He served during World War I as an officer. After the war he joined the notorious Rossbach Freikorps and was involved in the Kappputsch (1920), which led to his exile in Italy where he remained for four years.
He joined the NSDAP in 1926 and became an SA leader in Berlin in 1931. A member of the Prussian Landtag in 1932, he was elected as a Nazi deputy to the Reichstag on 12 November 1933. In the same year he was appointed SS leader with the rank of General in the Brandenburg district and SA-Gruppenfiihrer.
From July 1935 von Helldorf served as Berlin’s Police President - for two years he had been Chief of Police in Potsdam - and indulged in various rackets, including the confiscation of passports belonging to wealthy Jews for resale at prices averaging 250,000 marks.
Graf von Helldorf, who had never been a convinced National Socialist, was one of the major figures involved in the conspiracy against Hitler’s life in 1944, which led to his arrest and torture. He was eventually hanged on 15 August 1944.