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Baldur von Schirach
Flag of the Hitlerjugend Reichsjugendführer

In office
Appointed by Adolf Hitler
Preceded by Post created
Succeeded by Artur Axmann
Gauleiter of Vienna

In office
August 1940 – May 1945
Appointed by Adolf Hitler
Preceded by Josef Bürckel
Succeeded by None
Personal details
Born Baldur Benedikt von Schirach
9 May 1907 (1907-05-09)
Berlin, Kingdom of Prussia, German Empire
Died 8 August 1974 (1974-08-09) (aged 67)
Kröv, Rhineland-Palatinate, Federal Republic of Germany
Political party National Socialist German Workers' Party (NSDAP)
Spouse(s) Henriette von Schirach
(née Hoffmann; married 1932)
Children 4
Military service
Awards Hitler Youth Golden Honour Badge with Diamonds and Rubies

Baldur Benedikt von Schirach (9 May 1907 – 8 August 1974) was a Nazi youth leader later convicted of crimes against humanity. He was the head of the Hitler-Jugend (HJ, the "Hitler Youth") and later Gauleiter and Reichsstatthalter ("Reich Governor") of Vienna.

Early life

Schirach was born in Berlin, the youngest of four children of theatre director Rittmeister Carl Baily Norris von Schirach (1873–1948) and his American wife Emma Middleton Lynah Tillou (1872–1944). A member of the noble Wendish-origined (West Slavic) Schirach family, he was three quarter American of mainly Philadelphia descent.[1] Through his mother, Schirach descended from two signatories of the United States Declaration of Independence.[2] English was the first language he learned at home and he was not able to speak German until the age of five. He had two sisters, Viktoria and Rosalind von Schirach, and a brother, Karl Benedict von Schirach, who committed suicide in 1919 at the age of 19.

On 31 March 1932 von Schirach married 19-year-old Henriette Hoffmann, the daughter of Heinrich Hoffmann, Adolf Hitler's personal photographer and close friend. Von Schirach's family was vehemently opposed to the marriage to Henriette, but Hitler insisted.[3] Gregor Strasser dismissively described Von Schirach as "a young effeminate aristocrat" upon whom Hitler bestowed both Henriette and the Hitler Youth position. Through this relationship, von Schirach became part of Hitler's inner circle. The young couple were appreciated guests at Hitler's "Berghof". Henriette von Schirach gave birth to four children: Angelika Benedikta von Schirach (born 1933), Klaus von Schirach (born 1935), Robert von Schirach (1938) and Richard von Schirach (born 1942). The lawyer and bestselling German crime writer Ferdinand von Schirach is his grandson.[4]

He was a published author, contributing to literature journals, and an influential patron of the arts.[5]

Military career

Schirach joined a Wehrjugendgruppe (military cadet group) at the age of 10 and became a member of the Nazi Party (NSDAP) in 1925. He was soon transferred to Munich and in 1929 became leader of the Nationalsozialistischen Deutschen Studentenbund (NSDStB, National Socialist German Students' League). He was named Reichsjugendführer (Youth Leader) of the NSDAP in 1931, and in 1933 he was made head of the Hitler Youth (Hitler-Jugend) and given an SA rank of Gruppenführer. He appeared frequently at rallies, such as the Nuremberg rally of 1934, when he appeared with Hitler in rousing the Hitler-Jugend audience. It was filmed for Triumph of the Will the propaganda film made by Leni Riefenstahl for the Nazi Party. He set the militaristic tone for the youth organisation, and they participated in military style exercises, as well as practising use of military equipment, such as rifles. When older, they would become Wehrmacht soldiers, but in the final years of the Second World War, they were recruited as youths of as young as 12 to fight in depeleted army units. An entire division, the 12th SS Panzer Division Hitlerjugend, was recruited almost entirely from the Hitler Jugend. It fought in Normandy in 1944, and committed several war crimes.

Hitler Jugend at rifle practice, 1933

He was made a state secretary in 1936.

Hitler meeting Phillip Bouhler with Schirach at extreme left, Munich 1938

In 1940 he organised the evacuation of 5 million children from cities threatened by Allied bombing. Later that year, he joined the army and volunteered for service in France, where he was awarded the Iron Cross before being recalled. He served with the 4th (Machine Gun) Company of Infantry Regiment Grossdeutschland in the rank of Gefreiter.[6] Schirach lost control of the Hitler Youth to Artur Axmann, and was appointed Governor (Gauleiter or Reichsstatthalter) of the Reichsgau Vienna,[7] a post in which he remained until the end of the war. He was an anti-Semite and an anti-Christian.[8] Over the next few years Schirach was responsible for sending Jews from Vienna to German death camps. During his tenure 65,000 Jews were deported from Vienna to Poland, and in a speech on 15 September 1942 he mentioned their deportation as a "contribution to European culture."[7] Later during the war von Schirach pleaded for a moderate treatment of the eastern European peoples and criticised the conditions in which Jews were being deported. He fell into disfavour in 1943, but remained at his post.[9]

Schirach was notoriously anxious about air raids. He had the cellars of the Hofburg Palace in the Vienna city centre refurbished and adapted as a bomb shelter, and the lower level of the extensive subterranean Vienna air defence coordination centre in the forests to the west of Vienna held personal facilities for him, as well. The Viennese promptly dubbed this C&C centre Schirach-Bunker.

Baldur von Schirach with Hitler and Goering at the Obersalzberg

Baldur von Schirach at the Nuremberg Trials (in second row, second from right)

Trial and conviction

Schirach surrendered in 1945 and was one of the officials put on trial at Nuremberg. At the trial Schirach was one of only two men to denounce Hitler (the other was Albert Speer). He said that he did not know about the extermination camps. He provided evidence that he had protested to Martin Bormann about the inhumane treatment of the Jews. Schirach claimed at the trials that the roots of his anti-semitism could be found in the readings of Henry Ford's The International Jew. He was originally indicted for crimes against peace for his role in building up the Hitler Youth, but was acquitted on that charge. However, he was found guilty on 1 October 1946 of crimes against humanity for his role in the deportation of the Viennese Jews to certain death in Poland. He was sentenced and served 20 years as a prisoner in Spandau Prison, Berlin.

On 20 July 1949 his wife Henriette von Schirach (3 February 1913 – 27 January 1992) divorced him while he was in prison.

Lothar Machtan's book The Hidden Hitler asserts that von Schirach was bisexual.[10] Walter C. Langer's wartime psychiatric report on Nazi leaders, later published as The Mind of Adolf Hitler, portrays Baldur von Schirach as a homosexual.[11]

He was released on 30 September 1966, and retired quietly to southern Germany. He published his memoirs, Ich glaubte an Hitler ("I believed in Hitler") and died on 8 August 1974 in Kröv.


Baldur von Schirach has been portrayed in film, television and theatre productions, firstly as himself in Leni Riefenstahl's film Triumph of the Will (1935).

  • Douglas O'Keeffe in the 2000 Canadian/U.S. T.V. production Nuremberg[12]
  • Markus Boysen in the 2005 German docudrama series Speer und Er, (Speer and Hitler: The Devil's Architect) (2005)
  • Timothy Walker in the 2006 British television docudrama Nuremberg: Nazis on Trial[13]

See also


  1. Michael H. Kater, Hitler Youth, Harvard University Press, 2009, p. 17, ISBN 0674039351
  2. Arthur Middleton and Thomas Heyward, Jr.
  3. The Mind of Adolf Hitler, Walter Charles Langer, New York 1972, pp. 99–100
  4. Ferdinand von Schirach (September 23, 2011). "A Third Reich Past: Why I Cannot Answer Questions about My Grandfather". Spiegel Online.,1518,druck-784373,00.html. 
  5. Gerwin Strobl (2007). The swastika and the stage: German theatre and society, 1933–1945. Cambridge University Press. pp. 9–. ISBN 978-0-521-88076-3. Retrieved 20 September 2010. 
  6. Spaeter, Helmuth "The History of Panzerkorps Grossdeutschland" p.70 (English edition)
  7. 7.0 7.1 Robert S. Wistrich (7 November 2001). Who's who in Nazi Germany. Psychology Press. p. 122. ISBN 978-0-415-26038-1. Retrieved 20 September 2010. 
  8. Everette Lemons (4 January 2005). The Third Reich, A Revolution Of Ideological Inhumanity: The Power Of Perception. pp. 240–. ISBN 978-1-4116-1932-6. Retrieved 20 September 2010. 
  9. Baldur von Schirach
  10. Lothar Machtan, The Hidden Hitler, p. 229
  11. The Mind of Adolf Hitler, Walter Charles Langer, New York 1972, p. 99
  12. Nuremberg (2000) (TV) at the Internet Movie Database
  13. Nuremberg: Nazis on Trial (2006) (TV) at the Internet Movie Database

External links

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