Hanfstaengl, Ernst, nicknamed “Putzi”, born 02-02-1887 in Munich, the son of a wealthy German art publisher, Edgar Hanfstaengl,
, he died age 67 on 28-05-1910 and an American mother. He spent most of his early years in Germany and later moved to the United States. His mother was Katharine Wilhelmina Heine, daughter of William Heine, a cousin of American Civil War Union Army General John Sedgwick. He died age 50 on 09-05-1864. His godfather was Duke Ernst II of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha. He had an elder sister, Erna, two elder brothers Edgar and Egon, and a younger brother Erwine. He attended Harvard University and was a gifted pianist.
He composed several songs for Harvard’s football team. He graduated in 1909. He moved to New York and took over the management of the American branch of his father’s business, the Franz Hanfstaengl Fine Arts Publishing House. On frequent mornings he would practice on the piano at the New York Harvard Club, where he became acquainted with both Franklin and Theodor “Teddy” Roosevelt
and actor Charlie Chaplin.
Their only son, Egon Ludwig eventually enlisted in the US Army Air Corps. Egon, born in New York, died old age 85 on 21-03-2007 in the USA. A daughter, Herta Luise, died at the age of five on 28-07-1929
. Returning to Germany in 1922, Ernst was living in his native Bavaria when he first heard Hitler speak in a Munich beer hall. A fellow member of the Harvard Hasty Pudding club who worked at the U.S. Embassy, asked Hanfstaengl to assist a military attaché sent to observe the political scene in Munich. Just before returning to Berlin the American attaché, Captain Truman Smith
, suggested to Hanfstaengl to go to a Nazi rally as a favor and report his impressions of Adolf Hitler
(did you know
). Truman Smith on 20-11-1922 became the first American to interview Adolf Hitler. Smith remembered during the interview that each time he ask Hitler a question it was as if “he had press a gramophone switch which set off a full-length speech”. As a consequence the interview lasted hours and covered many topics. Alfred Rosenberg
, party ideologue, was also present at the interview. Smith was an imposing figure standing at 6’4 and was well versed in the German language and culture and died age 77, on 03-10-1970. Hanfstaengl was so fascinated by Hitler that he soon became one of his most intimate followers, although he did not formally join the Nazi Party until 1931. “What Hitler was able to do to a crowd in 2½ hours will never be repeated in 10.000 years,” Hanfstaengl said. “Because of his miraculous throat construction, he was able to create a rhapsody of hysteria. In time, he became the living unknown soldier of Germany.” Hanfstaengl introduced himself to Hitler after the speech and began a close friendship and political association that would last through the 1920s and early 1930s.
After participating in the failed Beer Hall Putsch in 1923, Hanfstaengl briefly fled to Austria, while the injured Hitler sought refuge in Hanfstaengl’s home in Uffing, outside of Munich. Hanfstaengl’s wife, Helene, allegedly dissuaded Hitler from committing suicide, when the police came to arrest him. For much of the 1920s, Hanfstaengl introduced Hitler to Munich high-society and helped polish his image. He also helped to finance the publication of Hitler’s Mein Kampf, and the NSDAP’s official newspaper, the Völkischer Beobachter. Hitler was the godfather of Hanfstaengl’s son Egon. Hanfstaengl wrote both Brownshirt and Hitler Youth marches patterned after his Harvard football songs and, he later claimed, devised the chant “Sieg Heil”. Included among. Fluent in English, with many connections to higher society both in England and the United States, he became head of the Foreign Press Bureau in Berlin. Aside from this official position, much of his influence was due to his friendship with Hitler, who enjoyed listening to “Putzi” play the piano. Hanfstaengl later claimed to have alerted Hitler and Hermann Goering
(did you know
) about the Reichstag fire.
(see Marinus v d Lubbe
). Hanfstaengl’s presence at his 25th
Harvard reunion in 1934 created a furor. He was originally named a vice marshal of his class but he resigned it following complaints from Jewish alumni and anti-Nazi student groups. His arrival in New York was met by 1,500 protesters and two students were arrested at Harvard Commencement after chaining themselves to benches and disrupting the commencement address with shouts of “Down with Hanfstaengl” and “Down with Hitler.” As the NSDAP consolidated its power, several disputes arose between Hanfstaengl and Germany’s Propaganda Minister, Josef Goebbels
. Hanfstaengl was removed from Hitler’s staff in 1933. He and Helene divorced in 1936. Hanfstaengl fell completely out of Hitler’s favour after he was denounced by Unity Mitford
a close friend of both the Hanfstaengls and Hitler. Putzi Hanfsteangl, whose relationship with Hitler had grown strained, was rumored to have been o Hitler’s list of targets, like Ernst Röhm
, of the Night of the Long Knives in June 1934. Providently, he was in America to take part in the twenty-fifth reunion of his class at Harvard.
The invitation to attend had caused an outcry in America, and until the last moment Hanfsteangl had offered no indication as the whether he actually would attend. On the night of June 10 1934, he threw a dinner party, whose timing in retrospect seemed all too convenient given that surely he knew the purge was coming. In midmeal, he stepped from the dining room, disguised himself in a raincoat and sunglasses and left. He took a night train to Cologne, where he climbed into a mail plane that took him directly to Cherbourg, France and there he boarded his ship, the Europe, bound for New York. Next day Ernst Röhm was shot in his prison cell by Theodore Eicke
. In 1937, Hanfstaengl received orders to parachute into an area held by the Communist side of the Spanish Civil War, to assist in negotiations. While on board the plane he feared a plot on his life and learned more details from the pilot about the mission, who eventually admitted he had been ordered to drop Hanfstaengl over loyalist-held territory, which would have meant almost certain death. Hanfstaengl convinced the pilot to let him escape. This version of the story was related by Albert Speer
in his memoirs, who stated that the “mission” to Spain was an elaborate practical joke, concocted by Hitler and Goebbels, designed to punish Hanfstaengl after he’d displeased the Führer by making “adverse comments about the fighting spirit of the German soldiers in combat” in the Spanish Civil War. Hanfstaengl was issued sealed orders from Hitler which were not to be opened until his plane was in flight. These orders detailed that he was to be dropped in “Red Spanish territory” to work as an agent for Bahamond Franco
. The plane, according to Speer, was merely circling over Germany containing an increasingly disconcerted Hanfstaengl, with false location reports being given to convey the impression that the plane was drawing ever closer to Spain. After the joke had played itself out, the pilot declared he had to make an emergency landing and landed safely at Leipzig Airport. Hanfstaengl was so alarmed by the event that he defected soon afterward. In a late 1960s interview at his home in Schwabing, Munich, Hanfstaengl said he was convinced he was to be tossed out of the plane sans parachute over northern Germany. He made his way to Switzerland and after securing his son Egon’s release from Germany, he moved to England where he was imprisoned as an enemy alien after the outbreak of World War II. He was later moved to a prison camp in Canada. In 1942, Hanfstaengl was turned over to the U.S. and worked for President Roosevelt’s ” S-Project”, revealing information on approximately 400 Nazi leaders. He provided 68 pages of information on Hitler alone, including personal details of Hitler’s private life. In 1974, Hanfstaengl attended his 65th
where he regaled the Harvard University Band about the authors of various Harvard fight songs. His relationship to Hitler went now in 1974 unmentioned.
Death and burial ground of Hanfstaengl, Ernst Franz Sedgwick “Putzi”.
who died old age 95, on 06-05-1981, in a family grave on the Cemetery Bogenhausen, Munich, Bogenhauser Kirchplatz 1 Helene Hanfstaengl recorded her first impression of Hitler:
He was at the time a slim, shy, young man, with a far-away look in his very blue eyes. He was dressed almost shabbily-a cheap white shirt, black tie, a worn dark blue suit, with which he wore an incongruous dark brown leather vest, a beige-colored trench coat, much the worse for wear, cheap black shoes, and a soft, old, greyish hat. His appearance was quite pathetic.
Cemetery and grave location of Hanfstaengl, Ernst Franz Sedgwick “Putzi”.