She did not bear the shame
January 5, 2010 8:39 AM   Subscribe

Freya von Moltke died on New Year’s Day at age 98. She and her husband led the Kreisau Circle, an intellectual salon which became an important part of the German resistance in WWII. They planned a coup, one of over forty-two separate plots to kill Hitler and overthrow the Nazi regime. Freya von Molte was not portrayed in Valkyrie, the 2008 film that depicted the assassination attempt, but she, along with the other members of the resistance (Deutscher Widerstand), "did not bear the shame."
posted by tizzie (20 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
posted by brundlefly at 8:50 AM on January 5, 2010

I like the ring of "did not bear the shame" better than "don't blame me, I tried to assassinate him!"

Also: .
posted by DU at 8:57 AM on January 5, 2010

This quote from her husband sums it up: "What shall I say when I am asked: And what did you do during that time?". They stood up for what they believed in during incredibly difficult circumstances - truly courageous.

However, the Wikipedia article makes it clear that her husband (Helmuth James Graf von Moltke), although a member of the Kreisau Circle, opposed plans to assassinate Hitler, fearing that success would make him a martyr, while failure would expose those who opposed him. He was nonetheless executed.

posted by jonesor at 9:03 AM on January 5, 2010

posted by aerotive at 9:06 AM on January 5, 2010

You know who else was in the Kreisau Circle?

Seriously, though:

posted by Halloween Jack at 9:20 AM on January 5, 2010

posted by lordrunningclam at 9:27 AM on January 5, 2010

The only shame was Tom Cruise's acting in that movie. Sheesh.
posted by stormpooper at 9:44 AM on January 5, 2010

posted by dealing away at 10:58 AM on January 5, 2010

posted by Hairy Lobster at 11:15 AM on January 5, 2010

I was first introduced to the Kreisau Circle in college. What struck me then as strikes me now is that I can't find a direct statement that the participants did anything except talk. The group was rounded up after a failed assassination attempt, but it wasn't their attempt as far as I can tell-- the Nazis just cracked down on seditious groups as a response to someone else's plot.

I might be wrong, so someone please set me right if I am. I know that the participants risked a lot for their discussions, but as far as I can see they didn't have any actual hand in subverting the Nazis.
posted by Mayor Curley at 11:19 AM on January 5, 2010 [1 favorite]

They discussed the reasons for Hitler's disturbing rise and they discussed practical plans for a Germany after Hitler and her husband approached the British to offer assistance - all wonderful things, and much more than most people did. Their hearts were certainly in the right place, and surely enough, they do not bear the same.

But I'm with Major Curley on this; I can't seem to find anything to indicate they actually did anything - let alone plan a coup.

Tthe link attached to the word "coup" in the original post (as well as the direct statement that "they planned a coup), says nothing of the sort. In fact, it more or less says that they only talked about what should happen after "a" coup, which rather implies to me it wasn't their coup.

May van Moltke rest in peace; she must have been a good soul. But the thrust of this post would seem to revolve around actions for which no evidence of existence is provided. Unless I'm just missing something.
posted by Dee Xtrovert at 11:36 AM on January 5, 2010

In a totalitarian state, you're risking your life just voicing opposition. Of the 42 plots plots against Hitler, Operation Valkyrie came closest to succeeding, and that ended up with conspirators being hung from meat hooks with piano wire.

Helmuth James Graf von Moltke helped people emigrate from Germany before the war, and during the war he passed information on Nazi abuses to the resistance and the British and was an outspoken advocate for Germany following the Geneva Convention and the Hague Convention. (Field Marshal Wilhelm Keitel, who had signed orders for Soviet commissars to be shot on sight and for resistance fighters and political prisoners to be "disappeared," dismissed the Geneva Convention as quaint "a product of a notion of chivalry of a bygone era." Boy, those Nazis sure were evil.) Moltke was executed for treason because imagining a post-Hitler Germany implied that Hitler would be removed.

The Kreisau Circle may not have taken action, but maybe they validated those who did by letting them know they weren't alone, and their planning for a better postwar Germany was more organized than random assassination attempts.
posted by kirkaracha at 12:14 PM on January 5, 2010 [2 favorites]

When I put this post together this morning after reading Freya von Moltke's obituary, it looks as though I drew a false conclusion - based on Freya's husband's execution and some of the other points - that the Kreisau Circle had planned the coup attempt portrayed in Valkyrie. Mayor Curley and Dee Xtrovert - thank you for being more careful in your reading than I was. Still, I was moved by Freya's story, and I hope my post (despite the error) raised awareness of an honorable woman's passing.
posted by tizzie at 12:57 PM on January 5, 2010 [3 favorites]

"her husband approached the British to offer assistance"-- this surely would have been a huge and dangerous undertaking in its own right, wouldn't it?
posted by jokeefe at 1:04 PM on January 5, 2010

The German resistance was feeble. First, Hitler took care of any potential fifth column in the prewar period. In his mind, all internal resistance had to be squelched before ever attempting his plan--eliminating France, then moving on to an attack against Russia to make Germany a true full-continental world power. Second, most of these people were all for the Dritten Reich while Guderian's panzers sliced behind French and British troops. Nor did the Wehrmach blanche when the infamous "Commissar Order" was issued by Hitler.

Instead, it was only the Battle of Moscow in 1941 that lit the fires of conscience amongst the long-bypassed Junker elites. In the battle against the Weimar Republic, persons of Von Moltke's class stood alongside Hitler.

Google "Historikerstreit" to get more on this issue, which split West German historiography in the 1980s. Von Stauffenberg and Frau von Moltke were a stalking horse for the General Staff right after the war. Not many of their type left in Germany, however.
posted by Ironmouth at 1:48 PM on January 5, 2010 [1 favorite]

She had lived in Vermont since 1956.
posted by tizzie at 3:00 PM on January 5, 2010

Related to the 'no plan of battle ever survives contact with the enemy' Moltke. Hm.
Interesting reading.
posted by Smedleyman at 3:13 PM on January 5, 2010

"her husband approached the British to offer assistance"-- this surely would have been a huge and dangerous undertaking in its own right, wouldn't it?

Heartbreaking too, since the British, not totally unsurprisingly, was reluctant to help out.

This could go too far. Churchill's reaction to the piano wire execution of the July 20 plotters was satisfaction that highly placed Germans were killing each other. Apparently they all looked alike.
posted by IndigoJones at 4:31 PM on January 5, 2010

British were
posted by IndigoJones at 4:31 PM on January 5, 2010

If you're interested in German resistance as written about by Germans closer to WWII, I'd recommend reading Hans Fallada's novel Every Man Dies Alone, which was published in 1947 and fictionalizes the true-life resistance of one German couple. It's chilling, and problematic, and I'm still mulling it over several weeks after completing the book.
posted by mynameisluka at 7:29 PM on January 5, 2010 [1 favorite]

« Older Strongly worded letter to follow   |   Big Honkin' Brains Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments