2010 – Remembering the Past

Fighting the Nazis
Fighting the Nazis

The beginning of a new year is always a good time to look forward but it’s equally important to keep one eye on the past and not forget the things that should not be forgotten. Particularly striking for me was the death of one of the last surviving members of Germany’s Anti-Nazi movement. Freya von Moltke lived to the ripe-old age of 98 and passed away on the first day of 2010, January 1st.

Plotting Against Hitler
Plotting Against Hitler

It’s useful remembering that during WWII not all Germans were overtaken by the wave of insanity that gripped the German nation. There were those who resisted and those, even, who fought. One such group, Der Kreisauer Kreis (the Kreisau Circle), actively helped the Allies and plotted against the authorities of the Nazi Reich. The Kreis effectively ceased to exist when Helmuth von Moltke, Freya’s husband, was arrested by the Nazis.

Stopping the Nazis
Stopping the Reich

Freya along with her husband and the other members of the Kreis were members of Germany’s pre-war aristocracy. Diplomats and clerics also filled the ranks of this resistance group. What was crucial was that the world could see that not all Germans had lost their minds. Importantly, many members of Germany’s elite belonged to this group and this sent an important signal out to the Allies: Germany was not lost.

Krzyżowa Palace Gives Hope
Krzyżowa Palace Gives Hope

Freya von Moltke’s work did not end when her husband was put to death by the Nazis and the Kreis fell apart. She continued to publicise both the Kreis’s and her husband’s work after the war. For Poland, hers was an important role because she supported the transformation of her former estate (in Kreisau, now Krzyżowa) into a centre for Polish-German reconciliation and later, European integration. May her memory live on. Freya von Moltke: March 29, 1911 – January 1, 2010.


8 thoughts on “2010 – Remembering the Past

  1. R.I.P

    I saw the film ‘Valkyrie’ last year and although it was a rather typical Hollywood treatment it was good to see the story of the Kreisau circle on the big screen.

    Within the anti-Nazi movement there were different groups, however. No doubt there were a lot of people genuinely shocked and disgusted by the Nazis but at the same time a lot of people only turned against Hitler and co. when the war started to go against Germany.

    These people were perhaps motivated by common sense and self-preservation rather than their morality.

  2. Absolutely. Sadly but unsurprisingly the most active and dedicated anti-Nazis were killed or otherwise neutralised, sometimes before the war had even started.

    This no doubt was a great deterent to any others who thought about challenging the Nazi regime.

    When we look at the anti-Hitler plots towards the end of the war, it might (or might not) be possible to say that the civilian elements were more genuinely anti-Nazi than the military elements who were not Nazis but had no problem with the regime until they realised Hitler had lost the plot.

    The argument that a professional soldier should follow orders regardless of what they think of their government DOES hold water but only up to a certain point.

    I am an admirer and avid reader of historians like Davies and Beevor but I do not think that even they, let alone me, can really know for sure what every Wehrmacht general knew about what the Nazis were up to.

    I believe that many did their duty according to the official and unofficial codes of miltary honour but given the scale of atrocities carried out by the regular army (as opposed to the SS and Gestapo) in Eastern Europe, I also believe that many who were against Hitler towards the end were acting under pragmatic rather than moral imperatives.

    None of which should take anything away from those extremely brave souls who took a stance against Nazism.

    Happy New Year, by the way.

    PS: Do you hail from Teesside originally?

    1. I would disagree on the military my Geordie friend (hope you don’t follow the miserable barcodes :P).

      A lot of the anti-Hitler resistance was military, old conservative Wehrmacht officers like Beck who opposed him from the start. They even had a plan to arrest him and try him as a warmonger if he invaded Czechoslovakia, but the Allies gave in and they had not grounds. Many plots were hatched, early in the war also, but just like the Polish SZP under Karasiewicz-Tokarzewski, just did not work. To be sure many had a moral dilemma about killing him, but if he was removed from power many high ranking officers would have stood with the resisters, that also includes some Waffen SS officers. Of course the resistance grew as Germany started losing, and many were also true Nazis and murderers, but there was resistance in the German armed forces from the start. As one historian told me: “The problem with German soldiers is that they make for very good fighters, but terrible politicians and even worse conspirators.”

  3. I was waiting for the bus one day after work so I decided to visit your blog to pass the time.

    Unforunately, while I have your blog on the bookmarks here at home, I had to resort to Google to find your site. Thanks to Google, I ended up in some kind of personal site and while i quickly found my way ot he blog, I do vaguely remember something about DJs and Middlesbrough. Maybe.

    Anyway, for the record i’m from Newcastle born and bred.

    1. No, I’m not from the Boro. I may, perhaps, have posted some information somewhere about having visitors from M’boro come and visit me – a very good friend of mine is a DJ on Radio Tees. 🙂

  4. And I can’t believe I forgot to comment on this Raf, a nice piece on Frau von Moltke, may she rest in peace. Married into a great family and was a courageous woman herself.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s