Sometimes the greatest act of patriotism is to take down the very regime you serve. So thought Ewald-Heinrich von Kleist-Schmenzin, the youngest of the Wehrmacht plotters who swore to take down Hitler and his rotten Nazi regime.
Born to a noble old Prussian military family, von Kleist was as Old Skool as they came, with the rigid Prussian military bearing and a deep-set devotion to the Fatherland. The child of an ancient house of knights with lineage back into the 12th century, it was natural that he would go into the army. Long imbued with a sense of deep military loyalty, his father fully condoned this move even as father and son both actively opposed the rising Hitler. As old fashioned Monarchists, they wanted nothing from the radical, rat-faced little Corporal Hitler or his storm troopers. Ewald-Heinrich's hatred was cemented by such early attrocities as the Night of the Long Knives, and opposed the regime long before it was "cool".
At 18, von Kleist was one of the youngest men to lead an infantry regiment (Infantry Regiment Nine), serving with bravery and nobility on the Eastern Front. Still, he found he could never get used to the deaths of his men, dying in an ever more futile fight for a man and regime he truly hated. Ultimately a battlefield injury sent him back behind the lines, where his father and Claus von Stauffenburg recruited him into the growing plot to dispose of the madman that each knew was destroying their nation.
Twice he attempted to get close enough to Hitler with grenades smuggled in his tunic, a suicide bomber to be, only to have the opportunities slip away. After von Stauffenburg's attempt, he too briefly beleived the Fuhrer to be dead, only to watch in dismay as the still-living Hitler rounded up all of his co-plotters for execution. Among those executed was his own father.
He miraculously managed to escape the aftermath himself with a careful cover-up; he was tried, but released for lack of evidence, saving his life but earning him time at Ravensbruck concentration camp and a return to the front. After the war, von Kleist vowed to never again see his country at war save for the most vital of national interests and the Last of the Plotters became a man of peace and diplomacy, founding and running the Munich Conferences, which he moderated until 1998.
Ewald-Heinrich von Kleist passed away on the 8th of March at the age of 90, the last of a breed of noble warriors who put their own lives on the line to stop the criminal madman that had driven their nation on a path to destruction.
Research credit: The Economist magazine obituary (March 23, 2013) and wikipedia.