Neurath, Konstantin Freiherr von
- (1873-1956)diplomat; Foreign Minister in Franz von Papen's* "cabinet of barons." He was born near Stuttgart on the estate of Klein Glattbach; his father was court chamberlain to Wurttemberg's King Wilhelm II. He began legal studies in 1892, passed state examinations in 1901, and began a long diplomatic career. Posted to London in 1903, he was reassigned to the Foreign Office in 1908. He was then transferred in 1914 from the consular to the diplomatic corps and had just been assigned to Constantinople when war erupted. Although Neurath opted to join the army and was awarded the Iron Cross (First Class), the Foreign Office requested his discharge in March 1915. He was reassigned to Constantinople, where his quar-rels with the German Ambassador led him to resign in August 1916. He soon left the diplomatic corps to become chief of Wurttemberg's civilian cabinet in January 1917, a post he retained until the end of the war. After he assisted with the abdication of Wurttemberg's king, he returned to the foreign service and became chief consul at Copenhagen in February 1919. He was soon named Ambassador and was transferred in 1921 to Rome, a post he retained for nine years. Although he was never enthusiastic about either Mussolini or the Italians ("the Italian is and remains an opportunist in politics ), he came to appreciate the need for strong leadership while in Rome. Increasingly at odds with Gustav Stresemann,* he detested the Foreign Minister s political machinations and was antagonistic to the League of Nations. In 1930 he became Ambassador to Lon-don. Counter to his appeal, he was recalled to Berlin in May 1932 to become Papen's Foreign Minister, an office he retained under both Kurt von Schleicher* and, until February 1938, Hitler.*Although evidence suggests that Neurath was an opportunist (notwithstanding his Italian critique), this should be weighed against his aversion to the Republic. A monarchist who championed revision of the Versailles Treaty,* he never warmed to politics—politics and professionalism were, he believed, antitheti-cal—and he hated parliamentary government. He was, indeed, ideally suited to the Presidential Cabinet* founded by Heinrich Brüning* and retained under Papen and Schleicher. Enjoying the favor of Hindenburg,* he deemed himself solely responsible to the President. He was a proponent of rearmament and nurtured a "great respect for power and a "distrust of international organi-zations." During 1932 he promoted the restoration of military attaches to German diplomatic missions, a step disallowed by Versailles. In the same year, when a modus vivendi was sought with Poland,* he resisted it for fear that it might prejudice a later restoration of territory lost to Poland.Although Hitler despised aristocrats and career bureaucrats, he retained Neu-rath because he had Hindenburg s personal blessing. After the President s death, Neuraths influence steadily declined. Although he left the Foreign Office in 1938, he was appointed Protector of Bohemia and Moravia (1939-1941) when these Czechoslovak provinces were taken by Germany. Convicted at Nuremberg of crimes against humanity and promoting aggressive war, he was sentenced to fifteen years' imprisonment; ill health brought his release in 1954.REFERENCES:Bennett, German Rearmament; Heineman, Hitler's First Foreign Minis-ter; Neave, On Trial at Nuremberg; Gerhard Weinberg, Foreign Policy.
A Historical dictionary of Germany's Weimar Republic, 1918-1933. C. Paul Vincent.
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