Nazi Ambassador to Vichy France
Abetz was born in Schwetzingen. He matriculated in Karlsruhe, where he became an art teacher at a girls' school. He was interested in French culture at an early age. In his twenties he started a Franco-German cultural group for youths, known as the Sohlberg Circle. An ardent Francophile, Abetz married a French woman, Susanne de Bruyker, in 1932. At that time his politics were leftist, and he was known as a pacifist. In 1934 the Sohlberg Circle was reborn as the Franco-German Committee (Comité France-Allemagne), which included Pierre Drieu la Rochelle and Jacques Benoist-Mechin.
Abetz did not join the Nazi Party until 1937, the year he applied for the German Foreign Service.
Abetz attended the Munich Conference in 1938. He was deported from France in June 1939 following allegations he had bribed two French newspaper editors to write pro-German articles; his explusion created a scandal in France when it emerged that the wife of the French Foreign Minister Georges Bonnet was a close friend of the two editors, which led to much lucid speculation in the French press that Bonnet had received bribes from Abetz, though no firm evidence has ever emerged to support the rumors. He was present in Adolf Hitler's entourage at the fall of Warsaw and returned to France in June 1940 following the German occupation and assigned by Joachim von Ribbentrop to the embassy in Paris. Following Hitler's June 30 directive, Abetz was assigned by Ribbentrop the project of "safeguarding" all objects of art, public, private, and especially Jewish-owned. Abetz took up this task with enthusiasm and announced to the Wehrmacht that the embassy had been "charged with the seizure of French works of art... and with the listing and seizure of works owned by Jews." On 17 September 1940 Hitler allowed Einsatzstab Rosenberg into the game too and soon pushed Abetz out of the confiscation business. The Pétain government protested Abetz's undertakings in late October, but nothing could stop the German agencies. By the end of October so much material had accumulated at the Louvre that it was decided more space was needed.
In November 1940 he was appointed to the German Embassy in Paris, in occupied France, at the age of 37 - a post he held until July 1944. Abetz was never accredited as Ambassador to France as there was never a peace treaty between Germany and France, but he acted with the full powers of an ambassador.
He advised the German military administration in Paris and was responsible for dealings with Vichy France. In May 1941, he negotiated the Paris Protocols to expand German access to French military facilities.
Otto Abetz was one of the few German functionaries who admired and respected von Ribbentrop. His primary objective was to secure complete collaboration (Kollaboration) from the French, through negotiations with Laval and Admiral Darlan. Abetz's function eventually evolved into becoming the catalyst for society, the arts, industry, education, and above all, propaganda. He assembled a team of journalists and academics. In the former German Embassy, where he entertained often and in regal style, he soon became known as King Otto I.
The Embassy was theoretically responsible for all political questions in occupied France, which included SD operations, and for advising the German police and military. Abetz advised the military, the Gestapo and the SD, who nevertheless didn't heed his advice. As the official representative of the German Government with the honorary rank of SS-Standartenführer (Colonel), he sought to seize the initiative as much as possible. In 1940 he created the German Institute, to be headed by Karl Epting, which was intended to improve French-German relations by offering a taste of German culture to the French people. Thirty thousand people signed up for the Institute's German language courses, but far more popular were the concerts which featured Germany's best musicians, including Herbert von Karajan and the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra.
Following the occupation of all of Vichy France on 11 November 1942, von Ribbentrop's influence was minimal as all of France was run by German military authorities, in conjunction with military police. An NSDAP Reichskommissariat of Belgien-Nordfrankreich held sway in several northern departments. Abetz was helpless to aid von Ribbentrop in Paris. Von Ribbentrop recalled him in November following the occupation of Vichy France. Abetz knew that he was in disfavour, although he did not understand why. He saw neither Hitler nor von Ribbentrop for a full year. He was consulted only once, on the formation of the French volunteer Waffen-SS unit Charlemagne. In his memoirs, Abetz assumed that he was considered "too francophile" and that his constant warnings about the loss of the French fleet and the loss of the French North Africa colonies were a thorn in the side of von Ribbentrop, particularly now that they had turned out to be correct. The scuttling of the French fleet in Toulon on 27 November had ensured that the French would not join the Axis.
He left France in September 1944 as the German armies withdrew.
(Please note, Abetz was a diplomat, not a soldier. His SS rank was purely honorary. But somebody keeps inserting this misleading list.)
|194?||War Merit Cross, First Class (without swords)|
|194?||War Merit Cross, Second Class (without swords)|
|193?||Prague Castle Bar for Sudetenland Medal|
|193?||Sudetenland Medal (Sudetenland invasion)|
|193?||Sudetenland Medal (Czechoslovakia invasion)|
|1936||German Olympic Games Decoration, First Class|
|1942-01-30||Ehrendegen des Reichsführers-SS
"Honour Sword of the Reichsführer-SS"
|194?||Totenkopfring der SS
SS Honour Ring (unofficially "Death's head ring")
|19??||SS-Zivilabzeichen Nr. 138 594
"SS Civil Badge No. 138 594"
|19??||Julleuchter der SS
"Yule Candle Holder of the SS"
|19??||Order of Mauritius, 1st Class (Italy)|
|19??||Grand Cross of the Order of Isabella the Catholic (Spain)|
|19??||Order of the Sacred Treasure, First Class (Japan)|
See article: Orders, decorations, and medals of Nazi Germany
|Date given||Service & Rank||Translation/Equivalent|
|31 July 1934||HJ-Unterbannführer||"Junior Banner Leader"|
|1 August 1935||SS-Mann||"Man" ≈ Private|
|1 August 1935||SS-Oberscharführer||"Senior Squad Leader"
≈ Senior Sergeant
|13 September 1936||SS-Untersturmführer||"Junior Storm Leader"
≈ Second Lieutenant
|20 April 1938||SS-Obersturmführer||"Senior Storm Leader"
≈ First Lieutenant
|21 December 1938||SS-Hauptsturmführer||"Head Storm Leader"
|30 January 1939||SS-Sturmbannführer||"Storm Unit Leader"
|20 April 1939||SS-Obersturmbannführer||"Senior Storm Unit Leader"
≈ Lieutenant Colonel
|6 April 1940||Diplomatic - Gesandter
(as title of office, not as a rank)
|5 August 1940||Diplomatic - Botschafter||Ambassador|
|9 November 1940||SS-Standartenführer||"Banner Leader"
|30 January 1941||SS-Oberführer||"Senior Leader"
≈ Senior Colonel
|30 January 1941||HJ-Gebietsführer
(effective from 4 August 1940)
|30 January 1942||SS-Brigadeführer||"Brigade Leader"
≈ Brigadier General
He was captured by Allied authorities in the Schwarzwald in 1945. In July 1949 a French court sentenced Abetz to twenty years' imprisonment for war crimes, particularly his role in arranging the deportation of French Jews to the death camps. He was released on 17 April 1954 from Loos prison. He died on 5 May 1958 in an auto accident near Langenfeld on the Cologne-Ruhr autobahn. There was speculation that the accident might have been arranged as revenge for Abetz' wartime activities, but this has never been proved.
A grand nephew Eric Abetz is a member of the Australian Senate for the Liberal Party of Australia and grand nephew Peter Abetz is a member of the Western Australian Legislative Assembly for the Liberal Party.
Otto Abetz (March 3, 1903 in Schwetzingen / Germany – May 5, 1958) was a German diplomat. In 1931, he became a member of the NSDAP and worked until 1934 as Reichsjugendführer. Starting in 1935, he worked for Joachim von Ribbentrop as expert for French. He get the German ambassador for the Vichy-Government in 1940.