Brockdorff-Rantzau, Ulrich Graf von

(1869-1928)
   diplomat; the Republic's first Ambassador to the Soviet Union.* Born of Danish ancestry in Schleswig, he took a doctorate in law at Leipzig in 1891. Too young to join the foreign service, he served three years as a junior officer in the Foot Guards and then was appointed attache in 1894 at the Foreign Office. Following three years (1897-1901) as legation secretary in Russia, he served in Vienna until 1908 and then was transferred to Budapest. Finally, in May 1912 he be-came Ambassador to Copenhagen; an opponent of Prussia's* Danish policy, he stabilized a German-Danish relationship strained since the 1860s.
   At the invitation of Friedrich Ebert* and Philipp Scheidemann,* Rantzau be-came Secretary of Foreign Affairs in January 1919, advancing to Foreign Min-ister in February. Although he was an aristocrat by tradition and bearing, he espoused democracy and joined the new DDP. He also nurtured a belief that peace was attainable through (a) securing internal stability against leftist revo-lution; (b) confirming national self-determination a la Woodrow Wilson; (c) uniting Germany with German Austria; and (d) joining the League of Nations. He was, accordingly, horrified when, upon leading Germany's peace delegation to France in May 1919, he encountered a settlement that violated Wilsonian principles. Viewing the Versailles Treaty* as a Diktat (dictated peace), he re-fused to sign it and resigned with most of Scheidemann's cabinet. Although he advised signing the same Diktat when Germany was faced with invasion and dismemberment, he always viewed Versailles as a personal affront. For three years he campaigned as a private citizen for treaty revision. In a memo of 15 July 1922 Rantzau warned Ebert of the dangers inherent in Walther Rathenau's* Rapallo Treaty,* claiming that the West would view Ra-pallo as a military threat. Yet soon after his October 1922 appointment as Am-bassador to Moscow, he not only embraced Rapallo but, irritated by the Ruhr occupation,* pursued even tighter relations with the Soviets. Seeking to readjust the frontiers of both powers at Poland's* expense, he increasingly disparaged the West; indeed, sustaining Soviet hostility to the Locarno Treaties,* he openly criticized the agreements. In April 1926 he helped bring some balance to German foreign policy by persuading the Soviets to sign a friendship and neu-trality agreement (the Berlin Treaty). Esteemed by the Soviets, Rantzau became friends with Georgii Chicherin, the Foreign Commissar. He retained his post until August 1928, when he died while on leave in Berlin.
   REFERENCES:Bonn, Wandering Scholar; Hilger and Meyer, Incompatible Allies; Hol-born, "Diplomats and Diplomacy"; NDB, vol. 2; Post, Civil-Military Fabric.

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

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