Lutz Graf Schwerin von Krosigk

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Lutz Graf Schwerin von Krosigk
Ludwig Schwerin von Krosigk.jpg
1932 portrait by Robert Sennecke
Leading Minister of Germany
In office
2 May 1945 23 May 1945
President Karl Dönitz
Preceded by Joseph Goebbels
Succeeded by Konrad Adenauer
(1949; Chancellor of West Germany)
Otto Grotewohl
(1949; Prime Minister of East Germany)
Helmut Kohl
(1990; Chancellor of United Germany)
Reich Minister of Foreign Affairs
In office
5 May 1945 23 May 1945
President Karl Dönitz
Preceded by Arthur Seyss-Inquart
Succeeded byPosition abolished
Reich Minister of Finance
In office
1 June 1932 23 May 1945
Preceded by Hermann Dietrich
Succeeded byPosition abolished
Personal details
Johann Ludwig von Krosigk

22 August 1887
Rathmannsdorf, Duchy of Anhalt, German Empire
Died4 March 1977(1977-03-04) (aged 89)
Essen, North Rhine-Westphalia, West Germany
Political party Nazi (1944)
Alma mater University of Halle
University of Lausanne
Oriel College, Oxford

Johann Ludwig "Lutz" Graf [lower-alpha 1] Schwerin von [lower-alpha 2] Krosigk (Born Johann Ludwig von Krosigk; 22 August 1887 4 March 1977) was a German senior government official who served as Minister of Finance of Germany from 1932 to 1945 and de facto Chancellor of Germany in May 1945.

In law and government, de facto describes practices that exist in reality, even if not officially recognized by laws. It is commonly used to refer to what happens in practice, in contrast with de jure, which refers to things that happen according to law. Unofficial customs that are widely accepted are sometimes called de facto standards.

Chancellor of Germany Head of government of Germany

The title Chancellor has designated different offices in the history of Germany. It is currently used for the Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany, the head of government of Germany.


A non-partisan conservative, he was appointed to the post by Franz von Papen in 1932. At the request of President Paul von Hindenburg, he continued in that office under Kurt von Schleicher and Adolf Hitler. He and his ministry were involved in the persecution of German and European Jews, including by stealing their property, and laundering money. During May 1945, after the suicides of Hitler and his designated successor Joseph Goebbels, he also served as "Leading Minister" of the short-lived Flensburg government of President Karl Dönitz. Schwerin von Krosigk also held the essentially nominal offices of Foreign Minister and Finance Minister in the provisional government that controlled only a small, progressively shrinking portion of Germany, due to the rapid advance of the Allied forces who finally dissolved it and arrested its members.

Franz von Papen German chancellor

Franz Joseph Hermann Michael Maria von Papen, Erbsälzer zu Werl und Neuwerk generally known as Franz von Papen, was a German conservative politician, diplomat, nobleman and General Staff officer. He served as Chancellor of Germany in 1932 and as Vice-Chancellor under Adolf Hitler in 1933–34.

Paul von Hindenburg Prussian-German field marshal, statesman, and president of Germany

Paul Ludwig Hans Anton von Beneckendorff und von Hindenburg, known generally as Paul von Hindenburg, was a German Generalfeldmarschall and statesman who commanded the Imperial German Army during the second half of World War I before later being elected President of the Weimar Republic in 1925. He played a key role in the Nazi "Seizure of Power" in January 1933 when, under pressure from advisers, he appointed Adolf Hitler chancellor of a "Government of National Concentration", even though the Nazis were a minority in both the cabinet and the Reichstag.

Kurt von Schleicher German chancellor

Kurt Ferdinand Friedrich Hermann von Schleicher was a German general and the last Chancellor of Germany during the Weimar Republic. A rival for power with Adolf Hitler, Schleicher was murdered by Hitler's SS during the Night of the Long Knives in 1934.

Besides Adolf Hitler himself, Schwerin von Krosigk and Wilhelm Frick were the only members of the Third Reich's cabinet to serve continuously from Hitler's appointment as Chancellor until his death. By receiving the golden National Socialist German Workers' Party (NSDAP) Badge from Adolf Hitler, given for honour on 30 January 1937, he became a member of the NSDAP (membership number: 3,805,231). He also joined the Academy of German Law in 1937.

Adolf Hitler Leader of Germany from 1934 to 1945

Adolf Hitler was a German politician and leader of the Nazi Party. He rose to power as Chancellor of Germany in 1933 and later Führer in 1934. During his dictatorship from 1933 to 1945, he initiated World War II in Europe by invading Poland in September 1939. He was closely involved in military operations throughout the war and was central to the perpetration of the Holocaust.

Wilhelm Frick German Nazi official

Wilhelm Frick was a prominent German politician of the Nazi Party (NSDAP), who served as Reich Minister of the Interior in the Hitler Cabinet from 1933 to 1943 and as the last governor of the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia. After World War II, he was tried and convicted of war crimes at the Nuremberg Trials and executed by hanging.

Hitler Cabinet 1933–1945 cabinet of Germany

The Hitler Cabinetde jure formed the government of Nazi Germany between 30 January 1933 and 30 April 1945 upon the appointment of Adolf Hitler as Chancellor of the German Reich by president Paul von Hindenburg. Contrived by the national conservative politician Franz von Papen, who reserved the office of the Vice-Chancellor for himself. Originally, Hitler's first cabinet was called the Reich Cabinet of National Salvation, which was a coalition of the Nazi Party (NSDAP) and the national conservative German National People's Party (DNVP), it became an exclusively Nazi cabinet when the DNVP was intimidated into dissolving itself.

At the 1949 Ministries Trial, he was convicted of war crimes and sentenced to 10 years in jail; his sentence was commuted in 1951. He later worked as an author and publicist.

Ministries Trial trial

The Ministries Trial was the eleventh of the twelve trials for war crimes the U.S. authorities held in their occupation zone in Germany in Nuremberg after the end of World War II. These twelve trials were all held before U.S. military courts, not before the International Military Tribunal, but took place in the same rooms at the Palace of Justice. The twelve U.S. trials are collectively known as the "Subsequent Nuremberg Trials" or, more formally, as the "Trials of War Criminals before the Nuremberg Military Tribunals" (NMT).

Early life and education

Born as Johann Ludwig von Krosigk into a family of traditional Lutheran Protestants in Rathmannsdorf in the Duchy of Anhalt of the German Empire, his father Erich Adolf Wilhelm was a member of an old noble but untitled family of Anhalt and his mother Luise Rosalie Friederike Julie Emma Ludmilla was born a countess of the Schwerin family. (In 1925 he was adopted by Alfred Wilhelm Detlof Graf von Schwerin, and promoted himself to a count, taking the name Johann Ludwig Graf Schwerin von Krosigk). [1]

Staßfurt Place in Saxony-Anhalt, Germany

Staßfurt (Stassfurt) is a town in the Salzlandkreis district, in Saxony-Anhalt, Germany. It is situated on both sides of the river Bode, approximately 15 km (9.3 mi) northeast of Aschersleben, and 30 km (19 mi) south of Magdeburg. Pop. (2005) 23,538.

Duchy of Anhalt

The Duchy of Anhalt was a historical German duchy. The duchy was located between the Harz Mountains in the west and the river Elbe and beyond to the Fläming Heath in the east. The territory is now part of the federal state of Saxony-Anhalt.

German Empire empire in Central Europe between 1871–1918

The German Empire, also known as Imperial Germany, was the German nation state that existed from the unification of Germany in 1871 until the abdication of Kaiser Wilhelm II in 1918.

Krosigk studied law and political science at Halle and Lausanne and then, as a Rhodes Scholar, at Oriel College, Oxford.

University of Lausanne university located in Lausanne, Switzerland

The University of Lausanne in Lausanne, Switzerland was founded in 1537 as a school of theology, before being made a university in 1890. As of fall 2017, about 15,000 students and 3,300 employees study and work at the university. Approximately 1,500 international students attend the university, which has a wide curriculum including exchange programs with world-renowned universities.

Oriel College, Oxford A college of the University of Oxford

Oriel College is a constituent college of the University of Oxford in Oxford, England. Located in Oriel Square, the college has the distinction of being the oldest royal foundation in Oxford. In recognition of this royal connection, the college has also been known as King's College and King's Hall. The reigning monarch of the United Kingdom is the official Visitor of the College.

During World War I, Krosigk served in the German Army, attaining the rank of Lieutenant, and was awarded the Iron Cross. On 7 February 1918, during the war, he had married a baroness, Ehrengard Freiin von Plettenberg (1895–1979), with whom he had four sons and five daughters. In 1922, he became an Oberregierungsrat (senior government official) and in 1929, a ministerial director and head of the budget department at the finance ministry. In 1931, he joined the department of reparations payments, formed to deal with the reparations Germany still owed the Allied Powers after the Great War.

Nazi years

Pre-World War II

The first meeting of Hitler's cabinet in 1933, with Krosigk standing third from left. Bundesarchiv Bild 183-H28422, Reichskabinett Adolf Hitler.jpg
The first meeting of Hitler's cabinet in 1933, with Krosigk standing third from left.

In 1932 Franz von Papen appointed Krosigk as national Minister of Finance, and at the request of President Paul von Hindenburg he continued in that office under Kurt von Schleicher and throughout the period of national socialist rule. Several members of his family took part in assassination attempts against Adolf Hitler, but not Krosigk himself. He was rarely seen in public, and Hitler did not hold regular cabinet meetings. Following the final meeting of Hitler's cabinet in 1938 Krosigk did not make any public political statements and instead focused on running his ministry. [2]

Krosigk held his position under both Schleicher and Hitler as a representative of the conservative movement in Germany. While he later claimed to have remained in the role only to prevent "worse things" from happening, he welcomed the Nazi Party's rise to power and both agreed with and contributed to many of its policies. These included measures targeting Germany's Jewish community. While Krosigk's ability to shape Germany's fiscal policies was constrained by the influence of both the President of the Reichsbank and Hermann Göring (in his role as Plenipotentiary of the Four Year Plan), he was able to implement policies. [3] In August 1938 Krosigk sent Hitler a memorandum which strongly argued against starting a war over the Sudeten crisis as the German economy was not yet ready, and claimed that "Communists, Jews and Czechs" were seeking to lure the country into a premature conflict. He argued that Germany should instead "await her hour" and initiate war once it had completed building up its military and economy. [4]

World War II

Krosigk and Goebbels salute at the Reichstag Bundesarchiv Bild 101I-808-1236-08, Berlin, Reichstagssitzung, Goebbels, Ribbentrop.jpg
Krosigk and Goebbels salute at the Reichstag

From 1939, Krosigk's ministry was increasingly focused on persecuting Jews and stealing their belongings as well as illegally laundering money. [3]

In February 1945 von Krosigk stressed the importance of preserving Germany's remaining industrial capacities in a letter to Reich Minister for Weapons, Munitions, and Armaments Albert Speer. This was motivated by his mistaken belief that the Allied bombing campaign directed at Germany had the goal of destroying the country's industry so that it could not be captured by the Soviet Union, and that retaining industrial capacity would position Germany to re-establish friendly relations with the western Allies following the war. It is unclear whether this had any influence of Speer's actions to prevent the implementation of the "scorched earth" policy ordered by Hitler. [5]

In his final testament Hitler selected Krosigk to continue as finance minister after his death. [3] On 1 May 1945, after Goebbels's suicide, Reichspräsident Karl Dönitz asked Schwerin von Krosigk to become the Chancellor (Reichskanzler) of his new government. He declined but accepted the position of "Leading Minister" the following day. [6] In a broadcast to the German people on 2 May 1945, he became one of the first commentators to refer to an "Iron Curtain" across Europe, a phrase he had picked up from an article by Joseph Goebbels [7] and which was later made famous by Winston Churchill.

Rapidly advancing Allied forces limited the jurisdiction of the new German government to an area around Flensburg near the Danish border, where Dönitz's headquarters were located, along with Mürwik. Accordingly, this administration was referred to as the Flensburg government. Dönitz and Schwerin von Krosigk attempted to negotiate an armistice with the Western allies while continuing to resist the Soviet Army. On 7 May 1945, Dönitz authorised the signature of the German Instrument of Surrender to the Allies, which took place in Rheims before General Dwight D. Eisenhower; Dönitz would later authorise the Wehrmacht to sign another instrument of surrender in Berlin, in a ceremony presided over by the Soviets. On 23 May 1945, the Flensburg Government was dissolved by order of the Supreme Allied Commander and its members arrested as prisoners of war.

Krosigk was put on trial at Nuremberg, along with other leading members of the Nazi government. At the conclusion of the Ministries Trial in 1949 he was found guilty of laundering property stolen from Nazi victims and financing the concentration camps, and sentenced to ten years' imprisonment. [8] His sentence was reviewed by the "Peck Panel". He was released during an amnesty in 1951.

After World War II

Graf Schwerin von Krosigk on trial in Nurnberg Johann Ludwig Graf Schwerin von Krosigk.JPG
Graf Schwerin von Krosigk on trial in Nürnberg

In later years, Schwerin von Krosigk wrote several books on economic policy and two versions of his memoirs.

Schwerin von Krosigk died in 1977 in the city of Essen, North Rhine-Westphalia, West Germany, aged 89.

His elder daughter, Felicitas-Anita, Countess Schwerin von Krosigk, is the mother of Alternative for Germany Member of the European Parliament Beatrix von Storch.



  1. Regarding personal names: Until 1919, Graf was a title, translated as Count , not a first or middle name. The female form is Gräfin. In Germany since 1919, it forms part of family names.
  2. In German personal names, von is a preposition which approximately means of or from and usually denotes some sort of nobility. While von (always lower case) is part of the family name or territorial designation, not a first or middle name, if the noble is referred to by surname alone in English, use Schiller or Clausewitz or Goethe , not von Schiller, etc.

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  1. Lebendiges Museum Online , retrieved 1 January 2018
  2. "Johann Ludwig Graf Schwerin von Krosigk 1887-1977". Lebendiges Museum Online. Retrieved 15 April 2017.
  3. 1 2 3 Hürter, Johannes (2010). "S. von Krosigk (bis 1925 von Krosigk), Johann Ludwig (Lutz) Graf". Deutsche Biographie. Retrieved 15 April 2017.
  4. Tooze, Adam (2007). The Wages of Destruction : The Making and Breaking of the Nazi Economy. London: Penguin. pp. 272–273. ISBN   9780141003481.
  5. Kitchen 2015, p. 261.
  6. Hillmann, Jörg; Zimmermann, John (2014) [2002]. "Die »Reichsregierung« in Flensburg" [The "Government" in Flensburg]. Kriegsende 1945 in Deutschland (in German). Munich: Walter de Gruyter GmbH & Co KG. p. 47. ISBN   9783486833324.
  7. "Das Jahr 2000", Das Reich, 25 February 1945, pp. 1–2
  8. Maguire, Peter (2010). Law and War: International Law and American History (Rev. ed.). New York: Columbia University Press. pp. 156–157. ISBN   0231146477.


Political offices
Preceded by
Hermann R. Dietrich
Minister of Finance
Position abolished
Preceded by
Joseph Goebbels
Chancellor of Germany
Preceded by
Arthur Seyss-Inquart
Minister for Foreign Affairs