In 1893, on this day Ulrich Friedrich Wilhelm Joachim Ribbentrop was born in Wesel, Rhenish Prussia, to a career army officer, and his wife, Johanne Sophie Hertwig.
Birth of "the Rib"
The Canadian Führer's DiplomatHe was educated irregularly at private schools in Germany and Switzerland where he studied French and met his future wife Katherine Hamilton Ewing. At his school at Metz, the German Empire's most powerful fortress, a former teacher later recalled that Ribbentrop "was the most stupid in his class, full of vanity and very pushy". This trait was shared by his father who was cashiered from the Imperial German Army in 1908 - after repeatedly disparaging Kaiser Wilhelm II for his alleged homos*xuality - and the Ribbentrop family were often short of money. Fluent in both French and English, young Ribbentrop lived at various times in Grenoble, France, and London, before travelling to Canada in 1910.
Ewing's father was the Vice President of the Molson Bank, and through this connection he was able to secure a position at their offices on Stanley Street in Montreal. The Bank had accumulated considerable capital from the Molson Brewing Company's considerable trade on the St Lawrence River; as was the custom of the time, it also issued its own paper currency.
Ribbentrop travelled to Quebec City and also Ottawa where he was received at Rideau Hall by the Governor General, the Duke of Connaught. Because the Duke was related to German Royalty, the two men where able to speak freely in the German Language. As a result of these connections, Ribbentrop founded a profitable business, importing champagne and German wines for those discerning consumers who enjoy the grape.
Inevitably, he became increasingly Canadian earning the nickname "The Rib". In February of 1914, he competed for Ottawa's famous Minto ice-skating team, participating in the Ellis Memorial Trophy tournament in Boston. And because of his marriage to Ewing, and his connection with the Duke of Connaught, Ribbentrop was able to remain in Canada throughout the Great War and have the fateful opportunity to form a life long relationship with Adrien Arcand (pictured, right). And without the resources and support of Ribbentrop, Arcand would surely been a no mark, forced to rely upon his modest income as a mediocre journalist. But instead, he had the good fortune to be backed by the vast revenues of the alcohol industry.
Of course the Canadian Führer was gifted with both charisma and creativity of pro-fascist political thought which found fertile ground in the virulent anti-semitism of the era. And his father was a member of the Labour Movement, who despite their principled commitment to brotherhood, was deeply antagonist to immigrants who they feared as a threat to their own employment. A hatred of Jews and the Chinese simmered closed to the surface, and ultimately it was their shared racism that drew Arcand and Ribbentrop together.
When the National Unity Party of Canada was founded in 1938, Ribbentrop was able to secure the funding necessary to take forward what was in reality only a local political organisation with a small office in Old Montreal. He also added a diplomatic dimension that transformed Arcand into a global figure who could broker the historic meeting at Mansion House in London between King Edward VIII and Adolf Hitler. The result was a shared vision of imperial fascism which Ribbentrop described as "the clever way in which England grants absolute independence to her Dominions, but nevertheless - almost entirely through the person of the governor general - preserves their close contract in everything wih the mother country". Ironically, with the benefit of alcohol-fueled financial resources, this oddest assortment of cuckholds and anti-semites had become "Best Buds" that would drag the world through a drunken nightmare.