Anti-Nazi resister Freya von Moltke dies in Vt.

AP News
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Posted: Jan 03, 2010 7:54 PM

Freya von Moltke, a prominent member of the anti-Nazi resistance in World War II, has died at the age of 98, her son said.

Von Moltke, who was born in Germany but had lived in Vermont since 1960, died Friday after suffering a recent viral infection, her son Helmuth von Moltke told the Lebanon Valley News newspaper.

In her writings after the war, von Moltke described her life in the resistance with her husband, Helmuth James Graf von Moltke, who co-founded the anti-Nazi Kreisau Circle and was executed for his activities.

She was born into a banking family in 1911 in Cologne as Freya Deichmann and met her future husband when she was 18. They were married in 1931, and both received law degrees.

The couple settled on his Silesian estate, Kreisau, located in present-day Poland. In 1932, they moved to Berlin, where he set up an international law practice. He was an opponent of Adolf Hitler's regime from its start, and he helped Jews and other victims of Nazism in his early law practice.

He was drafted into the German army in 1939 as a specialist in international and martial law, but during his military service he advocated the humane treatment of prisoners of war and civilians in German-occupied territories under the Geneva Conventions.

The von Moltkes formed the center of a resistance group that became known as the Kreisau Circle, which included several dozen clergy members, economic experts and diplomats. Freya von Moltke hosted meetings in 1942 and '43 at the family estate at which the group discussed plans for the democratic Germany they hoped would follow the collapse of the Third Reich.

In 1943, the group established contact with Col. Claus von Stauffenberg, the leader of the German military resistance, and supported his failed attempt on July 20, 1944, to assassinate Hitler with a bomb. The story of that plot was brought to the big screen in 2008 in "Valkyrie," starring Tom Cruise as von Stauffenberg.

Helmuth von Moltke was arrested by the Gestapo in January 1944 on charges of warning a friend that he was about to be arrested. He was executed a year later for treason.

In 1947, Freya von Moltke left Europe for South Africa, where her mother-in-law had been born. She worked as a social worker but grew troubled by the apartheid regime and returned in 1956 to Germany, where she began publicizing the activities of the Kreisau Circle.

She moved to Vermont to live with Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy, a Dartmouth College professor and social philosopher who had fled Germany after the rise of the Nazis. After Rosenstock-Huessy died in 1973, she dedicated herself to promoting his works and those of her late husband.

Her transcriptions of her husband's letters were published in German in 1988 as "Letters to Freya 1939-1945." Her memoirs, "Memories of Kreisau and the German Resistance," were first published in 1997.

After the fall of communism in 1989, the von Moltkes' former estate was chosen by the German and Polish governments as the site of a reconciliation Mass between the two nations. It is now used as a youth center and meeting place to promote European integration.

Von Moltke gave her blessing to the establishment of the Freya von Moltke Foundation for the New Kreisau to support the work being done at the estate.

A memorial service is scheduled for Friday at the Norwich Congregational Church, associate pastor the Rev. Mary R. Brownlow said Sunday.