Inside the museum

Pfeile mit seinem Scherenschnittprofil von Friedrich-Werner Graf von der Schulenburg führen die Besucher durch das MuseumBurg (MB)

A piece of world history

Falkenburg Castle represents 1000 eventful years of history. For many centuries, the castle remained untouched, but since the middle of the 17th century, it gradually started to become a ruin.

A Prussian aristocrat – the diplomat Friedrich Werner Graf von der Schulenburg – gave the castle a new lease of life in the 1930s. He intended to spend the rest of his days here, but alas, this was not to be; as a conspirator to the 20 July plot in 1944 to assassinate Hitler, he was executed by the Nazis.

Visitors, who can access the castle either via the old bridge or the newly-built staircase, will experience an interesting tour. Much is to be learned about Graf von der Schulenburg’s eventful life; as a German ambassador, he fought for freedom in Russia. During the course of the tour, which takes one through the four levels, the story of the castle is told.

The museum focuses mainly on Graf – or earl – Schulenburg. A 15-minute film introduces the visitor to Schulenburg’s adventurous life. An exhibition hall dedicated to the ambassador not only offers many insights to Schulenburg as a person, but also to the contemporary history of the empire, the Weimar Republic and the Third Reich. Six interactive exhibits provide an opportunity to learn even more about these themes.

At authentic displays on the route of the tour, on all four floors the visitor has many opportunities to learn about the castle’s diverse history. Much is to be learned about the medieval building construction, the diverse defence structures and Falkenberg Castle’s early water supply system. The tour concludes with a historic panorama spanning from its beginnings way back in history, to the renovation of the ruins in the 1930s, up to the present day.

Grundrissgrafik (Quelle: Brückner & Brückner Architekten GmbH) der zweiten Geschoßebene, der große Raum rechts ist ganz Friedrich-Werner Graf von der Schulenburg gewidmet

Exhibition tour with 20 stations on 4 levels

Bridge level

0.1  Reception
0.2  Oldest wall

Ground floor

1.1  Falkenberg Castle – a special place
1.2  Friedrich-Werner Graf von der Schulenburg
1.3  Lord of the castle
1.4  Family background
1.5  Life through history
1.6  The nomads
1.7  The aristocrat, soldier, diplomat, philanthropist and peacemaker
1.8  In the Resistance
1.9  The end
1.10 Falkenberg Castle after 1944
1.11 The water supply

1st Floor

2.1  The castle keep
2.2  The Knights’ Hall
2.3. The castle and locality
2.4  Defence

2nd Floor

3.1  The castle chapel
3.2. Friedrich-Werner Graf von der Schulenburg
3.3. Power – downfall – visionary

Der Zugang zur Burg führt vom Torhaus über eine Brücke zum Burgtor. Hier beginnt der Rundgang. Burg und Brücke im fahlen Abendlicht (Foto Eibauer)

Drawbridge (Station 0.1)

An almost two metre ditch served as the final hurdle for arrivals to the castle. The drawbridge fitted into the 15th century wall which, even today, is still well-preserved. A chain, guided by a cylinder, supported the descending drawbridge. Unlike today, the access footbridge in front of the drawbridge used to fold in half. This served to prevent unwelcome guests from ramming the door down.

The actual door to the castle can still be locked today with a wooden beam. This ‘bolt’ – or beam – is slid into a casing which is over two metres long. This device was already built into the wall during the construction of the gate tower in the 15th century.

Türdrücker in den Keller (Foto: Eibauer)

Door opener (Station 0.1)

In around 1940, the locksmith incorporated a swastika into the left-hand doorknob. His client, Friedrich-Werner Graf von der Schulenburg, was targeting the Nazis; the door leads to the cellar – which is exactly where the Nazis were to go.

Inschrift über der Eingangstür (Foto: Eibauer)

Inscribed plaque (Station 0.1)

The marble plaque above the entrance is dedicated to Schulenburg who instigated the reconstruction of the castle. In honour of the aristocratic family’s heritage, the text is written in Low German. In great detail, Friedrich-Werner Graf von der Schulenburg, has his professional, social and military status carved into stone:

  • Ambassador in Moscow
  • Equerry of the dukedom in Braunschweig
  • Captain of the Reserves of the Prussian First Guard Field Artillery Regiment
  • Knight of the Order of St. John

The master architect – Franz Günthner, from Regensburg – is also mentioned.

Ältestes Mauerwerk (Foto: Eibauer)

Oldest wall (Station 0.2)

Here, visitors are walking on a large rock. The wall of approximately 120cm is situated directly on a granite rock. The stone wall, consisting of many small stones, has two layers and contains plenty of mortar. The space between these two layers has been filled with mortar and stone chippings. Up to a height of three to four metres, this wall dates back to the 11th century. It is the oldest known wall at Falkenberg Castle, indeed of the entire Stiftland.

Info im Museum Burg (Reprofoto aus dem Begleitheft)

Construction phases of the wall (Station 0.2)

Visitors are now standing behind the wall dating back to the 11th century, which is marked by an orange arrow (arrow 1). Above this, one can see the wall from a later construction phase, the 13th century (2), which was built upon the already ruinous castle wall. The gate turret (3) dates back to the 15th century. It displays solid, regular, rectangular brickwork. This photo provides a clear image of the ruins (1910), the holes in the wall caused when attaching the scaffolding no longer exist.

Burg Falkenberg, wie sie Graf von der Schulenburg im Jahr 1929 vorfand (Reprofoto aus Doku Burg, Dr. Helm)

Falkenberg Castle – a special place (Station 1.1)

Falkenberg Castle, this fortification on an impressive granite formation, dates back a thousand years; it served as a bulwark, a retreat, a symbol of power, an administrative centre and trading centre, and – like most castles – ended up falling into disrepair.

The ruins are transformed back to a great castle: The ambassador Friedrich-Werner Graf von der Schulenburg buys and renovates the old ruins in the 1930s. Due to his fate, Falkenberg Castle is unique in its perspective of recounting particular events of 20th century history.



Einführungsfilm (Foto: Hans Eibauer)

Introductory film (Station 1.2)

Before entering the room solely dedicated to Friedrich-Werner Graf von der Schulenburg (Stations 1.3 to 1.7), visitors can go on a 15-minute media journey in history – in German, English or Czech – to learn about the castle and his life. Guests can activate the start of the film themselves.

FWS bei einem Besuch in Falkenberg 1933 (Reprofoto aus Doku Burg, Dr. Helm)

Lord of the castle (Station 1.3)

It is 1929 when Graf von der Schulenburg first sets sight on the castle ruins in Falkenberg. Here he finds the place he’s always been dreaming about. He starts entering into negotiations to buy the place, and has plans drawn up. Early in the summer of 1936 the contract is finally signed and the plans for refurbishing the old monument are approved.

The castle ruins are now a building site. In September, building is underway, and by the end of the year, it is structurally complete. By 1939, the castle is ready, but the refurbishment of its interiors is a slow process. World War II brings a shortage of skilled workers and building materials

As in previous years, due to his work commitments, the lord of the castle – Graf von der Schulenburg – hardly has any time to be available on site. His companion Alwine von Duberg moves to Falkenberg to take care of the building project.

It is not until the summer of 1941 that the diplomat Schulenburg finally has the chance for more frequent stays at his castle. Each of his visits brings with it a piece of world history. However, the earl’s greatest wish to spend the rest of his life and write his memoires here is brought to an abrupt end in the summer of 1944.


Das Familienwappen der Grafen von der Schulenburg ziert den Kamin im Fürstensaal (Foto: Hans Eibauer)

Family backgroundf (Station 1.4)

Friedrich-Werner, Graf von der Schulenburg is born into an old aristocratic family whose records date back as far as the 12th century. Its ancestral seats are Altmark, Hanover and Braunschweig.

His father Bernhard (1839-1902) belonged to the Schulenburg vast family tree and to Haus Hehlen (named after Hehlen Castle in Lower Saxony). His mother Margarete (1847-1918) was of the ancient lineage of the Freiherren von Waldenfels.

Friedrich-Werner’s father is wing commander of the Prussian service. His military position means frequent relocations for the family. The officer retires in 1886. Braunschweig is where the family finally settles in 1887.

Zeitleiste (Foto: Hans Eibauer)

Life through history (Station 1.5)

On a timeline, a clear overview is provided of the stations of Friedrich-Werner’s life.

Der Nomade (Reprofoto aus Begleitheft MuseumBurg (Reprofoto Dr. Helm)

The nomads (Station 1.6)

Friedrich-Werner leads a cosmopolitan life. The places where he lived and worked are marked on a large map.

FWS als sechsjähriger Schüler (Reprofoto aus Doku FWS, Dr. Helm)

The aristocrat (Station 1.7)

Friedrich-Werner is born an aristocrat in the early German empire. The ‘Ständestaat’ (aristocracy), still has power over the individual. Important positions in politics and the military are reserved for the aristocracy.

The earl comes from an old aristocratic family who have been active in the higher civil service, as diplomats and officers. He was not, however, of wealthy parentage. This lack of one of the three important factors, birth, money, or brains – known in German as the three Gs; Geburt, Geld, Gehirn – means a somewhat slower start to the young aristocrat’s career.

Apart from having the advantages of an aristocratic network, Friedrich-Werner also adopts the values of a protestant aristocratic family throughout his lifetime. Patriotism and a sense of duty do not, however, allow him to become an eager nationalist. He abhors ideologies. The nobleman looks down on national socialists as “ignobile vulgus” (the mob).

FWS als Soldat (Reprofoto Doku FWS, Dr. Helm)

The soldier (Station 1.7)

Military is duty. After graduating from school, Schulenburg completes a year’s voluntary basic training. In the autumn of 1895, he is discharged as a reserve officer.

Even before starting military service, he knows the occupation he would like to pursue: he does not want to follow the military, but the diplomatic route. Before beginning his training to become a soldier, he starts to study law.

He describes World War I, which at almost 40 years of age the consul and officer is called up for active service, as “unnecessary and stupid”. He considers it his duty, however, to serve the Fatherland as a soldier, albeit as an “involuntary body”.



Perfekt auf dem diplomatiischen Parkett, hier als Vertreter des Dt. Reichs bei der Schahhochzeit 1939 (Reprofoto Doku FWS, Dr. Helm)

The diplomat (Station 1.7)

Diplomat is the dream job of the cosmopolitan and well-travelled earl. After joining the Foreign Office, the lawyer initially committed to consular duties. For diplomatic service itself, he does not have enough financial assets/accumulated wealth. The end of the empire changes this. Now, Schulenburg can work as German envoy/ambassador in Persia (from 1922) and Romania (from 1931). Finally, in 1934 he becomes ambassador in Moscow.

Schulenburg is a loyal and disciplined civil servant who accurately fulfils his official duties. His colleagues appreciate his calm, unobtrusive manner, his sensitive understanding and his benevolent grandseigneur behaviour.



Alwine (Alla) von Duberg, langjährige - nicht die einzige - Lebensgefährtin von FWS (Reprofoto Doku FWS, Dr. Helm)

The philanthropist (Station 1.7)

Schulenburg’s extraordinary charm wins him everyone’s trust and affection. He enjoys the good life and socializing, and frequently receives guests. He takes people as they are, and is by no means socially conceited. His chivalry towards women is renowned.

Schulenburg is even popular among the Russians, who call him “our earl”. He is seen as an amiable gentleman and honest broker. The Russian foreign minister once said of him: “We like him and can’t say no to him”.

Schulenburg exercises his power as a diplomat to help those in need. He supports many Polish people who are subject to the terror of the Germans or the Soviets. By breaking official government laws, he indeed saves the lives of hundreds of people.

FWS (Mitte) mit Stalin (links neben FWS) vor Unterzeichnung des Nichtangriffpakts mit der Sowjetunion 1939 (Reprofoto Doku FWS, Dr. Helm)

The peacemaker (Station 1.7)

Since entering office in 1934, as German ambassador in Moscow, Schulenburg finds himself amidst the troubled times of two totalitarian states. He works energetically and relentlessly on improving German-Soviet relations. In doing so, the diplomat openly criticizes the foreign policy of the Third Reich and warns of war against Russia.

Schulenburg plays a central role in preparing the Hitler-Stalin pact. This German-Soviet non-aggression pact signed on 23 August 1939, and its secret supplementary agreement in which the partners split Poland between them, did in fact pave the way for World War II. On September 1, the German Wehrmacht (armed forces) invades Poland. Schulenburg’s intended peace pact becomes a war alliance.

The diplomat desperately continues to work on the German-Russian conciliation. Fearing the dreadful possibility of a war against the Soviet Union he almost goes as far as committing high treason. Schulenburg’s “diplomatic resistance” is unsuccessful. The worst moment of his life is on the night of 22 June 1941, when he has to bring the declaration of war to the Russians.

Der Volksgerichtshof verurteil FWS zum Tode (Reprofoto Doku FWS, Dr. Helm)

In the Resistance (Station 1.8)

In the summer of 1941, the disappointed Schulenburg returns from Moscow. He is appointed head of the “Russia committee” at the foreign office: a fit for purpose position offering no creative scope.

The war against the Soviet Union brings with it the major catastrophe that Schulenburg had been warning about. The extermination of the Jews and the atrocities of war mean that he no longer wants to be an instrument for and servant to the mad national socialists who are destroying his Fatherland. The antipathy he has been harbouring for a long time against the NS regime turns into active opposition.

The attentive observer now becomes someone determined to take action. Schulenburg is in contact with members of the resistance as from 1942. The former ambassador declares his willingness to negotiate with the Soviets. He contributes to formulating the foreign policy programme for the Stauffenberg conspirators. He says he is prepared to become foreign minister for the planned government after a coup. After the attempted assassination on Hitler on 20 July 1944, Schulenburg is arrested as an accomplice, charged with high treason, and hanged on 10 November 1944.

Hinrichtungsstätte Berlin Plötzensee (Reprofoto Doku FWS, Dr. Helm)

The end (Station 1.9)

On 10 November 1944 Schulenburg is hanged by the Nazis at Plötzensee Prison in Berlin.

Hitler had ordered that the conspirators be executed by hanging (and not by the “more honourable” method of being shot).

Himmler did not want any graves. He ordered the corpses of those murdered to be burnt, and their ashes scattered over the fields.

And then?

How did Schulenburg view his imminent death? His thoughts on this were not recorded. He must certainly have been concerned that his execution would have been viewed as shameful. And these concerns were well-founded.

There are records to suggest a fellow resistance fighter shared such sentiments. During the final days of his imprisonment, Helmuth James Graf von Moltke complains in a letter that the “shame connected his death” is the “worst thing” about all this for him. He will “not be acknowledged”, and his relatives will “never reveal” what happened to him.

The image of the assassins as being those who had betrayed the Fatherland remained long in Germany’s collective memory. It was not until 2004 that the attempted coup was widely acknowledged as having been an honourable act. And it was not until 1998 that all the charges made by the “Volksgerichtshof” (the People’s Court) were dropped.


Am 29. August 2009 weht zum letzen Mal die Fahne der Grafen von der Schulenburg auf der Burg (Foto: Markt Falkenberg)

The castle after 1944 (Station 1.10)

After Schulenburg’s arrest for being one of the 20 July conspirators, Burg Falkenberg is seized by the Gestapo in August 1944. From January until April 1945, it is used to intern special prisoners from Flossenbürg concentration camp.

On 28 April 1945, the Allies invade Falkenberg. American soldiers take up quarters in the castle. From August 1945 onwards, the castle is used to house refugees. In 1946 and 1947 it serves mainly as a military hospital.

In 1949, after being a prisoner of war, Albrecht Graf von der Schulenburg, a nephew of the executed ambassador, moves into the castle. For him, his wife Sonnhild (she is also by birth Gräfin von der Schulenburg) and their children Fritz and Stephan, the castle becomes home.

In 2009, Markt Falkenberg acquires the castle and starts comprehensive renovation work.


Die Burg Falkenberg überragt den zu Füßen liegenden Markt (Foto: Petra Wach für Markt Falkenberg)

The castle keep (Station 2.1)

This room has existed since the castle’s renovation in 1939. The tower (keep), which is located behind the stairs used to stand alone in the courtyard. From the bridge which crosses over the courtyard and leads to the next station one has a good view of the medieval stonework of the tower.


Der Rittersaal, als FWS die Burg bewohnte, rechts der Kamin (Reprofoto aus Doku Dr. Helm)

The Knights’ Hall (Station 2.2)

Schulenburg decides upon this large room on the west wing of the castle to be the Knights’ Hall. Above the fireplace one can see the coat of arms of the earl’s family.

Federzeichnung der Burg Falkenberg um 1620 (Reprofoto aus Doku Dr. Helm)

The castle and locality (Station 2.3)

A river crossing at an important trade route, and an imposing rock tower nearby; about 1000 years ago, these were ideal conditions for the location of the castle and Falkenberg itself.

The castle was home to the ruling power. The ruler offered protection and dispensed justice. The residents paid levies and rendered services. The area was extremely important for the castle. At the foot of Falkenberg Castle, a large trading courtyard – the “Schwaige” – was constructed. Craftsmen settled there. Being the ruler over Falkenberg, already in the 15th century Waldsassen Monastery granted the inhabitants extensive rights (the Charter of 1467) , released them from their dependency on the castle, and freed them from many levies and service obligations. An important Falkenberg tradition, the brewing of Zoiglbier – a beer found mainly in the Upper Palatinate and north-eastern Bavaria – originated here.

In 1567, Falkenberg was also granted the important “Marktrecht”, giving it the legal right to sell their wares, by the earl palatine, “Pfalzgraf”, of Wittelsbach who was now their new master.

eine der Schießscharten (Foto: Hans Eibauer)

Defence (Station 2.4)

Falkenberg Castle is a safe place. The small room in front of the visitors is the guard room. From here, you could look out into three directions. This meant that it was easy to keep an eye on the access area to the castle, the marketplace and the Waldnaab river bridge. Embrasures (shooting holes) on all three sides, two of which can still be seen today, enabled the safe firing of arms. The guard room is part of the gate turret. This was built in the early 15th century when the region became unsafe due to the Hussites.

Die Stationen führen auch an der Burgkapelle vorbei (Foto: Hans Eibauer)

The castle chapel (Station 3.1)

The castle chapel was constructed in the mid 15th century as part of construction work initiated by Waldsassen Monastery. An oriel, which is supported by an impressive stone console, forms the altar room. The chapel once covered a ribbed vault. The valuable sandstone construction material fell victim to lootings and decay. All that remained was the pointed arch leading to the altar room. Schulenburg had the chapel restored during renovation work which commenced in 1936.

Friedric-Werner Graf von der Schulenburg (Foto: Hans Eibauer)

Friedrich-Werner Graf von der Schulenburg (Station 3.2)

Schulenburg wanted to spend the rest of his days at Falkenberg Castle and write his memoirs here. He wanted to be buried at Falkenberg cemetery. Both wishes were not to be.
The former ambassador is accused by the national socialists of being one of the 20 July conspirators; he is sentenced and, on 10 November 1944, is hanged at Plötzensee. His body is cremated, and the ashes scattered.

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