Scheliha was born in Zessel, Oels, Silesia (now Cieśle, Gmina Oleśnica, Poland), as the son of a Prussian squire. He served as an army officer in World War I, studied law and joined the German Foreign Service in 1922. As a member of the German Embassy in Warsaw he became aware of the atrocities committed in the name of the Third Reich under the Nazi regime. In 1937, Scheliha who by this time had risen to become the First Secretary at the German embassy in Warsaw began working for the Soviet secret police, the NKVD. Scheliha's motivation for espionage were entirely financial as he had a lifestyle beyond his salary as he liked to keep several mistresses at once, and he found that selling state secrets to the Soviet Union was the best way of providing the additional income he needed. Scheliha had no ideological opposition to the National Socialist regime, and the only reason why he spied for the Soviet Union was entirely due to his greed. Scheliha was well paid for his work, and in February 1938, an Soviet agent deposited $6, 500 U.S. dollars in his bank account in Zurich, making him the best paid Soviet agent in the world. It was due to intelligence sold by Scheliha that the Soviet Union was very well informed about the state of German-Polish relations in 1937-39 and that starting in October 1938 that the Reich wanted to reduce Poland down to a satellite status. Starting in March 1939, Scheliha sold documents to the NKVD showing that since Poland refused to sign the Anti-Comintern pact, that Germany was planning on invading Poland later that year. Most crucially, Scheliha provided the Soviets with documents showing that the German Foreign Minister Joachim von Ribbentrop had ordered the German ambassador to Poland, Count Hans-Adolf von Moltke not to engage in talks about the status of the Free City of Danzig (modern Gdansk, Poland) as the Danzig issue was merely a pretext for a war, and Ribbentrop was afraid if talks began, the Poles might give in. After the outbreak of World War II, he tried to help his Polish and Jewish friends and attempted to make the world aware of the impending systematic murder of the Jewish people. Suspected by the Gestapo for his critical attitude, he was charged with being a member of the Red Orchestra, sentenced to death by hanging, and executed in Plötzensee Prison.