Courageous Hearts

Courageous Hearts: Women and the Anti-Hitler Plot of 1944

Dorothee von Meding
Michael Balfour
Volker R. Berghahn
Copyright Date: 2008
Edition: 1
Published by: Berghahn Books
Pages: 236
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  • Book Info
    Courageous Hearts
    Book Description:

    Nazi "justice" following the attempt on Hitler's life on 20 July 1944 led not only to the brutal execution of scores of conspirators, but also dramatically changed the lives of their families. However, whereas it is the husbands who are celebrated annually as heroes of the resistance, little mention is made of their wives. This collection of interviews, which the author conducted with eleven of them, reveals that it was the women's courage that sustained their husbands both before the plot and later, in the face of certain violent death.

    eISBN: 978-1-78238-789-3
    Subjects: History, Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-v)
  3. Foreword
    (pp. vi-ix)
    Klemens von Klemperer

    The history of the German Resistance in the Third Reich is not just a story of men. No doubt men were the ones who hatched the plans and prepared and executed the assassination plot against Hitler. Nevertheless, in my own studies of the subject I have rarely encountered a conspirator who did not need and rely on his family – on his father, mother, sister, brother, and especially on his wife, who stood by him and offered him understanding and support. Without some consideration of the conspirators’ family backgrounds and, above all, the part played by their wives, our picture...

  4. Introduction Eleven Women – Eleven Stories
    (pp. x-xxvi)
    Dorothee von Meding

    This book is only marginally concerned with the historical and political framework of the GermanWiderstandand with its tangible facts and contexts. Instead the focus is on the human beings who took part in the anti-Nazi resistance; it is also raises questions of the participants’ inner lives and of how they experienced and coped with their ordeals. It thus tells personal stories insofar as they can be retrieved from memory.

    For us, 20 July 1944 has become a ‘historic’ day. For the women who appear in this book it is a verypersonaldate. Emmi Bonhoeffer, Elisabeth Freytag von...

  5. Chapter One Emmi Bonhoeffer
    (pp. 1-29)

    Emmi Bonhoeffer was born in 1905, the second youngest child in a family of seven. Her father was the well-known historian and political commentator Hans Delbrück who also served as a member of the Reichstag from 1909 to 1917. He presided over a circle of Berlin intellectuals modelled on the famousMittwochs-Gesellschaft. Among its members were the Protestant theologians Ernst Troeltsch and Adolf von Harnack and the historian Friedrich Meinecke. Her mother Lina, née Thiersch, was a granddaughter of the famous chemist Justus von Liebig.

    Emmi was strongly influenced by her family and neighbours in the Berlin suburb of Grunewald....

  6. Chapter Two Elisabeth Freytag von Loringhoven
    (pp. 30-40)

    Elisabeth Freytag von Loringhoven was born in Neustrelitz in 1909. She was the only daughter of the Imperial Russian Premier Lieutenant Georg von Rauch and his wife Helene. Together with her four elder brothers she grew up in St Petersburg, Berlin and Salzburg. Her father died early, in 1914. She was educated by a private tutor and later trained as a nurse at the Lette-Schule in Berlin. In February 1933 she married Wessel Freytag von Loringhoven with whom she had four sons: Nicolai (1934), Axel (1936), Wessel (1941) and Andreas (1943).

    Wessel Freytag von Loringhoven was born in Grossborn in...

  7. Chapter Three Brigitte Gerstenmaier
    (pp. 41-50)

    Brigitte Gerstenmaier, born in 1911, was a daughter of estate owner Georg von Schmidt and his wife Else, née Zwingenberger, who lived on the Estonian island of Oesel. At the outbreak of the First World War, their German origin led to the whole family being exiled to Jaroslav, north of Moscow. In 1919/20 they fled to Hohenstein/Ernstthal in Saxony where the father sat for the state examination in theology and became a pastor.

    Having finished herMittlere Reifeschool examination, Brigitte went to train as a social worker in Berlin where she met Eugen Gerstenmaier, who was her teacher. They...

  8. Chapter Four Countess Margarethe von Hardenberg
    (pp. 51-66)

    Margarethe von Hardenberg was born in Berlin in 1904, the daughter of the Prussian Lieutenant-Colonel Ludolph von Oven and his wife Margarete, née von Jordan. She grew up with three brothers and sisters. Her father was killed in action in 1914.

    As early as 1920 she had to contribute to the support of the family, initially by working as a secretary. In 1925 she obtained a position with theReichswehrMinistry, and in 1928 was sent to Moscow for six months on a secret mission and under an assumed name. TheReichswehrco-operated with the Red Army at that time....

  9. Chapter Five Freya von Moltke
    (pp. 67-82)

    Freya von Moltke was born in 1911. She and her two brothers grew up in Cologne where her father, Carl Deichmann, ran the family bank until 1931, when he was no longer able to make ends meet. Her mother was Ada Deichmann, née von Schnitzler. Even before she had taken herAbitur, Freya got to know Helmuth James von Moltke after joining the Viennese circle associated with Eugenie Schwarzwald. She married him in 1931, a year after she had begun to study law.

    Helmuth James von Moltke, born in 1907 and great-grandnephew of Helmuth von Moltke, the famous Prussian Field...

  10. Chapter Six Rosemarie Reichwein
    (pp. 83-103)

    Rosemarie Reichwein was born in Berlin in 1904, the daughter of Ludwig Pallat, aMinisterialratin the Prussian Ministry for Arts and Science, and his wife Annemarie. There she grew up with three siblings. In the early 1920s she trained as a physical education teacher in Sweden. She then taught in the newly founded Salem Boarding School before joining a school at Wiesbaden. Having moved to the Helene Lange School in Halle, she met Adolf Reichwein, a professor at the city’s educational academy in 1932. They became engaged on 30 January 1933 and were married in the spring of that...

  11. Chapter Seven Marion Yorck von Wartenburg
    (pp. 104-115)

    Marion Yorck was born in Berlin in 1904, the daughter of Franz Winter, the General Administrative Director of the royal stages, and his wife Else. She was the third of six children. She attended the Berlin-Grunewald Gymnasium, which was regarded as progressive. Dietrich Bonhoeffer was among her fellow students. After taking herAbitur, she first studied medicine, then law, and received a Ph.D. with the thesis ‘Are Pay Agreements Part of Public Law?’. In 1928 she met Peter Yorck whom she married in 1930.

    Count Peter Yorck von Wartenburg was born in 1904, the son of Heinrich Yorck von Wartenburg...

  12. Chapter Eight Charlotte von der Schulenburg
    (pp. 116-142)

    Charlotte von der Schulenburg was born in 1909 at Kyritz in Mark Brandenburg, the eldest daughter of the businessman Hermann Kotelmann and his wife Frida. She lost her father in 1915 during the First World War. After gaining herAbiturshe studied German literature in Marburg, Berlin, Munich and Königsberg. While she was still a student she met Fritz-Dietlof Count von der Schulenburg, to whom she became engaged in East Prussia in 1932. They were married in Berlin in the spring of 1933 and by 1943 had six children: Fredeke in 1934, Christiane in 1936, Fritz-Dietlof in 1938, Charlotte in...

  13. Chapter Nine Barbara von Haeften
    (pp. 143-165)

    Barbara von Haeften was born in Duisburg in 1908, the daughter of Julius Curtius and his wife Adda. Her father was to become Minister of Economics and Foreign Minister in the Weimar Republic. She spent her childhood with her five siblings in Heidelberg and her adolescent years in Berlin, where she obtained herAbiturat theRealgymnasium. In 1925 she met Hans-Berndt von Haeften; they became engaged in 1928 and married in 1930.

    Hans-Berndt was born in 1905 in Berlin, the son of General Staff officer Hans von Haeften, who was to become the president of the Reich Archives and...

  14. Chapter Ten Clarita von Trott zu Solz
    (pp. 166-183)

    Clarita von Trott zu Solz was born in Hamburg in 1917, the eldest daughter of Dr Max Tiefenbacher, a lawyer, and his wife Clarita. She lived with her three brothers and sisters in Hamburg until she obtained herAbitur. She then made several trips abroad, worked on a farm and took various courses, including stenography. She first met Adam von Trott at the end of 1935. They later fell in love and married in the spring of 1940.

    Adam was born in Potsdam in 1909, the fifth of August zu Trott’s eight children. His father subsequently became Prussian Minister of...

  15. Chapter Eleven Countess Nina Schenk von Stauffenberg
    (pp. 184-204)

    Nina von Stauffenberg was born in 1913, the daughter of the Protestant Consul General von Lerchenfeld and his wife Annie, Baroness von Stackelberg. She grew up in Bamberg and attended the localLyceum; later, she went to a girls’ boardingschool in Wieblingen near Heidelberg. In 1930 she met Count Claus Schenk von Stauffenberg, to whom she became engaged in the same year; they were married in 1933.

    Count Claus Schenk von Stauffenberg was born in 1907, the son of Count Alfred Schenk von Stauffenberg, who was a court official in Württemberg and, later, Marshal of the Court to the King...

  16. Afterword
    (pp. 205-208)

    The interviews in this volume are ordered according to an inner dynamic that has nothing to do with historical criteria. Rather, the structure can be thought of as a painting: The reader enters a house with many rooms.

    The interview withEmmi Bonhoefferintroduces the visitor to the atmosphere that coloured the actions and thinking of the time. Her stories illuminate the conflicting situations that characterised the 20 July events.

    Elisabeth Baroness Freytag von Loringhovenreports how heavily the obligation to secrecy weighed upon her, but, at the same time, reveals how essential secrecy was for the protection of her...