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Baldur von Schirach
Presidium of the European Youth Union Baldur von Schirach (cropped).jpg
Schirach as Reichsstatthalter in 1942
In office
30 October 1931 – 8 August 1940
Deputy Karl Nabersberg
Hartmann Lauterbacher
Artur Axmann
Preceded by Office established
Succeeded by Artur Axmann
Reichsleiter for Youth Education
In office
2 June 1933 – 8 May 1945
Reichsstatthalter of Reichsgau Vienna
In office
8 August 1940 – 8 May 1945
Leader Adolf Hitler
Preceded by Josef Bürckel
Succeeded by Office abolished
Gauleiter of Reichsgau Vienna
In office
8 August 1940 – 8 May 1945
Preceded by Josef Bürckel
Succeeded by Office abolished
Personal details
Baldur Benedikt von Schirach

(1907-05-09)9 May 1907
Berlin, Brandenburg, Prussia, German Empire
Died 8 August 1974(1974-08-08) (aged 67)
Kröv, Rhineland-Palatinate, West Germany
Political party National Socialist German Workers' Party (NSDAP)
Henriette Hoffmann
(m. 1932)
Children 4, including Richard von Schirach
Civilian awards Hitler Youth Golden Honour Badge with Diamonds and Rubies
Golden Party Badge
Military service
Allegiance  Nazi Germany
Branch/service German Army
Years of service 1939–1940
Rank Leutnant
Unit Infantry Regiment Großdeutschland
Battles/wars Battle of France
Military awards Iron Cross, 2nd class
Criminal conviction
Baldur von Schirach
Conviction(s) Crimes against humanity
Penalty 20 years imprisonment
Status Deceased

Baldur Benedikt von Schirach (9 May 1907 – 8 August 1974) was a German politician who is best known for his role as the Nazi Party national youth leader and head of the Hitler Youth from 1931 to 1940. He later served as Gauleiter and Reichsstatthalter ("Reich Governor") of Vienna. After World War II, he was convicted of crimes against humanity during the Nuremberg trials and sentenced to 20 years in prison.

Early life

Bundesarchiv Bild 183-H13039, Münchener Abkommen, Rückkehr Hitler
Schirach (far left) watches as Hitler greets his Chancellery chief Philipp Bouhler in Munich 1938
Bundesarchiv B 145 Bild-F051620-0043, Hitler, Göring und v. Schirach auf Obersalzberg
Schirach (right) with Hitler, Bormann and Göring at the Obersalzberg

Schirach was born in Berlin, the youngest of four children of theatre director, grand ducal chamberlain and retired captain of the cavalry Carl Baily Norris von Schirach (1873–1948) and his American wife Emma Middleton Lynah Tillou (1872–1944). A member of the noble Schirach family, of Sorbian West Slavic origins, three of his four grandparents were from the United States, chiefly from Pennsylvania. English was the first language he learned at home and he did not learn to speak German until the age of five. He had two sisters, Viktoria and the opera singer Rosalind von Schirach, and a brother, Karl Benedict von Schirach. He was confirmed at church at age 14 although he grew away from the church in favor of the Nazi youth movement.

On 31 March 1932 Schirach married the 19-year-old Henriette Hoffmann, the daughter of Heinrich Hoffmann, Adolf Hitler's personal photographer and sometime friend. Schirach's family was vehemently opposed to this marriage, but Hitler insisted. Gregor Strasser dismissively described Schirach as "a young effeminate aristocrat" upon whom Hitler bestowed both Henriette and the Hitler Youth position. Through this relationship, Schirach became part of Hitler's inner circle. The young couple were welcome guests at Hitler's "Berghof". Henriette von Schirach gave birth to four children: Angelika Benedikta von Schirach (born 1933), lawyer Klaus von Schirach (born 1935), businessman Robert von Schirach (born 1938) and sinologist Richard von Schirach (born 1942). The lawyer and best-selling German crime writer Ferdinand von Schirach is the couple's grandson. They are also the grandparents of the philosopher and critic Ariadne von Schirach and of the novelist Benedict Wells.

Schirach was a published author, contributing to literature journals, and an influential patron of the arts.

Nazi Party career

Reich youth leader

Schirach joined a Wehrjugendgruppe (paramilitary youth group) at the age of seventeen and became a member of the Nazi Party (NSDAP) on 9 May 1925 (membership number 17,251). On 20 July 1928, he joined the Reichsleitung (National Leadership) at the Munich Party headquarters as the leader of the National Socialist German Students' League (Nationalsozialistischer Deutscher Studentenbund; NSDStB) which he would head for the next two years. In 1929, he was selected as a Reichsredner (national speaker) and was active in Party propaganda activities. On 30 October 1931, he was named as Reichsjugendführer (National Youth Leader) of the Nazi Party. On 18 December 1931, Schirach joined the Sturmabteilung (SA) with the rank of SA-Gruppenführer. On 16 June 1932, he was made Reichsführer of the Party's Hitler Youth organization. He became a member of the Reichstag as a representative of the Party electoral list at the 31 July 1932 election. He would continue to serve in that body until the end of the Nazi regime, from November 1933 as a deputy from electoral constituency 7, Breslau, and from March 1936 as a deputy from electoral constituency 6, Pomerania.

After the Nazi seizure of power, Schirach was made Reichsleiter for Youth Education on 2 June 1933. Reichsleiter was the second highest political rank in the Nazi Party. He was named Jugendführer (Youth Leader) of the German Reich on 17 June 1933 with responsibility for all youth organizations in the nation. Also on that date, he was made a State Secretary in the Reich Interior Ministry, and he became a member of the Academy for German Law upon its formation in October 1933. On 1 December 1936, he was given the position of State Secretary to the Reich Government. Schirach was promoted to SA-Obergruppenführer on 9 November 1937.

Schirach appeared frequently at rallies, such as the Nuremberg rally of 1934, when he appeared with Hitler in rousing the Hitlerjugend audience. The event was filmed for Triumph of the Will, the propaganda film made by Leni Riefenstahl for the Nazi Party. Schirach set the militaristic tone of the youth organisation, which participated in military-style exercises, as well as practising use of military equipment, such as rifles. In July 1940, when a new play by Hans Baumann was staged there, Schirach insisted that 2,000 local Hitler Youth members be part of that performance.

In November 1939, he was called up for military service in the army. After training, he served with the 4th (Machine Gun) Company of the Großdeutschland infantry regiment during the French Campaign as a dispatch runner in the rank of Gefreiter. He was promoted to Leutnant, served as a platoon leader and was decorated for bravery with the Iron Cross 2nd class, before being recalled to Germany.

Gauleiter and Reichsstatthalter of Vienna

On 8 August 1940, Schirach succeeded Josef Bürckel as Gauleiter and Reichsstatthalter of the Reichsgau Vienna, powerful posts in which he remained until the end of the war. He also succeeded Bürckel as Reich Defense Commissioner of Wehrkreis (Military District) XVII, which, in addition to his own Reichsgau, included Reichsgau Upper Danube, Reichsgau Lower Danube and part of Reichsgau Sudetenland. At that time he was replaced as Reichsjugendführer by Artur Axmann, though he retained his position as Reichsleiter for Youth Education. Beginning in October 1940, Schirach was assigned to organise the evacuation of 2.5 million children from cities threatened by Allied bombing. On 16 November 1942, the jurisdiction of the Reich Defense Commissioners was changed from the Wehrkreis to the Gau level, and he retained control of civil defense measures over only Reichsgau Vienna.

Schirach was an anti-Semite, responsible for sending most of the Jews from Vienna to Nazi concentration camps. During his tenure, 65,000 Jews were deported. In a speech on 15 September 1942, he said that their deportation was a "contribution to European culture". In 1942, the German composer Richard Strauss moved with his son Franz and his Jewish daughter-in-law Alice and their children to Vienna so they could be afforded the protection of Schirach. However, 25 of her relatives were murdered in Nazi concentration camps. In 1944, Alice and Franz were abducted by the Viennese Gestapo and imprisoned for two nights. Strauss's personal appeal to Schirach saved them, allowing him to take them back to his estate at Garmisch-Partenkirchen, where they remained under house arrest until the end of the war.

Later during the war, Schirach pleaded for a moderate treatment of the eastern European peoples and criticised the conditions in which Jews were being deported. He fell into disfavour with Hitler in 1943, but remained at his post in Vienna. On 25 September 1944, he became the commander of the Volkssturm units in his Gau.

Schirach was notoriously anxious about air raids. He had the cellars of the Hofburg Palace in the Vienna city centre refurbished and adapted as a bomb shelter, and the lower level of the extensive subterranean Vienna air defence coordination centre in the forests to the west of Vienna held personal facilities for him. The Viennese promptly dubbed this command and control centre the "Schirach-Bunker".

Vienna came under attack by the Red Army on 2 April 1945, and it was approaching the city centre by 9 April. On that day, Schirach broadcast a final call for citizens to fight "to the last man" and then departed his headquarters. He fled westward with the 6th Panzer Army towards the Tyrol where, on May 2, he discarded his uniform and went underground in the town of Schwaz. On 5 June, he finally surrendered to the American town commandant and was arrested by the 103rd Counterintelligence Corps.

Trial and conviction

Defendants in the dock at the Nuremberg Trials
Schirach at the Nuremberg trials (in second row, second from right)

Schirach was one of the major war criminals put on trial at Nuremberg by the International Military Tribunal. At the trial, Schirach was one of only a few defendants to denounce Hitler (including Albert Speer and Hans Frank).

He claimed that members of the Hitler Youth were innocent of any of the German war crimes:

Schirach along with Speer and Fritzsche were eventually communed by Lutheran Pastor Henry F. Gerecke and were administered the Eucharist.

Schirach claimed he had not known about the extermination camps; however, the trial detailed his involvement in deportations of Jews and his speeches defending his actions. He was originally indicted for crimes against peace for his role in building up the Hitler Youth, but was acquitted on that charge. He was found guilty on 1 October 1946 of crimes against humanity for his role in the deportation of the Viennese Jews to certain death in German concentration camps located in German-occupied Poland. He was sentenced to 20 years in Spandau Prison, Berlin.

On 20 July 1949, his wife Henriette von Schirach (1913–1992) divorced him while he was in prison.

Schirach was released from prison on 30 September 1966, after serving his full sentence, and retired quietly to Southern Germany. In an interview shortly after his release, he expressed regret over having not done enough to prevent atrocities from being committed. He went to Munich to live with his son Robert's family. Later, in 1968, Schirach relocated with them to an estate in Trossingen. He published his memoirs, Ich glaubte an Hitler ("I believed in Hitler") in 1967 and was interviewed by British journalist David Frost. In the interview, he reflects on his imprisonment, meeting with Hitler, and the deportation of the Jews. He claimed to have no knowledge of the extermination, but admitted his guilt in regard to discriminatory education laws. On 8 August 1974, while staying at an inn in Kröv, Schirach died of coronary thrombosis. He was 67.

See also

Kids robot.svg In Spanish: Baldur von Schirach para niños

  • Glossary of Nazi Germany
  • List of Nazi Party leaders and officials
  • The Holocaust in Austria
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