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Schulze-Boysen, Libertas (1913–1942)

Schulze-Boysen, Libertas (1913–1942)

German anti-Nazi activist, author, and actress who was a member of the "Red Orchestra" resistance circle. Name variations: Libertas Haas-Heye. Born Libertas Haas-Heye in Paris, France, on November 20, 1913; executed along with her husband on December 22, 1942; daughter of Professor Otto Haas-Heye (an architect) and Countess Thora Eulenburg; married Harro Schulze-Boysen (1909–1942), in 1936.

Libertas Schulze-Boysen was born in Paris in 1913, the daughter of Professor Otto Haas-Heye, an architect, and Countess Thora Eulenburg , who was descended from a family with close ties to the Prussian court. Surrounded by aristocrats and members of the German leisure class, Libertas grew up in a luxurious environment on her father's family estate, Liebenberg. Intellectually adventurous and free-spirited, she was educated at exclusive private schools in Germany and Switzerland. She then worked from 1933 through 1935 in Berlin for the press department of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. In 1935, Schulze-Boysen became a freelance journalist, working first for the National-Zeitung of Essen. She later was employed by a cultural film organization closely associated with the Ministry of Popular Enlightenment and Propaganda of Joseph Goebbels. In 1936, Libertas married Harro Schulze-Boysen, who like herself came from a privileged family. Harro was concerned with social justice as well as with political and intellectual freedom. In 1933, as a member of a "conservative-revolutionary" circle, he had been arrested and tortured by the Nazis. After his release, he vowed to do all in his power to help end the Nazi dictatorship.

The opportunity for this came during World War II, when the Schulze-Boysens became leading members of the "Red Orchestra" spy organization that relayed crucial information from the Air Ministry to the Soviet Union. Libertas assisted her husband in his underground activities, including writing articles for the clandestine newspaper Die Innere Front and preparing pamphlets and flyers for distribution. With the help of several hundred anti-Nazis, this paper was distributed at immense risk in many of Germany's cities. Nazi intelligence, after immense effort, uncovered the large "Red Orchestra" network. Harro was arrested on August 30, 1942, Libertas a few days later on September 3. Both were taken to Prinz-Albrecht-Strasse 8, Berlin Gestapo headquarters, where they were interrogated and tortured. The Schulze-Boysens were sentenced to death and executed at Plötzensee prison on December 22, 1942. Elisabeth Schumacher was also killed that day.


Biernat, Karl Heinz, and Luise Kraushaar. Die Schulze-Boysen-Harnack-Organisation im antifaschistischen Kampf. Berlin: Dietz, 1970.

Gollwitzer, Helmut, Käthe Kuhn, and Reinhold Schneider, eds. Dying We Live: The Final Messages and Records of the Resistance. NY: Pantheon, 1956.

Kraushaar, Luise. Deutsche Widerstandskämpfer 1933–1945: Biographien und Briefe. 2 vols. Berlin: Dietz, 1970.

Perrault, Gilles. The Red Orchestra. NY: Schocken, 1989.

Rürup, Reinhard. Topographie der Terrors. Gestapo, SS und Reichssicherheitshauptamt auf dem "Prinz-Albrecht-Gelände": Eine Dokumentation. 7th ed. Berlin: Verlag Willmuth Arenhövel, 1989.

John Haag , Associate Professor of History, University of Georgia, Athens, Georgia

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