Ley, Robert, born 15-02-1890 in Niederbreidenbach, into a farming family. He took part in the First World War as an air force pilot. After his plane was shot down over France in 1917, Ley spent more than two years there as a prisoner of war. It has been suggested that he suffered a traumatic brain injury in the crash; for the rest of his life he spoke with a stammer and suffered bouts of erratic behavior, aggravated by heavy drinking. After the war, Ley worked as a chemist, but was dismissed because of his problem with alcohol abuse. Enraged by the French occupation of the Ruhr in 1924, Ley became an ultra-nationalist and joined the Nazi Party soon after reading Adolf Hitler’s speech at his trial following the Beer Hall Putsch in Munich. Ley proved unswerving loyal to Hitler, which led the party leader to ignore complaints about his arrogance, incompetence and drunkenness. Two years later was appointed to the position of Gauleiter for South Rheinland.
By 1932 Robert Ley had become a member of parliament in the Reich and had taken over from Gregor Strasser as leader of the Reich’s organisational body for the NSDAP, a very important position in the party’s hierarchy.. Having achieved national power in January 1933, Hitler and the NSDAP began eliminating all forms of opposition in Germany. In what became known as the Night of the Long Knives, the entire SA leadership was purged, which took place from 30 June to 2 July 1934. Hitler, along with other top Nazis such as Hermann Goering and Heinrich Himmler, targeted SA leader Ernst Röhm, SA Obergruppenführer Heines, Edmund Karl and other SA leaders who, along with a number of Hitler’s political adversaries, like former Reichskanzler Kurt von Schleicher, were rounded up, arrested, and shot by members of the Schutzstaffel (SS) and Gestapo. Among these was Strasser. Whether he was killed on Hitler’s personal orders, is not known
Ley was shot once in a main artery from behind in his cell, but did not die immediately. On the orders of SS General Reinhard Heydrich, Strasser was left to bleed to death, which took almost an hour. His brother Otto
had emigrated in 1933. Otto after the war returned to Germany and died 27-08-1974 in Munich, age 76, In 1933, after all German trade unions were dissolved, Robert Ley established the Deutsche Arbeitsfront (DAF; German Labor Front). As head of the DAF, whose membership totaled 25 million, Ley was known as the “undisputed dictator of labor” in Germany. Some of the world’s first purpose built cruise-liners, the Wilhelm Gustloff and the Robert Ley , were built to take KdF members on Mediterranean cruises. MV Wilhelm Gustloff became a German military transport ship which was sunk on 30-01-1945 by Soviet submarine S-13 under the command of Captain Alexander Ivanovich Marinesko in the Baltic Sea while evacuating German civilians, German officials, refugees from Prussia, Lithuania, Latvia, Netherland, Poland, Estonia and Croatia and military personnel from Gotenhafen (Gdynia) as the Red Army advanced. By one estimate, 9,400 people died, which makes it the largest loss of life in a single ship sinking in history. Marinesko died age 49 on 25-11-1963 and was posthumously awarded the title Hero of the Soviet Union in 1990
Once his power was established, Ley began to abuse it in a way that was conspicuous even by the standards of the Nazi regime. On top of his generous salaries as DAF head, Reichsorganisationsleiter, and Reichstag deputy, he pocketed the large profits of the Westdeutsche Beobachter, and freely embezzled DAF funds for his personal use. By 1938 he owned a luxurious estate near Cologne, a string of villas in other cities, a fleet of cars, a private railway carriage and a large art collection. He increasingly devoted his time to “womanising and heavy drinking, both of which often led to embarrassing scenes in public.”
He was aware in general terms of the Nazi regime’s programme of extermination of the Jews of Europe. Ley encouraged it through the virulent anti-Semitism of his publications and speeches. In February 1941 he was present at a meeting along with Speer, Martin Bormann and Field Marshal Wilhelm Keitel at which Hitler had set out his views on the “Jewish question” at some length, making it clear that he intended the “disappearance” of the Jews one way or another.
On 29-12-1942 his second wife Inge (1916–1942) shot herself after a drunken brawl on 29-12-1942.. Together they had 3 children: Lore , Gloria and Wolf., Lore born 25-10-1938, Wolf 14-05-1940 and Gloria 27-06-1941.
In the last weeks of 1942, Inga Ley left Berlin and returned to the province of Gut Rottland. Many Poles, Ukrainians and Russian prisoners of war were working on the farm, so handguns were used to protect Inga Ley and her staff so they could protect themselves against possible attacks. A few days before she died, Inga Ley explained the use of the weapon she later deposited in her bedroom. Their depressions were exacerbated by the dull winter time, in addition to Robert Ley, who was at Gut Rottland in December, was ordered at the turn of the year in the Führer headquarters Wolfsschanze. It was probably her husband’s upcoming departure and the loneliness that brought Inga Ley, here with Mrs Ribbentrop, to take the courage to live. The fact that Inga Ley was planning her death is evidenced by a farewell letter, which was later found and which could not have been written immediately before the shot due to the testimony witnessed. The letter begins with the words:
“For my Bobsy. Please forgive me, I can not anymore. ” Waiting for departure and after a brief conversation with her husband, she went to the bedroom on the first floor. When Ley was able to enter their bedroom, he found Inga Ley, who had committed suicide with a shot on her head.
Adolf Hitler was deeply moved when he learned of the death of Inga Ley, whom he so venerated. He wrote her mother a letter of condolence, which is very revealing and also gives a deep insight into Hitler’s state of mind. When he wrote the letter, Hitler found himself in Wolfsschanze, where it had been known since December 23 that the attempted escape of the army encircled at Stalingrad had failed shortly before the end. Ley’s subordinates took their lead from him, and the DAF became a notorious centre of corruption, all paid for with the compulsory dues paid by German workers. One historian says: “The DAF quickly began to gain a reputation as perhaps the most corrupt of all the major institutions of the Third Reich. For this, Ley himself had to shoulder a large part of the blame. Nevertheless, he was overshadowed on labor issues during the war by rivals like Albert Speer and Fritz Sauckel,
his codefendants in 1945. As Nazi Germany collapsed in early 1945, Ley was among the government figures who remained fanatically loyal to Hitler. He last saw Hitler on 20-04-1945, Hitler’s birthday, in the Führerbunker in central Berlin. The next day he left for southern Bavaria, in the expectation that Hitler would make his last stand in the “National Redoubt” in the alpine areas. When Hitler refused to leave Berlin, Ley was effectively unemployed. On 16 May Robert Ley was captured
by American paratroopers of the 101st Airborne Division under commander Maxwell Taylor, in a shoemaker’s house in the village of Schleching..Ley told them he was “Dr. Ernst Distelmeyer,” but he was identified by Franz Xaver Schwarz,
the treasurer of the Nazi Party, who regarded Ley as a drunken incompetent and a long-time enemy. Schwarz died in an Allied internment camp near Regensburg on 02-12-1947, age 72.
Death and burial ground of Ley, Robert.
Ley was indicated on counts one, three, and four (conspiracy, war crimes, and crimes against humanity). Ley was apparently indignant at being regarded as a war criminal, telling the American psychiatrist Douglas Kelly and psychologist Gustav Mark Gilbert who had seen and tested him in prison: “Stand us against a wall and shoot us, well and good, you are victors. But why should I be brought before a Tribunal like a c-c-c- … I can’t even get the word out! Obsessed with the idea of becoming a martyr, I am reconciled with God. I implore his mercy and his pity and I pray for it sincerely. Now comes sweet death, savior of all my suffering. To my Inge and to my Führer.”Since Conti’s death, precautions against suicide had been increased—at night the chairs were removed from the cells, and in daytime it was forbidden to place them against the wall. But, at quarter to eight on the night of October 25, Ley tore the edge off a GI towel, soaked it in toilet water, and tied it around the toilet pipe that ran up the wall. Ripping some pieces from his underwear, he stuffed them into his mouth. He then looped the towel around his neck, twisted himself several times so that it tightened and cut off the circulation, and, in the process of losing consciousness, collapsed onto the toilet.Through the opening in the door, only a prisoner’s legs were visible when he sat in the recessed toilet alcove. Each guard was responsible for four cells. At 8:10 PM, when the corporal of the guard came by to collect the prisoners’ eyeglasses, the sentinel had passed by Ley’s door on four leisurely rounds, during which Ley had apparently not moved. To the demand by the corporal for Ley’s glasses, there was no response. The corporal unlocked the door. Ley, his arms and head dangling limply, was suspended grotesquely by the towel. Though Dr. Ludwig Pfluecker administered a heart stimulant and attempted artificial respiration for twenty minutes, Ley could not be revived. After an autopsy was performed, his body, placed in a box lined with butcher paper, was taken that same night to the Nuremberg cemetery, where it was interred in an unmarked grave..
Psychiatrist Dr. Douglas M. Kelley also committed suicide in front of his wife and children on New Year’s Day 1958, age 45, by ingesting a capsule of potassium cyanide (as had Nazi leader Hermann Goering, whom Kelley had come to know during his psychiatric evaluation at Nuremberg). Gustave Mark Gilbert, here with Goering, von Ribbentrop and Rudolf Hess, died on 06-02-1977, age 58, in Manhasset, New York.
Another war criminal who committed suicide in Nuremberg was the Reichsgesundheitsführer (Health-Leader of the Third Reich) Dr. Leonardo Ambrosio Giorgio Conti The killing of a large number of Germans who were of “unsound mind” is attributed to his leadership. Over a year before the trial even began he hanged himself in his cell, on 06-10-1945, age 45. Both the men are buried on Südfriedhof in Nuremberg, Nürnberger Stadtkreis, -Bavaria (Bayern), Germany in an anonymous grave.