Kurt von Schleicher

Kurt von Schleicher : Nazi Germany

Kurt von Schleicher, the son of a Prussian army officer, was born in Brandenburg, Germany, on 4th July, 1882. He joined the German Army in 1900 and during the First World War was a general on the staff of Paul von Hindenburg.

After the war Schleicher helped organize the Freikorps. In 1923 he worked closely with General Hans von Seeckt, chief of the Army Command. He remained close to Paul von Hindenburg and after he was elected as president in 1925, Schleicher worked as his political adviser. He also served as head of the Armed Forces Division of the Reichswehr Ministry. According to Louis L. Snyder: "Kurt von Schleicher was an unscrupulous master of political intrigue, vain and ambitious, he sought to promote his own influence and that of the Army."

Schleicher was instrumental in helping Heinrich Brüning become chancellor of Germany in March 1930. Later he switched his support to Franz von Papen. Papen's reactionary policies upset Schleicher who favoured a coalition of the centre. When Schleicher managed to persuade several government ministers to turn against Papen and he was forced from office in December, 1932. Schleicher now became chancellor. He appointed his friend, General Ferdinand von Bredow as head of Abwehr.

General Edgar Röhricht commented: "He (Kurt von Schleicher) was not so much a soldier as an expert in home politics, though not tied to any party. He was very sympathetic towards, and popular with, the trade unions, while suspected by the Conservatives on account of his tendency to social reforms. He was anything but a 'Junker'. A very skilful and astute political tactician, but without the personality of a statesman that was needed at this period.

Schleicher tried to control the activities of the National Socialist German Workers Party (NSDAP). Adolf Hitler responded to this by joining with Franz von Papen to oust Schleicher from power. With the support of industrial leaders such as Hjalmar Schacht, Gustav Krupp, Alfried Krupp, Fritz Thyssen, Albert Voegler and Emile Kirdorf, Papen persuaded President Paul von Hindenburg to appoint Hitler as chancellor. Papen, who became vice-chancellor, told Hindenburg that he would be able to prevent Hitler from introducing his more extremist policies.

On 22nd July 1934, Kurt von Schleicher and his new bride, Elizabeth, went with General Ferdinand von Bredow to dinner with the journalist Bella Fromm, one of the most informed and well-known journalists in Berlin. She warned the two men to be careful of Hitler. Schleicher replied: "They won't dare to touch me... The same old Bella. Alarmist as usual. Good Lord, I've been out of politics and am happy to be out of the dirty mess. So why should I fear?"

Adolf Hitler was determined to gain revenge on Schleicher and during the Night of the Long Knives, the Schutz Staffeinel (SS) were sent to murder him. According to Paul R. Maracin, the author of The Night of the Long Knives: Forty-Eight Hours that Changed the History of the World (2004) on 30th June 1934: "Former chancellor von Schleicher... was sitting in the study of his villa at Neubabelsberg near Potsdam, going over household accounts with his housekeeper, Marie Guntel, while his wife sat in a nearby armchair doing some knitting. In response to the incessant ringing of the garden doorbell, the housekeeper opened the door to be confronted by five SS men in plainclothes. The assassins pushed past her, holding drawn revolvers behind their backs. Following Frau Guntel into the study, one of the men asked: 'Are you General von Schleicher?' When the General answered 'yes,' the gunmen started shooting, as the terrified house-keeper ran screaming into the garden. When the SS men drove off one minute later, von Schleicher and his bride of eighteen months lay dead."

© , September 1997 - April 2014

Primary Sources

(1) General Edgar Röhricht was interviewed by Basil Liddell Hart about Kurt von Schleicher after the war for his book The Other Side of the Hill (1948)

He was not so much a soldier as an expert in home politics, though not tied to any party. He was very sympathetic towards, and popular with, the trade unions, while suspected by the Conservatives on account of his tendency to social reforms. He was anything but a 'Junker'. A very skilful and astute political tactician, but without the personality of a statesman that was needed at this period.

(2) Paul R. Maracin, The Night of the Long Knives: Forty-Eight Hours that Changed the History of the World (2004)

Former chancellor von Schleicher, who had tried to circumvent Hitler by offering the vice-chancellorship to Gregor Strasser, was sitting in the study of his villa at Neubabelsberg near Potsdam, going over household accounts with his housekeeper, Marie Guntel, while his wife sat in a nearby armchair doing some knitting. In response to the incessant ringing of the garden doorbell, the housekeeper opened the door to be confronted by five SS men in plainclothes. The assassins pushed past her, holding drawn revolvers behind their backs. Following Frau Guntel into the study, one of the men asked: "Are you General von Schleicher?" When the General answered "yes," the gunmen started shooting, as the terrified house-keeper ran screaming into the garden. When the SS men drove off one minute later, von Schleicher and his bride of eighteen months lay dead. Bella Fromm's foreboding had become reality.

The gunfire at the von Schleicher villa was heard at the Adenauer residence a few hundred yards away. Konrad Adenauer was in the garden with his family, watering his flowers, when a Gestapo agent climbed over the locked garden gate and arrested him. He was permitted to pack a few belongings, and then driven away. Later, interrogated at the Potsdam police headquarters, he was threatened with torture but adamantly denied complicity in any type of anti-Nazi activity. He was released unharmed after two days, but after receiving a confidential message that he was still in danger, he left home and disappeared for several weeks, moving from place to place. It was a strange and un-chronicled interlude in his life, as he did not communicate with his family during his absence. The fifty-eight-year-old Adenauer had already been mayor of Cologne and president of the Prussian State Council, but his most impressive achievements were yet to come. The man who in 1934 was considered "nationally unreliable" by the Nazis became the chancellor of postwar Germany, leading his country to economic recovery and respectability out of the rubble left by Hitler.

A few hours after the murder of von Schleicher and his wife, General von Bredow (who eight days earlier had enjoyed dinner with the von Schleichers on Bella Fromm's garden terrace) sat at a table at the Hotel Adlon in the heart of Berlin. When he left, the waiter - a Gestapo informant-picked up his tip, and then made a telephone call. When von Bredow reached his home he was gunned down on his doorstep.

Seventy-three-year-old Gustav von Kahr was found in a swamp near Dachau, mutilated and hacked to death. He had been the key prosecution witness against Hitler in the 1924 treason trial, and the new chancellor had a long memory. Now that Hitler had autocratic control, there would be no trial for von Kahr, or any other hapless souls targeted in the bloodbath. They became nothing more than prey, and were simply butchered without an iota of compunction.