Forum members may be interested in obituary for Nina Countess Schenk von Stauffenberg, who died on Sunday aged 92. The txt is from the DAily Telegraph of April 5th.
She was the widow of the Count Graf von Stauffenberg who attempted to assassinate Hitler with a bomb in July 1944; along with her husband's co-conspirators, she bore the brunt of the Führer's thirst for revenge in the weeks after the attack.
She was born Elisabeth Magdalena, Baroness von Lerchenfeld, in Kaunas, then in Russia but now in Lithuania, on August 27 1913. Her father was a diplomat and courtier, her mother a German-speaking Balt.
She met Claus Schenk von Stauffenberg when she was just 16 and still at boarding school near Heidelberg. Like him, her family was of the Bavarian nobility, although his was Roman Catholic and rather more distinguished, numbering the Prussian Field Marshal August von Gneisenau among its forebears. He was also six years her elder.
They became engaged on his birthday in 1930, and married in 1933. Stauffenberg was noted among his peers for his dashing good looks and unorthodox opinions, but though he was later to be romanticised by admirers of the German resistance movement, as a young man much of his character was decidedly conventional. He had already chosen the army as his career, and went to his wedding in uniform, since he believed that to marry was another of his duties. He also, as one proud to be German, initially welcomed Hitler's rise to power.
By 1940, however, when he and Nina had had three sons and a daughter, his attitudes had changed markedly, influenced in particular by Hitler's oppression of the Church. From the autumn of 1943 onwards, when he was recuperating in Germany after losing seven fingers and an eye in a strafing attack in North Africa, he became determined to kill the Führer, and his dynamism animated a circle of like-minded officers, aristocrats and officials which had hitherto offered only passive opposition to the regime. His elder brother, Berthold, joined the conspiracy, but Nina Stauffenberg knew nothing of their plans.
On July 20 1944 Colonel Count Stauffenberg carried a bomb concealed in a briefcase into the briefing room of the Wolf's Lair, Hitler's headquarters in East Prussia. Another officer moved it, so that it rested next to the massive wooden leg of the conference table and, when it exploded, soon after Stauffenberg had left the room, Hitler was largely shielded from the blast and suffered only ruptured eardrums.
Stauffenberg and the other plotters believed for a time that they had been successful, but by that evening most of them had been rounded up. Stauffenberg was shot almost immediately in the courtyard of army headquarters in Berlin.
Himmler, as security supremo, directed that all of Stauffenberg's relatives, from his infant children to distant cousins, should be arrested and their property confiscated. Berthold Stauffenberg was hanged a few weeks later, while Nina Stauffenberg, who was heavily pregnant, was interrogated and imprisoned in Berlin. While there she comforted the wife of Ernst Thalmann, the Communist leader, who had just learned that her husband had been executed.
The Countess was then sent to the Ravensbruck concentration camp, as was her mother, who subsequently perished in another camp run by the advancing Russians.
The four Stauffenberg children, of whom the eldest was aged 10, were placed in a state orphanage in Thuringia and given a new surname, Meister. In January 1945 Nina Stauffenberg gave birth in a Nazi maternity home to her husband's posthumous daughter, Konstanze.
The separated family were much helped by the efforts of her sister-in-law, Melitta, the wife of Berthold's twin brother, Alexander, who had also been interned. Although she was a Polish Jew, Melitta had some influence with government officials because of her work on the design of dive-bombers. Towards the end of the war, however, she was fatally wounded when her aircraft was hit as she was returning from a visit to her nephews and niece.
By the war's end, the Countess was being held as a hostage in southern Germany. Although her guards had orders to kill her, she was eventually liberated by Allied troops and reunited with her children. Thereafter, she devoted herself to promoting understanding between Germans and the occupying American forces.
In the last few decades, German knowledge of the homegrown resistance to the Nazis has become much more widespread, with Stauffenberg coming to occupy a central place in that understanding. The Bendlerblock, the HQ where he was executed, now houses the national museum of resistance, and the street on which it stands has been renamed for him.
Like some of those involved in the plot, Nina Stauffenberg was of the view that the heroic failure of the plan resonated more down the years than a successful coup might have done. "On the whole," she once said, "what happened was probably best for the cause."
She is survived by her five children; her eldest son, Berthold, is a former general in the German army.
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