Ulrich Wilhelm Graf Schwerin von Schwanenfeld

Last updated
Schwerin in 1927 Schwerin Urlich-Wilhelm mit 24 Jahren (Okt. 1927).jpg
Schwerin in 1927

Ulrich-Wilhelm Graf von Schwerin von Schwanenfeld (21 December 1902 8 September 1944) was a German landowner, officer, and resistance fighter against the Nazi régime. His name is commonly shortened to Schwerin.



Count Schwerin von Schwanenfeld was born in the Danish capital, Copenhagen, the son of the German diplomat Ulrich Graf von Schwerin (1864–1930) and his wife Freda von Bethmann-Hollweg, a cousin of Chancellor Theobald von Bethmann-Hollweg. The Uradel House of Schwerin, named after the Mecklenburg capital, was first documented in the 12th century; the family held large estates in the Brandenburgian Uckermark region and the adjacent lands of Mecklenburg-Strelitz.

Schwerin's family moved to Dresden, when he was twelve years old. He finished school at the convent of Roßleben, Thuringia in 1921 and went to study agronomy at the Technische Hochschule of Munich. As a witness of the 1923 Beer Hall Putsch, he found Nazism loathsome to his Christian and social convictions (he was a Knight of Justice in the Protestant Order of Saint John, to which he had been admitted in 1933 [1] ). Schwerin was graduated at Breslau in 1926 and administered his family's manors in Göhren (today part of Woldegk, Mecklenburg) and Sartowice near Świecie, Pomerelia in Poland. In 1928, he married Marianne Sahm, a daughter of Heinrich Sahm, then president of the Free City of Danzig senate.

By 1935, Schwerin had come to believe that the only way Adolf Hitler could be stopped was by assassinating him. Beginning in 1938 ahead of the German occupation of Czechoslovakia, Schwerin belonged to the tightest circle of the resistance along with his personal friends Peter Graf Yorck von Wartenburg and Fritz-Dietlof Graf von der Schulenburg, and later also to the Kreisau Circle. With the beginning of World War II, he was called up to the Wehrmacht as an officer in the staff of Generaloberst Erwin von Witzleben. After Witzleben's dismissal in 1942, Schwerin was transferred to Utrecht until in March 1943, Major General Hans Oster appointed him to the Abwehr office at the Oberkommando der Wehrmacht in Berlin.

Defendant before the Volksgerichtshof, 1944 Schwerin Ulrich-Wilhelm mit 41 Jahren (Aug. 1944).jpg
Defendant before the Volksgerichtshof, 1944

Schwerin participated in the failed attempt on Hitler's life and coup d'état on 20 July 1944 from his position at the Bendlerblock, where the plotters' headquarters were, although he had been saying for weeks that the chances for a successful coup were very slight. There, on the night of 21 July 1944, he was arrested, and on 21 August was sentenced to death by the Volksgerichtshof , with Roland Freisler presiding. The recordings of the show trial attest how a doomed Schwerin, ravaged by the conditions of his detention and brought to court without a belt and tie, tried to preserve his dignity. He stated that his opposition to Hitler was due to "the many murders (...) in Germany and abroad". He was constantly interrupted by a furious Freisler, who finally shouted him down in rage. [2]

Ulrich Wilhelm Schwanenfeld during his trial in 1944. Bundesarchiv Bild 151-19-35, Volksgerichtshof, Graf Schwerin v.Schwanenfeld.jpg
Ulrich Wilhelm Schwanenfeld during his trial in 1944.

On 8 September, Schwerin was hanged at Plötzensee Prison in Berlin. He is buried at the Waldfriedhof Dahlem.


Regarding personal names: Graf was a title before 1919, but now is regarded as part of the surname. It is translated as Count . Before the August 1919 abolition of nobility as a legal class, titles preceded the full name when given (Graf Helmuth James von Moltke). Since 1919, these titles, along with any nobiliary prefix (von, zu, etc.), can be used, but are regarded as a dependent part of the surname, and thus come after any given names (Helmuth James Graf von Moltke). Titles and all dependent parts of surnames are ignored in alphabetical sorting. The feminine form is Gräfin .


See also

Related Research Articles

Roland Freisler German lawyer and judge

Roland Freisler was a German Nazi jurist, judge, and politician who served as the State Secretary of the Reich Ministry of Justice from 1934 to 1942 and President of the People's Court from 1942 to 1945.

Claus von Stauffenberg German army officer

Claus Philipp Maria Justinian Schenk Graf von Stauffenberg was a German army officer best known for his failed attempt on 20 July 1944 to assassinate Adolf Hitler at the Wolf's Lair and remove the Nazi Party from power. Along with Henning von Tresckow and Hans Oster, he was one of the central figures of the German resistance to Nazism within the Wehrmacht. For his involvement in the movement, he was executed by firing squad shortly after Operation Valkyrie.

20 July plot Attempt to assassinate Adolf Hitler, 1944

On 20 July 1944, Claus von Stauffenberg and other conspirators attempted to assassinate Adolf Hitler, Führer of Nazi Germany, inside his Wolf's Lair field headquarters near Rastenburg, East Prussia. The name Operation Valkyrie—originally referring to part of the conspiracy—has become associated with the entire event.

Kreisau Circle Group of German anti-Nazi dissidents

The Kreisau Circle (1940–1944) was a group of about twenty-five German dissidents led by Helmuth James von Moltke, who met at his estate in the rural town of Kreisau, Silesia. The circle was composed of men and a few women from a variety of backgrounds, including those of noble descent, devout Protestants and Catholics, professionals, socialists and conservatives. Despite their differences, the members of the Kreisau Circle found common interest in their opposition to Hitler's Nazi regime on both moral and religious grounds. At their meetings, the circle discussed how they would reorganize the German government after the end of the Third Reich.

Erwin von Witzleben Field Marshal of Nazi Germany

Job Wilhelm Georg Erdmann Erwin von Witzleben was a German field marshal in the Wehrmacht during the Second World War. A leading conspirator in the 20 July plot to assassinate Adolf Hitler, he was designated to become Commander-in-Chief of the Wehrmacht in a post-Nazi regime had the plot succeeded.

Helmuth James von Moltke German resistance member

Helmuth James Graf von Moltke was a German jurist who, as a draftee in the German Abwehr, acted to subvert German human-rights abuses of people in territories occupied by Germany during World War II. He was a founding member of the Kreisau Circle opposition group, whose members opposed the government of Adolf Hitler in Nazi Germany, and discussed prospects for a Germany based on moral and democratic principles after Hitler. The Nazi government executed him for treason for his participation in these discussions.

The Schwarze Kapelle was a term used by the Gestapo to refer to a group of conspirators in Nazi Germany, including many senior officers in the Wehrmacht, who plotted to overthrow Adolf Hitler. Unlike the Rote Kapelle, the name given by the Gestapo to the Soviet spy network in the Third Reich, many members of the Black Orchestra were of aristocratic background, felt contempt for the ideological fervor of the Nazi Party, and were politically close to the Western Allies.

Peoples Court (Germany) Court in WW2 Germany

The People's Court was a Sondergericht of Nazi Germany, set up outside the operations of the constitutional frame of law. Its headquarters were originally located in the former Prussian House of Lords in Berlin, later moved to the former Königliches Wilhelms-Gymnasium at Bellevuestrasse 15 in Potsdamer Platz.

Freya von Moltke German writer and scholar

Freya von Moltke was a German American lawyer and participant in the anti-Nazi opposition group, the Kreisau Circle, with her husband, Helmuth James von Moltke. During World War II, her husband acted to subvert German human-rights abuses of people in territories occupied by Germany and became a founding member of the Kreisau Circle, whose members opposed the government of Adolf Hitler.

Eduard Brücklmeier

Eduard Robert Wolfgang Brücklmeier was a German diplomat and resistance fighter against the Nazi régime, who was executed as a result of his association with the 20 July Plot.

Fritz-Dietlof von der Schulenburg

Fritz-Dietlof Graf von der Schulenburg was a German government official and a member of the German Resistance in the 20 July Plot against Adolf Hitler.

Ludwig Schwamb German politician

Ludwig Schwamb was a social-democratic jurist and politician who fought against the Nazi dictatorship in Germany as a member of the Kreisau Circle motivated by his Christian beliefs, and as a close colleague of Wilhelm Leuschner, which led to his execution as a resistance fighter.

Peter Yorck von Wartenburg

Peter Graf Yorck von Wartenburg was a German jurist and a member of the German Resistance against Nazism. He studied law and politics in Bonn and Breslau from 1923 to 1926, gaining his doctorate in Breslau in 1927 and passing the civil service entrance examination for lawyers in Berlin in 1930. He married Marion Winter that same year.

Heinrich Burggraf und Graf zu Dohna-Schlobitten was a German major general and resistance fighter in the 20 July Plot to assassinate Adolf Hitler at the Wolf's Lair in East Prussia. He was a Knight of Justice of the Order of St John, which was regarded with disfavour by the Nazis.

Plötzensee Prison

Plötzensee Prison is now a Juvenile prison in the Charlottenburg-Nord locality of Berlin with a capacity for 577 prisoners, operated by the State of Berlin judicial administration. The detention centre established in 1868 has a long history; it became notorious during the Nazi era as one of the main sites of capital punishment, where about 3,000 inmates were executed. Famous inmates include East Germany's last communist leader Egon Krenz.

Konrad von Preysing German Roman Catholic cardinal

Johann Konrad Maria Augustin Felix, Graf von Preysing Lichtenegg-Moos was a German prelate of the Roman Catholic Church. Considered a significant figure in Catholic resistance to Nazism, he served as Bishop of Berlin from 1935 until his death, and was elevated to the cardinalate in 1946 by Pope Pius XII.

Colonel Georg Alexander Hansen was an Oberst (Colonel) in the Generalstab and one of the participants in the German Resistance against the Nazi Regime of Adolf Hitler.

Michael Graf von Matuschka German politician

Michael Graf von Matuschka was a German politician who took part in the 20 July plot.

Hermann Maaß

Hermann Maaß was a German member of the Resistance against the Nazi régime.

Joachim Freiherr von Willisen was a German public official and member of the Resistance against the Nazi régime.


  1. Robert M. Clark, Jr., The Evangelical Knights of Saint John; Dallas, Texas: 2003; p. 46.
  2. Judge Freisler's People Court 1944 (YouTube)