Helmuth James Graf von Moltke

Helmuth James Graf von Moltke grew up in the manor on Kreisau estate near Schweidnitz, in an environment influenced by mainstream Protestantism. Since his mother came from a liberal middle-class South African family, his schooling largely followed the British tradition. After graduating from high school in 1925, he began studying law and political scienceat the university in Breslau, then in Berlin and in Vienna and again in Breslau. In 1928, he helped prepare a labor camp in Silesia, which was intended to bring together university students, young working class people and young farmers. He passed his German jurist’s examination in 1929. He made the acquaintance of Freya Deichmann from Cologne the following year at a meeting initiated by the Viennese progressive educator Eugenie Schwarzwald. They married in 1931.

In 1929, his father had granted him full power of attorney to administer the parental estate, which he freed of debts with his dedicated efforts. He finished his law degree between 1930 and 1932. After a longer trip with his wife to South Africa and England in 1934, a study trip again took him abroad in Europe in 1935. After earning his doctorate in 1936, he went to work for a law firm. At the same time, he was frequently in England in order to earn a British law degree.

He was drafted into the Foreign and Military Intelligence Division of the High Command of the Armed Forces in September of 1939. A circle of friends gradually formed with Moltke and his friend Yorck von Wartenburg constituting its center. Various opinions on the form of “another Germany” after the fall of the Nazi regime were drafted and discussed in smaller and larger gatherings at Kreisau estate. Talks were held with individuals with differing backgrounds and contact was maintained with other resistance groups.

Moltke was arrested on January 19, 1944 because he had given an acquaintance a warning. Authorities did not recognize the significance of the group, soon dubbed the “Kreisau Circle”, until after the failed assassination attempt of July 20, 1944. Moltke was tried before the People’s Court on January 10-11, 1945; he was sentenced to death – as were seven other members of the “Kreisau Circle” – and executed in Plötzensee on January 23, 1945.

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