A Group of German Leaders Tried to Kill Hitler in 1944. Here’s Why They Failed

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tags: Hitler, military history, World War 2, German history

Albinko Hasic is a PhD student at Syracuse University, whose research concerns propaganda.

On July 20, 1944, Adolf Hitler and senior Nazi military officers met at the Wolf’s Lair in Rastenburg, Eastern Prussia. As the Nazi military leaders took their seats to discuss troop movements on the Eastern Front, an explosion ripped through the humid conference room — and, through the thick black smoke, Hitler’s body was seen strewn across the table. The Führer was dead, and Europe was potentially freed from the Nazi scourge. Or so it initially seemed.

For a brief moment in history, Claus von Stauffenberg and his co-conspirators thought they had succeeded in turning the tide of World War II and potentially saving thousands of additional lives. Unfortunately, the most well-known assassination plot on Hitler’s life, popularly known as the July Plot or Operation Valkyrie, proved unsuccessful for reasons that could have been avoided, and others that are unexplained to this day.

The July Plot Is Hatched

By the summer of 1944, a sizable portion of the German populace, including a number of Germany’s senior military leaders were beginning to lose hope that Germany could win the war. Many blamed Hitler for leading Germany to disaster. Several notable politicians and senior military officials hatched a plot to assassinate the Führer by planting a bomb during a meeting at the Wolfsschanze (the Wolf’s Lair, one of Hitler’s military headquarters) and by doing so, to trigger a political consolidation and coup d’état. The plan was known as Operation Valkyrie. The idea was that, once Hitler was dead, the military would claim that the assassination was part of an attempted coup by the Nazi Party and the Reserve Army would seize key installations in Berlin and arrest high-ranking Nazi leadership. A new government would be established with Carl Friedrich Goerdeler as Chancellor of Germany and Ludwig Beck as president. The new government had the aim of negotiating an end to the war, preferably with favorable terms for Germany.

According to Philipp Freiherr Von Boeselager, one of the last surviving members of the July Plot, the motivations of the key conspirators varied. For many of them, it was simply a way to avoid military defeat, while others wanted to salvage at least a part of the country’s morality. They selected a young German army colonel by the name of Claus von Stauffenberg to carry out the attempt. Stauffenberg was a committed German nationalist, despite not being an official Nazi party member. He ultimately came to believe that it was his patriotic duty to rid Germany of Adolf Hitler if the country was to be saved.

Read entire article at Time

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