Wolf-Heinrich Graf von Helldorf

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Wolf-Heinrich von Helldorf
Wolf-Heinrich Graf von Helldorf.jpg
Wolf-Heinrich von Helldorf
Member of the Prussian Landtag
In office
1924–1928
Member of the Reichstag
In office
1933–1944
Chief of the Berlin Police
In office
1935–1944
Personal details
Born (1896-10-14)14 October 1896
Merseburg, German Empire
Died 15 August 1944(1944-08-15) (aged 47)
Berlin, Germany
Political party National Socialist Freedom Party (NSFP)
NSDAP

Wolf-Heinrich Graf von Helldorf (14 October 1896 – 15 August 1944) was a German police official and politician, who served as a Member of the Prussian Parliament during the Weimar Republic, as a Member of the German Parliament for the Nazi Party from 1933 and as president of police in Potsdam and Berlin. From 1938, he became associated with the anti-Nazi resistance, and was executed in 1944 for his role in the 20th July plot to overthrow Hitler's regime.

Early life[edit]

Helldorf was born in Merseburg, a noble landowner's son, Helldorf served as a lieutenant from 1915 in the First World War. He was a member of the Prussian Parliament from 1924 to 1928, and again in 1932.

He was also friends with the stage magician and psychic, Erik Jan Hanussen, who constantly lent him money for his debts. "The count was always in debt, and his private life was a wreck. He was separated from his wife and was on bad terms with his mother after welching on his promise to pay her rent. Sometimes he was behind in his own rent. On one occasion he 'forgot' to pay for a new Mercedes. And he was always late paying his personal tailor and the trainer he hire for his racehorse. There were other debts as well, all from a gambling habit Helldorf couldn't shake. Luckily, he could always count on a handout from Hanussen. All he had to do was sign an IOU, which Hanussen would add to his growing pile of chits he kept safe in his apartment."[1]

Berlin chief of police[edit]

He became a member of the National Socialist Freedom Party in 1924, which served as a legal front for the Nazi Party when it was banned after the Beer Hall Putsch. The NSFP was reabsorbed into the NSDAP in 1926 after the latter was made legal again, and by 1931 Helldorf had joined the SA, functioning as an SA leader in Berlin. The scope of his work got bigger in 1933 when he was also given responsibility for the SS's Berlin-Brandenburg leadership. At the same time, he was also elected to the Reichstag.

In March of the same year, he was named Police President of Potsdam, and from July 1935, he took on the same function in Berlin, a post in which he remained for the last decade of his life. Helldorf, an inveterate gambler, was notorious for arresting wealthy Jews, seizing their passports and then extorting huge bribes from them to secure their release and exit from Germany.

He was closely allied with Dr. Joseph Goebbels, Gauleiter of Berlin and Minister for Propaganda and Public Enlightenment. As chief of the Berlin Police, Helldorf played an instrumental role in the harassment and plundering of Berlin's Jewish population in the early and mid-1930s. Joseph Goebbels mentioned in his diary on 2 July 1938, that "...Helldorf wants to construct a Jewish ghetto in Berlin. The rich Jews will be required to fund its construction." Helldorf was the organizational brains behind the arson and looting of Berlin's synagogues and Jewish businesses in the Kristallnacht pogroms of November 1938.[2][3][4][5] On 8 November 1938, the day Kristallnacht began, he was quoted in the New York Times saying, "as a result of a police activity in the last few weeks the entire Jewish population of Berlin had been disarmed"[6]

Helldorf used his office for personal enrichment. In the Blomberg-Fritsch Affair, he first withheld from the top Nazi leadership evidence which contradicted the Gestapo's assertion that Werner von Blomberg's new wife had a criminal record for posing for pornographic photos, then later leaked to the Wehrmacht leadership the same exculpatory evidence to create the implication that it had been in the possession of but withheld by the Gestapo. Similarly in the Fritsch affair, Helldorf possessed documentary information that would have exonerated Fritsch from the allegations that Fritsch paid for the services of homosexual prostitutes, it was a cavalry captain with a similar surname. After Fritsch's consequent dismissal as Commander in Chief of the Army, Helldorf then leaked to the army leadership the misidentification upon which Fritsch had been framed and disgraced.

20 July Plot[edit]

Main article: 20 July plot

It is asserted that Helldorf was in some form of communication with the military opposition to Hitler as early as 1938.[7] This is especially the case in Hans Gisevius' book "To the Bitter End", in which Helldorf plays an important role in Gisevius' circle of conspirators and anti-Nazis.

On 20 July 1944, he was in communication with the coup d'état plotters. His place was to keep his police from interfering with the military takeover, then to aid the new government.[8]

The fact that Helldorf sided with the anti-Hitler movement in their attempt to assassinate Adolf Hitler earned him a place in history as a German resistance fighter against the Nazi régime.

Trial and execution[edit]

For his participation in the 20 July plot to assassinate Adolf Hitler at the Wolf's Lair in East Prussia, he was condemned by Roland Freisler at the Volksgerichtshof and later put to death at Plötzensee Prison. So enraged was Hitler at his participation in the plot that Hitler ordered that he be forced to watch all others hanged before him and then hanged last.[citation needed]

Notes and sources[edit]

  1. ^ Magida, Arthur J. 2011. The Nazi Seance: The Strange Story of the Jewish Psychic in Hitler's Circle. Palgrave Macmillan Books. Pages 3-4.
  2. ^ Kershaw, Ian. Hitler: 1936-1945 Nemesis. p. 135. Retrieved 22 February 2013. 
  3. ^ 1938 : Hitler's Gamble. Retrieved 22 February 2013. 
  4. ^ "
  5. ^ Fröhlich,Elke. Die Tagebücher von Joseph Goebbels, Teil I Aufzeichnungen 1923-1941. Helldorff (Polizeipräsident) will in Berlin ein Judenghetto errichten. Das sollen die reichen Juden selbst bezahlen. Das ist richtig. Ich unterstütze ihn dabei." (Fröhlich, I.3, S. 470) 
  6. ^ Tolischuswireless, Otto D. (1938-11-09). "NAZIS ASK REPRISAL IN ATTACK ON ENVOY - Press Links Shooting in Paris to 'World Conspiracy' and Warns Jews of Retaliation MASS EXPULSIONS FEARED Berlin Police Head Announces 'Disarming' of Jews-Victim of Shots in Critical State New Fear Aroused Round-up in Vienna Diplomat's Condition Critical - Article - NYTimes.com". Select.nytimes.com. Retrieved 2013-04-22. 
  7. ^ Ted Harrison: "Alter Kämpfer" im Widerstand. Graf Helldorff, die NS-Bewegung und die Opposition gegen Hitler. Vierteljahrshefte für Zeitgeschichte 45(1997) (PDF, 6,5 MB), p. 385-423.
  8. ^ See Gisevius' book, Part Two, section 3, "Too Late – 20 July 1944"

Further reading[edit]

  • Gisevius, Hans Bernd, To the Bitter End, Translated from German by Richard and Clara Winston, Houghton Mifflin, Boston, 1947 Reprinted 2009.