Schleicher, Kurt von, born 07-04-1881 in Brandenburg an der Havel, the son of a Prussian officer and a shipowner’s daughter. He entered the German Army in 1900 as a second leutnant after graduating from a cadet training school. In his early years, Schleicher made two friendships which later were to play an important role in his life. As a cadet, Schleicher befriended Franz “Fränzchen” von Papen
and later on as an officer in the Third Guards Regiment befriended Oskar von Hindenburg. During World War I he served on the staff of Wilhelm Groener, he died age 71, on 03-05-1939, who became Schleicher’s patron.
After Schleicher’s army career, during the 1920s, he moved up steadily in the Reichswehr, the German army, becoming the primary liaison between the army and civilian government officials. He generally preferred to operate behind the scenes, planting stories in friendly newspapers and relying on a casual network of informers to find out what other government departments were planning. In this capacity, he headed up the Ministeramt or Office of the Ministerial Affairs. Although essentially a Prussian authoritarian in his views on order, discipline and the so-called decadence of the Weimar era, Schleicher also believed that the Army had a social function, that of an institution unifying the diverse elements in society. Interestingly, he was also opposed to policies such as Eastern Aid, Osthilfe, for the bankrupt East Elbian estates of his fellow Junkers. In economic policy, therefore, he was a relative moderate. Schleicher became a major figure behind the scenes in the presidential cabinet government of Heinrich Brüning between 1930 and 1932, serving as an aide to General Wilhelm Groener, the Minister of Defence. Eventually, Schleicher, who established a close relationship with President Paul von Hindenburg, came into conflict with Brüning and Groener, and his intrigues were largely responsible for their fall in May 1932. By coincidence, his name translated from the German is “Sneaker” or “Creeper.” The new Chancellor, Franz von Papen, hand-picked Schleicher as Minister of Defence. Schleicher was not as conservative as Papen, however, as evidenced in a 1932 radio address in which he bluntly announced his unambiguous opposition to either a military dictatorship or a puppet regime to be backed by military force. Eventually, Papen and Schleicher came into conflict, and when, following the November 1932 elections, the government could not maintain a working parliamentary majority, Papen was forced to resign, and Schleicher succeeded him as Chancellor of Germany. Schleicher hoped to attain a majority in the Reichstag by forming a so-called Querfront, meaning “cross-front,” whereby he would unify Germany’s fractious special interests around a non-parliamentary, authoritarian but participatory regime. Thus, he reached out to the Social Democratic labour unions, the Christian labour unions and the left-wing branch of the Nazi Party, led by Gregor Strasser,
Strasser, however, was already losing the internal power struggle with Adolf Hitler (did you know). Strasser was also murdered, age 42, on 30-06-1934. Although Schleicher made some initial progress, he was rebuffed by both sides. The ousted Papen now had Hindenburg’s ear, because the latter was beginning to have misgivings about Schleicher’s “cryptoparliamentarianism” and willingness to work with the SPD, which the old President despised. Papen was urging the aged President to appoint Hitler as Chancellor in a coalition with the Nationalist DNVP, or Deutschenationale Volkspartei , German National People’s Party, who, together with Papen, would supposedly be in a position to moderate Nazi excesses. Unbeknownst to Schleicher, Papen was holding secret meetings with both Hitler and Hindenburg, who then refused Schleicher’s request for emergency powers and another dissolution of the Reichstag. The President dismissed Schleicher, calling Hitler into power on 30-01-1933. In the following months, the Nazis issued the Reichstag Fire Decree and the Enabling Act, transforming Germany into a totalitarian dictatorship. In his last months, Schleicher was instrumental in attempts to negotiate the return of the House of Hohenzollern. Fearing this would lead to his overthrow and the collapse of his regime, Hitler had considered Schleicher a target for assassination for some time.
Death and burial ground of Schleicher, Kurt von.
When, from 30 June to 2 July 1934, the Night of the Long Knives occurred, Schleicher was one of the chief victims. At about 10: 30 am on 30-06-1934, a car parked on the street outside of Schleicher’s house, of which emerged a group of men wearing trench coats and fedoras who proceeded to walk up to Schleicher’s house. While Schleicher was talking on the phone, he heard somebody knocking at his door, and placed the phone down. Schleicher’s last words, heard by his friend on the phone, were “Jawohl, ich bin General von Schleicher” (“Yes, I am General von Schleicher”), followed up by two shots. Upon hearing the shots, his wife Elisabeth von Schleicher ran forward into the front lobby, where she was gunned down as well. (She was one of only three female victims of the Night of the Long Knives).
Schleicher’s stepdaughter was the one who found the bodies. Some historians suggest that Schleicher’s stepdaughter was later killed after she tried to kill Hitler herself, although this was never confirmed. As far as the Army was concerned, the matter of Schleicher’s murder was settled. However, the Nazis continued in private to accuse Schleicher of high treason. Hermann Goering told Jan Szembek a Polish diplomat, one of the most influential in the final years of the Second Polish Republic, during a visit to Warsaw in January 1935 that Schleicher had urged Hitler in January 1933 to reach an understanding with France and the Soviet Union, and partition Poland with the latter, and that was why Hitler had Schleicher killed. Szembek died on July 09-07-1945, age 63, in Estoril near Lisbon. Hitler told the Polish Ambassador Józef Lipski on 22-03-1935 that Schleicher was “rightfully murdered, if only because he had sought to maintain the Rapallo Treaty”. Lipski moved to the USA and represented the Polish Government in Exile and died 01-11-1958, age 64.
In his speech to the Reichstag on July 13 justifying his actions, Hitler denounced Schleicher for conspiring with SA leader, Ernst Julius Röhm
to overthrow the government, another lie was necessary. Schleicher, age 51, is buried with his wife Elisabeth, born von Hennigs, age 40, on the Parkfriedhof, Lichterfelde in Berlin.