Ley, Robert, born 15-02-1890 in Niederbreidenbach, into a farming family. The seventh of 11 children of a farmer, Friedrich Ley, and his wife Emilie (born Wald). He studied chemistry at the universities of Jena, Bonn, and Münster. He volunteered for the army on the outbreak of World War I in 1914 and spent two years in the artillery before training as an aerial artillery spotter with Artillery Flier Detachment 202. In July 1917 his aircraft was shot down over France and he was taken 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 behaviour, aggravated by heavy drinking. Ley spent more than two years there as a prisoner of war. 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 unswervingly 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
. . He 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. 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. 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..
Death and burial ground of Ley, Robert.
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.
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, Ley committed suicide in his cell
at Nuremberg shortly before the trial began.
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 Ley strangled himself to death in his prison cell using a noose made by tearing a towel into strips, fastened to the toilet pipe in his cell on 25-10-1945, age 55. Both the men are buried on Südfriedhof in Nuremberg, Nürnberger Stadtkreis, Bavaria (Bayern), Germany in an anonymous grave.