Kurt von Schleicher

/ en.wikipedia.org

/ en.wikipedia.org

He was the last Chancellor of the Weimar Republic (q.v.), and a high-ranking general in the German army. Even while he was a young officer this Junker was reading works by Machiavelli and becoming the most ardent intriguer, having great influence over President Hindenburg from 1930 to 1933, having the enviable position of liaison officer between the government and the army.

It was Schleicher who recommended Heinrich Brüning as Chancellor in 1930, though he turned his back on him when he failed to produce stable government. In fact he engineered Brüning’s dismissal in 1932. Though he had little support in the Reichstag administration, von Papen, a friend, became Chancellor instead. But then in the July elections of 1932 the National Socialists emerged as the largest party, with 230 seats.

Vons Papen and Schleicher offered Adolf Hitler a post in the Cabinet but he was after bigger stuff. In fact he wanted to be Chancellor himself, with the power to rule by Decree. Both aristocrats were against this drastic idea, but then Papen asked President Hindenburg to declare martial law. It was a parting of the ways, because S. instantly informed the President that the army could not possibly approve of a policy that would lead to civil war.

After this truly Machiavellian move S. replaced Papen as Chancellor and attempted to get support from the Social Democratic Party by a well-thought out programme of social reforms, including increases in wages, resettlement of the unemployed or help for Junker estates bankrupted by the First War.

Not content with this S. intrigued with the more communist elements in the Nazi left. It did not work, for the lefties knew that S. had brought about the fall of Brüning, a favourite of theirs.

He could not achieve a majority in the Reichstag, so he proposed to dissolve it, banning Nazis and Communists. His erstwhile friend von Papen decided it was time for a little plotting from him; he persuaded Hindenburg that Hitler was a man of compromise and that if he were to become Chancellor it would prove valuable for Germany. Hindenburg was by this time very old and tired, and he agreed. He greatly reduced S.’s powers, and as a result the latter resigned in January 1933 to be almost instantly replaced as Chancellor by Hitler.

Von Schleicher was now regarded by Hitler and the Nazi Party as their most dangerous enemy, and they took advantage of the ‘Night of the Long Knives’ (30 June, 1934 q.v.) to murder him. He was fifty-one years old.

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