Berthold Schenk Graf von Stauffenberg

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Berthold Schenk Graf von Stauffenberg : biography

15 March 1905 – 10 August 1944

Berthold Alfred Maria Schenk Graf von Stauffenberg (born 15 March 1905 in Stuttgart — executed 10 August 1944 in Berlin-Plötzensee) was a German aristocrat and lawyer who was a key conspirator in the plot to assassinate Adolf Hitler on 20 July 1944, alongside his younger brother, Colonel Claus Schenk Graf von Stauffenberg. After the plot failed, Berthold was tried and executed by the Nazi regime.

Portrayal in the media

Berthold has been portrayed by the following actors in film:

  • Christopher Buchholz in the 2004 German film Stauffenberg.


Early life

Berthold was the oldest of four brothers (the second being Berthold’s twin Alexander Schenk Graf von Stauffenberg) born into an old and distinguished aristocratic South German Catholic family. His parents were the last Oberhofmarschall of the Kingdom of Württemberg, Alfred Schenk Graf von Stauffenberg, and Caroline née von Üxküll-Gyllenband. Among his ancestors were several famous Prussians, including most notably August von Gneisenau.

In his youth, he and his brothers were members of the Neupfadfinder, a German Scout association and part of the German Youth movement.

After having studied law at Tübingen, he became assistant professor of international law at the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute of Foreign and International Law in 1927. He and his brother Claus were introduced by Albrecht von Blumenthal to the circle of the mystic symbolist poet Stefan George, many of whose followers became members of the German Resistance to National Socialism. He worked at the Hague from 1930–1932 and married at Berlin-Zehlendorf on 20 June 1936 Maria (Mika) Classen (Marenskaya, Russia, 5 February 1900 — Sigmaringen, 13 September 1977). They had two children:

  • Alfred Claus Maria Schenk Graf von Stauffenberg (Tübingen, 8 November 1937 — Berlin, 28 October 1987), married at Wilflingen on 24 April 1962 to his distant cousin Marie Sophie Schenk Freiin von Stauffenberg (b. Berlin, 23 September 1937), and had three sons:
    • Berthold Franz Maria Schenk Graf von Stauffenberg (b. Riedlingen, 26 May 1963), married to María Jesus Alejandra Carabias (b. 17 July 1961), and had one son:
      • Alfred Friedrich Maria Schenk Graf von Stauffenberg
    • Philipp Friedrich Maria Schenk Graf von Stauffenberg (b. Neuilly, 17 May 1964), married at Lautlingen to Bettina Baatz (b. Frankfurt am Main), without issue
    • Alexander Clemens Juan Maria Schenk Graf von Stauffenberg (b. Madrid, 8 February 1967), unmarried and without issue
  • Elisabeth Caroline Margarete Maria Schenk Gräfin von Stauffenberg (b. 13 June 1939), married to Piero Roberti (b. 26 December 1935)

Career and coup attempt

In 1939, he joined the German Navy, working in the High Command as a staff judge and advisor for international law.

Berthold’s apartment at Tristanstraße in Berlin, where his brother Claus also lived for some time, was a meeting place for the July 20 conspirators, including their cousin Peter Yorck von Wartenburg. As Claus had access to the inner circle around Hitler, he was assigned to plant a bomb at the Führers briefing hut at the military high command in Rastenburg, East Prussia on July 20, 1944. Claus then flew to Rangsdorf airfield south of Berlin where he met with Berthold. They went together to Bendlerstraße, which the coup leaders intended to utilize as the centre of their operations in Berlin.

Hitler survived the bomb blast and the coup failed. Berthold and his brother were arrested at Bendlerstraße the same night. Claus was executed by firing squad shortly afterwards.

After his arrest, Stauffenberg was questioned by the Gestapo about his views about the "Final Solution to the Jewish Question". Stauffenberg told the Gestapo that “He and his brother had basically approved of the racial principle of National Socialism, but considered it to be exaggerated and excessive”Noakes, Jeremy Nazism, Volume 4, University of Exeter Press, 1998 page 633 Stauffenberg went on to state, The racial idea has been grossly betrayed in this war in that the best German blood is being irrevocably sacrificed, while simultaneously Germany is populated by millions of foreign workers, who certainly cannot be described as of high racial quality

Berthold was tried in the Volksgerichtshof ("People’s Court") by Roland Freisler on 10 August and was one of eight conspirators executed by strangulation, hanged in Plötzensee Prison, Berlin, later that day. Before he was killed Berthold was strangled and then revived multiple times. Allegedly, the entire execution and multiple resuscitations were filmed for Hitler to view at his leisure, although there is no solid proof either that the events were filmed or that Hitler watched them.