Germany: Resistance to the Nazis

Eugen Solf of Germany is doing research on his family during the Nazi period. I have referred him to Eric Boehm, but possibly some other WAISer has relevant information; "I am the second child and only son of Otto Isao Solf, who himself was the youngest child and third son of Wilhelm and Johanna (Hanna) Solf nee Dotti. I was brought up all my life with the knowledge of the terror of the Third Reich and the contribution to the resistance by my grandmother Hanna and her daughter, Lagi Ballestrem-Solf. My grandfather Wilhelm died in 1936 realising the implications of Hitler's ascension to Reichskanzler. My grandmother assembled afterwards around her in the Solf-Kreis persons of mutual anti-Nazi interest for which some members paid dearly (A certain Dr. Reckzeh betrayed them to the Gestapo). My grandmother and her daughter, as well as her sister could escape from the Volksgerichtshof.

I found myself recently discussing the resistance with a friend from Israel. My grandmother and he suggested I find out whether my grandmother was in the "Allee des Justes" in Yad Vashem. She is not. I then met the director of Yad Vashem in Frankfurt, with whom I had a long and moving discussion. After explaining a bit about Yad Vashem (and after inviting me for the opening of the extension on March 15 2005), he suggested I prepare a dossier about my grandmother and try to show what she has done for Jews during WWII. (There is no question she was in the resistance, but it is just difficult to gather actual proof of her actions).

I am contacting numerous people and organisations to gather more information. This is also the reason I would like to get in contact with Eric Boehm; maybe he could share some information out of his archives with me. Numerous other people have pointed me in various directions, the essence of which seems to be that only private archives hold the answers to my questions".

I am sure Eugen Solf will be grateful for this information from Ed Jajko on German resistance to the Nazis: "I have looked into a number of web pages, trying to track down more information about Johanna Solf, So'oa'emalelagi Solf, and the Solf-Kreis. From a few of those web sites I offer the following to Mr. Eugen Solf:

From the American Samoa web site, at

"On December 4, 1955, the Countess Ballenstrem-Solf, née So'oa'emalelagi Solf, daughter of Dr. Wilhelm Heinrich Solf, Imperial Governor of German Samoa (1900-1910) died in Germany at age 46. Her early death was undoubtedly due to her imprisonment in Berlin's Moabit Prison and the Ravensbrück and Sachsenhausen concentration camps, where she and her mother, Johanna, had been sentenced by a Nazi court for helping Jews escape to freedom. (Theroux 1983c: 58)"

From "Frauen im II. Weltkrieg: Frauen im Widerstand und in Opposition," at

"Unterstützung und Beteiligung durch Mitwissen am bürgerlich-militärischen Widerstand: Marion Gräfin Yorck von Wartenberg, Freya Gräfin Moltke, Clarita von Trott zu Solz, Christine von Dohnanyi, Marie-Agnes Gräfin Dohna, Marion Gräfin Dönhoff, Nina von Stauffenberg; Der "Solf-Kreis" um Johanna Solf (inhaftiert 1944) hatte Kontakt zu anderen Gegnern Hitlers, wie zur Militäropposition und zur kommunistischen Uhrig-Römer-Gruppe. Zum Solf-Kreis gehörte auch Elisabeth von Thadden (hingerichtet), sowie Johannas Solfs Tochter Gräfin Ballestrem."

I'm not sure what the title of the comprehensive work on anti-Nazi opposition is, that is found at Here is the relevant excerpt:

"Deutsche Historiker haben in ihrer Forschung die Namen von einigen tausenden Widerstandskämpfern entdeckt, die ich hier nicht alle nennen kann. Aber die Geschichte der Johanna Solf soll nicht vergessen werden. Sie war die Witwe des deutschen Botschafters in Tokio, Dr. Wilhelm Solf, der 1936 starb.

"Sie lebte während des Krieges im Berlin. In ihrer Wohnung hingen Bilder von Max Liebermann, dem berühmten jüdischen Maler, einem Freund der Solf-Familie. Dort trafen sich regelmässig Kritiker und Gegner der Nazi-Regierung. Der “Solf-Kreis” umfasste Diplomaten vom Auswärtigen Amt, Industrielle und Schriftsteller. Man diskutierte den Kriegsverlauf, Hilfe für verfolgte Juden und Konzentrationslager-Gefangene.

"Da waren keine Pläne zum Sturz des Nazi Regimes, sondern Gleichgesinnte diskutierten den Krieg und die Greueltaten der Nazis. Der Solf-Kreis hielt Kontakt zur militärischen Opposition und auch zur kommunistischen Uhrig-Roemer-Gruppe. Man pflegte auch gute Beziehungen zu kritischen Beamten im Auswärtigen Amt und zum Kreisauer Kreis.

"Am 10. September 1943 traf sich der Solf-Kreis in der Wohnung von Elisabeth von Thadden. Die Gruppe war schon lange unter Gestapo-Verdacht. Ein Spitzel war ein Mitglied und 7 Personen wurden verhaftet. Elisabeth von Thadden, Otto Klepp, Freiherr Gutenberg, Nikolaus von Halem und noch andere wurden hingerichtet. Graf Bernsdorff und Legionsrat Richard Kuenzer wurden kurz vor Kriegsschluß am 25. April 1945 nahe des Lehrter Bahnhof im Berlin ermordert.

"Gerichtsverhandlungen wurden mehrere Male vertagt und Hanna Solf und ihre Tochter Gräfin Ballestrem und van Scherpenherg wurden durch das Kriegsende befreit. Johanna Solf starb 1954."

A work that may be relevant is W. Benz, Der Widerstand traditioneller Eliten. This is available on-line, for a charge, at

Regrettably, although there is a web page for Yad Vashem in the UK, but I can't get it to open. I tried a couple of web sites that list "righteous gentiles," but the ones I looked into were useless. In addition to looking into the web, I suggest that Mr. Solf work with librarians at a university library or his Landesbibliothek".

RH: Yesterday the History Channel ran a long, superb documentary on resistance to the Nazis. Especially interesting was the section on Karl Haushofer, the Munich professor known for his promotion of geopolitics but who was also the creator.

I am sure that Eugen Solf will be grateful for this information provided by Ed Jajko: "The World Wide Web has information about Wilhelm and Johanna Solf. Here is an excerpt from one web site, the American Samoa Historical Calendar, at

"On November 4, 1954, Frau Johanna Solf, widow of German Samoa's first Imperial Governor, Dr. Wilhelm Heinrich Solf, died in Starnberg, Bavaria, Germany, aged 66. (In 1944, she and her daughter, So'oa'emalelagi, were tried by a Nazi court, presided over by Dr. Roland Freisler, for helping Jews escape to England. They were incarcerated at Berlin's Moabit Prison, and later at Ravensbrück and Sachsenhausen concentration camps). (Theroux 1983c: 58)"

"Theroux 1983c:58" is explained in "The Samoan Historical Calendar, 1606-2001 Bibliography compiled by Stan Sorensen" at

"Metzger, Lieutenant General Louis, USMC. 1982. "Duty Beyond the Seas." Marine Corps Gazette 66 (1) pp. 28-37. Theroux, Joseph Peter.
__________. 1983b. "Wilhelm Heinrich Solf, good governor of German Samoa." Pacific Islands Monthly, July, 1983, pp. 52, 54-56."

There are numerous web pages about Roland Freisler and the "People's Court" over which he presided. One example is

The NSDAP and the German military were compulsive and comprehensive record keepers. Another place to look for information may, repeat may, be in what seems to be the records of the Volksgerichtshof. The Hoover Institution's copy is recorded as follows in the Stanford University on-line catalog (for technical reasons, the umlauts appear as asterisks):

ISBN: 3598336756 (Silber) 2. Lieferung
Title: Widerstand als "Hochverrat" 1933-1945 [microform] /
hrsg. vom Institut f*ur Zeitgeschichte M*unchen.
Edition: Microfiche ed.
Imprint: [M*unchen ; New York : K.G. Sauer, 1994?]-
Physical Description: 753 microfiches : negative ; 11 x 15 cm. + Index (<1>
Note: Index is called: Verfahrensliste zu Fiches...
Subject (LC): Germany. Volksgerichtshof.
Subject (LC): Trials (Treason)--Germany.
Subject (LC): Trials (Political crimes and offenses)--Germany.
Subject (LC): Justice, Administration of--Germany.
Subject (LC): Criminal justice, Administration of--Germany.
Subject (LC): Subversive activities--Germany.
Subject (LC): Germany--History--1933-1945.
Organization: Institut f*ur Zeitgeschichte (Munich, Germany)
Library has: no.1-750

Hoover also holds a film copy of the NSDAP Hauptarchiv. Not being a specialist in this area, I do not know whether it includes court records. Both the film of the NSDAP Hauptarchiv and the microfiche set cited above should be held in German libraries".

RH: The US and Germany divided the Samoa islands in 1900, Germany taking the western islands. In World War I Germany lost Western Samoa, which was administered by New Zealand until it became independent in 1962.

Ronald Hilton -