Friedrich Werner von der Schulenburg
Friedrich-Werner Graf von der Schulenburg (20 November 1875 – 10 November 1944) was a German diplomat who served as the last German ambassador to the Soviet Union before Operation Barbarossa
Operation Barbarossa
Operation Barbarossa was the code name for Germany's invasion of the Soviet Union during World War II that began on 22 June 1941. Over 4.5 million troops of the Axis powers invaded the USSR along a front., the largest invasion in the history of warfare...

. He began his diplomatic career before World War I
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...

, serving as consul
Consul was the highest elected office of the Roman Republic and an appointive office under the Empire. The title was also used in other city states and also revived in modern states, notably in the First French Republic...

 and ambassador
An ambassador is the highest ranking diplomat who represents a nation and is usually accredited to a foreign sovereign or government, or to an international organization....

 in several countries. After the failed July 20 plot
July 20 Plot
On 20 July 1944, an attempt was made to assassinate Adolf Hitler, Führer of the Third Reich, inside his Wolf's Lair field headquarters near Rastenburg, East Prussia. The plot was the culmination of the efforts of several groups in the German Resistance to overthrow the Nazi-led German government...

 in 1944, Schulenburg was accused of being a co-conspirator and subsequently executed.

Diplomatic career

Schulenburg was born in Kemberg
Kemberg is a town in Wittenberg district in Saxony-Anhalt, Germany. The town lies on the north edge of the Dübener Heide Nature Park.Kemberg includes the subdivisions of Bergwitz, Klitzschena, and Ateritz.- History :...

, Saxony-Anhalt
Saxony-Anhalt is a landlocked state of Germany. Its capital is Magdeburg and it is surrounded by the German states of Lower Saxony, Brandenburg, Saxony, and Thuringia.Saxony-Anhalt covers an area of...

 to Graf Bernhard von der Schulenburg. He studied law in Lausanne
Lausanne is a city in Romandy, the French-speaking part of Switzerland, and is the capital of the canton of Vaud. The seat of the district of Lausanne, the city is situated on the shores of Lake Geneva . It faces the French town of Évian-les-Bains, with the Jura mountains to its north-west...

, Munich
Munich The city's motto is "" . Before 2006, it was "Weltstadt mit Herz" . Its native name, , is derived from the Old High German Munichen, meaning "by the monks' place". The city's name derives from the monks of the Benedictine order who founded the city; hence the monk depicted on the city's coat...

 and Berlin after a one-year stint in the military. In 1901, he joined the Foreign Office
Foreign Office (Germany)
The Foreign Office is the foreign ministry of Germany, a federal agency responsible for both the country's foreign politics and its relationship with the European Union. From 1871 to 1919, it was led by a Foreign Secretary, and since 1919, it has been led by the Foreign Minister of Germany...

's consular service as a junior lawyer (Assessor). By 1903, he was already the vice-consul at Germany's consulate general in Barcelona
Barcelona is the second largest city in Spain after Madrid, and the capital of Catalonia, with a population of 1,621,537 within its administrative limits on a land area of...

, and in the years that followed, he found himself working at consulates in Lvov, Prague
Prague is the capital and largest city of the Czech Republic. Situated in the north-west of the country on the Vltava river, the city is home to about 1.3 million people, while its metropolitan area is estimated to have a population of over 2.3 million...

, Warsaw
Warsaw is the capital and largest city of Poland. It is located on the Vistula River, roughly from the Baltic Sea and from the Carpathian Mountains. Its population in 2010 was estimated at 1,716,855 residents with a greater metropolitan area of 2,631,902 residents, making Warsaw the 10th most...

 and Tbilisi
Tbilisi is the capital and the largest city of Georgia, lying on the banks of the Mt'k'vari River. The name is derived from an early Georgian form T'pilisi and it was officially known as Tiflis until 1936...

. With the outbreak of World War I in 1914, von der Schulenburg returned to the military, and after the First Battle of the Marne
First Battle of the Marne
The Battle of the Marne was a First World War battle fought between 5 and 12 September 1914. It resulted in an Allied victory against the German Army under Chief of Staff Helmuth von Moltke the Younger. The battle effectively ended the month long German offensive that opened the war and had...

 was promoted to captain in October 1914 and put in charge of an artillery
Originally applied to any group of infantry primarily armed with projectile weapons, artillery has over time become limited in meaning to refer only to those engines of war that operate by projection of munitions far beyond the range of effect of personal weapons...

 battery. In 1915, he went as German liaison officer to the Ottoman Army on the Armenia
Armenia , officially the Republic of Armenia , is a landlocked mountainous country in the Caucasus region of Eurasia...

n Front. In 1916, he took over leadership of the Georgian Legion in the struggle with Russia
Russia or , officially known as both Russia and the Russian Federation , is a country in northern Eurasia. It is a federal semi-presidential republic, comprising 83 federal subjects...

, until its collapse in 1917. During his time in the military, he received the Iron Cross
Iron Cross
The Iron Cross is a cross symbol typically in black with a white or silver outline that originated after 1219 when the Kingdom of Jerusalem granted the Teutonic Order the right to combine the Teutonic Black Cross placed above a silver Cross of Jerusalem....

 and some high Turkish
Turkey , known officially as the Republic of Turkey , is a Eurasian country located in Western Asia and in East Thrace in Southeastern Europe...

 honours. After the German Empire's collapse, he was captured by the British
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

 and interned on the Turkish island of Prinkipo (now called Büyük Ada
Büyük Ada
Büyük Ada is the largest island which can be seen from the town center of Karaburun town in İzmir, Turkey.-References:...

), returning to Germany in 1919. Von der Schulenburg returned to the Foreign Office Service and became consul in Beirut
Beirut is the capital and largest city of Lebanon, with a population ranging from 1 million to more than 2 million . Located on a peninsula at the midpoint of Lebanon's Mediterranean coastline, it serves as the country's largest and main seaport, and also forms the Beirut Metropolitan...


Noble estate

In the 1930s, von der Schulenburg acquired the Burg Falkenberg, a castle in the Upper Palatinate
Upper Palatinate
The Upper Palatinate is one of the seven administrative regions of Bavaria, Germany, located in the east of Bavaria.- History :The region took its name first in the early 16th century, because it was by the Treaty of Pavia one of the main portions of the territory of the Wittelsbach Elector...

. He had it converted and renovated to serve as a retirement home
Retirement home
A retirement home is a multi-residence housing facility intended for senior citizens. Typically each person or couple in the home has an apartment-style room or suite of rooms. Additional facilities are provided within the building, including facilities for meals, gathering, recreation, and some...

. This monumental work was undertaken between 1936 and 1939.

Resistance activities

After World War I, von der Schulenburg got his diplomatic career going again, becoming, among other things, an envoy
Envoy (title)
In diplomacy, an Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary is, under the terms of the Congress of Vienna of 1815, a diplomat of the second class, ranking between an Ambassador and a Minister Resident....

 to Tehran
Tehran , sometimes spelled Teheran, is the capital of Iran and Tehran Province. With an estimated population of 8,429,807; it is also Iran's largest urban area and city, one of the largest cities in Western Asia, and is the world's 19th largest city.In the 20th century, Tehran was subject to...

 and Bucharest
Bucharest is the capital municipality, cultural, industrial, and financial centre of Romania. It is the largest city in Romania, located in the southeast of the country, at , and lies on the banks of the Dâmbovița River....

. In 1934, he was appointed German ambassador to the Soviet Union
Soviet Union
The Soviet Union , officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , was a constitutionally socialist state that existed in Eurasia between 1922 and 1991....

. Von der Schulenburg favoured an agreement between Germany and the Soviet Union, and was instrumental in bringing about the August 1939 German-Soviet Non-Aggression Pact. After the Soviet invasion of Poland
Soviet invasion of Poland (1939)
The 1939 Soviet invasion of Poland was a Soviet military operation that started without a formal declaration of war on 17 September 1939, during the early stages of World War II. Sixteen days after Nazi Germany invaded Poland from the west, the Soviet Union did so from the east...

, despite the state of war between Germany and Poland
Invasion of Poland (1939)
The Invasion of Poland, also known as the September Campaign or 1939 Defensive War in Poland and the Poland Campaign in Germany, was an invasion of Poland by Germany, the Soviet Union, and a small Slovak contingent that marked the start of World War II in Europe...

, he used his position as the most senior ambassador in Moscow to allow Polish diplomats (including ambassador Wacław Grzybowski) to leave the Soviet Union, when the Soviets tried to arrest them. To the last, he tried to thwart the German attack on the Soviet Union in June 1941 through means such as hinting at the country's military strength and the unassailability of its industrial reserves. He is quoted as having said to Vyacheslav Molotov
Vyacheslav Molotov
Vyacheslav Mikhailovich Molotov was a Soviet politician and diplomat, an Old Bolshevik and a leading figure in the Soviet government from the 1920s, when he rose to power as a protégé of Joseph Stalin, to 1957, when he was dismissed from the Presidium of the Central Committee by Nikita Khrushchev...

 on the morning of the German attack on the Soviet Union: "For the last six years I've personally tried to do everything I could to encourage friendship between the Soviet Union and Germany. But you can't stand in the way of destiny."

After the aggression began on 22 June 1941, von der Schulenburg was interned for a few weeks, and transferred to the Soviet-Turkish border. Thereafter, von der Schulenburg was assigned leader of the Russia Committee, a Foreign Office post with no political influence that neutralized him. Later he would make his influence felt in the military opposition, to reach a quick peace agreement in the east. He was ready and willing to negotiate even with Joseph Stalin
Joseph Stalin
Joseph Vissarionovich Stalin was the Premier of the Soviet Union from 6 May 1941 to 5 March 1953. He was among the Bolshevik revolutionaries who brought about the October Revolution and had held the position of first General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union's Central Committee...

 in the plotters' names. In the plans for the overthrow, Friedrich-Werner von der Schulenburg was tentatively foreseen as the new foreign minister.

After the failure of the attempt on Adolf Hitler's life
July 20 Plot
On 20 July 1944, an attempt was made to assassinate Adolf Hitler, Führer of the Third Reich, inside his Wolf's Lair field headquarters near Rastenburg, East Prussia. The plot was the culmination of the efforts of several groups in the German Resistance to overthrow the Nazi-led German government...

 on 20 July 1944, he was arrested and charged with high treason
High treason
High treason is criminal disloyalty to one's government. Participating in a war against one's native country, attempting to overthrow its government, spying on its military, its diplomats, or its secret services for a hostile and foreign power, or attempting to kill its head of state are perhaps...

. On 23 October 1944, the Volksgerichtshof ("People's Court") sentenced him to death. He was hanged on 10 November 1944 at Plötzensee
Plötzensee is a small glacial lake in Berlin. It is situated near the Rehberge public park in the former borough of Wedding, now a part of Mitte. The name stems from Plötze, one name for the roach in German, as the lake formerly teemed with it....

 Prison in Berlin.


He married from 1908 to 1910 Elisabeth von Sobbe (Burg bei Magdeburg
Burg bei Magdeburg
Burg bei Magdeburg is a town of about 24,700 inhabitants on the Elbe-Havel-Canal in Germany, northeast of Magdeburg. It is situated around a former weir, the Sachsenschleusen...

, 14 March 1875 - Wolframshof, 6 July 1955), and had an only daughter:
  • Christa-Wernfriedis Hanna Margarete Engelberta Gräfin von der Schulenburg (Prague
    Prague is the capital and largest city of the Czech Republic. Situated in the north-west of the country on the Vltava river, the city is home to about 1.3 million people, while its metropolitan area is estimated to have a population of over 2.3 million...

    , 29 December 1908 - ?), married to Max Wolfgang, Freiherr von Lindenfels (Wolframshof, 12 July 1908 - Wolframshof, 28 November 1982)

See also

External links

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