Wolf-Heinrich Graf von Helldorf
Wolf-Heinrich Graf von Helldorf (14 October 1896 – 15 August 1944) was a leading figure in the Nazi regime.

Early life

Helldorf was born in Merseburg, a landowner's son, Helldorf served as a lieutenant
A lieutenant is a junior commissioned officer in many nations' armed forces. Typically, the rank of lieutenant in naval usage, while still a junior officer rank, is senior to the army rank...

 from 1915 in the First World War, and from 1918 was a member of the Prussian state assembly.

Berlin chief of police

Already by 1931, he had joined the SA
The Sturmabteilung functioned as a paramilitary organization of the National Socialist German Workers' Party . It played a key role in Adolf Hitler's rise to power in the 1920s and 1930s...

, and functioned as an SA leader in Berlin. The scope of his work got bigger in 1933 when he was also given responsibility for the SS
The Schutzstaffel |Sig runes]]) was a major paramilitary organization under Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party. Built upon the Nazi ideology, the SS under Heinrich Himmler's command was responsible for many of the crimes against humanity during World War II...

's Berlin-Brandenburg
Brandenburg is one of the sixteen federal-states of Germany. It lies in the east of the country and is one of the new federal states that were re-created in 1990 upon the reunification of the former West Germany and East Germany. The capital is Potsdam...

 leadership. At the same time, he was also elected to the Reichstag
Reichstag (Weimar Republic)
The Reichstag was the parliament of Weimar Republic .German constitution commentators consider only the Reichstag and now the Bundestag the German parliament. Another organ deals with legislation too: in 1867-1918 the Bundesrat, in 1919–1933 the Reichsrat and from 1949 on the Bundesrat...


In March of the same year, he was named Police President of Potsdam
Potsdam is the capital city of the German federal state of Brandenburg and part of the Berlin/Brandenburg Metropolitan Region. It is situated on the River Havel, southwest of Berlin city centre....

, and from July 1935, he took on the same function in Berlin, a post in which he remained for the last decade of his life. Helldorf, an inveterate gambler, was notorious for arresting wealthy Jews, seizing their passports and then extorting huge bribes from them to secure their release and exit from Germany.

He was closely allied with Dr Joseph Goebbels
Joseph Goebbels
Paul Joseph Goebbels was a German politician and Reich Minister of Propaganda in Nazi Germany from 1933 to 1945. As one of Adolf Hitler's closest associates and most devout followers, he was known for his zealous oratory and anti-Semitism...

, Gauleiter of Berlin and Minister for Propaganda and Public Enlightenment. As chief of the Berlin Police, Helldorf played an instrumental role in the harassment and plundering of Berlin's Jewish population in the early and mid 1930s. Joseph Goebbels
Joseph Goebbels
Paul Joseph Goebbels was a German politician and Reich Minister of Propaganda in Nazi Germany from 1933 to 1945. As one of Adolf Hitler's closest associates and most devout followers, he was known for his zealous oratory and anti-Semitism...

 mentioned in his diary on July 2, 1938, that "...Helldorf wants to construct a Jewish ghetto in Berlin. The rich Jews will be required to fund its construction." Helldorf was the organisational brains behind the arson and looting of Berlin's synagogues and Jewish businesses in the Kristallnacht
Kristallnacht, also referred to as the Night of Broken Glass, and also Reichskristallnacht, Pogromnacht, and Novemberpogrome, was a pogrom or series of attacks against Jews throughout Nazi Germany and parts of Austria on 9–10 November 1938.Jewish homes were ransacked, as were shops, towns and...

 pogroms of November 1938.

Helldorf used his office for personal enrichment. In the Blomberg-Fritsch Affair
Blomberg-Fritsch Affair
The Blomberg–Fritsch Affair were two related scandals in early 1938 that resulted in the subjugation of the German Armed Forces to dictator Adolf Hitler...

, he first withheld from the top Nazi leadership evidence which contradicted the Gestapo's assertion that Werner von Blomberg
Werner von Blomberg
Werner Eduard Fritz von Blomberg was a German Generalfeldmarschall, Minister of War and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces until January 1938.-Early life:...

's new wife had a criminal record for posing for pornograhic photos, then later leaked to the Wehrmacht
The Wehrmacht – from , to defend and , the might/power) were the unified armed forces of Nazi Germany from 1935 to 1945. It consisted of the Heer , the Kriegsmarine and the Luftwaffe .-Origin and use of the term:...

 leadership the same exculpatory evidence to create the implication that it had been in the possession of but withheld by the Gestapo
The Gestapo was the official secret police of Nazi Germany. Beginning on 20 April 1934, it was under the administration of the SS leader Heinrich Himmler in his position as Chief of German Police...

. Similarly in the Fritsch affair, Helldorf possessed documentary information that would have exonerated Fritsch from the allegations that Fritsch paid for the services of homosexual prostitutes, it was a cavalry captain with a similar surname. After Fritsch's consequent dismissal as Commander in Chief of the Army, Helldorf then leaked to the army leadership the misidentification upon which Fritsch had been framed and disgraced.

July 20 Plot

From 1938, it is asserted that Helldorf was in some form of communication with the military opposition to Hitler. This is especially the case in Hans Gisevius' book "To the Bitter End", in which Helldorf plays an important role in Gisevius' circle of conspirators and anti-Nazis.

On 20 July 1944, he was in communication with the coup d'état plotters. His place was to command his Berlin police during the coup, first to not interfere with the military takeover, then to aid the new government.

The fact that Helldorf 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
Nazism, the common short form name of National Socialism was the ideology and practice of the Nazi Party and of Nazi Germany...


Trial and execution

For his participation in the July 20 Plot
July 20 Plot
On 20 July 1944, an attempt was made to assassinate Adolf Hitler, Führer of the Third Reich, inside his Wolf's Lair field headquarters near Rastenburg, East Prussia. The plot was the culmination of the efforts of several groups in the German Resistance to overthrow the Nazi-led German government...

 to assassinate
To carry out an assassination is "to murder by a sudden and/or secret attack, often for political reasons." Alternatively, assassination may be defined as "the act of deliberately killing someone, especially a public figure, usually for hire or for political reasons."An assassination may be...

 Adolf Hitler
Adolf Hitler
Adolf Hitler was an Austrian-born German politician and the leader of the National Socialist German Workers Party , commonly referred to as the Nazi Party). He was Chancellor of Germany from 1933 to 1945, and head of state from 1934 to 1945...

 at the Wolf's Lair in East Prussia
East Prussia
East Prussia is the main part of the region of Prussia along the southeastern Baltic Coast from the 13th century to the end of World War II in May 1945. From 1772–1829 and 1878–1945, the Province of East Prussia was part of the German state of Prussia. The capital city was Königsberg.East Prussia...

, he was condemned by Roland Freisler
Roland Freisler
Roland Freisler was a prominent and notorious Nazi lawyer and judge. He was State Secretary of the Reich Ministry of Justice and President of the People's Court , which was set up outside constitutional authority...

 at the Volksgerichtshof and later put to death at Plötzensee Prison
Plötzensee Prison
Plötzensee Prison was a Prussian institution built in Berlin between 1869 and 1879 near the lake Plötzensee, but in the neighbouring borough of Charlottenburg, on Hüttigpfad off Saatwinkler Damm. During Adolf Hitler's time in power from 1933 to 1945, more than 2,500 people were executed at...

. So enraged was Hitler at his participation in the plot that Hitler ordered that he be forced to watch all others hanged before him and then hanged last.

Further reading

  • Gisevius, Hans Bernd, To the Bitter End, Translated from German by Richard and Clara Winston, Houghton Mifflin
    Houghton Mifflin
    Houghton Mifflin Harcourt is an educational and trade publisher in the United States. Headquartered in Boston's Back Bay, it publishes textbooks, instructional technology materials, assessments, reference works, and fiction and non-fiction for both young readers and adults.-History:The company was...

    , Boston, 1947 Reprinted 2009.
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