Alfred Ernst Christian Alexander Hugenberg was an influential German businessman and politician.
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Alfred Ernst Christian Alexander Hugenberg was an influential German businessman and politician.
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An important figure in nationalist politics in Germany for the first few decades of the twentieth century, Alfred Hugenberg became the country's leading media proprietor during the interwar period.
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Later in 1891, Alfred Hugenberg co-founded, along with Karl Peters, the ultra-nationalist General German League, and in 1894 its successor movement, the Pan-German League.
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Alfred Hugenberg embraced Social Darwinism in his youth, and throughout his life the ideology of Social Darwinism and the radical nationalism of the Pan-German League guided his actions.
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Son of an upper-middle-class family, Alfred Hugenberg initially resented the; but, over time, he came to accept the idea of "feudal-industrial control of Germany", believing in an alliance of and industrialists.
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Alfred Hugenberg was strongly anti-Polish, and criticized the Prussian government for its "inadequate" Polish policies, favoring a more vigorous policy of Germanization.
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Alfred Hugenberg initially took a role organising agricultural societies before entering the civil service in the Prussian Ministry of Finance in 1903.
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Again, Alfred Hugenberg came into conflict with his superiors, who opposed his plans to confiscate all the non-productive estates of the in order to settle hundreds of thousands of ethnic Germans, who would become his idealized farmer-small businessmen and "Germanize" the East.
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Alfred Hugenberg subsequently left the public sector to pursue a career in business, and in 1909 he was appointed chairman of the supervisory board of Krupp Steel, and built up a close personal and political relationship with Baron Gustav Krupp von Bohlen und Halbach, the CEO of Krupp AG.
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Alfred Hugenberg did not approve of either union and instead sponsored a "yellow" union representing the management, making his tenure a time of endless disputes with the workers.
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At the ceremony, Alfred Hugenberg praised the Kaiser in his acceptance speech, and went on to say that democracy would not improve the condition of the German working class, but only a "very much richer, very much greater and very much powerful Germany" would solve its problems.
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In 1914, Alfred Hugenberg welcomed the onset of the First World War, and resumed his work with his close friend Heinrich Class of the Pan-German League.
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In 1915, Alfred Hugenberg published a telegram to Class in the name of the united chambers of commerce of the Ruhr, demanding that Wilhelm II dismiss Bethmann Hollweg and if the Kaiser was unwilling, that the military should depose Bethmann Hollweg, stating that if the Reich failed to achieve the annexationist platform once the war was won that it would cause a revolution from the right that would end the monarchy.
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Alfred Hugenberg was secretly assisted by the state in his efforts to build a media empire, all the more so as the state distrusted the liberal newspapers owned by the Ullstein brothers and by Rudolf Mosse, all of whom were Jewish, leading the state to request that a circle of "patriotic" businessmen to lend Alfred Hugenberg the necessary funds to buy up newspapers.
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In buying the Scherl corporation, Alfred Hugenberg acquired the Berlin newspaper, which became the flagship paper of his media empire.
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Alfred Hugenberg exploited the corporate law, which he knew so well, and used his own financial acumen, which had so finely developed, to secure his empire.
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Alfred Hugenberg knew the rules of the game and manipulated them to full advantage".
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In 1918, after the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk, Hugenberg founded two corporations, the Landgesellschaft Kurland m b H and Neuland AG, which had a combined budget of 37 million marks, to establish co-operative funds that would make loans to the hundreds of thousands of German farmers that he expected to soon be settled in Eastern Europe.
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Alfred Hugenberg remained at Krupp until 1918, when he set out to build his own business, and during the Great Depression he was able to buy up dozens of local newspapers.
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Alfred Hugenberg's increasing involvement in Pan-German and annexationist causes together with his interest in building a media empire caused him to depart from Krupp, which he found to be a distraction from what really interested him.
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Alfred Hugenberg was always convinced that Germany would recover from the defeat of 1918, all the more so as he believed the German military had not actually been defeated in 1918; in his viewpoint, because it was the "stab-in-the-back" that caused the defeat, all that was necessary was merely to remove the "traitors" from the scene in order to win the next world war that he expected to occur sometime in the near-future.
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Alfred Hugenberg was one of a number of Pan Germans to become involved in the National Liberal Party in the run up to the First World War.
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In 1919 Alfred Hugenberg followed most of the Fatherland Party into the German National People's Party, which he represented in the National Assembly (that produced the 1919 constitution of the Weimar Republic).
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Alfred Hugenberg was elected to the in the 1920 elections to the new body.
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Unable to find positive goals that were capable of holding the DVNP together, let alone of creating the sort of national unity that he wanted, Alfred Hugenberg came to define his in negative terms by seeking to find "enemies" to provide a unity in hatred.
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In 1920, Alfred Hugenberg founded a populist tabloid, the, which became his most profitable newspaper, having a daily circulation of 216 000 by 1929.
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Alfred Hugenberg had founded the TU to compete with the Telegraph Bureau following complaints from German conservatives of "liberal bias" at the Wolff-owned Telegraph Bureau.
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Alfred Hugenberg founded a thinktank, the to promote his ideas while living a pseudo-aristocratic lifestyle at his estate at Rohbraken.
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In 1922, together with the industrialist Emil Kirdorf, Alfred Hugenberg created an investment fund known as that served to subsidize groups "very effective politically, but not commercially profitable".
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Alfred Hugenberg emerged as one of the leaders of the latter faction who wanted to reject the Dawes plan, writing bitterly at the time that "two-thirds of the German people including those behind the German National People's Party are internally prepared to let the freedom, honor and future of their land be sold in the exchange for a few pieces of silver".
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In January 1926, Alfred Hugenberg was involved in a plan for a organized by his very good friend, Henrich Class, calling for President Hindenburg to appoint as a chancellor someone who was unacceptable for the, which would lead to a motion of no confidence.
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Class to have Alfred Hugenberg serve as minister of finance in the new government.
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The fact that Alfred Hugenberg rarely spoke in public during thus period aided their efforts, giving him an aura of mystery.
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In March 1927, Alfred Hugenberg purchased UFA, Europe's largest film studio, which brought him further attention.
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Alfred Hugenberg presented the purchase of UFA as a political move instead of a business move as the Alfred Hugenberg newspapers loudly announced that UFA had been brought to prevent "republicans, Jews and internationalists" from making any more films at UFA.
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Alfred Hugenberg moved the party in a far more radical direction than it had taken under its previous leader, Kuno Graf von Westarp.
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Alfred Hugenberg was the leader of the DNVP monarchist purists for whom no changes in the party's platform were acceptable, and he started to press for the DNVP to expel Lambach as a way of bringing down Westarp who only agreed to censure Lambach for his article.
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Alfred Hugenberg followed up this triumph with an article saying that the DNVP was "not a parliamentary party in the proper sense of the word, but as a grand group of men-as a community of opinion, not a community of interests", which in his view had caused the DNVP to degenerate from its core principles, which Lambach's article was only the most deplorable and recent example.
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However, the Lambach case had galvanized the DNVP's membership against Westarp and for Alfred Hugenberg, who knew that the DNVP would be calling a party congress later that year, which had the power to elect a new leader, the Lambach affair was a godsend.
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The fact that the members of the Pan-German League were overrepresented at the party congress further favored Alfred Hugenberg who was elected the DNVP's new leader on 21 October 1928.
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Alfred Hugenberg gave the impression that the DVNP would not need anymore donations from big business as was so wealthy that he would fund the DVNP entirely out of his own pocket.
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Alfred Hugenberg sought to eliminate internal party democracy and instill a within the DNVP, leading to some members breaking away to establish the Conservative People's Party in late 1929.
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Alfred Hugenberg had purchased the UFA studio-the largest film production company in both Germany and Europe-with the aim of making right-wing "national" films, but in this case, his concern for profits overrode his ideology.
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Between 1930 and 1933, only a limited number of UFA films were the type of "national" films that Alfred Hugenberg had envisioned when he brought UFA, and of the "national" films only (1931), (1931), and (1933) were successful at the box office.
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Alfred Hugenberg believed in the politics of polarization under which German politics were to be divided into two blocs, the right-wing "national" bloc whose leader he envisioned as himself and the Marxist left consisting of the Social Democrats and the Communists.
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Leopold noted that Alfred Hugenberg "debated political issues in terms of a simplistic, philosophic disjunction-a man was either for the nation or he was against it".
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Alfred Hugenberg wrote in 1929 in a memo outlining his planned politics of polarization that "fate is only for the weak and the sick.
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Alfred Hugenberg initially intended as his wedge issue the subject of constitutional reform, but he dropped it in the spring of 1929 as "too abstract" for most people in favor of opposing the Young Plan for reparations.
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At the time, Alfred Hugenberg's critics pointed out that if the Young Plan was rejected, then the French occupation of the Rhineland would continue on until the summer of 1935, an aspect of Alfred Hugenberg's rejectionist strategy that he never dwelled on.
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Alfred Hugenberg's strategy was a negative one as to create the "national bloc" that he envisioned meant there could be little discussion of what the "national bloc" intended to achieve as there were too many divisions on the German right for a positive programme, and instead the "national bloc" was to be united by what it was against instead of what it was for.
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Alfred Hugenberg was vehemently opposed to the Young Plan, and he set up a "Reich Committee for the German People's Petition" to oppose it, featuring the likes of Franz Seldte, Heinrich Class, Theodor Duesterberg and Fritz Thyssen.
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On 9 July 1929, Hugrenberg founded the Reich Committee on the German Initiative to campaign against the Young Plan, which the Alfred Hugenberg newspapers hailed as the most important political development.
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Alfred Hugenberg saw the referendum as the beginning of the counterrevolution, writing at the time that thanks to him "a front has arisen that knows only one goal: how the revolution [of 1918] can be overcome and a nation of free men can again be made from Germans".
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Adolf Hitler was the only realistic candidate, and Alfred Hugenberg decided that he would use the Nazi Party leader to get his way.
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The Alfred Hugenberg newspapers went all-out in support of the "Freedom Law", running glaring headlines in support, but when the referendum, only 5, 538, 000 Germans voted yes for the "Freedom Law", which was insufficient to for the law to pass.
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On 6 January 1930, Alfred Hugenberg was summoned to meet President Paul von Hindenburg, who told him that now the Young Plan had been passed, he had no more need for Muller, and he was planning to bring in a new "presidential" government very soon that would be "anti-parliamentary and anti-Marxist".
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Much to Hindenburg's vexation, Alfred Hugenberg refused to take part, maintaining that he not be a cabinet minister in a government that paid reparations.
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The promise of more aid to farmers was popular in rural areas, and several DVNP MrDs led by Westarp wanted the party to vote for the bill, which Alfred Hugenberg was opposed to under the grounds some of the tax revenue raised would go to France in the form of reparations.
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That Alfred Hugenberg was incapable of controlling his own delegation led Hitler to openly mock him as a weak leader.
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On 26 November 1930, Bruning met with Alfred Hugenberg to ask him to join his government, only for Alfred Hugenberg-who still following -to tell him that he rather see the "collapse which I predicated" and "I must fight you and the entire system".
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On 10 February 1931 Alfred Hugenberg joined the Nazi Party in walking the DNVP out of the Reichstag altogether, as a protest against the Bruning government.
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The fact that DVNP members did not have to pay dues as NSDAP members did proved to be a weakness as the requirement to pay monthly dues inspired Nazi Party members with far more devotion to their cause than the DVNP members, who blithely assumed that Alfred Hugenberg's fortune was more than enough to handle the party's financial needs.
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On 9 July 1931, Alfred Hugenberg released a joint statement, with Hitler guaranteeing that the pair would co-operate for the overthrow of the Weimar 'system'.
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Alfred Hugenberg wanted to announce the creation of his front in Bad Harzburg in Braunschweig, a governed by a DVNP-NSDAP coalition to symbolize unity on the right.
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Hitler was wary of the plans, leading Alfred Hugenberg to complain in private of his "megalomania, but of uncontrollability, imprudence and lack of judgement".
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At the party congress, Alfred Hugenberg blamed the Great Depression on the Treaty of Versailles, the gold standard and a misplaced belief in "international capital".
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Ultimately, Alfred Hugenberg argued that the solution to the Great Depression was imperialism as he argued that Germans were a "", which he felt was the fundamental problem with the German economy.
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In desperation, Alfred Hugenberg tried to get the Crown Prince Wilhelm to run as the DVNP's candidate, only for the exiled Kaiser to issue a statement that saying it was "absolute idiocy" for his son to run for president.
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Alfred Hugenberg's speeches were intensely boring, and his attempt to create a Hitler-style personality cult around himself failed.
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Alfred Hugenberg's rotund build and short stature together with his handlebar mustache, brush-cut hairstyle and the Wilhelmine way of dressing with a high collar made him resemble a hamster, giving him a nickname that he hated; more broadly, the nickname suggested that he was not being taken as seriously as he would have liked.
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At Papen's request, Hindenburg dissolved the for new election rather allowing another government to be formed, and in the ensuring election campaign, Alfred Hugenberg took a strongly anti-Nazi line, portraying Hitler as irresponsible and dangerous.
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Alfred Hugenberg's party had experienced a growth in support at the November 1932 election at the expense of the Nazis.
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Alfred Hugenberg declared his support for Papen's "presidential" government and advised Hindenburg: "I have not found to be very loyal to agreements; his whole manner of handling political affairs makes it very difficult to be able to entrust Hitler with political leadership.
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In December 1932, Alfred Hugenberg drew up a plans for a "presidential government" to be headed by the popular mayor of Leipzig, Carl Goerdeler, in which he was to act as "economic dictator.
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Alfred Hugenberg hoped to harness the Nazis for his own ends , and as such he dropped his attacks on them for the campaign for the March 1933 election.
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Alfred Hugenberg desired a "presidential government" that would carry out the "urgent measures" he had envisioned, and although he initially wanted Goerdeler appointed chancellor, he was prepared to accept either Papen or Schleicher as a substitute.
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Alfred Hugenberg agreed to join the Hitler government with the understanding that there would no new elections, and upon waiting to be sworn in by President Hindenburg, he first learned that Hitler was planning to call new elections, precipitating a lengthy shouting match with Hitler.
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Alfred Hugenberg initially rejected Hitler's plans to immediately call a fresh election, fearing the damage such a vote might inflict on his own party but, after being informed by Otto Meißner that the plan had Hindenburg's endorsement, and by Papen that Schleicher was preparing to launch a military coup, he acceded to Hitler's wishes.
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Alfred Hugenberg, who served jointly as the and Prussian ministers of economics and agriculture, and boasted of his plans to be "economic dictator", was widely seen as the dominant minister in the new government.
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Alfred Hugenberg named Paul Bang, the economic expert of the Pan-German League, as the state secretary in the Economics ministry.
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The man whom Alfred Hugenberg named as state secretary in the Agriculture ministry, Hans-Joachim von Rohr, proved more interested in his portfolio, but in common with many other people found Alfred Hugenberg a difficult man to work with.
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Alfred Hugenberg made no effort to stop Hitler's ambition of becoming a dictator, although he himself was authoritarian by inclination.
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At a rally on 11 February 1933 attended by Papen and the leader Franz Seldte, Alfred Hugenberg announced the formation of the "Battle Front Black-White-Red", saying the "national movement advanced in two columns", one being the Nazis and the other being the "proper right, the Battle Front Black-White-Red, the national bourgeoise of the best tradition".
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Nevertheless, Alfred Hugenberg was Minister of Economy in the new government and was appointed Minister of Agriculture in the Nazi cabinet, largely due to the support his party enjoyed amongst the north German landowners.
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Alfred Hugenberg fancied himself the "economic dictator", but at cabinet meetings the other conservative ministers such as Papen, the Foreign Minister Baron Konstantin von Neurath and the Defense Minister General Werner von Blomberg all objected to Alfred Hugenberg's plans for an autarkic economy as unworkable and likely to isolate Germany internationally.
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On 17 May 1933, Alfred Hugenberg met with Hindenburg to complain that the Nazis forced some civil servants who were DNVP members out of their jobs or alternatively joining them to join the NSDAP.
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Hindenburg conceded that some of the Nazis were acting illegally, but told Alfred Hugenberg that he would take no action because this was a "critical time" and one must remember "what a national upsurge the new movement has brought us".
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Rather than accept the rebuke, Alfred Hugenberg chose to issue a statement claiming he was speaking on behalf of the German government, an action that made the German delegation appear to be "ridiculous" as Neurath complained at a subsequent cabinet meeting.
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Neurath told the cabinet that "a single member cannot simply overlook the objections of the others" and that Alfred Hugenberg "either did not understand these objections, which were naturally clothed in polite form, or he did not want to understand them".
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The fact that Alfred Hugenberg chose to engage in a vendetta with Neurath over the conflicting press releases issued in London, instead of dropping the matter as Neurath had urged him to do, made him appear very petty and spiteful and cost him whatever sympathy he might had enjoyed from the other conservative cabinet ministers.
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Alfred Hugenberg's fate was sealed when the Prussian State Secretary Fritz Reinhardt, ostensibly a subordinate to Alfred Hugenberg as Minister of Economy, presented a work-creation plan to the cabinet.
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An increasingly isolated figure, Alfred Hugenberg was finally forced to resign from the cabinet after a whisper campaign against him to remove him from power.
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Alfred Hugenberg announced his formal resignation on 29 June 1933 and he was replaced by others who were loyal to the Nazi Party, Kurt Schmitt in the Economy Ministry and Richard Walther Darre in the Agriculture Ministry.
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Alfred Hugenberg signed a written agreement to dissolve the DNF in return for which Hilter promised that civil servants who were DNF members would be recognized as "full and legally equal co-fighters" and to release those party members in jail.
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However, his stock with the Nazis had fallen so much that in December 1933 the Telegraph Union, the news agency owned by Alfred Hugenberg, was de facto taken over by the Propaganda Ministry and merged into a new German News Office.
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Alfred Hugenberg was allowed to remain in the Reichstag until 1945 as one of 22 so-called "guest" members, who were officially designated as non-party representatives.
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Alfred Hugenberg did not let them go cheaply, however, as he negotiated a large portfolio of shares in the Rhenish-Westphalian industries in return for his co-operation.
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Alfred Hugenberg last saw Hitler in February 1935, when he presented a plan to replace rental housing with condominiums, which went nowhere.
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Alfred Hugenberg's son was killed in action on the Eastern Front; characteristically he refused to express any grief in public lest he be accused of weakness.
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Alfred Hugenberg was arrested by the British military police on 28 September 1946, and his remaining assets were frozen.
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Alfred Hugenberg was initially detained after the war, but in 1949 a Denazification court at Detmold adjudged him a "Mitlaufer" rather than a Nazi, meaning that he was allowed to keep his property and business interests.
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Alfred Hugenberg died in Kukenbruch near Detmold on 12 March 1951, having only the company of a nurse as he had asked that his family not be allowed to see him (Hugenberg did not want to appear weak before his family in his death throes).
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