Joachim von Ribbentrop, the son of a German Army officer, was born in Wesel, Germany, on 30th April, 1893. Educated at a boarding school at Switzerland he also spent time in France and England as a child.
In 1911 he began working as clerk with a German importing form based in London before moving to Canada where he worked as a timekeeper on the reconstruction of the Quebec Bridge and the Canadian Pacific Railroad. This was followed by employment as a journalist in New York City and Boston.
On the outbreak of the First World War Ribbentrop returned to Germany where he joined the German Army. While serving with the 125th Hussar Regiment he won the Iron Cross. After being seriously wounded in 1917 Ribbentrop joined the War Ministry and was a member of the German delegation that attended the Paris Peace Conference.
After leaving the German Army Ribbentrop worked as a salesman for the French firm of Pommerey in the Rhineland. He later became a partner in a Berlin sales agency. In May 1932 Ribbentrop joined the National Socialist German Workers Party (NSDAP). He quickly moved up the hierarchy and in 1933 became Hitler's foreign affairs adviser. The following year he established the Ribbentrop Bureau an organization that eventually had a staff of 300 people.
Adolf Hitler appointed Ribbentrop as the ambassador to London in August, 1936. His main objective was to persuade the British government not to get involved in Germany territorial disputes and to work together against the the communist government in the Soviet Union.
When Ribbentrop presented his credentials to George VI on 5th February, 1937, the British were outraged when he gave the Hitler salute. He also upset the British government by posting Schutz Staffeinel (SS) guards outside the German Embassy and by flying swastika flags on official cars.
On 4th February, 1938, Ribbentrop replaced Constantin von Neurath as Germany's foreign minister. He worked closely with Adolf Hitler in his negotiations with the British and French governments and in August 1939 arranged the signing of the Nazi-Soviet Pact. As Raymond Gram Swing later recalled: "The British were busy all through early 1939 trying to negotiate an agreement with the Soviet Union. Even up to the stunning surprise of the Von Ribbentrop-Molotov pact, a success in the British negotiations was awaited. The Poles were against it; they wanted no truck with Moscow. But I thought the British-Soviet negotiations would succeed in spite of the Poles, and said so. Now that this is all in the past, one sees that Stalin signed the pact with Hitler for two reasons, one being to partition a hostile Poland and annex a part of it, the other being to buy time to prepare for an attack Hitler might launch against the Soviet Union."
In 1940 Hitler once again began to consider invading the Soviet Union and he sent Ribbentrop to negotiate a new treaty with Japan. On 25th September, 1940, Ribbentrop sent a telegram to Vyacheslav Molotov, the Soviet foreign minister, informing him that Germany, Italy and Japan were about to sign a military alliance. Ribbentrop pointed out that the alliance was to be directed towards the United States and not the Soviet Union.
Molotov already knew about the proposed German-Japanese Pact. Richard Sorge, a German journalist working in Tokyo, was a Soviet spy and had already told Molotov that Adolf Hitler was involved in negotiations with Japan. In Sorge's view, the pact was directed against the Soviet Union but it was not until December, 1940, that he was able to send Molotov full details of Operation Barbarossa.
Rippentrop became a background figure during the Second World War but was arrested and charged with war crimes in June, 1945. Joachim von Ribbentrop denied knowledge of German concentration camps and racial extermination policies, but was found guilty at the Nuremberg War Crimes Trial and was executed on 16th October, 1946.