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Walther Funk Edit Profile

journalist , public official

Walther Funk was an economist and prominent Nazi official who served as Reich Minister for Economic Affairs from 1938 to 1945 and was tried and convicted as a major war criminal by the International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg.

Background

Walther Funk was born in Trakehnen, East Prussia (now Yasnaya Polyana, Kaliningrad Oblast, Russian Federation) on 18 August 1890. He was the son of Wiesenbaumeister Walther Funk the elder and his wife Sophie (née Urbschat).

Education

He studied law, economics, and philosophy at the Humboldt University of Berlin and the University of Leipzig.

Career

After his University studies Funk became a financial journalist and joined the staff of the conservative Berlin Bórsenzeitung in 1916. Chief editor of its business section from 1920, he was appointed Editor-in-Chief of the paper in 1922, a lucrative position which he held for the next ten years.

In January 1933 Funk was appointed Press Chief of the Reich Government and, from 2 March, Secretary of State in Goebbels’s Ministry of Propaganda as well as Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Reich Broadcasting Company. Subsequently, Funk was made Vice-President of the Reich Chamber of Culture which he had helped Goebbels to create.

In November 1937 he succeeded Hjalmar Schacht as Reich Minister of Economics, a year later he also replaced him as Plenipotentiary for the War Economy and in January 1939 as President of the Reichsbank.

Though a member of the Ministerial Council for Reich Defence and after September 1943 of the Central Planning Commission, Funk had no real economic programme of his ow n and in 1944 most of the important wartime responsibilities of his Ministry w ere handed over to the more efficient Albert Speer.

Indicted at Nuremberg in 1945 along with other Nazi leaders, Funk strongly protested his innocence, claiming that he had only been an official implementing the plans of the top Party leadership, especially those of Goering. However, it was established that as President of the Reichsbank, Funk had come to a secret agreement with Himmler that gold, jewels and other valuables taken from murdered Jews were to be deposited in the so-called ‘Max Heiliger’ account of his bank and credited to the SS. Funk knew that these enormous deposits of currency and valuables originated from the extermination camps. Found guilty of war crimes, crimes against peace and crimes against humanity,

Funk was sentenced to life imprisonment by the Nuremberg Tribunal on 1 October 1946. Released from Spandau prison in 1957 for health reasons, Funk died in Düsseldorf on 31 May I960.

Politics

An ardent nationalist and anti-Marxist, Funk joined the Nazi Party in the summer of 1931, becoming Hitler’s personal economic adviser.

Enjoying the confidence of big business, he was a leading contact man between the NSDAP and the big Rhineland industrialists, including Emil Kirdorf, Fritz Thyssen , Albert Voegler and Friedrich Flick, who regarded him as a ‘liberal Nazi' and a potential moderating influence. Not only the coal and steel interests, but also the big banks, insurance companies and directors of the giant chemical concern, I. G. Farben, channelled money to the Nazis through Funk. In return. Funk stressed the importance of private initiative and free enterprise to the Führer and, as Chief of the Office for Economic Policy in the Reich Leadership of the Party, guaranteed that the voice of heavy industry would be heard.

Membership

  • Ministerial Council for Reich Defence

  • Central Planning Commission

    1943

Personality

A notorious homosexual and habitual drunkard, the greasy-looking, dwarfish Minister of Economics, though a man of many parts and an important figure in the earlier financial structuring of the Third Reich, proved after 1938 to carry little weight in the upper echelons of the Party.

Connections

spouse:
Luise Schmidt-Sieben