Skip to comments.Operation Valkyrie - The "July Plot" to Assassinate Hitler(July 20, 1944)
Posted on 07/20/2013 2:34:25 PM PDT by robowombat
Operation Valkyrie - The "July Plot" to Assassinate Hitler
(July 20, 1944)
At the end of 1943 the Schutz Staffeinel (SS) and the Gestapo managed to arrest several Germans involved in plotting to overthrow Adolf Hitler. This included Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Klaus Bonhoeffer, Josef Mueller and Hans Dohnanyi. Others under suspicion like Wilhelm Canaris and Hans Oster were dismissed from office in January, 1944.
Major Claus von Stauffenberg now emerged as the leader of the group opposed to Nazi rule. In 1942, he decided to kill Adolf Hitler. He was joined by Wilhelm Canaris,Carl Goerdeler, Julius Leber, Ulrich Hassell, Hans Oster, Peter von Wartenburg, Henning von Tresckow, Friedrich Olbricht, Werner von Haeften, Fabian Schlabrendorft, Ludwig Beck and Erwin von Witzleben.
The plot was developed as a modification of Operation Valkyrie (Unternehmen Walküre), which was approved by Hitler for use if Allied bombing of German cities or an uprising of forced laborers from occupied countries working in German factories resulted in a breakdown in law and order. Members of the Reserve Army, including members of the Kreisau Circle, modified the plan and decided to assassinate Adolf Hitler, Hermann Goering and Heinrich Himmler. Afterward, they planned for troops in Berlin to seize key government buildings, telephone and signal centers and radio stations. Hitler's death was required to free German soldiers from their oath of loyalty to him. Operation Valkyrie was meant to give the plotters control over the government so they could make peace with the Allies and end the war.
At least six attempts were aborted before Claus von Stauffenberg decided on trying again during a conference attended by Hitler on July 20, 1944. It was decided to drop plans to kill Goering and Himmler at the same time. Stauffenberg, who had never met Hitler before, carried the bomb in a briefcase and placed it on the floor while he left to make a phone-call. The bomb exploded killing four men in the hut. Hitler's right arm was badly injured but he survived the bomb blast.
The plan was for Ludwig Beck, Erwin von Witzleben and Friedrich Fromm to take control of the German Army. The coup failed in part because they delayed implementing the plan until official confirmation of Hitler's death could be received. When they learned that Hitler had survived, Valkyrie was not put in effect.
In an attempt to protect himself, Fromm organized the execution of Claus von Stauffenberg along with two other conspirators, Friedrich Olbricht and Werner von Haeften, in the courtyard of the War Ministry. It was later reported the Stauffenberg died shouting "Long live holy Germany".
As a result of the July Plot, the new chief of staff, Heinz Guderian demanded the resignation of any officer who did not fully support the ideals of the Nazi Party. Over the next few months Guderian sat with Gerd von Rundstedt and Wilhelm Keitel on the Army Court of Honor that expelled hundreds of officers suspected of being opposed to the policies of Adolf Hitler. This removed them from court martial jurisdiction and turned them over to Roland Freisler and his People's Court.
Over the next few months most of the group, including Wilhelm Canaris, Carl Goerdeler, Julius Leber, Ulrich Hassell, Hans Oster, Peter von Wartenburg, Henning von Tresckow, Ludwig Beck, Erwin von Witzleben and Friedrich Fromm, were either executed or committed suicide. Ninety of the supposed conspirators were executied between August 1944 and April 1945 at the Plotzensee Prison.
It is etimated that 4,980 Germans were executed after the July Plot. Hitler decided that the leaders should have a slow death. They were hung with piano wire from meat-hooks. Their executions were filmed and later shown to senior members of both the NSDAP and the armed forces.
In March 2013, the last surviving member of the plot - Ewald-Heinrich von Kleist-Schmenzin - died in Munich.
For those interested in more information:
Some interesting comments from one the last survivors of the 20 Juli affair. Interview was made two years ago:
Not enough people remember that we lost 1/2 million of our people in WWII. Of course the Russians lost at least 20 million plus those killed by Stalin in his insanity.
Amazing how Hitler survived 42 assassination attempts. My theory is that God was taking mercy on Satan with the delay to make up for the excess of the leftists that hell is getting flooded with now.
Last plot survivor died in March;
I recall reading somewhere that Hitler survived several WWI battles where he was the only one in a unit to live.
“They try; man, how they try!”
4,981 if you add Rommel. A personnel guy tried to save his own neck and "implicated" Erwin. The dye was cast and whether suicide or some one else's hand, he was a marked (and doomed) man.
I actually had to set down Schlabrendorff’s book to write this reply. After the D-Day invasion, the long-planned assassination seemed useless to attempt now, since the unconditional surrender demands of the Allies and strong Allied position did not bode well for stabilizing a Germany and negotiating a peace. Stauffenberg sent an emissary to von Tresckow asking if there was still any point in risking their lives. von Tresckow replied:
“The assassination must be attempted at all costs. Even if it should not succeed, an attempt to seize power in Berlin must be undertaken. What matters now is no longer the practical purpose of the coup, but to prove to the world and for the records of history that the men of the resistance movement dared to take the decisive step. Compared to this objective, nothing else is of consequence.”
Hitler assassination plots: Henning von Tresckow
Most of us know about the famous July 1944 Hitler assassination plot that failed, led by Claus von Stauffenberg and code-named Operation Valkyrie. The co-conspirators paid with their lives, and their families were punished as well.
I became interested recently in the life story of one of the co-conspirators, Henning von Tresckow. Like most of the others who plotted to kill Hitler, he was a member of an old aristocratic family (note all those vons). They constituted a German Resistance movement within the Wehrmacht itself.
Tresckow not only was the mastermind of the Valkyrie plot, but it was not his first attempt to kill Hitler. He had tried as early as March of 1943. Tresckow was a German of a certain sort; although born into a military family, he seemed to have had more of the poets temperament:
He wore his uniform only when it was absolutely required and disliked the regimentation of army life. He was lyrical, recited Rainer Maria Rilke, and spoke several languages
His disillusionment with Nazism began very early on, in 1934, after the Night of the Long Knives, when the SS murdered extrajudicially many SA leaders and political opponents, including two generals. He saw Kristalnacht as an abomination. Nevertheless (or perhaps because of this), he made a fateful decision to stay in the Wehrmacht:
[Tresckow] sought out civilians and officers who opposed Hitler, such as Erwin von Witzleben. Witzleben dissuaded Tresckow from resigning from the Army arguing that they would be needed when day of reckoning comes. By the summer of 1939, he was saying to Fabian von Schlabrendorff, his cousin by marriage, that both duty and honor demand from us that we should do our best to bring about the downfall of Hitler and National-Socialism in order to save Germany and Europe from barbarism.
So he always saw himself as a secret agent, working within the Wehrmacht for the destruction of Hitler. It was a delicate balancing act, one with a multitude of moral complexities. But I cannot find it in my heart to condemn him at all; in fact, I consider him a heroic figure. And he did not remain silent, either:
When he learned about the massacre of thousands of Jews at Borisov, Tresckow appealed passionately to Field Marshall Fedor von Bock: Never may such a thing happen again! Therefore we must act now. We have the power in Russia! (Although Bock personally detested Nazism, he remained loyal to Hitler.) As the chief operations officer of Army Group Center, [von Tresckow] systematically placed officers who shared his views in key positions The headquarters of Army Group Center thus emerged as the new nerve center of Army resistance
Whats more, Tresckow started sending messages that this group was ready for some sort of action as early as 1941, when Hitlers campaign was going very well. However, it wasnt until March of 1943 that the first assassination attempt was finally hatched and executed:
[Tresckow] asked Lieutenant Colonel Heinz Brandt who was traveling with Hitler if he would oblige to take a bottle of Cointreau to Colonel Helmuth Stieff (who was then not yet a conspirator) at Hitlers headquarters in East Prussia as a payment for a lost bet. Brandt readily agreed. The Cointreau was actually a bomb constructed of a British plastic explosive Plastic C placed into the casing of a British magnetic mine, with a timer consisting of a spring which would be gradually dissolved by acid. Before Hitlers Condor plane was to take off, Schlabrendorff activated the 30-minute fuse and handed the package to Brandt, who boarded Hitlers plane. After takeoff, a message was sent to the other Berlin conspirators by code that Operation Flash was underway, which they expected to take place around Minsk. Yet when Hitler landed safely at his East Prussian headquarters, it became obvious that the bomb had failed to detonate (probably due to the extremely low temperature in the unheated luggage compartment thereby preventing the fuse from working). The message of failure was quickly sent out and Schlabrendorff retrieved the package to prevent discovery of the plot.
One week later, another attempt was made, this time by co-conspirator Gersdorff, who volunteered to be a suicide bomber while giving Hitler a tour of a military museum:
He had with him bombs with ten-minute fuses, knowing that Hitler was scheduled to be in the museum for 30 minutes. However, at the last minute just before Hitler was to appear, the duration of his stay was reduced to just eight minutes as a security precaution. Hitler breezed through in two minutes. As a result Gersdorff could not accomplish his mission, and the assassination plan failed again, but he barely managed to get out and defuse the bombs.
Hitler lived a charmed life, apparently. After Operation Valkyriethe plot that actually was carried out, but failed to do any serious harm to Hitlerfailed, Tresckow killed himself at the front. To protect other conspirators, he staged an appearance of partisan attack by firing his pistols and then dispatched himself by holding a hand grenade below his chin.
This is what he told a colleague before he died:
Hitler is the archenemy not only of Germany but of the world. When, in few hours time, I go before God to account for what I have done and left undone, I know I will be able to justify what I did in the struggle against Hitler. God promised Abraham that He would not destroy Sodom if just ten righteous men could be found in the city, and so I hope that for our sake God will not destroy Germany. No one among us can complain about his death, for whoever joined our ranks put on the shirt of Nessus. A mans moral worth is established only at the point where he is ready to give up his life in defense of his convictions.
It is of interest that most of the Wehrmacht plotters were religious men as well as aristocrats and patriots. I believe that was of consequence; note the religious reference in Tresckows final words. He fought Hitler the best way he knew, and if he was a failure, he was aware that at least his gesture proved that there were some righteous people in Germany.
these germans had the right idea to get rid of their tyrannical dictator...
Stauffenberg was, by all accounts, an amazing man. Not only in his courage to attempt the assassination, but in even surviving his 1943 injuries that would have killed most men, much less being able to stay in the Wehrmacht in a staff position.
He and his incredible bravery were not served well by the senior figures in the July Plot. Their planning was slipshod and amateurish even accounting for the Gestapo lurking around every corner. No thought of seizing the Rundfunkhaus or telegraph exchange so the Nazis could not broadcast that Hitler had survived? Goebbels said it best afterward, “my daughter would have thought of that!”
Historians still don’t seem to have nailed down just how much Rommel knew. There’s an excellent biography of Rommel (Knight’s Cross) that goes into it but the best the author can surmise is that Rommel knew *something* was up, and was not opposed to a coup d’etat, but had always expressed firm opposition to an assassination attempt—he wanted Hitler deposed and brought before a court to be tried for his crimes.
But in any case, he had lost confidence in the Germans’ ability to win the war, and for that alone, he would be expected to die. The six weeks he served in command on the Western Front trying to hold off the Allied invasion of France made it very plain to him that Germany was doomed.
I know what I am about to say isn’t nice, but perhaps Stauffenberg should have ridden the bomb all the way to the target like Slim Pickins, as opposed to cutting out and going back to Berlin? Just a thought.
he is a good man.
I think in the end, that may explain Rommel's loss of faith in Herr Schickelgrueber.
As for Monty: a prima donna/nancy boy and way over rated. But he was our cousin's so we needed him. Patton, brilliant tactician but a prima donna as well.Had the foresight to see that the Rooshians were the real problem.
Patton, Montgomery, Rommel: Masters of War [Hardcover] By Terry Brighton
It’s too bad the Germans didn’t succeed in overthrowing that nut.The war in Europe would have ended much sooner.
Rommel, Monty, and Patton were all the right type of men for the campaign in which they were needed. Rommel was an offensive general, a man who always looked for the attack or counter-attack, a thruster, someone who would take audacious risks, a master of mobility. Monty was a compulsive preparer, conservative, cautious, who would not attack until and unless he had a crushing superiority, solid intelligence, and a sound careful plan. Rommel had a force that was more mobile and had a doctrine geared to the offensive. Monty had endless supplies and (by the time of Alam Halfa and Second El Alamein) a very strong position to work from.
Montgomery could not have succeeded with the Afrika Korps, there’s no way. He didn’t have the materiel superiority he so based his planning upon. But likewise I don’t know if Rommel could have succeeded with the Eighth Army. He would have had supplies and replacements beyond his wildest dreams, but he also would have been stuck with a meddling Churchill, British doctrine, and the bloated and slow British staff system instead of the lightning-fast response he eventually got from his own corps staff and gifted subordinates like Bayerlein. Imagining some of those British divisional staffs having to deal with a force of nature like Erwin Rommel is amusing.
Thanks for the book, I’ll have to check that out. If you want another good biography of Rommel, try Knight’s Cross by David Fraser. If nothing else it shows that Rommel’s exploits in World War I as a mere Leutnant or Oberleutnant are, if anything, even more spectacular than what he accomplished in World War II.
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