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Tuesday, December 6, 2022

Baldur von Schirach - Nazi Leader and Head of the Hitler Youth

Baldur von Schirach - Nazi Leader and Head of the Hitler Youth written by

Oliver Rathkolb published by Frontline Books - £25 - Hardback - Pages 240

Hitler made the eighteen-year-old Baldur von Schirach the offer he was hoping for, telling him

the party needed young men like him. The young man snapped up Hitler’s invitation and

enjoyed a rapid rise through the ranks of the National Socialist Party, marrying Henriette

Hoffmann, the daughter of Hitler’s personal photographer Heinrich Hoffmann.

In 1930 he was appointed “Reich” youth leader, and as Hitler’s loyal servant he harnessed the Hitler Youth for the ‘brown revolution’. He dreamt of a fascist Europe under German leadership and as Gauleiter of Vienna he had the city’s Jewish population deported to the death camps while enriching himself with looted Jewish art collections. But his independence of mind and artistic ideals led to tensions between Berlin and Vienna.

In 1946, Baldur von Schirach stood trial at Nuremberg, where he offered a crafty defence, confessing his role in the rise of National Socialist ideology and attacking Adolf Hitler but denying involvement in the murder of Jews. As a result, he escaped execution and was sentenced to twenty years in prison for crimes against humanity.

In the 1960s, he emerged from Spandau prison to great media attention, but he would later die in obscurity. In this critical biography, Oliver Rathkolb uses previously untapped archive material to examine a controversial figure who used his keen media savvy to paint a favourable picture of himself after the war. The book traces how this key figure in the National Socialist propaganda machine was shaped by the German political milieu – before going on to shape German youth.

Baldur von Schirach was the ‘Reich’ youth leader, a somewhat suspicious character and someone you wouldn’t necessarily trust. Schirach was a young man, only 18 when he was given a position of power and I think his ability to get on with what he wanted gave him a chance to have the power but also allowed him to keep himself at arms length which would come out after the war ended. This after all was a devious and racist person, but like lots of people of this kind, they’re happy to do the crime but will happily do anything to avoid the time. After the war, he got away with only prison time, which shows how some people got away with a lot. His time leaving prison was one he thought he could exploit, but he ended up dying in obscurity, while this might sound good, at the end of the day he got away with murder. A fascinating read into someone who doesn’t get much attention.

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