Marion Countess Dönhoff

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Marion Countess Dönhoff in the Paulskirche in Frankfurt on the occasion of the award of the Peace Prize of the German Book Trade on October 17, 1971

Marion Hedda Ilse Countess Dönhoff (* December 2, 1909 at Friedrichstein Castle in East Prussia ; †  March 11, 2002 at Crottorf Castle near Friesenhagen , Rhineland-Palatinate ) was editor-in-chief and co-editor of the German weekly newspaper Die Zeit . She is considered one of the most important journalists of the West German post-war period . In this capacity she was the interlocutor for leading politicians in the world.

At the end of the Second World War she had lost her East Prussian homeland. At first she also thought of bringing home the lost eastern territories. However, she later struggled to renounce home and the attitude of “loving without owning”. Accordingly, she then worked for reconciliation between the states of the Eastern Bloc and the West. In her editorials she supported the active Ostpolitik in West Germany, rejected apartheid in South Africa and called for freedom of thought, tolerance and justice. Other main topics of Dönhoff were the resistance against Hitler and the fight against the excesses of capitalism .

Marion Gräfin Dönhoff has received numerous awards for her work, including the Peace Prize of the German Book Trade . As a book author - she wrote more than twenty books - she was also successful. Her best-known titles are names that nobody mentions anymore , the history of her family and the East Prussian homeland, and, for the sake of honor , personal memories of her friends who took part in the resistance against the Nazi regime and lost their lives. The Marion Dönhoff Prize , which has been awarded for international understanding since 2003, is named after her .


Family, childhood and education

Friedrichstein, the castle of the Dönhoffs in East Prussia, photo from 1927. Friedrichstein was set on fire and destroyed by the Red Army at the end of January 1945 .

Marion Dönhoff was the youngest of seven children of the family Dönhoff on Castle Friedrichstein born. Her mother was Maria Countess Dönhoff, née von Lepel (1869–1940), a lady in waiting for the last Empress Auguste Victoria . Her father was the diplomat and politician August Graf Dönhoff (1845–1920). She grew up in the Friedrichstein family palace in East Prussia, 20 kilometers east of Königsberg . The father died in 1920 when she was ten years old.

Marion Dönhoff's best friends included her cousin Heinrich von Lehndorff and his sister Karin, called Sissi (1910-2001), who lived at Preyl Castle, about 15 kilometers west of Königsberg. At times, they shared lessons with private tutors and spent their free time together. They often went on long rides and took part in driven hunts .

In 1924 Marion Dönhoff survived a serious accident when, as an inmate, she and several other children fell in a car on the way back from a trip to the Baltic Sea resort of Cranz in the Pregel . She was the last to get out of the car. Her cousins ​​Huberta Kanitz and Franz Coudenhove were found dead hours later. To keep her away from the scene of the accident, the family sent her to a girls' boarding school in Berlin , against whose strict rules the young girl rebelled. After two years she was allowed to move to a grammar school in Potsdam , where she lived with a befriended family and was the only girl in a boys' class to pass the Abitur in 1929 . She then attended a household school in Samedan near St. Moritz , made a two-month tour of the USA and, from December 1930, spent a long time near Nairobi with her brother Christoph, with whom she went on safari .

In the summer of 1931 Dönhoff began studying economics at the University of Königsberg and moved to the University of Frankfurt am Main for the winter semester , where she was dubbed the “red countess” because of her sympathy for the left. She fought against "brown" students, attended communist meetings and distributed leaflets. She moved to Frankfurt because she wanted "above all to hear Adolf Loewe's economics colleges ". Countess Dönhoff lived with the von Metzler family at Wiesenhüttenstrasse 11 and was accepted into the circle around Kurt Riezler . Here she also met the historian Ernst Kantorowicz , "with whom she remained on friendly terms beyond her time in Frankfurt".

At the end of the winter semester of 1933/34, she completed her studies in Frankfurt “as a qualified national economist”. The certificate of departure is dated May 2, 1934.

Two of her three brothers became members of the NSDAP , and one of them later made a career in the party's foreign organization .

Studied in Basel

After the transfer of power to the National Socialists , Marion Dönhoff moved to Basel in 1934 . She stated that "I have only worked with people who are certain to have left, and have not even attended a lecture for those who stayed behind." She joined the University of Basel to study in 1935 at Edgar Salin with the promotion of Dr. rer. pole. with the grade summa cum laude . Her originally planned work on Karl Marx was opposed by a suggestion from Salin on the "settlement system in East Prussia". After a visit by the doctoral supervisor in Friedrichstein, they agreed on the final topic, the creation and management of a large East German company. The Friedrichstein estates from the time of the order to the liberation of the peasants , published in Königsberg in 1935. However, Dönhoff no longer wrote an announced sequel.

In the 1930s, Marion Dönhoff traveled with “indomitable wanderlust” through half of Europe, including Poland, the Balkans, Albania, Italy, Great Britain, France and Switzerland. In April 1940 she visited Moscow , again in November 1940 while passing through to stay in Persia .

Administration of the Dönhoff property - beginning of the Second World War

Masurian lake landscape near Mikołajki (Nikolaiken)

From 1939 to January 1945 Dönhoff managed the East Prussian family estate Quittainen near Prussian Holland . She did not live in Quittainen Castle, but in the nearby Rentamt , as an uncle who was distantly related lived in the castle. She represented her brother Dietrich, the administrator of Friedrichstein Castle, during his military service. He was made indispensable in March 1943 and took over the administration again.

In 1941, after the war against the Soviet Union had already started, Dönhoff and Sissi von Lehndorff went on a five-day ride in September that led through Masuria from Allenstein via Nikolaiken to Steinort . Heinrich von Lehndorff took over the management of Steinort Castle in 1936. In this way she wanted to say goodbye to her homeland, which she already considered lost at the time.

Dönhoff's brother Heinrich, captain and battalion commander, died in November 1942 when his courier plane crashed. The third brother, Christoph, had been with the NSDAP's foreign organization since 1940, was drafted into the Waffen SS in 1944 , worked for the Reich Security Main Office and in the diplomatic service in Switzerland until the end of the war.

Resistance to the Nazi regime and flight

According to his own account, Dönhoff was in contact with members of the Kreisau Circle during National Socialism and was indirectly involved in the preparations for the attempted putsch on July 20, 1944 against Adolf Hitler . She was taken into the confidence, but she was not aware of any planned actions. At the request of her friends she made courier services and made several trips to Switzerland, where she Carl Jacob Burckhardt wanted to meet, since 1944 president of the International Committee of the Red Cross to inform him of the situation in Germany and after the revolution to support the Allies to ask. The meeting did not take place. Burckhardt, who had been High Commissioner for the Free City of Danzig from 1937 to 1939 and who had often visited Friedrichstein during this time, was a friend of the Dönhoff family.

The People's Court after July 20, 1944, with
Roland Freisler in the middle

After Stauffenberg's failed assassination attempt , Marion Dönhoff was arrested after denunciation by her uncle at Quittainen Castle, Bogislav Graf Dönhoff (1881–1962), National Socialist and friend of Gauleiter Erich Koch . The relative had been enemies with the family for a long time and had brought trials to the Reichsgericht, which he had lost through all instances. The Countess was interrogated by the Gestapo , but was able to avoid arrest because her name was not on any wanted list. Her cousin Heinrich von Lehndorff was one of those involved in the assassination attempt of July 20, 1944; he was sentenced to death by the People's Court and hanged in September 1944 at the age of 35 in Berlin-Plötzensee prison.

On the night of January 21 or 22, 1945 Dönhoff fled with a trek of the estate residents from Quittainen in six hours before the advancing Red Army to Prussian Holland, eleven kilometers away . The party officials there had long since left. Their frozen and desperate companions decided to turn back and “stop working for the Russians in the future”. They advised her to try to get through to the west on her own, otherwise she would be shot by the Russians.

Dönhoff followed the advice and set off on her horse Alarich with a young companion on the hand horse in the freezing cold. The ride, during which she covered 1200 kilometers, was to take seven weeks with stops at her peers and friends. According to correspondence with a friend, she had planned it since the fall of 1944. In Westphalia, Dönhoff stayed with the Counts of Metternich at the moated castle in Vinsebeck near Steinheim . She knew that her horse would find a new home there because there was a stud there.

From there she went to Brunkensen near Alfeld (Leine) to the estate of Albrecht Graf von Goertz . She wrote, presumably together with her neighbor Gottfried von Cramm , two memoranda describing the resistance from her point of view, specifying the necessary post-war measures for the Western Allies. The writings caught the attention of American intelligence officer Jayes H. Hatcliff, Jr.; On May 19, 1945 - two days after the conversation - the latter noted that the witnesses Dönhoff and von Cramm offered their services “in any way in which they could be of use to the Allies”.

In the winter of 1945/1946, Dönhoff drove with Richard von Weizsäcker and Axel von dem Bussche to the Nuremberg Trial , in which the Allies sat in court over the main criminals such as Julius Streicher , Hermann Göring and Joachim von Ribbentrop . Like her friends, Dönhoff was of the opinion that in Nuremberg not only atrocities against other peoples should be judged, but also the crimes that those responsible had committed against their own people.

Journalist and editor

The logo "TIME" in the Hamburg press building, since January 2016 as Helmut Schmidt House referred

The text of Dönhoff's memoranda reached the small founding team of the time , which in 1946 had received a license to found a weekly newspaper from the British occupying forces in Hamburg . The four founding members were Richard Tüngel , Ewald Schmidt di Simoni , Gerd Bucerius and Lovis H. Lorenz . Dönhoff received a telegram in Brunkensen inviting them to cooperate. She agreed, traveled to Hamburg and found temporary accommodation in the house of her friend Erik Blumenfeld .

Her first two articles appeared in the fifth edition of the newspaper on March 21, 1946. Her article Totengedenken 1946 found its place on the main page of the paper, the second article Ritt zum Westen in the features section . Like her colleagues, she wrote articles against arbitrary occupation and dismantling , which was not without risk, as it could have led to the newspaper being banned. The first editor-in-chief, Ernst Samhaber, was soon dismissed by the press censors.

In the spring of 1947, Dönhoff received the last letter from East Prussia, which reported the fate of the Quittain estate residents who had not wanted to live abroad as refugees. In June 1947 she quoted from it in the time of what had happened in Quittainen from January 23, 1945: The village had burned in many places, many residents were shot, including the chief inspector of the estate, Klatt. From February 1945 the residents were transported to labor camps in the Urals , in which many died.

In 1948, under the impression of the murder of Count Folke Bernadotte in Jerusalem, she wrote the controversial article “ Völkischer Ordensstaat Israel”, in which she criticized the Israeli government and, among other things, attested that she had come a long way “only recently has led other people to their undoing ”.

In 1952 Dönhoff became the head of the political department and thus the successor to Ernst Friedländer . In August 1954, she temporarily left the time to protest against an article by Richard Tüngel, who among other things had published a text by Nazi constitutional lawyer Carl Schmitt . Your "pain limit" was reached. In a letter to Tüngel she wrote: “Should one let former leading Nazis […] write in the ZEIT or not? I answer this question in the negative. On the other hand, they say: yes, one should ... Anyone who [but] preached the spirit of National Socialism or steered the language of the press should be excluded from working on a political newspaper like ours for all time ”.

She went to London for the Sunday newspaper The Observer . Dönhoff's biographer Klaus Harpprecht wrote that her love for David Astor , the editor-in-chief of the Observer , as evidenced by some letters, was the “mental center of her biography” alongside July 20 and the execution of her beloved cousin Heinrich Lehndorff . However, the two did not become a couple, as the will to be independent was too important.

In November 1954, Dönhoff wrote to Zeit publisher Gerd Bucerius : " We have lost the convincing and amusing writers Friedlaender and Jacobi , and what remained are Ernst Krüger and three old men with stomach ailments, scabies and becoming increasingly toxic." Editor-in-chief Tüngel left after court orders 1955 the sheet. Dönhoff returned to her managerial position and with her help Bucerius brought the newspaper on a liberal course. Their collaboration was not always free of tension - they had quite different views on politics and the equipment of the time - but the publisher felt that Dönhoff could set standards that would lead the paper to success.

Konrad Adenauer, 1952

As a journalist, Dönhoff accompanied Konrad Adenauer on his trip to Moscow in September 1955 and was very disappointed with the result of the visit, as she had hoped for significant progress on the way to reunification. Therefore, she even accused the Chancellor of "falling over".

The difficult talks of the Adenauer delegation in Moscow had resulted in the exchange of ambassadors and the release of the last ten thousand prisoners of war from Soviet camps as a concession . She wrote that Adenauer no longer understood the time and accused him of “hating Prussia” with his motto “Berlin must never become the capital again”. On the other hand, she saw the integration of the Federal Republic into the free world, the reconciliation with France and the founding of the CDU as a party of both major denominations as a great achievement .

When the Spiegel affair shook West Germany in October 1962 , she wrote a harsh editorial entitled “Who else thinks about the state?” In which she complained about the decline in political morality. This year she visited Poland for the first time after fleeing, which can be seen in connection with the publication of her book Names Nobody Calls . A year later she published the collection of articles The Federal Republic in the Adenauer era. Criticism and perspective .

Willy Brandt, 1969

In 1968 the "Countess", as she was called in the publishing house, succeeded Josef Müller-Marein in the editor - in-chief of the renowned weekly newspaper and remained so until 1972.

In 1970, Federal Chancellor Willy Brandt invited Dönhoff to accompany him, along with Günter Grass , Siegfried Lenz and Henri Nannen, on the trip to Warsaw to sign the Warsaw Treaty . One day before the start of the trip, however, she canceled because she did not want to be present at the moment that sealed the loss of her homeland East Prussia: "[...] to drink a glass on the conclusion of the contract, that suddenly seemed more than one can bear. ”The following year, on October 17, 1971, Dönhoff received the Peace Prize of the German Book Trade , which she was awarded in the Paulskirche in Frankfurt, for her efforts towards a policy of reconciliation . The laudation was given by the French political scientist Alfred Grosser .

Helmut Schmidt, 1975

From 1973 she belonged to the group of editors of the time , whose duties she fulfilled until her death together with Helmut Schmidt , who joined in 1983. Theo Sommer was her successor as editor-in-chief. Dönhoff and Schmidt were friends and had a special relationship of trust. They exchanged information about the contributions to the newspaper and discussed the political situation. In her book People, Who Know What It's About From 1976, there was already a contribution about Helmut Schmidt at this point in time, the detail of which can only be derived from the text about the American diplomat and historian George F. Kennan , who is also a friend of Dönhoff , was exceeded.

Marion Dönhoff, Bernhard zur Lippe-Biesterfeld and Fred Luchsinger on the occasion of the award of the Erasmus Prize to
Die Zeit and the Neue Zürcher Zeitung , 1979

In May 1979, Dönhoff received Willy Brandt's proposal to run for the upcoming election of the Federal President for the SPD . The opposing candidate of the CDU was Karl Carstens . She refused the proposal and instead suggested Carl Friedrich von Weizsäcker , who also refused. When she wanted to step in the breach, Annemarie Renger had gotten ahead of her, who was defeated by Karl Carsten in the election.

The only luxury that Dönhoff allowed herself were sports cars, which she drove into old age; It was legendary, for example, that she raced across the Elbchaussee in her Porsche . According to my own admission, “a housekeeper [...] was the only luxury I have always allowed myself. Other people travel or buy expensive clothes - I afford a housekeeper. Because I don't care about housework ”. In the 1950s, the Dönhoff siblings bought an old winery in Forio on the Italian island of Ischia . That's where she loved to write her books.

She felt obliged to the common good. Since the mid-1970s she had a seat on the advisory board of the Fuhlsbüttel correctional facility , where she campaigned for a humane prison system, and in 1981 she founded the “Marhoff” association, whose task it was to take care of the integration of released prisoners. In 1988 the "Marion Dönhoff Foundation" was founded, which had its book fees and prize money as its financial basis and was the sole heir in will. In 2003 the foundation took part in the establishment of the Marion Dönhoff Prize , which honors personalities who have committed themselves to international understanding.

Visit of the old homeland

Replica of the Kant monument in Kaliningrad

In 1989 the Countess visited her place of birth Friedrichstein - today Kamenka, Kaliningrad Oblast , Russian Federation - for the first time and after a second visit, in view of the changes compared to the pre-war period, stated three years later: "It is really absurd, a large stone castle is disappearing, and so an old wooden box remains "the reason for this return visit in 1992 was the unveiling of. Kant - monument in Kaliningrad (formerly Königsberg), a replica of Christian Daniel Rauch . The original was brought from Königsberg to Friedrichstein in 1944 for security reasons and buried there shortly before the occupation by the Soviet Union. However, it was not found again after the war. Marion Dönhoff had found a small plaster model and initiated the replica, made as a bronze cast by Harald Haacke , in life size. The amount of over 100,000 marks for the statue was raised due to a fundraising campaign and Dönhoff grants. She summed up: “The only thing that I see as an essential act in my life is the restoration of the Kant monument for Königsberg.” The monument stands in front of the former main building of the University of Königsberg / Kaliningrad.

Last years

Richard von Weizsäcker, 1984

On the basis of their profession and their historical experience, Dönhoff initiated the New Wednesday Society in 1996 , a private association of personalities from politics, science and culture who met regularly in their house in Hamburg-Blankenese . The group discussed overarching, long-term and future-oriented issues with a guest regardless of current events or party affiliation. Dönhoff thus continued the tradition of the " Wednesday Society ", which was founded in Berlin in the 19th century and was only dissolved after July 20, 1944. The aim of these meetings was to broaden the horizons into non-subject areas, to show connections that get lost in day-to-day business and values ​​beyond the current trends of the times, as well as the approach to transferring results and findings from the meetings into daily practice. Helmut Schmidt and Richard von Weizsäcker, among others, belonged to this group of people.

Crottorf Castle
Dönhoff's gravestone in the Friesenhagen cemetery

After Bucerius' death in 1995, the time was sold to the Georg von Holtzbrinck publishing group the following year . The new publisher was Dieter von Holtzbrinck . During this time, two additional editors were appointed, Josef Joffe in 2000 and Michael Naumann in 2001, which Dönhoff initially viewed with skepticism. She only experienced editorial changes afterwards, which in 2001 led to the decision to give up the editor role. When it was decided that an editorial board should meet twice a month on Thursdays to discuss relevant matters, they were satisfied.

In 1986 Marion Dönhoff fell while skiing and broke two vertebral bodies. Afterwards she regained her mobility almost completely. In the late 1990s she developed breast cancer and had to have three operations. After falling in her home with unconsciousness and being hospitalized in January 2002, she did not recover.

Marion Gräfin Dönhoff died on March 11, 2002 at Schloss Crottorf , the residence of her nephew Hermann Graf Hatzfeldt , where a room had been available to her for a long time and where she had spent the last two weeks of her life. When the funeral service took place on March 16 at the Friesenhagen cemetery , her relatives were gathered in large numbers as well as friends such as Helmut Schmidt, Richard von Weizsäcker, Ralf Dahrendorf , Rudolf Augstein , Theo Sommer and Hartmut von Hentig .

Marion Dönhoff and July 20, 1944

"The fact that such a unique uprising of conscience has not gone deeper into the minds of the Germans still remains incomprehensible."

- Marion Countess Dönhoff: For the sake of honor

Marion Dönhoff considered the role she played in the resistance against National Socialism to be minor. So she was opposed to the wish of Carl-Hans Graf von Hardenberg to write down what she and other survivors had contributed. “I said to myself: what have I already done? But only what any reasonable person does in such a situation. "After the war Dönhoff wrote several publications about their executed friends and remembered as a journalist in the time tirelessly on this day to give him a rightful place in German history. She accused the Western powers of having joined Adolf Hitler's interpretation as the victor and, like the latter, described the assassination attempt as an attempted coup by "ambitious officers". After it had been scientifically proven that England had been informed about the background to July 20th, she wanted at least a word of regret in an article. She accused her German fellow citizens of only caring about material things and of not having made any fundamental considerations about the past. The Swiss Paul Stauffer described in two books about Carl Jacob Burckhardt a different view of Dönhoff's role in the resistance, from which the Stauffer-Dönhoff controversy developed among historians .

Ostpolitik and international understanding

“I cannot […] imagine that the highest degree of love for one's homeland is documented by running into hatred of those who have taken possession of it and by slandering those who agree to a reconciliation. [...] Perhaps this is the highest degree of love: to love without owning. "

- Marion Countess Dönhoff: Childhood in East Prussia
Marion Countess Dönhoff, 1971

In 1955 Dönhoff was a member of the research committee for the establishment of the German Society for Foreign Policy . Among the 22 members were, for example, Karl Schiller and Carlo Schmid . For biographical reasons, Dönhoff showed particular interest in the formerly German eastern territories in their editorials . In 1949 it had described the Oder-Neisse border as contrary to international law and in 1959 categorically rejected a declaration of renunciation by the federal government on the eastern territories. 1970 affirmed Dönhoff but that of Willy Brandt initiated contract with Poland , including the de facto recognition of the border. At the end of the 1940s she had classified the dismemberment of Germany as a catastrophe and, after the uprising of June 17, 1953 in the GDR, proposed this as the future national holiday of the Germans, later - until shortly before the collapse of the GDR - she showed a radical skepticism towards it of reunification. Dönhoff made a tour of Poland for the first time after the war in 1962, through the GDR - together with two other senior employees of the time - in 1964.

Dönhoff traveled a lot, visited the centers of power in the political world and conferences of countries in the Third World . The Arab states of North Africa and the Middle East were among them very early on. Dönhoff visited Israel for the first time in 1963. As early as 1960 she dealt with the core problem of South Africa, apartheid , and called for coexistence without submission to any race. When the situation there came to a head in 1986, she supported Bishop Desmond Tutu and warned of a possible further catastrophe after two world wars and the Holocaust . When the leader of the blacks, Nelson Mandela , was released in February 1990 after 26 years of imprisonment after a speech by Frederik Willem de Klerk aimed at reconciliation , she confidently wrote articles with titles like On a good path , farewell apartheid and reason wins . De Klerk and Mandela shared the 1993 Nobel Peace Prize . She also campaigned for dissidents such as Robert Havemann and Lew Kopelew ; She helped the latter with naturalization in the Federal Republic.

Book publications (selection)

In Memoriam July 20, 1944. In memory of friends

Marion Countess Dönhoff's text under this title about the assassination attempt of July 20, 1944 was the first description and appreciation that gave information about the intellectual background and inner attitude of the men of the resistance after the war . She explained what had moved the group of resistance members to the attack, why it could not be carried out earlier and what goals were being pursued. Dönhoff wrote this report for the first anniversary in 1945 and had it printed in small editions as a private print by Hamburg's Dulk-Verlag. It was intended as information for the friends and relatives of the victims of the resistance. In the future she never tire of remembering this day in order to give it its due place in German history. This text served as the basis for her 1994 book For the sake of honor. Memories of the friends of July 20th .

Names that nobody mentions anymore

Quittainen Castle, mid-19th century

Dönhoff's memory book Names that nobody mentions anymore. East Prussia - people and history tells the story of the Dönhoff family and East Prussia, their youth, the horrors of war, and the flight to the west on horseback in early January 1945.

The coat of arms of the Dönhoffs

The basis for the chapter on their escape from Quittainen out to the east no runs longer , put the article ride to the West , one of her first two posts in the period of March 21, 1946. In addition, a chapter recalls the life and death of a Prussian nobleman to the death of his friend and cousin Heinrich Graf Lehndorff after the assassination attempt on July 20, 1944. Dönhoff's ride through Masuria with her cousin Sissi von Lehndorff in 1941 is also part of the book in the chapter Ride through Masuria . “How often did you say goodbye this summer. How young they all were, cousins, brothers, friends - so much remains unfulfilled, undone, ”she wrote in this little travel report after her return. These records were first published in 1962 and have been reissued to the present day. A Polish horse farm offers tourists the "Dönhoff Trail", which leads from Olsztyn (Allenstein) to Sztynort (Steinort). Golo Mann described the work as “a book of memory of the lost land, of the family, of friends from related circles and their fate. A book full of silent grief and undisclosed love, but without bitterness [...] "

Because the country has to change

In autumn 1992 Dönhoff formulated a manifesto with the title Because the country has to change . The impetus for this was provided by the disturbing fundamental change in values ​​in society, which in their view no longer wants to know about virtues such as the fulfillment of duty and a sense of responsibility and tends towards self-realization, selfishness and hedonism . Among the seven co-authors were Wilhelm Nölling , Wolfgang Thierse and Edzard Reuter and Helmut Schmidt . A year later followed the second manifesto Because the country needs reconciliation , which dealt with the past of the GDR and was concerned with reconciliation.

For the sake of honor

Helmuth James Graf von Moltke before the People's Court, January 1945

Marion Dönhoff wrote In her book, first published in 1994, For the sake of honor. Memories of the Friends of July 20, seven portraits of their friends and explains their motives for planning the assassination attempt against Hitler, despite the danger of risking their own lives in the totalitarian dictatorship and exposing the family to kinship liability . The portrayed are Albrecht Graf von Bernstorff , Axel von dem Bussche , Fritz-Dietlof Graf von der Schulenburg , Helmuth James Graf von Moltke , Peter Graf Yorck von Wartenburg , their cousin Heinrich Graf Lehndorff and Adam von Trott zu Solz .

She describes the unsuccessful efforts of the German opposition to find understanding and support abroad and criticizes the Western Allies , who suppressed reporting on the German resistance until the early post-war years. The private print published in 1945: In Memoriam: The Friends of July 20 forms the basis of the work expanded to include the history of the resistance. In this book, Dönhoff emphasizes that it is not possible to divide those involved in the assassination attempt against Hitler into social groups. “It is important to keep in mind that the opposition to Hitler was not a revolt in the sense of a political or social revolution. Rather, it was the uprising of high and high officials and distinguished public figures who tried to fall into the arms of the criminals for moral reasons ”. She quotes Yorck's testimony before the People's Court in the face of the notorious judge Roland Freisler : "The decisive fact is the totalitarian claim of the state on the citizen, who is forced to give up his moral and religious obligations to God".

Civilize capitalism

Under this title, Dönhoff's critical book about the excesses of capitalism was published in 1997 - after a speech given in 1996 - which tackled the excesses of society in twelve theses. Because “Freedom without self-restraint, unleashed freedom, in economic terms inevitably ends in catch-as-catch-can”. In her book she warned of an increasing egoism and corruption that increasingly determined everyday life. In the theses she addressed the morality of the individual as well as that of society. They were just in the years 2008/09, the beginning of the Great Depression, particularly timely, as Helmut Schmidt in the time claimed the occasion of her 100th birthday.


Commemorative plaque of the Patriotic Society for Dönhoff's 100th birthday on the Zeit building in Hamburg

Marion Dönhoff - a conservative

On the occasion of the awarding of the Theodor Heuss Prize in 1966, the publicist and historian Golo Mann stated in his speech: “I would like to believe that Countess Dönhoff is a conservative because of her origins and her innermost feelings. But you can be loyal to a great tradition, remain shaped by the earliest and still think in a contemporary way, yet you can bravely keep up to date with a [...] rapidly changing environment and thus become a good advisor to the nation. "

Dönhoff's "second life" as a journalist

"My ideas about what I want to do, both as a person, so to speak, in my first life or as a journalist in the second, came from my own ideas and less because I said: It is him, that's how I want to be."

- Marion Countess Dönhoff

Klaus Harpprecht , who published his first critical biography about Dönhoff in 2008 - he was the first to have access to private and business correspondence and the family archive - describes in detail the change from the noble landlady to the journalist of the time , her second life: an aristocrat and citizen at the same time. Although she continued to be dubbed “Countess”, the bourgeois character and the growing bourgeois awareness of her new life were beyond doubt. The embodiment of this change was also shown by Wolf Graf Baudissin and Johann Adolf Graf von Kielmansegg as representatives of the aristocracy , who shaped the new concept of the “ citizen in uniform ” after the defeat of the Wehrmacht . Critical comments flow into the sympathetic biography. Unlike some of his contemporaries and professional colleagues, Dönhoff never claimed to be always right, and she was sometimes mistaken: one example is her image of a viable GDR a few years before the collapse of communist rule. Her style of writing in political analyzes is straightforward, but she cannot be counted among the best stylists of her profession. Harpprecht notes that, despite all her efforts for the resistance and against National Socialism, the countess never mentioned to friends, colleagues and younger relatives that Brother Christoph had a brown past. He joined the NSDAP in January 1935 and received functions in the party in 1940. Dietrich Dönhoff had already become a party member in 1933. In silence, the family acted like millions of other citizens. At the BND , Dönhoff was run under the cover names Mariechen and Dorothea as a "special press association" from 1962 to 1972 . According to the BND, it was “a pure exchange of ideas and information on press coverage in mutual interest”.

Goldhagen debate

The theses that the American political scientist Daniel Goldhagen published in his book Hitler's willing executors in 1996 sparked critical reactions internationally, especially in the German media and among German historians. So wrote Dönhoff in the time a dispute with Goldhagen's thesis under the title Why DJ Goldhagen's book is misleading . In it she wrote, among other things, of the "fear that the Goldhagen book could revive the more or less silent anti-Semitism again". The journalist Richard C. Schneider accused her in the Süddeutsche Zeitung of using the stereotype that the Jews were “to blame for everything” with this “claim that comes from the anti-Jewish moth box”. In contrast, Peter Bender defended them in this newspaper against this accusation.

Marion Dönhoff's "Prussian Virtues"

The then Federal President Richard von Weizsäcker gave a laudation on the occasion of a dinner that was given in December 1989 in the Villa Hammerschmidt in honor of the Countess' 80th birthday . He emphasized their Prussian virtues such as self-discipline, incorruptibility and honesty and summed up: “If I were a Prussian poet, I would not conceal from my contemporaries that the old Prussians can look down from heaven with satisfaction because they live on among us in a dignified and true one Woman, in Marion Dönhoff, the Prussian of our century. "

Marion Dönhoff as a role model

Marion Gräfin Dönhoff , 1998, bronze by Manfred Sihle-Wissel

Helmut Schmidt , former Federal Chancellor and from 1983 until his death in 2015 co-editor of Die Zeit , stated in a laudatory speech on the occasion of the award of the plaque of the Free Academy of the Arts in Hamburg in 1990: “Marion Dönhoff would have become an important Federal President if she had her life led to this office. But even without positions and titles, she belongs to the ranks of Theodor Heuss and Gustav Heinemann and Richard von Weizsäcker . They all exemplified morality in politics for us Germans with personal authority. So does Marion Dönhoff. Their nobility [...] did not result from their origins, but from their will and their demeanor. "

In 1996, after numerous discussions, the women's rights activist Alice Schwarzer published the first authorized biography with the title Marion Dönhoff. A life of resistance over the countess, although she had little concerned with the women's movement. As early as 1987, Schwarzer summed up the feminist newspaper Emma : “What would we be without her? In this post-war Germany of the fifties and sixties, could we have dared to have this outrageous idea of ​​wanting to become a journalist without this one name, without this one woman in the first ranks of journalism? "

Life achievement of Marion Countess Dönhoff

During the memorial service in the Michel in Hamburg, on the occasion of the death of Marion Countess Dönhoff in March 2002, the former Federal President Johannes Rau remembered in his farewell speech the great services she had earned. He stated, among other things, that the good traditions of Prussia were the ground on which their convictions and standards had grown. In her pamphlet civilized capitalism , she called for the responsibility of the individual in his or her place for the success of the whole, in order to bring about the necessary change in consciousness that was necessary to consolidate the stability of democracy, so that the community would not become a “consumer society” Maximize benefit and gain. Marion Countess Dönhoff had set an example that this change in consciousness “can only be brought about by the citizens themselves”. With the same passion with which she stood up for duties, for bonds and for responsibility, she campaigned for justice and for the equal dignity of every human being. The power of their word belonged to the victims, be it in the Soviet Union or in apartheid South Africa. She realized that her homeland would never belong to Germany again and that “history mercilessly passes over those who rely on standing still and preserving”. Germany would only have a chance again if a profound spiritual renewal succeeded. For this she worked and advertised with all her possibilities. This path was also the path of a new beginning in relation to our neighbors. She was able to distinguish with unmistakable certainty between what we should change and what should endure. After that she acted, that was her great life achievement and her legacy.

Hamburg's then mayor Ole von Beust declared at the funeral that her name stood for international understanding, for building bridges in Europe and for the feeling of a common future on this continent. As a publicist, she was a journalistic and moral authority. She helped shape our country and this continent and represented Hamburg in the best possible way.

Monument in honor of the victims of the resistance

Dönhoff's friend Henry Kissinger reported that the sculpture that Dönhoff had erected on the wall of Crottorf Castle in 1990 , a memorial in honor of the victims of the resistance, was a gift from the American artist Alexander Liberman when he and the Countess opened the Liberman studio had visited. The artist wanted to use his gift to honor her role in the resistance. The abstract sculpture with the inscription "The friends July 20, 1944 for a memorial", the name Peter Yorck von Wartenburg , Adam von Trott , Friedrich Werner von der Schulenburg , Heinrich von Lehndorff , Kurt von Plettenberg and Nicholas of Üxküll on .

Awards (selection)

Memorial plaque , Marion-Gräfin-Dönhoff-Platz, in Berlin-Mitte

Dönhoff was awarded several honorary doctorates : Smith College, MA (1962), Columbia University New York (1982), New School for Social Research, New York (1987), Georgetown University Washington (1988), Nicolaus Copernicus University in Toruń (Thorn) (1991), University of Birmingham (1999) and University of Kaliningrad (1999).

The Countess Dönhoff building of the European University Viadrina

Nine schools are named after Marion Countess Dönhoff, including the Marion Dönhoff School in Poland in Mikołajki (Nikolaiken) in Masuria , which was inaugurated in 1995. In Germany there are the Marion-Dönhoff-Realschulen in Wissen in the Westerwald, in Brühl / Ketsch (Baden-Württemberg), in Pulheim (North Rhine-Westphalia), the Marion-Dönhoff-Gymnasien in Lahnstein , Mölln , Nienburg / Weser , since the 14th July 2009 the former girls ' high school Willhöden in the west of Hamburg , which was renamed Marion-Dönhoff-Gymnasium , and the former Agnes-Miegel-Schule in Wilhelmshaven , which was renamed Marion-Dönhoff-Schule on August 1st, 2010.

One of the largest buildings of the European University Viadrina in Frankfurt (Oder) , which was founded in 1992 and promotes German-Polish exchange among students, was also named after her; likewise the asteroid (11075) Dönhoff discovered in 1992 .

Dönhoff was honorary chairwoman of the Lew Kopelew Forum e. V. (Cologne).

100th birthday commemoration

Commemorative coin for 100th birthday

The federal government announced on 30 November 2009 to mark the 100th birthday of Marion Dönhoff a silver commemorative coin worth 10 euros out. The coin bears a head profile of the Countess based on a design by the Berlin art historian and sculptor Christian Höpfner . The edge of the coin is inscribed with the quote “To love without owning” from her book Childhood in East Prussia .

For the same event on November 12, 2009, the Federal Republic of Germany issued a 55-cent special postage stamp . On November 26, Die Zeit published an eight-page newspaper supplement with seven articles by some of their companions, including Helmut Schmidt , Michael Naumann , Georg-Dieter von Holtzbrinck and Sabine Rückert .

On her 100th birthday, ARD broadcast a 45-minute documentary.

Works (selection)

Secondary literature

Collections of letters and correspondence
  • Haug von Kuenheim, Theo Sommer (Ed.): A little sad, your Marion. Marion Countess Dönhoff and Gerd Bucerius. An exchange of letters from five decades of settlers, Berlin 2003, ISBN 3-88680-798-3 .
  • Irene Brauer, Friedrich Dönhoff (Ed.): Marion Gräfin Dönhoff. A life in letters . Hoffmann and Campe, Hamburg 2009, ISBN 978-3-455-50118-6
  • Ulrich Schlie (eds.): Marion Countess Dönhoff and Carl Jackob Burckhardt: "More than I will ever be able to tell you". An exchange of letters . Hoffmann and Campe, Hamburg 2008, ISBN 978-3-455-50040-0
Memories from family, friends and companions
Individual biographical aspects
  • Gero von Boehm : Marion Countess Dönhoff. February 23, 1984 . Interview in: Encounters. Images of man from three decades . Collection Rolf Heyne, Munich 2012, ISBN 978-3-89910-443-1 , pp. 42-50

Web links

Commons : Marion Gräfin Dönhoff  - Collection of pictures, videos and audio files

References and comments

  1. Theo Sommer I cried only twice , Süddeutsche Zeitung 10./11. June 2020 p. 16
  2. Marion Countess Dönhoff: Names that nobody mentions anymore , Rowohlt, Reinbek 2009, p. 86 f.
  3. Klaus Harpprecht : Die Gräfin , pp. 95-108
  4. ^ Haug von Kuehnheim: Marion Dönhoff , p. 18
  5. Klaus Harpprecht : Die Gräfin Marion Dönhoff , pp. 124–130
  6. Marion Dönhoff: Endure contradictions, live tensions. In: Die Zeit , No. 49/1984.
  7. ^ Klaus Harpprecht: Die Gräfin Marion Dönhoff , 2nd edition 2008, p. 133
  8. a b Michael Maaser : "I was drawn to the Reds because they were the only ones to fight the Nazis seriously and uncompromisingly." (PDF; 57.2 KB) The Frankfurt academic years of the »red countess« Marion Dönhoff. In: Research Frankfurt 3/2002 - University history. Uni Frankfurt , 2002, pp. 96–97 , accessed on January 7, 2020 .
  9. Klaus Harpprecht: Die Gräfin Marion Dönhoff , 2nd edition 2008, p. 156 f., P. 163
  10. ^ Klaus Harpprecht: Die Gräfin Marion Dönhoff, 2nd edition 2008, p. 157
  11. Klaus Harpprecht: Die Gräfin , pp. 161–167
  12. ^ Klaus Harprecht: The Countess Marion Dönhoff . Rowohlt-Verlag, Reinbek 2008. pp. 228, 235 ff
  13. Klaus Harpprecht: Die Countess p. 197 f, 233, 269
  14. ^ Klaus Harpprecht: The Countess Marion Dönhoff. Rowohlt, Reinbek 2008, p. 302.
  15. ^ Haug von Kuehnheim: Marion Dönhoff , p. 33 f
  16. Conversation minutes Dönhoff archive 1984, in: Haug von Kuehnheim: Marion Dönhoff , p. 141 f
  17. ^ Klaus Harpprecht: The Countess Marion Dönhoff . Pp. 311-328
  18. ^ Haug von Kuehnheim: Marion Dönhoff , p. 56 f
  19. ^ Haug von Kuehnheim: How it all began ,, February 16, 2006
  20. Haug von Kuehnheim: Marion Dönhoff , pp. 44–52
  21. ^ Marion Gräfin Dönhoff ,, accessed on March 28, 2013
  22. ^ Marion Countess Dönhoff: Völkischer Ordensstaat Israel . In: Die Zeit , No. 39/1948
  23. Haug von Kuenheim, Theo Sommer (ed.): A little sad, your Marion. Marion Countess Dönhoff and Gerd Bucerius. An exchange of letters spanning five decades. Siedler, Berlin 2003, p. 23
  24. ^ Klaus Harpprecht: The Countess Marion Dönhoff , pp. 393-412
  25. Frank Bajohr : The man who was Ernst Krüger at ZEIT. In: Die Zeit , No. 9/2006.
  26. ^ Haug von Kuehnheim: Marion Dönhoff , p. 68
  27. ^ Haug von Kuehnheim: Marion Dönhoff , pp. 76-78, 81, 86-88, 96
  28. ^ Haug von Kuehnheim: Marion Dönhoff . P. 101
  29. ^ Haug von Kuehnheim; Marion Dönhoff , p. 107
  30. ^ Haug von Kuehnheim: Marion Dönhoff , p. 125 f
  31. ^ Letter from Dönhoff to Bucerius dated May 23, 1979. In: Haug von Kuenheim, Theo Sommer (ed.): A little sad, your Marion. Marion Countess Dönhoff and Gerd Bucerius. An exchange of letters spanning five decades. Siedler, Berlin 2003, p. 210
  32. Klaus Harpprecht: The Countess Marion Dönhoff , p. 519
  33. Klaus Harpprecht: The Countess Marion Dönhoff , p. 12.
  34. She handed in her driver's license on her 90th birthday
  35. Alice Schwarzer: Marion Dönhoff. a resistant life , 10th edition 1996, p. 21 f.
  36. Alice Schwarzer: Marion Dönhoff. a resistant life , 10th edition 1996, p. 209
  37. ^ Kopitzsch / Brietzke: Hamburg biography. Lexicon of persons: Marion Dönhoff. Retrieved August 11, 2009 .
  38. ^ Klaus Harpprecht: The Countess Marion Dönhoff . P. 534 f
  39. ^ The "New Wednesday Society" June 2007. Eastern Europe Institute, archived from the original on February 16, 2009 ; Retrieved November 23, 2008 .
  40. ^ Klaus Harpprecht: The Countess Marion Dönhoff. P. 538 f.
  41. ^ Haug von Kuehnheim: Marion Dönhoff. A biography , pp. 135-139
  42. Quoted from: Marion Gräfin Dönhoff: Um der Ehre sake , Berlin 1994, p. 47, in: Haug von Kuehnheim: Marion Dönhoff , p. 36
  43. Alice Schwarzer: Marion Dönhoff , p. 131; quoted from Haug von Kuehnheim: Marion Dönhoff , p. 34
  44. ^ Haug von Kuehnheim: Marion Dönhoff , p. 34 ff
  45. Quoted from: Marion Gräfin Dönhoff: Childhood in Ostpreußen , Berlin 1988, p. 221, in: Haug von Kuehnheim: Marion Dönhoff , p. 31
  46. Klaus Harpprecht: The Countess. A biography . Rowohlt-Verlag, Reinbek 2008. p. 430
  47. ^ Website of the German Society for Foreign Policy
  48. ^ Paul Stauffer : Prussia's great solo rider. In: Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung . Retrieved July 27, 2009 .
  49. Haug von Kuehnheim: Marion Dönhoff , pp. 113–119
  50. ^ Haug von Kuehnheim: Marion Dönhoff , p. 35 f
  51. Marion Gräfin Dönhoff: Names that nobody calls anymore , Rowohlt, Reinbek 2009, pp. 51–69
  52. ^ Haug von Kuehnheim: Marion Dönhoff , p. 23
  53. ^ Marion Countess Dönhoff; Names that nobody mentions anymore , Diederichs, Düsseldorf / Köln 1971, ISBN 3-424-00410-3 , p. 174
  54. ^ Haug von Kuenheim : Marion Dönhoff , p. 131 f
  55. For the sake of honor ., accessed on August 7, 2009 .
  56. a b Helmut Schmidt : Civilize capitalism! In: Die Zeit , No. 49/2009, p. 21.
  57. Marion Gräfin Dönhoff: Names that nobody mentions anymore , Diederichs, Düsseldorf / Cologne 1971, ISBN 3-424-00410-3 , p. 179.
  58. ^ Minutes of conversation January 1996, Dönhoff archive, in: Haug von Kuenheim: Marion Dönhoff , p. 71
  59. Klaus Harpprecht: Die Gräfin Marion Dönhoff , p. 16 f, 154, 322
  60. From Caroline von Bar: Marion Countess Dönhoff: "Mariechen" and the BND. Retrieved December 6, 2018 .
  61. ^ Jost Dülffer: Secret Service in the Crisis: The BND in the 1960s . Ch. Links Verlag, 2018, ISBN 978-3-86284-416-6 ( [accessed December 6, 2018]).
  62. Marion Gräfin Dönhoff: Why DJ Goldhagen's book leads astray. In: Die Zeit , September 6, 1996.
  63. ^ Wilfried Scharf: German Discourses. Political culture from 1945 to the present day in journalistic controversies. Academic Transfer, Hamburg 2009, pp. 150 f., ISBN 978-3-938198-06-3 .
  64. From the address given at a dinner in the Villa Hammerschmidt, Bonn, December 4, 1989. Quoted from Haug von Kuehnheim: Marion Dönhoff , pp. 127, 147
  65. Laudation on the occasion of the award of the plaque of the Free Academy of the Arts, Hamburg, December 10, 1990. Quoted from Haug von Kuehnheim: Marion Dönhoff , p. 147
  66. Mourning for Hamburg's honorary citizen. In: Die Welt , March 12, 2002. Retrieved August 8, 2009 .
  67. Johannes Rau: Address by Federal President Johannes Rau., accessed on September 25, 2012 .
  68. Ira von Mellenthin : Hamburg says goodbye to its honorary citizen. In: The world . Retrieved October 5, 2009 .
  69. ^ Alexander Liberman: Sculpture in Crottorf
  70. ^ Henry Kissinger : Marion will forever be a part of my life . In: Die Zeit , No. 12/2009
  71. ^ Haug von Kuehnheim: Marion Dönhoff , p. 26
  73. Honorary Senators of the University of Hamburg ( Memento from December 8, 2015 in the Internet Archive ):, accessed on November 30, 2015
  74. See web link Marion Dönhoff Foundation
  75. JPL Small-Body Database Browser , accessed March 6, 2011
  76. On the death of Marion Gräfin Dönhoff ,, accessed on March 7, 2011
  77. 10 Euro silver: Marion Dönhoff's 100th birthday., archived from the original on March 1, 2009 ; Retrieved August 13, 2009 .
  78. Almut Kipp: Living memory of the grande dame of journalism. In: Hamburger Abendblatt , November 26, 2009.
This version was added to the list of articles worth reading on October 12, 2009 .