20. Juli 44’s Christian Commemoration of the Death

  • 1st Picture for document
  • 2st Picture for document

The early conception of resistance often took the form of a Christian commemoration of the dead. Pictured here is a 1947 circular sent out by the “Aid Foundation for July 20, 1944”, a victims’ association formed primarily to aid family members and survivors of political resistance.

The list of men and women killed after the failed putsch attempt has the appearance of a commemorative plaque and is embedded in a decidedly Christian interpretive framework. Nevertheless, the some 150 names include only three members of the clergy: the Protestants Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Friedrich Justus Perels and the Catholic Alfred Delp, a Jesuit priest. Thus, the circular documents the desire to pay tribute to the resistance fighters’ sacrifice outside the churches in thoroughly Christian categories.

Some members of the resistance took issue with this form of commemoration of the dead. On June 3, 1947, Eberhard Bethge wrote the list’s initiator, Carl-Hans Graf von Hardenberg:

As to the form of the first page, I personally would have wished that the term “heroic death” had not yet been employed since it still has too many recent connotations. In conjunction with the phrase “for the purity and honor of German arms”, the formulation sounds too deliberate to me; I always believe that the simplest words are the most fitting and greatest tribute to our dead. The men among those named in the list who were close to me were first and foremost representatives of the German middle class and sought to atone for and avert their guilt. They probably cared more about humanity and cosmopolitanism than the purity and honor of German arms (Berlin SB PK, Nachl. 299, Materialsammlung 20. Juli 1944).

Source / title

  • © Staatsbibliothek Berlin/Staatsbibliothek Preußischer Kulturbesitz, Handschriftenabt., Nachl. 299/Bethge, o. Nr. (Materialsammlung 20. Juli 1944)

Related topics