During my wartime years in the United States, I heard not a single "morale-building" story about Central Europe that did not involve a "Nazi nobleman."
— Erik Maria Ritter von Kuehnelt-Leddihn, Leftism Revisited
Ah, yes, the Nazi Nobleman. This arrogant aristocrat
has wholeheartedly and enthusiastically embraced the Nazi ideology
of "might makes right"
and "the strong should dominate the weak"
. No doubt this is a result of his superior breeding
and privileged upbringing, during which he was raised to believe himself superior to all those lowly proles.
Naturally, of course, this enthusiastic Nazi hates democracy, probably because it threatens the superiority of the noble class, and is almost certainly wealthy
, and trusts the Nazis to help him keep his wealth. He is probably a good pal of old Adolf himself
. In some stories, he is a leading scientist
, or perhaps a sadistic jailer
, but more often, he is a Cultured Warrior
, or some variant thereof. His uniform will be immaculate, starched and pressed, his last name begins with "Von"
, and of course a monocle
is mandatory. Very likely to have a Dueling Scar
The reality of this trope is far more complicated than the trope itself, and can be found on the Analysis page
Note that this does not apply to German aristocrats in any time period who express elitist and pseudoscience-based racist opinions about any particular ethnic group; this trope refers to noblemen who endorse and promote the Nazi Party and its ideology.
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Anime & Manga
- Marvel Comics have Baron Heinrich Zemo, a Nazi super-scientist and enthusiastic believer in his own racial superiority.
- Marvel Comics also has Baron Von Strucker, a Prussian nobleman who was the arch-nemesis of Sergeant Fury and his Howling Commandos, and later went on the head the Nebulous Evil Organisation Hydra.
- Baron Von Blitzschlag is another Marvel-universe Nazi; in this case a scientist modeled on Werner Von Braun.
- Because three Nazi Barons weren't enough, Marvel also created Baron Boche, a Nazi spymaster whose name ("Boche") is an anti-German slur from the French language. It's hard to tell from such a small picture, but he appears to be complete with monocle.
- In the Avengers/Defenders war in Marvel Comics, the Swordsman finds a castle in South America built by an escaped Nazi who modeled it after his original castle in Germany.
- The DCU has Baron Blitzkrieg, a Prussian nobleman and personal friend of Adolf Hitler, who gained superpowers and became one the Nazis top super agents.
- Also from the DCU, Wonder Woman villain Baroness Paula Von Gunther.
- Eventually justified when it was revealed (possibly an early retcon) that she was working for the Nazis because her daughter was held captive by them.
- According to this reviewer, a 1942 Blackhawk story features a Nazi torturer named Baron Von Zeifh.
- Baron Heinrich von Helsingard, Despoiler of ancient civilizations, arch enemy of Atomic Robo, and Brain-In-A-Jar of Science. Also, doesn't know when to quit while he's ahead.
- Many war themed comics set in WW 2, such as Commando Comics would inevitably have stories portraying German Officers as Evil Noblemen.
- 1942's Nazi Agent stars Conrad Veidt as a Nazi spymaster named "Baron Hugo von Detner", the twin brother of a kindly American stamp dealer (also played by Conrad Veidt), playing this trope completely straight. The Nazi aristocrat in question even has an old family butler.
- Wouldn't that mean that the stamp dealer is also an aristocrat?
- Veidt pretty much codified the trope. As early as 1940, he played an aristocratic Nazi general opposite Norma Shearer in Escape. His character runs like a list of everything associated with this trope. Monocle... check. Fanboying Wagner... check. Talking about the survival of the fittest... check. Chatting casually about concentration camps... check. Veidt hated the Nazis in real life, though, and only agreed to play them because the movies were good anti-Nazi propaganda. He donated his entire salary from Escape to help the British war effort.
- Address Unknown, made in 1944, has a classic example of this trope in "Baron von Freische" (Carl Esmond). Turner Classic Movies is helpful enough to provide two clips of the Baron being as haughtily aristocratic and casually anti-Semitic as you'd expect, even praising the Führer to the stars in the latter.
- Secret Service in Darkest Africa, a 1943 film about an American agent battling Nazis in Africa, features a "Baron von Rommler" as the head of a sinister Nazi conspiracy.
- Once Upon a Honeymoon, a 1942 Leo McCarey film, features an Austrian Baron named "von Luber", played by Walter Slezak, who provides P.R. for the Nazis in countries they are planning to annex.
- Obliquely referenced in the Marx Brothers movie A Night In Casablanca. The Nazi agent Heinrich Stubel goes by the assumed identity of "Count Pfferman"; while his noble title appears to be false, he nonetheless projects a vaguely aristocratic image, in keeping with this trope.
- 1945's Hotel Berlin features an apparent Nazi blueblood named "Von Stetten" who attempts to escape to South America and start a new Nazi regime there.
- The film Enemy at the Gates depicts a ruthless Bavarian aristocrat sniper by the name of Erwin König; in real life it is not clear that König even actually existed, though the film is supposedly based on a true story. Supposedly.
- Though in König's case it wasn't so much Nazi ideology as it was his wish to avenge his son's death, his son having been killed in the earliest days of the battle.
- The Soviets invoke the trope because their guy is a poor peasant who learned shooting hunting goats for food. The German guy learnt sniping on his family estate. They turn the sniper duel into class warfare.
- This trope possibly appears in the 1943 war movie Bomber's Moon; the villain of the piece is a Luftwaffe Major named Von Streicher — given the name, very likely an aristocrat of some kind. While it can't be said for sure whether he is an actual Nazi ideologue or just an ordinary soldier, he displays the kind of ruthlessly amoral behavior one would expect of a Nazi, such as machine-gunning an unarmed man.
- The Master Race, made in 1944, depicts unrepentant Nazi "Colonel Friedrich Von Beck" deviously fomenting hatred and dissent in a liberated Belgian town.
- Averted in Cross of Iron. Both Sergeant Steiner and his aristocratic nemesis Captain Stransky have a cynical and distasteful view of the Nazis, the former because he has seen enough of the war to know how insane it is and the latter because of his aristocratic Prussian background and distaste for the Nazi belief in social mobility among Germans.
- Averted big-time in Valkyrie (for real-life, see below) which depicts a Swabian Catholic Aristocrat and army officer who masterminds a plot to assassinate Adolf Hitler. A huge portion of the other plotters depicted are also aristocrats, both Protestant and Catholic, and from a variety of different parts of Germany.
- Baron von Sepper (Richard Burton) in Bluebeard (1972).
- Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid features as its main villain a "Field Marshall von Kluck" (Carl Reiner), whose surname, in combination with his starched-and-pressed uniform and neatly shined boots, suggest a probable aristocratic background. He is also an enthusiastic Nazi, referring to the heroine's family as members of an "inferior race", and trying to destroy the Third Reich's enemies long after the war has ended.
- It may be worth mentioning that von Kluck was an actual German general in World War I, whose inability to coordinate with von Bülow's signaled the failure of the Schlieffen Plan and led to the extended trench warfare of that conflict.
- The Rocky Horror Picture Show invokes this trope in typical B movie style (which is to say, reversed) where referring to Dr. Scott as Dr. Von Scott is enough to establish him as a Nazi (even though this is never actually said).
- Presumably a former Nazi scientist, rather than a nobleman. The United States recruited by such scientists in droves after the war in an effort to keep them from being recruited to the USSR instead.
- "von" typically indicates nobility in Germany. As the intro and Comicbook section to this page indicates, science is a quite popular career choice for Nazi Noblemen in fiction, so it was probably both this trope and the evil scientist one.
- Dissected in the film Judgement at Nuremberg by the widow of a nobleman who was executed by the Allies as a war criminal. She maintained that she and her husband supported Hitler as being the patriotic thing to do during wartime, but never agreed with his ideology. Of course, the primary reason that she gave for why they could never truly follow Hitler was that he was too low-class, so she comes across as not-entirely-sympathetic.
- In Where Eagles Dare, we have Gestapo officer Major von Hapen. His name aside, though, he otherwise seems like a typical working class SS man, and it is the Wehrmacht's General Julius Rosemeyer who more fits the aristocratic Nazi trope, monocle and all.
- In the 1943 film Sahara, we get Luftwaffe pilot Captain von Schletow, who is every bit the dedicated, arrogant Nazi, up to and including flying into a rage and assaulting the Italian soldier who talks smack about Hitler. He is also startlingly racist, refusing to let a black soldier search him when he's captured.
- These elements of von Schletow's character are downplayed somewhat in the 1995 remake. There, the character of Major von Falken (who was also in the original film) is the fervent Nazi supporter, even shooting his own men for weakness.
- Biggles' arch-nemesis Erich von Stalhein, both during and after the war.
- The 1952 novel The Sound of His Horn features the hero being captured by a sadistic Nazi Nobleman who hunts human beings for sport.
- The short story Poison Victory uses a Nazi Nobleman, and lampshades the inaccuracy by having one character remark "Another Nazi nobleman... And to think how Hitler hated the aristocracy!"
- Norman Katov's novel The Judas Kiss depicts an Austrian Nazi Baron who collaborates with Hitler in torturing prisoners.
- P. G. Wodehouse included a British variant in his Jeeves and Wooster stories. Roderick Spode, 7th Earl of Sidcup, is the founder of a Fascist organisation informally known as the "Blackshorts" (so named because "by the time [he] founded his organisation, there were no shirts [as in shirt colours] left"). Fortunately, Wodehouse knew enough to depict Spode correctly as an exception to the general rule — most of the other upper-class characters think he is bonkers.
- It should be pointed out that Spode abandons his attempts to become a dictator precisely when he succeeds to the title. Moreover, when "Joy in the Morning" was written, Wodehouse probably had not yet invented a title for Spode to inherit.
- Several members of the Vanger family in The Millennium Trilogy were enthusiastic supporters of Nazi ideology.
- Graf Otto von Schlick, a.k.a. Dr Perseus Friend, in the Young Bond novel By Royal Command.
- Erik von Ulrich from Winter of the World is technically this, but his parents' lifestyle is not very typical for aristocrats. Ironically, a straighter example would be his cousin Boy Fitzherbert's short stint at being a British Union Of Fascists Nobleman.
- Gestapo officer Captain von Brauchitsch in Where Eagles Dare.
- A 1969 episode of The Champions entitled "The Final Countdown" features Nazi war criminal "Field Marshall von Splitz" being released from prison and attempting to detonate a German atom bomb in order to start WWIII; given his name, he is almost certainly an aristocrat of some stripe.
- The aforementioned "Baroness von Gunther", from the Wonder Woman franchise, made an appearance on the 1970s TV show.
- Colonel Klink from Hogan's Heroes was depicted as a man of Prussian aristocratic descent, though his apparent lack of enthusiasm for Nazi ideology may exempt him from this trope.
- Jeeves and Wooster: Lord Sidcup, mentioned in "Literature" section above, made an appearance on several episodes.
- Averted in 'Allo 'Allo!, where the aristocratic General von Klinkerhoffen may serve under Nazi Germany but still openly celebrates the Kaiser's birthday and makes the other German officers wear Pickelhauben to do it.
- He also tries to murder Adolf Hitler, like almost every other German officer in the series.
- While not exactly a Nazi, David Bowie described his "Thin White Duke" persona (which was during his transition from "plastic Soul" to New Wave and/or Post Punk-ish Krautrock) as an "emotionless Aryan superman," playing off this trope.
- In the 1940s Soviet wartime song ''Baron von der Pshick" by Leonid Utesov, the titular baron is the Anthropomorphic Personification of the Wehrmacht and gets his ass totally handed to him in Russia.
- Baron von Unterbheit on The Venture Brothers fits this trope. His country is fairly Nazi-like.
- Von Reichter in Cybersix. Despite his name implying German nobility, he is a former SS member.
- Successful tank commander and nobleman Hyazinth Graf Strachwitz von Gross-Zauche und Camminetz nicknamed by his troops der Panzergraf (Tank count).
- Hermann Göring started styling himself as one once in power, and by the end of the war he had made it the last "job" he actually did.
- At least one aristocratic German relative of Britain's Prince Philip attained a high position in the Nazi Party. Prince Christopher of Hesse-Cassel was an intimate of Hermann Gōring and became head of the wiretapping unit organized by Gōring that became the forerunner to the Gestapo.
- The Mitfords were perfect examples of British nobility who sympathised with the Nazis; though a distinct minority, their massive publicity over the years has caused many in the public to believe their position was reflective of opinion among the vast majority of British nobility. As among German nobility, it wasn't.
- Perhaps it would be useful to illustrate through the example of the Mitfords themselves.
- First of all, there is the patriarch, David Freeman-Mitford, Baron of Redesdale, a ardent reactionary and xenophobe, he was described as "one of nature's fascists" (by his own daughter, no less—and it was meant as a compliment, since it came from Diana). However, his sympathy for the Nazi party was tempered by his knee-jerk hatred for the Germans and his fierce sense of English patriotism.
- The most strongly Nazi Mitfords were Unity (whose middle name was Valkyrie, once traveled to Germany just to fangirl over Hitler—the Fuehrer put her in his inner circle to give it a bit of the feminine touch and declared her "a perfect specimen of Aryan womanhood", and attempted suicide when Britain declared war on Germany) and Diana (who married Sir Oswald Mosley—for whom see below). Of the two, Unity was by far the more committed; she had a massive crush on Hitler (she was 19 when he took over Germany) and is rumoured to have had an affair with him.
- Their brother Thomas was vaguely fascist, and refused to serve in Europe; however, he gladly served in Burma, where he was killed by the Japanese in the last year of the war.
- Pamela and Deborah were more or less typical British gentry, unimpressed with Nazism and content with the British system as it stood (although some say Pamela was a rabid antisemite in private). Deborah and her husband (the Duke of Devonshire) actually joined the Social Democratic Party when it formed in 1981, attracting much-needed attention to the party from centrist Tories who were increasingly alienated by the hard-right government of Margaret Thatcher (just as the "Gang of Four" original party founders were alienated by the hard-left Labour leadership).
- Nancy, the eldest, was a moderate socialist, and could be fairly said to have hated the Nazis.
- Finally, the second-youngest Mitford, Jessica (a.k.a. the smart Mitford who became a writer and went to America) who shared a room with Unity (she and Unity had been inseparable as children, even developing a private language), was an ardent communist—she was blacklisted when her move to Hollywood happened to coincide with the McCarthy era. Indeed, Jessica later recalled that the room she shared with Unity was starkly divided with a chalk line down the middle, with Unity's side being decorated with swastikas and portraits of Hitler, while Jessica's was decked out in hammers and sickles and pictures of Lenin. The Glorious War of Sisterly Rivalry, indeed.
- Sir Oswald Mosley, 6th Baronet, was a real-life example of the British variant (though technically not a true "Nobleman", he was the equivalent of a German "Junker"), and was the inspiration for Roderick Spode, listed above.
- Josias, Hereditary Prince of Waldeck and Pyrmont became a senior SS officer and served as High Commissioner of Police in German-occupied France. He served three years in prison after the war. Himmler was godfather to his son.
- Franz von Papen was an opportunistic supporter of the Nazis and Hitler's vice-chancellor from 1933 to July. He was a widely disliked figure and German political exiles compared him to Judas or even to Satan. Furthermore he had the dangerous combination of a delight in intrigue with an overestimation of his strategic talent. When an attempt was made on his life in Ankara the Turkish investigators were presented with a problem well known from detective novels: anyone might have wanted to kill him.
- He sometimes appeared as a kind of opponent of the Nazis (though counterproductive to say the least) prior to the Night of the Long Knives when various associates of his including his personal adviser were were killed, and he personally only "narrowly escaped" Hitler's purge by the SS. After this he became Hitler's ambassador in Vienna and helped prepare the Anschluss.
- In the previous war, Papen had been the head of Imperial Germany's intelligence effort in the US, where his recommendation that German submarines should start sinking American merchant ships did so much to keep America neutral and win the war for the Kaiser. He was appointed Hitler's deputy by President von Hindenburg, who figured that a man with Papen's stellar record of success would be just the fellow to keep this damned "Bohemian corporal" in line.
- Baldur von Schirach was Reichsjugendführer, leading the Hitler Youth and other Nazi youth organizations.
- Hans von Tschammer und Osten (1887-1943) was the head of German sports organizations in the Third Reich; he instituted the German Football Cup competition (the original trophy was the "Tschammer-und-Osten-Pokal").
- Rocket scientist Wernher Freiherr (baron) von Braun was a member of the Nazi party, rose to the rank of Sturmbannführer (major) in the SS and would have had to face trial for war crimes, especially regarding the use of slave labour in the building of V2 rockets, if he had not been considered too useful by the Americans for their space program.
- Mostly this trope was strongly averted in the Real Life. Nazism, while anti-democratic and racist, was a strongly egalitarian (among "Aryans", that is) and meritocratic populist movement when it came to traditional social class lines, and aristocrats found very little leeway in Nazism. While the old nobility were not keen on democracy, they were a class on themselves, and usually strongly disdained the "demotic" or "plebian" Nazi party, which they often considered as rabble risen from the gutters. The majority of the 20 June 1944 conspirators to kill Hitler were noblemen.
- Joachim von Ribbentrop was a subversion, in that he acquired the aristocratic "von" when he was adopted by a distant female relative from one of the branches of the Ribbentrop family that had been ennobled during the 19th century. At the age of 37, no less, and it's alleged that money changed hands in order to bring it about. Before taking his post in Hitler's cabinet he was a wine and liquor salesman, and his pretensions did not endear him to the true German nobility in the least.
- Real-life Austrian aristocrat Erik Maria Ritter von Kuehnelt-Leddihn, author of the above quote, complained about this trope in his book Leftism Revisited, where the full quote reads "During my wartime years in the United States I heard not a single 'morale-building' story about Central Europe that did not involve a 'Nazi nobleman'. Some did of course exist — as did Jews who paid conscience money to the NSDAP, and Catholic priests who held 'brown' sympathies. Exceptions confirm the rule. But National Socialism was a plebeian movement; significantly, at the big Nuremberg Trial, not a single nobleman was among those condemned to death." (It should be noted that Kuehnelt-Leddihn's own father had served in the German army, but decidedly without any enthusiasm for the Nazi cause).
- One of the "exceptions" alluded to by Kuehnelt-Leddihn was Kurt Baron von Schroeder, a banker who helped lobby for Hitler's appointment as chancellor, and who financed the Nazis after their rise to power.
- At the trial of the main war criminals alluded to in the quote, Franz von Papen was acquitted, Hitler Youth leader Baldur von Schirach was sentenced to 20 years, Konstantin von Neurath (former Reichsprotektor of Bohemia and Moravia) to 15, while industrialist Gustav Krupp von Bohlen und Halbach was deemed unfit for trial by reasons of health. Foreign minister Joachim von Ribbentrop was sentenced to death and hanged but evidently considered a fake nobleman by Kuehnelt-Leddihn since he got his "von" by adoption.
- The current pretender to the Kingdom of Bavaria and to the Stuart claims on the English throne, Franz, Duke in Bavaria, was sent to a concentration camp, where he lost his father, brothers, and much of his extended family. A lot of Habsburgs also died in concentration camps. The two sons of Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand, whose assassination set off World War I, were interned in Dachau for a while, having been prominent opponents of the Anschluß.
- While he supported German nationalism and the Nazi goals of making Germany great again, Wilhelm II, the last German Emperor, refused to meet with Hitler and condemned the Nazis near the end of his life. Several of his sons and other family members, however, did join the Wehrmacht. His second wife was also quite a fan of that Austro-Bavarian corporal.
- German spy Princess Stéphanie zu Hohenlohe-Waldenburg-Schillingsfürst née Richter was close the Hitler and Göring. She was also a Hungarian national and came from a bourgeois Jewish family. She got her noble title by marrying a prince in 1914, probably to cover up that she was expecting a child from an archduke (Emperor Franz Josef's son-in-law Franz Salvator; he divorced her in 1920).
- Colonel Claus Schenk Graf von Stauffenberg did get a bit of a Historical Hero Upgrade in the 2008 film Valkyrie, but it is indisputably true that this Swabian Count was a mastermind behind one of the biggest plots to assassinate Adolf Hitler. While he didn't exactly have the highest opinion of non-Germans, and endorsed some planks of the Nazi political platform, he also didn't just go along quietly after the Nazis crossed the Moral Event Horizon. Many of the other real-life plotters were aristocrats of one stripe or another as well.
- However, in 1934 he described the "Night of the Long Knives", in which not only the SA leadership, but also some of Hitler's conservative opponents - e. g. former chancellor General von Schleicher - were summarily murdered, as "the lancing of a boil".
- The Duke of Windsor is only rumored to have been a Nazi sympathizer — odds are more that he was more just stupid in accepting the attentions of anyone who would give his wife the recognition he thought she deserved - and Hitler was smart enough to realize this.
- The military proper (as opposed to the SS) was more sympathetic to the old traditions and had a number of old-style nobility in it who were Just Following Orders. This was a great bother to Adolf Hitler who couldn't get along without them but absolutely hated officers; partly because he had once been an enlisted man, partly because they often had minds of their own within the confines of their profession, and partly because they deflected loyalty away from him. Which is not to say that being a Punch Clock Villain stopped them from being excruciatingly villainous when called upon.
- However, a lot of Reichswehr officers, including several nobleman loudly cheered at the "Night of the Long Knives" and then defence minister Werner von Blomberg issued an order of the day praising Hitler for his "soldierly decision" and "exemplary courage".
- The German tennis player Gottfried von Cramm, despite playing Davis Cup matches for the Nazis, was did not represent the "Aryan ideal" that the Germans sought from their athletes. Von Cramm, openly opposed the Nazis' dismissal of his Jewish doubles partner Daniel Prenn from the Davis Cup team. Furthermore, he lived his life as a closeted gay man and narrowly avoided being sent to a concentration camp because of his sexuality.
- Averted in The Sound Of Music. Captain von Trapp (who really did exist) hates and despises Nazis, tears up their flag contemptuously, destroys them with his Death Glare and escapes across the border.
- The Habsburgs, the former ruling family of Austria and among the most aristocratic of "Germanic" families, were notable in their opposition to the Nazis and were persecuted accordingly. Archduke Otto, son of the last Habsburg emperor, was sentenced to death by the Nazis in absentia. Several other members of the family were imprisoned and/or murdered in Germany and/or Nazi-controlled Europe.
- While not a Nazi himself, president Paul von Beneckendorff und von Hindenburg was the man responsible for bringing Hitler to power.