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Ewald von Kleist-Schmenzin : biography

22 March 1890 - 9 April 1945

Ewald von Kleist-Schmenzin (22 March 1890 – 9 April 1945) was a lawyer, a conservative politician, opponent of Nazism and a member of the July 20 Plot to assassinate Hitler, for which he was executed.

Arrest, trial, and death

Stauffenberg's briefcase bomb failed to kill Hitler on 20 July 1944, and Ewald von Kleist-Schmenzin was arrested the next day. He was brought before the infamous Nazi Volksgerichtshof ("People's Court") on 23 February 1945, where he was sentenced to death for his part in the plot. He was guillotined at Plötzensee Prison in Berlin on 9 April 1945 — one month before the end of the war.


Ewald von Kleist-Schmenzin was the son of the Royal Prussian Rittmeister Hermann von Kleist (1849–1913) and his wife Elisabeth (Lili) (1863–1945).

Born in Dubberow near Belgard, Pomerania, Germany (now Dobrowo, Poland), Ewald von Kleist-Schmenzin supported the German National People's Party (Deutschnationale Volkspartei). As a conservative, he supported the idea of monarchy and Christian ideals, shown in part through his membership of the Order of Saint John (Bailiwick of Brandenburg), to which he was admitted as a Knight of Honor in 1922 and in which he was promoted to Knight of Justice in 1935.Robert M. Clark, Jr., The Evangelical Knights of Saint John; Dallas, Texas: 2003; p. 45. He was a staunch, active opponent of Nazism even before Hitler came to power in 1933. He ended up being arrested as a result in May and June of that year, although he was never held very long. He refused to fly the Nazi flag over his Schloss.

Ewald von Kleist-Schmenzin went to the United Kingdom in 1938 as Admiral Wilhelm Canaris's and Colonel-General Ludwig Beck's secret emissary. He was to make the British government aware of the resistance to Hitler's rule inside Germany. He used his contacts with Winston Churchill and Robert Vansittart to try to shift British policy away from one of appeasement to one based more on the use of force. He believed that only if the British were seen to be willing to use force to support Czechoslovakia would the opposition in Germany have the support that it needed among Germany's High Command to move against Hitler. Churchill agreed that a change of leadership in Germany would be a good idea, and even sent Hitler a strongly worded letter, but since Churchill was not yet Prime Minister, it had no effect on him. Kleist-Schmenzin's efforts to get the British to change their policy failed, as did a number of other later missions sent by those who opposed the Nazis.

Kleist-Schmenzin nonetheless still supported the idea of overthrowing Hitler, and to that end, he met Carl Friedrich Goerdeler in 1942 and 1943, a fellow conservative and resistance fighter, who also favoured a coup d'état. Kleist-Schmenzin eventually found his way into the plot's inner circle and advocated a number of violent acts to get rid of Hitler. He urged his son, Lieutenant Ewald-Heinrich von Kleist-Schmenzin, to go through with a suicide-assassination plot in January 1944 which would have seen him blow himself and Hitler up with two hand grenades hidden under a new uniform that he was to "demonstrate" to Hitler. However, Hitler did not show up. Kleist-Schmenzin also supported Claus von Stauffenberg's plan to kill Hitler with a briefcase bomb that the Count would take to the Wolf's Lair in East Prussia. Stauffenberg appointed Kleist-Schmenzin political representative in the Stettin military district in preparation for the coup d'état.

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