Adolf Hitler came to power in Germany in January 1933. At first, the traditionalist Goerdeler supported the new government, especially its centralization of authority. Goerdeler also believed that Hitler might solve Germany's pressing economic problems. However, it soon became apparent that the new government insisted on total submission. In protest, Goerdeler resigned as mayor of Leipzig in 1937. Goerdeler was troubled not only by the regime's domestic policies but also by its aggressive foreign policy, which he feared would lead to a general European war. He became one of the first to publicly speak out against the Nazi government and soon emerged as one of the leaders of the German Resistance movement against Hitler.
Once war began in September 1939, Goerdeler became a leading member of a conspiracy to overthrow Hitler. He wrote documents spelling out the goals of the Resistance and what should take place politically following Hitler's removal from office. Throughout, Goerdeler maintained a close relationship with General Ludwig Beck, leader of the army officers who opposed Hitler. Although Goerdeler vigorously urged Hitler's removal from office, he initially opposed an assassination that might make Hitler a martyr. Goerdeler argued that the Führer should be arrested and his guilt exposed in a public trial. Others in the Resistance, however, believed assassinating Hitler was the certain course of action. By early July 1944, Goerdeler reluctantly agreed. According to plans developed by the Resistance groups, Goerdeler was to become the chancellor in a post-Hitler Germany.
On the failure of the 20 July 1944 bomb plot against Hitler, Goerdeler went into hiding. Arrested on 12 August, Goerdeler endured interrogation and was then sentenced to death. He wrote several essays and letters while in prison, and he was executed at Plötzensee Prison, Berlin, on 2 February 1945.
Hamerow, Theodore. On the Road to Wolf's Lair: German Resistance to Hitler. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1997.; Reich, Innes. Carl Friedrich Goerdeler: Ein Oberbürgermeister gene den NS-Staat. Köln, Germany: Böhlau, 1997.; Ritter, Gerhard. The German Resistance: Carl Goerdeler's Struggle against Tyranny. Freeport, NY: Books for Libraries Press, 1970.