100 Heroes: Friedrich Alfred Krupp

The gay man who built the German war machine.

100 Heroes: Friedrich Alfred Krupp

Friedrich Alfred Krupp was a German steel manufacturer of the company Krupp. He was the son of Alfred Krupp and inherited the family business when his father died in 1887.

Whereas his father had largely supplied iron and steel, Friedrich shifted his company’s production back to arms manufacturing. Friedrich greatly expanded Krupp and acquired the Germaniawerft in 1896 which gave him control of warship manufacturing in Germany.

He oversaw the development of nickel steel, U-boats, the diesel engine, and much more.

He is suspected of committing suicide in 1902 after being accused of homosexuality. His daughter Bertha inherited the company.


Krupp was born in Essen, Germany in 1854. His father was Alfred Krupp, who turned the small local ironworks of Krupp into one of the most powerful companies in the world. In 1887, Friedrich took over the leadership of his father’s company. He married Baroness Margarethe von Ende. They had two daughters: Bertha and Barbara.

Whereas his father had largely supplied iron and steel for railroads in America, with the rise of Carnegie Steel Friedrich shifted his company’s production back to arms manufacturing. During his time he greatly expanded Krupp, acquiring Germaniawerf in 1896 which gave him control of warship manufacturing in Germany. He oversaw the development of nickel steel, U-boats, y 1966, the diesel engine, and much more.

Krupp increased and diversified the output of the Krupp Works, which he extended by the incorporation with them of other enterprises. A member of the House of Lords of Prussia and Council of State, he also sat in Germany’s Reichstag from 1893 to 1898.

For four years, beginning in 1898, Krupp spent several months of the year on the Italian island of Capri, staying at the hotel Quisisana. He kept two yachts there, Maya and Puritan. His hobby was oceanography. He met Felix Anton Dohrn and Ignazio Cerio on Capri.

Scandal and death

On 15 November 1902 the Social Democratic magazine Vorwärts claimed that Friedrich Alfred Krupp was homosexual, that he had a number of liaisons with local boys and men, and that his closest attachment was to Adolfo Schiano, an 18-year-old barber and amateur musician.

This report appeared in the German press months after stories of a unnamed foreign businessman’s homosexual orgies were printed in local and Neapolitan papers demanding an inquest. Capri locals were aware of Krupp’s homosexual activities, but those in positions of power turned a blind eye, including the owner of Quisisana who had a certain influence over a local political party, to which Krupp contributed funds.

The Neopolitan paper Il Mattino were the first to publish such an article, withholding Krupp’s name. Its source in Capri was a teacher who resented Krupp’s choice of a different Italian language instructor. This teacher had also been heavily criticised by the same political party that had the support and patronage of Krupp, causing the teacher to support the opposing political party.

Krupp returned to Germany, waiting for the scandal to pass. Instead Italian newspapers continued to identify a wealthy foreign capitalist as the centre of homosexual activity. The first report in Germany appeared in the Catholic newspaper Augsburger Postzeitung in August 1902. It cited reports in two Italian newspapers and like them described but did not name the industrialist.

In October 1902, Krupp’s wife received anonymous letters and, according to some reports, compromising photos of her husband’s orgies. She asked Kaiser Wilhelm II, a family friend, to take action against her husband for the sake of the reputation of the firm. The Kaiser, alarmed by her boldness and determined to protect the reputation of that crucial armaments manufacturer, had her locked in an insane asylum.

The newspaper Vorwärts then published their article titled “Krupp in Capri”, stating: “If Krupp continues to live in Germany, he will be subject to penalties of article 175 of the Code. When certain illegal practices lead to a public scandal, the police have a duty to promote legal action.” Under paragraph 175 of the German Penal Code it was punishable by years of hard labor.

Krupp sued the newspaper and sought help from his allies in government, including Kaiser Wilhelm. Copies of Vorwärts were seized and destroyed, even in the homes of subscribers. It seemed that Krupp had decided to give battle, however by now his nerves were shot, perhaps because of the suspicion that this time the scandal was so big and well-grounded that even his wealth and his friendships couldn’t save him if due process occurred.

A week after Vorwärts published Krupp’s name, on 22 November 1902, Krupp died.

In a speech at Krupp’s burial, Emperor Wilhelm attacked the Social Democratic politicians, insisting that they had lied about Krupp’s sexual orientation. Krupp’s heirs initiated a lawsuit against Vorwärts, but soon abandoned the action.

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