He joined the German army in August 1914, serving in railway units throughout the war. A furniture remover by profession, Luther joined the NSDAP and the SA on 1 March 1933, becoming active in Party affairs in the Berlin district of Dahlem. In 1936 he entered the Bureau Ribbentrop, a Nazi Party agency for advising Hitler on foreign policy, in the modest role of forwarding agent in charge of office equipment. The ambitious Luther rose rapidly - in spite of an indictment against him for embezzling Party funds which was eventually dropped - and on 7 May 1940 he was appointed head of the new' ‘Germany’ division (Abteiling Deutschland) within the Foreign Office, a position he held until his fall in April 1943. Luther was not only responsible for the entire propaganda of the FO but also for liaison with all Party organizations, the SS and police, becoming one of Himmler's and Heydrich's most powerful agents and gradually undermining the position of his nominal boss, von Ribbentrop.
Luther’s talent for organization, his efficiency and skill in bureaucratic infighting, his cold, calculating and unscrupulous methods, made him a formidable adversary in the internal power struggles of the Third Reich. Promoted to Unterstaatssekretar in July 1941, Luther surrounded himself with young Nazi activists in his department, fighting a determined battle to preserve the traditional prerogatives of the Foreign Office, partly Nazifying it from within and partly through a policy of bureaucratic imperialism which involved it in new initiatives such as the ‘Final Solution of the Jewish Question'. It was Luther, not von Ribbentrop, who participated at the Wannsee Conference of 20 January 1942, working out an understanding with Heydrich for co-operation between the Foreign Office and the RSHA over the murder of European Jewry.
Luther’s intimate involvement in the deportation of Jews from western and south-eastern Europe (Russia and Poland were excluded from Foreign Office concern), his remorseless prodding of hesitant governments to undertake more radical measures, reflected his cynical realization that the ‘Final Solution' was an opportunity to extend his own power and that of his associates. Luther's dynamic careerism was brought to an end in April 1943 by a premature and unsuccessful coup against von Ribbentrop, which was revealed to the Foreign Minister by the SS itself. Himmler's Adjutant, Karl Wolff, sent von Ribbentrop an advance copy of Luther’s accusations against him which led to the latter's despatch to the Sachsenhausen concentration camp, just north of Berlin, where he unsuccessfully attempted to commit suicide. Released as the Russians were closing in on Berlin he died of heart failure in a local hospital in May 1945.