Otto Carl Kiep (1886 – 1944) Saltcoats-born German who joined the Abwehr during World War II and worked as part of the resistance against the Nazi’s. He was murdered at Ravensbruck Concentration Camp in 1944.

Otto Carl Kiep was born on the 7th of July, 1886 at Shields Cottage, Eglinton Place, Saltcoats during a family holiday.  

Otto was the son of Johan Nikolaus Kiep and Charlotte Kiep. His father Johan was born in Hamburg in 1847 and lived in Glasgow. Awarded British citizenship in 1873, Johan was one of the most distinguished entrepreneurs in Glasgow and from 1894 to 1908 he served as Honorary Consul of the German Empire for Glasgow and the West of Scotland. 

His son Otto was brought up in Glasgow’s West End and enjoyed a comfortable upbringing at Hughenden Terrace as a part of a popular and prominent family in the city. 

When he was 24, in 1909, he moved to Ballenstedt, Anhalt in Germany and earned degrees in Law in both Leipzig and London. 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. He married Hanna Alves at the end of 1925 and the couple would go on to have three children, two daughters and a son.  

From 1931 to 1933 he served as Consul General in New York. His biographer and son-in-law Bruce Clements notes that at this time Otto’s thinking was towards peace and international understanding which Bruce attributes to his liberal upbringing in Scotland. 

In 1933, he attended a banquet for the Jewish scientist Albert Einstein, where he made a speech complimenting Einsten which was in stark contrast with the anti-Semitic beliefs of the Nazi’s who demanded his immediate replacement as a result. 

At the outbreak of war in 1939, Otto was drafted into the Abwehr: the German Military Intelligence Service. This brought Otto into contact with a selection of like-minded anti-Nazis and he was soon involved in the resistance. He was part of the ‘Solf Circle’ which consisted of a group of intellectuals who were each involved in the resistance.  

On the 10th of September 1943 Elizabeth von Thadden (headmistress of a famous German girls school) hosted a tea party with other Solf Circle members. Present was Countess Hannah Von Bredow (grandaughter of Otto von Bismarck), Count Albrecht von Bernstorff, Father Friedrich Erxleben (a well-known Jesuit preist), State Secretary Arthur Zarden and his daughter, Legation Advisor Richard Kuenzer and the merchant Nikolaus von Halem. A Swiss doctor named Paul Reckzeh attended as did Otto Kiep. 

The group was betrayed by Reckzeh, who was actually working for the Gestapo. Otto and his wife Hanna were arrested in the middle of the night and Otto was subjected to repeated torture but refused to give up any details of fellow conspirators or of the upcoming plot to assassinate Hitler on the 20th July 1944. 

He was sent to Ravensbruck concentration camp, which had initially been an all-female camp but had created facilities for ‘special prisoners’ to be housed there.  

Otto’s show-trial began at the start of July 1944 and, following the failure of the July 20 plot to assassinate HItler, Otto was sentenced to death. 

On August 26, 1944, Dr. Kiep was hanged at Plötzensee Prison in Berlin. His wife Hanna, who had also been imprisoned at Ravensbruck, survived the war.  

After WWII Hanna Kiep worked in the American occupation zone to establish a civil administration. While working with the Americans she recognized one of her interrogators at Ravensbrück. Her testimony led to his arrest. 

In 1946 Hanna was Vice-President of the Bavarian Red Cross in Munich. 

From 1951-1969 Mrs. Hanna Kiep was the Women’s Affairs Secretary of the German Embassy in Washington, D.C. 

She died in 1977 and was survived by 3 daughters. 

Further Reading

Otto Carl Kiep at