Leading Figures of Nazi Germany – M thru Z

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Willy Messerschmitt

Wilhelm Emil “Willy” Messerschmitt (26 June 1898 – 15 September 1978) was a German aircraft designer and manufacturer. He was born in Frankfurt am Main, the son of Baptist Ferdinand Messerschmitt (1858–1916) and his second wife, Anna Maria née Schaller (1867–1942).

Probably Messerschmitt’s single most important design was the Messerschmitt Bf 109, designed in 1934 with the collaboration of Walter Rethel. The Bf 109 became the most important fighter in the Luftwaffe as Germany rearmed prior to World War II. To this day, it remains one of the most-produced warplanes in history, with some 34,000 built, with only the Soviet Union Ilyushin Il-2 surpassing it at 36,000. Another Messerschmitt aircraft, first called “Bf 109R”, purpose-built for record setting, but later redesignated Messerschmitt Me 209, broke the absolute world airspeed record and held the world speed record for propeller-driven aircraft until 1969. His firm also produced the first jet-powered fighter to enter service — the Messerschmitt Me 262, although Messerschmitt himself did not design it.

Max Moosbauer

Max Moosbauer (March 2 1892 in Passau, – November 10 1968) was a German politician and during the Nazi dictatorship Lord Mayor of the city of Passau.

Georg Wilhelm Müller

Georg Wilhelm Müller (born 29 December 1909 in Königshütte (Chorzów), died April 30, 1989 in Hamburg ), often called GW Müller , was a German National Socialist student leader and later professional propagandist , who was especially known as the close co-worker of Joseph Goebbels , who later became a bureaucrat in charge of press, culture and information in Germany, Germany, during World War II .

Ludwig Müller

Ludwig Müller (23 June 1883 – 31 July 1945) was a German theologian and leading member of the “German Christians” (German: Deutsche Christen) faith movement. In 1933 he was imposed by the Nazi government as Reichsbischof (Reich Bishop) of the German Evangelical Church (German: Deutsche Evangelische Kirche).

Brunhilde Pomsel

Brunhilde Pomsel (11 January 1911 – 27 January 2017) was a German woman who, as a personal secretary to Joseph Goebbels from 1942 onwards, was one of the last surviving eyewitnesses of the Nazi power apparatus. She was also a broadcaster and died in 2017 at the age of 106.


Born in Berlin in 1911, Pomsel worked as a stenographer for a Jewish lawyer and as a typist for a rightist nationalist, at one point working for both simultaneously. In 1933 she gained a job as a secretary in the news department of the Third Reich’s broadcasting station after joining the Nazi Party. On the recommendation of a friend, she was transferred to the Reich Ministry of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda in 1942, where she worked under Joseph Goebbels as a shorthand writer until the end of the war.  According to Kate Connolly in the Guardian, Pomsel’s tasks included “massaging downwards statistics about fallen soldiers, as well as exaggerating the number of rapes of German women by the Red Army”. After the fall of Berlin in 1945, Pomsel was sentenced by the Soviets to five years in prison.

After being released from prison in 1950 Pomsel worked in German broadcasting until her retirement in 1971. On her 100th birthday in 2011, she publicly spoke out against Goebbels. A documentary called A German Life, drawn from a 30-hour interview with Pomsel, was shown at the Munich International Film Festival in 2016.

Towards the end of her life Pomsel lived in Munich, where she died on 27 January 2017 at the age of 106. Shortly before her death she revealed that she had been in love with Gottfried Kirchbach, who was Jewish, and with whom she planned to escape Germany. Kirchbach went to Amsterdam to arrange a new life and Pomsel visited him there regularly, until he told her she was endangering her life by doing so. A doctor advised her to abort the child of theirs she was carrying, because she had a serious lung complaint and she might have died.

Vidkun Quisling

Vidkun Abraham Lauritz Jonsson Quisling (born 18 July 1887 in Fyresdal in Telemark, died October 24, 1945 in Oslo) was a Norwegian officer, diplomat, and politician .

Quisling was first known as auxiliary worker in the Soviet Union and co-worker of Fridtjof Nansen , and was Norway’s Defense Minister in two peasant party governments from 1931 to 1933. In 1933, Quisling founded the National Romanticist Nationalist Party (NS), which in the 1930s had limited support . After Germany’s invasion of Norway in 1940 , Quisling, as the first in the world, tried to commit a coup over radio , but the coup attempt failed because the Germans were not interested in supporting his government. In the winter of 1942, he returned as the head of a German-supported government, and with the title Ministerial President , he, together with the civilian administrator of the German occupation power, led the Norwegian state administration for the rest of the war.

After the liberation in 1945, Quisling was sentenced to death and executed.

Hanna Reitsch

Hanna Reitsch (29 March 1912 – 24 August 1979) was Germany’s most famous female aviator and test pilot, starting in the early 1930s. During the Nazi era she served as an international representative for the regime. In the 1960s, she was sponsored by the West German foreign office as a technical adviser in Ghana and elsewhere.

She was the only woman awarded the Iron Cross First Class and the Luftwaffe Pilot/Observer Badge in Gold with Diamonds during World War II. She set more than 40 altitude and endurance women’s records in gliding before and after World War II. In the 1960s, she founded a gliding school in Ghana, where she worked for Kwame Nkrumah.

Leni Riefenstahl

Helene Bertha Amalie “Leni” Riefenstahl (German: [ˈʁiːfn̩ʃtaːl]; 22 August 1902 – 8 September 2003) was a German film director, producer, screenwriter, editor, photographer, actress and dancer.

Born in 1902, Leni Riefenstahl grew up in Germany with her brother Heinz (1905–1944), who was killed on the Eastern Front in World War II. A talented swimmer and artist, she also became interested in dancing during her childhood, taking dancing lessons and performing across Europe.

After seeing a promotional poster for the 1924 film Der Berg des Schicksals (“The Mountain of Destiny”), Riefenstahl was inspired to move into acting. Between 1925 and 1929, she starred in five successful motion pictures. In 1932, Riefenstahl decided to try directing with her own film called Das Blaue Licht (“The Blue Light”).

In the 1930s, she directed Triumph des Willens (“Triumph of the Will”) and Olympia, resulting in worldwide attention and acclaim. Both movies are widely considered two of the most effective, and technically innovative, propaganda films ever made. Her involvement in Triumph des Willens, however, significantly damaged her career and reputation after the war. The exact nature of her relationship with Nazi Party leader Adolf Hitler remains a matter of debate. However, Hitler was in close collaboration with Riefenstahl during the production of at least three important Nazi films, and a closer friendship is claimed to have existed. When in 2000 Jodie Foster was planning a biographical drama on Riefenstahl, war-crime documenters warned against a revisionist view that glorified the director. They stated that publicly Riefenstahl seemed “quite infatuated” with Hitler and was in fact the last surviving member of his “inner circle”. Others go further, arguing that Riefenstahl’s visions were essential to the success of the Holocaust. After the war, Riefenstahl was arrested, but classified as being a “fellow traveler” or “Nazi sympathiser” only and was not associated with war crimes. Throughout her life, she denied having known about the Holocaust. Besides directing, Riefenstahl released an autobiography and wrote several books on the Nuba people.

Riefenstahl died of cancer on 8 September 2003 at the age of 101 and was buried at Munich Waldfriedhof.

Ernst Röhm

Ernst Julius Günther Röhm (German pronunciation: [ˈɛɐ̯nst ˈʁøːm]; 28 November 1887 – 1 July 1934) was a German officer in the Bavarian Army and later an early Nazi leader. He was a co-founder of the Sturmabteilung (“Storm Battalion”; SA), the Nazi Party militia, and later was its commander. In 1934, as part of the Night of the Long Knives, he was executed on Adolf Hitler and Heinrich Himmler’s orders as a potential rival.

Alfred Rosenberg

Alfred Ernst Rosenberg (12 January 1893 – 16 October 1946) was a Baltic German philosopher and an influential ideologue of the Nazi Party. Rosenberg was first introduced to Adolf Hitler by Dietrich Eckart and later held several important posts in the Nazi government. He is considered one of the main authors of key National Socialist ideological creeds, including its racial theory, persecution of the Jews, Lebensraum, abrogation of the Treaty of Versailles, and opposition to degenerate modern art. He is known for his rejection of and hatred for Christianity, having played an important role in the development of German Nationalist Positive Christianity. At Nuremberg, he was sentenced to death and executed by hanging for war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Curt Rothenberger

Curt Ferdinand Rothenberger (30 June 1896 in Cuxhaven – 1 September 1959 in Hamburg) was a German jurist and leading figure in the Nazi Party.

Hauptdienstleiter Karl-Otto Saur

Karl-Otto Saur (February 16, 1902 in Düsseldorf – July 28, 1966 in Pullach) was State Secretary in the Reich Ministry for armaments and war production in Germany during the Nazi era and de jure last defence minister of the Third Reich.

Arthur Seyss-Inquart

Arthur Seyss-Inquart (in German: Seyß-Inquart; 22 July 1892 – 16 October 1946) was an Austrian Nazi politician who served as Chancellor of Austria for two days – from 11 to 13 March 1938 – before the Anschluss annexation of Austria by Nazi Germany, signing the constitutional law as acting head of state upon the resignation of President Wilhelm Miklas.

During World War II, he served the Third Reich in the General Government of Poland and as Reichskommissar in the Netherlands. At the Nuremberg trials, he was found guilty of crimes against humanity and sentenced to death.

Wilhelm Schepmann

Wilhelm Schepmann (17 June 1894 – 26 July 1970) was an Sturmabteilung (SA) general (Obergruppenführer) in Nazi Germany and the last Stabschef (Chief of Staff) of the Nazi Stormtroopers.

Franz Schlegelberger

Franz Schlegelberger (23 October 1876 – 14 December 1970) was State Secretary in the German Reich Ministry of Justice (RMJ) who served as Justice Minister during the Third Reich. He was the highest-ranking defendant at the Judges’ Trial in Nuremberg.

Dr. Paul Otto Schmidt

Paul-Otto Schmidt (23 June 1899 – 21 April 1970) was an interpreter in the German foreign ministry from 1923-1945. During his career he served as the translator for Neville Chamberlain’s negotiations with Adolf Hitler over the Munich Agreement, the British Declaration of War and the surrender of France.

Ludwig Siebert

Ludwig Siebert (17 October 1874 in Ludwigshafen – 1 November 1942 in Stock am Chiemsee) was a Nazi politician and Bavarian prime minister from 1933 to 1942.

Julius Streicher

Julius Streicher (12 February 1885 – 16 October 1946) was a prominent Nazi prior to World War II. He was the founder and publisher of Der Stürmer newspaper, which became a central element of the Nazi propaganda machine. His publishing firm also released three anti-Semitic books for children, including the 1938 Der Giftpilz (“The Toadstool” or “The Poison-Mushroom”), one of the most widespread pieces of propaganda, which purported to warn about insidious dangers Jews posed by using the metaphor of an attractive yet deadly mushroom. After the war, he was convicted of crimes against humanity and executed.

Kurt Tank

Kurt Waldemar Tank (24 February 1898 – 5 June 1983) was a German aeronautical engineer and test pilot who led the design department at Focke-Wulf from 1931 to 1945. He was responsible for the creation of several important Luftwaffe aircraft of World War II, including the Fw 190 fighter aircraft, the Ta 152 fighter-interceptor, and the Fw 200 Condor airliner. After the war, Tank spent two decades designing aircraft abroad, working first in Argentina and then in India, before returning to Germany in the late 1960s to work as a consultant for Messerschmitt-Bölkow-Blohm (MBB).

Josef Terboven

Josef Antonius Heinrich Terboven (23 May 1898 – 8 May 1945) was a Nazi leader, best known as the Reichskommissar for Norway during the German occupation of Norway and the Quisling regime.

Otto Georg Thierack

Otto Georg Thierack (19 April 1889 – 26 October 1946) was a Nazi jurist and politician.

Fritz Todt

Fritz Todt (4 September 1891 – 8 February 1942) was a German engineer and senior Nazi figure, the founder of Organisation Todt. He died in a plane crash during World War II.

Richard Vogt

Richard Vogt (19 December 1894 – January 1979) was a German engineer and aircraft designer. He is well known as a designer of unique warplanes, including an asymmetrically-shaped reconnaissance aircraft and a nuclear-powered bomber, during and after World War II.

Franz Ritter von Epp

Franz Xaver Ritter von Epp (16 October 1868 – 31 December 1946) was a regular officer in the Imperial German Army of the early part of the 20th century, who rose to the office of Reichsstatthalter of Bavaria, a position of dictatorial power, under the Nazis.

Konstantin von Neurath

Konstantin Hermann Karl Freiherr von Neurath (2 February 1873 – 14 August 1956) was a German diplomat remembered mostly for having served as Foreign minister of Germany between 1932 and 1938. Holding this post in the early years of Adolf Hitler’s regime, Neurath was regarded as playing a key role in the foreign policy pursuits of the Nazi dictator in undermining the Treaty of Versailles and territorial expansion in the prelude to World War II, although he was often averse tactically if not necessarily ideologically. This aversion eventually induced Hitler to replace Neurath with the more compliant and fervent Nazi Joachim von Ribbentrop.

Neurath served as “Reichsprotektor of Bohemia and Moravia” between 1939 and 1943, though his authority was only nominal after September 1941. He was tried as a major war criminal in Nuremberg and sentenced to fifteen years’ imprisonment for his compliance and actions in the Nazi regime.

Joachim von Ribbentrop

Ulrich Friedrich Wilhelm Joachim von Ribbentrop (30 April 1893 – 16 October 1946) was Foreign Minister of the German Reich from 1938 until 1945. A businessman, he was appointed German Ambassador to Britain in 1936, serving in London.

Ribbentrop first came to Adolf Hitler’s notice as a well-travelled businessman with more knowledge of the outside world than most senior Nazis, and apparently an authority on world affairs. He offered his house for the secret meetings in January 1933 that resulted in Hitler’s appointment as Chancellor. He became a close confidant of the Führer, to the disgust of long-serving party members, who thought him superficial and lacking in talent. Despite this, he was appointed as Ambassador to Britain in 1936, and then Foreign Minister in February 1938.

In the run-up to World War II, he played a key role in brokering the Pact of Steel (with fascist Italy) and the Soviet–German non-aggression pact, known as the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact. After 1941, Ribbentrop’s influence declined.

Arrested in June 1945, he was tried at the Nuremberg Trials and convicted of war crimes for his role in starting World War II and enabling the Holocaust. On 16 October 1946 he became, due to Hermann Göring’s suicide moments before, the first of those sentenced to death to be hanged.

Baldur von Schirach

Baldur Benedikt von Schirach (9 May 1907 – 8 August 1974) was a Nazi politician who is best known for his role as the Nazi Party’s national youth leader and head of the Hitler Youth from 1931 to 1940. He later served as Gauleiter and Reichsstatthalter (“Reich Governor”) of Vienna. After World War II, he was convicted of crimes against humanity in the Nuremberg trial.

Hans von Tschammer und Osten

Hans von Tschammer und Osten (25 October 1887 – 25 March 1943) was a German sport official, SA leader and a member of the Reichstag for the Nazi Party of Nazi Germany. He was married to Sophie Margarethe von Carlowitz.

Hans von Tschammer und Osten led the German Sports Office Deutscher Reichsausschuss für Leibesübungen (DRA) “German Reich Commission for Physical Exercise” after the Nazi seizure of power in 1933. In July the same year, Hans von Tschammer took the title of Reichssportführer, “Reich Sports Leader”, and the whole sports sphere in Germany was placed under his control. He re-established the organization he led, transforming it into the Sports governing body of the Third Reich, Deutscher Reichsbund für Leibesübungen (DRL) “Sports League of the German Reich”. In 1937, it was renamed Nationalsozialistischer Reichsbund für Leibesübungen “National-Socialist Sports League of the German Reich”. von Tschammer held the high-profile post of Reichssportführer until his death in 1943.

Fritz Wächtler

Fritz Wächtler (7 January 1891 – 19 April 1945) was a Nazi German politician and Gauleiter of the eastern Bavarian administrative region of Gau Bayreuth. Trained as a primary school teacher, he also became head of the National Socialist Teachers League (NSLB) in 1935. During World War II, he held the honorary rank of SS-Obergruppenführer and Reich Defense Commissar of Bayreuth. Prone to alcoholic outbursts and unpopular with the local residents, he eventually ran afoul of Martin Bormann in a political intrigue. Wächtler was shot on the orders from the Führerbunker near the end of the war in April, 1945.

Otto Wächter

Baron Otto Gustav von Wächter (8 July 1901, Vienna, Austria-Hungary – 14 July 1949, Rome, Italy) was an Austrian lawyer, Nazi politician and member of the SS, a paramilitary organisation of the Nazi Party with the rank, in 1944, of SS-Gruppenführer (Major General).

During the occupation of Poland in World War II, he was the Governor of the district of Kraków in the General Government and then of the District of Galicia (now for the most part in Ukraine). Later, in 1944, he was appointed as head of the German Military Administration in the puppet state of the Republic of Salò in Italy. During the last two months of the war he was responsible for the non-German forces at the Reich Main Security Office (RSHA) in Berlin.

In 1940, 68,000 Jews were expelled from Kraków and in 1941 the Kraków Ghetto was created for the remaining 15,000 Jews by his decrees. On 28 September 1946, the Polish government requested the Military Governor of the United States Zone that Wächter be delivered to Poland for trial for “mass murder, shooting and executions. Under his command of District Galicia more than one hundred thousand Polish citizens lost their lives,…”

He managed to evade the Allied authorities for 4 years. In 1949, Wächter was given refuge by pro-Nazi Austrian bishop Alois Hudal in the Vatican where he died the same year, aged 48, allegedly from kidney disease although some sources claim he died of poisoning.

Adolf Wagner

Adolf Wagner (1 October 1890 in Algrange, Alsace-Lorraine – 12 April 1944 in Bad Reichenhall) was a German soldier and high-ranking Nazi Party official born in Algrange, Alsace-Lorraine.

Paul Wegener

Paul Wegener (born October 1, 1908 in Varel , died May 5, 1993 in Wächtersbach ) was a German national socialist official.

Wegener entered the NSDAP in 1930 and Sturmabteilung (SA) in 1931. He had several different political and administrative positions in the national socialist movement in the 1930s, including Gauleiter in Mark Brandenburg . In 1940, he reported a transition from SA to the SS , and later participated in during the campaign in the Balkans in Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler .

Wegener was stationed in occupied Norway in 1940. Here he became a leading position in the Reich Commissariat , where he led his own specialist department – Einsatzstab Wegener – who supervised and assisted the National Assembly. Wegener eventually recommended the German leadership to leave more power to Vidkun Quisling , leading to the state act in 1942. In May 1942, Wegener left Norway in favor of the post as Gauleiter in Weser-Ems.

After the war, Wegener was sentenced to imprisonment because of the civilian deaths in his period as head of the National Socialist Administration in Bremen . After the end of his sentence, he worked as a salesman in Sinzheim and later in Wächtersbach in West Germany . According to the archives of the British secret service, Wegener was involved in a secret group for former national socialists, organized by Werner Naumann who was involved in attempting to infiltrate the Free Democratic Party.

Karl Weinrich

Karl Weinrich (2 December 1887 in Molmeck – 22 July 1973 in Hausen) was NSDAP Gauleiter of Kurhessen.

Karl Weinrich was a member of the Nazi Party from August 1922. From 1925 to 1927, he was the NSDAP’s Gau Treasurer. From 1930 to 1933, he was a member of the Prussian Landtag, and as of 12 November 1933 a member of the Reichstag for the electoral district of Hesse-Nassau. He was from 1928 to 1943 Gauleiter of Kurhessen. Shortly after the bomb attack of 22 October 1943 on Kassel, which destroyed the whole inner city, he was stripped of his office. His successor was Karl Gerland. Weinrich who was removed from his position because of incompetence during a bombing raid on Kassel, survived the war, was sentenced to a ten-year prison term in 1949 and died in 1973.

Richard Wendler

Richard Wendler (22 January 1898, Oberndorf bei Salzburg – 24 August 1972, Prien am Chiemsee) was a high-ranking Nazi official during World War II. During the occupation of Poland, he was the Governor of new District Lublin in the General Government, in charge of Lublin concentration camp and the creation of the Częstochowa Ghetto, among others. Before his deployment to Poland, he was the mayor of the city Hof between 1933 and 1941 and became an SS-Gruppenführer in 1942 during the murderous Operation Reinhard. Wendler was Reichsführer-SS Heinrich Himmler’s brother-in-law; his sister was married to a brother of Himmler.

Horst Wessel

Horst Ludwig Georg Erich Wessel (9 October 1907 – 23 February 1930) was a German Nazi Party (NSDAP) activist known for writing the lyrics to the “Horst-Wessel-Lied”. His death in 1930 was used by the party for propaganda purposes.

Wessel first joined the German National People’s Party (DNVP), but by 1926 was removed for being too extremist. He then joined the NSDAP, where he wrote songs for Nazi events. He rose to command several SA squads and districts. On 14 January 1930, he was shot in the head by two members of the Communist Party of Germany (KPD). Albrecht Höhler was arrested and charged with his murder. He was initially sentenced to six years in prison, but was executed after the Nazis came to power. Wessel’s funeral was given wide attention in Berlin, with many of the Nazi elite in attendance. After his death, he became a major Nazi propaganda symbol. His name was used for several civilian and military purposes during the time of the Third Reich.

Ernst Zörner

Ernst Otto Emil Zörner (born June 27, 1895 in Nordhausen, lost since 1945, declared dead in 1945) was a German merchant, an NSDAP politician, President of the Braunschweig Landtag , a member of the Reichstag , Lord Mayor of Dresden and the Governor General of the District of Lublin.

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German Military History with a focus on World War 2 History including other areas of German History