Meissner, Otto, born 13-03-1880 in Bischwiller, a son of postal worker Gustav Meissner and Magdalena, born Hetzel. His mother was from Alsace and taught Meissner to speak French and Elsässerditsch quite well. He was also fluent in Latin and Russian. He spent his childhood in Strasbourg.
From 1898 to 1903 he studied law at the University of Strasbourg and obtained his doctorate in law. There he became friends with the lawyer Heinrich Doehle, who would be his closest collaborator from 1920 to 1945. In 1903-1904 he did voluntary military service.In 1906 he became an official in the legal services of Alsace-Lorraine. He married Hildegard Roos in 1908 and they had a son, Hans-Otto Meissner (1909-1992) and a daughter Hildegard Meissner (1917). In 1908 he joined the railways in Alsace-Lorraine.From 1915 to 1917 he was an infantry officer during the First World War. Then he met Paul von Hindenburg.
He started to work as head of the office of the presidents of Germany during the Weimar Republic, under Friedrich Ebert and Paul von Hindenburg. He was also a member of Hitler’s Cabinet. Meißner was tried at the Ministries Trial. He was acquitted in April 1949, but in May 1949 was accused, and found to be a Mitläufer. The son of a postal official, Meissner studied law in Strasbourg from 1898 to 1903, where he also became a member of the Strassburg Student Youth Fraternity Germania. Later he also studied in Berlin and earned his Doctor of Laws in 1908, at the age of 28, in Erlangen, Bavaria. Afterwards, he became a bureaucrat for the national railroad, the Reichsbahn, in Strasbourg. Between 1915 and 1917 he participated in the First World War in an infantry regiment. Up to 1919 he was more active behind the front, first in Bucharest, Romania, then in Kiev, and finally as a German business agent for the Ukrainian government. Thanks to his good contacts, in 1919 Meissner became “Acting Adviser in the Bureau of the President”, who at that time was the social democrat Friedrich Ebert, Ebert died age 54 on 08-02-1925
and by 1920 Meissner rose to the position of “Ministerial Director and Head of the Bureau of the President.” Ebert named Meissner to the post of State Secretary in 1923. He continued in that post under Ebert’s successor Paul von Hindenburg. Over the course of January 1933, Reich Chancellor Kurt von Schleicher
became, politically speaking, increasingly boxed in. Schleicher had previously pursued a Querfrontstrategy, attempting to bring together trade unions and the worker-oriented National Socialists led by Gregor Strasser into a cross-party alliance under his leadership. But Strasser’s resignation from all party offices on 08-12-1932, essentially put an end to this strategy. Additionally, Schleicher lost the backing of Reich President Paul von Hindenburg, not only because of complaints by the Nazi-infiltrated Reich Agrarian League about Schleicher’s agricultural policy, but also because of the Eastern Aid scandal over the misappropriation of subsidies by Junkers in East Elbia. In January 1933, Franz von Papen held several rounds of negotiations with the National Socialists about a possible coalition under his leadership; on 09-01-1933, he began informing the Reich president of his progress. In the end, Papen and the remaining coterie around Hindenburg, above all Hindenburg’s son
Oskar von Hindenburg and State Secretary Otto Meissner – along with a few wealthy bankers and industrialists, accepted Hitler as Reich chancellor in a cabinet dominated by conservatives. His role in the appointment of Hitler to Chancellor in December 1932-January 1933 remains a controversy among historians. As member of the “camarilla,” Meissner was certainly no small influence as State Secretary, due to his close relations with President Paul von Hindenburg. Together with Oskar von Hindenburg and Franz von Papen, Meissner organized the negotiations with Hitler to depose von Schleicher and appoint Hitler to the post of Chancellor. For the Nazis’ part, the talks were facilitated through Wilhelm Keppler a German businessman and one of Adolf Hitler’s early financial backers. Keppler was sentenced to ten years in prison during the Ministries Trial on 14-04-1949. He was released from prison on 01-02-1951. Wilhelm Keppler died age 77 on 13-06-1960 in Friedrichshafen, Joachim von Ribbentrop and the banker Kurt Freiherr von Schröder, a former officer and head of the old-guard conservative “Herrenklub”, “Gentlemen’s club” in Berlin, in which von Papen was also active. Freiherr von Schröder died age 76 on 04-11-1966, in Hamburg. Neither Hitler nor Hindenburg, as of the end of 1932, would have initiated contact to one another, so great was their mutual distaste for each other. Meissner submitted his resignation in 1933, but was turned down, whereupon he assumed responsibility primarily for delegational duties. In 1937, the Nazi regime raised him to the rank of Federal Minister, with the title, “Chief of the Presidential Chancellery of the Führer and the Chancellor”. But politically, his influence in the Hitler regime was distinctly minor. When Hitler fused the functions of Head of State, here, the Reich President and the Head of Government, the Chancellery in 1934, Meissner’s office was renamed the “Presidential Chancellery” and restricted in its responsibilities to representative and formal matters. In 1937 Meissner was appointed to the newly-created position of “State Minister of the Rank of a Reich Minister and Chief of the Presidential Chancellery of the Führer and Reich Chancellor.” After the World War II, Meissner was arrested by the Allies and interrogated as a witness in the Nuremburg Trials. In July 1947, he appeared as a character witness for the accused former State Secretary Dr. Franz Louis Schlegelberger
. In 1949, he was finally prosecuted himself in the “,Wilhelmstrasse Trial”, but the court acquitted him on April 14. Two years later, in May of 1949, he was accused again, in Munich, and adjudged a fellow traveller. His appeal was turned down, but the proceedings called to a halt in January 1952. In 1950, Meissner published a memoir covering his unusual bureaucrat’s career in a book entitled State Secretary under Ebert, Hindenburg and Hitler. The writer Hans-Otto Meissner (1909–1992) was his son. He died age 83, on 08-09-1992 in Unterwössen,
Death and burial ground of Meissner, Otto.
Otto Meissner died age 73 on 27-05-1953 in Munich. He is buried with his wife, Hildegard, born Roos, who died age 66, in 1952, and his daughter Daniela, who died on 25-11-1941, only four days old, on the cemetery of Unterwössen, region of Traunstein. Close to the grave of the General der Kavallerie, OKW Freiwilligen Verbände, Ernst Kòstring and General der Gebirgstruppe, Kommandeur der 30th Infanterie Division, Karl Le Suire.