Hans Kehrl (8 September 1900 – 26 April 1984) was a German economic functionary during the National Socialist era and Gau Economic Adviser to the NSDAP.
Early life and education
Hans Kehrl was born in Brandenburg an der Havel on September 8, 1900. His father Richard Kehrl was a cloth manufacturer, part owner of the Rudolph Kehrl cloth factory. After graduating from high school in Cottbus, Kehrl volunteered at this factory. After brief studies at the Staatliches Technikum für Textilindustrie in Reutlingen and in Aachen, he went to the USA from 1922 to 1924.
After Hitler's seizure of power, Kehrl became a member of the NSDAP on May 1, 1933. From 1933, Kehrl served as the NSDAP's Gau Economic Advisor in the Kurmark Gau; at the same time, from May 1933 to 1935, he was President of the Niederlausitz Chamber of Commerce in Cottbus. In 1934, he served as Wilhelm Keppler's associate as economic advisor to the Führer and Reich Chancellor. Kehrl was oriented toward the promotion of textile substitutes, through which the German economy could save foreign currency and reduce its dependence on imports. In 1936/37, four new fiber plants were established under his direction.
After 1934, Kehrl sat on the supervisory boards of 19 stock corporations, mainly in the heavy and textile industries, including Reichswerke Hermann Göring, Brüxer Kohlenbergbaugesellschaft, Kurmärkische Zellwolle u. Zellulose AG and Nordböhmische Kohlenwerks-Gesellschaft in Brüx, as well as Rheinische Kunstseide AG in Krefeld, Rheinische Zellwolle AG in Siegburg, Spinnstoffwerk Glauchau AG, Sudetenländische Bergbau AG and Sudetenländische Treibswerke AG in Brüx; he was also chairman of the foreign trade office for East Brandenburg.
In 1936, Kehrl became chief advisor for the Four Year Plan in the Office for German Raw Materials and Materials of the Reich Ministry of Economics. On September 13, 1936, Kehrl became a member of the SS and joined the Freundeskreis der Wirtschaft, inspired by his mentor Keppler, for "pragmatic reasons [...] with a flair for accumulating power."
From 1938 to 1942, he was Generalreferent für Sonderaufgaben ("General Referent for Special Tasks"), which became the most important decision-making authority for banking policy in the Sudetenland. In 1938 he was deputy to the "Reich Commissioner for Austria," and in 1939 "Plenipotentiary of the Reich Ministry of Economics for the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia." On November 9, 1939, he became SS-Oberführer at the staff of the SS-Hauptamt. On November 14, 1939, he introduced the Reich clothing cards, from which Jews were excluded as of February 6, 1940.
In the fall of 1941, Ost-Faser Gesellschaft m.b.H. was founded in Berlin with Kehrl as chairman of the board of directors. Ostfaser GmbH was the "most important monopoly company for the textile industry in the East", which, together with its Riga subsidiary Ostlandfaser GmbH, had the task of re-operating all textile, paper and pulp industry plants confiscated by German occupiers in the occupied Eastern territories. Most of the production went to the Wehrmacht and at times comprised some 300 plants and 30,000 employees, which is why he was also referred to as the "Textile Pope."
In 1942, Kehrl became the driving force behind the founding of important steering associations of the economy: the Reichsvereinigung Eisen, the RV Bastfasern, the RV chemische Fasern and the RV Textilveredlung were set up to solve pressing supply problems. Rolf-Dieter Müller described Kehrl as the "general of the civilian economy."
On September 16, 1943, Kehrl moved from the Reich Ministry of Economics under Walther Funk to the Reich Ministry of Armaments and War Production under Albert Speer. In the Ministry of Economics, the SS man Otto Ohlendorf moved up, whereas Kehrl took over the Planning Office in the Ministry of Armaments and, from November 1, 1943, the Raw Materials Office. From January 30, 1944, Kehrl was SS Brigadeführer.
Kehrl was responsible for "unlawful property transactions as part of the National Socialist resettlement policy."
Post war period
After the end of the war, Kehrl was initially in the Heilbronn internment camp. During the trials from January 6 to November 18, 1948, Kehrl sat in the dock in the Ministries Trial ("The Ministries Case," Case 11 of the Nuremberg Trials). He was accused of war crimes and "crimes against humanity" for plundering occupied territories in the West through the "Kehrl Plan" and through the Ostfasergesellschaft in the East, as well as membership in a criminal organization, the SS. His defense attorney argued that Kehrl had been a member of the SS as an honorary leader, that he had not belonged to the Reichsführer SS ("Circle of friends"), and downplayed his function to "occasionally giving a short impromptu speech at the dinner on the government organization of economy." However, the prosecution objected to this.
On April 14, 1949, he was sentenced to 15 years in prison.
Release from prison
On February 3, 1951, he was already released from Landsberg Prison with a pardon, like the 20 other Reich ministers. Kehrl never accepted his conviction and saw himself blameless, more like a scapegoat for the Reich Ministry of Economics.
After his release, Kehrl was, among other things, an economic advisor in Leverkusen. He was a "sought-after advisor and mediator in industry," but was also invited to sit on a Bundestag commission of inquiry.
Politically, he was aligned with the SPD and maintained a correspondence with Helmut Schmidt, including during the 1966/67 economic crisis and the oil crisis. His memoirs were published in 1973. His ideas on government investment were criticized at the time as those of a socialist planning ideologue.
He received, among others, the War Merit Cross I. and II. Class and on November 2, 1944 the Knight's Cross of the Order of Merit with Swords.
- Die Aufgaben der Wirtschaft nach dem Kriege (1941)
- Neuordnung der Eisenbewirtschaftung (1942)
- Vortrag über Aufgaben und Ziele der Reichsvereinigungen (1942)
- Krisenmanager im Dritten Reich. 6 Jahre Frieden – 6 Jahre Krieg. Mit kritischen Anmerkungen und einem Nachwort von Erwin Viefhaus (1973)
- Marktwirtschft morgen. Staat und Wirtschaft im Wandel (1975)
- Realitäten im Dritten Reich (1979)
- Zum Untergang des Dritten Reiches (1981)
- Rolf-Dieter Müller, "Hans Kehrl – Ein Parteibuch-Industrieller im "Dritten Reich"?", Jahrbuch für Wirtschaftsgeschichte, 2 (1999), pp. 195–213.
- Taylor, Telford. Prosecution Brief on the Asserted Defense of "Honorary" Membership in the SS: Reply to Defenses Presented on Behalf of Keppler, Kehrl, and Rasche (1948) Nuremberg Military Tribunal 11 – Ministries Case. Paper 34. The University of Georgia School of Law.
- Ernst Klee, Das Personenlexikon zum Dritten Reich. Fischer: Frankfurt am Main (2007)
- Rolf-Dieter Müller, Der Manager der Kriegswirtschaft. Hans Kehrl. Ein Unternehmer in der Politik des Dritten Reiches. Klartext-Verlag: Essen (1999)
- Hermann Weiß (ed.), Biographisches Lexikon zum Dritten Reich. Fischer: Frankfurt am Main (1998)
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