Robert Ley

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Robert Ley (German pronunciation: [ˈlaɪ]; 15 February 1890 – 25 October 1945) was a Nazi politician and head of the German Labour Front from 1933 to 1945. He committed suicide while awaiting trial for war crimes.

Contents

Early life

Ley was born in Niederbreidenbach (now a part of Nümbrecht) in the Rhine Province, the seventh of 11 children of a heavily indebted farmer, Friedrich Ley, and his wife Emilie (née Wald). He studied chemistry at the Universities of Jena, Bonn, and Münster. He volunteered for the Army on the outbreak of World War I in 1914 and spent two years in the artillery before training as an aerial artillery spotter[1] with Field Artillery Detachment 202. In July 1917 his aircraft was shot down over France and he was taken prisoner. It has been suggested that he suffered brain injury in the crash; for the rest of his life he spoke with a stammer and suffered bouts of erratic behaviour, aggravated by heavy drinking.[2]

After the war Ley returned to university, gaining a doctorate in 1920. He was employed as a food chemist by a branch of the giant IG Farben company, based in Leverkusen in the Ruhr. Enraged by the French occupation of the Ruhr in 1924, Ley became an ultra-nationalist and joined the Nazi Party soon after reading Adolf Hitler's speech at his trial following the Beer Hall Putsch in Munich. By 1925 he was Gauleiter of the Southern Rhineland district and editor of a virulently anti-Semitic Nazi newspaper, the Westdeutsche Beobachter. Ley proved unswervingly loyal to Hitler, which led the party leader to ignore complaints about his arrogance, incompetence and drunkenness.[3]

Labour Front head

In 1931, Ley was brought to the Nazi Party's Munich headquarters to take over as head of the party organisation (Reichsorganisationsleiter) following Hitler's dismissal of Gregor Strasser in an internal dispute.[4] Ley's poor background and his experience as head of the largely working-class Ruhr party region meant that he was sympathetic to the socialist wing of the Nazi Party, which Hitler opposed, but he always sided with Hitler in inner party disputes. This helped him survive the hostility of other party officials such as the party treasurer, Franz Xaver Schwarz, who regarded him as a drunken incompetent. When Hitler became Chancellor in January 1933, Ley accompanied him to Berlin. In April, when the trade union movement was taken over by the state, Hitler appointed him head of the German Labor Front (Deutsche Arbeitsfront, DAF).

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