Helmuth von Moltke
|Born||11 Mar 1907|
|Died||23 Jan 1945|
Contributor: C. Peter Chen
ww2dbaseHelmuth James Ludwig Eugen Heinrich Graf von Moltke was born in Kreisau, Silesia, German Empire (now Krzyzowa, Poland) to a German father and a South African mother of British descent. Between 1927 and 1929, he studied law and political sciences in Breslau, Vienna, Heidelberg, and Berlin. In 1928, he was involved in organizing events in which jobless workers, young farmers, and university students could learn from each other. Back on the family estate in Kreisau, he set aside unused land for new farmers, which earned criticism from neighboring land owners. On 18 Oct 1931, he married Freya Deichmann, whom he met at Breslau while studying. In 1935, after completing his studies in law, he rejected an offer to become a judge because it would require him to join the Nazi Party. Instead, he began a private practice in the German capital of Berlin. Among other things, his firm helped Jews and other persecuted peoples emigrate from Germany. Between 1935 and 1938, while helping German émigrés in the United Kingdom, he studied British law in London and Oxford. In Sep 1939, as the European War began, he was drafted for service with the Abwehr, which was the German counter-intelligence service, as the resident expert in international public law and international laws of war. In this capacity, he traveled extensively, and witnessed many human rights abuses in German-occupied Europe. He attempted to persuade others to cease such actions, noting that, in Oct 1941, "[h]ow can anyone know these things [the abuses] and walk around free?" During the war, he wrote an opinion urging Germany to abide by rules set by the Geneva Convention and the Hague Convention, lobbying that it was not only Germany's legal responsibility, but by doing so Germany would also ensure good treatment of German prisoners of war in enemy prison camps; this opinion was rejected by the military, who cited that Russia was not a signatory of the Geneva Convention, thus it would not ensure the good treatment that Moltke wished for. In regards to the treatment of Jews, he wrote several reports that analyzed the negative psychological impact on German soldiers after witnessing or participating in mass killings.
ww2dbaseSlowly, Moltke became one of the leaders of those who opposed the Nazi regime in Germany. He often distributed intelligence that he was privileged to those outside of the Nazi Party, which later included leaders of resistance groups in occupied Europe. He attempted to contact British officials on two occasions, offering his assistance in the war against Germany, but British authorities turned down his offer of intelligence. Undeterred, he continued to maintain a small circle of those with anti-Nazi sentiments; the group met at his family estate three times (May 1942, fall 1942, and Jun 1943), thus earning the nickname "Kreisau Circle". Moltke and the Kreisau Circle opposed the assassination of Adolf Hitler; they believed that the Nazi regime would soon fall, and they thought the best course of action was to prepare Germany for the democratic government that would follow.
ww2dbaseIn Jan 1944, Moltke was arrested by the Gestapo for his anti-Nazi sentiments. He was tried before the People's Court a year later. Roland Freisler, the presiding judge of the court, found his works on a democratic Germany after the fall of the Third Reich to be treasonous, and sentenced him to death on 11 Jan 1945. He was executed at the Plötzensee Prison in Berlin twelve days later.
Helmuth von Moltke Timeline
|11 Mar 1907||Helmuth von Moltke was born.|
|11 Jan 1945||German judge Roland Freisler found Helmuth von Moltke guilty of treason for his works on post-Nazi democracy, and sentenced him to death.|
|23 Jan 1945||Helmuth von Moltke was executed at the Plötzensee Prison in Berlin, Germany.|
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James Forrestal, Secretary of the Navy, 23 Feb 1945