The von Moltke family

A noble family from Mecklenburg, originally hailing from Parchim, where they owned an estate. Helmuth Karl Bernhard von Moltke represented the „learned officer” type, distinguished by his comprehensive education, a rarely encountered openness towards science and other cultures, and command of foreign languages. He owed this openness to the world in part to his wife, Mary Burt, of English origin.

Quite a few members of the von Moltke family earned themselves a permanent place in German history. Naturally, this applies primarily to Field Marshal von Moltke (1800–1891), who, alongside Bismarck, was regarded as one of those who „forged the Reich”, as well as the great-nephew of his brother, Helmuth James, founder and leader of the Kreisau Circle. Slightly lower in the order of historical importance were the Field Marshal’s nephew, General Helmuth-Ludwig von Moltke (1848–1916), responsible for the German defeat on the Marne in 1914, and the diplomat Hans Adolf von Moltke (1884–1943), Ambassador of the Reich in Warsaw until September 1939. Last but not least, the women of the Moltke family should be mentioned, including Dorothy von Moltke (1884–1935), born in South Africa of British descent – the mother of Helmuth James, and the wife of that oppositionist – Freya von Moltke, the last „lady of the house” of the Krzyżowa estate.

The young Helmuth James von Moltke used to read with great interest the memoirs of his uncle, whose character and education he valued highly. His upbringing, in turn, was based on tolerance and liberal values, instilled in him above all by his South African mother Dorothy, cosmopolitan democrat and supporter of the international women’s rights movement (which was unusual among the German nobility), but also by his father Helmuth, supporter of the Weimar Republic and advocate of international agreement. His republican and liberal views developed during his law and social sciences studies. He displayed his social commitment for the first time when he organised the first Silesian integration camp for students, workers and peasants in 1928. In the 1930s, he was called to Berlin and appointed foreign affairs counsellor in military intelligence at the OKW, the Wehrmacht High Command, as an expert in the field of international law.

From then on, the letters he exchanged with his wife (from 1931) Freya von Moltke played a central role in terms of looking after the household in Krzyżowa. As a lawyer, working at the office and at the OKW, he used his contacts to help Jews and other victims of the Nazi regime in exile, as well as people whom he warned that the Gestapo was going to arrest them. After 1938, he took up contacts with old and new friends „to create a better Germany in a better and free Europe” (Beate Ruhm von Oppen). This activity developed into the work of the later Kreisau Circle. Helmuth James von Moltke was executed on 23 January 1945 at the Plötzensee prison.