only things that he couldn't break, that couldn't be broken at all, because of personal things. Even Fritz Günther Tschirschky , an employee Papen, who stated that Schleicher was "quite unpleasant" him, the General admitted after the Second World War: "Schleicher not failed because of the Nazis. He failed because of something that he could not calculate, but which could not be calculated at all, namely himself. "

In the Reichswehr itself it was controversial: Although Schleicher had some influential sympathizers in the leadership of the army, the “bureau general”, who many members of the military regarded as unsoldier, met with widespread rejection. Hindenburg's press chief Walter Zechlin summed this up with the words: “ Schleicher counts for nothing in the army, he is an office general whom they [the Reichswehr] rejects. “General Wilhelm Keitel expressed the opinion of many of his fellow officers when, after the Second World War, he described Schleicher as a“ cat ”“ that could not let go of political moaning ”.

On the other hand, Schleicher's brilliant intellectual abilities were hardly disputed: As early as 1918, Colonel Albrecht von Thaer described the young Schleicher, then a captain, as "a chapter of his own [...]: fabulously clever, versatile and educated, cunning and with a Berlin mouth ( Snout) gifted ”.

Opinions on Schleicher's plans and the ulterior motives that he pursued differ widely. While Günther Gereke emphasizes in his memoirs that he “impressed” him and was prepared to tolerate the republic and constitution, the socialist writers Kurt Caro and Walter Oehme interpreted “Schleicher's rise” in 1932 as an expression of the “counter-revolution”.

In historical research, since the end of the Second World War, two dominant valuation strands with regard to the person of Schleicher can be identified: The first evaluates Schleicher as a whole and interprets him - as the programmatic title of a Schleicher biography from the 1980s is - as Weimar last chance against Hitler . The second strand, in stark contrast, recognizes Schleicher as a figure of disaster and one of the main culprits for the destruction of the Weimar Republic. The representatives of this line see in Schleicher one of those political cavaliers who made the Weimar Republic rotten through their political agitation and who would have made the seizure of power by National Socialism even more possible. Schleicher is mostly described by modern research as "scheming, unreliable, opportunistic, unfaithful". The lawyer Irene Strenge , who tried to reassess the political general in her biography published in 2006, cannot avoid describing his political style as "ambiguous". The Berlin historian Henning Köhler laments Schleicher's "unbelievable carelessness" with which he relied in the spring of 1932 on Hitler's verbal promises. Wilhelm von Sternburg calls him "one of the most insignificant chancellors since the founding of the empire" because of the quickly failed cross-front plan. Even Hans-Ulrich Wehler said, worse could have been Hitler can not underestimate it "abstruse" as Schleicher with his cross front design did.


The remaining part of Schleicher's estate - mainly official and private correspondence - has been kept in the Federal Archives-Military Archive in Freiburg as a separate collection (N 42) since the 1950s. Large parts of Schleicher's papers, in particular the manuscript of his memoirs (“People and Situations”), were confiscated by the Gestapo in 1934 and have since been lost, with the exception of individual documents that have been found in the Moscow Special Archives.



  • Johann Rudolf Nowak: Kurt von Schleicher. Soldier between the fronts. Studies on the Weimar Republic as an epoch of domestic political crises, presented in the life and career of General and Chancellor Kurt von Schleicher. Phil. Diss., Würzburg 1969.
  • Friedrich-Karl von Plehwe : Chancellor Kurt von Schleicher. Weimar's last chance against Hitler. Bechtle, Esslingen 1983, ISBN 3-7628-0425-7 , (paperback Ullstein, Berlin 1990, ISBN 3-548-33122-X ).
  • Thilo Vogelsang : Kurt von Schleicher. A general as a politician. Musterschmidt, Göttingen 1965.

Short biographies:

  • Bernd Braun : The Chancellor of the Weimar Republic. Twelve résumés in pictures. Düsseldorf 2011, ISBN 978-3-7700-5308-7 , pp. 440-473.
  • Martin Broszat : Kurt von Schleicher. In: Wilhelm von Sternburg (ed.): The German Chancellors from Bismarck to Schmidt. Fischer-Taschenbuch Verlag, Frankfurt / Main 1987, ISBN 3-596-24383-1 , pp. 337-347.
  • Ernst Deuerlein : Kurt von Schleicher. In: Ders .: German Chancellors from Bismarck to Hitler. 1968, pp. 425-444.
  • Peter Hayes : A Question Mark with Epaulettes, Kurt von Schleicher and Weimar Politics. In: Journal of Modern History No. 52, 1980, pp. 35-65.
  • Jürgen Kilian: "We want to take over the spiritual leadership of the army". The informal group of general staff officers around Joachim von Stülpnagel, Friedrich Wilhelm von Willisen and Kurt von Schleicher, in: Gundula Gahlen, Daniel M. Segesser, Carmen Winkel (ed.): Geheime Netzwerk im Militär 1700–1945, Paderborn 2016, p. 167 -183, ISBN 978-3-50677781-2 .
  • Wolfram PytaSchleicher, Kurt von. In: New German Biography (NDB). Volume 23, Duncker & Humblot, Berlin 2007, ISBN 978-3-428-11204-3 , pp. 50-52 ( digitized version ).

Studies on Schleicher's role in politics:

  • Wilhelm Deist : Schleicher and the German disarmament policy in June / July 1932. In: Vierteljahrshefte für Zeitgeschichte , issue 5, 1957, pp. 163–176 ( PDF ).
  • Anton Golecki (editor): Files from the Reich Chancellery : The Schleicher cabinet. December 3, 1932 to January 30, 1933. Boppard am Rhein 1986.
  • Hermann Graml : Between Stresemann and Hitler. The foreign policy of the presidential cabinets Brüning, Papen and Schleicher. 2001.
  • Wolfram Pyta : Constitutional Reform, State Emergency and Cross Front. In: Ders .: The creative power of the political. 1998, pp. 173-197.
  • Axel Schildt : Military dictatorship with a mass base? The cross-front conception of the Reichswehr leadership around General Kurt von Schleicher at the end of the Weimar Republic. Campus, Frankfurt 1981, ISBN 3-593-32958-1 . Diss. Marburg 1980.
  • Irene Strenge : Kurt von Schleicher. Politics in the Reichswehr Ministry at the end of the Weimar Republic. Duncker and Humblot, Berlin 2006, ISBN 3-428-12112-0 .

Works that, among other things, deal with the murder of the Schleicher couple.

  • Theodor Eschenburg : On the murder of General Schleicher. In: Vierteljahrshefte für Zeitgeschichte. Issue 1, 1953, pp. 71-95. Online (PDF; 1.3 MB)
  • Otto Gritschneder : “The Führer” sentenced you to death. Hitler's Röhm Putsch murders in court. Beck, Munich 1993, ISBN 3-406-37651-7 .
  • Lothar Gruchmann : Justice in the Third Reich 1933–1940. Adaptation and submission in the Gürtner era. Oldenbourg, Munich 1988. Several other editions, 3rd improved edition, Munich 2001, ISBN 3-486-53833-0 .
  • Rainer Orth: The SD man Johannes Schmidt. The murderer of Chancellor Kurt von Schleicher? Tectum, Marburg 2012, ISBN 978-3-8288-2872-8 .

Notes about Kurt von Schleicher from companions:

  • Kunrat von Hammerstein-Equord : Schleicher, Hammerstein and the seizure of power. In: Frankfurter Hefte. 11, 1956, ISSN  0015-9999 , No. 11, 1, pp. 11-18; 11, 2, pp. 117-128; 11, 3, pp. 163-176; 11, 4, pp. 426-430.
  • Eugen Ott : A picture of General Kurt von Schleicher. In: Political Studies. 10th year, issue 110, pp. 360–371, Munich 1959. ( Article (PDF; 38.0 MB) Institute for Contemporary History, here: images 362–375)


Web links

Commons : Kurt von Schleicher  - Collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. a b Hans-Otto Meissner: Young Years in the Reich President's Palace. 1987, p. 315.
  2. Irene Strenge: Kurt von Schleicher. Politics in the Reichswehr Ministry at the end of the Weimar Republic. Duncker and Humblot, Berlin 2006 p. 16 f.
  3. Hagen Schulze : Weimar 1917–1933. Siedler, Berlin 1994, p. 118.
  4. ^ Thilo Vogelsang : New documents on the history of the Reichswehr 1930–1933. In: Vierteljahrshefte für Zeitgeschichte 2 (1954), p. 405 ( here the quote ).
  5. ^ Gerhard Schulz : Germany on the eve of the great crisis. De Gruyter, Berlin and New York 1987, p. 451 ff.
  6. ^ Johannes Hürter: Wilhelm Groener. Reichswehr Minister at the end of the Weimar Republic (1928–1932). Oldenbourg, Munich 1993, p. 242 ff.
  7. Peter Longerich : The brown battalions. History of the SA. C. H. Beck, Munich 1989, p. 115.
  8. ^ Johannes Hürter : Wilhelm Groener. Reichswehr Minister at the end of the Weimar Republic (1928–1932). Oldenbourg, Munich 1993, pp. 339-346.
  9. ^ Gerhard Schulz: From Brüning to Hitler. De Gruyter, Berlin and New York 1992, p. 820 f .; Johannes Hürter: Wilhelm Groener. Reichswehr Minister at the end of the Weimar Republic (1928–1932). Oldenbourg, Munich 1993, p. 348 f.
  10. ^ Johannes Hürter: Wilhelm Groener. Reichswehr Minister at the end of the Weimar Republic (1928–1932). Oldenbourg, Munich 1993, pp. 348-351.
  11. Joseph Goebbels: Diaries, Vol. 2: 1930-1934. Edited by Ralf Georg Reuth, Piper, Munich and Zurich 1992, p. 657.
  12. Philipp Heyde: The end of the reparations. Germany, France and the Youngplan. Schöningh, Paderborn 1998, p. 387 f.
  13. ^ Thilo Vogelsang : Kurt von Schleicher. A general as a politician. Musterschmidt, Göttingen 1965, p. 71.
  14. Peter Longerich: The brown battalions. History of the SA. C. H. Beck, Munich 1989, p. 156 ff.
  15. Philipp Heyde: The end of the reparations. Germany, France and the Youngplan. Schöningh, Paderborn 1998, p. 444.
  16. ^ Hans-Ulrich Wehler: German history of society. Vol. 4: From the beginning of the First World War to the founding of the two German states 1914–1949. C. H. Beck Verlag, Munich 2003, p. 421.
  17. ^ Gerhard Schulz: From Brüning to Hitler. De Gruyter, Berlin and New York 1992, p. 1028 f.
  18. ^ Ernst Rudolf Huber : German Constitutional History since 1789 , Vol. VII: Expansion, protection and fall of the Weimar Republic . W. Kohlhammer, Stuttgart 1984, p. 1163.
  19. Files of the Reich Chancellery (ADR). The Schleicher cabinet: p. 222, note 6.
  20. Joachim Fest: Hitler. 2002, p. 356.
  21. ^ HS Hegner: The Reich Chancellery 1933–1945. P. 24.
  22. ^ Heinrich Brüning : Memoirs 1918–1934. Stuttgart 1970, p. 639 ff.
  23. ^ HS Hegner: The Reich Chancellery 1933–1945. P. 33.
  24. ^ Ebbo Demant: Hans Zehrer as a political publicist. Mainz 1971, p. 105.
  25. ^ Joachim Petzold : Franz von Papen. A German fate. Munich 1995, p. 141.
  26. ^ Giselher Wirsing: Hitler's last adversary. How did January 30th come about? In: Christ and the world. 16, No. 4, January 25, 1963, p. 6.
  27. ^ HS Hegner: The Reich Chancellery 1933–1945. P. 45.
  28. ^ Fritz Günther von Tschirschky: Memories of a high traitor. 1972, p. 78.
  29. Ottmar Katz: Prof. Dr. Theo Morell. Hitler's personal physician. 1982, p. 107.
  30. ^ Johann Rudolf Nowak: Kurt von Schleicher. Soldier between the fronts. Studies on the Weimar Republic as an epoch of domestic political crises, presented in the life and career of General and Chancellor Kurt von Schleicher. Phil. Diss., Würzburg 1969, p. 1606.
  31. Volker Hentschel : Weimar's last months: Hitler and the fall of the republic. 2nd Edition. Droste, Düsseldorf 1979, p. 95.
  32. Bundesarchiv-Militärchiv (BArch-MA) Freiburg , BA-MA N 42/98 Nachlass Schleicher, p. 12.
  33. ^ Heinrich Brüning : Memoirs 1918–1934. Stuttgart 1970, p. 645.
  34. Registry office Berlin-Lichterfelde : marriage register . No. 4/1916.
  35. Thilo Vogelsang: A general as a politician.
  36. Werner von Rheinbaben: Erlebte Zeitgeschichte.
  37. ^ Lothar Gruchmann : Justice in the Third Reich 1933-1940. Adaptation and submission in the Gürtner era. Oldenbourg, Munich 1988. 3rd improved edition, Munich 2001, p. 442.
  38. ^ Lothar Gruchmann: Justice in the Third Reich 1933-1940. Adaptation and submission in the Gürtner era. Oldenbourg, Munich 1988. 3rd improved edition, Munich 2001, p. 444.
  39. ^ Lothar Gruchmann: Justice in the Third Reich 1933-1940. Adaptation and submission in the Gürtner era. Oldenbourg, Munich 1988. 3rd improved edition, Munich 2001, p. 445.
  40. Otto Gritschneder: “Der Führer” sentenced you to death - Hitler's Röhm Putsch murders in court. Beck, Munich 1993, ISBN 3-406-37651-7 , p. 41 f.
  41. ^ Lothar Gruchmann: Justice in the Third Reich 1933-1940. Adaptation and submission in the Gürtner era. Oldenbourg, Munich 1988. 3rd improved edition, Munich 2001, p. 446.
  42. Otto Gritschneder: “Der Führer” sentenced you to death - Hitler's Röhm Putsch murders in court. Beck, Munich 1993, ISBN 3-406-37651-7 , p. 41 f .; Lothar Gruchmann: Justice in the Third Reich 1933-1940. Adaptation and submission in the Gürtner era . 3rd edition, Oldenbourg, Munich 2001, p. 446.
  43. ^ Heinrich Pfeifer: National Socialism: 13 Years of Power Intoxication. Under the pseudonym Heinrich Orb. Walter, Olten 1945.
  44. Shlomo Aronson: Heydrich and the early history of the security service and the Gestapo. German publishing house, Stuttgart 1971.
  45. George C. Browder: The Foundations of the Nazi Police State. The Formation of SIPO and SD. University of Kentucky Press, Lexington 2004, p. 116.
  46. Mario R. Dederichs: Heydrich. The face of evil. Piper, Munich 2005, ISBN 3-492-04543-X .
  47. ^ Rainer Orth: The SD man Johannes Schmidt. The murderer of Chancellor Kurt von Schleicher? Tectum Verlag 2012, ISBN 978-3-8288-2872-8 .
  48. ^ Rainer Orth: The SD man Johannes Schmidt. The murderer of Chancellor Kurt von Schleicher? Tectum Verlag 2012, ISBN 978-3-8288-2872-8 , p. 62, referring here to Michael Wildt: Generation of the Unconditional - The leader corps of the Reich Security Main Office. Hamburg 2002, ISBN 3-930908-75-1 , p. 220, related.
  49. a b Hans-Otto Meissner: Young Years in the Reich President's Palace. P. 377.
  50. Hans Rudolf Berndorff: General between East and West. Hamburg 1959, p. 151.
  51. Irene Strenge: Kurt von Schleicher. P. 14.
  52. ^ Gerhard Schulz: From Brüning to Hitler. De Gruyter, Berlin and New York 1992, p. 472.
  53. ^ Heinrich Brüning: Memoirs 1918–1934. Stuttgart 1970, p. 388.
  54. Sebastian Haffner: History of a German .
  55. ^ John Wheeler-Bennett: Wooden Titan. Hindenburg in Twenty Years of German History, 1914-1934. 1938, p. 297.
  56. Sefton Delmer: The Germans and I. 1962, p. 170.
  57. Ebbo Demant: From Schleicher to Springer. P. 110 f.
  58. ^ Fritz Günther von Tschirschky: Memories of a high traitor .
  59. ^ Walter Zechlin: Press chief at Ebert, Hindenburg and Kopf. Experiences of a press officer and diplomat. Hanover 1956.
  60. Walter Görlitz (Ed.): Field Marshal Keitel, criminal or officer? 1961, p. 70.
  61. ^ Thilo Vogelsang: Kurt von Schleicher. P. 17. Thaer calls him in the same place a "strange person".
  62. Günther Gereke: I was a royal Prussian district administrator. Berlin 1970.
  63. Kurt Caro, Walter Oehme: Schleicher's rise. A contribution to the history of the counter-revolution. Berlin 1933.
  64. Irene Strenge: Kurt von Schleicher. Politics in the Reichswehr Ministry at the end of the Weimar Republic. Duncker and Humblot, Berlin 2006, p. 11.
  65. Irene Strenge: Kurt von Schleicher. Politics in the Reichswehr Ministry at the end of the Weimar Republic. Duncker and Humblot, Berlin 2006, p. 227.
  66. ^ Henning Köhler: Germany on the way to itself. A history of the century. Hohenheim-Verlag, Stuttgart 2002, p. 253.
  67. ^ Wilhelm von Sternburg: The German Chancellors from Bismarck to Merkel. Structure of Taschenbuch Verlag, Berlin 2006, p. 454.
  68. ^ Hans-Ulrich Wehler: Deutsche Gesellschaftgeschichte, Vol. 4: From the beginning of the First World War to the founding of the two German states 1914–1949. C. H. Beck Verlag, Munich 2003, pp. 534 and 580.
  69. ^ Entry on the Schleicher estate in the Federal Archives' estate database ; Strictness: Schleicher, 2006, p. 14.