Information on dr. phil. h.c. Hans-Wolfgang Herwarth von Bittenfeld (1871-1942)
- T.W.M. van Berkel -

Nederlandse versie

Hans-Wolfgang Herwarth von Bittenfeld (1935)
Herwarth von Bittenfeld

Family crest Herwarth von Bittenfeld
Family crest

 Altar cross, Ulrichskirche, Bittenfeld
Altar cross

A pioneer in the field of propaganda
Dr. h.c. Hans-Wolfgang Herwarth von Bittenfeld, also known as Hans-Wolfgang von Herwarth, was born in Berlin on May 23, 1871. His parents, Wilhelm Hans Theodor Herwarth von Bittenfeld (Herzberg, January 14, 1835 - Braunschweig, October 12, 1894) and the baroness Anna Marie Gabriele von Wimpffen (Berlin, October 30, 1850 - Grabowhöfe [Mecklenburg], May 27, 1924). They married on October 29, 1868. From this marriage, six children were born; three sons and three daughters. Their oldest child, Theresia Charlotte, born on July 30, 1869, died one month before her first birthday. Hans-Wolfgang was their second child. He was entitled baron, but it seems he did not use this title. 
Herwarth von Bittenfeld descended from the Bittenfeld line of a 13th century patrician family in Augsburg, Bavaria, to whom on April 18, 1459 the Reichsritterschaft was granted.
On the family crest of the Herwarth von Bittenfeld family, dating from the thirteenth century, in silver, a red, gold armed owl is depicted.
Herwarth von Bittenfeld belonged to the German Evangelical Church. On the altar of the Ulrichskirche in Bittenfeld (Baden-Württemberg), where from 1574 until the midst of the seventeenth century Herwarth von Bittenfeld's ancestors had many properties such as the Bittenfeld Castle, and where Matthias III Herwarth von und zu Bittenfeld is buried, stands a cross with a Christ figure. On the back of the cross, an inscription reads as follows: Diese Christusfigur lies, nachdem die alte abgegangen, genau nach dieser neu anfertigen Hans Wolfgang Herwarth von Bittenfeld Oberleutnant a.D. 1902.
The Herwarth von Bittenfeld family has a long military tradition, which dates from the beginning of the seventeenth century. His father reached the rank of lieutenant-general. His great-uncle and godfather Karl Eberhard Herwarth von Bittenfeld (Groß-Werther, September 4, 1796 - Bonn, September 2, 1884), was Generalfeldmarschall in the royal Prussian army; Hans Paulus (Halberstadt, January 12, 1800 - Berlin, May 20, 1881) and Friedrich Adrian (Halberstadt, April 13, 1802 - Merseburg, January 13, 1884), both brothers of Karl Eberhard, became general.  From 1889, the thirteenth (1st Westphalia) Infantry carried the name Herwarth von Bittenfeld, remembering Karl Eberhard.
Herwarth von Bittenfeld followed his ancestor's tracks. In 1890, after being trained in Bensberg and Groß-Lichterfelde, he joined the Second Infantry Regiment as a reserve officer cadet. In the same year, he became an officer. In 1902, after finishing the Military Academy, he became detached at the General Staff. In 1903, he became quartermaster-general; in 1904 captain. In 1905, he was detached at the General Staff of the Eighth Army Corps. In autumn 1905, he returned to the Grand General Staff for one year. From autumn 1906 until summer 1909, Herwarth von Bittenfeld was commander at the 76th Hamburg Infantry Regiment. Later, once again he returned to the Grand General Staff.
From August 1, 1910, to 1914, Herwarth von Bittenfeld was a military attaché in the rank of major, at the German embassy in Washington and the German legation in Mexico-city. In the course of his work, he became convinced of the necessity to oppose the anti-German propaganda with an efficacious German press policy. His interest in the press and the tendentious way in which the foreign press wrote about Germany, dated from 1892, a period in which he was in Switzerland, Tirol, England, France and Italy. Basing himself upon his studies of the press in fourteen countries, he wrote the eight-volume compendium Charakteristik der Auslandspresse. He also wrote a memorandum which contained detailed proposals to organize and to intensify the German propaganda. As a result of his ideas, the German Ministry of War opened in 1913 a Press section.
During his work in the United States, Herwarth von Bittenfeld was not only active in the field of propaganda. In Deutscher Imperialismus 1864 - 2006, it is described that for many years, Germany tried to get influence in Central- and South America and not seldom used intrigues. In the beginning of March, 1911, the relation between the United States and Mexico became strained because of the publication by the German government of the draft of an economic Japanese-Mexican treaty, in which Japan would get some territory in Mexico. The American army was mobilized. Herwarth von Bittenfeld went to El Paso. On April 9, 1911, The Evening Sun published an article about this affaire, including a picture of the draft. According to this article, war between the United States and Mexico was inevitable. Later, the author of the article admitted that he got his information from Herwarth von Bittenfeld, who apparently was ordered to stir up the tensions, in order to enable Germany to help the United States with a hidden agenda.
In 1914, after his return to Germany, Herwarth von Bittenfeld again became detached at the Grand General Staff. Later that year, at the outbreak of the Great War, he went to work at department IIIb of the Ministry of War and was charged to analyze the foreign press, most notably the Russian press, a task he performed until spring 1916, interrupted by a detachment at the General Staff in Brussels in August/September 1914, where he was charged with all kind of matters related to passports, transit visa etc. and by being appointed to battalion commander in the 136 Infantry Corps. There are clues that in the period in which he was battalion commander, he became invalided. On April 25, 1915, The New York Times reported that the day before he was decorated in Berlin with the Eisernen Kreuz and that some time before he was invalided at the front.
In spring 1915, Herwarth von Bittenfeld was promoted to first lieutenant. In summer 1915, he was appointed as head of the Ausland section of the Press agency of the Ministry of War.
In spring 1916, Herwarth von Bittenfeld went to the front. Because he fell ill, he was discharged with honour in August 1916.
From October 1916 until shortly before the end of World War I, Herwarth von Bittenfeld worked at the Militärstelle des Auswärtigen Amtes, a press deparment, founded by the Oberkommando des Heeres. The task of this deparment was to influence the foreign press. In May 1918, Herwarth von Bittenfeld was promoted to lieutenant-colonel.
Charakteristik der Auslandspresse
was meant for use in the governmental office. In 1918, Mittler und Sohn in Berlin published Handbuch der Auslandspresse 1918, bearbeitet von der Auslandsstelle des Kriegspresseamts. This manual, published without informing/consulting Herwarth von Bittenfeld, contained information, taken from Charakteristik der Auslandspresse, as well as information about personnel.
After World War I, Herwarth von Bittenfeld was a manager in Eisenschmidt publishers, Berlin, a publisher of military literature, and Räder publishers, the publisher of the Technische Nothilfe, an organization of volunteers (originally, a military organization), founded in 1919, that in the first years of the Weimar Republic had to protect the railway and public utilities against lightning-strikes and sabotage by left-wing groups. Later, the Technische Nothilfe had to protect the civil population against air raids and calamities. In 1937, the Technische Nothilfe became part of the Ordnungspolizei and had to meet all public dangers and emergencies. It concentrated on the protection of the civil population against gas attacks and air raids. 
In well-known German newspapers and magazines, Herwarth von Bittenfeld published articles about the function of the press and he propagated the German mentality and the German accomplishments. In foreign newspapers, he also stood up for Germany, as can be read in a letter, published on August 1, 1932 in the American TIME magazine. This letter was a reply to an article about Germany, in which it seemed to be insinuated that Franz von Papen, who in June 1932 was appointed as Chancellor by president Von Hindenburg, was involved in a conspiracy to blew up the Welland Canal in World War I. Herwarth von Bittenfeld argued that Von Papen, who in 1914 succeeded him as military attaché in Washington, was a dashing soldier and a good diplomat, and that Germany was satisfied with this Chancellor. According to him, journalists would do better to emphasize the good qualities of statesmen instead of  parading old skeletons.
In 1930, Herwarth von Bittenfeld got in touch with prof. dr. Karl Bömer, who was in charge of the Auslandspresse section in the Ministry of Propaganda. Bömer admired Herwarth von Bittenfeld's efforts in World War I which had resulted in the writing of Charakteristik der Auslandspresse. In Handbuch der Weltpresse (1931), Bömer used the concept of Handbuch der Auslandspresse. Bömer and Herwarth von Bittenfeld became friends. Both of them gave dr. Paul Franklin Douglass Ph.D., an American Methodist, information for his book God among the Germans - A study of religion in the National-Socialist state (Philadelphia, 1935). Herwarth von Bittenfeld was one of the authors who contributed to Deutsche Saat in fremder Erde (Berlin, 1936), a book, edited by Bömer, about the German influence in the world. Herwarth von Bittenfeld's contribution was entitled Der deutsche Soldat and dealt with the history of the German army from 27 BC until his own lifetime. After the outbreak in September 1939 of World War II, due to Bömer's urging, Herwarth von Bittenfeld, who meanwhile had retired and had volunteered, was appointed as an employee at Bömer's Auslandspresse section, where he was charged with special tasks. From the first quarter of 1941 until his death in 1942, Herwarth von Bittenfeld worked at the Hauptreferat Schnelldienst of the Deutsche Presse section in the Ministry of Propaganda.
High military decorations were granted to
Herwarth von Bittenfeld, among which the Eiserne Kreuz Kl. I and II.[1] 


Was bringt das Jahr 1940? (Bundesarchiv, R 9350/1083)The Centuries
On November 23, 1939, Herwarth von Bittenfeld was ordered by dr. Paul Joseph Goebbels, the minister of Propaganda, to occupy himself with Nostradamus. By using the Centuries for psychological warfare, Goebbels wanted to trip the adversaries by taking advantage of the omnipresent superstition. On December 4, 1939, Herwarth von Bittenfeld handed over a draft for a brochure, which was the result of a linking of quotes from Century-comments. In this draft, Herwarth von Bittenfeld described the imminent future as a period in which Germany and England would have a gigantic struggle, which in the end would be won by Germany. England would disappear from the world theatre and would drag France with her in her fall. Goebbels, who was very enthusiastic about what Herwarth von Bittenfeld had written, presented his draft the next day in the secret daily propaganda conference in his Propaganda Ministry. In that conference, it was decided that Herwarth von Bittenfeld, together with Bömer and Leopold Gutterer, head in the Propaganda Ministry of the Propaganda section, would write the final draft. On December 13, 1939,  this final draft, entitled Was bringt das Jahr 1940? Die Antwort geben uns "Les vrayes Centuries et Propheties de Maistre Michel Nostradamus", was approved and from March 27, 1940, spread in eight languages: Croatian, Dutch, English, French, Italian, Rumanian, Serb and Swedish. The English version was spread in the USA. Its title: What will happen in the near future? For an answer we must turn to "Les vrayes Centuries et Prophéties de Maistre Michel Nostradamus" -  The prophecies of the ancient French astrologer Michel Nostradamus and the present war.[2]


Cover lecture 1941
Cover lecture 1941

Honorary doctorate in philosophy
On May 23, 1941, on his 70th birthday, an honorary doctorate in philosophy was granted to Herwarth von Bittenfeld by the faculty of philosophy and natural science of the Westphalia Wilhelm-University in Münster. It was Geheimrat prof. dr. Walther Heide, the president of the Deutsche Zeitungswissenschaftliche Verband,  who had proposed to grant Herwarth von Bittenfeld this honorary doctorate. On June 14, 1941, prof. dr. Adolf Kratzer, the Dean of the faculty of philosophy and natural science, handed the charter. Among those who attended this ceremony were delegations of the Reich, the Wehrmacht, the NSDAP and the press.
Herwarth von Bittenfeld's promotion was the first honorary doctorate in the field of journalism. Herwarth von Bittenfeld got this degree because of his pioneering activities in the press field during World War I. It was noted in the charter that the honorary doctorate was a tribute to a politically trained researcher who, far ahead of his time, was the first one in doing scientific research on the world press and by grasping its nature substantially enforced the foundations of the intellectual attitude of the German Reich and the German people in the defence war. His Charakteristik der Auslandspresse was not only praised because of its meaning and usefulness in World War I, but also because of its fundamental importance for the journalistic science, as was his Handbuch der Auslandspresse. This honorary doctorate had not a scientific background, but a political background. Herwarth von Bittenfeld never taught journalistic science at a university. In his lecture Die deutsche Kriegspropaganda 1914-18 und heute im Spiegel eigenen Erlebens, which Herwarth von Bittenfeld gave on the occasion of his honorary doctorate, he described his pioneer work in the propaganda field in World War I, larded with examples of trial and error. Back in those days, he had an institute in mind as the Propaganda Ministry which was founded in 1933. He considered it a great honour to work for this ministry and had much pleasure in his work. In his letter of May 30, 1941, to baron Börries von Münchhausen, with whom he worked in 1916/18 at the Militärstelle des Auswärtigen Amtes, Herwarth von Bittenfeld wrote about his work in the field of propaganda before and during World War I that the only result of all his efforts in 1910/13 in studying newspapers and magazines and the ideas which he had about an effective propaganda, was the founding in the Ministry of War of the  Presse-Referat. His labour and the labour of Von Münchhausen in 1916/18, did not give the desired result, which in the eyes of Herwarth von Bittenfeld was not caused by a lack of means, but by the stepping forward of idiots who had a strong assertiveness.
[3] Further, he considered the co-operation between the Militärstelle des Auswärtigen Amtes and civil press agencies, resorting under the Auswärtige Amt, to be insufficient. But there seems to have been other aspects of Herwarth von Bittenfeld's work at the Militärstelle. According to Against Russia: Department IIIb of the Deputy General Staff in Berlin - Intelligence, Counter-intelligence and Newspaper Research, 1914-1918 (Jürgen W. Schmidt in: The Journal of Intelligence History, vol. 5, no. 2, 2005, p.73-90) the most valuable contributions of this department to the knowledge of the economic, military and political circumstances in Russia were resulting from the examination of Russian newspapers. Schmidt mentioned Herwarth von Bittenfeld, who in 1916 was in charge of this newspaper research and qualified him as a well-experienced intelligence officer.
Discussing Herwarth von Bittenfeld's honorary doctorate, the Germans Hans Bohrmann and Peter Schneider wrote in Zeitschriftenforschung: ein wissenschaftgeschichtliger Versuch (Berlin, 1975, p.57) that this was a public relations gesture of the Deutsche Zeitungswissenschaftlichen Verband, who in 1941 also appointed a couple of people as honorary member.


Title page Herwarthisches

Sonette aus dem Portugiesischen
Title page Sonette aus dem

Ahnentafeln  berühmter Deutscher
Ahnentafel des 
Herwarth von Bittenfeld 

Genealogy, literature, yachtsmanship and Egyptian art
Herwarth von Bittenfeld had a great interest in genealogy, like his father. Both were member of the Historische Vereins für Schwaben. From 1899 dates Herwarthisches, Für die Familienmitglieder zusammengestellt von Hans-Wolfgang Herwarth von Bittenfeld, Schriftführer des Herwarthischen Familienvereins. This book contains a collection of stories about the family, among which some stories, written by his father, preceded by a family tree
On February 16, 1904, the Zentralstelle für deutsche Personen- und Familiengeschichte was founded in Leipzig, an institute which quickly became well-known around the world. Herwarth von Bittenfeld was one of the founders. He was a member until 1915. In the years of his membership, he did not hold a position.
In 1944, posthumous, as volume 1 in the sixth series of Ahnentafeln berühmter Deutscher, the Zentralstelle für deutsche Personen- und Familiengeschichte published Ahnentafel des Generalfeldmarschalls Eberhart Herwarth von Bittenfeld und seiner Brüder der Generale Hans und Fritz Herwarth von Bittenfeld, written by Herwarth von Bittenfeld and the historian/genealogist dr. phil. Herbert Helbig (born in 1910). They started the writing of this book in most lately 1937 and got help from a.o. Herwarth von Bittenfeld's wife Frieda, his son Heinrich-Wolfgang and from Hans-Heinrich Herwarth von Bittenfeld, who after World War II became ambassador in London for the Federal Republic of Germany. The series Ahnentafeln berühmter Deutscher dates from 1929; Ahnentafel des Generalfeldmarschalls Eberhart Herwarth von Bittenfeld... turned out to be the last volume. 
Herwarth von Bittenfeld has written a literary book. From 1920 dates
Sonette aus dem Portugiesischen. Nachdichtung von Hans Wolfgang von Herwarth, published in Munich, a complete, poetical translation of Sonnets from the Portuguese, the famous collection of love sonnets, dating from 1845/46, by the British poet Elizabeth Barrett Browning (1805-1861).[4]  
The guest book of Neubeuern Castle in Bavaria contains two poems by Herwarth von Bittenfeld, dating from September and October 1916, shortly before his marriage with Julie von Wendelstadt, the proprietress of this castle.
[5] Herwarth von Bittenfeld apparently liked to write poems, such as the poem on the occasion of the 50-year jubilee of his uncle Fritz von Loßberg (1868-1942), who during World War I in his capacity of general got the nickname "fireman of the Western Front" and the poem Den Ahnen - Den Enkeln, written on May 10, 1938, which served as an introduction to Ahnentafel des Generalfeldmarschalls Eberhart Herwarth von Bittenfeld... He and his wife Frieda both admired the poetry of Börries Freiherr von Münchhausen. In 1941, Herwarth von Bittenfeld and Von Münchhausen exchanged friendly greetings in a brief correspondence, but Herwarth von Bittenfeld's disease in 1941 prevented him from meeting Von Münchhausen.
The 1918-membership list of the Kieler Yacht Club, an exclusive club of yachtsmen, founded in 1887, contains the name of Herwarth von Bittenfeld with the annotation that he had a lifelong membership.

Egyptian art Egyptian art Egyptian art
Egyptian art collection

Herwarth von Bittenfeld collected Egyptian art. He owned a collection of Egyptian necklaces from the era of the Pharao's, and Egyptian bronze figures of deities. In the 1960's, this collection, which was part of the collection of mrs. W.G. Elias-Vaes, was acquired by the Amsterdam auction house Paul Brandt. In 1970, in the exhibition Bezeten Bezit (Obsessed possessions) in the "Historisch Museum" in Rotterdam, NL, part of this collection was exposed. From July until December 2010, the Egyptian Museum in Barcelona exposed part this collection in the exposition "Secrets of the Egyptian Museum". In the announcements, it was mentioned that these necklaces and deities were part of the collection of Baron Hans Wolfgang Herwarth von Bittenfeld, an intellectual from Nazi-Germany, who was Chief of External Relations in Goebbel's Propaganda ministry.


Katharina Wagenführ (1900)
Julie von Wendelstadt
Julie von
Virginia Rebecca Duisenberg
Frieda Schneider (1935)

Private life 
Herwarth von Bittenfeld was married four times. From December 15, 1897, to May 13, 1914, he was married with Modesta Friederike Katharina Wagenführ (Tangerhütte bei Stendal, August 4, 1879 -  Seerhausen, September 30, 1944, daughter of Franz Wagenführ, owner of the Tangerhütte iron works, and Marie Kleinschmidt). From their marriage, which ended in a divorce, three children were born: Hubertus Franz Curt Hans-Eberhard (Berlin, November 3, 1898 - Stockbridge, Mass., USA, August 23, 1956), Heinrich (Heinz) Wolfgang (Berlin, August 7, 1901 - Heemstede, July 5, 1968), and Anna Maria Katharina Modesta Renata (Hamburg, June 30, 1908 - Bern, August 4, 1982).[6]  
From December 9, 1916 until their divorce on November 29, 1922, Herwarth von Bittenfeld was married with countess Julie Klara Marie Frieda von Degenfeld - Schonburg (Eybach Castle, Geislingen a.d. Steige, March 1, 1871 - Neubeuern Castle am Inn, November 12, 1942), widow of baron Jan von Wendelstadt (Darmstadt, February 11, 1856 - Neubeuern Castle am Inn, July 27, 1909). In September 1916, during an admission in Neubeuern Castle in Bavaria to recover from a fall during climbing, Herwarth von Bittenfeld met Julie, who had fitted up her castle as a military hospital and nursed wounded soldiers. In 1917, at the end of her pregnancy, Julie got a kidney infection. As her condition became critical, she had to give birth before the baby was full-term. At the time of birth, the baby, a girl named Rosmarie, died. Her tomb stone in the family mausoleum in Altenbeuern is dated on August 17, 1917.[7]
On December 22, 1923, Herwarth von Bittenfeld married with Virginia Rebecca Duisenberg, (Oakland, Calif., USA, August 28, 1877 - San Francisco, May 29, 1959). Her father, Karl August Christian Duisenberg, was the German consul in San Francisco. Virginia was the widow of the German consul Heinrich Alexander Isenberg (San Francisco, January 17, 1872 - New York, November 6, 1905). They had a son, Alexander, born in 1901, deceased in 1970. The marriage between Herwarth von Bittenfeld and Virginia Duisenberg remained childless and ended in a divorce on April 25, 1924.
On June 16, 1924, Herwarth von Bittenfeld married dr. med. Frieda Johanna Schneider (Kummersdorf, December 15, 1889 - Berlin, October 23, 1955). They knew each other from around 1912; in World War I, Herwarth von Bittenfeld was one her patients.[8] Until his death in 1942, Herwarth von Bittenfeld was married with her. No children were born from their marriage. Frieda Schneider graduated in Berlin in medicine at the Friedrich Wilhelm University on August 11, 1917. Her dissertation, published by Blanke publishers in Berlin, was entitled Die Beziehung von Herzvolumen zu Rumpfvolumen - Ein Beitrag zur beurteilung der Herzgrösse. On November 20, 1931, Frieda von Herwarth attended a meeting in which the Deutsche Vereinigung berufstätiger Frauen was founded. This union was a branch of the International Federation of Business and professional Women, founded in Switzerland in 1930. The aim of this federation was to bring women from various countries and professions in contact with each other, ignoring national and political differences. In 1933, the Deutsche Vereinigung berufstätiger Frauen was dissolved; they refused to join national-socialist women organizations or to cooperate with national-socialism. By that time, Frieda von Herwarth already had joined the NSDAP. Her lecture The German women of Today (about the role of women in the Third Reich), was dated on October 16, 1935.  In the summer of 1938, in the Ferienkurse in Deutschland 1938/'39, a program in which foreigners could learn about the new Germany, in her capacity as an employee of the Reichsfrauenführung she gave the lecture Die deutsche Frau einst und jetzt, ihre Mitarbeit beim Aufbau des nationalsozialistischen Staates. In 1939, she was physician for the German Red Cross, Schulungsleisterin for the local NSDAP-group Elsterplatz and Gaurednerin at the Rassepolitische Amt. After the war, she worked as a general practitioner. She also worked as a for an advice centre and sometimes as a medical advisor of Allianz Versicherungen.

Obituary Herwarth von Bittenfeld, New York Times, January 1, 1943
New York Times
January 1, 1943

On December 25, 1942, Herwarth von Bittenfeld died at home after a long suffering from an endemic liver and bile disease.[9] His mortal remains were cremated on December 31, 1942. A great number of national-socialist prominent persons attended the cremation; among them a delegation of the Deutsche Zeitungswissenschaftliche Verband, led by Geheimrat dr. Walther Heide, and dr. Ernst Brauweiler, head of the Ausland section of the Ministry of Propaganda. Gutterer, who meanwhile was appointed as minister of state of the Ministry of Propaganda, laid a garland on behalf of Goebbels and held a speech, in which he mentioned Herwarth von Bittenfeld's activities during World War I, his systematic research on the foreign press, his sense of duty, his endearing ways and his subservience to Hitler and national-socialism. Other garlands were laid a.o. by the Reichspressechef and on behalf of the section Auslandpresse of the Ministry of Propaganda, the Westphalia Wilhelm-University in Münster and the Deutsche Zeiutungswissenschaftliche Verband, with on the ribbon (which carried a swastika), the text Dem ersten Ehrendoktor der Zeitungswissenschaft.
In the edition of January 1, 1943 of the New York Times, which newspaper frequently had published news about Herwarth von Bittenfeld in the period in which he worked in the United States as a military attaché, an obituary was published, in which was mentioned that since 1939, he worked at the Auslandspresse section of the Ministry of Propaganda.


Herwarth von Bittenfeld
Herwarth von Bittenfeld (around 1940)

From various writings it becomes clear that Herwarth von Bittenfeld was an intelligent, charming personality. In A journal from our Legation in Belgium, his diary, Hugh Simons Gibson (1883-1954), an American diplomat who from 1914 to 1916 was secretary at the American Legation in Brussels, described him as a real white man, pleasant to deal with. He knew Herwarth von Bittenfeld from the period in which he worked in Washington as a military attaché and made some travels with him.
With heart and soul, Herwarth von Bittenfeld dedicated himself to national-socialism and worked as ardent as in the years before. In the diary he kept in the period 1932-1935, the American diplomat James Grover McDonald (1886-1964), who from October 1933 to December 1935 was the League of Nations High Commissioner for the Refugees, described a conversation he had with Herwarth von Bittenfeld on April 1, 1933, at that time working as a press official in the Nazi government. McDonald wrote that he was a remarkable Nazi, who became almost lyrical when he talked about topics like racial purity, the supremacy of the Nordic race, the return to primitive German culture, the idealism of the national-socialist leaders, the omnipotence of the Führer and the unique character of the revolution in Germany. According to Herwarth von Bittenfeld, Germany was ready to free itself of foreign dictation. In his eyes, the Jews were not Germans, but foreigners or worse, who should be expelled from all government positions. The number of jobs the Jews would have as a people, should equal their percentage of the German population as a whole. McDonald could not understand that an educated, courteous man like Herwarth von Bittenfeld, a former military attaché in Washington who knew the world very well, had that kind of ideas and could talk about this for hours and hours.
In his diary, Goebbels wrote in November 1939 that Herwarth von Bittenfeld had much skill and experience in the field of propaganda, was well-informed about the leaders of the adversaries and hated England like no other. 
In the obituary in 1942, Herwarth von Bittenfeld was described as someone who had the utmost confidence in the German victory, worked day and night and was highly intelligent.
In a Nachruf, published in volume 55/56 (1942/'43) of the Zeitschrift des Historischen Vereins für Schwaben und Neuburg, dr. Heinz Friedrich Deininger described the deep impression Herwarth von Bittenfeld made when he worked in the municipal archives of Augsburg in September 1937 because of his tall figure and his very accurate way of working.
In his necrology, dating from 1943, dr. Herbert Helbig, with whom Herwarth von Bittenfeld wrote Ahnentafel des Generalfeldmarschalls Eberhart Herwarth von Bittenfeld, described him as someone who grew up in the military tradition and who was outstanding because of his charm, versatility, his many interests and his fluency.
In her answer on a condolence letter of baron Börries von Münchhausen, dated on April 24, 1943, Frieda Herwarth von Bittenfeld characterized her late husband as a dependable companion and a heart-warming comrade, a characterization which also was given in Herwarth von Bittenfeld's obituary.[10]
The remarks about Herwarth von Bittenfeld in the memoirs of Marie-Therese Miller-Degenfeld, the daughter of Ottonie von Degenfeld-Schonburg, Julie's sister in law, are in sharp contrast with these descriptions. Marie-Therese, for who Julie was a second mother, strongly resented Herwarth von Bittenfeld, who according to her coveted Neubeuern Castle. Family and friends of Julie were quite opposed against her marriage with him. His reproach that Julie for reasons of keeping property of the inheritance had not chosen for their baby, was the cause of the dislocation of their marriage. Julie's religious conviction kept her from a divorce, but being depressed since her failed pregnancy, she became distressed. A suicide attempt could barely be prevented. Later, taking with him the money of their joint bank account, Herwarth von Bittenfeld fled in the direction of Switzerland and, as Marie-Therese told, never returned to Neubeuern Castle.[11]


Obituary Herwarth von Bittenfeld
Herwarth von Bittenfeld

Herwarth von Bittenfeld and national-socialism
On April 1, 1933, Herwarth von Bittenfeld was inscribed as a member of the NSDAP, membership number 1.667.522. His name and title in the member list: Hans-Wolfgang von Herwarth, Oberst a.D. His wife Frieda was inscribed on the same day as her husband; her membership number was 1.667.523. Until his decease in 1942, Herwarth von Bittenfeld was a member of the NSDAP. In the Parteistatische Erhebung 1939, an NSDAP-inquiry to register the state of affairs of NSDAP-members on July 1, 1939, Herwarth von Bittenfeld indicated that he was a member of the Reichsluftschutzbund (a paramilitary organisation which was occupied with a.o. ground crew training and search and rescue), the NS-Reichskriegerbund (an organization for war veterans) and the Aero-Klub von Deutschland.
The notes which McDonald made of his conversation with Herwarth von Bittenfeld on April 1, 1933, show that he was quite familiar with what national-socialism and the NSDAP were up to. 
For the moment, it is not clear why Herwarth von Bittenfeld followed national-socialism. In September 1921, the German Chancellor Joseph Wirth, who based himself upon a confidential report of the German Commissioner for Public Security, accused the Bavarian authorities in Munich of offering protection to Max Hermann Bauer, Hermann Erhardt and Waldemar Pabst, leaders in 1920 of the failed right-wing Kapp-Putsch, and their followers. According to some Munich newspapers, the headquarters of the revolutionaries was located at Salzburg, Tyrol, with a branch in Rosenheim, Bavaria, to be precisely: at Neubeuern Castle, where Herwarth von Bittenfeld and his wife kept open house for the more extreme monarchists, particularly those who wanted to restore the Bavarian House of Wittelsbach and who wanted to found an independent South-German Catholic monarchy which would include Bavaria, Austria and Hungary. Further, it was written that the Hungarian president Horthy repeatedly stayed at Neubeuern Castle, accompanied by Bauer. Erhardt and Pabst also visited Neubeuern Castle frequently. If these allegations are based on solid grounds, they might contain a clue regarding the question when and why Herwarth von Bittenfeld turned himself to national-socialism and joined the NSDAP.[12] In Mund- und Briefpropaganda, a note, dating from around May 1933, Herwarth von Bittenfeld expressed his discontent with the end of World War I and the Weimar Republic by using the qualifications Diktat von Versailles and 14jährige deutsche Mangel an politischer Führung.[13] In Der deutsche Soldat, a contribution to Deutsche Saat in fremder Erde (Berlin, 1936), Herwarth von Bittenfeld wrote that national-socialist Germany once again in the history of Germany took up the task to protect the threatened Occident and, waiting for battle, armed itself, in order to resist the barbarian, Asian bolshevism which wanted to destroy all noble and worthy matters in Germany, the heart of Europe. Thanks to Hitler's politics, i.e. the rearmament of Germany, Germany would not just have a people's army (Volksheer), the German nation would be an armed nation (Heer-Volk).[14] 
To Börries von Münchhausen, Herwarth von Bittenfeld wrote on May 27, 1941, discussing the fortunes and misfortunes they both had in their lives, that he considered it a fortune to serve, in his age, in a ministry, the war, the victory and the rise of the New Europe and that he had a grounded hope that after the war, he could continue to serve his fatherland.[15] Echo's of this can be found in his obituary.


Publications by Herwarth von Bittenfeld, discussed on this website


De Meern, the Netherlands, June 7, 2007
T.W.M. van Berkel
updated on August 30, 2010


The titles, places and year of issue of the mentioned authors are listed in the bibliography.

  1. The most important biographic sources:
    - dr. Herbert Helbig on Herwarth von Bittenfeld in the section Kurze Nachrichten in Familiengeschichtliche Blätter Jg 41, 1943 (Deutsche Nationalbibliothek, Leipzig, ZC 249);
    - Genealogisches Handbuch des Adels, bd. 71, Limburg an der Lahn, 1979, p.230-231;
    - Zeitungswissenschaft; Monatsschrift für internationale Zeitungsforschung, 1941, Heft 7, p.399 - 403 and 1943, Heft 1, p.1-3;
    - Herwarthisches, Für die Familienmitglieder zusammengestellt von Hans-Wolfgang Herwarth von Bittenfeld, Schriftführer des Herwarthischen Familienvereins (with thanks to dr. J. Anker, antiquarian bookseller in Kiefersfelden, Germany);
    - Advocate for the Doomed - the Diaries and Papers of James G. McDonald, 1932-1935 (Indiana University Press / United States Holocaust Memorial, 2007, p.34);

    - A journal from our Legation in Belgium (Hugh Gibson, New York, 1917);
    - obituary Herwarth von Bittenfeld (;
    - dr. Heinz Friedrich Deininger: Nachruf, in: Zeitschrift des Historischen Vereins für Schwaben und Neuburg, Bd. 55.56 (1942/'43), p.559-566;
    - Gerhard: Kirchenführer Ev. Ulrichskirchengemeinde Bittenfeld (2006);
    - Staatsarchiv Leipzig, Sächsisches Staatsarchiv;
    Freie Universität Berlin: Dokumentation: Ärtztinnen im Kaiserreich (;
    - correspondence between Herwarth von Bittenfeld and his wife Frieda with baron Börries von Münchhausen (Goethe-Schilller Archiv, Weimar, GSA 69/1443, -1444, -1445, -4702 and -4703).
    Herwarth von Bittenfeld, dating from December 10, 1935, is part of the NSDAP-archives, nowadays preserved in the Bundesarchiv in Berlin.
    The picture of the crest of the Herwarth von Bittenfeld family was copied from Herwarthisches.
    The picture of the altar cross in the Ulrichskirche in Bittenfeld which Herwarth von Bittenfeld in 1902 had made, has been published in the Kirchenführer 2006 of the Evangelische Ulrichskirchengemeinde Bittenfeld. With thanks to reverend J. Maurer, Bittenfeld.
    The family name "Herwarth von Bittenfeld" dates from 1574, when Matthias II Herwarth, living in Esslingen, bought the castle of Bittenfeld, started to use the name "Herwarth von und zu Bittenfeld" and became a Swabian knight. Hans-Wolfgang Herwarth von Bittenfeld was a descendant of Matthias II Herwarth.
    On a number of websites and in a number of publications, Hans-Wolfgang Herwarth von Bittenfeld is mixed up with Hans-Heinrich Herwarth von Bittenfeld (Berlin, July 14, 1904 - Küps, August 21, 1999), a distant relative, also known as Hans (Johann) von Herwarth or Johnny von Herwarth. From 1927 to 1939, Hans-Heinrich Herwarth von Bittenfeld worked at the German ministry of Foreign Affairs, in which period he worked in the German embassy in Moscow from 1931 to 1939. From 1939 to 1945, he worked at the Abwehr office of the Oberkommando der Wehrmacht. After 1945, he worked for the Bundesregierung, in which period he became ambassador in London in 1955. Together with S. Frederick Starr, he wrote the book Against two evils - Memoirs of a Diplomate Soldier during the Third Reich (London and New York, 1981). One year later, its German translation, entitled Zwischen Hitler und Stalin - Erlebte Zeitgeschichte 1931-1945, was published in Berlin and Vienna. From 1971 to 1977, he was president of the Goethe-Institut, an international cultural non-profit organization which promotes the study of German language and the exchange of culture and which provides information about German culture, the German society and German politics. [text]

  2. Van Berkel: Was bringt das Jahr 1940?. [text

  3. Herwarth von Bittenfeld to Börries von Münchhausen, May 30, 1941 (Goethe-Schiller Archiv, GSA 69/1444). [text]

  4. Herwarth von Bittenfeld completed this translation in 1919. The title Sonnets from the Portuguese suggests a translation by Barrett Browning of Portuguese sonnets into English. This suggestion re-occurs in the title of Herwarth von Bittenfeld's translation. Actually, these were English sonnets, written by Barrett Browning who, following the 16th-century Portuguese poet Luis de Camões, used rhyme schemes, typical for Portuguese sonnets. The suggestion of a translation from the Portuguese had to disguise the fact that Barrett Browning was writing about her own love life. The word Portuguese is also an allusion to the fact that Barrett Browning's husband called her my little Portuguese, because of her long, dark hair (source: Wikipedia). [text]

  5. See the guest book of Neubeuern Castle, volume VI. [text]  

  6. The author expresses his gratitude to K. Harlinghausen, antiquarian booksellers, Osnabrück, for sending a picture of Katharina Wagenführ. The photo dates from 1900. The passport photo of Frieda Schneider, dating from December 10, 1935, is part of the NSDAP-archives, nowadays preserved in the Bundesarchiv in Berlin.
    At the outbreak of World War I, Hans-Eberhard, who lived in the United States, returned to Germany. He joined the army as a captain. In September 1918, he was imprisoned by the Americans. During an inspection of the detention camp in which Hans-Eberhard was imprisoned, he was recognized by Baker, the American Secretary of War, who managed to have him released. As a result, Hans-Eberhard decided to make his home in the United States, intending to take up farming in California. He dropped the title of baron (The New York Times, November 11, 1922).
    In 1918, Katharina Wagenführ married baron Karl Alexander Hugo von Fritsch (1869-1945), chancellor and Oberhofmarschall, the last proprietor of the Seerhausen Castle.
    At the time of Hitler's Bierkellerputsch in 1923, Heinrich-Wolfgang settled himself in the Netherlands and cut with his father.
    According to a 1939-NSDAP-questionary, Herwarth von Bittenfeld had three children, all of them older than 18 years. He was referring to Hans-Eberhard, Heinrich-Wolfgang and Anna Maria Katharina Modesta Renate. [text

  7. Sources: Julie Freifrau von Wendelstadt geb. Gräfin Degenfeld-Schonburg, gen. Sisi (this site contains the original photo of Julie von Wendelstadt) and Reinhard Käsinger (Neubeuern Castle) to Van Berkel, April 19, 2008. [text

  8. Frieda Herwarth von Bittenfeld to Börries von Münchhausen, April 24, 1943, (Goethe Schilller Archiv, GSA 69/1443). [text]   

  9. Twice in the NSDAP-archives, the date of decease is listed erroneously as November 25, 1942. [text]  

  10. Frieda Herwarth von Bittenfeld to Börries von Münchhausen, April 24, 1943 (Goethe Schiller Archiv, GSA 69/1443). [text]

  11. The New York Times, September 16, 1921. The online-version of the guest book of Neubeuern Castle, volume VI, which covers the period 1916-1927, contains no entries, written by Bauer, Erhardt, Horthy or Pabst. Item 176 however, dating from January 4, 1923, i.e. after the end of the marriage of Herwarth von Bittenfeld and Julie von Wendelstadt, consists of the chorus lines of the battle song of the Brigade Erhardt, composed around 1919: Hakenkreuz am Stahlhelm / Schwarz-weiss-rotes Band / Die Brigade Erhardt / So sind wir genannt! On the left side of these lines, the flag of this volunteer corps was depicted, a black-white-red ribbon and a soldier's helmet with a swastika. In the night of March 13, 1920, the Brigade Erhardt, commanded by Hermann Erhardt, began the Kapp-Putsch by occupying government buildings in Berlin as a protest against the decision that all volunteer corps had to be disbanded. The swastika which this corps carried, was later adapted by the Nazi's.  [text]

  12. Source: Julie Freifrau von Wendelstadt geb. Gräfin Degenfeld-Schonburg, gen. Sisi. On page 11 in Ahnentafel des Generalfeldmarschalls Eberhard Herwarth von Bittenfeld..., Helbig wrote: In schöner Erinnerung bleibt die Gastfreundschaft von H.W. von Herwarth in Heemstede und + Freifrau von Wendelstadt auf Schloß Neubeuern a. Inn.
    The photograph of Herwarth von Bittenfeld at his writing desk was published in the Nachruf in: Zeitschrift des Historischen Vereins für Schwaben und Neuburg, Bd. 55.56 (1942/'43). With thanks to the Bayerischen Staatsbibliothek, Munich. [text]

  13. Herwarth von Bittenfeld, May 1933, page 3 in both the first draft and the final version (Bundesarchiv, N 2113/119). [text]

  14. Bömer, p.82-83. [text]

  15. Herwarth von Bittenfeld to Börries von Münchhausen, May 27, 1941 (Goethe-Schiller Archiv, GSA69/1444). [text]


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