Hempel, Eduard (1887–1972), German diplomat, was born 6 June 1887 in Pirna, Saxony, and baptised into the Zwinglian church, eldest among two sons and one daughter of Carl Constantin Hempel, district administrator, and Russian-born Olga Elvine Hempel (neé Ponfick). In 1898 his father retired as district president with lung trouble to Davos, Switzerland. Eduard went to school in Bautzen and in Davos (Gymnasium Fridericianum). In 1906 he passed his Abitur in Wertheim/Baden. From 1906 to 1910 he studied law in Munich, Heidelberg, Berlin, and Leipzig. On 15 June 1910 he passed his first state examination. On 28 June 1910 he was awarded his doctorate in jurisprudence, and from 1 October 1910 to 30 September 1911 he did voluntary military service with the Saxon Mounted Guard Regiment. On 1 February 1912 he began work in the district president's office in Saxony.
His father died in 1911, and in 1913 his mother took him with his brother and sister for an extended tour of India, China, and Japan. When war broke out (August 1914) Eduard rejoined his regiment as a reserve lieutenant. He was wounded in Poland. In 1915 he was posted to military headquarters at Charleville in the French Ardennes, and in 1917 transferred to Rumania. After the war he passed his second state examination and for two years worked again in Saxony. In 1921 he was transferred to the Saxon legation in Berlin (such a legation existed there until 1933), where he served as legation secretary and counsellor. In July 1926 he completed his diplomatic consular examination and was incorporated into the foreign ministry.
On 24 May 1928 he married Eva, youngest of three children of Georg Ahlemann, a Prussian officer. A week later he was sent to Oslo as first secretary for four years. On 23 December 1929 he was promoted to counsellor of the legation, first class. In the early 1930s he was a western observer at the great show trials in Russia. From November 1932 to November 1937 he administered Foreign Office properties. In 1933 he was appointed privy legation councillor, a position he held until July 1937, when he was sent to Dublin on the advice of Foreign Minister von Neurath. Hitler saw him privately before he left and impressed him with his grasp of Anglo–Irish relations and his insight that the religious factor presented a difficulty in Irish–German relations, although he gave him no special instructions that we know of. No photographs of the meeting were allowed.
His rank for the new appointment was minister class I. He did not have ambassador status: he was an ‘envoy extraordinary and minister plenipotentiary’. He was accompanied by his wife, Eva, and three children: Andreas (eldest child, born in Oslo), Constantin, and Liv (both born in Berlin). The other two children, Berthold (d. 1948) and Agnes, were born in Dublin. The Irish government preferred a non-National Socialist as minister. Hitler initially did not interfere with the foreign service; he later gave diplomats living abroad the option of either joining the Nazi party or leaving the service and ‘reeducation’. Hempel joined on 1 July 1938. He gave the Nazi salute at the Royal Dublin Horse Show in the presence of the president, Douglas Hyde (qv), the taoiseach, Éamon de Valera (qv), and the tánaiste, Seán T. O'Kelly (qv). The Auslandsorganisation kept an eye on German nationals abroad. Hempel's predecessor in Dublin, von Dehn Schmidt, was disgraced for kissing the papal nuncio's ring.
Hempel represented a government whose militant Lebensraum policy eventually involved war with Britain – Ireland's ‘ancient enemy’, but one with which it had close economic and blood ties. Irish neutrality came under constant diplomatic and other pressure from Britain, and later the USA. The inherent difficulties of this situation for Hempel, as official communicator between governments, were aggravated by German efforts to use Ireland against Britain through contacts with the IRA and the insertion of agents such as Herman Goertz (qv). In general Hempel's handling of the situation satisfied the British government, with the exception of his radio link with Berlin, which was used to send military information; the transmitter was impounded by the Irish authorities (21 December 1943) before it could jeopardise the allied invasion of Europe. De Valera, too, found him to be ‘invariably correct’, which may have influenced his decision to offer his condolences to Hempel after Hitler's death.
After the war, he claimed that his efforts to set up in business were frustrated by the British government. More realistically, his capabilities in that direction were limited. He fitted more into Gordon Craig's categories of ‘the fixed person for the fixed job’, one of ‘the technicians of diplomacy’ (Paul Seabury, Wilhelmstrasse: a study of German diplomats under the Nazi regime (1954), pp vii, ix). It was left to his wife to become the breadwinner. She set up a cake/confectionery business in Dún Laoghaire. De Valera, with Britain's Sir John Maffey (qv), facilitated Hempel's return to Germany in 1949. On 31 January 1950 he was reappointed to the foreign office, and on 15 March 1951 he took over responsibilities for its real estate and buildings at home and abroad. He was too old for representative status. He retired on 18 December 1951, and died of natural causes at the age of 85 on 12 November 1972 in Wildtal, Freiburg-im-Breisgau. He was survived by his wife and all their children except Berthold.