The Kreisau Circle is one of the most well-known German resistance movement groups, which took action against the national socialist regime of Adolf Hitler. The activists from the Kreisau Circle as well as many other people who acted in defence of the freedom of man and a just world order, and thus, against violence and totalitarian structures, risked their lives consciously through their actions.
The Group, having been uncovered by the Gestapo in 1944, was referred to as the Kreisau Circle as three important meetings of opponents to the regime were held in the years 1942 and 1943 at the Berghaus in Krzyżowa, on the estate of Count Helmuth James von Moltke.
The Kreisau Circle was formed around Helmuth James von Moltke and Peter York von Wartenburg. A decision was made by letter in the year 1940 to create a contact network to act against the then government together with other persons who held the same views. The first contacts were significantly expanded during the following months. However, not all the activists belonged to the Kreisau Circle, not all of them were informed about the whole project or took part in the meetings at the Berghaus. In comparison with other resistance movement groups during this period. the Kreisau Circle was a heterogeneous group. It included people representing various political views and various denominations often with different opinions. They were united to work through the dialogue on the common objective which was to find a way to reorganise Germany after the defeat of the Third Reich. Among the activists of the Circle, there were also persons of noble birth such as Adam von Trott zu Solz, Carl-Dietrich von Troth or Horst von Einsiedel, who professed liberal views, but still their attitudes were conservative. Owing to Adolf Reichwein, many social democrats such as, among others, Carlo Mierendorf and Theodor Haubach, and later on also Julius Leber were part of the circle. The Catholic Church was represented mainly by Jesuits from the area of Southern Germany (Delp, Łukaszek, Rósch and others), and as representatives of the Protestant Church, it is also necessary to mention here Stelzer and Poelschau.
The Kreisau Circle Resistance Movement is often referred to as a passive movement, and because of this, there were some who would diminish its significance. The truth is that the group's activists, despite numerous contacts with other groups who did not shy away from using violence, worked almost exclusively theoretically. Many participants of the Circle thought that the national socialist movement could be fought down more effectively from the inside, than by the sheer elimination of certain individuals. The members of the Circle regretted that an individual lost their significance because of the homogenisation of the nation, therefore, in their opinion, it was necessary to strive for the rebuilding of fundamental values. National socialism among the masses will not last long; if man cannot take responsibility for themselves and their immediate environment, they will not be able to decide for themselves.
The aim of the activists from the Kreisau Circle was to introduce thorough state and social reforms. They believed that in this way it would be possible to create a real upheaval of lasting importance. How could the end of the rule be brought about so as to achieve the X day? Whether through internal or external influences (capitulation) was a disputable issue among the activists from the Kreisau Circle. At the centre of their reflections, were however, the preparations for the period after the end of the Nazi rule.
Plans for the future were developed with regards to the respective specific themes in smaller groups. Many secret meetings were also held in Berlin and Munich and not in the “headquarters" in Krzyżowa. As a consequence of this, the meetings were an opportunity to discuss conclusions which often aroused controversy, and after the discussion the said conclusions were adopted as guidelines for general social acceptance. The most important subjects discussed by the activists from the Kreisau Circle included the issues related to the reconstruction of the state, law, foreign and economic policies and matters related to political awareness. Particular emphasis was placed on the role and meaning of churches after the events of the recent years. The members of the resistance movement gathered around Helmuth von Moltke were distinguished by the strong - for those times - association with Europe. The national-socialist movement and its crimes spreading all over Europe gave rise to doubts related to the sense of existence of the German national state. As the strengthened cooperation created opportunities for lasting peace, the plans of the group were not just German plans, but also European ones. Contact with other countries was sought during the war. The present European federation with the monetary union was thus a subject of reflection for the Kreisau Circle.
Because of the imprisonment of Helmuth James von Moltke, the Kreisau Circle was dissolved at the beginning of the year 1944. Only after the attempt on Hitler's life on 20 July 1944 and the following arrests, did the Nazis discover the dangerous ideas of the intellectuals who had met in Krzyżowa. Eight of the activists belonging to the Kreisau Circle were sentenced to death, including Helmuth James von Moltke.