"To object and then to stand for what you believe in is one of the most important human activities to this day," said Freya von Moltke in 2002. She knew what she was talking about. During the period in which the Nazis were in power, she actively supported her husband as a member of the Kreisau Circle, which was behind the bomb plot to kill Adolf Hitler in 1944. Though neither husband nor wife was involved in the assassination attempt, other circle members had been inclining towards an active political coup, and some had participated directly.
Born in Cologne, the daughter of a wealthy banker, Freya met her future husband, Helmuth James, Graf von Moltke, in 1929 at the University of Breslau. After university, Helmuth von Moltke set up a practice in Berlin as an international lawyer and began documenting human rights abuses by the Nazis, travelling to Britain regularly in the months before the war to warn Neville Chamberlain and Winston Churchill and any others who would listen of the Hitler's plans to attack Poland.
He was drafted into the German counter-intelligence service when war did break out, but was dismayed that much of his advice was ignored. The letters he wrote to his wife told of Germany's appalling treatment of the populations of the countries it occupied. At the family's Silesia estate at Kreisau (located in present-day Poland), the couple were joined by many other anti-Nazi intellectuals and activists whose abhorrence of Nazism fomented the creation of the Kreisau Circle.
The group's meetings, the first of which was held in May 1942, resulted in "Principles for the New [Post-Nazi] Order" and "Directions to Regional Commissioners". On her husband's advice, Freya hid the records of the group's conferences, together with his correspondence to her, in the estate's beehives. Von Moltke insisted that he remain ignorant of the location. Months before the attempt on Hitler's life, von Moltke was arrested on Himmler's instigation and tried in a Gestapo court. Accused of treason, he was executed in 1945. The Circle fell into disarray and Freya fled Kreisau with her two sons. She settled in South Africa where for several years she worked as a therapist for the disabled and as a social worker. In 1956, unable to tolerate apartheid, she returned to Germany, where she began to publicise the activities of the Kreisau Circle.
As early as 1949 she had travelled to the United States to give a series of lectures on Germany and in 1960, she moved to Vermont. She dedicated the rest of her life to writing about the activities of the German resistance during the Second World War and to publishing her husband's ideas of principled resistance. Her campaign to transform the family estate into a centre of understanding came to fruition in 1998 with the opening of the Kreisau International Youth Center and in 2004, the Freya von Moltke Foundation for a New Kreisau was set up to sponsor works to stimulate European Understanding.
Freya von Moltke was born on March 29, 1911, and died on January 1. She is survived by her sons. * The National