Among the Nazis’ sinister borrowings from medieval tradition was the concept of Sippenhaft—“kin liability”—which they invoked to justify persecuting relatives of their opponents. This zeal for guilt by association reached its peak after the failed attempt to assassinate Adolf Hitler in July 1944, when SS chief Heinrich Himmler rounded up nearly 200 of the conspirators’ family members. These “prisoners of kin” included Fey von Hassell, daughter of Ulrich, a former German ambassador to Italy and longtime opponent of Nazism, who was executed for his connections to the July plotters.
“A Bunch of Gangsters”
Though not actively involved in the German Resistance, Fey, we learn in British historian Catherine Bailey’s account of her tumultuous early life, was a precocious convert to the anti-Nazi cause. While still a teenager during the 1930s, she recorded her father’s dismay at how their country had been taken over by “a bunch of gangsters” in her diary, which went miraculously unnoticed by Gestapo spies masquerading as servants at the German Embassy in Rome.