Joachim von Ribbentrop was born to a military family in Prussia in 1893. He travelled widely during the early 1900s, dreaming of making a fortune and craving the high life (it was during this time that Ribbentrop fraudulently added the aristocratic “von” to his surname). When World War I broke out in 1914, Ribbentrop returned to Germany and enlisted. He served on both the Eastern and Western Fronts as a competent junior officer. After the war Ribbentrop, still dreaming about big business and wealth, shunned politics. He married the daughter of Germany’s largest champagne producer and became involved in selling and importing wine.
Ribbentrop did not join the NSDAP until mid-1932. A wartime friendship with vice-chancellor Franz von Papen gave him access to Hitler, to whom Ribbentrop curried favour. This made Ribbentrop particularly unpopular with the NSDAP’s ‘old brigade’, who viewed him as a crawler and a deceitful fraud. Goering, for instance, described him as a “dirty little champagne peddler”. But whatever Ribbentrop’s methods, they worked: within a year of joining the party he had become an SS colonel, a member of the Reichstag and Hitler’s chief advisor on foreign policy. The Fuhrer claimed to be impressed by Ribbentrop’s bearing, knowledge and worldliness. In reality, Ribbentrop mastered the art of telling Hitler precisely what he wanted to hear.
By 1934, Ribbentrop had become Hitler’s chief agent abroad, negotiating with Britain, France, China and Japan. In 1936 the Fuhrer appointed Ribbentrop ambassador to Britain, mainly to pursue Hitler’s unrealistic dream of an Anglo-German alliance. Ribbentrop failed, in part due to his arrogance and clumsiness (he once gave an energetic Nazi salute that almost knocked over King George VI). In 1938, Ribbentrop became the Nazi government’s foreign minister in 1938. He led negotiations that produced the Munich agreement (1938) and the German-Soviet Non-Aggression Pact (1939). Ribbentrop remained as foreign minister during World War II, though his influence was all but gone by late 1944. He was arrested and put on trial at Nuremberg, charged with crimes against peace; he was subsequently found guilty and hanged in October 1946.
1. Joachim von Ribbentrop was a World War I veteran who dreamed of making it rich in business and high society.
2. He joined the NSDAP very late (1932) but managed to enter its inner circle through his friendship with pro-Nazi politician Franz von Papen.
3. Though he was despised by other leading Nazis, Ribbentrop ingratiated himself with Hitler and became the fuhrer’s chief advisor on foreign policy.
4. He became Hitler’s foreign minister and chief diplomat, attempting to forge an alliance with Britain and negotiating the 1939 pact with Moscow.
5. Ribbentrop’s influence diminished during the war, after which he was arrested, tried and hanged for crimes against peace.
This page was written by Jennifer Llewellyn, Jim Southey and Steve Thompson. To reference this page, use the following citation:
J. Llewellyn et al, “Joachim von Ribbentrop”, Alpha History, accessed [today’s date], https://alphahistory.com/nazigermany/joachim-von-ribbentrop/.