Helmuth von Moltke
Kreisau, Prussian Silesia, German Empire
1 March 1907 – 23 January 1945
Helmuth von Moltke was a German jurist and shared the name of his great-grand uncle, the heroic Prussian commander of the Austro-Prussian and Franco-Prussian Wars.
In 1939, World War II began with the German invasion of Poland. Moltke was drafted into the German High Command of the Armed Forces for his expertise in international and martial law. Appalled by the human rights violations and mass murders, Moltke fought against the Nazis by arguing for adherence to international law, and by arranging for deportations of Jews to safe haven countries. His efforts probably saved many thousands of lives.
His legal objections and administrative maneuvers raised suspicions and he was arrested by the Gestapo in January 1944. In the ‘People’s Court’ no evidence was found that Moltke participated in any conspiracy. However, it was discovered that Moltke had routinely met with friends/clergymen to discuss the moral and political principles necessary for Germany to recover after Hitler’s reign. So, Moltke was convicted of treason for his ideas. He was hanged on January 23, 1945. In one of his last letters he explained what motivated him to fight to the death: “Since National Socialism came to power, I have striven to make its consequences milder for its victims and to prepare the way for a change. In that, my conscience drove me – and in the end, that is a man’s duty.”