Schleicher, Kurt von

(1882-1934)
   career officer and politician; the Republic's last Chancellor. Born in Brandenburg to an unassuming military family, he profited from assignment to the Kaiser's Third Foot Guards before win-ning a place at the War Academy. He graduated in 1913 and was assigned at the outbreak of war to Wilhelm Groener* of the General Staff. During the Armistice* he was liaison officer to the Council of People's Representatives.* He assisted with formation of the Freikorps* and was chief of the Defense Ministry's political department from 1919 until 1926. His refusal to support the 1920 Kapp* Putsch brought promotion to lieutenant-colonel, after which he helped draft the 1921 Defense Law. General Hans von Seeckt,* who had a distaste for politicians, delegated most of the army's political dealings to Schlei-cher. In this role he advanced the military's links with the Soviet Union.* Witty in conversation and adept at coaxing votes from both the DNVP and the KPD, he thrived in his political role. In 1926 he was appointed Chief of the Defense Ministry's Armed Forces Department (Wehrmacht Abteilung); a new section, independent of the army, the Wehrmacht Abteilung was gradually recast as Schleicher's political bureau.
   In the wake of a press campaign directed against Seeckt for authorizing the son of Prince Wilhelm of Prussia* to attend military maneuvers, Schleicher probably used his access to Defense Minister Otto Gessler* and President Hin-denburg* to secure Seeckt's 1926 dismissal as Chief of the Heeresleitung. Thereafter his influence on Reichswehr* policy was greater than that of any general. Schleicher persuaded Hindenburg to make Groener Defense Minister in January 1928 and was in turn appointed chief of the Ministry office. He re-mained thereafter at the heart of national policy making.
   Although Schleicher was unscrupulous, he was always more inclined to work with the Republic than were fellow officers; indeed, he never envisioned a return of the Kaiser and was repelled by the reactionary radicalism of Alfred Hugen-berg* and the DNVP. Whatever his character faults or his part in the intrigues that helped destroy the regime (he exploited Hindenburg's deteriorating trust in Heinrich Brüning* and Groener to achieve their dismissals in the spring of 1932), few doubt his resolve to avert outright totalitarianism. Retiring from the army in May 1932 as a lieutenant-general to become Defense Minister, he was initially prepared to accommodate both the trade unions* and the SPD govern-ment in Prussia. Inclined to judge the NSDAP by Gregor Strasser,* he vastly overrated his ability to tame and work with Hitler.* Yet in July 1932 he endorsed Franz von Papen's* coup against the SPD government in Prussia, erroneously believing that it would mollify the NSDAP. When he succeeded Papen as Chan-cellor on 3 December 1932, the Center Party*—for whom Papen was a rene-gade—judged him a distinct improvement. But Schleicher never managed to establish a coherent policy and the progressivism that attracted the Center un-nerved others and was used by conservative opponents, chief of whom was Papen, to persuade Hindenburg to dismiss him. On 28 January 1933 he was abruptly fired after Papen convinced the President that Schleicher was conspiring against him.
   Schleicher became one of Hitler's most prominent opponents in 1933. Late that year he and General Kurt von Bredow began preparing a legal case against the Nazi leader for high treason, corruption, deception of the President, and responsibility for the Reichstag fire. Using the Rohm* purge as cover, Hitler had both men executed on 30 June 1934.
   REFERENCES:Bennett, German Rearmament; Breitman, "On German Social Democ-racy"; Carsten, Reichswehr and Politics; Craig, Politics of the Prussian Army; Harold Gordon, Reichswehr; Hayes, " 'Question Mark with Epaulettes'?"

A Historical dictionary of Germany's Weimar Republic, 1918-1933. .

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