Born: 2 February 1873 in Kleinglattbach German Empire.
Died: 14 August 1956 in Enzweihingen, West Germany.
Reich Minister of Foreign Affairs 1 June 1932 to 4 February 1938
Weimar Republic 1 June 1932 to 4 February 1938
Nazi Germany 1 June 1932 to 4 February 1938
Protector of Bohemia and Moravia 21 March 1939 to 24 August 1943.
Konstantin Freiherr von Neurath was born on 2 February 1873 in Kleinglattbach German Empire and became a German diplomat remembered mostly for having served as Foreign minister of Germany between 1932 and 1938. Holding this post in the early years of Adolf Hitler's regime, Konstantin von Neurath was regarded as playing a key role in the foreign policy pursuits of the Nazi dictator in undermining the Treaty of Versailles and territorial expansion in the prelude to World War II, although he was often averse tactically if not necessarily ideologically. This aversion would result in Adolf Hitler replacing Konstantin von Neurath with the more compliant and fervent Nazi Joachim von Ribbentrop.
Konstantin von Neurath served as Reichsprotektor of Bohemia and Moravia between 1939 and 1943, but after being sidelined for SS-Obergruppenführer Reinhard Heydrich his authority became nominal. He was tried as war criminal in Nuremberg and sentenced to fifteen years imprisonment for his compliance and actions in the Nazi regime.
Konstantin von Neurath was born at the manor of Kleinglattbach since 1972 part of Vaihingen an der Enz in Württemberg, the scion of a Swabian dynasty of Freiherren. His grandfather Constantin Franz von Konstantin von Neurath had served as Foreign Minister under King Charles I of Württemberg reigned 1864 to 1891 his father Konstantin Sebastian von Konstantin von Neurath 1912 had been a Free Conservative member of the German Reichstag parliament and Chamberlain of King William II of Württemberg.
He studied law in Tübingen and in Berlin. After graduating in 1897 he initially joined a local law firm in his home town. In 1901 he entered into civil service and worked for the Foreign Office in Berlin. In 1903 he was assigned to the German embassy in London, at first as vice consul and from 1909 as Legationsrat legation counsel. Following the visit of the Prince of Wales to the Kingdom Württemberg in 1904, as Lord Chamberlain to King William II, he was created an Honorary Knight Grand Cross of the Royal Victorian Order. Konstantin von Neurath's career was decisively advanced by Secretary of State Alfred von Kiderlen-Waechter. In 1914 he was sent to the embassy in Constantinople
On 30 May 1901 Konstantin von Neurath married Marie Auguste Moser von Filseck 1875 to 1960 in Stuttgart. His son Konstantin was born in 1902, followed by his daughter Winifred in 1904.
During World War I he served as an officer with an infantry regiment until 1916 when he was badly wounded. In December 1914 he was awarded the Iron Cross. He returned to the German diplomatic service in the Ottoman Empire 1914 to 1916, where he witnessed the Armenian Genocide. In 1917 he temporarily quit the diplomatic service to succeed his uncle Julius von Soden as head of the royal Württemberg government.
In 1919 Konstantin von Neurath with approval by President Friedrich Ebert returned to diplomacy, joining the embassy in Copenhagen as Minister to Denmark. From 1921 until 1930 he was the ambassador to Rome he was not overly impressed with Italian Fascism. After the death of Gustav Stresemann in 1929, he was already considered for the post of Foreign Minister in the cabinet of Chancellor Hermann Müller by President Paul von Hindenburg, but his appointment failed due to the objections raised by the governing parties. In 1930 he returned to head the embassy in London.
Konstantin von Neurath was recalled to Germany in 1932 and became Minister of Foreign Affairs in the Cabinet of Barons under Chancellor Franz von Papen in June. He continued to hold that position under Chancellor Kurt von Schleicher and then under Adolf Hitler from the Machtergreifung on 30 January 1933. During the early days of Adolf Hitler's rule, Konstantin von Neurath lent an aura of respectability to Adolf Hitler's expansionist foreign policy.
In May 1933, the American chargé d'affaires reported that Baron von Konstantin von Neurath has shown such a remarkable capacity for submitting to what in normal times could only be considered as affronts and indignities on the part of the Nazis, that it is still quite a possibility that the latter should be content to have him remain as a figurehead for some time yet. He was involved in the German withdrawal from the League of Nations in 1933, the negotiations of the Anglo German Naval Accord 1935 and the remilitarisation of the Rhineland. In 1937, Konstantin von Neurath became a member of the National Socialist Party. He was awarded the Golden Party Badge and was given the honorary rank of a Gruppenführer in the SS.
Nevertheless on 4 February 1938, Konstantin von Neurath was sacked as Foreign Minister in the course of the Blomberg-Fritsch Affair. He felt his office was marginalised and was not in favour of Hitler's aggressive war plans, which were detailed in the Hossbach Memorandum of 5 November 1937. He was succeeded by Joachim von Ribbentrop, but remained in government as a minister without portfolio. He was also named as president of the Secret Cabinet Council, a purported super-cabinet to advise Adolf Hitler's on foreign affairs. However, this body only existed on paper.
In March 1939, Konstantin von Neurath was appointed Reichsprotektor of occupied Bohemia and Moravia, serving as Adolf Hitler's personal representative in the protectorate. Adolf Hitler's chose Konstantin von Neurath in part to pacify the international outrage over the German occupation of Czechoslovakia. Soon after his arrival at Prague Castle, Konstantin von Neurath instituted harsh press censorship and banned political parties and trade unions. He ordered a harsh crackdown on protesting students in October and November 1939 1200 student protesters went to concentration camps and nine were executed. He also supervised the persecution of Jews according to the Nuremberg Laws. Draconian as these measures were, Adolf Hitler felt his rule was too lenient, and in September 1941 he was relieved of his day-to-day powers and replaced by Reinhard Heydrich and Kurt Daluege. Konstantin von Neurath already attempted to resign in 1941 but his resignation was not accepted until August 1943, when he was succeeded by the former Minister of the Interior Wilhelm Frick. In June of that year he had been raised to the rank of an SS-Obergruppenführer.
Late in the war, Konstantin von Neurath had contacts with the German resistance
Konstantin von Neurath was tried at the Nuremberg Trials in 1946, where he was defended by Otto von Lüdinghausen. The Allies accused him of conspiracy to commit crimes against peace planning, initiating and waging wars of aggression war crimes and crimes against humanity. Konstantin von Neurath's chief defence strategy was predicated on the fact that his successor and fellow defendant Joachim von Ribbentrop was more culpable for the atrocities committed in the Nazi state. The International Military Tribunal acknowledged the fact that von Konstantin von Neurath's crimes against humanity were mostly conducted during his short tenure as actual Protector of Bohemia and Moravia, especially in quelling Czech resistance and the summary execution of several university students. The tribunal came to the consensus that Konstantin von Neurath, though a willing and active participant in war crimes, held no such prominent position during the height of the Third Reich's tyranny and was therefore only a minor adherent to the atrocities committed. He was found guilty by the Allied powers on all four counts and was sentenced to fifteen years imprisonment.
Konstantin von Neurath was held as a war criminal in Spandau Prison until November 1954, when he was released in the wake of the Paris Conference, officially due to his ill health, having suffered a heart attack. He retired to his family's estates in Enzweihingen, where he died two years later, aged 83.
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