Imprisonment, Show Trial and Execution
Moltke was arrested on January 19, 1944 after it was discovered that he had warned members of the Solf Circle of Gestapo surveillance. His extremely close relationships with well-known conspirators of July 20 did not become known until after the failed coup attempt, however.
In the twelve months of his imprisonment in Berlin, Ravensbrück and Berlin again, he deepened his insights by daily reading of Bible passages supplemented by systematic reading of the writings of St. Augustine and, above all, Luther. He became a “lay theologian” with his own opinions and increasing willingness to accept his own death as a symbol of final resistance against the murderous masters of this world.
The Protestant prison chaplain Harald Poelchau – a member of the “Kreisau Circle”, who went undiscovered – enabled Moltke to maintain his correspondence with his wife Freya during his time in Tegel prison. Whereas the married couple had been allowed ten visits during his time in Ravensbrück, they were only able to converse five times in Tegel under supervision – once, they used a visit to receive communion together from Poelchau.
The People’s Court under its President Roland Freisler sentenced Moltke to death on January 11, 1945. According to Moltke in a letter of January 10-11, 1945 to his wife, he was, “chosen to be attacked and condemned primarily because of his friendship with Catholics, and he thus stands before Freisler not as a Protestant, not as an owner of a large estate, not as an aristocrat, not as a Prussian, not as a German – all of this is explicitly excluded in the trial […] – but rather as a Christian and as nothing else at all.” [Moltke, Land, 341]
Helmuth James Graf von Moltke was murdered in Berlin-Plötzensee on January 23, 1945.