Hans-Jürgen von Blumenthal
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|Hans-Jürgen von Blumenthal|
Hans-Jürgen von Blumenthal
23 February 1907|
Potsdam, German Empire
|Died||13 October 1944
Berlin, Plötzensee Prison
|Years of service||1935 - 1944|
|Battles/wars||Second World War|
Hans-Jürgen Graf von Blumenthal (February 23, 1907 – October 13, 1944) was a German aristocrat and Army officer in the Second World War who was executed by the Nazi régime for his role in the July 20 Plot to assassinate Adolf Hitler.
Blumenthal was born in Potsdam, the son of Graf Hans (XII) von Blumenthal, and was christened Hans-Jürgen Adam Ludwig Oscar Leopold Bernard Arthur. His father, a colonel in the Imperial German Army, had been wounded in the First World War, during which he served as military governor of the Belgian district of Neufchâteau.
The Blumenthal family, who had lost everything in the hyperinflation, moved to Neustrelitz in 1926. Educated at the Potsdam Gymnasium until 1928, followed by the Realgymnasium there, Blumenthal studied law and economics for two years at the Universities of Königsberg and Munich. At a young age he was a leading light of the Stahlhelm, or Steel Helmet Association, a conservative and fundamentally monarchist paramilitary organization formed after the end of the First World War for men who had served in it, later opened to military men generally. Blumenthal edited the Stahlhelm newsletter until the Nazis took the Association over in 1935. He was an instructor in the "covert" army. In 1928 he was approached by his cousin the First World War hero Paul Emil von Lettow-Vorbeck with a proposal to form a common front between the German National People's Party and the Stahlhelm against the rise of National Socialism. The result was the so-called "Vorbeck-Blumenthal Pact".
In 1930, Blumenthal went on a three-month debating trip to the United States. At about this time, he began to take an interest in the question of how to establish international peace and the possible unification of Europe. He was at first an enthusiastic Nazi and became a Sturmbannführer (equivalent to a Major)" in the SA, but he distanced himself from the Nazis more and more as he began to accept the view, common among the nobility, that the war was contrary to Germany's interests.
In 1935, after finishing his studies, Blumenthal went back to Neustrelitz, where he joined the 48th Infantry Regiment as a second lieutenant. In December 1936, he was promted lieutenant.
In Summer 1938, Blumenthal became a company commander and had a position for two months at the War School at Munich, and in that same year he wrote a contribution for the illustrated book for boys Wir Soldaten ("We Soldiers"). It is impossible to tell which piece was written by him. As he was writing his contribution to it, he was already conspiring against Hitler.
It was still well before the Sudeten Crisis and the invasion of Czechoslovakia that Blumenthal became a member of the German Resistance. A group of officers led by General Beck was opposed to war, and it was not difficult to foresee Hitler’s intentions. Beck and his followers, Hans Oster and Erwin von Witzleben, therefore planned a coup d'etat. The idea was for a storm-party of officers, including Blumenthal, to march into the Reich Chancellery, overcome the resistance of any SS guards they found there, and arrest Hitler. However, the policy of appeasement towards Hitler espoused by the British Prime Minister Chamberlain led the conspirators to conclude that the planned coup no longer had any future.
In August 1939, Blumenthal became a captain. He kept contact with the Resistance, based in the Abwehr under Admiral Canaris. War broke out, and on September 9 Blumenthal married Cornelia von Kries, née Schnitzler, a 34-year-old divorcée. Her first husband, Otto von Kries, by whom she had a daughter, would die at Leningrad in 1941. Her mother was a Borsig, a family of industrialists whose locomotive works in Berlin were among the largest enterprises in the country.
From September 1939 to May 1940, during the so-called Phoney War, Blumenthal was based at Saarbrücken in command of a machine-gun company. When this blissful calm ended, he took part in the offensive in Alsace, but in July his regiment was transferred to Tomaszew in central Poland, close to Warsaw, nearer to the new Soviet frontier, where in spite of his junior rank he took command of a battalion. He was allowed home on leave during this period. When Operation Barbarossa began, his wife was pregnant. Their only son, Hubertus, was born in May 1942.
Blumenthal led his battalion to the gates of Kiev, where he was badly wounded, his right arm rendered useless. He was in the army hospital in Leipzig until December 1942. By this time, he was once again actively collaborating with the German Resistance.
After his recovery, he joined the Führer Reserve in Berlin and worked at the General War Office. There he got to know other opponents of the regime and won the confidence of Count Claus von Stauffenberg, who was an intimate friend of Blumenthal's cousin Albrecht von Blumenthal. The latter had introduced Stauffenberg to the mystical poet Stefan George, from whose circle other conspirators were drawn. Furthermore, in the late 1930s Dietrich Bonhoeffer had operated an underground seminary for training Confessing Church pastors at Albrecht's estate at Schlönwitz.
In April 1943 Blumenthal was promoted to Major. He was the liaison officer between the Berlin Group and the Stettin High Command, Army District II, and was thus closely involved in the planning of the July 20 Plot of 1944. In his book Geist der Freiheit (1956), Eberhard Zeller wrote:
It is known that in the weeks before July 20th, Major Hans-Jürgen von Blumenthal was very frequently driven to Stauffenberg in the evening. His driver waited for him – he went in fatigues [Trainingsanzug] – to an appointed place close to the Barracks at Düppel, which was close to where his department (General Weidemann) was supposed to have been off the Bendlerstrasse.
Elsewhere Zeller mentions that he worked in the department of Colonel Siegfried Wagner and was therefore in contact with Goerdeler.
On the day Stauffenberg planted his abortive bomb, Blumenthal was on duty and it was his task thus to control the messages which were to mobilise Operation Valkyrie in favour of the coup. As his name was at the top of the duty roster, he was the first to be identified as a conspirator.
He spent the weekend with his family at Kümmernitz in the West Prignitz, but on July 23, 1944 he was arrested by three members of the Gestapo, who appeared in a car and took him away without him being able to say goodbye to his wife, who was thereafter unable to communicate with him. It all took place inside half an hour. What took place between then and his condemnation by the German "People's Court" (Volksgerichtshof) and immediate execution by hanging at Plötzensee Prison on October 13, 1944 is almost unknown, apart from the slender details mentioned in his last letter to his wife, because the records of the People’s Court were destroyed.
However, Zeller goes on:
...von Blumenthal came from the Potsdam Tradition, his father had been a tutor to the Hohenzollerns, but in the opinion of F. W. Heinz, the former editor of the Stahlhelm, he had from the beginning viewed the German nation’s pact with Hitler as a misfortune, an opinion which grew ever stronger and made him increasingly restless as the years passed. He was close to Dohnanyi and Oster, and a childhood friend of Albrecht Mertz von Quirnheim. We know from eyewitnesses to his interrogation that he did not reveal the names of his accomplices.
In Fabian von Schlabrendorff’s book Offiziere gegen Hitler he is mentioned only in the death-roll.
In his last letter, Hans-Jürgen wrote:
My Most Tender Love!
When these lines reach your good, lovely hands, I will no longer be in this world. I have been sentenced to death and am smoking a final cigarette. Shortly I will pass into eternity, where we will once again find each other and never again be separated. I take with me a deep gratitude for everything that you have been to me and given to me in these past years... Yesterday I dreamt that Papa was standing in the doorway with his coat and hat and he said, "Come, my boy, it is time!"
Give my love to the children. It is also a difficult fate for them and they will only begin to understand it much later.
In my thoughts I take you once more in my arms. Soon that undying part of me will be with you and the children, until you all enter into eternity and you are once again united with
Your sincerest loving
Why he signed himself Peter is a mystery. It was possibly an agreed sign to his wife that the letter was either genuine or not genuine. It was, however, one of his son's Christian names. The children he refers to in his letter are his son, Hubertus Peter, then 3 years old, and his stepdaughter.
- Regarding personal names: Graf is a title, translated as Count, not a first or middle name. The female form is Gräfin.
- Eberhard Zeller, Geist der Freiheit (1956)
- Fabian von Schlabrendorff, Offiziere Gegen Hitler (1959)