Lutz Graf Schwerin von Krosigk

Lutz Graf Schwerin von Krosigk
Ludwig Schwerin von Krosigk.jpg
1932 portrait by Robert Sennecke
Leading Minister of Germany
In office
2 May 1945 – 23 May 1945
President Karl Dönitz
Preceded by Joseph Goebbels
Succeeded by Konrad Adenauer
(1949; Chancellor of West Germany)
Otto Grotewohl
(1949; Prime Minister of East Germany)
Helmut Kohl
(1990; Chancellor of United Germany)
Reich Minister of Foreign Affairs
In office
5 May 1945 – 23 May 1945
President Karl Dönitz
Preceded by Arthur Seyss-Inquart
Succeeded by Position abolished
Reich Minister of Finance
In office
1 June 1932 – 23 May 1945
Führer/
President
Chancellor
Preceded by Hermann Dietrich
Succeeded by Position abolished
Personal details
Born
Johann Ludwig von Krosigk

22 August 1887
Rathmannsdorf, Duchy of Anhalt, German Empire
Died 4 March 1977(1977-03-04) (aged 89)
Essen, North Rhine-Westphalia, West Germany
Political party Nazi (1944)
Children 9
Alma mater University of Halle
University of Lausanne
Oriel College, Oxford
Occupation Officer
Jurist
Politician

Johann Ludwig "Lutz" Graf[a] Schwerin von[b] Krosigk (Born Johann Ludwig von Krosigk; 22 August 1887 – 4 March 1977) was a German senior government official who served as Minister of Finance of Germany from 1932 to 1945 and de facto Chancellor of Germany in May 1945.

A non-partisan conservative, he was appointed to the post by Franz von Papen in 1932. At the request of President Paul von Hindenburg, he continued in that office under Kurt von Schleicher and Adolf Hitler. He and his ministry were involved in the persecution of German and European Jews, including by stealing their property, and laundering money. During May 1945, after the suicides of Hitler and his designated successor Joseph Goebbels, he also served as "Leading Minister" of the short-lived Flensburg government of President Karl Dönitz. Schwerin von Krosigk also held the essentially nominal offices of Foreign Minister and Finance Minister in the provisional government that controlled only a small, progressively shrinking portion of Germany, due to the rapid advance of the Allied forces who finally dissolved it and arrested its members.

Besides Adolf Hitler himself, Schwerin von Krosigk and Wilhelm Frick were the only members of the Third Reich's cabinet to serve continuously from Hitler's appointment as Chancellor until his death. By receiving the golden National Socialist German Workers' Party (NSDAP) Badge from Adolf Hitler, given for honour on 30 January 1937, he became a member of the NSDAP (membership number: 3,805,231). He also joined the Academy of German Law in 1937.

At the 1949 Ministries Trial, he was convicted of war crimes and sentenced to 10 years in jail; his sentence was commuted in 1951. He later worked as an author and publicist.

Early life and education

Born as Johann Ludwig von Krosigk into a family of traditional Lutheran Protestants in Rathmannsdorf in the Duchy of Anhalt of the German Empire, his father Erich Adolf Wilhelm was a member of an old noble but untitled family of Anhalt and his mother Luise Rosalie Friederike Julie Emma Ludmilla was born a countess of the Schwerin family. (In 1925 he was adopted by Alfred Wilhelm Detlof Graf von Schwerin, and promoted himself to a count, taking the name Johann Ludwig Graf Schwerin von Krosigk).[1]

Krosigk studied law and political science at Halle and Lausanne and then, as a Rhodes Scholar, at Oriel College, Oxford.

During World War I, Krosigk served in the German Army, attaining the rank of Lieutenant, and was awarded the Iron Cross. On 7 February 1918, during the war, he had married a baroness, Ehrengard Freiin von Plettenberg (1895–1979), with whom he had four sons and five daughters. In 1922, he became an Oberregierungsrat (senior government official) and in 1929, a ministerial director and head of the budget department at the finance ministry. In 1931, he joined the department of reparations payments, formed to deal with the reparations Germany still owed the Allied Powers after the Great War.

Nazi years

Pre-World War II

The first meeting of Hitler's cabinet in 1933, with Krosigk standing third from left.

In 1932 Franz von Papen appointed Krosigk as national Minister of Finance, and at the request of President Paul von Hindenburg he continued in that office under Kurt von Schleicher and throughout the period of national socialist rule. Several members of his family took part in assassination attempts against Adolf Hitler, but not Krosigk himself. He was rarely seen in public, and Hitler did not hold regular cabinet meetings. Following the final meeting of Hitler's cabinet in 1938 Krosigk did not make any public political statements and instead focused on running his ministry.[2]

Krosigk held his position under both Schleicher and Hitler as a representative of the conservative movement in Germany. While he later claimed to have remained in the role only to prevent "worse things" from happening, he welcomed the Nazi Party's rise to power and both agreed with and contributed to many of its policies. These included measures targeting Germany's Jewish community. While Krosigk's ability to shape Germany's fiscal policies was constrained by the influence of both the President of the Reichsbank and Hermann Göring (in his role as Plenipotentiary of the Four Year Plan), he was able to implement policies.[3] In August 1938 Krosigk sent Hitler a memorandum which strongly argued against starting a war over the Sudeten crisis as the German economy was not yet ready, and claimed that "Communists, Jews and Czechs" were seeking to lure the country into a premature conflict. He argued that Germany should instead "await her hour" and initiate war once it had completed building up its military and economy.[4]

World War II

Krosigk and Goebbels salute at the Reichstag

From 1939, Krosigk's ministry was increasingly focused on persecuting Jews and stealing their belongings as well as illegally laundering money.[3]

In February 1945 von Krosigk stressed the importance of preserving Germany's remaining industrial capacities in a letter to Reich Minister for Weapons, Munitions, and Armaments Albert Speer. This was motivated by his mistaken belief that the Allied bombing campaign directed at Germany had the goal of destroying the country's industry so that it could not be captured by the Soviet Union, and that retaining industrial capacity would position Germany to re-establish friendly relations with the western Allies following the war. It is unclear whether this had any influence of Speer's actions to prevent the implementation of the "scorched earth" policy ordered by Hitler.[5]

In his final testament Hitler selected Krosigk to continue as finance minister after his death.[3] On 1 May 1945, after Goebbels's suicide, Reichspräsident Karl Dönitz asked Schwerin von Krosigk to become the Chancellor (Reichskanzler) of his new government. He declined but accepted the position of "Leading Minister" the following day.[6] In a broadcast to the German people on 2 May 1945, he became one of the first commentators to refer to an "Iron Curtain" across Europe, a phrase he had picked up from an article by Joseph Goebbels[7] and which was later made famous by Winston Churchill.

Rapidly advancing Allied forces limited the jurisdiction of the new German government to an area around Flensburg near the Danish border, where Dönitz's headquarters were located, along with Mürwik. Accordingly, this administration was referred to as the Flensburg government. Dönitz and Schwerin von Krosigk attempted to negotiate an armistice with the Western allies while continuing to resist the Soviet Army. On 7 May 1945, Dönitz authorised the signature of the German Instrument of Surrender to the Allies, which took place in Rheims before General Dwight D. Eisenhower; Dönitz would later authorise the German military to sign another instrument of surrender in Berlin, in a ceremony presided over by the Soviets. On 23 May 1945, the Flensburg Government was dissolved by order of the Supreme Allied Commander and its members arrested as prisoners of war.

Krosigk was put on trial at Nuremberg, along with other leading members of the Nazi government. At the conclusion of the Ministries Trial in 1949 he was found guilty of laundering property stolen from Nazi victims and financing the concentration camps, and sentenced to ten years' imprisonment.[8] His sentence was reviewed by the "Peck Panel". He was released during an amnesty in 1951.

After World War II

Graf Schwerin von Krosigk on trial in Nürnberg

In later years, Schwerin von Krosigk wrote several books on economic policy and two versions of his memoirs.

Schwerin von Krosigk died in 1977 in the city of Essen, North Rhine-Westphalia, West Germany, aged 89.

His elder daughter, Felicitas-Anita, Countess Schwerin von Krosigk, is the mother of Alternative for Germany Member of the European Parliament Beatrix von Storch.

Works

  • Es geschah in Deutschland, 1951.
  • Die große Zeit des Feuers – Der Weg der deutschen Industrie, 3 volumes, 1959.
  • Alles auf Wagnis – der Kaufmann gestern, heute und morgen, 1963.
  • Persönliche Erinnerungen, memoirs, 3 volumes, 1974.
  • Staatsbankrott (Studie über die deutsche Finanzpolitik von 1920 bis 1945), 1975.
  • Memoiren (short version of Persönliche Erinnerungen), 1977.

Copyright