1944: Stauffenberg’s Attack on Hitler | World

Count Claus Philip Maria Schenk von Stauffenberg is one of the main characters in the conspiracy that culminated in the failed attempt against Adolf Hitler on July 20, 1944. Born in the Swabian region on November 15, 1907, Stauffenberg was a conservative German patriot, who at first he sympathized with the nationalist and militaristic aspects of the Nazi regime.

But from an early age, he began to question not only the extermination of Jews, Poles, Russians and other population groups stigmatized by the Hitler regime, but also the form, in his opinion “inadequate”, of German military command.

Like many other soldiers, he preferred at first to remain faithful to the regime. But in 1942, along with Brother Berthold and other members of the resistance, he helped draft a declaration of post-Hitler government. The conspirators defended the return of the liberties and rights provided for in the 1933 Constitution, but rejected the re-establishment of parliamentary democracy.

In March 1942, Stauffenberg had been promoted to General Staff officer of the 10th Tank Division, charged with protecting General Erwin Rommel’s troops after the Allied landings in North Africa. In an air raid on April 7, 1943, Stauffenberg lost an eye, his right hand, and two fingers on his left hand.

Origin of Operation Valkyrie

Adolf Hitler, center, greets an unidentified person; von Stauffenberg (left) looks on; This image was taken five days before the failed attempt to assassinate Hitler in 1944 — Photo: Reproduction

After recovering from his injuries, he allied with General Friedrich Olbricht, Alfred Mertz von Quinheim and Henning von Treskow in the conspiracy, which they called Operation Valkyrie. Officially, the operation was intended to combat internal unrest, but in reality, it prepared everything for the period after the planned coup d’état.

The plans for the attempt that would kill Hitler were drawn up with the participation of Carl-Friedrich Goerdeler and Ludwig Beck. The conspirators also maintained contacts with the civil resistance. The plans were aimed at eliminating Hitler and his potential successors – Hermann Göring and Heinrich Himmler.

The first attempted bombing: on the morning of July 20, 1944, Stauffenberg flew to the Führer’s headquarters, “Wolfsschanze”, in East Prussia. With his sidekick Werner von Haeften, he managed to activate only one of the two explosives predicted to detonate.

Memorial in Germany for the 24 victims of the July 20, 1944 bombing — Photo: Markus Schreiber/AP

Then he used an excuse to enter the conference room, where he deposited the bag of explosives next to the dictator. Troubled by the bag, Hitler pushed it further away from him. The explosion, at 12:42 pm, killed four of the 24 people in the room. Hitler survived. The bombing is documented in the movie Operation Valkyrie, with Tom Cruise in the role of Stauffenberg.

In the German capital, the conspirators communicated by telephone, around 3 pm, convinced of the success of the mission: “Hitler is dead!” Two hours later, the news was denied.

On the same night, Stauffenberg, Haeften, Quirnheim and Friedrich Olbricht were executed. On July 21, the dead were buried in their military uniforms and decorations. Later, Himmler had them dug up and ordered their cremation. The ashes were scattered across the fields.

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