Moltke: Education and Work in the OKW

After several stays abroad during his school days, Moltke started studying law and political science in Berlin in 1925. He was involved in the Silesian “labor camp movement”, which brought farmers, factory workers and university students together for collective physical labor and discussions on the future organization of a free and more just society. Moltke was one of the few conspirators who did not disapprove of the Weimar Republic and sympathized with the democratic idea. He openly criticized Hitler’s rise for this reason and disapproved of the Nazi seizure of power from the outset. He therefore turned down a judgeship in 1933 and started practicing as an attorney in Berlin in 1935.

He additionally completed his degree as a British barrister between 1935 and 1938 and planned to take over a law firm in London. The outbreak of war in September of 1939 prevented this. That same month, Moltke was assigned to the Foreign Office of Military Intelligence (Abwehr) of the High Command of the Armed Forces in Berlin as a military administrative officer.

Moltke’s firsthand insights into the Nazi leadership’s spirit and practices as staff member in the international law department of the High Command of the Armed Forces under Admiral Wilhelm Canaris made him increasingly aware of the Nazi system’s inhumane and murderous character. To him, National Socialism represented a radical break with the Judeo-Christian tradition in theory and in practice. As an expert on laws of war and international law, he attempted to do what he could against injustice and the arbitrary use of power. He was especially committed to the humane treatment of prisoners of war and the observance of international law.