Carl Goerdeler, the son of a Prussian district judge, was born in Schneidemuell on July 31,1884. After studying law he became a local civil servant.
In 1930 Goerdeler became mayor of Leipzig. He also became price commissioner in the government of Heinrich Brüning and remained in office when Adolf Hitler came to power in 1933. Goerdeler resigned in 1934 after disagreement with Hitler over his policies.
Goerdeler publically opposed German rearmament and the Nuremberg Laws. As mayor of Leipzig, he refused to pull down the statue of the Jewish composer Felix Mendelssohn or to fly the swastika flag over the city hall.
Goerdeler resigned as mayor of Leipzig in 1937 and spent the next two years travelling around Europe as overseas representative of the Bosche company. In 1938, he met Winston Churchill and other important political figures in Britain and France. Goerdeler provided information about Nazi Germany and encouraged governments not to make too many concessions to Hitler. He was appalled by the Munich Agreement which he saw as "out-and-out capitulation" and claimed that it would lead to a war in Europe.
During the Second World War, Goerdeler advocated a negotiated peace with the Allies. However, he was deeply disappointed when his political contacts in Britain told him that the war would only come to an end if Germany unconditionally surrendered.
By 1940, Goerdeler had become convinced that only the German armed forces could overthrow Hitler. He made contact with Ludwig Beck but they were unable to find enough senior military leaders to take part in a coup.
In 1944, Goerdeler became involved in the July Plot and he agreed to become chancellor after Hitler's assassination. On July 18, 1944, Goerdeler was warned that the Gestapo had discovered that he was involved in a conspiracy to kill Hitler. He went into hiding but was arrested the following month on August 12. Carl Goerdeler was interrogated and tortured for five months before being executed on February 2, 1945.
Sources: Spartacus Educational