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Konstantin von Neurath

Konstantin von Neurath (February 2, 1873 - August 14, 1956) was a German diplomat, Minister of Foreign Affairs (1932-38) and Reichsprotektor of Czechoslovakia (1939-1941 (1943)).

He was born in Württenberg, the son of minor Swabian nobility. He studied law in Tübingen and at the University of Berlin. After graduating in 1892 he joined a local law firm in his home town. He joined the civil service in 1901 and worked for the Foreign Office in Berlin. In 1903 he was assigned to the embassy in London as Vice-Consul, from 1909 he was legationsrat at the embassy. In 1914 he was sent to the embassy in Constantinople.

During WW I he served as an officer with an infantry regiment up until 1916 when he was badly wounded, in December 1914 he was awarded the Iron Cross. He returned to the diplomatic service in Turkey. Towards the end of the war he headed the Württembergischen government.

In 1919 he returned to diplomacy, being assigned to the embassy in Copenhagen as Minister to Denmark. From 1921 until 1930 he was the ambassador to Rome, he was not overly impressed with Italian fascism. He was considered for a post in the new cabinet of Paul von Hindenburg in 1929. In 1930 he returned to head the embassy in London.

He was recalled to Germany in 1932 and became Minister of Foreign Affairs under Franz von Papen in June. He continued to hold that position under Kurt von Schleicher[?] and then under Adolf Hitler. Neurath joined the NSDAP in 1937 and in September of that year he was awarded a honourary rank of Obergruppenführer in the SS. He was involved in the German withdrawal from the League of Nations in 1933, the negotiations of the Anglo-German Naval Accord[?] (1935) and the re-occupation of the Rhineland.

On February 4, 1938 he resigned as minister, he felt his office was marginalised and was not in favour of Hitler's aggressive plans revealed at the Hoszbach conference[?] (1937). He was succeeded by Joachim von Ribbentrop, but he remained in government as a minister without portfolio.

In March 1939 he was appointed Reichsprotektor of Czechoslovakia (termed Bohemia and Moravia (Böhmen and Mähren) by the German government). He institued German laws controlling the press and abolished political parties and trade unions. He ordered a harsh crack-down on protesting students in October and November 1939, but he was regarded as insufficiently rigourous in controlling Czech resistance. He was relieved of day-to-day powers in September 1941 and replaced by Reinhard Heydrich. Neurath attempted to resign in 1941 but it was not accepted until August 1943.

He was tried at Nuremberg in 1946 where he was defended by Otto von Ludinghausen[?]. Accused of conspiracy to commit crimes against peace; planning, initiating and waging wars of aggression; war-crimes and crimes against humanity. He was found guilty on all four counts and was sentenced to fifteen years imprisonment. He was released from Spandau Prison in 1954 due to ill-health and died in Enzweihingen.

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