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The Kreisau Circle (German: Kreisauer Kreis) was the name the Nazi Gestapo gave to a group of German dissidents centered on the Kreisau estate of Helmuth James, Graf von Moltke. The Kreisauer Kreis is celebrated as one of the instances of German resistance to the Nazi regime. The difficulty for all such dissidents was how to reconcile loyalty to Germany with opposition to the Nazis, once the Nazis had subverted the state to such an extent that the two were almost inextricable (Gleichschaltung).

The von Moltke main house at Kreisau

Contents

Membership

The principal members were Helmuth James, Graf von Moltke, Peter, Graf Yorck von Wartenburg and Adam von Trott zu Solz. The leaders of the Kreisauer Kreis included members of some of the most illustrious names in German history. Helmuth James von Moltke was a great-great nephew of the famous Field Marshal von Moltke, who led the Prussian army to victory over France in 1870. Peter Yorck von Wartenburg was a direct descendant of the Prussian general of the Napoleonic era who had been instrumental in arranging the defection of the Prussian army from the French side to that of the Allies in 1813. General Yorck had been rewarded with title of Count, Graf von Yorck, and was allowed to append the name 'Wartenburg' to his surname as a battle honour (cf. Britain's Viscount Montgomery of Alamein), to become Graf Yorck von Wartenburg (in this case, the first 'von' becomes redundant).

Most members of the group were conservatives from the traditional aristocracy and gentry, but it did include people from a wide variety of backgrounds. They included two Jesuit priests and two Lutheran Pastors, political conservatives, liberals, and socialists and landowners, former trade-union leaders and diplomats. It was united by its abhorrence of Nazism and its desire to conceive of a new Germany after the fall of Hitler. The long meetings and discussions at Kreisau developed an image of a society to be, based on Christian values and on small communities, so as to avoid a manipulation of the whole of society like the one Hitler had achieved.

Objectives

The Kreisau Circle maintained contact with other groups of resistance. The circle worked to enlighten the Allied forces, especially the United Kingdom, to conditions within the Third Reich and the threats and weaknesses of Nazism. But the circle's main focus was to plan and propose a peacetime government for Germany; they do not ever appear to have made any plans to overthrow the Nazi state. As Moltke wrote to his wife just before his execution "we are to be hanged for thinking together."

Break up

On 19 January 1944 Moltke was arrested and the Kreisau Circle fell into disarray. The focus of some circle members had been turning towards an active political coup, and some participated in the famous failed assassination attempt on the 20th of July 1944. After the failure of this Plot, many members of the Circle were arrested and were executed. These included Trott but also members who had not been part of the Plot, such as Moltke and Yorck.

See also

Multimedia

The Kreisau Circle resistance group is featured in Return to Castle Wolfenstein, 2002 Game Of The Year for PC games, and it's sequel, Wolfenstein, 2009 video game from id software. The games aggrandize the Kreisau Circle to be “an extensive resistance network of paramilitary fighter and informants that aide and abets B.J. in his exploits.”[1]

The Kreisau Circle resistance group is featured in the 2008 movie blockbuster Valkyrie starring Tom Cruise. The movie focuses on a plot to assassinate Adolf Hitler at the height of World War II.

References

  1. ^ “Real-life Insanity: Wolfenstein’s events are fictional, but are inspired by the reality of the Nazi regime,” Game Informer 184 (August 2008): 36.

External links

  • AIM25 archive of Kreisau Circle programmes at the British Library
  • "Heroes of the moral resistance against Adolf Hitler", The Times, January 5 2010[1]
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