Jurist and Anti-Nazi Resistance Figure. Son of Hungarian composer Ernõ Dohnányi and his first wife. He remained in Berlin upon his parents divorce and studied law at the University of Berlin, obtaining his Ph.D. in 1925. He married Christel, sister of his high school classmates Klaus and Dietrich Bonhoeffer, that same year. In 1929, he joined the German Ministry of Justice. After the Night of the Long Knives, he became concerned about the lack of judicial procedure in the resulting trials, which caused him to be transferred to a lesser post in Leipzig in 1938. He then opened contacts with resistance groups. Shortly before WW II began, he joined the Abwehr (intelligence service) and later helped his brother-in-law Dietrich Bonhoeffer to join that department to protect him. He was instrumental in saving two Jewish families in 1942, but the money transfer required caused suspicion and the Gestapo arrested him in early 1943. Karl Sack, a military judge and member of the resistance, was able to delay his trial for a time, but his participation in the July 20 Plot came to light after secret papers were found. He was sentenced to death by an SS drumhead tribunal on April 6, 1945, and executed shortly thereafter at Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp. His son Klaus was mayor of Hamburg in the 1980s and his other son Christoph is a conductor (Cleveland Symphony and London Philharmonia and NDR orchestras). His grandson Justus is an actor. In 2003, he was honored by Israel as Righteous Among the Nations for his rescue of the two Jewish families. His cenotaph is on the site of his wife's grave, directly next to the Resistance Memorial, where he is also listed.
Bio by: Kenneth Gilbert