Frederich Alfred Krupp

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Frederich Alfred Krupp



Birth - Death

1854 - 1902




Inheriting his father’s steel and arms manufacturing businesses, Friedrich Alfred Krupp would build it into the largest industrial complex in the world. It would make him one of the richest and most influential men of his time. He was also living a double life as a homosexual married man, and the revelation of this would lead to his downfall.

Born into a life of wealth and privilege, Krupp would be the heir to the largest privately-owned business in Germany. Although he studied to be a marine biologist, Krupp’s father kept him under a heavy thumb and pushed him through a regimen of business studies to take over the family firm. Krupp’s love was for the arts and other liberal pursuits, and he detested the constant push for him to take charge of the business.

Nevertheless, Friedrich Alfred Krupp did become the head of the Krupp family empire in 1887. Although he kept up with the demands of his industrial complex, he remained committed to pursuing an equal life of leisure. To do this, he often retreated to the Isle of Capri for several months of the year to pursue his alternative lifestyle. Krupp maintained two yachts there to enjoy his love for oceanography.

In the meantime, Krupp and his business empire flourished. Its largest operation was the manufacture of steel. This was an important industry to the burgeoning German industrial complex and to the Kaiser’s program of building up the armaments for war. Specifically, the Krupp cannons that made their name world- renowned were much in demand. Krupp also acquired new subsidiaries, expanded into shipbuilding and steam shipping, and began production of steel armour plate. Over time, he built his firm to over 43,000 employees.

Krupp introduced new innovations into the relationship with these employees. He provided all of his employees with housing, schools, libraries, hospitals, and more by building entire towns for them to live in. Krupp was the first to introduce a participating pension plan for employees. This action was welcomed by the employees, but caused tension with the right wing Social Democratic Party (SDP).

Krupp himself was involved in politics. He was made a member of the Prussian Upper House and Council of State, and he sat in the Reichstag from 1893 to 1898. During this time, Krupp married and fathered two children, all while continuing his homosexual liaisons in Capri.

It was this double lifestyle which would be used against him. An Italian newspaper attempted to blackmail Krupp with pictures and a story about his lurid affairs in Capri. Krupp refused, and the Italian newspaper forwarded the material to both his wife and German newspapers. These were corroborated with extensive German police files detailing his indiscretions.

When his wife appealed to the Kaiser for help, the Kaiser had her committed to an institution. It appeared that the importance of the Krupp industrial empire to the rearmament program was more important than a potential sex scandal.

However, the Social Democratic Party also received this lurid information and this presented an opportunity for them to discredit Friedrich Krupp. They immediately pushed for the publication of the story amid charges of sodomy. The ensuing media frenzy was more than Krupp could sustain, and he committed suicide two days later.

Krupp had resigned himself to the shame imposed by the public press in outing his homosexual lifestyle. It is clear the press and his political foes chose to attack Fredrich Krupp based on his public exposure, political influence, and wealth. Each party used the tragic situation to their advantage: The SDP cheered his suicide as a victory for the people against the corruption of the right wing. The Kaiser lamented the loss of a great industrialist by the treasonous socialists.

To what extent do the media and politicians take responsibility for shaming personal lives based on a person’s sexual attraction? The import of such revelations certainly changes over time and in the context of the participants and the events. What would once have been scandal may today be mere sensationalism. Perhaps it is a case of being born at the wrong time in history.

Also known as Friederich Alfred Krupp.

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