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9 The Red Orchestra    

As early as the 1930s, resistance circles develop around the Berlin senior civil servant Arvid Harnack and Harro Schulze-Boysen, who is assigned to the Reich Aviation Ministry. More than 100 opponents of National Socialism from a wide variety of social backgrounds and ideological traditions later join these circles. They form one of the largest German resistance groups in 1941-42 and employ a variety of methods in their struggle against National Socialism. They aid persecuted persons and appeal to the public in leaflets and posters.

In early 1941 Harnack and Schulze-Boysen meet with Soviet diplomats on several occasions. They hope to use this channel of communication with the Soviet Union to influence Germany’s development after the end of the National Socialist regime and in so doing secure Germany’s future independence. The group is resolved to transmit important military information to Moscow by radio after the German invasion of the Soviet Union. However, this undertaking fails because of technical problems. From February 1942, they distribute leaflets about National Socialist crimes of violence and the military problems on the Eastern Front.

In the summer of 1942, the Gestapo discovers the resistance organization around Harnack and Schulze-Boysen. The Reich Military Court pronounces the first death sentences in December 1942. A gallows with eight hooks is erected in Plötzensee so that the members of this group will die as wretchedly as possible. Here on December 22, 1942, between 7:00 pm and 8:33 pm, five men of the group are murdered by hanging, and three women and three men are murdered with the guillotine. On May 13, 1943, the executioners carry out 13 other death sentences between 7:00 pm and 7:36 pm. On August 5, 1943, between 7:00 pm and 8:00 pm, another 19 men and women from the group are murdered in Plötzensee.

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