Wednesday, April 5, 2006

Obituary: Countess von Stauffenberg

Nina Gräfn (Countess) Schenk von Stauffenberg died on Sunday near Bamberg, Bavaria, Germany. Countess von Stauffenberg, aged 92, was the widow of Claus Graf (Count) Schenk von Stauffenberg, who attempted, unsuccessfully, to assassinate Adolf Hitler on 20 July 1944.

Nina Stauffenberg’s life is of interest, not only because of her marriage, but for the different worlds her life intersected with. Her life spanned the Kaiserreich, the Weimar Republic, the Hitler era, the war years, the Cold War and the arrival of the Internet Age. Elisabeth Magdalena “Nina” Freiin von Lerchenfeld was born, almost literally in another world, on 27 August 1913 in Kovno, then part of a Russia ruled by a Tsar; now called Kaunas, in Lithuania. In the vanished world of kings, princes and aristocrats that was pre-1914 Europe, Nina and her future husband were both top-drawer.
Nina was the daughter of a German general (and the German consul-general), and a Baltic German noblewoman. She met Count von Stauffenberg when she was 16, in boarding school. Like Nina, Claus was an aristocrat – counting the Prussian military hero August Graf von Gneisenau among his ancestors. The couple married in 1933, and by 1940, the marriage had produced 4 children.
Oberst (Colonel) Count von Stauffenberg compiled a distinguished war record, but was severely wounded in 1943, when his staff car was strafed by a low-flying British fighter-bomber. He spent three months in the hospital, losing his left eye, his right hand, and the fourth and fifth fingers of his left hand. While recovering, he became involved with the plot to overthrow the Nazi regime – information he did not share with his wife.
The plot, as is well known, failed. Count von Stauffenberg was shot by firing squad on the evening of 20 July in the courtyard of the German Army headquarters in the Bendlerstrasse, Berlin (today Stauffenbergstrasse). Despite the Count’s attempt to shield his wife by not involving her, Countess von Stauffenberg was arrested and imprisoned, bearing the Count’s last child in a Nazi prison hospital. She wound up in Ravensbruck concentration camp, her children taken away from her by the Nazis. Nina was rescued by allied troops at war’s end.

The family was reunited after the war, and her eldest son, Berthold, is a retired German Army Generalmajor.

1 comment:

Candidly Caroline said...

Wow! There is so much history there that needs to be told. I am glad you did your small part in sharing it.