The German aristocracy was
disproportionately well represented in the military resistance and
conspiracy against Hitler. For example, the most famous
would-be assassin was Claus Count Stauffenberg. Others who
volunteered for suicide-attacks against Hitler were Axel Baron von dem
Bussche, Georg Baron von Boeselager, and Rudolf-Christoph Baron von
Gersdorff — to name just a few. Counts Moltke and
Yorck von Wartenburg, and Count Schulenburg were important civilian
figures in the conspiracy. Many lesser noblemen were also highly
significant figures, for example Henning von Tresckow and Carl-Heinrich
von Stülpnagel. I could list literally hundreds of
German aristocrats who were members of the Resistance.
The question is: Why was the German aristocracy so prominent in the
Resistance? There were two factors:
the aristocracy in Germany at the time firmly believed that a title of
nobility brought with it an obligation to lead and to take
responsibility for the fate of the nation. While Socialist
and Communist resistance groups depended on organizations and were thus
largely helpless once their organizations were shattered by the Nazis,
the aristocracys resistance was individual. The majority of
those who had formerly voted for the leftist parties became disoriented
once these parties were banned and so they were co-opted by Hitlers
early successes—by jobs, higher standards of living, victory.
The aristocracy, in contrast, saw the need to rescue the
nation from misgovernment as their hereditary duty—a personal
obligation completely disconnected from party affiliation or the
existence of an organization.
The second reason the aristocracy appears to be so over-represented in
the resistance is that the only resistance group with a chance of
successfully bringing down the Nazi regime was that group that
controlled some degree of force —i.e. could command troops,
had access to explosives and the apparatus of government.
This meant the officer corps of the army. The Communists and Socialists
had a pacifist tradition and so were hardly represented in the Officer
Corps at all. In contrast, the aristocracy had for
generations been the very backbone of the German officer
corps. Thus the aristocracy dominated the military
resistance, that strand of the resistance that made the assassination
attempts and carried out the coup attempt.