A Nazi Funeral in London

The extraordinary photo above captured in April 1936, showed the funeral of the German Ambassador Leopold Von Hoesch, with the people clearly giving the Nazi salute on the balcony of the Germany Embassy on Carlton House Terrace, overlooking The Mall. This photo was unearthed for the Discovery Channel programme: ‘Wartime London with Harry Harris’, a London cab driver and historian who has driven a taxi for two decades.

The Grenadier Guards and Nazi soldiers march together down The Pall Mall carrying a swastika-draped coffin; well-liked by most British statesmen, von Hoesch was considered as the best hope for enhancing the Anglo-German relations during the early 1930s. He was a career diplomat but no Nazi; he would even be disturbed by this display of Nazi pageantry at his funeral — he frequently feuded with Hitler over disarmament and vocally denounced Hitler’s invasion of Rhineland. If it were not for this untimely death, it was most likely that he would have been recalled.

Von Hoesch was replaced by his nemesis, Joachim von Ribbentrop, who lasting legacy in London was to transform the German Embassy into a grandiose building that would convey some of the portentous glamour of the Third Reich. The 6-9 Carlton House Terrance, the then embassy within the sight of the Buckingham Palace and the Foreign Office, was renovated with Albert Speer himself flying in from Berlin and designing staircase inside made from Italian marble donated by Mussolini. No. 7 was used as a base to house German military attachés and the headquarters of the Nazi espoinage machine in London.

The Germans were kicked out at the outbreak of war, and the building was stripped of its Nazi fixtures before it was rented to the Royal Society in 1967. There are still signs that this was once a Nazi residence, including the border designs of swastikas on the floor of one public room. A memorial to Giro, von Hoesch’s dog which died in 1934 when he made a fatal connection with an exposed electricity wire, was also buried here. Its grave on the front garden to No 9, with the epitaph “Giro: Ein treuer Begleiter” (“Giro: A true companion”), remains Great Britain’s sole Nazi memorial, situated somewhat inappropriately in an area filled with monuments to heroes of the British Empire.

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15 thoughts on “A Nazi Funeral in London

  1. Strictly speaking this was not a funeral. It was a common courtesy afforded all Ambassadors who died in post in the UK. The gun carriage (from the RHA) only carried his coffin to the nearest railway station ( usually Victoria, or if by Hearse to the Duke of York’s HQ in Chelsea) and from there he would have been taken to the nearest airport ( probably Croydon then) and flown back to Berlin. German soldiers did not march down the Mall. This courtesy continued until the early 1960s by which time the practice ceased as it was no longer required.

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