Ulrich von Hassell

Ulrich von Hassell

Ulrich von Hassell was born in Anklam, Germany, on 12th November, 1881. After studying law he entered the Foreign Office in 1908. Married to the daughter of Alfred von Tirpitz, Hassell was Counsul-General in Barcelona (1921-26), Ambassador in Copenhagen (1926-30) and Ambassador in Belgrade (1930-32).

In 1932 Hassell was appointed Ambassador to Rome. Initially a supporter of Adolf Hitler Hassell became increasingly critical of his aggressive foreign policies and in 1938 was sacked by Joachim von Ribbentrop.

Hassell became an active opponent of the Nazi government and joined forces with Ludwig Beck and Carl Goerdeler.

During the Second World War he tried to recruit leading generals such as Franz Halder, Erich Fromm and Erwin Rommel to the idea of a negotiated peace with the Allies. Later he tried to persuade them to carry out a military coup.

In April 1942 he was warned by Ernst Weiszacker, State Secretary in the Foreign Ministry, that he was under investigation by the Gestapo. However, he ignored this warning and continued to conspire against Adolf Hitler.

Hassell was arrested by the police following the July Plot. He was convicted of high treason and executed on 8th September, 1944. After the war his diaries were found buried in the garden and published as The Other Germany: Diaries 1938-1944 (1947).

Primary Sources

(1) Ulrich von Hassell, German Ambassador in Italy (December 1936)

The role played by the Spanish conflict as regards Italy's relations with France and England could be similar to that of the Abyssinian conflict, bringing out clearly the actual, opposing interests of the powers and thus preventing Italy from being drawn into the net of the Western powers and used for their machinations. The struggle for dominant political influence in Spain lays bare the natural opposition between Italy and France; at the same time the position of Italy as a power in the western Mediterranean comes into competition with that of Britain. All the more clearly will Italy recognize the advisability of confronting the Western powers shoulder to shoulder with Germany.

(2) Ulrich von Hassell, recorded in his diary his views on Rudolf Hess (18th May, 1941)

The effect of Hess's flight ... was indescribable, but immeasurably increased by the stupidity of the official communique, which could clearly be traced to Hitler's personal explosions of wrath. The first one especially, which implied that for months, even for years, he had presented to the people a half or even entirely insane 'Deputy' as heir-apparent of the Fuehrer.. . .

The background of Hess's flight is not yet clear. The official explanations are, to say the least, incomplete. Hess's sporting and technical performance alone showed that he could not be called crazy.

(3) Ulrich von Hassell, recorded in his diary a meeting he had with Ernst Weiszacker, the State Secretary in the Foreign Ministry (April, 1942),

He carefully closed the windows and doors, and announced with some emphasis that he had a very serious matter to discuss with me. He brusquely waved aside my joking rejoinder. For the time being he had to ask me to spare him the embarrassment of my presence. When I started to remonstrate he interrupted me harshly. He then proceeded to heap reproaches on me as he paced excitedly up and down. I had been unbelievably indiscreet, quite unheard-of; as a matter of fact, "with all due deference", so had my wife. This was all known in certain places (the Gestapo), and they claimed even to have documents. He mist demand, more emphatically, that I correct this behaviour. I had no idea, he said, how people were after me (the Gestapo). every step I took was observed. I should certainly burn everything I had in the way of notes which covered conversations in which one or other had said this or that.