Helmut (Helle) Hirsch was born in Stuttgart on January 27, 1916. His citizenship status was complicated and later played an important role in his death. His paternal grandfather, Salamon Hirsch, had immigrated to the United States, married, and became a citizen in 1877. However, Salamon Hirsch and his wife returned to Bohemia, and Helmut Hirsch's father, Siegfried, was born in Bohemia in 1878. Siegfried Hirsch himself then immigrated to the United States and lived there as a naturalized citizen from 1903-1910. Siegfried Hirsch then returned to Europe in 1910 to take a job in Alsace, planning to return to the United States at a later time. When Helmut Hirsch was born in 1916 he was registered as an American citizen at the American consulate. During World War I Siegfried Hirsch's American passport was confiscated, and after the war his application for a new American passport was turned down. In 1922 the United States State Department refused to recognize Siegfried Hirsch as an American citizen.
The Hirsch family (including Helmut's sister, Katie, who was born in 1917) moved from Alsace to Stuttgart in 1919. The Hirsches attempted, without success, to reestablish their American citizenship in the following years. Nevertheless, the German government continued to regard them as American citizens, and they lived in Stuttgart as stateless citizens with German foreign passports.
Hirsch occupied much of his youth with drawing, painting, reading, and writing. At 15, he joined the Jungenschaft, a highly-developed youth group founded in 1929 by Tusk (Eberhard Koebel). Its activities included camping trips and other group outings, and it also encouraged an interest in culture, music, philosophy, and politics. The Nazis, fearing the Jungenschaft, dissolved it and replaced it with their own youth movement in 1934. Hirsch, as a Jew, was ineligible to remain in the youth movement.
Hirsch maintained close contact with his colleagues from Jungenshaft, even after moving to Prague in 1935 to pursue a degree in architecture. Tusk recommended that Hirsch contact Otto Strasser, leader of the Black Front, who living at Prague at the time. The Black Front was a socialist group that had splintered off from Hitler's. Strasser believed the Black Front could stir up the German people to overthrow Hitler.
Hirsch met repeatedly with Strasser and other leaders of the Black Front. They encouraged him to show that Jews were not afraid to stand up for themselves by joining an anti-Nazi plot. The plan was for Hirsch to carry a bomb in a suitcase and blow up the Nazi Party headquarters in Nürnberg.
The Nazis were informed of Hirsch's entry into Germany. It is unclear whether this information came from a Gestapo infiltrator or bona fide members of the Black Front seeking publicity. Hirsch was arrested in December 1936 for treason against the German Republic, before he could carry out his attempt to bomb the Nürnberg building.
Hirsch went on trial in March, 1937, in front of a secret session of the People's Court, where he admitted his guilt. His family attempted to get the United States government to intercede based on his status as an American citizen. William Dodd, the American ambassador to Germany, unsuccessfully attempted to get Hitler to pardon Hirsch. On June 4, 1937 Helmut Hirsch was executed.