Entertainment » Vol. 5

Building Bridges and Making Friends

Remembering Those Who Fought the Nazis

By Fred M. Misilo, Jr., Esquire

Marc Smith and Freya von Moltke at Freya's home in Vermont, 2003. (Photo credit Susan L. Smith)

Worcester native and playwright Marc P. Smith received the Federal Republic of Germany Friendship Award on June 26, 2008 at the German consulate in Boston. The award, signed by German Ambassador Dr. Klaus Scharioth, was given to Smith for his endeavors in fostering and sustaining friendship between Germany and the United States. It was Smith’s two-act play, “A Journey to Kreisau,” and the interest this play has generated that catapulted Smith to international recognition and relevance.

“A Journey to Kreisau” is a poignant tale of Helmuth James von Moltke, his wife Freya, and a group of like-minded German underground resistance organizers known as the Kreisau Circle. The story is set in the context of the rise to power of Hitler’s National Socialist Party, the ensuing suffocation of individual civil liberties, and the depravity of the Nazi regime. It ends with the execution of Helmuth James on January 11, 1945.

Within the context of the enormous social, cultural and political upheaval captured by Smith’s evocative writing style evolves a love story involving Helmuth James and Freya. We are brought into the innermost thoughts, fears and confidences of this great-grand nephew of the famous Field Marshall Count Helmuth von Moltke and his fiancé, then wife, Freya from the beginning of their courtship, through their marriage and ultimately to Helmuth James’ death. Smith was assisted in his writing through personal interviews with Freya, who is still living and was a primary source of his material. The story is one that instructs, inspires and humbles – by bearing witness to the examples set by Helmuth James and Freya, who stood fast to their strongly held beliefs through organized resistance against the weight of Nazi oppression.

June 2008 presentation of the German Friendship award. Left to right: Veronica Jochum von Moltke (through whom Marc first met Freya, her sister-in-law), German Consul General Dr. Wolfgang Vorwerk, and Mr. Smith.

June 2008 presentation of the German Friendship award. Left to right: Veronica Jochum von Moltke (through whom Marc first met Freya, her sister-in-law), German Consul General Dr. Wolfgang Vorwerk, and Mr. Smith.

“It is especially important to me that an American playwright is telling this story of the Kreisau Circle and of this man and woman. The play is still valid today, it shows our children, by example, that elementary humane and civil courage have been possible, even during the darkest time of our history,” noted Dr. Wolfgang Vorwerk, General Counsel of the Federal Republic of Germany. The U.S. premiere of the play occurred in Worcester at the Hibernian Cultural Center in February of this year. The play was repeated at the Boston Playwrights’ Theatre throughout April. Between the Worcester and Boston performances, the play was presented by a set of German actors in Berlin under the auspices of the Freya von Moltke Foundation, the Club von Berlin and the 20 Juli 1944 Association in March, 2008.

Due to the interest generated from the Berlin presentation, a conference is being planned for August, 2009 in Kreisau/Kryzowa (now Poland). The German and American actors will meet each other and study other resistance groups that came into being during the Third Reich. Closer to home, Smith has been meeting with Dr. Rachel Freudenberg, director of Boston College’s German Studies Department to establish a curriculum on the resistance movement.“Journey to Kreisau” will be the core of the curriculum.

Smith vows to continue to instruct, inspire and lead. “It’s what I consider to be my life’s work.”

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