Wolf-Heinrich von Helldorff
Wolf-Heinrich von Helldorff
|Member of the Reichstag|
|Chief of the Berlin Police|
|Born||14 October 1896|
Merseburg, Province of Saxony, Prussia, German Empire
|Died||15 August 1944 (aged 47)|
Berlin, Nazi Germany
|Political party||National Socialist Freedom Party (NSFP)|
Wolf-Heinrich Julius Otto Bernhard Fritz Hermann Ferdinand Graf von Helldorff (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 Reichstag (German federal parliament) for the Nazi Party from 1933, and as president of police in Potsdam and Berlin. From 1938, the Graf 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.
Helldorff was born in Merseburg, a noble landowner's son. Helldorff 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 hired for his racehorse. There were other debts as well, all from a gambling habit Helldorff 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."
Berlin chief of police
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 Helldorff 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. Helldorf ordered the murder of jewish clairvoyant Erik Jan Hanussen after the count, who was bankrupt, had taken bribes to pay for 150 party uniforms. He was never prosecuted because Hitler and Goebbels furnished full legal protection and immunity. Helldorf was a violent anti-Semite racist dedicated to ausradiert or eradication of the jews. From July 1935, he took on the same function in Berlin, a post in which he remained for the last decade of his life. An inveterate gambler, he was notorious for arresting wealthy Jews, seizing their passports and then extorting huge bribes from them to secure their release and exit from Germany.
The Manchester Guardian published an article on 24 August 1935 entitled "Starving out the Jews": it was alleged that East Prussian mill owners were depriving a supply of flour to jewish bakers in Berlin. On 9 September, Helldorf's mentor Goebbels premiered a propaganda film outlining the crime against the people of the city. The Reichministerium's film cleverly made the case for more food to be cultivated in the East (Lebensraum) by connecting it to an anti-Bolshevik and therefore anti-jewish message.
He was closely allied with Dr. Joseph Goebbels, Gauleiter of Berlin and Reich Minister of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda. As chief of the Berlin Police, Helldorff played an instrumental role in the harassment and plundering of Berlin's Jewish population in the early and mid-1930s, a policy known as Aktionen. Goebbels mentioned in his diary on 2 July 1938, that "...Helldorff wants to construct a Jewish ghetto in Berlin. The rich Jews will be required to fund its construction." Helldorff was the organizational brains behind the arson and looting of Berlin's synagogues and Jewish businesses in the Kristallnacht pogroms of November 1938. 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".
20 July Plot
It is asserted that Helldorff was in some form of communication with the military opposition to Hitler as early as 1938. Goebbels certainly ensured that Hellsdorf took the blame for Kristallnacht, when he declared "the police act with an appearance of legality, the party provides spectators." The Police took orders not to arrest nor to treat too harshly rioters who beat up jews.
By contrast is the case described in Hans Gisevius' book "To the Bitter End", in which Helldorff plays an important role in a circle of conspirators and anti-Nazis. On 20 July 1944, he was in communication with the coup d'état plotters attempting to assassinate the Führer. His planned role would be to keep the police from interfering with the military takeover, and then to aid the new government. The fact that Helldorff 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
For his involvement in the 20 July plot to assassinate Adolf Hitler at the Wolf's Lair in East Prussia, Helldorff was condemned by Roland Freisler at the Volksgerichtshof and later put to death at Plötzensee Prison. So enraged was Hitler at Helldorff's participation in the plot that he insisted Helldorff be forced to watch his fellow conspirators being hanged before his own execution.
- 2 August 1914 – Spring 1918: Service on Western and Eastern Fronts
- 1919: Service with Freikorps Lützow, involved in fighting against communist uprisings in Brunswick, Jena and Munich
- 1919–1920: Leader of Offiziers-Stoßtrupp in Freikorps Roßbach, which participated in the Kapp Putsch of 13 March 1920
- 1919–1924: Member of the Stahlhelm, Bund der Frontsoldaten
- August 1924: Joined the Frontbann
- 1 May 1925 – 22 September 1935: Commander of the Frontbann
- 1 August 1930: Joined the NSDAP, member number 325,408
- January 1931: Joined the Sturmabteilung (SA)
- 25 March 1933 – 18 July 1935: Police President in Potsdam
- 2 November 1933 – 10 August 1944: Member of the Reichstag
- 19 July 1935 – 24 July 1944: Police President in Berlin
Awards and decorations
- 1914 Iron Cross 2nd Class and 1st Class
- Honour Chevron for the Old Guard, 1934
- The Honour Cross of the World War 1914/1918 with Swords, 1934
- Golden Party Badge, 1938
- War Merit Cross 2nd Class with Swords and 1st Class with Swords
- Nazi Party Long Service Award in bronze and silver
- Regarding personal names: Until 1919, Graf was a title, translated as Count, not a first or middle name. The female form is Gräfin. In Germany since 1919, it forms part of family names.
- Magida, Arthur J. 2011. The Nazi Seance: The Strange Story of the Jewish Psychic in Hitler's Circle. Palgrave Macmillan Books. Pages 3-4.
- Kershaw, Ian. Hitler: 1936-1945 Nemesis. p. 135. Retrieved 22 February 2013.
- 1938 : Hitler's Gamble. Retrieved 22 February 2013.
- 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)
- Tolischuswireless, Otto D. (9 November 1938). "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 22 April 2013.
- 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.
- T.Thacker, Goebbels: Life and Death, London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2009
- H. Gisevius, Part Two, section 3, "Too Late – 20 July 1944"
- Fröhlich,Elke. Goebbels, Joseph: Die Tagebücher, Teil 2, Bd. 13, S. 245.
- Miller 2015, p. 535.
- Miller 2015, p. 536.
- Miller 2015, p. 541.
- Miller 2015, p. 550.
- Miller, Michael (2015). Leaders Of The Storm Troops Volume 1. England: Helion & Company. ISBN 978-1-909982-87-1.
- Gisevius, Hans Bernd, To the Bitter End, Translated from German by Richard and Clara Winston, Houghton Mifflin, Boston, 1947 Reprinted 2009.