Stieff, Helmuth, born 06-06-1901, in Deutsch Eylau (Iława), in the then German province of West Prussia. After graduating from high school, Helmuth joined the army as a war volunteer in July 1918. Despite his short stature, he was taken on as a cadet in the Reichswehr because of his quick wit. Leutenant in 1922, he pursued the usual officer’s career. In the NSDAP he saw a movement of national awakening. He welcomed Hitler’s appointment as Chancellor. The assassination of the Austrian Federal Chancellor Engelbert Dollfuss in 1934 aroused his first doubts.
For many years it did not look as if the future Generalmajor would ever allow himself to be involved in the resistance. Hellmuth Stieff grew up in a Protestant home. On 23-09-1929 he married the Catholic Cäcilie Gaertner. The marriage remained childless. Step by step, Stieff climbed the military career ladder. He had countless journeys to cope with, so that the couple were often separated. They wrote countless letters, many of which have survived. They provide information about how the attitude of the officer gradually changed. He held firm to his Christian beliefs. He measured the events of the day by them. The rapid events made it clear to him that, as a Christian, he could no longer support the NSDAP, which was striving for absolute rule. The manifested open hatred against the Jews in the Reich program night from 9./10. November 1938, the brutality of the German army in the campaign against Poland from 01-09-1939, the Stalingrad catastrophe and the public persecution of the Jews and the planned annihilation of the Jewish people made him join the active resistance. More and more he saw through the political behavior. In his letters he called the “Fuhrer” a “true devil in human form”.
Stieff joined the General Staff of the Wehrmacht in 1938 and served in the Organisationsabteilung (coordination department) commanded by Major, later Generalleutnant Adolf Bruno Heusinger.
Thanks to his excellent organizational skills, Stieff was appointed Chief of the Organization at OKH in October 1942, despite Adolf Hitler’s strong personal distaste. Hitler considered Stieff a “little poisonous dwarf”.
During the 1939 invasion of Poland, Stieff developed a strong disgust for Nazi military strategy. This was apparent, among other things, from letters he had written to his wife, in which he described the course and atrocities of Hitler’s war in occupied Poland. Thus he regarded himself as an “instrument of a despotic will to destroy, without any regard for humanity and simple decency”.
Following the invitation of General Henning von Tresckow, Stieff joined the German Resistance in the summer of 1943. As he was in charge of the Organisationsabteilung, he was able to collect explosives without arousing suspicion, including some of foreign origin. Stieff was therefore the one who supplied Major Axel von dem Bussche with explosives that were used in the canceled attack on Hitler in the Wolfsschanze in November.
One of the officers who had occasional access to Hitler, Stieff volunteered to kill Hitler in a suicide bombing, but later backtracked quickly despite repeated requests from Tresckow and Oberst Claus von Stauffenberg to stop the attack. still to be performed. On 07-07-1944, during a demonstration of the new uniforms in front of Hitler at Schloss Klessheim (a palace near Salzburg), Stieff was unable to activate the bomb, so Stauffenberg decided to kill Hitler himself.
Death and burial ground of Stieff, Helmuth.
The morning of July 20, Stieff flew with Stauffenberg and Oberstleutnant Werner von Haeften in General Eduard Wagner’s Heinkel He 111 plane from Berlin to the Wolfsschanze. But in the evening he was arrested and interrogated under torture by the Gestapo. Stieff held out for several days against Gestapo efforts to obtain the names of fellow conspirators. Expelled by the Wehrmacht, he was tried by the Volksgerichtshof under President Roland Freisler and sentenced to death on 08-08-1944. At Hitler’s personal request, Hellmuth Stieff was hanged on the afternoon of the same day in Plötzensee prison in Berlin. After the failure of the coup attempt, General Eduard Wagner feared that his arrest by the Gestapo was imminent and that he might be forced to implicate other plotters. He committed suicide by shooting himself in the head at noon on 23-07-1944, age 50..
Cäcilie Gaertner- Stieff, his wife, would have to litigate for years after the war to be able to claim a widow’s pension. After all, the verdicts from the war remained legally valid in the new Federal Republic; at the same time, part of the German population often still regarded resistance fighters such as Stieff as traitors. Only in 1960, when the Bundesverwaltungsgericht’s highest administrative court ruled Stieff’s conviction a clear injustice, did Mrs. Stieff receive her widow’s pension.
Generalmajor Helmuth Stieff was buried at the Plötzensee Prison, cemetery, Berlin, Nazi Germany, in an anonymously grave like all Plötzensee Hitler victims.