Fritz-Dietlof von der Schulenburg: Wikis


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Fritz-Dietlof Graf von der Schulenburg-Tressow (5 September 1902 –10 August 1944) was a German government official and a member of the German Resistance in the July 20 Plot against Adolf Hitler


Personal development

Von der Schulenburg was born in London, as his father Friedrich Bernhard Graf von der Schulenburg was the German Empire's military attaché in the British capital. His mother was Freda-Marie (née von Arnim, 1873). Von der Schulenburg and his four brothers as well as his sister Tisa von der Schulenburg grew up, as a result of the nature of their father's work, in various places, among them Berlin, Potsdam, Münster, and the family's mansion, Schloss Tressow. In accordance with traditional Prussian noble practices, the children were at first strictly educated privately by a governess.

In 1920, von der Schulenburg did his Abitur in Lübeck, and thereafter chose not to pursue a career as a military officer, which had been the family tradition, but rather he studied law in Göttingen and Marburg. At that time he became a member of the Corps Saxonia Göttingen (a Studentenverbindung), during his membership in which he sustained several sword gashes – traditionally called Schmisse in German – the result of traditional Studentenverbindung fighting. He bore the scars with a certain pride. In 1923, he did the state examination in Celle and became for the next five years a government trainee in Potsdam and Kyritz. In 1924, he interrupted his training for three months and went on a steamship as a sailor to South America. In 1928, he completed his training and became a graduate civil servant (Assessor) in Recklinghausen.

Von der Schulenburg saw himself as part of the national élite, which was first and foremost defined by the two pillars that upheld the state, the military and the civil service. Citizens outside these structures were to him, at best, "civilians" or simply the mob. However, this élite saw itself as a very patriarchal system in which officials and military men had at the same time the job of acting in the people's best interests. For this reason, von der Schulenburg busied himself with such themes as agrarian debt and land reform. His romantic vision of the farming community and of social justice soon brought him the nickname "roter Graf" ("the Red Count") from his colleagues. Nevertheless, it was also clear that von der Schulenburg's stance was against any left-wing current.

Joining the Nazi Party

Von der Schulenburg's first contacts with the Nazi Party (NSDAP) came in 1930, and he became a member by 1932, at about the same time as the rest of the family joined. In the same year, he was posted to East Prussia, where he actively helped build the Nazi rank and file. Von der Schulenburg could be counted among the followers of "north German" National Socialism characterized mainly by the brothers Gregor and Otto Strasser.

In March 1933, von der Schulenburg was named to the government council in Königsberg and gained, both as a government official and as a member of the Party, increasing influence. He stood as a prototype of a new "leftwing" leader in the NSDAP with the old Prussian tradition. He also married Charlotte Kotelmann in this same month. His new jobs at this time were mainly to establish Gleichschaltung among officials in the realm of his influence, and also to reallocate jobs to NSDAP members.

As a result, von der Schulenburg was coming ever more often into conflict with his superior, Erich Koch. Eventually he had himself transferred to Fischhausen as a district administrator in 1934. The conflicts with Koch kept getting stronger as the years went by, so that in 1937, he was promoted by the Reich Interior Ministry and posted to Berlin as Police Vice-President. His immediate superior became Wolf Heinrich von Helldorf, who himself was seen in the Party as genial and learned. Helldorf resisted having von der Schulenburg assigned for a long time. Contrary to expectations, however, the two very different Nazi officials got along very well together.

By 1939, von der Schulenburg was named Acting Oberpräsident of Upper and Lower Silesia. Already by this time, the régime had come to rate him as politically untrustworthy, and so in 1940, he was barred from the Party.

Wartime experiences

Despite the officials' reservations about Adolf Hitler's plans and despite the shock after the affair over Werner von Fritsch's discharge (1938; see Blomberg-Fritsch Affair) at which the Reichswehr's old leadership had been virtually purged, von der Schulenburg volunteered for service at the front with enthusiasm. After his superior, the Gauleiter and Oberpräsident Wagner, had been dismissed, his position as Regierungspräsident (Government President) in Breslau had become untenable anyway.

Since he was a lieutenant in the reserves, von der Schulenburg went to the reserve battalion of Infantry Regiment 9 in Potsdam. With this unit, he moved into the Russian Campaign and there received the Iron Cross, first class. However, not until his experiences at the front did he become a critic of the war in the years 1941 and 1942. During this time, his job changed often, for example, reporting back to the Ministry of Nutrition, ordinance officer in the Crimea, and in the end he came back to the reserve battalion in Potsdam. He saw his actual job in the organization of the resistance and the forcible removal of Hitler.

Resistance movement

Quite early on, von der Schulenburg observed with growing worry and disgust the lawlessness that went along with the régime and made contacts with like minded opposition forces from a great variety of camps. He was member of a circle of higher officials who recruited mainly Prussian noblemen. One of the greatest friends to the circle at that time was Peter Graf Yorck von Wartenburg. After the attempt on Hitler's life at the Wolfsschanze in East Prussia on 20 July 1944, this group was also known as the Grafenkreis or Grafengruppe (Circle or Group of Counts).

The crises that became apparent to the learned government official with provisioning, military leadership, and ultimately interaction with civilian populations in conquered lands gave von der Schulenburg reason for doubt. His basic attitude towards National Socialism changed radically at this time. Already by 1942, he was regularly taking part in the Kreisau Circle's meetings. Another important incentive of the resistance was the Allied demand for unconditional surrender, and the endeavour that would follow from this to avoid a total military defeat, thereby arriving at a so-called "draw-peace".

In a 1943 plan for Europe, co-authored by von der Schulenburg, it says:

"The special thing about the European problem consists of there being, in a comparatively small area, a multiplicity of peoples who are to live together in a combination of unity and independence. Their unity must be so tight that war will never again be waged between them in future, and Europe's outside interests can be protected jointly...The solution of the European states can only be effected on a federative basis with the European states incorporating themselves into a community of sovereign states by their own free decision."

As a nobleman, official and officer, von der Schulenburg had contacts in all directions, which he used over time to recruit plotters. Owing to his manifold ties, especially with the civilian resistance circle about Carl Friedrich Goerdeler and the social-democratic group (Reichsbanner Schwarz-Rot-Gold) about Julius Leber, he stood out as an important intermediary.

By 1943, von der Schulenburg had fallen under suspicion of working against the régime and spent a night under arrest. However, owing to his special status and his connections, he was released.

Attempted coup and sentence

Von der Schulenburg belonged to the inner circle of the plotters and was thereby actively involved in the planning of Operation Valkyrie. He was to lead the Interior Ministry as State Secretary after Hitler was overthrown. On 20 July 1944, von der Schulenburg found himself in the headquarters of the revolt,Bendlerstraße in Berlin. There he was arrested on the same day, after the attempt on Hitler's life went awry. On 10 August 1944 came the proceedings and sentencing at the Volksgerichtshof. In this show trial, with Roland Freisler presiding, von der Schulenburg explained his act thus:

"We took upon ourselves this deed to protect Germany from a nameless misery. It is clear to me that I shall be hanged for it, but I do not rue my deed and hope that another, in a luckier moment, will undertake it."

Von der Schulenburg was hanged at Plötzensee Prison in Berlin on the same day that he was sentenced.


  • Ulrich Heinemann, Ein konservativer Rebell; Berlin (Siedler) 1990 (ISBN 3-88680-373-2)
  • Albert Krebs, Fritz-Dietlof Graf von der Schulenburg. Zwischen Staatsraison und Hochverrat; Hamburg (Leibniz Vlg.) 1964
  • Hans-Joachim Ramm, ... stets einem Höheren verantwortlich. Christliche Grundüberzeugungen im innermilitärischen Widerstand gegen Hitler; Neuhausen u. Stuttgart (Hänssler) 1996 (ISBN 3-7751-2635-X)

See also


His daughter Charlotte married Nick Bielenberg, a son of Christabel Bielenberg; another, Adelheid, married Grey Gowrie.

External links

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