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Freya von Moltke

Contents

1. Early life

2. Resistance movement

3. After the war

4. Last witnesses

5. Foundation

Early life

In 1911, Freya von Moltke was born in Cologne where her father Carl Theodor Deichmann ran a private bank. In 1931, she married Helmuth James Graf von Moltke and moved to the property of the von Moltke family in Kreisau, formerly German Lower Silesia, now a part of Poland. In 1935, she received her PhD in law from the prestigious Humboldt University in Berlin. After the unexpected death of her mother-in-law, Dorothy von Moltke, the task of supervising the Kreisau estate fell to Freya because her husband worked in Berlin. Under her supervision, Kreisau became both a destination for important meetings of the anti-Nazi resistance and also a refuge for persecuted friends. Both of her sons Helmuth Caspar and Konrad were born in Kreisau in 1937 and 1941.

Resistance movement

Freya’s husband, Helmuth James von Moltke, began to work against the Nazis at an early stage of the regime. Inviting members of the resistance movement to Kreisau, he and his friend Peter York von Wartenburg initiated the “Kreisauer Kreis” (or Kreisau Circle), a civil resistance movement holding underground meetings to develop ideas for the post-war reconstruction of a democratic Germany fully integrated with Europe.

Following the failure of the German plot initiated by Graf Klaus Schenk von Stauffenberg to kill Hitler, in which a number of the members of the Kreisau group were involved, the Gestapo discovered the activities of the Kreisau Circle. As a consequence the Kreisau Circle was crushed and several members, including Helmuth James, paid for their involvement with their lives. Though Freya participated in meetings of Kreisau, she escaped persecution. These events are recounted in “Letters to Freya,” a published collection of the correspondence between Freya and Helmuth James von Moltke. The collection spans the years when Helmuth James practiced law in Berlin, the period of the Kreisau Circle’s secret meetings, and Helmuth James’ year (1943/1944) in prison awaiting execution. These letters represent one of the most important and detailed first-hand accounts of the German resistance movement.

After the war

After the end of the Second World War and the cruel loss of her husband, Freya von Moltke had to leave Kreisau since it became part of the Polish state and moved with her children to South Africa where she worked as a social worker. In 1956, she returned to Germany and immigrated to Vermont, USA in 1960 where she since has lived with her long-term partner Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy (Professor of Sociology and History of Law, Dartmouth College).

Last witnesses

After the deaths of Rosemarie Reichwein in 2002, Barbara von Haeften in April 2006, and Marion Yorck von Wartenburg in April 2008, Freya became, along with Clarita von Trott zu Solz, one of the last witnesses to the meetings of the Kreisau Circle. Thanks to her, this important part of history has been remembered. With her care and advice concerning the writings of the “Kreisauer Kreis,” her publication of the letters of her husband and her publication of the book “Memories of Kreisau,” Freya von Moltke has ensured that the work and sacrifice of the Kreisau Circle will not be forgotten.

Foundation

Since its inception, Freya von Moltke was the “spiritus rector” of the New Kreisau that encompasses all organizations linked to Kreisau, including the Freya von Moltke Foundation.

Initially hesitant, Freya von Moltke agreed to give her name to our foundation. Later she played an active role in supporting the work of this foundation and other New Kreisau initiatives. On 1st January 2010, Freya von Moltke died in the age of 98 in Vermont, USA, were she had lived in her last years.

Freya von Moltke on the veranda of the Berghaus in Kreisau, 1932.

Freya von Moltke talking to Cancelor Angela Merkel, 2007.