German Resistance Memorial Center Biographie
Helmuth James Graf von Moltke
Helmuth James Graf von Moltke studied law and political sciences in Berlin from 1925 on. He was deeply involved in running a voluntary work camp in Silesia for students, farmers and industrial workers. Moltke had close sympathies with the democratic forces of the day and expressed open criticism as he watched the rise of Hitler. Consequently, in 1933 he refused to accept appointment as a judge; in 1935 he set up an attorney’s office in Berlin. Between 1935 and 1938 he completed a training course as a British barrister and made plans to take over an attorney’s office in London, but was prevented by the outbreak of the Second World War in September 1939. In the same month Moltke was drafted as a war administration councilor in the Office for Foreign Affairs/Counterintelligence in the Armed Forces High Command in Berlin. As an expert adviser on international law and the laws of war he tried to combat injustice and arbitrariness. He was particularly active in advocating humane treatment of prisoners of war and the observance of international law. In 1939 Moltke already wrote the first memoranda on the establishment of a new political order in Germany. At the beginning of 1940, Peter Graf Yorck von Wartenburg joined a group of regime opponents gathered around Moltke. Moltke and Yorck became the leading figures in the group that subsequently emerged, the Kreisau Circle, and took part in most of its discussions in Berlin and Kreisau. Moltke systematically tried to extend his contacts to Protestant and Catholic Church leaders and to the leaders of the social democratic political opposition. Moltke was arrested on January 19, 1944 after it was discovered that he had warned members of the Solf Circle that they were under Gestapo surveillance. But his involvement in the plans for a coup against Hitler was not exposed until after the failure of the coup attempt of July 20, 1944. Helmuth James Graf von Moltke was sentenced to death by the People’s Court on January 11, 1945 and murdered on January 23, 1945 in Berlin-Plötzensee.