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Alexander Schenk Graf von Stauffenberg

Scholar of the month November 2019

*15.03.1905 in Stuttgart                                                                                                                                                        † 27.01.1964 in Munich

1923      Study of Law in Heidelberg
               Study of Law, Economical Science and Ancient History
1924      Study of Ancient Studies in Jena, Munich and Halle
1928      Promotion in Halle         
1931      Habilitation to the topic “King Hiero II of Syracuse” in Würzburg
1934      Interim Professorship in Berlin, later Giessen and Würzburg
1936      Professorship for Ancient History in Würzburg
1937      Marriage with Melitta Klara Schiller
1944      Prioritized Prisoner
1948      Professorship for Ancient History in Munich
1954      Director of the Philosophical Faculty in Munich

In November, as part of the series "Scholar of the Month", the University Archive would like to honour the historian Alexander Schenk Graf von Stauffenberg, the brother of Claus Graf Schenk von Stauffenberg, who was one of the main actors of the assassination attempt on Hitler of July 20 1944.

Life and Research

Alexander Schenk Graf von Stauffenberg was born in 1905 in Stuttgart. He received private lessons until he attended the Eberhard-Ludwigs-Gymnasium in Stuttgart from 1913. After graduating from high school in 1923, Alexander Schenk Graf von Stauffenberg enrolled at the Law Faculty in Heidelberg but in the following semester he moved to Tübingen to study law, economics and ancient history. In the following years he continued his studies in Jena, Munich and Halle. His dissertation followed in 1928 in Halle on the topic "Investigations into the Chronicle of Johannes Malalas (The Imperial Period from Caesar to Trajan)". Three years later he wrote his postdoctoral thesis on "King Hieron II of Syracuse" at the University of Würzburg, where he subsequently worked as a private lecturer. This was followed by several chair substitutions for Ancient History in Berlin, Giessen and Würzburg, before he assumed a planned professorship for Ancient History at the Julius Maximilian University in 1936. In 1942 the ancient historian was appointed to the University of Strasbourg, but due to his military service as an officer he did not start teaching. After the assassination attempt on 20 July 1944, he was taken into custody as the brother of Claus Schenk Graf von Stauffenberg. After the war he took over the chair of Ancient History in Munich in 1948, where he worked until his death.

Interest in Poetry

In research and teaching, Alexander Schenk Graf von Stauffenberg distinguished himself above all through his thorough and meritorious work. As an ancient historian, he initially dealt with the relationship between literature and power, poetry and state, or poetry and rulers in ancient historical works. He was also interested in the poet Pindar and the history of Sicily. Stauffenberg's most lasting merit for his discipline was his participation in the founding of the Commission for Ancient History and Epigraphy (AEK) in 1951, which he headed until 1956. To this day, this Commission is dedicated to promoting and publishing age-related research.

The wife: Melitta Schenk Graf von Stauffenberg

Melitta Schenk Graf von Stauffenberg, née Melitta Klara Schiller, was a pilot of the German Air Force and assisted her husband in an unusual way during his imprisonment.

Melitta Klara Schiller laid the foundation for her later career as a young woman. After graduating from high school, she first studied mathematics, natural sciences, chemistry and technical physics in Munich and graduated with distinction in 1927. From 1928 she worked as an aeronautical engineer at the Deutsche Versuchsanstalt für Luftfahrt. In the mid-30s she was the first woman in Germany to hold a pilot's license in all classes. Soon afterwards, she used her aviation and mechanical engineering skills to devote herself to arms research at the Askania factories. At her wedding to Alexander Schenk Graf von Stauffenberg in 1937, Melitta's Jewish origins could still be kept secret, but in 1940 she became known. Nevertheless, she was able to successfully achieve equality as a "German-blooded" person, which was mainly due to her classification as "important for the war".

After the attack of 20 July 1944, Melitta was imprisoned together with her husband, but unlike him, she was released after six weeks because of her "wartime importance". However, she did not want to abandon her husband and the other family members and, thanks to her position, obtained the right to visit her husband once a month. When he was transferred to another concentration camp in April 1945, Melitta von Stauffenberg tried to seize the opportunity and free her husband by plane. The attempt failed, however; even before she reached the prisoner transport, she was shot down by an American fighter plane and shortly afterwards died of her injuries. Her husband was released from captivity a month later.

Recommended Readings:

Christ, Karl: Der andere Stauffenberg – der Historiker und Dichter Alexander von Stauffenberg, München 2008.
Medicus, Thomas: Melitta von Stauffenberg – ein deutsches Leben, Berlin 2012.