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Otto Kiep

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Otto Carl Kiep, pd via wp
Otto Carl Kiep

Otto Carl Kiep (July 7, 1886 – August 23, 1944) was born in Saltcoats, on the Clyde coast, during a family holiday. A law graduate, he followed a career in international diplomacy. An anti-Nazi dissident, he became involved with the German Resistance, was betrayed, and executed in 1944.

Early years in Glasgow

His parents were Imperial Consul Johann Nikolaus Kiep, and his wife Charlotte, née Rottenburg. The family home was in Hughenden Terrace, Glasgow, located within the up-market west-end of the city. His father's position meant that the family was both prominent and popular within the city's Victorian society.

Otto had three brothers and one sister, Ida. One of his cousins, Walter, also lived in Glasgow, and is reported to have served as a doctor with the British Army.

Later life in Germany and America

Otto lived in Glasgow until he was 24, when his father retired in 1909, and returned to Germany with his family, to in Ballenstedt. Having studied law in both London and Germany, Otto took up a career in international diplomacy, aided by a flair for languages and an interest in foreign cultures, and from 1927 to 1931 worked as an adviser with the German Embassy in Washington. From 1931 to 1933 he served as Consul General in New York.

In 1933, he attended a banquet in honour of Albert Einstein, and act which signalled his beliefs, and served to distance him from the anti-Semetic beliefs of the Nazis, who immediately demanded his replacement. His biographer has attributed these beliefs to his being raised in Scotland, and not being subject to nationalist peer pressure.[1]

World War II

Six years later, with the outbreak of World War II, Kiep was was drafted into the High Command Foreign Affairs Office, where he would befriend Claus von Stauffenberg, the aristocratic leader of the German resistance, and leader of the July 20 plot to assassinate Adolf Hitler while he was at a conference within the Wolfsschanze (Wolf's Lair) near Rastenburg, East Prussia. The plan failed when the bomb was moved just after von Stauffenberg had placed it under the conference table and left the room. Hitler was shielded from the blast by a heavy table leg, receiving relatively minor injuries while the conference room was demolished, and three other officers and the stenographer next to him were killed.

Arrest and torture

Kiep was arrested before the July 20 plan was carried out. He had attended a tea party given by Hanna Solf (another resistance member) in September 1943, the "Frau Solf Tea Party", where he believed he was among friend who thought as he did, and voiced his moral objections to the Nazis, but he was betrayed to the Gestapo by an informer, and subsequently arrested by the SS on January 16, 1944. He had been Reichspresseamts (Chief of the Reich Press Office), and the name of Otto Kiep had appeared on lists of those associated with von Stauffenberg.

Although subject to repeated torture, he remained silent and did not reveal any details of the forthcoming July 20 plot, or of any of the conspirators. After the plot failed he was identified as one of those who had planned to assassinate Hitler.

Otto Kiep was sentenced to death at the Volksgerichtshof by Judge-President Roland Freisler, and was hanged at Plötzensee Prison, Berlin, on August 23, 1944, one month after the failed assassination plot.

The Volksgerichtshof (The People's Court) was established in 1934 by German Chancellor Adolf Hitler, outside the operations of the constitutional frame of law. Cases presented to the court were generally considered to be Wehrkraftzersetzung (disintegration of defensive capability) and punished severely. The Judge-President usually acted as prosecutor, against a mute defence, resulting in the death penalty being a frequent outcome.


1 From Ice Set Free: The Story of Otto Kiep. Bruce Clements, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1972, ISBN 0374324689

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