Kreisau Circle

The Kreisau Circle (German: Kreisauer Kreis) (1940–1944) was a group of about twenty-five German dissidents led by Helmuth James von Moltke, who met at his estate in the rural town of Kreisau, Silesia. The circle was composed of men and a few women from a variety of backgrounds, including those of noble descent, devout Protestants and Catholics, professionals, socialists, and conservatives.[1] Despite their differences, the members of the Kreisau Circle found common interest in their opposition to Hitler's Nazi regime on both moral and religious grounds. At their meetings, the circle discussed how they would reorganize the German government after the end of the Third Reich. Although the circle did not promote violent overthrow of the regime, their planning was considered by the Nazis to be treasonous as it rested on the assumption that Germany would lose the war.[2] The group began to falter after Helmuth von Moltke was arrested by the Gestapo in January 1944 and eventually came to an end when most of its members were arrested following Claus von Stauffenberg's attempt on Hitler's life on 20 July 1944.[3]

Claus Schenk Graf von Stauffenberg - Helmuth James Graf von Moltke
A German stamp of Stauffenberg and Helmuth James Graf von Moltke in commemoration of their 100th birthdays
Schloss Kreisau heute
The von Moltke estate in Kreisau, Silesia
HelmuthvonMoltkeJan1945
Helmuth James von Moltke, founder of the Kreisau Circle

Intellectual background

The members of the Kreisau Circle were heavily influenced by popular movements in Germany that followed World War I, most notably the German Youth Movement and German Religious Socialism.[4] Although motivated by differing ideologies (the German Youth Movement in a return to nature and Religious Socialism in a return to Christian values), each faction inspired resistance to the Nazi regime by encouraging their followers to reconsider traditionally rigid political, social, and religious distinctions and engage in discourse with those who disagreed with them. These fundamental similarities created an environment that allowed for persons of a variety of backgrounds to meet and participate in intellectual resistance to the Third Reich.

German Youth Movement

The German Youth Movement was characterized by the creation of various youth organizations that emphasized a return to nature beginning in 1896. For example, the Wandervogel, a youth movement that arose in the early 20th century, encouraged youth to reject their middle-class upbringings that overemphasized materialism.[4] The movement stressed the importance of the individual and emboldened them to pursue their interests rather than follow traditional class expectations.

Many members of the German youth groups were sent to war in 1913. Following great losses during the war, young men found themselves fascinated with Volkish ideology, or the idea of reunification of the German people that transcended class distinctions. While this preoccupation with the Volk made for an easy transition for some into Nazi ideology, for others such as Helmuth von Moltke, their roots in a youth movement that questioned the status quo led them to resist a regime that undermined the freedom that they sought through their youth organizations.[4]

Löwenberger Arbeitsgemeinschaften (Löwenberger Working Groups)

An extension of the German Youth Movement, the Löwenberger Arbeitsgemeinschaften was an organization of college professors, youth movement leaders, unemployed workers, students, and farmers who came together to work in work camps and discuss social and political issues and solve the problems Silesia faced (i.e. high unemployment) in the aftermath of WWI.[5] Between the days of 14 March and 1 April 1928, approximately one-hundred people from a variety of backgrounds came together for the first Silesian work camp.[4] In the mornings, participants would partake in physical labour. This was followed by lecture courses, discussion groups, and leisure time. Two additional camps followed in 1929 and 1930. One participant described his time at the camps, "Representatives of the three social groups in the nation were able to achieve a common language that had proved beyond the grasp of the older generation. A group such as this, which formed a cross-section of the community, was capable of rising above class and party interests".[4] The camp allowed participants to cooperate with people of different upbringings and discuss how they could work together for the common good of their community. This lesson that people of differing social classes and political views could collaborate successfully would greatly influence Helmuth James von Moltke in his construction of the Kreisau Circle, who himself was an important contributor to the Löwenberger movement.

Religious Socialism in Germany

Religious Socialism in 20th century Germany also influenced the members of the Kreisau Circle. This movement is most notably characterized by the work of Paul Tillich, who sought to fashion socialism into an ideology that was complimentary with Christian faith. He looked to create “socialist political forms that were rooted in a religious substance”.[6] Tillich called this socialism “theonomous”.[6] Tillich emphasized the importance of social justice which he defined as "the demand for a society in which it is possible for every individual and for every group to live meaningfully and purposefully, a demand for a meaningful society".[4] Similarly to the youth movements, religious socialism challenged conventional political divisions. The movement asked its followers not to focus on the differences between Christianity and socialism but rather see how the two could work together to create a better society. Harald Poelchau, a member of the Kreisau Circle, was a close follower of Tillich, and other members such as Horst von Einsiedel, Carl Dietrich von Trotha, Adolf Reichwein, and Adam von Trott zu Solz were also affiliated with religious socialism.[4]

Origins of the Circle

The Kreisau Circle was officially formed in 1940 with the merging of the intellectual circles of Helmuth James Graf von Moltke and Peter Graf Yorck von Wartenberg. Moltke and Yorck were descendants of prominent Prussian nobility and therefore were initially favored by Hitler's regime. Helmuth von Moltke, for example, descended from Field Marshal von Moltke, who was a prominent military commander in the Bismarck era. The Nazis honored his family title by giving him a position in their High Command.[3] Despite this special treatment, both men felt morally obliged to resist Hitler. In 1938, both men began to form separate social circles in which they discussed the problems of the Reich and their hopes for Germany's future. Moltke's circle, which included Einsiedel, was largely preoccupied with the sociological and economic problems that Germany would face after the Reich fell. Yorck's circle, which began to meet frequently at his home, focused mostly on the administrative questions of how the government should run after Hitler's regime had ended.[4] In January 1940, Moltke was connected to Yorck through a mutual friend. They both agreed that the Third Reich's defeat was inevitable and that a new government would have to be prepared to take over in this event. The two valued their common desire to oppose the regime through intellectual means despite differences in political views.[3] The circle was formed in November 1940, against the backdrop of Hitler's successes in France.

Members

The membership of the Kreisau Circle was varied, with affiliates ranging from conservatives to socialists, religious and non-religious, and all of the above. Although Freya von Moltke, Helmuth von Moltke, Peter von Yorck and Marion von Yorck were at the center of the circle, the group was more of a network of friends than a formal organization.[3] Freya von Moltke said her husband and Yorck searched for, “people who objected, who were opposed to National Socialism and were trying to envisage a better Germany beyond National Socialism, which at the time seemed completely impossible”.[3] Their differences were valued as Moltke and Yorck believed that debate would assist them to accomplish their common goal for a better Germany following “X-day”, or the day after the end of the Reich. 

Helmuth James Graf von Moltke 

The Kreisau Circle's most notable member was Helmuth James Graf von Moltke, who was considered to be the leader of the organization. Moltke was born on 11 March 1907 in Kreisau, Silesia to one of Prussia's best known military families. The Moltke household encouraged discussion and debate.[4] For instance, although both of Moltke's parents were Christian Scientists, he became an Evangelical Christian at the age of 14.[5] He attended university from 1925-1929 and studied law and political science. During this time, he became an important leader of the Lowenberger Arbeitsgemeinschaften. He also found himself drawn to the Schwarzwald Circle in 1929, which was an intellectual discussion group led by Eugenie Schwarzwald, where he met his future wife, Freya Deichmann.[4] Later that year, Helmuth was forced to return home from school to Kreisau to manage his family's estate. He married Freya on 18 October 1931.[4] In 1932, the Kreisau Estate had been stabilized allowing Helmuth to resume his career in law in Berlin. He eventually opened his own private firm along with his colleague Karl von Lewinski to practice international law. In this occupation, Moltke assisted Jewish emigres to escape the Nazi regime despite the obvious threat that this presented to his own safety.[4] From 1935 to 1938, he spent time in England in hopes of joining the British Bar. Although these plans were halted by the declaration of war in September 1939, it was during this time that Moltke gained many of his connections outside of Germany.[5] He returned to Berlin and was drafted into the Abwehr, where he attempted to ensure adherence to international law.[5] During this time, Moltke kept in contact with his friends from the Silesian work camps, such as Horst von Einsendel. They largely discussed sociological and economic consequences of the Third Reich. In January 1940, Moltke met Peter Graf Yorck von Wartenburg. By November 1940, the circles of Moltke and Yorck had merged to create the Kreisau Circle.  

Peter Graf Yorck von Wartenburg

Peter Graf von Wartenburg was born on 13 November 1904 to a well-known family of Prussian nobles. The family emphasized the importance of scholarship and the arts and encouraged opposition to authority. Peter's father, Heinrich, called himself "His Majesty's most loyal opposition".[4] Yorck studied law in Bonn and Breslau and during this time became critical of the failing republic. Following Kristallnacht in 1938 and a trip to Prague that made him realize the Nazi's imperialist intentions, Yorck became increasingly troubled with Hitler's regime and began to bring groups of dissenters to his home to discuss what was to be done after the fall of the Third Reich. Members of these initial groups would later become a part of the Kreisau Circle. 

Women in the Kreisau Circle

The participation of women in the Kreisau Circle discussion was often limited to the presence of their husbands. Freya von Moltke, a founding participant, was cut off from the circle's correspondence following her husband Helmuth von Moltke's arrest.[3] There are also no known female members who were not married to a male member. However, despite these limitations, women played an integral role in the Kreisau Circle. Margrit von Trotha, for example, utilized her skills as an economist to partake in the plans for Germany's future economy.[3] In addition, in Marion Yorck von Wartenburg's memoirs, she refers to the circle as "our group", indicating that she was a part of the circle's membership and discourse.[7] A known list of female members of the circle includes: Freya von Moltke (lawyer), Marion Yorck von Wartenburg (lawyer), Margrit von Trotha (economist), Rosemarie Reichwein (physician/therapist), and Irene Yorck von Wartenburg.[3]

Other Protestant members

Additional Protestant members of the circle included Horst von Einsiedel, Carl Dietrich von Trotha, Adolf Reichwein, Otto von der Gablentz, Theodor Steltzer, Adam von Trott, Hans-Bernd von Haeften, Harald Poelchau, and Eugen Gerstenmaier.[4]

Catholic members

Catholic members included Hans Peters, Hans Lukaschek, Paulus van Husen, Augustin Rösch, Lothar Konig[4] and Alfred Delp.[8] 

Socialist members

Socialists members included Carlo Mierendorff, Theo Hauback, and Julius Leber.[4] 

Proposals for the future

The activities of the Kreisau Circle formed around the idea that the fall of the Third Reich was in the near future. The day after this day when the new government would need to take over was referred to as "Day X". This day would mark the beginning of a new Germany and the end of a historical era.[9] Therefore, based on this assumption, the job of the Kreisau Circle was to prepare for this day. On 24 April 1941, the Kreisau Circle created a memorandum titled, Starting-point, Objectives and Tasks. In this text, the Circle expresses their belief that with the end of the Third Reich would also come the end of nationalism, racism, and party politics.[9]

Although a general consensus existed regarding the imminent fall of the Third Reich, the question of what this reformed Germany would look like remained up for debate. According to Freya von Moltke, some of the most pressing questions that the group sought to answer were, "How can I make democrats out of Germans who had not been able, really, to run a democracy properly?" and "How to build a new economy and whether it should be free or not free".[3]

In 1943, Moltke began to prepare formal drafts for a new German constitution to answer these questions. In a constitutional draft made on 9 August 1943, Moltke outlined a new Reich structure which would be self-governing and rest upon the, “natural divisions of the nation: family, municipality, and land”.[10] All eligible voters, which Moltke defined as all persons over the age of 21 or have served in the military, would elect municipal and county representative assemblies. These county assemblies would then elect the land legislature, which would have the responsibility of electing those in the Reichstag.[10] In the realm of culture and education, Moltke emphasized the importance of a renewed relationship with the German Evangelical Church and the German Catholic Church. Moltke and other members in the circle wanted a restoration of Christian values that they felt had been lost and led to Hitler's regime.[9] With the return of Christian values, the group believed that greater acceptance and cooperation between all peoples would occur and lead to the political unification of the European continent.  However, this is not to be mistaken for intolerance of other religions, as Moltke emphasizes that in this new government, "The freedom of [religious] faith and conscience is guaranteed".[10] Moltke hoped this government would create a unified Germany where freedom and personal responsibility would be complimentary to order and leadership.  

End of the Kreisau Circle

Arrests in January 1944

In the autumn of 1943, Helmuth von Moltke learned from an informant that a Gestapo spy had discovered an anti-Nazi salon in Berlin and that there would be a round-up of all participants. Moltke warned his friend who had been present at the salon, Otto Kiep, of the round-ups.[2] Kiep, former German Consul General in New York and member of the counterintelligence department under Admiral Wilhelm Canaris, failed to escape and was arrested in January 1944.[11] The Gestapo later discovered that von Moltke had warned him of the arrests, and Helmuth himself was then arrested on 19 January 1944.[3] This left the Kreisau Circle without one of its integral members. Freya von Moltke was also ousted from the group following Helmuth's arrest as the members were worried she would be interrogated. During this time, Yorck struggled to maintain cohesion of the group.[4] However, this was not the death knell of the circle as the Gestapo was not yet aware of the resistance.[4] Prior to the attempted assassination of Adolf Hitler, Helmuth von Moltke was treated fairly in prison and allowed to correspond with his wife Freya.[2] 

20 July 1944 attempt and executions

On 20 July 1944 a group of dissidents attempted to assassinate Hitler with a bomb and failed. Claus von Stauffenberg, cousin of Peter Yorck, was among the leading figures in this attempt to create "Day-X". However, the bombing only injured Hitler and led to a series of apprehensions. Peter Yorck was arrested and executed on 8 August 1944 for his involvement. Although Moltke himself was not involved, his close association with Yorck proved fatal as he was also executed on 23 January 1945.[3] These arrests and executions signaled the formal end of the activities of the Kreisau Circle. 

Legacy

When "X-day" finally came in May 1945, none of the Kreisau Circle's proposals for Germany's future were implemented. Although their plans never came to fruition, the legacy of resistance established by the Kreisau Circle still remains important. The members of Kreisau came together, despite their individual differences, to fashion a Germany which was democratic, anti-racist, and internationalist. Those at the Kreisau Circle committed treason and sacrificed their lives for their belief that the voice of opposition should be heard without persecution, and that if heard together these voices could fashion a better world. They were idealists in a totalitarian regime which threatened to extinguish any trace of resistance. 

Many of the surviving members of the circle continued to remain active after the war. For example, Marion Yorck received a judgeship in Berlin and Rosemarie Reichwein began her own physical therapy clinic. In addition, Freya von Moltke transformed the Kreisau estate into the Krzyzowa Foundation for Mutual Understanding in Europe on 10 July 1990.[3] This foundation bases its work on the principles of the Kreisau Circle, and continues to look towards developing understanding between persons from different social, political, and cultural backgrounds.[12]

See also

  • Solf Circle (Frau Solf Tea Party)
  • Category:Members of the Kreisau Circle

References

  1. ^ Dulles, Allen Welsh (2000). Germany's Underground: The Anti-Nazi Resistance. De Capo Press. p. 81.
  2. ^ a b c Owings, Alison (2011). Frauen: German Women Recall the Third Reich. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Michalczyk, John J. (2004). Confront! Resistance to Nazi Germany. Peter Lang Publishing Inc.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r van Roon, Ger (1971). German Resistance to Hitler: Count von Moltke and the Kreisan Circle. New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold.
  5. ^ a b c d Bartrop, Paul R. (2016). Resisting the Holocaust. Upstanders, Partisans, and Survivors. Santa Barbara: ABC-CLIO, Inc. pp. 179–181.
  6. ^ a b Taylor, Mark Kline (1991). Paul Tillich: Theologian of the Boundaries. Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg Fortress. p. 19.
  7. ^ Wartenburg, Marion Yorck von (2000). The Power of Solitude: My Llife in the German Resistance. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press. p. 34.
  8. ^ Gill, Anton (1994). An Honourable Defeat. New York: Henry Holt. p. 164.
  9. ^ a b c Mommsen, Hans (2003). Alternatives to Hitler: German Resistance Under the Third Reich. I.B. Tauris.
  10. ^ a b c Hoffman, Peter (2011). Behind Valkyrie: German Resistance to Hitler [Documents]. McGill-Queen's University Press. pp. 75–85.
  11. ^ Kiep, Walther Leisler (2012). Bridge Builder: An Insider's Account of over 60 Years in Post-War Reconstruction, International Diplomacy, and German-American Relations. West Lafayette, Indiana: Purdue University Press.
  12. ^ "Mission Statement of the Krzyzowa Foundation for Mutual Understanding".

External links

Adam von Trott zu Solz

Friedrich Adam von Trott zu Solz (9 August 1909 – 26 August 1944) was a German lawyer and diplomat who was involved in the conservative resistance to Nazism. A declared opponent of the Nazi regime from the beginning, he actively participated in the Kreisau Circle of Helmuth James Graf von Moltke and Peter Yorck von Wartenburg. Together with Claus von Stauffenberg he conspired in the 20 July plot, and was supposed to be appointed Secretary of State in the Foreign Office and lead negotiator with the Western Allies if they had succeeded.

Adolf Reichwein

Adolf Reichwein (3 October 1898 – 20 October 1944) was a German educator, economist, and cultural policymaker for the SPD. He was also a resistance fighter in Nazi Germany.

Alfred Delp

Alfred Delp, S.J. (Mannheim, Grand Duchy of Baden, 15 September 1907 – Berlin, 2 February 1945), was a German Jesuit priest and philosopher of the German Resistance. A member of the inner Kreisau Circle resistance group, he is considered a significant figure in Catholic resistance to Nazism. Falsely implicated in the failed 1944 July Plot to overthrow Adolf Hitler, Delp was arrested and sentenced to death. He was executed in 1945.

Augustin Rösch

Augustin Rösch (11 May 1893 in Schwandorf – 7 November 1961 in Munich) was a German Jesuit, Provincial, and significant figure in Catholic resistance to Nazism. Active in the Kreisau Circle German Resistance group, he was arrested in connection with the 1944 July Plot to overthrow Hitler, but survived his imprisonment.

Deichmann

Deichmann can be:

Deichmann SE (formerly Heinrich Deichmann-Schuhe GmbH), the largest retailer of shoes and sportswear in EuropePeopleWilhelm Ludwig Deichmann (1798-1876), German banker

Elisabeth Deichmann (1896-), a Danish-American marine biologist

Freya Deichmann, (1911 – 2010) a participant in the anti-Nazi resistance group, the Kreisau Circle

Heinrich Deichmann, (b. 1962) a German entrepreneur

Johannes Pedersen Deichmann, a Norwegian politician

Paul Deichmann, a German World War II Luftwaffe general and recipient of the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross

Deutsche Harmonia Mundi

Deutsche Harmonia Mundi (founded 1958) is a German classical music record label. It was founded by Rudolf Ruby and based in Freiburg, Breisgau. The company was acquired by BMG Music in 1992 and is now part of Sony Music Entertainment. Ruby had Alfred Krings of WDR assemble their own house orchestra Collegium Aureum, founded 1964, to perform early music, selecting as leader Franzjosef Maier.During the war Ruby had been imprisoned as a member of the Kreisau Circle of anti-Nazi resistance, and at a reunion in the 1960s he met fellow resistance member prince Joseph-Ernst Graf Fugger von Glött who invited him to use the Fugger castle, Schloss Fugger, in Kirchheim in Schwaben for his concerts and recordings. The connection with the Fugger family continued through the "Music of the Fuggers" recording made for DHM by Anthony Rooley.

Ruby had distribution deals with his friend Bernard Coutaz of Harmonia Mundi France, until first BASF, then briefly with EMI bought into the label in the late 1980s, before finally selling to BMG in 1992 and retiring in 1993. In his retirement Ruby later founded the smaller Ars Musici label, which was purchased in 2008 by Membran.

Freya von Moltke

Freya von Moltke (29 March 1911 – 1 January 2010) was a participant in the anti-Nazi opposition group, the Kreisau Circle, with her husband, Helmuth James von Moltke. During World War II, her husband acted to subvert German human-rights abuses of people in territories occupied by Germany and became a founding member of the Kreisau Circle, whose members opposed the government of Adolf Hitler.

The Nazi government executed her husband for treason, he having discussed with the Kreisau Circle group the prospects for a Germany based on moral and democratic principles that could develop after Hitler. Moltke preserved her husband's letters that detailed his activities during the war and she chronicled events of that period from her perspective. She supported the founding of a center for international understanding at the former Moltke estate in Krzyżowa, Świdnica County, Poland (formerly Kreisau, Germany).

Gustav Dahrendorf

Gustav Dietrich Dahrendorf (8 January 1901, Hamburg – 30 October 1954) was a German SPD politician.

Helmuth James von Moltke

Helmuth James Graf von Moltke (11 March 1907 – 23 January 1945) was a German jurist who, as a draftee in the German Abwehr, acted to subvert German human-rights abuses of people in territories occupied by Germany during World War II and subsequently became a founding member of the Kreisau Circle opposition group, whose members opposed the government of Adolf Hitler in Nazi Germany. He participated in their discussions about the prospects for a Germany based on moral and democratic principles after Hitler. The Nazi government executed von Moltke for treason for his participation in these discussions.

Moltke was the great-grandnephew of Helmuth von Moltke the Elder, the victorious commander in the Austro-Prussian and Franco-Prussian Wars, from whom he inherited the Kreisau Estate in Prussian Silesia, now Krzyżowa in Poland, and the grandnephew of Helmuth von Moltke the Younger.

Jesuits and Nazi Germany

At the outbreak of World War II, the Society of Jesus (Jesuits) had some 1700 members in Nazi Germany, divided into three provinces: Eastern, Lower and Upper Germany. Nazi leaders had some admiration for the discipline of the Jesuit order, but opposed its principles. Of the 152 Jesuits murdered by the Nazis across Europe, 27 died in captivity or its results, and 43 in the concentration camps.Hitler was anticlerical and had particular disdain for the Jesuits. The Jesuit Provincial, Augustin Rosch, ended the war on death row for his role in the July Plot to overthrow Hitler. The Catholic Church faced persecution in Nazi Germany and persecution was particularly severe in Poland. The Superior General of the Jesuits at the outbreak of War was Wlodzimierz Ledochowski, a Pole. Vatican Radio, which spoke out against Axis atrocities, was run by the Jesuit Filippo Soccorsi.Jesuits made up the largest contingent of clergy imprisoned in the Priest Barracks of Dachau Concentration Camp, where some 30 Jesuits died. Several Jesuits were prominent in the small German Resistance, including the influential martyr Alfred Delp of the Kreisau Circle. The German Jesuit Robert Leiber acted as intermediary between Pius XII and the German Resistance. Among the Jesuit victims of the Nazis, Germany's Rupert Mayer has been beatified. Among twelve Jesuit "Righteous Gentiles" recognised by Yad Vashem is Belgium's Jean-Baptiste Janssens, who was appointed Superior General of the Jesuits after the War.

Julius Leber

Julius Leber (16 November 1891 – 5 January 1945) was a German politician of the SPD and a member of the German resistance against the Nazi régime.

Krzyżowa, Świdnica County

Krzyżowa [kʂɨˈʐɔva] (German: Kreisau, until 1930: Creisau) is a village in the administrative district of Gmina Świdnica, within Świdnica County, Lower Silesian Voivodeship, in southwestern Poland.It lies in the historic Lower Silesia region, approximately 10 kilometres (6 mi) southeast of Świdnica, and 51 kilometres (32 mi) southwest of the regional capital Wrocław. The village has an approximate population of 220.

The village is the site of an International Youth Meeting Centre, which primarily brings Polish and German young people together for dialogue and educational programs.

Lothar König

Lothar König (1906-1946) was a German Jesuit priest and member of the Kreisau Circle of the German Resistance during the Nazi period. Though multi-denominational, the Kreisau group's opposition to the Hitler regime had a strongly Christian orientation, and looked for a general Christian revival, and reawakening of awareness of the transcendental. Its outlook was rooted both in German romantic and idealist tradition and in the Catholic doctrine of natural law. König would become an important intermediary between the Circle and bishops Grober of Freiberg and Preysing of Berlin. After the failure of the 1944 July Plot to assassinate Hitler, König was pursued by the Gestapo and sought refuge in a coal cellar, where he lived in hiding until the end of the war. König died shortly after the war from the effects of his time in hiding.

Marion Yorck von Wartenburg

Marion Gräfin Yorck von Wartenburg (née Winter; 14 June 1904 – 13 April 2007) was a German activist, lawyer, jurist, and author. She was a resistance fighter against the Nazis and member of the Kreisau Circle.

Marion Winter was born in Berlin, the third of six children of a civil servant who had charge of the administration of the national theatres. She was educated at the Grunewald-Gymnasium in Berlin (now the Walther-Rathenau-Oberschule). A fellow student was future theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer. She studied jurisprudence and earned her Juris Doctor in 1929. She completed a doctorate and began to train as an assistant judge that year.

In 1930, she married Peter Yorck von Wartenburg, a cousin of Claus von Stauffenberg. Yorck, also a lawyer, was a descendant of the Prussian field marshal whose defiance of Napoleon had freed his country from the French yoke. Together with her husband, Marion was active with the Kreisau Circle, an opposition group against the National Socialist regime, in 1933. Her husband was executed after the bungled assassination attempt on Hitler, and Marion spent three months in prison. She was jailed again in Poland for another three months and beaten by communist guards who refused to accept that she was not a Nazi.After World War II, Yorck worked in East Berlin as a jurist. In 1946, she was nominated as a judge at Amtsgericht Lichterfelde in West Berlin by the Allies. In 1952, she became the first female head of a juried court, and, in 1969, she led the 9th Große Strafkammer of the regional superior court in Berlin. In 1984 she published a brief memoir, Die Stärke der Stille, translated into English in 2000 as The Power of Solitude.

Peter Yorck von Wartenburg

Peter Graf Yorck von Wartenburg (13 November 1904 – 8 August 1944) was a German jurist and a member of the German Resistance against Nazism. He studied law and politics in Bonn and Breslau from 1923 to 1926, gaining his doctorate in Breslau in 1927 and passing the civil service entrance examination for lawyers in Berlin in 1930. He married Marion Winter that same year.

Theodor Haubach

Theodor Haubach (15 September 1896 in Frankfurt am Main – 23 January 1945 in Berlin) was a German journalist, SPD politician, and resistance fighter against the Nazi régime.

Theodor Haubach spent his childhood and youth in Darmstadt. In 1914, right after his Abitur, he declared himself a war volunteer, was wounded many times while taking part in the First World War until 1918. After the horror of his wartime experiences, he was now ready to be deployed in more peaceful pursuits.

From 1919 to 1923, Haubach studied philosophy, sociology, and economics and eventually graduated. As of 1920, Haubach, like his friend Carlo Mierendorff, was an SPD member and worked together actively with the Young Socialists. Later (1924-1929), he was editor of the daily newspaper Hamburger Echo, and later still (1929-1933), an associate at the Reich Interior Ministry and with the Berlin Police President. From 1924, Haubach was the leading member of the Reichsbanner Schwarz-Rot-Gold, an association that campaigned fiercely for Weimar democracy and actively struggled under the emblem of the "Three Arrows" against the Nazis, who were grasping for power.

Beginning in February 1933, Haubach, like many SPD members, was persecuted by the Nazi régime. After his first arrest in 1934, he was detained in Esterwegen concentration camp. From 1935, he worked as an insurance representative, and later established contacts with the Kreisau Circle. After the failed attempt on Hitler's life at the Wolf's Lair in East Prussia on 20 July 1944, Haubach was arrested and sentenced to death by the Volksgerichtshof. Now very ill, Theodor Haubach was put to death on 23 January 1945 along with Helmuth James Graf von Moltke at Plötzensee Prison in Berlin.

Theodor Steltzer

Theodor Steltzer (December 17, 1885, Trittau – October 27, 1967) was a German politician (CDU), former Minister-President of Schleswig-Holstein (1946–1947) and was a member of the Kreisau Circle during World War II, becoming involved while stationed in Occupied Norway as a transportation officer in the Wehrmacht. He was born in Trittau and died in Munich.

Werner Dankwort

Dr. Carl Werner Dankwort (August 13, 1895 – December 19, 1986) born in Gumbinnen, East Prussia (now Gusev, Russia), was a German diplomat who served a major role in bringing Germany into the League of Nations in 1926 prior to representing the German contingent in the Organization for European Economic Cooperation, the post-World War II effort known as the Marshall Plan.

Wilhelm Leuschner

Wilhelm Leuschner (15 June 1890, Bayreuth, Bavaria – 29 September 1944, Berlin-Plötzensee) was a social-democratic politician who opposed the Third Reich.

Wilhelm Leuschner, a stove fitter's son, was born in 1890. His father's name was also Wilhelm Leuschner, and his mother's name was Marie. Leuschner grew up in poverty.

In 1903, he began an apprenticeship as a wood sculptor. After finishing this in 1907, he joined the trade union and, on the occasion of the Jugendstil (Art Nouveau) Exhibition, he moved to Darmstadt, where he worked in a furniture factory.

In 1910, he joined the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD) and became more deeply involved with the union. He also wed Elisabeth Batz in 1911.

After fighting in the First World War on the Eastern Front in 1916, he became a city councillor and Chairman of the Darmstadt Unions in 1919. In 1924, he became a member of the Hesse Legislature (Landtag) for the SPD. In 1928 he became Hesse's interior minister. In the Landtag at that time, Leuschner often found himself at odds with jurist and fellow Landtag member Dr. Werner Best, who represented the NSDAP, and would later go on to become very prominent in the Nazi régime. In January 1933, Leuschner was elected to the board of the Allgemeiner Deutscher Gewerkschaftsbund ("Nationwide German Union Federation").

In April 1933, after the Nazis had seized power in Germany, Leuschner was forced to resign, and gave up his office of Hessian Interior Minister. The following May brought Leuschner's arrest in the course of the Nazis' union-breaking programme. In June, he was arrested once again, mistreated, and held for a year in prisons and concentration camps (Börgermoor and Lichtenburg).

In June 1934, he was released from the concentration camp and began to build up a resistance network. In 1936, he took over a small manufacturing workshop which produced pub utensils, but it soon became the hub of the "illegal Reich leadership of German unions".

Leuschner struggled actively in those resistance groups close to the unions and maintained contact with the Kreisau Circle, and from 1939, also with the resistance group around Carl Friedrich Goerdeler. After the planned coup d'état, Leuschner was most likely to become Germany's vice-chancellor; however, Claus von Stauffenberg's 20 July 1944 attempt on Hitler's life at the Wolf's Lair in East Prussia failed.

Leuschner was arrested on 16 August 1944, and was brought before the Volksgerichtshof, where he was sentenced to death. The sentence was carried out on 29 September 1944 at Plötzensee Prison in Berlin

The Bundesland Hesse awards a medal named "Wilhelm-Leuschner-Medaille".

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