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Kurt von Schleicher

Even before Kurt von Schleicher became Chancellor, he had been a military Grey Eminence behind the German government. From 03 December 1932 to 30 January 1933 he was chief of the Cabinet and minister of defense at the same time. And he attempted in his brief chancellorship - 70 days - to prevent the seizure of power by the Nazis. But he was deposed by the Reich President Paul von Hindenburg. On 30 June 1934, he was shot on the orders of Adolf Hitler.

General von Schleicher came from an old Brandenburg family. Kurt Ferdinand Friedrich Hermann von Schleicher was born on 7 April 1882 [some sources claim 04 July 1882], the son of a Prussian officer and a shipowner's daughter, in Brandenburg an der Havel. He attended military school in Berlin from 1896 to 1900 and then became a lieutenant in the exclusive Prussian 3rd Garderegiment of Foot Guards. There he met Oskar von Hindenburg [who later played a disastrous role in the so-called clique in guidance of his father in January 1933]. In 1909 Schleicher attended the War Academy. In 1913 he came to the Great General Staff, where he served in the Railway Department under Wilhelm Groener, who later became minister of defense. General Groener referred to him as "my adopted son." During the Great War, he spent most of his time with the rank of captain on the staff of the Quartermaster General. In 1916 November Schleicher followed his mentor Groner into the War Office in Berlin. In May 1917 Schleicher transfered as first Staff officer for the 237th Infantry Division to the front in Galicia. It was during this period that he met and impressed Field Marshal von Hindenburg.

Von Schleicher was the officer to whom it fell in 1918 to tell All Highest Wilhelm II that his army was no longer faithful to the Crown and that he had best flee to Holland. General von Schleicher was for years the master intrigant and "Field Grey Eminence" of the German Reichswehr. The Hohenzollerns had always looked to him as their smartest stalking horse for a return of the Monarchy.

After the end of the Great War, it was arranged by Groener that Schleicher - now the rank of major - would engage in political work under the Weimar Republic, where he held direct contact with Friedrich Ebert. In September 1919 Schleicher swore loyantly to the Weimar Republic and transferred to the Defense Ministry. Here he supported a short-lived alliance between the army and the Social Democrats. Largely initiated by Schleicher, the Ebert-Groener pact freed both the first German Reich President - Friedrich Ebert - and the SPD politician Otto Wels, from rebel sailors. The same pact guaranteed the separation of state and military. Schleicher was then one of the leading thinkers about how the army could become a kind of state within a state.

On 23 December 1919 the sailors who had occupied the Royal Palace and mews of Berlin, attempted a revolt when they were ordered by the government to evacuate their quarters. Wels, the Commandant of Berlin, was seized by them, and bands of mutineers occupied the Chancellery and the central telephone and telegraph offices. Ebert and Landsberg were actually confined in the Chancellor's palace by a group of sailors which had occupied the Wilhelmstrasse. Ebert was able, however, to communicate with the Minister of War, Scheuch, by means of a secret telephone connecting the two offices. Scheidemann, who was absent from the Chancellery when it was surrounded by the sailors, also made every effort to rescue his colleagues. Toward evening the veteran troops of General Lequis, who remained loyal to the government, advanced from their barracks to the Chancellery. Thereupon the sailors abandoned their effort to overthrow the government.

While General von Schleicher was a soldier by profession, he was political by nature. He had a forceful personality and an extreme degree of self-reliance. It was a combination of these qualities that prompted General von Seeckt to delegate to General von Schleicher those matters that came before the Reichswehr which dealt with political issues.

He took over the leadership of the political division in the Troop and become a close associate and adviser of General Hans von Seeckt. The former General Staff was reconstructed by vonSeeckt under the redesignation of Truppenamt (literally: advisory council for troops). In 1926 Schleicher was appointed to head the newly created Armed Forces Division in the Defense Ministry. In the years 1926-1933, this relatively junior officer occupied a position of substantial power and influence within the Army. After several years as head of the Truppenamtes [troops Office], through the transformation of the Armed Forces Division Schleicher advanced in 1929 to the rank of Secretary of State as a civil servant, in the meantime he had prematurely become a major general. During these years, General von Schleicher in effect controlled the Reichswehr.

On 28 July 1931 Schleicher married Elizabeth Henning, the divorced wife of a cousin.

With the appointment of Heinrich Bruening as Chancellor, the group known as "the palace camarilla" became, for practical purposes, the rulers of Germany. The group included General von Schleicher, Oskar Hindenburg, and Otto Meissner, Presidential Secretary to President Hindenburg. The dominant personality was General von Schleicher. It was General von Schleicher who maneuvered his old friend, General Groener, out of office.

Under Chancellor Heinrich Brüning, Groner, army and Interior Minister, banned in April 1932 the military organizations of the NSDAP, the SA and SS, so there was a rift between the two. Schleicher wanted to achieve cooperation between the armed forces with the SA and SS in order to strengthen the military and to weaken the Nazi party. In April 1932, in connection with the prohibition of Nazi storm troopers (SA), there was a quarrel between Schleicher and Defense Minister Groener. Schleicher's plan for "taming" the Nazis, including through the involvement of SA in a nonpartisan defense organization, suffered a setback. Hindenburg dismissed Heinrich Brüning in June 1932 and appointed instead Franz von Papen as chancellor, with Schleicher in the Cabinet as the minister of defense. Schleicher had proposed von Papen to Reich President Paul von Hindenburg to succeed Heinrich Brüning.

In the elections on 31 July 1932, the Weimar Republic the two warring left and right parties, the NSDAP and the Communist Party, together won more seats than all other groups together. Together with Papen, in August 1932 Schleicher offered Adolf Hitler the vice-chancellorship, which Hitler rejected. After another general election on 6 November 1932, when the Nazis lost votes, the Communist Party won votes, both groups still put together a majority of seats. Now, Adolf Hitler sought to enter into the government. When that was not accepted, Hindenburg wanted to reappoint von Papen chancellor. Through various intrigues that was prevented by Schleicher. After unsuccessful negotiations with Adolf Hitler over a government contribution of the National Socialist German Workers' Party (NSDAP), eventually on 3 December 1932 Schleicher was appointed Chancellor, and charged with the formation of a new presidential cabinet. Of the eleven men who were members of an existing government in addition to two representatives of the German National People's Party only partisan, but very conservative politician.

General von Schleicher attempted to use the Army to arbitrate political disputes. Lacking the full support of the Officer Corps, General von Schleicher used the "unpolitical" Army created by General von Seeckt to influence domestic political decisions. Unknowingly, his political maneuvers assisted Adolf Hitler's legal ascendency to power. Schleicher attempted to develop a mass base for his government through an alliance of right-wing trade unionists and left-Nazis, such as Gregor Strasser, but this was thwarted by the resistance from the leadership of German Social Democratic Party (SPD) and the Nazi Party. Schleicher first tried to have the TAT-circle under Hans Zehrer developed into a "Third Position", which provided for the interaction of all political forces, including the trade unions. Furthermore, using Schleicher, Gregor Strasser wanted to split the NSDAP. The former Chancellor Bruning wrote in his memoirs: "The dangers for Schleicher grew, even though outwardly his prestige did not decrease. On the contrary. ... Through his extraordinary skillful form of conversation, he managed to capture not only more and more the whole leftist press and gain influence with the unions, but also some people from (the) German Center Party ... for themselves. "

General von Schleicher, who proposed Bruening as Chancellor and then dropped him for a new favorite, Franz von Papen, finally overthrew Papen and took the Chancellorship himself. But von Papen, who could never forget that he had been ousted from the Chancellor's palace by Schleicher, negotiated in secret - but on behalf of Hindenburg - with Adolf Hitler. At a meeting on 03 January 1933 at the Cologne home of the banker (and later SS-Gruppenführers) Kurt von Schroeder, Kurt von Papen and Hitler agreed to a joint government work. On 22 January 1933, behind the backs of Schleicher, von Papen negotiated on behalf of Hindenburg for Hitler's appointment as Chancellor. On 28 January 1933 Schleicher announced the resignation of his government after a meeting with Hindenburg and recommended the appointment of Hitler as Chancellor. Adolf Hitler became chancellor.

In 1934 Paris heard rumors that Chancellor Hitler would be ousted by a military coup led by General von Schleicher. During the suppression of an alleged coup attempt of the SA leader Ernst Roehm, Kurt von Schleicher and his wife were shot and killed on 30 June 1934 by SS men in his private apartment in Neubabelsberg shot.

In an official printed release General Göring declared: "The main go-between in the conspiracy was former Reich Chancellor General von Schleicher, who made connection between Captain Roehm and a foreign power and those eternally dissatisfied figures of yesterday. ... It was self-understood that General von Schleicher had to be arrested. While being arrested, he attempted to make a lightning assault upon those men who were to arrest him. Thereby he lost his life." Since every German assumed this meant France, the Cabinet of Premier Gaston Doumergue issued an official communiqué at Paris: "Neither directly nor indirectly were the instigators of the plot in contact with the French Government."

Schleicher was - according to State Secretary Hans-Otto Meissner - "arch-conservative and a monarchist," but also "a partner of the Democratic and Social Democratic leader of the moderate left." Schleicher was certainly like most of his colleagues in the higher echelons of the army no friend of the Weimar Republic. But he tolerated it, served loyally and was aware of the fate that Nazis would then bring their country when they ruled alone. In his various political functions Schleicher worked to prevent the Nazis from taking power in Germany.

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