HENCHMEN OF ADOLF HITLER
Adolf Hitler’s inner circle were the most powerful men in the Third Reich. It was a finely balanced team of military commanders, administrative leaders and Ministers of the Nazi Party.
The following is a list of these men, who they were and a brief explanation of their roles.
Martin Bormann was Head of the Nazi Party Chancellery and Hitler’s private secretary who controlled all access to the Fuhrer. He had final approval over all legislation and control over all domestic matters together with all information going to and from Hitler. Whilst escaping the Red Army in Berlin, he was allegedly killed but there some doubt as his body has never been found. In his absence, at the Nuremburg Trials the authorities charged him with war crimes, convicted and sentenced to death by hanging.
Karl Donitz was Commander of the German Navy’s U-boats until 1943 when he took over as Commander-in-Chief of the German navy. He was eventually promoted to Grand-Admiral. At the Nuremburg Trials, he was convicted of war crimes, found guilty and sentenced to ten years imprisonment. He lived quietly in a village near Hamburg and died in 1980 after his release.
Otto Adolf Eichmann was a German Nazi SS Obersturmbannführer (Lieutenant Colonel) and one of the major organisers of the Holocaust. His involvement was organising the logistics for the mass deportation of Jews to the ghettos and extermination camps. With Germany defeated in 1945, he fled to Austria and lived there until 1950 when he relocated to Argentina using false papers. Israel’s intelligence agency, the Mossad, located him in 1960 and captured him. They then transported him to stand trial in Israel for crimes against humanity and war crimes. He was found guilty and executed by hanging on the 1st June 1962 in Israel.
Walther Funk was the Reich Minister of Economics, President of the Reichsbank and State Secretary of at the Ministry of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda. A qualified economist, lawyer, philosopher and also editor of a financial newspaper. At the Nuremburg Trials he was tried and convicted as a major war criminal and sentenced to life in prison. He was released on health grounds in 1957 and he died three years later.
Joseph Goebbels was Reichsminister for Propaganda having control over all news media, art and public information in Germany. He delivered emotional speeches to motivate and mobilise the German population. He was named in Hitler’s final will as the successor to the Fuhrer. After Hitler committed suicide Goebbels also committed suicide on the 31st April 1945.
Hermann Göring was Commander-in-Chief of the Luftwaffe and, in 1933, the founder of the Gestapo. He served as Minister of the Economic Four-Year Plan. He was named Hitler’s successor in 1944, and deputy to Hitler in all offices. A former fighter pilot ace in the Great War, he received the Blue Max and was commander of the fighter wing that included Richthoffen, also known as the Red Baron. At the Nuremburg Trials he was convicted of war crimes and sentenced to death by hanging. He ingested cyanide to commit suicide before the sentence was carried out.
Rudolf Hess was a German politician, and a leading member of the Nazi Party of Germany. He was appointed Deputy Fuhrer to Adolf Hitler in 1933. In an attempt to negotiate peace with the United Kingdom he flew to Scotland in 1941. He was taken prisoner and eventually convicted of crimes against humanity and served a life sentence until his suicide in 1987. Hess had enlisted as an infantryman at the outbreak of the Great War. He was wounded several times and awarded the Iron Cross 2nd Class in 1915. Shortly before war ended he enrolled as an aviator but never saw action in this role.
Heinrich Himmler was Reichsfuhrer of the entire SS. He was Military Commander of the Waffen-SS, Commander of the Gestapo, Minister of the Interior, Commander of the Home Army and Supreme leader of the administration of the entire Third Reich. Realising the war was lost, he attempted to open peace talks with the Allies. Hitler ordered his arrest and Himmler attempted to go into hiding. He was captured and arrested by British forces and committed suicide while in British custody on the 23rd May 1945.
Wilhelm Keitel was Field Marshal of the German Army and was Chief of the High Command of the German Armed Forces. He was also Chief of Defence for Germany and Hitler’s Chief of Staff. At the Nuremburg Trials he was charged with war crimes, found guilty, sentenced to death by hanging and executed on the 16th October 1946.
Josef Mengele was a German Schutzstaffel (SS) officer and physician in Auschwitz concentration camp during the Second World War. He performed deadly human experiments on prisoners, particularly adult and infant twins but mainly Jewish, and was a member of the team of doctors who selected victims to be murdered in the gas chambers. On the 17th June 1945, just ten days before the Soviet Red Army troops arrived at Auschwitz he was transferred to the Gross-Rosen concentration camp. After the war, he fled to South America where he evaded capture for the rest of his life.
Joachim von Ribbentrop was Foreign Minister of Nazi Germany, an authority on world affairs and confidante of the Fuhrer. He was an independent broker of the Pact of Steel between Germany and Italy, and also the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact. In 1936 he was the Ambassador to the Court of St. James’s for London and the U.K. At the Nuremburg Trials he was tried and convicted for his role in starting the Second World War. He was sentenced to death by hanging and was the first to be executed on the 16th October 1946.
Erich Raeder was Grand-Admiral and Commander-in-Chief of the Kriegsmarine (German naval force) and the Reichsmarine until 1943. At the Nuremburg Trials he was sentenced to life in prison but was released early due to his failing health. He died in Germany on the 6th November 1960.
Albert Speer was Chief Architect, also Minister of Armaments and War Production in the Nazi Party. He designed and constructed the Reich Chancellery and the Party Rally stadium in Nuremburg. He also designed the wide streets of Berlin and modernised the transportation system. At the Nuremburg Trials he was charged with war crimes, found guilty and sentenced to twenty years imprisonment. After serving the full sentence he was released on the 1st October 1966. He died in London on the 1st September 1981.
Adolf Hitler’s Nazi Party did leave a legacy behind them after the Second World War. After Germany had been bankrupted by the policies resulting from the Treaty of Versailles, they began to recover economically by embarking on a rebuilding programme. When Hitler came to power in 1933, in an effort to solve the unemployment problem, the Nazi Party embarked on an interstate highway system. Hitler began the building programme by digging out the first spade full of soil for the nationwide Autobahn network. Although it was reputed to be Hitler’s brainchild there had been previous attempts to create highway system. The Nazi Party ignored this and incorporated this system into their Autobahn project. The Autobahn planner, engineer and Nazi Party member was Fritz Todt, who smoothed the way for the project to continue. Any opposition to the project found they were “encouraged” to desist to the building of “Adolf Hitler’s roads”. By 1938 over 2000 km of road had been built which had gentle curves, gradual inclines, smooth surface roadway and to enter or exit the main highway long lanes in which to accelerate and decelerate. The Autobahn system was one of many building projects planned and started before the outbreak of the Second World War.
In 1937 the Nazi Party formed a new state-owned automobile company which was eventually named Volkswagenwert, or “The People’s Car Company”. It has been disputed about how much involvement Hitler was involved in what was known as his pet project. However, the development and mass production proceeded for an affordable vehicle for the masses to enjoy. To provide the design for this “people’s car”, Hitler employed the Austrian automobile engineer Ferdinand Porsche. The design was finally settled and would eventually be known as the Volkswagen Beetle.