Wilhelm Gustloff

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Wilhelm Gustloff (January 30, 1895 - February 4, 1936) was the German leader of the NSDAP (Nazi) party in Switzerland; he founded the Swiss branch of the party at Davos in 1932.[1], which grouped Nazi party members who lived outside the German Reich.

Gustloff, who worked as a Swiss government meteorologist, joined the NSDAP in 1929 and put much effort in the distribution of the anti-Semitic book The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, to the point that members of the Swiss Jewish community sued the book's distributor, the Swiss Nazi Party, for libel. Gustloff was shot and killed in 1936 by David Frankfurter, a Jewish student incensed by Gustloff's anti-Semitic activism.

Gustloff was given a state funeral in his birth place of Schwerin in Mecklenburg with Adolf Hitler, Joseph Goebbels, Hermann Göring, Heinrich Himmler, Martin Bormann and Joachim von Ribbentrop in attendance. Thousands of Hitlerjugend members lined the route. His coffin, which was transported on a special train from Davos to Schwerin, made stops in Stuttgart, Würzburg, Erfurt, Halle, Magdeburg and Wittenberg. His widow, mother and brother were present at the funeral and received personal condolences from Hitler. Ernst Wilhelm Bohle was the first at Gustloff's funeral to recite a few lines in honour of the deceased. Gustloff was made a Blutzeuge of the Nazi cause and his murder later became part of the propaganda serving as pretext for the 1938 Kristallnacht pogrom.

The German cruise ship Wilhelm Gustloff was named after Gustloff by the Nazi regime; the ship was sunk in 1945 with the loss of over 9,000 lives. Also, the Wilhelm Gustloff Foundation or Wilhelm-Gustloff-Stiftung was named after him as well as the small arms factory Wilhelm Gustloff Werke (renamed during World War II).

His assassination is an element of the novel Crabwalk by the German writer Günter Grass with the plot based on the fate of the ship Wilhelm Gustloff.


Further reading

  • Peter Bollier, 4. Februar 1936: das Attentat auf Wilhelm Gustloff; in: Roland Aergerter (Hrsg.), Politische Attentate des 20. Jahrhunderts, Zürich, NZZ Verlag, 1999
  • Matthieu Gillabert, La propagande nazie en Suisse, L'affaire Gustloff 1936, Lausanne, presses polytechniques et universitaires romandes, 2008
  • Emil Ludwig; Peter O. Chotjewitz; Helmut Kreuzer (Hrsg.), Der Mord in Davos, Herbstein, März, 1986

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