Harro Schulze-Boysen: German officer, commentator, and German Resistance fighter (1909 - 1942) | Biography, Facts, Information, Career, Wiki, Life
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Harro Schulze-Boysen
German officer, commentator, and German Resistance fighter

Harro Schulze-Boysen

Harro Schulze-Boysen
The basics

Quick Facts

Intro German officer, commentator, and German Resistance fighter
A.K.A. Heinz Harro Max Wilhelm Georg Schulze-Boysen
Was Soldier Resistance fighter
From Germany
Field Activism Military
Gender male
Birth 2 September 1909, Kiel, Germany
Death 22 December 1942, Plötzensee Prison, Germany (aged 33 years)
Star sign Virgo
Politics Communist Party of Germany
Siblings: Hartmut Schulze-Boysen
Spouse: Libertas Schulze-Boysen
Harro Schulze-Boysen
The details (from wikipedia)


Harro Schulze-Boysen in Luftwaffe officer's uniform
20+5 DDR Pfennig-Stamp with Harro Schulze-Boysen
Harro Schulze-Boysen (right) with Marta Husemann and Günther Weisenborn

Heinz Harro Max Wilhelm Georg Schulze-Boysen (2 September 1909 – 22 December 1942) was a German publicist and Luftwaffe officer who would become a leading German resistance fighter as a member of the anti-fascist resistance group that was later called the Red Orchestra (Rote Kapelle) by the Gestapo, during World War II. He was arrested and executed in 1942.


Schulze-Boysen was born in Kiel as the son of decorated naval officer Erich Edgar Schulze. His mother was Marie Luise (née Boysen). On his paternal side he was the grandnephew of Grand Admiral Alfred von Tirpitz and on the maternal side, the German economist and philosopher, Ferdinand Tönnies. In 1913 the family moved to Berlin when his father received a posting. His sister Helga was born a year older and brother, Hartmut was born in 1922 and died in 2013.

In 1913, Harro attended the primary school and later the Heinrich-von-Kleist-Gymnasium in the district of Schmargendorf in Berlin. From 1920, he regularly spent his summer holidays with the Hasselrot family in Sweden. In 1922 his father was transferred to Duisburg, and Harro succeeded him in the autumn. As a student at the Steinbart Gymnasium in Duisburg, he took part in the underground struggle against the French occupation of the Ruhr in 1923 and was temporarily imprisoned by the French and Belgian occupying force. To get him out of this political firing line, his parents organized a slightly longer stay in Sweden. In particular, Harro's trip to England in 1926 had inspired comparison and reflection. He had found that the picture of England drawn in Germany was very little in line with his findings made on the spot.

In 1927 he wrote his first major newspaper report about a scandal in Duisburg to erect a monument to the sculptor Wilhelm Lehmbruck. On the occasion of the 80th birthday of the Reich President Paul von Hindenburg, he gave a commemorative speech at the school. In general, his political involvement in high school was perceived as unusually intense. He passed the Abitur with the overall rating "good". In particular, his dexterity was emphasized in the written and oral expression. From his spiritual attitude he was at that time in good agreement with the values and traditions of the family. From then on, he appeared in public and in written statements, using the mother's birth name, with the double name Schulze-Boysen.

Political awakening

In 1928, he joined the Jungdeutscher Orden, a youth organization in the Weimar Republic and the Studentenverbindung Albingia. In April 1928 he studied law and political science at the University of Freiburg in Freiburg, Baden-Württemberg, and later Berlin, without finishing. In the same period he joined the Young German Order, a para-military organisation, which influenced him ideologically at this time. The aim of this association was to ethically revive the "Comradeship from the trenches of the First World War" as a model for the Volksgemeinschaft to be developed. Any form of dictatorship, whether coming from the left or the right was rejected.

In the summer of 1929 he took part in an academic fencing club at the university and a course of the Hochsee-Wehrsportverein high sea defense, sailing club in Neustadt. In November he moved to the Humboldt University of Berlin in Berlin to continue his studies in law. Here he joined the International Students' Association. For the first time during this period he dealt intensively with Nazi ideology and searched for the causes of the sudden victory of the Nazi Party in Reichstag elections in March 1933. He studied the program of the Nazi Party and also read Mein Kampf in search of answers, describing it a jumble of platitudes and commented, There's nothing here but nonsense. It became clear to him that a further gain in votes by the Nazis would lead to a sharp intensification and polarization in society. In 1930, Schulze-Boysen supported the intellectual-nationalistic group called the Volksnationale Reichsvereinigung ("People's National Reich Association"). During this period, Schulze-Boysen was also a member of the National Socialist Black Front.

As a publicist

In July 1931, during a stay in France, Harro Schulze-Boysen met French intellectuals associated with the magazine Plans, which sought the establishment of a Europe-wide collective economic system and whose influence resulted in him being reorientated politically to the left. However he still maintained his contacts with the nationalists. However as time went on, Shulze-Boysen increasingly distanced himself, more and more from the views of the Young German Order. As the realization matured in him that the daily struggle in Germany must primarily be directed against the emerging fascism and all reactionaries.

In 1932 and 1933, he published the left-liberal magazine Der Gegner or The Opponent, which was founded in 1931 by Franz Jung and modelled on the Plans magazine. The poet Ernst Fuhrmann, the artist Raoul Hausmann, the writers Ernst von Salomon, Adrien Turel and the Marxist theoretician Karl Korsch, among others all collaborated in writing the magazine. The aim was to build a unified front of young people against the "liberal, capitalist and nationalist spirit" in Europe. For the French, Harro Schulze-Boysen was the actor for Germany in this field. He tried to develop an independent German youth movement with the "Gegner-Kreis", which also included Robert Jungk, Erwin Gehrts, Kurt Schumacher and Gisela von Pöllnitz and began to organize Enemy Evenings in Berlin cafés. "There was hardly an opposition youth group with which he did not keep in touch with." At the end of 1931, he took a leave of absence from his studies because he had come to the conclusion that the contents discussed here had nothing to do with the daily political disputes. In February 1932, Schulze-Boysen, in coordination with his French partners of Plans, organized the Treffen der revolutionären Jugend Europas or Meeting of Europe's Revolutionary Youth. A total of about 1,000 young people attended the meeting and he formulated the political goals for the German delegation. In view of the crisis in Germany, these consisted, on the one hand, in the abolition of the capitalist system and on the other, in the assertion of Germany's own role without foreign diktat and interference. In search of alternatives to crisis-ridden Western Europe, he began to become more interested in the Soviet system. This in turn was also influenced by his disappointment with the national and conservative parties in Germany, which in his opinion did not fight the nascent Nazis enough. In March 1932, he wrote his first article, the Der Neue, Gegner, The New, Opponent that defined his concept of publication goals, stating Let us serve the invisible alliance of thousands, who today are still divided... In April 1932, in a letter to his mother, he stated that his goal was the intellectual reconciliation of the young generation. Essentially his politics were driven by the idea of a united youth fighting the older generations.

In May 1932, an investigation was opened against Franz Jung and the office premises of the Der Gegner were sealed. Schulze-Boysen took over the business as the new editor and gave the publication a new name, Gegner or opponent (now small in writing) but with the same network of the most diverse political camps. At the depths of the crisis, he also saw a clear opportunity to implement a new policy approach, "Opponents of today – comrades of tomorrow,". Thus he had become the leading head and the centre of the enemy circle. Schulze-Boysen considered the seizure of power by Hitler to be probable at that time, but believed that he would soon be overthrown by a general strike. After the seizure of power by the Nazis and the Reichstag fire in Berlin, Schulze-Boysen helped several friends and colleagues who were being threatened to escape abroad. As early as February 1933, the Gestapo had rated the actions of the magazine as "radical" in an official communication, and inevitably in April 1933, the offices of Der Gegner were destroyed by Sturmabteilung in a raid and had detained all those present. The editorial staff were deported to a special camp of the 6th SS-Standarte. Schulze-Boysen himself was severely abused and detained for several days. The Sturmabteilung demolished before his eyes his Jewish friend and colleague Henry Erlanger, who died shortly afterwards. It had become clear as a self-confessed anti-Nazi that he had to find new ways to implement his convictions. It was during this time, that a chance encounter in the street, led to Schulze-Boysen meeting the sculptor Kurt Schumacher who had been working on the opponent with him. Schulze-Boysen had invited Schumacher to a discussion. This was beginning of the intellectual discussion group that would move the conversations from evenings in Berlin cafés into a more meaningful intellectual discussions, that would later change to a direct-action, anti-facist resistance group.


In May 1933, his father organized a pilot training place for him at the German Aviation School in Warnemünde as a sea observer, in order to get his son out of the political front line in Berlin. The place was far away from Berlin and provided enough opportunity to enable Schulze-Boysen to reflect on his past and enable him to prepare plans for the future. Even before his departure, he advised his friends and colleagues to look around Nazi Germany and to go into the institutions of the Nazi regime. He read books that the rulers appealed to and tried to return with due caution to his publication work. In the spring of 1934, this resulted in an opportunity through a contact with the publisher Erich Röth. He published the magazine Wille zum Reich under a pseudonym and dealt with cultural policy issues but with the goal of undermining the Nazi movement with its own themes.

Every fortnight he held picnic-evenings in his apartment with the interested parties in which they discussed philosophical and well as political questions. Under a pseudonym (presumably the abbreviation E.R. – for Erich Röth), Schulze-Boysen wrote individual editorials and essays. It was important for him to explore what possibilities of influence existed with regard to the new situation. At the same time, from 10 April 1934, he was employed as an auxiliary officer in the 5th department, in the section Foreign Air Powers of the Ministry of Aviation (German: Reichsluftfahrtministerium) (RLM) in Berlin. As an adjutant of the head of maritime aviation intelligence, he was responsible for evaluating the foreign literature and press on the subject of air armament. He analysed tactics, organisation, training and technology and to do this he studied foreign magazines, lectures, photo collections and journals.


In order to protect himself from further persecution, Schulze-Boysen surrounded himself with a group of politically incorruptible friends who were left-leaning anti-fascists, among them artists, pacifists and Communists. In the summer of 1934, he met 20-year-old Libertas Haas-Heye, worked at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer in Berlin as a press officer, while they were sailing on the Wannsee.

In 1935, Walter Küchenmeister joined the group. Küchenmeister had known Schulze-Boysen since 1930, and but had been reintroduced to him through Kurt Schumacher. Küchenmeister very quickly became an important member of the group and was used as the writer.

In the same year, Schulze-Boysen visited Geneva, disguised as a private trip, for a series of lectures on international legal issues. On 26 July 1936, the wedding took place in the chapel of Liebenberg Castle under a painting of Guido Reni, with Hermann Göring giving away the bride. Liebenberg Castle was the ancestral estate of her parents. Schulze-Boysen spent his honeymoon in Stockholm as a language study trip for his employer and upon his return he submitted a confidential report.

The playwright Günther Weisenborn had known Schulze-Boysen since 1932 when he had met him at a left-wing student gathering and had become good friends. In 1937 Weisenborn had introduced the actor Marta Wolter to Shulze-Boysen and became part of the group. Later Walter Husemann who at the time was in Buchenwald concentration camp would marry Marta Wolter and join the group. Other friends were found by Schulze-Boysen among former students of a reform school on the island of Scharfenberg in Berlin-Tegel. These often came from communist or social - democratic workers' families, e.g. Hans and Hilde Coppi, Heinrich Scheel, Hermann Natterodt and Hans Lautenschlager. Some of these contacts existed before 1933, for example through the German Society of intellectuals. John Rittmeister's wife Eva was a good friend of Liane Berkowitz, Ursula Goetze, Friedrich Rehmer, Maria Terwiel and Fritz Thiel who met in the 1939 abitur class at the secondary private school, Heil'schen Abendschule at Berlin W 50, Augsburger Straße 60 in Schöneberg. The Romanist Werner Krauss joined this group, and through discussions, an active resistance to the Nazi regime grew. Ursula Goetze who was part of the group, provided contacts with the communist groups in Neukölln.

Approaching war

In January 1936, Schule-Boyzen completed basic military training in the 3rd Radio Intelligence Teaching Company in Halle. He was subsequently promoted to corporal. His superiors appreciated his work. However, in order to be promoted, he would have had to either prove an academic degree or take part in a reservist exercise. However, the Luftwaffe personnel Office blocked this possibility because he was registered in the files as politically unreliable. In September 1936 Hermann Göring had asked the head of the human resources department what reports they had on Schulze-Boysen. When he received the answer that political activities from the Weimar period were noted here, he replied that one should "leave the old camels" and send him on an aviator course. He completed his course in November in List on Sylt and was subsequently promoted to sergeant of the Reserve. Further courses followed in May and July 1936. In the meantime, he was also commissioned by the Reich Aviation Ministry to work on the handbook of the military sciences and the Luftwaffe magazine.

While he was taking his basic military training in Halle, he learned of the banning of the magazine Wille zum Reich. This was an occasion for Schulze-Boysen to dilute his existing contacts to the outside world. His atelier that he Libertas had purchased together in Charlottenburg as their wedding apartment, became more and more a popular meeting place for numerous people who wanted to maintain social interaction with each other. A second discussion group developed in Libertas's parents' estate, in Liebenberg. Of course, among these people there were also many acquaintances from the former environment of Der Gegner In the internal circle of these contacts and encounters, those who exchange internal information with each other, form an opinion about certain developments of the Nazi regime or also wanted to raise money for families whose relatives had been imprisoned for political reasons moved a little more securely. In order to safeguard these covered activities, some basic conspiratorial rules were agreed. Schulze-Boysen code name was Hans when he attended these regular discussion groups.


During the summer of 1936, Shulze-Boysen had become preoccupied by the Popular Front in Spain and through his position at the Reich Aviation Ministry and had collected detailed information of the support that Germany was providing to the group. The documents were passed to the AM Apparat of the German Communist Party.

At the end of 1936, Libertas Schulze-Boysen and Walter Küchenmeister, on the advice of Elisabeth Schumacher wife of Kurt Schumacher, sought out Elfriede Paul, a doctor, who would become a core member of the group.

The Civil War in Spain galvanised the inner circle of Schulze-Boysen's group with Kurt Schumacher demanding that action be taken and a plan was hatched to take advantage of Schulze-Boysen position at the ministry. In February 1938, Schulze-Boysen had compiled a short information document about a sabotage enterprise planned in Barcelona by the German Wehrmacht. It was an action from "Special Staff W", an organisation established by Luftwaffe general Helmuth Wilberg to study and analyse the tactical lessons learned by the Legion Kondor during the Spanish Civil War. The unit also directed the German relief operations that consisted of volunteers, weapons and ammunition for General Francisco Franco FET y de las JONS Party. The information that Schulze-Boysen collected included details about German transports, deployment of units and companies involved in the German defence. The group around Schulze-Boysen didn't know how to deliver the information. They discovered that Schulze-Boysen's cousin, Gisela von Pöllnitz was planning to visit the Exposition Internationale des Arts et Techniques dans la Vie Moderne that was being held in Paris between 25 May to 25 November 1937. After extensive discussion the group decided that she should deliver the letter to the Soviet Embassy in Paris. In due course, Von Pöllnitz fulfilled her mission and placed the letter in the mailbox of the Soviet Embassy on the Bois de Boulogne. Unfortunately Von Pöllnitz was being watched by the Gestapo and after posting the letter she was arrested in November 1937 by the Gestapo.

In preparation for the upcoming military occupation of Czechoslovakia, just after 5 June 1938, a game of planning took place in the Foreign Air Powers Department and shortly afterwards in August a combat exercise took place in the Wildpark-Werder area that is directly south-west of Potsdam. The Gestapo also prepared for the impending war and following orders from Heinrich Himmler, updated their registers of potential enemies of the state. Schulze-Boysen was classified as a former editor of the opponent. The Gestapo were aware of his status. On 20 April 1939, he was promoted to Lieutenant and promptly called upon to carry out a study on the comparison of air armaments between France, England and Germany.

The overall situation in Germany, which was moving more and more towards the state of war, did not leave the actors gathered around Schulze-Boysen inactive. In October 1938 Küchenmeister together with Schulze-Boysen wrote the leaflet entitled Der Stoßtrupp, The Shock Troop for the imminent affiliation of the Sudetenland. Around 50 copies were mimeographed and distributed. In the spring of 1939, Paul, the Schumacher's and Küchenmeister travelled to Switzerland, ostensibly to treat Küchenmeister tuberculosis but also with a secondary agenda that was to contact the KPD director Wolfgang Langhoff in order to be able to exchange information. In August, he helped Rudolf Bergtel to reach Switzerland, and provided him with information on current German aircraft and tank production, as well as deployment plans for a German submarine base in the Canary Islands.

On his 30th birthday on 2 September 1939, Schulze-Boysen had an intensive conversation with the German industrialist Hugo Buschmann, with whom he had agreed to receive literature on the Russian Revolution as well Lenin, Stalin, and Leon Trotsky. He was primarily concerned with questions of what alternatives there were to the capitalist system of the Western European countries, and he considered writing his thesis on the Soviet Union during his studies. Schulze-Boysen invalidated the concerns that Buschmann had regarding the literature handover by remarking, I regularly receive Pravda and Izvestia and have to read them because I am a rapporteur on Russian issues. My department requires a thorough study of this literature. Besides, we are allies of Soviet Russia.

In 1940, parallel to his work in the RLM, he began studying at the Deutsche Hochschule für Politik of the Humboldt University of Berlin in Berlin. Towards the end of his studies, he led a seminar on foreign studies as an employee of SS Major Franz Six who was director of the Hochschule. In 1941 Libertas Schulze-Boysen became an English language lecturer, to teach translators the language. Shulze-Boysen who also lectured there, would met three people at the institute who would become important members of his group. These were the student and interpreter Eva-Maria Buch, Horst Heilmann, a confirmed Nazi and Hitler Youth member and Herbert Gollnow, a Luftwaffe officer.

Eva-Maria Buch became friends with Wilhelm Guddorf and would eventually go on to translate the resistance magazine Die innere Front ("The Inner Front") being produced by Arvid Harnack, into French. Little was known about Herbert Gollnow.

Heilmann met Schulze-Boysen when he wrote a paper called The Soviets and Versailles that was presented at a political seminar for the Hitler Youth that was being attended by Schulze-Boysen. It was through Schulze-Boysen that Heilmann was introduced to Albrecht Haushofer. This wasn't the first meeting between Schulze-Boysen and Haushofer but was perhaps the first political meeting. According to new evidence that was presented in 2010 Schulze-Boysen and Haushofer met at least twice before, and understood each other's motives, allowing a compromise to be reached between the two men, that in turn enabled the turning of Heilmann away from Nazism. At Schulze-Boysen and Haushofer's first meeting, also attended by Rainer Hildebrandt whose apartment they were using, they discussed the possibility of cooperation between Germany and the Soviet Union. Haushofer was antipathetic towards the Soviet Union and believed that the only way to establish mutual agreement with Stalin's regime was to confront Soviet power with Europe's right to self-assertion. Schulze-Boysen pleaded for mutual collaboration between the two countries, believing that German communism would emerge as an independent political doctrine, while anticipating a role for the Soviet Union in Europe. At a second meeting, with trust established between two sides, Haushofer was known to tell Schulze-Boysen that an assassination attempt against Hitler was being planned. These two meetings created a level of trust between the two men that reduced their risk of exposure when trying to turn the Wehrmacht officer. In August 1941, after a weekend sailing on the Großer Wannsee, on Schulze-Boysen's boat, the Duschika, Schulze-Boysen confided in Heilmann that he was working for the Russians as an agent.For almost a year, Heilmann supplied intelligence to Schulze-Boysen.

Schulze-Boysen/Harnack Group

Also in 1940, Schulze-Boysen had access to other resistance groups and had started to cooperate with them. The most important of these was a group run by Arvid Harnack. Harnack had known Schulze-Boysen since 1935 but been reintroduced to Schulze-Boysen sometime in late 1939 or early 1940 through Greta Kuckhoff. Kuckhoff had know Arvid and Mildred Harnack when she was studying in America at the end of the twenties and had brought the poet Adam Kuckhoff together with the couple. Kuckhoff had know the Schulz-Boysen's since 1938 and started to engage then socially in late 1939 or early 1940 by bringing Mildred and Libertas together while on a holiday in Saxony.

In January 1941 Schulze-Boysen, now promoted to lieutenant , was assigned to the attaché group of the 5th department of the Reich Aviation Ministry. His new place of work was the air force command staff in Wildpark in Potsdam, where the headquarters of the Luftwaffe was located. His job here was to process the incoming reports from the Luftwaffe attachés working in the individual embassies. At the same time, Harnack learned from him that the Reich Aviation Ministry was now also involved in the preparation of the Russian campaign and that reconnaissance flights had begun over Soviet territory.

On 27 March 1941 in a meeting at the apartment of Arvid Harnack, Schulze-Boysen met the 3rd secretary member of the Soviet embassy, Alexander Korotkow and known to Harnack under the alias of Alexander Erdberg, in reality a leading Soviet intelligence agent, who had been operating clandestinely in Europe for much of the 1930's as an employee of the foreign intelligence service of the Soviet People's Commissariat for State Security (NKGB). Without being aware of the exact activity of his counterpart at the time, Schulze-Boysen informed him in the conversation that the attack on the Soviet Union had now been finally decided and would take place in the shortest possible time.

Shulze-Boysen and Harnack's career as Soviet agents lasted slightly longer than a year, from just before June 1941 to August 1942. There activities against the Third Reich from 1933 to 1941 were therefore not carried out as part of the Rote Kapelle organization. Like numerous groups in other parts of the world, however, the undercover political factions led by Harnack and Schulze-Boysen later developed into espionage networks.

Arrest and death

In July 1942, the Decryption Department of the Oberkommando des Heeres managed to decode the group's radio messages, and the Gestapo moved in. On 31 August, Harro and Libertas Schulze-Boysen were arrested. They were sentenced to death on 19 December and executed by hanging three days later at Plötzensee Prison in Berlin. Their bodies were released to Hermann Stieve, an anatomist at what is now Humboldt University, to be dissected for research. Their final resting place is not known.


  • In 1964, the German Democratic Republic issued a special stamp series on the Communist Resistance, the 20+5-penny stamp of which was dedicated to Schulze-Boysen.
  • In 1967, The National People's Army News Regiment 14 was named after Schulze-Boysen.
  • In 1969, Schulze-Boysen was posthumously awarded the Order of the Red Banner by the Soviet Union.
Quotation from Harro Schulze-Boysen at the German Federal Finance Ministry
  • In 1972 in the Berlin borough of Lichtenberg, a street is named after the Schulze-Boysens. In the picture at right appears the following lines:
"Wenn wir auch sterben sollen,
So wissen wir: Die Saat
Geht auf. Wenn Köpfe rollen, dann
Zwingt doch der Geist den Staat."
"Glaubt mit mir an die gerechte Zeit, die alles reifen lässt!"
"Even if we should die,
We know this: The seed
Bears fruit. If heads roll, then
The spirit nevertheless forces the state."
"Believe with me in the just time that lets everything ripen."
There is also a Schulze-Boysen-Strasse in Duisburg, Leipzig, Rostock, Magdeburg and Ludwigsfelde.
  • In 1983, the GDR issued a block of stamps in memory of the Schulze-Boysen/Harnack resistance group
  • In 1984, the sculpture Freedom Fighter by Fritz Cremer in Bremen was erected in memory of Mildred Harnack and Harro Schulze-Boysen at the Wilhelm Wagenfeld House in Bremen's Wallanlagen.
  • In 1991, the picture Red Chapel Berlin (Tempera auf Nessel, 79 × 99 cm), painted by Carl Baumann in 1941, was the picture of the month for July in the Westphalian State Museum of Art and Cultural History in Münster.
  • In 2009, the Harro Schulze-Boysen-Weg was inaugurated on November 26 on the occasion of his 100th birthday in Kiel.
  • In 2017, two Stolperstein were laid at Liebenberg Castle in memory of Harro and Libertas Schulze-Boysen.
The contents of this page are sourced from Wikipedia article on 08 Mar 2020. The contents are available under the CC BY-SA 4.0 license.
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