The Kreisau Circle was the name given to a group of men who opposed Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party. The Kreisau Circle got its name from the fact that the men in it frequently met at an estate in Kreisau that was owned by one of the men in it – Helmuth James Graf von Moltke.
While the Nazi Party tried to give the appearance that it was highly popular party and regime from 1933, this was not the case as the last ever ‘democratic’ election in March 1933 illustrated. After all, if the Nazi Party and Hitler were universally popular within Germany, why the need for concentration camps, arbitrary arrests, control of the media and education? Hitler had never been universally popular among the army’s officer corps nor among the aristocratic families of Germany. The Kreisau Circle came within both of these groups. Its two primary leaders were Helmuth James Graf von Moltke and Peter Graf Yorck von Wartenburg. Both men were from aristocratic families and the used the Moltke’s estate in Kreisau, Silesia for their early meetings. Those in the Kreisau Circle all believed that Hitler would be a catastrophe for the nation. They also wanted to re-Christianize the nation in a prelude to introduction a series of reforms based around humanisation. All members of the Kreisau Circle believed that they needed to plan for Germany’s future and this oriented around the removal of Hitler from power and the destruction of the Nazi Party.
In the early years of Hitler’s Germany what the Kreisau Circle did was highly dangerous as it would be seen by the regime as treasonable. As World War Two loomed and the grip of the state apparatus tightened, the men in the Kreisau Circle became involved in an extremely dangerous situation. Despite this they released their ‘Basic Principles for the New Order’ in August 1943. It was a statement of intent for what they perceived would be a new Germany that would exist without Hitler or the Nazi Party.
There were about 20 members of the Kreisau Circle – army officers, academics, social conservatives, Catholics and Protestants. Their varied background gives some indication that opposition to Hitler did not come from one group only.
The mass round up of suspects after the July 1944 Bomb Plot and the subsequent torture of these suspects led to the Gestapo gaining the names of many plotters or supposed plotters – including men in the Kreisau Circle. Yorck von Wartenburg was arrested as part of the July Bomb Plot, tried, found guilty and executed in August 1944. Von Moltke had already been arrested (January 1944) and tried before the People’s Court. Found guilty of treason, he was executed in January 1945.