The stories of those who were betrayed by their fellow man, cornered by corrupt institutions and executed without cause nor crime in the name of "justice". These are our stories.

February 2, 2011

Das Volksgerichtshof: The People's Court

Helmuth James Graf von Moltke
Von Moltke stands defiant before the Nazi appendage: Das Volksgerichtshof.

In early 1945, the Allies had gained a strong enough foothold in Europe to threaten Nazi Germany. As the Nazi Regime began a final descent into utter defeat, the Gestapo frantically prosecuted those who had spoke out against the war or were seen as capable of leadership after the Reich was swept away. The targets of the Nazi's rage came from universities and the higher echelon of German society. These were citizens who, for reasons either personal or practical, remained in Germany as it crumbled.

The Nazis sought credible opposition voices among these groups and silenced them publicly in kangaroo courts. The courts were called Volksgerichtshof or "People's Courts". In these courts, being on trial guaranteed a sentence of death.

"If you knew that your nation was savagely butchering its own people in semi-secret camps; if you thought your leader was a madman whose decisions would inevitably ruin your country and threaten all of civilization; would you sit still or would you try to do something?"
- Helmuth von Moltke, from his last letter to his wife, 1945.

One of these trials centered on Helmuth von Moltke, an outspoken critic of Hitler and descendent of a German national hero from WWI. Von Moltke, himself was a prominent lawyer. Since the raise of the Third Reich in the early 1930's von Moltke frequently questioned the Nazi's ambition to conquer the Western Europe, kill Jews and brutally attack their own people. He was targeted for the Volksgerichtshof to serve as a warning to those who opposed the regime.

Dr. Carl Friedrich Goerdeler argues for his life before the Nazi appendage.
Dr. Carl Friedrich Goerdeler argues for his life before the Nazi death courts.

In pursuing high-profile political opponents, the Nazi warning was this: no matter how well bred - anyone opposing Hitler's power lust would die. Von Moltke, who appeared resolute and stone faced after an impassioned defense, was pronounced guilty of Treason.

His execution took place on January 23rd 1945 just four months before Germany unconditionally surrendered to the Allies.

References:
Wikipedia, Helmuth James Graf von Moltke
Wikipedia, Dr. Carl Friedrich Goerdeler
Martyr's Letter, January 11, 1945
Letters to Freya : 1939-1945; edited and translated from German by Beate Ruhm von Oppen. New York : Knopf, 1990.

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