Reading and discussion Last Letters: The Correspondence of Freya and Helmuth James von Moltke

Helmuth James von Moltke bpk Bildagentur / Heinrich Hoffmann / Art Resource, NY


Goethe-Institut New York

30 Irving Place
New York, NY 10003

Join us for an evening celebrating the publication of Last Letters: The Prison Correspondence, September 1944 - January 1945 by Helmuth James von Moltke and Freya von Moltke, in translation by Shelley Frisch (New York Review Books, 2019).  Meike Werner will moderate a discussion and reading of excerpts with Dorothea and Johannes von Moltke, grandchildren of Helmuth and Freya, and Helmuth Caspar von Moltke, one of their sons, who together edited Last Letters. 
Tegel prison, Berlin, in the fall of 1944. Helmuth James von Moltke is awaiting trial for his leading role in the Kreisau Circle, one of the most important German resistance groups against the Nazis. By a near miracle, the prison chaplain at Tegel is Harald Poelchau, a friend and co-conspirator of Helmuth and his wife, Freya. From Helmuth’s arrival at Tegel in late September 1944 until the day of his execution by the Nazis on January 23, 1945, Poelchau would carry Helmuth’s and Freya’s letters in and out of prison daily, risking his own life. Freya would safeguard these letters for the rest of her long life, much of it spent in Norwich, VT, from 1960 until her death in 2010.

Last Letters is a profoundly personal record of the couple’s love, faith, and courage in the face of fascism. Written during the final months of World War II, the correspondence is at once a collection of love letters written in extremis and a historical document of the first order. 
Dorothea von Moltke received her PhD in German Literature from Columbia University and is one of the owners of Labyrinth Books in Princeton.
Johannes von Moltke is Professor of German Studies and Film, Television and Media at the University of Michigan, and President of the German Studies Association. He has published widely in English and German on German Film, Theory, and Cultural History.
Helmuth Caspar von Moltke, older son of Helmuth and Freya, is retired and serves on a number of boards in Europe including charitable boards supporting the present day Kreisau/Krzyzowa. Together with his sister-in-law Ulrike von Moltke, former wife of his late younger brother, Konrad, he co-edited the German edition of Last Letters.
Shelley Frisch’s translations from the German, which include biographies of Friedrich Nietzsche, Albert Einstein, Leonardo da Vinci, Marlene Dietrich/Leni Riefenstahl, and Franz Kafka, have been awarded numerous translation prizes. She is currently completing a translation of filmmaker Billy Wilder’s early essays. 
Meike Werner is Professor of German and European Studies at Vanderbilt University. Werner has published on German literature, intellectual history, and more; her teaching interests include European and Jewish Studies, and her research often focuses on unpublished letters and diaries.