Martin Luther (diplomat)

Martin Franz Julius Luther (German: [ˈmaʁtiːn ˈlʊtɐ] (About this soundlisten), 16 December 1895 – 13 May 1945) was an early member of the Nazi Party. He served as an advisor to Foreign Minister Joachim von Ribbentrop, first in the Dienststelle Ribbentrop ("Ribbentrop Bureau"), and later in the Auswärtiges Amt ("Foreign Office") as a diplomat when von Ribbentrop replaced Konstantin von Neurath. He participated in the Wannsee Conference, at which the Final Solution was planned; it was the 1947 discovery of his copy of the minutes that first made the Allied powers aware that the conference had taken place and what its purpose was.

Martin Luther
Nazi Reich Foreign Ministry Undersecretary, Head of Abteilung Deutschland
In office
7 May 1940 – April 1943
Personal details
Born16 December 1895
Died13 May 1945(1945-05-13) (aged 49)


Luther ran a furniture removal and interior decorating business. He joined the Nazi Party and SA on 1 March 1933.[1] He helped Ribbentrop to obtain a low party membership number, and when Ribbentrop was sent to London as Ambassador in 1936, he hired Luther to move his furniture from Berlin and do the interior decorating of the new German Embassy in London.[2] Ribbentrop later offered him a position in his own foreign policy organisation, the Ribbentrop Bureau. Luther accepted, and henceforward became one of Ribbentrop's favourite hatchet men. Two years later he took over the 'Deutschland' department and moved it to its own building.[2]

Luther was extremely loyal to Heinrich Himmler.[2] In May 1940, he was appointed to the position of Foreign Ministry liaison to the SS. By July 1941 he had advanced to the position of Ministerialdirektor with the rank of Unterstaatssekretär; his effective power exceeded that suggested by his title and rank, since he was the liaison between the party and the ministry. In addition he had become an SA Brigadeführer.[3]

Luther attended the Wannsee Conference on 20 January 1942 as the representative of the Foreign Ministry, and after that his principal task was to persuade or pressure German satellites and allies to hand over their Jewish populations for deportation to the death camps. During this period, he also continued to work as an interior decorator for Ribbentrop's wife, helping her with the design of her various houses as well as her clothes. He resented this, stating that she treated him like one of her household servants.

She found him boorish,[4] and Ribbentrop was dissatisfied with his not advancing the Foreign Office's interests in the internecine struggle with Himmler and the SS and tired of his mismanagement of office funds. Ribbentrop had also received complaints that Luther was blackmailing people.[4]

In 1943, with the aid of Franz Rademacher, he tried to supplant von Ribbentrop as Foreign Minister but was thwarted and sent to Sachsenhausen concentration camp in 1944; Hitler had wanted him hanged, but Himmler ensured that he merely had to work in the camp herb garden. After suicide attempts he was freed by Soviet troops in spring 1945, but died shortly after of heart failure.[4]

The copy of the Wannsee minutes sent to Luther by Reinhard Heydrich was discovered in the ministry archives in 1947 and has played an important role in documenting the conference[5] although Luther was among those who already knew that policy with regard to the "Jewish question" had changed.[6]

Luther's copy of the minutes is the only record of the conference that survived the war, and its discovery was the first time the Allies became aware of the meeting and a follow up meeting on 6 March 1942. At the conference, he voiced concern about the large-scale "resettlement" required throughout occupied Europe, which seemed to indicate that he did not fully understand what was being planned. In addition, he had a memorandum prepared for his use at the conference,[7] which speaks only of expulsions; it has been used by Holocaust deniers to argue that the conference did not present a policy of genocide,[8] but is consistent with a change in policy.[9]

Portrayals in mediaEdit


  1. ^ Wistrich, Robert S. (1982). Who's Who in Nazi Germany. New York: Macmillan. pp. 163–64. ISBN 9780026306003.
  2. ^ a b c Reitlinger, Gerald (1981) [1956]. The SS: Alibi of a Nation 1922–1945. London: Arms and Armour. p. 115. ISBN 0-85368-187-2.
  3. ^ Lüdicke, Lars (2014). Hürter, Johannes; Mayer, Michael (eds.). Die Personalpolitik der Minister Neurath und Ribbentrop. Das Auswärtige Amt in der NS-Diktatur. Schriftenreihe der Vierteljahrshefte für Zeitgeschichte [de] (in German). 109. Munich: De Gruyter Oldenbourg. p. 53. ISBN 9783486781397.
  4. ^ a b c Reitlinger, pp. 234–36.
  5. ^ Botsch, Gideon (2011). Benz, Wolfgang (ed.). Warenhausfrage. Handbuch des Antisemitismus: Judenfeindschaft in Geschichte und Gegenwart. Volume 4 Ereignisse, Dekrete, Kontroversen (in German). Berlin: De Gruyter. pp. 431–32. ISBN 9783110255140.
  6. ^ Browning, Christopher R. (2004). The Origins of the Final Solution: The Evolution of Nazi Jewish Policy, September 1939–March 1942. Comprehensive history of the Holocaust. Lincoln, Nebraska: University of Nebraska. p. 410. ISBN 9780803213272.
  7. ^ Browning, p. 407.
  8. ^ Kulaszka, Barbara, ed. (1992). Did Six Million Really Die?: Report of the Evidence in the Canadian "False "False News" trial of Ernst Zündel – 1988. Toronto: Samisdat. p. 424. ISBN 9781896006000. The account gives a date of 21 August 1942 for the Luther Memorandum, rather than before the conference.
  9. ^ Cohen, Yehuda (2010). A critique of Christopher Browning's scholarship. The Germans: Absent Nationality and the Holocaust. Heritage, society and national identity in the European Union. Brighton: Sussex Academic Press. pp. 160–63. ISBN 9781845193584.

Further readingEdit