The Significance of Christian Faith

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For the members of the Kreisau Circle, Christian faith and its inherent personal and social ethics were an essential foundation for the German spirit’s recovery. They aspired to liberal socialism in the sense of a third path between the extremes of dictatorial state socialism and anarchic private capitalism, above all as advocated by Alfred Delp, a Catholic social theologian and Jesuit.

In and of themselves, the members of the Kreisau Circle were also an ecumenically driven group. Moltke held around twenty-five talks with Konrad Preysing, Catholic bishop of Berlin, and encouraged him to speak even more clearly in his pastoral letters. He informed the Southern German bishops Konrad Gröber, Michael von Faulhaber and Johannes Baptista about the conspiratorial work of the members of the Kreisau Circle and sought their advice.

He had a special bond of friendship with Alfred Delp, a Jesuit of his own age, with whom he especially discussed Catholic social doctrine. Apart from his esteem for Anglo-Saxon tradition, Moltke owed his turn toward ideas about natural law to his dialog with his Catholic friends in the Kreisau Circle.

His particular common ground with Delp was apparent in the final weeks of their lives in Tegel Prison where they were placed in adjacent cells: Together with Gerstenmaier and Prince Fugger, they formed an ecumenical community “in vinculis”, in chains.

They collectively read agreed Bible passages, communicated through the walls of their cells and celebrated the Eucharist together, which was officiated by Delp. They exchanged small secret messages with personal reflections, passed along by the two prison chaplains Harald Poelchau and Peter Buchholz. Together, they hoped to stay alive, but were also collectively prepared to die as witnesses to the truth of their faith. In his last secret message to Delp, Moltke wrote: … may the path lead us to freedom or to the gallows!

Roland Freisler presided over the trial against the leading members of the Kreisau Circle in the People’s Court. What likely provoked him most was that every one of them, including the Social Democrats, attested to their Christian motivation to resist the totalitarian system of ideology and action. He sentenced them to death by hanging or prison.

Source / title

  • Immanuel Giel, public domain

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