Wilhelm Gustloff

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Wilhelm Gustloff (born January 30, 1895 in Schwerin ; † February 4, 1936 in Davos , Switzerland ) was a German National Socialist and national group leader of the NSDAP foreign organization (AO) in Switzerland. The Wilhelm Gustloff Foundation and the KdF cruise ship Wilhelm Gustloff were named after him.

DAF exhibition 1938: Healthy life, happy work . model


Gustloff graduated from secondary school and completed an apprenticeship as a banker. He had a chronic lung disease and an attacked larynx, which is why he was not called up as a soldier in the First World War . In 1917 he moved to Davos to cure his lung disease and then stayed in Switzerland. He found a job at the Physico-Meteorological Observatory in Davos. In 1923 Gustloff married the post office clerk's daughter Hedwig Schoknecht in Schwerin . The marriage remained childless.

Party activity

In 1921 Gustloff became a member of the Deutschvölkischer Schutz- und Trutzbund , joined the NSDAP in 1927 and from 1932 was a full-time national group leader of the NSDAP foreign organization in Switzerland and at the same time " auxiliary fund manager". After the handover of power to the National Socialists in the German Reich in January 1933, Gustloff stepped up his activities and set up a network of "bases" in Bern, Glarus, Lausanne and Zuoz and local groups in Davos, Lugano, Zurich and Basel; in mid-1934 there were already 27 Bases, 14 local groups, there were HJ and BDM groups in seven locations , and an extensive national organization with a secretariat, adjutant, propaganda manager, treasurer and press chairman. By 1936, he recruited more than 5,000 of the 100,000 Germans living abroad as party members and found sympathizers and patrons for National Socialism among the Swiss, without being able to achieve the goal of winning over the Swiss public.

His anti-democratic and anti-Semitic propaganda activities and the holding of German election events on Swiss soil led to the first of a series of parliamentary interpellations (questions) in December 1933 , which the Swiss Federal Councilor Johannes Baumann answered hesitantly in September 1935 for reasons of foreign policy. Nevertheless, Gustloff was threatened with expulsion from mid-1935 after his propaganda sheet Der Reichsdeutsche announced that the political leaders of the Swiss NSDAP / AO had been sworn in to Adolf Hitler . Gustloff and the management of the AO in Germany now tried to place him under diplomatic immunity as a " legation attaché for questions of German culture", which would have required accreditation . The Swiss did not want to allow this and for their part threatened to declare a diplomat Gustloff persona non grata in this case . The envoy Ernst von Weizsäcker was able to get Swiss politics to give way, but the Swiss newspapers could not curb them, which now also claimed that Gustloff was involved in the kidnapping of Berthold Jacobs . Weizsäcker demarchierte dutifully attacks against the press on German government members. Finally, Gustloff was burdened by the case of the National Socialist Hellmuth Kittelmann, who was employed as a lawyer at the Swiss parliament as a parliamentary stenographer and, when this became known, had to give up his membership in the Swiss national group of the NSDAP / AO. When Gustloff Kittelmann had obtained membership in the NSDAP organization for the Berlin headquarters, Kittelmann was dismissed without notice and without any pension claims. Weizsäcker and Baumann still tried on 20 January 1936 in a diplomatic conversation to calm things down, but the affair was not yet over on 31 January 1936, when the St. Galler Tagblatt turn the Political Department and the Federal Giuseppe Motta under the Heading Quousque tandem? called for tougher action against the NSDAP in Switzerland.


Gustloff, who was in Berlin on his 41st birthday, the anniversary of the “ seizure of power ”, was shot with a revolver by the Jewish student David Frankfurter on his return on February 4, 1936, in his apartment in Davos .

The Nazi propaganda raised Gustloff to the " martyrs of the movement" and had put his coffin by special train to Germany. At the same time, due to the tense foreign policy situation and the Olympic Winter Games in Garmisch-Partenkirchen , which began on February 6, the National Socialist leadership was careful not to allow violent riots to break out. On February 5, 1936, Wilhelm Frick issued an instruction:

"Re. Prevention of riots on the occasion of the murder of the group leader Switzerland of the NSDAP Gustloff.
With reference to my decree to prevent excesses of August 20, 1935 III P 3710/59, I order, in agreement with the deputy of the Führer Rudolf Hess , that individual actions against Jews on the occasion of the murder of the head of the National Group Switzerland of the NSDAP Wilhelm Gustloff definitely not to be in Davos. I ask to take action against any actions and to maintain public safety and order. "

In his speech at Gustloff's funeral in Schwerin, Adolf Hitler also limited himself to a “relatively reserved” and “moderate” speech in his terms. The “Jewish enemy” has now appeared for the first time openly and without intermediaries; for Switzerland it is a "sheet of fame" that nobody was involved in this act. However, soon afterwards Hitler demanded a bill to raise a "special Jewish tax" and ordered "the preparation of a corresponding bill to be accelerated so that it would be possible to promulgate the law after the Gustloff trial was over". The historian Uwe Dietrich Adam concludes that Hitler only waited for a politically less explosive situation in order to then act propagandistically effective with a punitive action comparable to the later Jewish property levy; this ultimately failed due to lack of time. Ian Kershaw sees the absence of a wave of anti-Jewish violence as proof that the Nazi regime was quite capable of keeping the actions of radical party members under control when it seemed opportune.

The newest and largest KdF ship , just commissioned at the time, should have been christened Adolf Hitler , but Hitler decided to name the ship Wilhelm Gustloff . He was baptized in 1937 together with Hedwig Gustloff, the murdered man's widow, who had been Hitler's secretary until November 8, 1923 before her marriage to Gustloff. She received an honorary salary of 400 Reichsmarks per month from Hitler personally. The ship was sunk on January 30, 1945, Gustloff's birthday.

During the National Socialist era , streets in Magdeburg , Freital and Benneckenstein (Harz) were named after Gustloff and later renamed. In 1936, today's Nordparkiedlung Düsseldorf was named after Gustloff in Düsseldorf . In Schwerin a memorial in an “honor grove” commemorated him and other “martyrs”. His urn was also buried there in the foundation of a foundling. The monument and boulder were blown up in 1947.


  • Roland Aegerter: Political assassinations of the 20th century , NZZ-Verlag, Zurich 1999, ISBN 3-85823-786-8 .
  • Peter Bollier: The NSDAP under the Alpenfirn. History of an existential challenge for Davos, Graubünden and Switzerland , Bündner monthly publishing house Desertina 2016, ISBN 978-3-85637-490-7 .
  • Armin Fuhrer : Death in Davos. David Frankfurter and the assassination attempt on Wilhelm Gustloff (= series of contemporary stories. Vol. 9). Metropol, Berlin 2012, ISBN 978-3-86331-069-1 .
  • Günter Lachmann: National Socialism in Switzerland 1931-1945. A contribution to the history of the foreign organization of the NSDAP. Dissertation, Free University of Berlin, December 18, 1962.
  • Victor Klemperer : "I want to bear witness to the last." Diaries 1933–1945. Berlin, Aufbau-Verlag 1995 (3). 1 / S. 245.
  • Thomas F. Schneider (Ed.): Non Fiktion - Emil Ludwig . Wehrhahn Verlag 2016, ISBN 978-3-86525-546-4 (also 11th year, issue 1/2, of the magazine "Arsenal der other Gattungen"; with articles on David Frankfurter, the murder in Davos and related topics).

Novel / film

Web links

Sebastian Felz: Frankfurter, David . In: Kurt Groenewold, Alexander Ignor, Arnd Koch (eds.): Lexicon of Political Criminal Trials.

Individual evidence

  1. a b Peter Bollier: The NSDAP under the Alpenfirn. History of an existential challenge for Davos, Graubünden and Switzerland , Bündner Monatsblatt Verlag Desertina 2016, ISBN 978-3-85637-490-7 , p. 30.
  2. ^ Berthold Jacob was kidnapped from Basel without the assistance of the Swiss NSDAP / AO.
  3. ^ A Nazi member in the Bundeshaus. Retrieved September 21, 2017 .
  4. Detlef Peitz: The Kittelmann case . In: François Comment (Ed.): 125 Years of the Official Bulletin of the Federal Assembly ; ISBN 978-3-906211-02-2 ; Bern 2016; Pp. 179-198.
  5. a b c Ian Kershaw: Hitler - 1889-1936 ; Stuttgart 1998 2 ; ISBN 3-421-05131-3 ; P. 720. Saul Friedländer: The Third Reich and the Jews ; Munich 2007; ISBN 978-3-406-56681-3 ; P. 199; Arnd Krüger : The Olympic Games 1936 and world opinion. Its importance in foreign policy, with particular reference to the USA. (= Sports science work, Vol. 7) Berlin: Bartels & Wernitz 1972.
  6. ^ The persecution and murder of European Jews by National Socialist Germany 1933–1945 , Volume 1: German Reich 1933–1937 ; Munich 2008; ISBN 978-3-486-58480-6 ; P. 558 (Document 225).
  7. Max Domarus: Hitler. Speeches and Proclamations , Vol. 1; Würzburg 1962; P. 573; The text of the speech is also printed there.
  8. ^ Quote from a secret letter in: Uwe Dietrich Adam: Jewish policy in the Third Reich ; Unv. Reprint Düsseldorf 2003; ISBN 3-7700-4063-5 ; P. 114 + note 88.
  9. ^ Uwe Dietrich Adam: Policy on Jews in the Third Reich ; P. 114 f.
  10. 471. Announcement: At the suggestion of the city administration I name the settlement south of Stockumer Kirchstrasse "Wilhelm-Gustloff-Siedlung", Düsseldorf, July 2, 1936. The police chief. , in the official gazette for the Düsseldorf administrative region, year 1936, item 29, p. 191.
  11. Udo Brinker: Chronicle of the City of Schwerin from the beginnings to the present, 2011, p. 282