Nebbadoon Press
Island of Peace in an Ocean of Unrest
The Letters of Dorothy von Moltke
by Catherine R. Hammond

Home

 

VON MOLTKE FAMILY REMARKS:

My grandmother, then Dorothy Rose Innes, the only child of Sir James Rose Innes and Jessie, nee' Pringle, met my grandfather while touring through Europe in 1902. She was brave enough to marry into the very German world of a country estate in Silesia in 1905. Her father, a former attorney general in the Cape Province government of Cecil Rhodes and later for many years Chief Justice of the Union of South Africa was a liberal democrat who had been elected to parliament with the votes of black South Africans even in the middle of the 19th century. My grandmother brought these values to her new family in Germany.

Her values were at odds with the imperial Germany of 1905 to 1918 and with the anti-democratic values of the authoritarian elements in Weimar Germany which gave rise to Hitler's seizing power. She instilled her values into her children, in particular into my father Helmuth James von Moltke who was an opponent of the Nazis before outbreak of war in 1939 and during the war with a number of people from many walks of life did what he could to hasten the end of the regime. My father was tried and executed in Berlin in January 1945 for values dear to the heart of both his mother and himself.

Dorothy was separated from her parents throughout her married life by thousands of miles. For most of those years every mailboat from Southampton carried a letter for her parents on the way south and every mailboat coming north carried a response.

Kate Hammond has edited these letters, some of which appeared in translation in Germany in a book entitled "Ein Leben in Deutschland" in 1999. Hers is the commentary on life in a leading German family in a period of great upheaval seen though the eyes of a young woman steeped in the traditions of the Anglo Saxon democracy. My family and I would be delighted if her letters became available to an American audience.

Your manuscript has been illuminating even to me. It contains so much more of my grandparents' working and spiritual life that I have never before absorbed as well.

Helmuth Caspar von Moltke


ADVANCE REMARKS:

Dorothy and Helmuth von Moltke would be pleased with this publication. As their daughter-in-law I have witnessed how important Christian Science was in their lives.

You have built bridges between the letters.

Freya von Moltke



EVENT REMARKS:

The talk (Capetown, South Africa 3/16/15) was a huge success. The Count was fantastic, he is a wonderful speaker, warm and charming and absolutely relaxed. I felt privileged to introduce him.

He, in a most beautiful way, first started talking about Dorothy, then did some reading and then talked about the political part and the involvement of his father. And to the great delight of the audience spoke about his childhood here in Cape Town, mentioning the houses where he and his family had lived, one just a few streets away from the church, and other little anecdotes. There were interesting questions from the floor (some about the politics in Europe and Germany now) and the Count answered them all with knowledge, wit and warmth.

There were about fifty to sixty people and all those were very interested and enthusiastic. The talk was for about an hour, but for almost another hour people kept talking to Helmuth Caspar and [his wife] Keri, and taking photographs.

My introduction went extremely well and the books went like hot cakes. One very enthusiastic sweet old lady told me that she had met [Helmuth Caspar's mother] Freya here in Cape Town many years ago, and just had to have your book because she wanted to share the story with her whole family, including nieces and nephews and all her friends.

I am sure more stories will surface. What I will always cherish and remember are the smiling and happy faces as people were leaving to go home after the talk. I think they really got it!
-- Anon.

 

 

 


REVIEWS:

"Her letters are a must-read for anyone interested in history and truth."

". . . a narrative that helps transform the letters into one of the important stories of the 20th century."

Island of Peace in an Ocean of Unrest: The Letters of Dorothy von Moltke is by any measure an extraordinary book, not only because it deals with one of the most prestigious military families in Germany, the von Moltkes of Prussia, but because of the astute observations by a clear-sighted woman who was born in South Africa and had married into that family. Dorothy Rose Innes had met Count Helmuth von Moltke in 1902 in Germany, they fell in love, were married in Pretoria, South Africa, and made their home at the Count's estate in Prussia. It was there that the unpretentious lady from South Africa faced the awesome task of assuming the role of a German Countess, managing a castle, and overseeing a sizeable estate called "Kreisau." Dorothy met this challenge with grace, a sense of realism, and lots of humor.

Dorothy's letters, written mostly to her parents in South Africa, span a period of more than thirty years, from 1902 to 1934; they show Dorothy as a keen observer of all that was going on during those troubled times. Two things stand out in these communications: Dorothy's total devotion to her husband and her five children, and an unflinching view of German society. It was a difficult time for Germany, which had lost World War One and was struggling with a huge inflation. Dorothy was very aware of all the hardships around her, she was particularly sympathetic to the lower classes, and she conveyed her views with simplicity, honesty, and accuracy. Her letters are a must-read for anyone interested in history and truth.

The second part of the book is dedicated to Christian Science. Count Helmuth von Moltke and Dorothy had become Christian Scientists. They traveled together to meetings (even to Boston), they became the major translators of Mary Baker Eddy's Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, and when the Nazis came to power and wanted to stamp out Christian Science (along with other religious groups such as the Jehovah's Witnesses), they both stuck to their faith. The Count continued his work as Christian Science healer and teacher (even though he was demoted) and Dorothy stayed right beside him.

The Epilogue offers brief accounts of the five Moltke children. The reader will be most familiar with the story of the eldest son, Helmuth James von Moltke, who became one of the fiercest critics of the Nazi regime. He founded the resistance group "Kreisauer Kreis" but was apprehended in 1944 and hanged in the last month of World War Two. There can be little doubt that Helmuth James's fight against Hitler was deeply rooted in what his mother had taught him: respect for all people and the values of democracy.

Catherine R. Hammond deserves high praise (as does the publisher) for a first-rate editing job; the interweaving comments not only help the reader understand the origin and history of each letter, they also provide a narrative that helps transform the letters into one of the important stories of the 20th century.

Robert H. Spaethling
Professor Emeritus of German,
University of Massachusetts, Boston


READER REMARKS:

I have begun reading the book and my first impression is extremely positive. It is a wonderful gateway to the character of a great human being; Goethe would have called Dorothy "eine schöne Seele." Her letters exude such warmth and intelligence, it is a breath of fresh air in the milieu of Prussian aristocracy. And you did a beautiful job in bringing out her sense of humor and humanity. Your comments are very informative and make it an attractive narrative not only about her, but about the time in Europe before the two world wars. -- Robert S.

I got my copy of the book and love it! I couldn't put it down! It connects many of the dots that I have heard about from my parents as well as my own time in Tubingen and Austria in the 1960s. I think your narrative does a beautiful job providing context as well as tying things together for the reader. I can't help seeing some parallel to our present situation with the "tea party" and her discussion of the political situation in Germany in the late 1920s and early 1930s. I don't know whether you know this or not but my father was in Germany in 1934 when the General Von Schleicher murders took place that summer. I think it was called "Operation Kolibri" (Kolibri is hummingbird in German). It made a huge impression on him and he often spoke of a situation where he was with friends in a Biergarten and heard the paper boy shouting the news. The host came up to a member of their party (a German) and whispered something into his ear. Suddenly this friends face turned white, then green and he said he had to go right then. Dad thought he was going to be sick on the spot. I think dad wondered if this person thought he might be next because he never heard from him again. Dad said the next day everything was very quiet in the streets. I remember him saying, "It was just as though a trap door had suddenly closed." Needless to say, it was a very dangerous time for anyone with anti nazi feelings. Many thanks for getting such an interesting story together. -- R.E.E.

Wonderful book ! could not put it down. Really fabulous work. Congratulations. -- R.G


I can say right away that it is a scintillating study of a family of great interest and significance. Every German martyr of World War II should be raised from the dead and accorded maximum honor. Your book does that, and it also portrays a woman of tremendous charm and vitality whom one would certainly have liked to get to know. Now through your sensitive editing and discriminating comments one can get to know her. I will say more about the public commentary later, but for now congratulations on producing such a timely and readable work. -- J.W.


We were so excited to hear about the successful introduction of your edition of Dorothy von Moltke's letters on Sunday, Nov. 17th. The "standing room only" is a great testimony to the indomitable spirit of Dorothy as well as to your own effort of making her life and letters available to the public. I have just finished the book (both parts) and I am struggling to find the right for words that adequately reflect my feelings about its content. I was deeply moved by Dorothy's humanity, by her spirit of fairness, by her honesty and clarity of thought, and by her sense of commitment to Germany even when she did not agree with its political development. I grew up, as you know, between the two world wars, and I know that it is very easy to dismiss the Germans as stupid, arrogant and vengeful for embracing the Nazi movement. But Dorothy did not fall into that trap, she did not like the Nazis, but she also saw the tremendous economic hardship that was inflicted on the German people after World War One and understood their plight. In fact, Dorothy's comments on the German dilemma between the two world wars are thoughtful, clear-eyed, and objective. It is one of the best assessments of that period in European history that I have read.

Count Helmuth von Moltke's strong commitment to Christian Science was totally new to me. I had no idea that both he and Dorothy visited Boston, that they did important translating work for Christian Science, and that they both kept their faith even in perilous times. I had never thought about it before, but I am convinced now that Helmuth James von Moltke not only learned his basic moral values from his parents, but that Dorothy was the most immediate influence on his sense of human decency and fairness, and that she inspired his later efforts to create a democracy in Germany based on equal rights and peaceful co-existence. I have always admired Helmuth James von Moltke, but thanks to your book I now have a better understanding of where his courage came from. "The Letters of Dorothy von Moltke" are one of the best books I have read in recent years, they have not only given me a marvelous insight into the mind and soul of Dorothy (Goethe would have called her "eine schöne Seele"), but they have given me a much deeper understanding of my own native land, which I left in anger, but cannot forget. -- R.S.


What an elegant job you have done weaving the letters into a cohesive and sensitive narrative.

No wonder the family is so impressed and so grateful.

Beautifully documented too. -- A.W.


Now I can share with you that I am not a particular fan of reading historical books, but your book is awesome. I had trouble putting it down sometimes as your organization and timely remarks really made it come alive. Such a terrible time in history. -- M.F.
Just finished the book! I loved it. You've done a great service. Thank you ever so much. -- K.T.
I just finished An Island of Peace. It was a page-turner, a great read. -- G.W.

Just to say a sincere 'thank you' for the book about Dorothy von Moltke written by Catherine Hammond. It arrived safe and sound about four days ago and I have been reading it ever since. It is a superb book - well written and most interesting. It has provided me with plenty to detail as to how my uncle experienced Schweidnitz in 1925 in the house of Frau von Trotha. The detail about Christian Science was also most informative and very useful. - I.N.


I read the book in its entirety & enjoyed it very much.

She was a remarkable woman living out the last days of feudalism with grace & perception. She precedes Shirer and possibly Churchill in noting the absence of proportion in the German character. I thought your historical editing/ commentary was very good and note that you had some qualified advisors. I think the title you chose was a good one. Needless to say, it was a blessing for Dorothy to die in 1935 before the war and the loss of two sons. Her explanation for Germany going to war in 1914 makes as much sense as anything I've read, although I am not a student of WW I. She clearly saw a war of revenge in the offing after 1918. - C.P.


Thanks to Cynnie I have a copy of your book "Island of Peace in an Ocean of Unrest" - And what a wonder it is - so full of historical and personal interest, all woven together into a most fascinating book. I am so impressed with the job you did - you may possibly remember our friend whose mother was a Christian Scientist of some note. And Clark is history buff especially concerning that war (in which he was wounded twice) so he will be waiting for me to finish the book with some impatience! So you see, your book has all kinds of resonances. Well, probably for everyone who gets to read it. - M. M.


How I have enjoyed reading every one of Dorothy von Moltke's letters, with your ever-helpful narrative bridges. Hers is so much the voice of an adoring daughter to parents so far away. I was intrigued by some of her recurring usages ("the Boy" to refer to Helmuth James and "the Y.T." to refer to her spouse… any info re why those usages?). What a good time you had putting together this book. - R.B.



In the spirit of Dorothy von Moltke, I'm going to write you a good old-fashioned letter, to say how & why I've enjoyed your book.

How: it's given me insight into a well-off person's life. (Though not entirely a "life of leisure," since I understand her many duties on the estate. And, I loved her appreciation of nature, and how they'd take moonlight walks and wintry rides and skiing.

Why: I love the peacefulness of the everyday routines, and her love of her parents, (and theirs for her). And the growth of the children. And, inevitably, I've learned of the encroachment of the war and the failed economy, leading to Hitler's strange degrees of acceptance and control. We look in the mirror and see much of the same here, today.

Though I've only read Part I, I eagerly look forward to Part II and expect that part to mean a lot to me.

So thank you, Kate, for all the years of research, collecting, interviewing, and selecting letters. It is a wonderful book, telling of a family with wonderful strengths.

Your radio interview was also great. Hats off to you for pursuing a line of great interest which now will benefit many! - B.I.


I want to thank you so much for the book you wrote. It is excellent, I loved every bit of it. The way you connected the letters Dorothy von Moltke wrote and brought out your ideas just at the right place in telling the stories about the Moltke family and her family from South Africa, all well educated and from a noble family, is simply wonderful.

Then their view of the upcoming Nazis. So much of that was new to me; I guess I was too young to see the whole picture early on. We lived in East/West Prussia, far away from Berlin. I never accepted a DOM (Nazi) leadership role. When the people from our area wanted to go to Berlin or to say (?) to the West, they had to go by train that was locked until they were out of the Corridor which was Polish. You may remember this from reading the Zayas book, "Anmerkungen der Vertreibung den Deutschen aus den Osten" ["Observations of the Expulsion of the Germans from the East"].

Your book was such good reading. I learnt a lot.

Well, again I want to thank you for your wonderful book. I love it and will go back to ti again and again. - C.K.


A friend loaned me this wonderful book of Dorothy von Moltke's letters and your weaving of their stories into the history of Germany during much of the Twentieth Century. You have a wonderful writing style, both in clarity of organization and in depicting events taking place at the time of this dramatic history.

Congratulations to you on a book well-written! - B. D.

 

 

 



©2013 Nebbadoon Press