Schirach, Baldur von 1907–1974
Schirach, Baldur von 1907–1974
PERSONAL: Born May 9, 1907, in Berlin, Germany; died August 8, 1974, in Mosel, Germany; son of Friedrich Karl (a theater director) and Emma von Schirach; married Jenny Hoffman, 1925. Politics: National Socialist.
CAREER: Nazi politician and convicted war criminal. Elected to Reichstag, 1932; head of Hitler Youth, 1932–40; director of Nazi youth programs, 1935–45; gauleiter (district leader) of Vienna, 1940–45. Military service: Served briefly in World War II.
Die Hitler-Jungend (title means "The Hitler Youth"), Zeitgeschichte (Berlin, Germany), 1934.
Revolution der Erziehung, F. Eher (Munich, Germany), 1939.
Ich glaubte an Hitler (memoir; title means "I Believed in Hitler"), Mosaik Verlag (Hamburg, Germany), 1966.
Also coauthor of books Hitler, wie ihn keiner kennt (title means "Hitler as No One Knows Him") and Jugend um Hitler (title means "Youth Surround Hitler").
SIDELIGHTS: Baldur von Schirach was born in Berlin in 1907, the son of a theater director and an American woman. He joined the National Socialist, or Nazi, party in 1925, the same year that he met Adolf Hitler, who would soon become dictator of Germany. Von Schirach's relationship with Hitler was strengthened when he married Jenny Hoffman, daughter of the soon-to-be German chancellor's personal photographer.
Von Schirach began studying German philology and art history in Munich, but after 1927 he devoted himself to working for the Nazi-run Students' League. He proved to be a very effective organizer, and in 1928 he was appointed reichsjugenführer, or youth leader, in the Nazi party. Von Schirach soon became head of the Hitler Youth, the National Socialist Schoolboys' League, the League of German Girls, and the Jungvolk ("Young People").
Von Schirach was elected to the Reichstag, or German parliament, in 1932. After Hitler took control of Germany, he appointed von Schirach as jugendführer de Deutschen Reiches—"Youth Führer" of the German Reich—on June 18, 1933. This meant that von Schirach was responsible for the extracurricular political training of all young people in Germany.
Von Schirach idolized Hitler, and he was also a talented speaker who "knew how to captivate young people," according to a writer for The Encyclopedia of the Third Reich, who also noted that von Schirach viewed himself as a "priest of the National Socialist faith," who saw his life as devoted to serving the Nazi party. Although he was physically out of condition and weak, he promoted military fitness and hardness, wrote heroic stories of military heroes, and promoted the anti-Semitic views of the Nazis. He also worked with his father-in-law to produce books that flattered Hitler, such as Hitler, wie ihn keiner kennt, and Jugend um Hitler.
Despite his devotion to the party, von Schirach was replaced by Arthur Axman as Reich Youth Führer in 1940. He briefly served in the front lines during World War II, but then went to Vienna as gauleiter, or district manager, and Reich governor. He stayed in Vienna until the war ended, even though other politicians disliked him and tried to have him removed. Von Schirach's career was effectively ended when he and his wife visited Hitler's residence in Berghof and criticized Hitler's policy of occupying other countries and deporting Jewish people. At the time he made this critique, von Schirach himself was responsible for deporting 185,000 Austrian Jews to concentration camps in Eastern Europe.
After the war von Schirach was arrested as a war criminal and tried for his role in the extermination of Jews. He denied knowing about the concentration camps, but admitted he had trained young people for "millionfold murder" through his youth groups, according to The Encyclopedia of the Third Reich. On October 1, 1946, von Schirach was sentenced to twenty years in Spandau Prison. After his release, his memoirs, Ich glaubte an Hitler, were released, but "failed to shed much light" on his life, motivation, or the truth behind his actions. Von Schirach died on August 8, 1974.
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Rees, Philip, Biographical Dictionary of the Extreme Right since 1890, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1990.
Teed, Peter, Dictionary of Twentieth-Century History, 1914–1990, Oxford University Press (Oxford, England), 1992.
Von Schirach, Baldur, Ich glaubte an Hitler, Mosaik Verlag (Hamburg, Germany), 1966.
Zentner, Christian, and Friedemann Bedurftig, editors, The Encyclopedia of the Third Reich, Macmillan (New York, NY), 1991.