Tilo von Wilmowsky
Contributor: C. Peter Chen
Tilo von Wilmowsky was aristocratic, Freiherr (Baron) to be exact, and he hailed from a line of Brandenburg political figures. Wilmowsky was not viewed as a shaper of modern Germany history, however. In a society where the labor movement never took off after the industrial revolution, his humane and democratic philosophy did not blend in well with Berlin politics. His personal aspirations, too, was unassuming; although his family was one of the largest land owners in Germany, he introduced himself to others as a farmer. Although he did hold an interest in farming, calling himself a farmer was much an understatement.
That began to change when he married Barbara Krupp at his family estate in Prussia, however, for Barbara Krupp was of the influential Krupp industrial empire that armed Germany. During WW1, he was a cavalry officer serving as the German occupation governor of Belgium's aide-de-camp. When the governor passed the law to draft Belgian laborers to work in German arms factories, he protested to no avail. He approached his brother-in-law, the influential Gustav Krupp von Bohlen und Halbach, but he declined to offer assistance; one must obey his leader, the unquestioningly loyal Gustav Krupp said. Aside from this interference, Wilmowsky did not seek to assert his influence in Krupp business, but Krupp invited him to become a member of the board, which he accepted. With the new found power in the German economy came his interest in German politics, however. For reasons unknown, he decided to join the Nazi Party after its rise; he later said he wished to reform it from within. Perhaps it was this move, along with his experience in his father-in-law's firm, that put him high on Nazi Germany's list of favored business executives. After the annexation of Austria into German borders, the Berndorferwerk, originally founded by Hermann Krupp of the Krupp family but since had become a publicly traded company, was given to him to manage. Thus, Wilmowsky became a part of the Krupp industrial empire that spanned across the entire German Reich during WW2, supplying the Germany war machine with weapons and ammunition.
In Nov 1943, Alfried von Bohlen und Halbach, son of Gustav, was given the name Krupp by Adolf Hitler and assumed the role of the head of the Krupp family enterprise. Wilmowsky's loyalty shifted to the younger Krupp unquestioningly, just like the elder had preached years ago. This new loyalty would become a key support for Alfried Krupp during the trials after the war.
After the failed 20 Jul 1944 attempt to assassinate Hitler, many Germans were arrested. The Wilmowskys were not excluded for that they had hosted several men who had conspired against Hitler. Barbara von Wilmowsky was let go by the court, but Tilo von Wilmowsky was less fortunate and was sent to the Sachsenhausen concentration camp on the Havel River. As American troops closed in on the area, SS Standartenführer Keindel marched his 40,000 prisoners, including Wilmowsky, toward the heart of Germany. Many who could not keep up were dragged aside and shot; Wilmowsky kept up and survived long enough for the Americans to intercept the column of prisoners. "It became completely obvious that Germany had collapsed!" He wrote later as he recalled the forced march.
In the autumn of 1945, after Germany had lost the war, Wilmowsky briefly found himself as a refugee. He and his wife carried everything they owned on their backs as their four-story castle was taken by the Russian occupation forces.
During the trial of his nephew Alfried Krupp, Wilmowsky voiced strong support for him. Krupp was charged with the exploitation and maltreament of forced labor, where the slaves lived and worked under conditions that rivaled Nazi concentration camps. Wilmowsky argued that the employment of these forced laborers probably saved their lives, who otherwise might had been destined for gas chambers.
In 1963, Wilmowsky received the Star of the Great Order from the president of West Germany. He commented to William Manchester
Baron Tilo von Wilmowsky passed away in 1965.
Source: the Arms of Krupp.
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