Goerdeler, Carl Friedrich.

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Goerdeler Carl Friedrich, born 31-07-1884, in Schneidemühl, now Piła, Poland,   the son of dr. Julius Goerdeler, Prussian district Judge and Adelheid Roloff. Like his three brothers, he studied law (1902 to 1905, in Tübingen and Königsberg). During his studies he was a member of the Turnerschaft Eberhardina Tübingen (“Turn association Eberhardina Tübingen”). In 1911 he completed his education in Göttingen with an Assessorexamen (civil servant exam).Carl Georg Goerdeler married Anneliese Ullrich, the daughter of a doctor, in 1911. The couple had two daughters and three sons. After studying law and economics, Goerdeler served in the city administration of Solingen from 1912. He spent World War I mostly on the Eastern Front as a junior officer, rising to the rank of Hauptmann .. In 1920 he became second mayor of Königsberg (now Kaliningrad, Russia), and from 1930 to 1937 he headed the city government of Leipzig. Twice he served as federal commissioner for price control, first from 1931 to 1932, then under the Nazi government from 1934 to 1935. Never at ease with the parliamentary democracy of the Weimar Republic, Goerdeler, who advocated Germany’s return to its pre-1914 frontiers, was a member of the rightist German National People’s Party (DNVP). In 1930 Goerdeler became mayor of Leipzig. Goerdeler as Oberbürgermeister with the later NS-Justizminister Otto Georg Thierack in 1935  Otto Thierack, here with jurist Freisler , was arrested by the Allies after the end of World War II, Thierack committed suicide on 26-10-1946, age 57, in Sennelager, Paderborn, by poisoning himself before he could be brought before the court at the Nuremberg Judges’ Trial.

Goerdeler also became price commissioner in the government of Heinrich Brüning and remained in office when Adolf Hitler came to power in 1933. Goerdeler resigned in 1934 after disagreement with Hitler over his policies. Goerdeler publically opposed German rearmament and the Nuremberg Laws. In November 1934, Goerdeler was again appointed Reich Price Commissioner, and ordered to combat inflation caused by rearmament. Gestapo reports from 1934 record that the German public greeted the news of Goerdeler’s reappointment as Price Commissioner as a positive development. The appointment of Goerdeler was Hitler’s response to the increasing problem of inflation. Despite the great fanfare which greeted Goerdeler’s appointment, he was given little real power. As mayor of Leipzig,here with Adolf Hitler during the former’s visit to Leipzig, 06-03-1934 refused to pull down the statue of the Jewish composer Felix Mendelssohn or to fly the swastika flag over the city hall. His relations with the Nazi Party, never cordial, worsened until he was forced to resign as mayor of Leipzig in 1937. Almost immediately he entered the resistance against Hitler. Maintaining ties abroad and with the Western Allies even during World War II, he worked with a number of conservative generals whose recognized head was the former army chief of staff Ludwig Beck . Goerdeler spent the next two years travelling around Europe as overseas representative of the Bosche company. In 1938 he met Winston Churchill and other important political figures in Britain and France. Goerdeler provided information about Nazi Germany and encouraged governments not to make too many concessions to Hitler. He was appalled by the Munich Agreement which he saw as “out-and-out capitulation” and claimed that it would lead to a war in Europe. The conspirators planned a coup after the disastrous Stalingrad campaign (late 1942–early 1943).

After the planned overthrow of Hitler, Goerdeler hoped to negotiate a peace with the Western Allies to pursue Germany’s war against the Soviet Union. The group came closest to success with an attempt on Hitler’s life on July 20, 1944 by Claus von Stauffenberg. After the coup’s failure, Goerdeler, for whom the Gestapo had been searching even before July 20, went into hiding.

Goerdeler managed to escape from Berlin, but he was apprehended on 12-08-1944 after being denounced by an innkeeper named Lisbeth Schwaerzel in Marienwerder  while visiting the grave of his parents. After his arrest, eight members of Goerdeler’s family were sent to the concentration camps under the Sippenhaft law. His brother Fritz Goerdeler was also sentenced to death and executed on 01-03-1945. Under Gestapo interrogation, Goerdeler claimed that the Holocaust was the major reason for his seeking to overthrow the Nazi regime. On 09-09-1944, after a trial at the People’s Court under jurist Roland Freisler

, he was sentenced to death. Goerdeler was not physically tortured by the Gestapo, and freely co-operated with the Gestapo in naming names, which made him the object of a considerable hatred from the other prisoners, who saw him as a “spineless rat.” Goerdeler’s friend, the historian Gerhard Ritter who shared the same prison with him, reported that Goerdeler was never tortured, but was instead subjected to “the overheating of cells, painfully tight shackling especially at night, bright light shining on one’s face while one tried to sleep, completely insufficient food”. One prisoner recalled that Goerdeler was often “groaning aloud from hunger”. Goerdeler’s hope in confessing all was to overload the Gestapo with information, and thereby buy time to save his life and the others imprisoned; in the process, he caused hundreds involved in the plot to be arrested. During his time in prison, Goerdeler was asked by the SS to assist with writing the constitution of a future SS-ruled Germany. Goerdeler agreed, and often met with Otto Ohlendorf  

Ohlendorf, Otto.  and Dr. Mäding of the SD to provide his advice. Whether Goerdeler was sincere in wishing to help the SS or just trying to buy time to save his life remains unclear. When confronted with the loneliness of his imprisonment and the utter defeat of his cause, Goerdeler, who had always been a highly devout Lutheran, became increasingly preoccupied with spiritual matters. Goerdeler was overwhelmed with despair over what he considered to be the triumph of evil and the destruction of all that he loved. Ritter saw Goerdeler in prison in January 1945 and reported:

I was…astonished at his undiminished intellectual power, but at the same time I was shocked by his outward appearance. It was a man grown old who stood before me, shackled hand and foot, in the same light summer clothes as had on when captured, shabby and collarless, face thin and drawn, strangely different. But it was his eyes that shocked me the most. They were once bright grey eyes and had flashed beneath the heavy eyebrows; that had always been the most impressive thing about him. Now there was no light in them; they were like the eyes of a blind man, yet like nothing I had seen before. His intellectual power was as it had always been; his spiritual strength was not. His natural cheerfulness had gone; his look seemed turned inward. What I beheld was a man with the weariness of death in his soul.

Death and burial ground of Goerdeler, Carl Friedrich.


While Goerdeler was on death row, he wrote a letter which called the Holocaust the very worst of Nazi crimes. But at the same time, Goerdeler remained anti-Semitic. In his “Thoughts of a Man condemned to Death”, written towards the end of 1944 in prison, Goerdeler wrote:

We should not attempt to minimize what has been happening, but we should also emphasize the great guilt of the Jews, who had invaded our public life in ways that lacked customary restraint. He was finally executed by hanging on 02-02-1945 at Plötzensee Prison

  in Berlin with two other men: Johannes Popitz, a Prussian finance minister and a member of the German Resistance against the government of Nazi Germany.  age 50 and Alfred Delp, age 38 a German Jesuit priest and philosopher of the German Resistance. Delp was offered his freedom if he would renounce the Jesuits. He refused and was hanged  His body was cremated and his ashes spread on an unknown field. While awaiting his death sentence, Goerdeler wrote a farewell letter, which ended with “I ask the world to accept our martyrdom as penance for the German people.” Carl Goedeler has a grave of honor on the Bergfriedhof of Heidelberg..


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