Schwede learnt the millwright's trade and joined the Imperial German Navy in 1907 as a machinist. By the end of the First World War he was a technical deck officer and after the German fleet was scuttled in Scapa Flow in 1919, he ended up in British custody as a prisoner of war. In 1920 he joined the Reichswehr, but was discharged after the 100,000-man limit had been set in 1921. Afterwards he was for about a year the technical works leader at a sawmill in Sankt Andreasberg, before he was hired in March 1922 as the foreman at the Coburg City Works.
In October 1922, he became a co-founder of the Coburg Nazi Party branch (Ortsgruppe), whose chairmanship he took over a year later, by which time it had about 800 members. After the December 1924 city council elections, the National Socialist Freedom Movement, the now banned Nazi Party's successor organization, won 14.3% of the vote, and thereby three seats on council, the Nazis' first electoral success in Coburg. Schwede, moreover, became a city councillor. In 1928, a badgering and smear campaign against Abraham Friedmann, who ran the Coburg meat business Großmann AG began in the Nazis' party newspaper Der Weckruf ("The Wake-Up Call"). In the end, Friedmann got his own back against the attacks on his good name by suggesting to Schwede's employer, the City Works, that the demands for coke and electricity be adjusted. Since Schwede then refused a declaration of failure to perform his job, the Coburg City Works brought a motion before city council, and their resolution, by a vote of 14 to 10, led to Schwede's firing in 1929.
The city administration would not agree to Schwede's prompt rehabilitation as demanded by the outraged Nazis, who then felt compelled to start a petition for a referendum on the dissolution of Coburg's city council. On 5 May 1929, this was held, and passed with 67% of the votes. In the ensuing city council election on 23 June 1929, in a campaign that saw, among other things, Adolf Hitler giving speeches, the Nazis won 43.1% of the vote, and 13 of the 25 seats on city council, marking the first time that they had won an absolute majority in a German city. At the newly elected city council's opening session, it was resolved to promptly hire Schwede once again for the City Works, and to give him status as an official. In the year that followed, Schwede managed on the fifth try, on 28 August 1930, to get himself elected as the third deputy mayor (Bürgermeister), becoming the first Nazi to reach such a position in Germany. Early in 1931, he was elected as second Bürgermeister, and on 16 November 1931 first Bürgermeister, before being appointed Coburg's mayor (Oberbürgermeister) in 1933.
In March 1933, the terror against Jews and opponents of the Nazis under Schwede's leadership had reached a high point. By the end of April, 152 people had been arrested, and while in "protective custody", they were harshly mistreated in Schwede's presence. A high point in the personality cult around Schwede in Coburg came in 1933 with the dedication of Coburg City Hall's new bell bearing the rhyming inscription Zu Adolf Hitler ruf ich dich, Franz Schwede-Glocke heisse ich ("To Adolf Hitler I call you, Franz Schwede Bell is what I'm called"). Schwede had become as of October 1930 a Nazi member of the Bavarian Landtag, and as of November 1933 a member of the Reichstag. Schwede's political career carried on with the office of government president of Lower Bavaria-Upper Palatinate (Niederbayern-Oberpfalz) in Regensburg on 1 July 1934.
Schwede-Coburg, who became Gauleiter in the Province of Pomerania in July 21, and Oberpräsident in July 28, 1934.[1 ] In 1937 he was promoted to SA Gruppenführer and in 1938 to SA Obergruppenführer. In the same year, he became League Leader of the Reich Loyal League of Former Professional Soldiers. In 1939, he was given the title of High President of the Prussia province of Pomerania, and awarded the suffix "Coburg" as an honorary citizen of Coburg. He was also appointed Reich Defence Commissar for Defence District II, but the basis for his authority was his appointment by Adolf Hitler as Gauleiter of the Gau of Pomerania. With this position Schwede-Coburg, as he was now known – or "Nero" as Pomeranians nicknamed him – swept Pomerania with an iron broom. Under his orders, patients were "removed from asylums, transported to Neustadt... and shot by squads of SS men" in October 1939.
As the Second World War drew to an end, Schwede thwarted a timely and organized evacuation of Pomerania's civil population ahead of the Red Army that was bearing down on them, but managed to get himself onto a ship out of Sassnitz on 4 March 1945 in time to escape to Schleswig-Holstein, where he once again ended up in British custody as a prisoner of war, interned until 1947. Sentenced by a first court in Bielefeld to ten years in prison in 1948 for membership in the Nazi Führerkorps, he was later also given ten years' imprisonment by another court in Coburg for abuse of power and grievous bodily harm during the terror in 1933. A pardon came in 1956, and in 1960 Franz Schwede died in Coburg at the age of 72.