Operation Valkyrie

In January, 1942, a network of men and women that included Field Marshal Erwin von Witzleben, General Friedrich Olbricht, Colonel-General Ludwig Beck, Colonel-General Erich Hoepner, General Carl-Heinrich von Stülpnagel, Colonel Albrecht Metz von Quirnheim, General-Major Henning von Tresckow, General-Major Helmuth Stieff, General Erich Fellgiebel, General Paul von Hase, Lieutenant Colonel Caesar von Hofacker, General Lieutenant Karl Freiherr von Thüngen, General Fritz Lindemann, Lieutenant Fabian Schlabrendorff, Major Hans Ulrich von Oertzen, Otto Kiep, Wolf-Heinrich Helldorf, Admiral Wilhelm Canaris, General-Major Hans Oster, Hans Gisevius, Wilhelm Leuschner, Ulrich von Hassell, Hans Dohnanyi, Fritz-Dietlof von der Schulenburg, Carl Langbehn, Josef Wirmer, Carl Goerdeler, Alfred Delp, Adam von Trott, Julius Leber, Adolf Reichwein, Helmuth von Moltke, Peter Graf Yorck von Wartenburg, Johannes Popitz and Jakob Kaiser, began discussing the possibility of overthrowing Adolf Hitler. The conspiracy was called Operation Valkyrie. (1)

In October 1943, Lieutenant-Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg, joined the group. While serving in Africa, Stauffenberg was wounded in the face, in both hands, and in the knee by fire from a low-flying Allied plane. According to one source: "He feared that he might lose his eyesight completely, but he kept one eye and lost his right hand, half the left hand, and part of his leg." After he recovered it was decided that it would be impossible to serve on the front line and in October, 1943, he was appointed as Chief of Staff in the General Army Office. (2)

The group was pleased by the arrival of Stauffenberg who brought new dynamism to the attempt to remove Hitler. Stauffenberg volunteered to be the man who would assassinate Hitler: "With the help of men on whom he could rely at the Führer's headquarters, in Berlin and in the German Army in the west, Stauffenberg hoped to push the reluctant Army leaders into action once Hitler had been killed. To make sure that this essential preliminary should not be lacking, Stauffenberg allotted the task of assassination to himself despite the handicap of his injuries. Stauffenberg's energy had put new life into the conspiracy, but the leading role he was playing also roused jealousies." (3)

Negotiations with Heinrich Himmler

Johannes Popitz believed that he could exploit the differences inside the Nazi leadership and bring about a split by persuading Heinrich Himmler to lead a coup against Hitler. In August 1943, Popitz had a meeting with two senior figures in the resistance: General Friedrich Olbricht and General-Major Henning von Tresckow. They gave their approval to the strategy. So also did Colonel-General Ludwig Beck, who "believed a putsch carried out by generals was bound to fail" and he was only willing to participate "on the condition" that the putsch had the support of Himmler." (4)

Johannes Popitz
Johannes Popitz

Carl Langbehn, Himmler's lawyer, was also a member of the resistance. He approached Himmler and managed to persuade him to meet Popitz. On 26th August, Popitz had an interview with Himmler in the Reich Ministry of the Interior. "Apparently Popitz began by flattering Himmler's vanity as the guardian of National Socialist values under attack by Party corruption and misdirection of the war effort. The war was no longer winnable, he went on, and if they carried it on as formerly they were heading for defeat or stalemate at best." (5)

According to Peter Hoffmann: "Adroitly he suggested that Himmler assume the role of guardian of the true Holy Grail of Nazism; someone was required to re-establish order, both at home and abroad, after all the corruption and the unhappy conduct of the war by a single overloaded man. The war could no longer be won, he said, but it would only be lost if it continued to be conducted on these lines." Popitz pointed out that because of their fear of communism, Winston Churchill and Franklin D. Roosevelt were still willing to negotiate, but not with Hitler or Joachim von Ribbentrop. (6)

Popitz and Himmler agreed to further talks but these never took place because in September 1943 Langbehn was arrested by the Gestapo. It seems that they had intercepted an Allied message that had been sent to Langbehn. It was shown to Himmler and he had to choice but to act, though he contrived to avoid ordering a trial. Popitz retained his freedom but now his fellow conspirators tended to keep their distance as it was feared that he was being closely observed by the authorities. (7) It seems that Hitler was also highly suspicious of Popitz. Joseph Goebbels wrote in his diary: "Hitler is absolutely convinced that Popitz is our enemy. He is already having him watched so as to have incriminating material about him ready; the moment Popitz gives himself away, he will close in on him." (8)

According to Hans Gisevius during 1942, several senior military officers, joined Operation Valkyrie. This included Field Marshal Günther von Kluge, Field Marshal Erwin Rommel, General Eduard Wagner, General Fritz Lindemann, and Colonel-General Erich Hoepner. "These generals, either because of their strength of numbers, their key positions for a revolt, or because of the recognition that the fate of the class was at stake, began to feel an increasing sense of unity." (9) General-Major Henning von Tresckow commented: "Whoever joined the resistance movement, put on the shirt of Nessus. The moral worth of a man is certain only if he is prepared to sacrifice his life for his convictions." (10)

Axel von dem Bussche

The original plan, devised by General Major Tresckow, believed that only an assassination attempt at the Führer Headquarters could get round the unpredictability of Hitler's schedule and the tight security precautions surrounding him. They therefore needed to find a suicide bomber. The first person approached was Captain Axel von dem Bussche, He was a highly decorated captain and a supporter of Hitler until while at the Ukrainian town of Dubno, he witnessed the massacring of about 2,000 Jewish men, women and children. The victims were "herded along" and then were "compelled to strip and then to lie face downwards on top of the dead or still writhing Jews who had dug the pit and then been shot; the newcomers were then also killed by a shot in the nape of the neck. The SS men did all this in a calm, orderly fashion; they were clearly acting under orders." (11)

Axel von dem Bussche
Axel von dem Bussche

From that time on, Axel von dem Bussche, a committed Christian, dedicated himself to the task of doing whatever he could do destroy Hitler and all that he represented. There were, he said, only three possible ways for an honorable officer to react: "to die in battle, to desert, or to rebel." (12) A lung injury resulted in him being invalided him out of active service. On his return to Germany he was put into contact with Friedrich-Werner Graf von der Schulenburg, a diplomat sympathetic to the resistance, who arranged for him to meet Stauffenberg. (13) When Stauffenberg asked him if he would be willing to kill Hitler, Bussche accepted without hesitation. After a brief discussion about the preferred method, they concluded that a bomb was the means most likely to succeed. A pistol shot might miss the mark or produce only a superficial wound. It was also believed that Hitler wore a bulletproof waistcoat. (14)

The occasion for the planned attack was a demonstration of new equipment and winter uniforms developed for use on the eastern front. Bussche agreed to be a model for one of the uniforms at a rally on 16th November, 1943, at the Wolfschanze at Rastenburg, where Hitler would be in attendance. He was a perfect choice for such a role. He looked "Nordic" and had served over the entire length of the eastern front. It was decided that Bussche should use a bomb with a five-second fuse. He planned to conceal the bomb in a deep pocket of the new uniform, and in the course of explaining its features, arm the bomb, and then jump on Hitler and throw him to the ground, holding him there for the few seconds required for the bomb to explode. Unfortunately, the rally was cancelled because the train in which the new uniforms were being transported was hit and destroyed by an Allied bomb the night before the proposed fashion show. (15)

Bussche was recalled to active service on the eastern front, but before he left Berlin he promised that he would be willing to carry out the assassination when the demonstration of new equipment and winter uniforms was re-scheduled. In January 1944, Stauffenberg contacted Bussche requesting his return. However, his divisional commander, who was not in the conspiracy, raised doubts about his battalion commanders acting as models for demonstrations of uniforms. A few days later Bussche was severely wounded and lost a leg and was unable to take part in the killing of Hitler. (16)

The Major General Helmuth Stieff was the only conspirator who was able to attend the demonstration of new uniforms. Stieff had recently declared himself ready to assassinate Hitler, but, when Stauffenberg asked him to carry out the killing, he backed out. Stauffenberg now approached Lieutenant Ewald Heinrich von Kleist and asked him to carry out the task. He asked for his father's opinion, who replied: "You have to do it. Anyone who falters at such a moment will never again be one with himself in this life." However, he decided against taking such action. (17)

Negotiations with Resistance Groups

Claus von Stauffenberg now decided to carry out the assassination himself. But before he took action he wanted to make sure he agreed with the type of government that would come into being. Conservatives such as Carl Goerdeler and Johannes Popitz wanted Field Marshal Erwin von Witzleben to become the new Chancellor. However, socialists in the group, such as Julius Leber and Wilhelm Leuschner, argued this would therefore become a military dictatorship. At a meeting on 15th May 1944, they had a strong disagreement over the future of a post-Hitler Germany. (18)

Another important Conservative in the German Resistance was the retired diplomat, Ulrich von Hassell. He was a great supporter of Goerdeler: "I find it a relief, though, to speak with a man prepared to act rather than grumble. Of course, his hands are tied just like ours, and he is desperate about the losses we have suffered in the Army since February 1938. Nevertheless he believes there are elements of resistance already resurgent throughout the country, though scattered and lacking organization. He sees the development of the Third Reich both home and abroad, morally and economically, in the darkest light." (19) However, in a meeting in June 1941, he commented: "During the conversation it became apparent that Goerdeler is often handicapped by quite outmoded conceptions." (20) On another occasion he said "he is too sanguine, always sees things as he wishes to see them, and in many ways is a true reactionary". (21)

Helmuth von Moltke : Nazi Germany
Carl Goerdeler

Hassell and Goerdeler were both monarchists: "Hassell was a conservative, even a reactionary, and his political principles and social vision were out of step with the world of modern politics, both democratic and totalitarian... For Hassell the monarchy was one of the safeguards of a realistic, conservative social outlook; a form of corporate state, 'an organic state' as he called it, derived from the Hegelian tradition of state theory, was in his view a safer path to a sound society than the parliamentary path. He was a firm opponent of Communism in all its guises and disliked the brand of populist socialism that he identified with Hitler." (22)

Stauffenberg was highly critical of the conservatives such as Goerdeler, Popitz and Hassell and was much closer to the socialist wing of the conspiracy around Julius Leber. Goerdeler later recalled: "Stauffenberg revealed himself as a cranky, obstinate fellow who wanted to play politics. I had many a row with him, but greatly esteemed him. He wanted to steer a dubious political course with the left-wing Socialists and the Communists, and gave me a bad time with his overwhelming egotism." (23)

Peter Hoffmann has argued: "On Goerdeler's insistence he agreed that Goerdeler should be the main negotiator with Leber, Leuschner and their representatives. Goerdeler had already written a letter to Stauffenberg, transmitted through Kaiser, protesting against Stauffenberg negotiating independently with trade union leaders and socialists... This meant that Goerdeler should play the leading role in all non-military questions, as Beck was still insisting as late as July 1944. This he did not so much from suspicion of Stauffenberg as from aversion to exaggerated concentration of power. Moreover Stauffenberg was politically inexperienced; his views were vague; goodwill and idealism by themselves generally only do damage in politics. The fact that he was risking his life did not give Stauffenberg the right to claim power of political decision; Goerdeler and Beck were risking their lives too. The ability to murder Hitler was no adequate justification for assuming the role of political leader." (24)

Ulrich von Hassell had a meeting with Adam von Trott, a leading figure in the Kreisau Circle, a Christian Socialist group who opposed Hitler, that had been formed by Peter Graf Yorck von Wartenburg and Helmuth von Moltke. A. J. Ryder has pointed out that the Kreisau Circle "brought together a fascinating collection of gifted men from the most diverse backgrounds: noblemen, officers, lawyers, socialists, trade unionists, churchmen." (25) Joachim Fest argues that the "strong religious leanings" of this group, together with its ability to attract "devoted but undogmatic socialists," but has been described as its "most striking characteristic." (26)

Trott explained how the group was trying to build a broad coalition but totally disagreed with Hassell and his colleagues about certain issues. For example, the group were opposed to the idea of the reintroduction of the monarchy. Although the monarchy would win the support of some sections of the German population but "not confidence abroad." He explained that members of the outlawed Social Democratic Party "would never go along with us on the monarchy and would wait for the next group." One thing they did agree on was that Martin Niemöller would make a good Chancellor after the war. (27)

On 8th January, 1943, a group of conspirators, including, Ulrich von Hassell, Helmuth von Moltke, Fritz-Dietlof von der Schulenburg, Johannes Popitz, Eugen Gerstenmaier, Adam von Trott, Ludwig Beck and Carl Goerdeler met at the home of Peter Graf Yorck von Wartenburg. Hassell was uneasy with the utopianism of the of the Kreisau Circle, but believed that the "different resistance groups should not waste their strength nursing differences when they were in such extreme danger". Wartenburg, Moltke and Hassell were all concerned by the suggestion that Goerdeler should become Chancellor if Hitler was overthrown as they feared that he could become a Alexander Kerensky type leader. (28)

Moltke and Goerdeler clashed over several different issues. According to Theodore S. Hamerow: "Goerdeler was the opposite of Moltke in temperament and outlook. Moltke, preoccupied with the moral dilemmas of power, could not deal with the practical problems of seizing and exercising it. He was overwhelmed by his own intellectuality. Goerdeler, by contrast, seemed to believe that most spiritual quandaries could be resolved through administrative expertise and managerial skill. He suffered from too much practicality. He objected to the policies more than the principles of National Socialism, to the methods more than the goals. He agreed in general that the Jews were an alien element in German national life, an element that should be isolated and removed. But there is no need for brutality or persecution. Would it not be better to try and solve the Jewish question by moderate, reasonable means?" (29)

Some historians have defended Goerdeler from claims that he was an ultra-conservative: "Goerdeler has frequently been accused of being a reactionary. To some extent this results from the vehemence with which differing points of view were often argued between the various political tendencies in the opposition. In Goerdeler's case the accusation is unjustified. Admittedly he, like Popitz, wished to avoid the pitfalls of mass democracy; he was concerned to form an elite... and some stable form of authority. This he wished to achieve, however, through liberalism and decentralization; his stable authority should be so constructed that it guaranteed rather than suppressed freedom." (30)

The conspirators eventually agreed who would be members of the government. Head of State: Colonel-General Ludwig Beck, Chancellor: Carl Goerdeler; Vice Chancellor: Wilhelm Leuschner; State Secretary: Peter Graf Yorck von Wartenburg; State Secretary: Ulrich-Wilhelm Graf von Schwerin; Foreign Minister: Ulrich von Hassell; Minister of the Interior: Julius Leber; State Secretary: Lieutenant Fritz-Dietlof von der Schulenburg; Chief of Police: General-Major Henning von Tresckow; Minister of Finance: Johannes Popitz; President of Reich Court: General-Major Hans Oster; Minister of War: Erich Hoepner; State Secretary of War: General Friedrich Olbricht; Minister of Propaganda: Carlo Mierendorff; Commander in Chief of Wehrmacht: Field Marshal Erwin von Witzleben; Minister of Justice: Josef Wirmer. (31)

1944 July Plot

To carry out the assassination, it was necessary for Claus von Stauffenberg to have access to Adolf Hitler. One member of the group, General Friedrich Fromm was Commander in Chief of the Reserve Army. His was in charge of training and personnel replacement for combat divisions of the German Army and had regular meetings with Hitler. It was agreed that a close friend of General Rudolf Schmundt, Hitler's chief adjutant, should suggest that Stauffenberg should become chief of staff to General Fromm. According to Albert Speer, "Schmundt explained to me, Stauffenberg was considered one of the most dynamic and competent officers in the German army. Hitler himself would occasionally urge me to work closely and confidentially with Stauffenberg. In spite of his war injuries (he had lost an eye, his right hand, and two fingers of his left hand), Stauffenberg had preserved a youthful charm; he was curiously poetic and at the same time precise, thus showing the marks of the two major and seemingly incompatible educational influences upon him: the circle around the poet Stefan George and the General Staff. He and I would have hit it off even without Schmundt's recommendation." (32)

Claus von Stauffenberg
Claus von Stauffenberg

On 1st July 1944 Stauffenberg was promoted to Colonel and became Chief of Staff to Fromm. Stauffenberg was now in a position where he would have regular meetings with Adolf Hitler. Fellow conspirator, Henning von Tresckow sent a message to Stauffenberg: "The assassination must be attempted, at any cost. Even should that fail, the attempt to seize power in the capital must be undertaken. We must prove to the world and to future generations that the men of the German Resistance movement dared to take the decisive step and to hazard their lives upon it. Compared with this, nothing else matters." (33)

It was agreed that on the death of Hitler, three speeches were to be broadcast over German radio. Two of the speeches were to be directed to the armed forces and were to be delivered by Field Marshal Erwin von Witzleben and General Ludwig Beck. The other was addressed to the German people and would be given by the conservative politician, Carl Goerdeler, who would come out of hiding once the coup had been confirmed. General Erich Fellgiebel, Chief of Signals of the OKW, would cut down all communications from Hitler's headquarters following the assassination and General Carl-Heinrich von Stülpnagel, the military governor of France, would arrange for the troops under his command to arrest all Gestapo and SS officers. (34)

Stauffenberg attended his first meeting with Hitler on 6th July. He had a bomb with him but for reasons that to this day are not entirely clear, he did not try to kill Hitler. The generally accepted theory is that Stauffenberg was dissuaded from acting because neither Heinrich Himmler or Hermann Göring were present. Several conspirators, including General Ludwig Beck, wanted these two men killed at the same time as Hitler. The theory being that Göring and Himmler would take power after the death of Hitler. (35)

On 11th July, Stauffenberg flew once more to Hitler's headquarters in Berchtesgaden. He had a bomb with him but did not set it off because Himmler and Göring were not at the meeting. According to Peter Hoffmann: "There was never any certainty that Himmler or Göring would be present at the briefing conferences; neither of them attended regularly. They were usually represented by their liaison officers who reported to them; they themselves came comparatively seldom. Sometimes Himmler and Göring had no personal contact with Hitler for weeks; at other times one of the other would attend several conferences with Hitler daily." (36) Stauffenberg remained committed to trying to kill Hitler although he had little confidence he would be successful. On 14th July he was quoted as saying: "The worst thing is knowing that we cannot succeed and yet that we have to do it, for our country and our children." (37)

Claus von Stauffenberg had another meeting with Adolf Hitler on 15th July. Although he had the bomb with him he did not take this opportunity to kill Hitler. The main reason was probably the difficulty he would have had in fusing his bomb. Since he only had three fingers on one hand he had to use a pair of pliers and this would certainly have been seen. It has been claimed that if he had bent down "to his briefcase and began to open it with his three fingers - someone would certainly have come to his assistance, lifted it on to the table and helped him take out the papers - impossible then to search round for the pliers, squeeze the fuse and put the briefcase back on the floor." (38)

Stauffenberg needed help in his task and his adjutant, Werner von Haeften, agreed to help assassinate Hitler, when he told his brother, the diplomat, Hans-Bernd von Haeften, also a member of the conspiracy, he raised objections on religious grounds. For sometime he had become entangled in a web of philosophical and religious reflection. He asked Werner: "Are you absolutely sure this is your duty before God and our forefathers?" Werner replied that the act was justified because it would bring an end to the war and would therefore save the lives of many Germans. (39)

Werner von Haeften
Werner von Haeften

Claus von Stauffenberg was now convinced that he was morally justified in taking this action. His religious and ethical beliefs led him to the conclusion that it was his duty to eliminate Hitler and his murderous regime by any means possible. Just before he left on his mission to kill Hitler he said: "It is now time that something was done. But he who has the courage to do something must do so in the knowledge that he will go down in German history as a traitor. If he does not do it, however, he will be a traitor to his conscience." (40)

Other members of the conspiracy also urged action. Colonel-General Ludwig Beck, who had been an integral part of the resistance from the beginning, continued to argue that the attempt must be made, regardless of the consequences. As Theodore S. Hamerow pointed out: "Some of those involved in planning the coup started to suggest that the attempt to overthrow the Nazi regime must be made not primarily to save Germany but as an act of atonement or expiation. Even if it should fail, even if the fatherland should be conquered and occupied, the resistance must wage its struggle against National Socialism as a moral obligation, as a sacrifice for mankind, as an appeal for forgiveness and redemption... What mattered was proving to the world that at least some Germans, acting out of conscience and in accordance with universal moral values, were willing to sacrifice themselves to protect humanity against an unspeakable evil." (41)

Adolf Hitler greets General Erich Fromm on 15th July, 1944. Claus von Stauffenberg stands to attention next to Fromm. Field Marshal Wilhelm Keitel, with folder, looks on.
Adolf Hitler greets General Erich Fromm on 15th July, 1944. Claus von Stauffenberg stands
to attention next to Fromm. Field Marshal Wilhelm Keitel, with folder, looks on.

On 20th July, 1944, Stauffenberg and Haeften left Berlin to meet with Hitler at the Wolf' Lair. After a two-hour flight from Berlin, they landed at Rastenburg at 10.15. Stauffenberg had a briefing with Field Marshal Wilhelm Keitel, Chief of Armed Forces High Commandat, at 11.30, with the meeting with Hitler due to take place at 12.30. As soon as the meeting was over, Stauffenberg, met up with Haeften, who was carrying the two bombs in his briefcase. They then went into the toilet to set the time-fuses in the bombs. They only had time to prepare one bomb when they were interrupted by a junior officer who told them that the meeting with Hitler was about to start. Stauffenberg then made the fatal decision to place one of the bombs in his briefcase. "Had the second device, even without the charge being set, been placed in Stauffenberg's bag alone with the first, it would have been detonated by the explosion, more than doubling the effect. Almost certainly, in such an event, no one would have survived." (42)

When he entered the wooden briefing hut, twenty-four senior officers were in assembled around a huge map table on two heavy oak supports. Stauffenberg had to elbow his way forward a little in order to get near enough to the table and he had to place the briefcase so that it was in no one's way. Despite all his efforts, however, he could only get to the right-hand corner of the table. After a few minutes, Stauffenberg excused himself, saying that he had to take a telephone call from Berlin. There was continual coming and going during the briefing conferences and this did not raise any suspicions. (43)

Stauffenberg and Haeften went straight to a building about 200 hundred yards away consisting of bunkers and reinforced huts. Shortly afterwards, according to eyewitnesses: "A deafening crack shattered the midday quiet, and a bluish-yellow flame rocketed skyward... and a dark plume of smoke rose and hung in the air over the wreckage of the briefing barracks. Shards of glass, wood, and fiberboard swirled about, and scorched pieces of paper and insulation rained down." (44)

Stauffenberg and Haeften observed a body covered with Hitler's cloak being carried out of the briefing hut on a stretcher and assumed he had been killed. They got into a car but luckily the alarm had not yet been given when they reached Guard Post 1. The Lieutenant in charge, who had heard the blast, stopped the car and asked to see their papers. Stauffenberg who was given immediate respect with his mutilations suffered on the front-line and his aristocratic commanding exterior; said he must go to the airfield at once. After a short pause the Lieutenant let them go. (45)

According to eyewitness testimony and a subsequent investigation by the Gestapo, Stauffenberg's briefcase containing the bomb had been moved farther under the conference table in the last seconds before the explosion in order to provide additional room for the participants around the table. Consequently, the table acted as a partial shield, protecting Hitler from the full force of the blast, sparing him from serious injury of death. The stenographer Heinz Berger, died that afternoon, and three others, General Rudolf Schmundt, General Günther Korten, and Colonel Heinz Brandt did not recover from their wounds. Hitler's right arm was badly injured but he survived. (46)

However, General Erich Fellgiebel, Chief of Army Communications, sent a message to General Friedrich Olbricht to say that Hitler had survived the blast. The most calamitous flaw in Operation Valkyrie was the failure to consider the possibility that Hitler might survive the bomb attack. Olbricht told Hans Gisevius, they decided it was best to wait and to do nothing, to behave "routinely" and to follow their everyday habits. (47) Major Albrecht Metz von Quirnheim long closely involved in the plot, had already begun the action with a cabled message to regional military commanders, beginning with the words: "The Führer, Adolf Hitler, is dead." (48) As a result, Peter Graf Yorck von Wartenburg, Ludwig Beck and Fritz-Dietlof von der Schulenburg arrived at army headquarters in order to become members of the new government. (49).

Adolf Hitler greets General Erich Fromm on 15th July, 1944. Claus von Stauffenberg stands to attention next to Fromm. Field Marshal Wilhelm Keitel, with folder, looks on.
General Friedrich Olbricht

On hearing this General Carl-Heinrich von Stülpnagel arrested as planned 1,200 SS and Gestapo men in Paris and cut off all communication from France to Germany. (50) The original plan was for Ludwig Beck, Erwin von Witzleben and Erich Fromm to take control of the German Army and Wolf-Heinrich Helldorf, promised to use his role as Chief of the Berlin Police, to help the conspirators to gain power. According to Hans Gisevius, at a meeting soon after the assassination attempt, General Friedrich Olbricht "informed Helldorf in the tone of a military command that the Führer had been the victim of assassination that afternoon" and "the Wehrmacht had taken over the direction of the government; a state of siege was being proclaimed." (51)

Stauffenberg arrived back in Berlin and went straight to see General Friedrich Fromm. Stauffenberg insisted that Hitler was dead. Fromm replied that he had just learnt from Field Marshal Wilhelm Keitel that Hitler had survived the bomb attack. Stauffenberg replied, "Field Marshal Keitel is lying as usual. I myself saw Hitler being carried out dead." He then admitted that he had planted the bomb himself. Fromm became very angry and declared that all the conspirators were under arrest, whereupon Stauffenberg retorted that, on the contrary, they were in control and he was under arrest. (52)

Colonel-General Ludwig Beck telephoned Field Marshal Günther von Kluge, the Supreme Commander West in occupied France. Beck told him Hitler was dead: "Kluge, I now ask you clearly: Do you approve of this action of ours and do you place yourself under my orders?" Kluge hesitated and Beck added: "Kluge, in order to remove the slightest doubt, I want to remind you of our last conversations and agreements. I ask again: Do you place yourself unconditionally under my orders?" Kluge replied that he would have to confer with his staff and would call back in half an hour. The conspirators were now convinced that Kluge would not support the coup. (53)

Shortly after the assassination attempt, Joseph Goebbels broadcast a communiqué over German radio, assuring the public that Hitler was alive and well and that he would speak to the nation later that evening. Goebbels began the broadcast with the following words: "Today an attempt was made on the Führer's life with explosives... The Führer himself suffered no injuries beyond light burns and bruises. He resumed his work immediately." (54)

Albert Speer, minister of armaments, visited Goebbels soon after the broadcast. He described the scene outside: "The office windows looked out on the street. A few minutes after my arrival I saw fully equipped soldiers, in steel helmets, hand grenades at their belts and submachine guns in their hands, moving toward the Blandenburg Gate in small, battle ready groups. They set up machine guns at the gate and stopped all traffic. Meanwhile, two heavily armed men went up to the door along the park and stood guard there." However, Goebbels was not confident that he would not be arrested and carried with him some potassium cyanide capsules. (55)

Goebbels was safe because the July 1944 Plot had been so badly organized. No real attempt had been made to arrest the Nazi leaders or to kill them. Nor did they secure immediate control of the radio and telephone communications systems. This was surprising as weeks earlier the original plan included the seizure of the long-distance telephone office, the main telegraph office, the radio broadcasting facilities in and around Berlin, and the central post office. "Incomprehensibly, the conspirators did not carry out these actions with sufficient dispatch, and this produced utter and fatal confusion." (56)

Later that day, Goebbels told Heinrich Himmler: "If they hadn't been so clumsy! They had an enormous chance. What dolts! What childishness? When I think how I would have handled such a thing. Why didn't they occupy the radio station and spread the wildest lies? Here they put guards in front of my door. But they let me go right ahead and telephone the Führer, mobilize everything! They didn't even silence my telephone. To hold so many trumps and botch it - what beginners!" (57)

Sometime between 8:00 and 9:00 p.m., the cordon that the conspirators had established around the government quarter was lifted. Military units that initially had supported the conspirators were switching loyalties back to the Nazis. The main reason for this was the series of radio announcements that were broadcast throughout Germany. By 10.00 p.m., forces loyal to the government were able to seize control of central headquarters and General Friedrich Fromm was released and Claus von Stauffenberg and his followers were taken prisoner. (58)

Those arrested included Colonel-General Ludwig Beck, Colonel-General Erich Hoepner, General Friedrich Olbricht, Colonel Albrecht Metz von Quirnheim and Lieutenant Werner von Haeften. Fromm decided that he would hold an immediate court-martial. Stauffenberg spoke out, claiming in a few clipped sentences sole responsibility for everything and stating that the others had acted purely as soldiers and his subordinates. (59) It is claimed that Olbricht stated: "I know with certainty that all of us acted free of any sort of personal motives, and that we dared attempt the ultimate only in a situation that was already desperate, in order to protect Germany against total destruction." (60)

All the conspirators were found guilty and sentenced to death. Hoepner, an old friend, was spared to stand further trial. Beck requested the right to commit suicide. According to the testimony of Hoepner, Beck was given back his own pistol and he shot himself in the temple, but only managed to give himself a slight head wound. "In a state of extreme stress, Beck asked for another gun, and an attendant staff officer offered him a Mauser. But the second shot also failed to kill him, and a sergeant then gave Beck the coup de grâce. He was given Beck's leather overcoat as a reward." (61)

The condemned men were taken to the courtyard. Drivers of vehicles parked in the courtyard were instructed to position them so that their headlight would illuminate the scene. General Olbricht was shot first and then it was Stauffenberg's turn. He shouted "Long live holy Germany." The salvo rang out but Haeften had thrown himself in front of Stauffenberg and was shot first. Only the next salvo killed Stauffenberg and was shot first. Only the next salvo killed Stauffenberg. Quirnheim was the last man shot. It was 12.30 a.m. (62)

Revenge on the Military Command

Adolf Hitler, seized by a "titanic fury and an Unquenchable thirst for revenge" ordered Heinrich Himmler and Ernst Kaltenbrunner to arrest "every last person who had dared to plot against him". Hitler laid down the procedure for killing them: "This time the criminals will be given short shrift. No military tribunals. We'll hail them before the People's Court. No long speeches from them. The court will act with lightning speed. And two hours after the sentence it will be carried out. By hanging - without mercy." (63)

The first trial, held on 7th August, 1944, resulted in the conviction of Field Marshal Erwin von Witzleben, Colonel-General Erich Hoepner, General-Major Helmuth Stieff, General Paul von Hase (the commandant of the Berlin garrison), Peter Yorck von Wartenburg of military intelligence and several junior officers. All the men were tried by Roland Freisler, the notorious Nazi judge. Witzleben was especially badly treated. The Gestapo had taken away his false teeth and belt. He was "unshaven, collarless and shabby." It was claimed that he had aged ten years in two weeks of Gestapo captivity. (64) Joseph Goebbels ordered that every minute of the trial should be filmed so that the movie could be shown to the troops and the civilian public as an example of what happened to traitors. (65)

All the men were found guilty and sentenced to hang that afternoon. Hitler had ordered that they be hung like cattle. "I want to see them hanging like carcasses in a slaughterhouse!" he commanded. The entire event was filmed by the Reich Film Corporation. "Witzleben was first. Despite his poor showing at the trial, Witzleben met his death with courage and with as much dignity as was possible under the circumstances. A thin wire noose was placed around his neck, and the other end was secured to a meat hook. The executioner and his assistant then picked up the sixty-four-year-old soldier and dropped him so that his entire weight fell on his neck. They then pulled off his trousers so that he hung naked and twisted in agony as he slowly strangled. It took him almost five minutes to die, but he never once cried out. The other seven condemned men were executed in the same manner within an hour." (66)

General-Major Henning von Tresckow, Chief of Staff of the Second Army, was serving on the Eastern Front when he heard that the July Plot had failed. He told his adjutant, Lieutenant Fabian Schlabrendorff: "Now the entire world will assail us and revile us. But I am now as before absolutely convinced that we acted properly. I consider Hitler to be not only the archenemy of Germany but also the archenemy of the world. When I stand in a few hours before God's judgment seat to give an account of my actions and omissions, I think that I will be able to defend in good conscience what I did in the struggle against Hitler. If God once promised Abraham that he would not destroy Sodom if only ten righteous men lived there, then I hope that because of us God will also not destroy Germany… The moral worth of a human being begins only when he is ready to sacrifice his life for his conviction." (67)

Tresckow decided that he would kill himself because he feared what would happen when he was tortured to give the names of his fellow conspirators. After saying goodbye to Schlabrendorff, Tresckow drove off toward the front line near Bialstock in what is now in Poland, put a rifle grenade against his cheek, and blew his head off. "Thus he sought to expiate his nation's acquiescence in a terrible moral evil, to admit guilt, do penance, and ask for forgiveness." (68)

Others involved in the plot also decided to commit suicide. General Eduard Wagner, who had been in control of German forces in the rear, and had been responsible for ordering the execution of Jews and communists in Poland and the Soviet Union. However, he turned against Adolf Hitler when he heard from Heinrich Himmler that he intended to exterminate about 80% of the population of England by special forces of the SS after the German victory, because Hitler had called the English lower classes “racially inferior”. (69) General Wagner had provided Stauffenberg's escape aircraft and knew he would be arrested and tortured and so he shot himself on 23rd July. (70)

On hearing that the coup had failed, General Carl-Heinrich von Stülpnagel was forced to release his 1,200 SS and Gestapo men in Paris. He was now recalled to Berlin by Hitler. On the way through France by car, he stopped where, during the First World War, he was fought in the Battle of Verdun and told his guard and driver that he wanted to look at the battlefield. Soon after he left the car and shot himself in the head. In attempting suicide he had blinded himself in one eye and so badly damaged the other that it had to be removed in the local military hospital. (71)

General Stülpnagel was now returned to Berlin where he was taken to the Gestapo cells in Prinz Albrecht Strasse where he was tortured until he confessed that Field Marshal Erwin Rommel had told him, "Tell the people in Berlin they can count on me." Despite his terrible injuries he was taken to the People's Court on a stretcher where he was tried by Roland Freisler. Stülpnagel was found guilty and was executed at Ploetzwnsee Prison on 30th August, 1944. (72)

General Erich Fellgiebel, Chief of Army Communications, refused to commit suicide and although he expected to arrested and shot for treason he did not expect to be tortured. Fellgiebel was arrested and tortured for three weeks, but did not reveal any names of his co-conspirators though he was perfectly truthful and frank about his own role. On 10th August 1944, he was found guilty by Roland Freisler and sentenced to death. He was executed at Plötzensee Prison in Berlin. (73)

General-Major Helmuth Stieff was also arrested and tortured. According to a Gestapo report: "The confession eventually made by Major-General Stieff with the interrogations of Schulenburg and various others provide important information." Although he did give the name of General Fritz Lindemann and General Eduard Wagner. It was later claimed that he implicated primarily only himself and others already dead. For example, he never gave the name of Captain Axel von dem Bussche, who he had helped in a previous failed assassination attempt. (74)

It is estimated that 4,980 people were arrested by the Gestapo. Heinrich Himmler gave instructions that these men should be tortured. He also ordered that family members should also be punished: "When they (the people's Germanic forbears) put a family under the ban and declared it outlawed or when there was a vendetta in the family, they were totally consistent about it. If the family was outlawed or banned; it will be exterminated. And in a vendetta they exterminated the entire clan down to its last member. The Stauffenberg family will be exterminated down to its last member." (75) What became known as the "kith and kin" law, was a particularly sophisticated form of torture. When interrogating suspects the Gestapo could, quite legally, threaten to ill-treat their wives, children, parents, brothers and sisters or other relatives. (76)

Lieutenant Fabian Schlabrendorff (1944)
Lieutenant Fabian Schlabrendorff (1944)

One of those tortured was Lieutenant Fabian Schlabrendorff. He was one of the few conspirators who survived his ordeal and later wrote about his experiences: "The torture was executed in four stages. "First, my hands were chained behind my back, and a device which gripped all the fingers separately and fastened to my hands. The inner side of this mechanism was studded with pins whose points pressed against my fingertips. The turning of the screw caused the instrument to contract, thus forcing the pin points into my fingers. We all made the discovery that a man can endure far more pain that he would have deemed possible. Those of us who had never learned to pray did so now, and found that prayer, and only prayer, can bring comfort in such terrible straits, and that it gives a more than human endurance. We learned also that the prayers of our friends and relatives could transmit currents and strength to us."

If this did not achieve the desired confessions, the second stage followed. "I was strapped, face down, on a frame resembling a bedstead, and my head was covered with a blanket. Then cylinders resembling stovepipes studded with nails on the inner surface, were shoved over my bare legs. Here, too, a screw mechanism was used to contract these tubes so that the nails pierced my legs from ankle to thigh. For the third stage of torture the bedstead itself was the main instrument. I was strapped down as described above, again with a blanket over my head. With the help of a special mechanism the medieval torture rack was then extended – either in sudden jerks, or gradually – each time stretching my shackled body. In the fourth and final stage I was tied in a bent position which did not allow me to move even slightly backwards or sideways. Then the Police Commissioner and the Police sergeant together fell on me from behind, and beat me with heavy clubs. Each blow caused me to fall forward, and because my hands were chained behind my back, I crashed with full force on my face." (77)

General Friedrich Fromm, the man who had organised the execution of Claus von Stauffenberg, Ludwig Beck, Erich Hoepner, Friedrich Olbricht, Albrecht Metz von Quirnheim and Werner von Haeften, was also arrested. Hitler had been enraged upon learning that Fromm had executed Stauffenberg and his conspirators. Joseph Goebbels was convinced that Fromm had taken this action to conceal his own complicity in the assassination attempt. Fromm was kept in captivity for many months before being executed by a firing squad in March 1945. (78)

Field Marshal Günther von Kluge was Supreme Commander West in occupied France. Although not actively involved in Operation Valkyrie, he had kept in close contact with the conspirators because he feared that Germany was going to experience a disastrous defeat. However, when he heard of the assassination attempt on Hitler's life, he sent a telegram expressing his devotion. "The attempt of villainous murderers to kill you, my Führer, has been foiled by the fortuitous hand of fate." (79)

Hitler remained highly suspicious of Kluge and he told General Heinz Guderian, Chief of the Army General Staff, that he believed Kluge "knew about the assassination attempt". Hitler feared that Kluge would negotiate a surrender with the Allies. On 17th August, after the fall of Falaise, Field Marshal Walter Model appeared at Kluge's headquarters and announced that he was the new commander in chief on the Western Front. Kluge also received orders to return to Germany. Fearing that he was about to be arrested on the road back to Germany he ordered his car to stop and swallowed poison. (80)

Kluge left a suicide note for Hitler: "When you receive these lines I shall be no more. I cannot bear the reproach that I have sealed the fate of the West through faulty measures, and I have no means of defending myself. I draw a conclusion from that and am dispatching myself where already thousands of my comrades are. I have never feared death. Life has no more meaning for me, and I also figure on the list of war criminals who are to be delivered up. Our applications were not dictated by pessimism but by sober knowledge of the facts. I do not know if Field-Marshal Model, who has been proved in every sphere, will still master the situation. From my heart I hope so. Should it not be so, however, and your cherished new weapons not succeed, then, my Führer, make up your mind to end the war. The German people have borne such untold suffering that it is time to put an end to this frightfulness. There must be ways to attain this end, and above all to prevent the Reich from falling under the Bolshevist heel." (81)

On hearing that the coup had failed, General Carl-Heinrich von Stülpnagel, the German governor of France, was forced to release his 1,200 SS and Gestapo men in Paris. He was now recalled to Berlin by Hitler. On the way through France by car, he stopped where, during the First World War, he was fought in the Battle of Verdun and told his guard and driver that he wanted to look at the battlefield. Soon after he left the car and shot himself in the head. In attempting suicide he had blinded himself in one eye and so badly damaged the other that it had to be removed in the local military hospital. He was operated on that night and, though his life was saved, he was blind. (82)

General Stülpnagel was now returned to Berlin where he was taken to the Gestapo cells in Prinz Albrecht Strasse where he was tortured until he confessed that Field Marshal Erwin Rommel had told him, "Tell the people in Berlin they can count on me." Despite his terrible injuries he was taken to the People's Court on a stretcher where he was tried by Roland Freisler. Stülpnagel was found guilty and was executed at Ploetzwnsee Prison on 30th August, 1944. (83)

General Fritz Lindemann was Chief of Staff of the Artillery and had played a fairly minor role in Operation Valkyrie. However, General-Major Helmuth Stieff, had given Lindemann's name when he was tortured. Lindemann had gone into hiding as soon as the conspiracy failed. He was tracked down by the police in Berlin on 3rd September. Lindemann tried to jump out of a third-floor window but was shot in the legs and stomach. He was immediately operated on so that he might be tortured and brought to trial but died of his wounds on 21st September. Five of those who had helped him while on the run or had kept him hidden at various times between 22nd July and 3rd September, were executed. Two of them were described as "Jewish half-castes" and another the widow of a Jew. (84)

Carl Goerdeler managed to escape from Berlin and despite the bounty of a million marks on his head, was hidden by friends for three weeks. However, on 12th August. he was recognized by a woman who was a friend of his parents. When he was interrogated for the first time he admitted being involved in planning the coup but for religious reasons had not been involved in the assassination attempt. He gave the names of businessmen, union leaders and churchmen who had been members of the conspiracy. Joachim Fest has argued: "One needs to make allowances for the shock he felt on being imprisoned, for his shattered nerves, and for the fact that he was held, heavily chained, in solitary confinement far longer than any of the other prisoners." (85)

Goerdeler's biographer, Gerhard Ritter, has argued: "He wanted not to play down what had been done but rather to make it appear as large, significant, and menacing to the regime as possible. For Goerdeler, this was absolutely not an officers' putsch... but an attempted uprising by an entire people as represented by the best and most noble members from all social strata, the entire political spectrum, and both the Catholic and Protestant churches. He himself stood up valiantly for what he had done, and he presumed his friends would do the same. In the shadow of the gallows, he still thought only of bringing the entire unvarnished truth to light and hurling it in the faces of the authorities." (86)

Among his papers found after the collapse of the conspiracy was a statement that was to be issued after the overthrow of Hitler. Goerdeler explained that the nation's "most urgent task" was to cleanse the "much dishonored German name... Let us scrupulously follow in all things God's commandments... Let us do everything to heal wounded souls and alleviate suffering." Theodore S. Hamerow has argued that Goerdeler was seeking "not political but moral regeneration, not a national but a spiritual rebirth". (87)

The trials took place between July 1944 and April, 1945, and all the conspirators that were captured were found guilty and executed. This included: Hans Ulrich von Oertzen (21st July), Peter von Wartenburg (8th August), Wolf-Heinrich Helldorff (15th August), Adam von Trott (21st August); Carl-Heinrich von Stülpnagel (30th August), Ulrich Hassell (8th September), Josef Wirmer (8th September), Wilhelm Leuschner (29th September), Carl Langbehn (12th October), Adolf Reichwein (20th October), Karl Freiherr von Thüngen (24th October), and Caesar von Hofacker (20th December), Julius Leber (5th January), Helmuth von Moltke (23rd January), Carl Goerdeler (2nd February), Alfred Delp (2nd February), Johannes Popitz (2nd February), Arthur Nebe (21st March), Hans Dohnanyi (8th April) and Wilhelm Canaris (9th April).

Karl Stupnagal : Nazi Germany
General Carl-Heinrich von Stülpnagel

Carl Goerdeler, Josef Wirmer, Wilhelm Leuschner and Ulrich Hassell were put on trial in September, 1944. "Their trials proceeded like all the rest, with a raving, wildly gesticulating Friesler constantly interrupting and refusing to allow any of the accused to explain their motives." In the end Goerdeler was condemned as a "traitor through and through... a cowardly, disreputable traitor, consumed with ambition, and a political spy in wartime." (88)

Wirmer told Nazi judge, Roland Freisler: "If I am hanged, the fear will be yours, not mine." Friesler scoffed at him: "You'll be in hell soon". Wirmer replied: "It will be a pleasure if you follow me there quickly." (89) Wirner was found guilty and sentenced to death. In his last letter he wrote: "It is not at all easy to die. I hope to keep up my spirit to the end. All I can say is, love one another, be kind to one another, help one another. (90) Although sentenced to die in September 1944, Goerdeler was kept alive until his execution in February 1945. "This delay was in itself a form of inhuman torture". (91)

It was hoped that the attempted coup would gain the support of the Church. This did not happen, Cardinal Michael von Faulhaber, the leader of the Catholics in Germany, prepared a statement to be issued to the Catholic episcopate: "The fearful crime of July 20 and its aftermath have persuaded us Catholic bishops to raise our voices once again in support of the sanctity of the Fifth Commandment, ‘Thou shalt not kill,’ and to keep telling our congregations… that the Fifth Commandment brands with the mark of Cain anyone who plans murder against a fellow human being or actually commits murder or participates by conspiring with others in preparations to commit murder… The state has the duty before God and the world, to exercise its right to impose the death penalty without prejudice and without political predisposition… Wherever authority exists, it is ordained by God. Whoever rebels against authority rebels against God’s order." (92)

Allied Reactions to Operation Valkyrie

In Britain national newspapers described the coup as the result of a bitter dispute regarding ultimate authority in the Third Reich between two competing state institutions. The Times argued that Heinrich Himmler was the main winner of this conflict: "The only essential change of organization that resulted was that the chief gangster of the Nazi Party, Himmler, was placed formally in command of the whole German armed forces in the homeland, with the immediate task of carrying out a thorough purge by ruthless shooting of disloyal officers." (93)

John Wheeler-Bennett, a senior figure in the Foreign Office, suggested that it was in the interest of the Allied cause that Hitler had not been assassinated: "It may now be said with some definiteness that we are better off with things as they are today than if the plot of 20 July had succeeded and Hitler had been assassinated... By the failure of the plot we have been spared the embarrassments, both at home and in the United States, which might have resulted from such a move, and, moreover, the present purge (by the Gestapo) is presumably removing from the scene numerous individuals which might have caused us difficulty, not only had the plot succeeded, but also after the defeat of Nazi Germany... The Gestapo and the SS have done us an appreciable service in removing a selection of those who would undoubtedly have posed as 'good' Germans after the war... It is to our advantage therefore that the purge should continue, since the killing of Germans by Germans will save us from future embarrassment of many kinds." (94)

American commentators took a similar view. In an editorial The Nation argued that there was little difference between Hitler and his military commanders who wanted to overthrow him: "We welcome the deepening split between the Wehrmacht and the Nazis, the twin pillars of German aggression… The army could not have organized the nation for war without the Nazis; the Nazis could not have gained power without the backing of the army… The signs of German disintegration are not an opportunity to make deals; they are, rather, an inspiration to complete the process of unrelenting pressure." (95)

Alfred Vagts, a German poet who was now living in the United States argued that the Allies should not be doing deals with this reactionary figures: "A considerable group of old officers, their names indicative of noble birth, lost courage… They realized that their chances of survival as a governing and possessing elite was threatened. In the cold morning of defeat, following an orgy of blood during the preceding decade became conservative once again, concluding that only decisive action against the Nazi regime could save their position in German society. These neo-conservatives, with affiliations in big business and big agriculture, made a salvage attempt." (96)

Karl Otto Paetel, another German opponent of Hitler also warned about doing deals with people who until recently had been ardent Nazis: " This was purely a struggle inside the army… But a more important reason is probably the fact that the German people, even if they knew what was going on, would see in it only a quarrel between two sets of masters… The officers participating in the assassination attempt did not oppose Hitler on any sort of principle of morality. They revolted against him because they thought he was now a bad leader and for no other reason… Realization of this (that the Germans were all in the same boat)… is a necessary prerequisite to a real revolution, the sort that it made only with the aid of the masses themselves, when the workers and peasants at home and the soldiers at the front begin to stir." (97)

However, there were others who believed it was a good idea to deal with German opponents of Hitler: "A number of newspaper and radio commentators have argued that the coup against the Nazi regime had been designed primarily to preserve the Wehrmacht’s ability to wage a third world war… According to this argument, the leaders hope to surrender now, keep the army intact, and fight us again after a few years or decades…. This is another of the two-smart interpretations which usually turn out to be wrong historically… There was a more plausible explanation for the coup… They (the conspirators) are sure they will be defeated, hope to get better terms now than later, and want to spare the German people the additional misery of continued bombing and of seeing their land turned into a battlefield as the Allies advance from both East and West." (98)

Primary Sources

(1) Hans Gisevius, Valkyrie: An Insider's Account of the Plot to Kill Hitler (2009)

It is not at all by chance that a tightly knit group of officers, all firmly resolved to direct events, first coalesced in 1942, and grew in number and determination with each successive defeat. Generals von Tresckow, Olbricht, and Fellgiebel began it; in 1943 they were joined by Count Stauffenberg and Colonel Merz von Quirnheim; toward the end of the year by General Stieff and still later by Quartermaster-General Eduard Wagner and General Lindemann; finally Kluge and Colonel-General Hoeppner fell in line; and last of all came Field Marshal Rommel. These generals, either because of their strength of numbers, their key positions for a revolt, or because of the recognition that the fate of the class was at stake, began to feel an increasing sense of unity.

(2) Louis L. Snyder, Encyclopedia of the Third Reich (1998)

On October 19, 1938, Colonel General Ludwig Beck resigned as chief of the General Staff in protest against Hitler's plan to annex Czechoslovakia. For some time Beck had concentrated on winning the support of high-ranking army officers in a plan to arrest or eliminate Hitler, and he founded a loosely knit organization to achieve this end. Over the next five years discontent proceeded in three stages, from opposition to resistance to conspiracy.

At the centre of the plot were such senior officers as Major General Henning von Tresckow, chief of staff in Army Group Center on the Russian front; Colonel General Erich Hoepner, the commander of an armoured force who had been dismissed by Hitler in December 1941; Colonel Friedrich Olbricht, head of the Supply Section of the Reserve Army; Colonel General Karl Heinrich von Stuelpnagel, military governor of France; Major General Hans Oster, chief of staff of Abwehr; and Field Marshal Erwin von Witzleben, who has been retired from active service in 1942. Added to these senior members were a number of younger officers who believed that the Third Reich was a catastrophe for Germany and were willing to gamble their lives on the outcome of the plot. Among them were Colonel Claus Schenk Graf von Stauffenberg, chief of staff to General Friedrich Fromm, commander of the Reserve Army (who was both in and out of the conspiracy); 1st Lieutenant Fabian von Schlabrendorff, staff officer under General von Tresckow on the eastern front; and Lieutenant Werner von Haeften, Von Stauffenberg's adjutant.

Added to the military were such diplomats as Christian Albrecht UIrich von Hassell, former German Ambassador to Italy; Hans Bernd Gisevius, who worked for the Abwehr from his base in Switzerland; and Adam von Trott zu Solz, an official in the Foreign Office. On the political side were such figures as Carl Friedrich Goerdeler, former lord mayor of Leipzig; Julius Leber, a former Social Democratic member of the Reichstag; and Johannes Popitz, Prussian Finance Minister. There were such ecclesiastics as Pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer, religious leader, scholar, and teacher; and a Jesuit, Father Alfred Delp. There were members of the Kreisau Circle, including Helmuth James Graf von Moltke, legal adviser to the Abwehr, who counseled nonviolence; and Peter Graf Yorck von Wartenberg. There were also miscellaneous figures as Admiral Wilhelm Canaris, leader of the Abwehr; Wolf Heinrich Graf von Helldorf, chief of the Berlin Police, General Paul von Hase, President of the Berlin Police; and several lawyers, including Carl Langbehn, Klaus Bonhoeffer, Josef Müller, and Joseph Wirmer.

Others knew of the plot but did not take an active role in it. Among them were Field Marshal Erwin Rommel, popular war hero; Lieutenant General Adolf Heusinger, operations chief of the Army High Command; and Field Marshal Günther Hans von Kluge, army group commander in France.

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(1) Peter Hoffmann, The History of German Resistance (1977) page 270

(2) Louis L. Snyder, Encyclopedia of the Third Reich (1998) page 332

(3) Alan Bullock, Hitler: A Study in Tyranny (1962) page 738

(4) Allen Dulles, Germany's Underground (1947) pages 148-149

(5) Peter Padfield, Himmler: Reichsfuhrer S.S. (1991) pages 426-427

(6) Peter Hoffmann, The History of German Resistance (1977) page 296

(7) Joachim Fest, Plotting Hitler's Death (1997) page 229

(8) Joseph Goebbels, diary entry (September, 1943)

(9) Hans Gisevius, Valkyrie: An Insider's Account of the Plot to Kill Hitler (2009) page 108

(10) Peter Hoffmann, The History of German Resistance (1977) page 359

(11) Nigel Jones, Countdown to Valkyrie: The July Plot to Assassinate Hitler (2008) pages 162-163

(12) Joachim Fest, Plotting Hitler's Death (1997) page 224

(13) Peter Hoffmann, The History of German Resistance (1977) page 324

(14) Louis R. Eltscher, Traitors or Patriots: A Story of the German Anti-Nazi Resistance (2014) page 303

(15) Susan Ottaway, Hitler's Traitors, German Resistance to the Nazis (2003) page 149

(16) Peter Hoffmann, The History of German Resistance (1977) page 328

(17) Joachim Fest, Plotting Hitler's Death (1997) page 225

(18) Elfriede Nebgen, Jakob Kaiser (1967) page 184

(19) Ulrich von Hassell, diary entry (18th August, 1939)

(20) Ulrich von Hassell, diary entry (15th June, 1941)

(21) Ulrich von Hassell, diary entry (21st December, 1941)

(22) Richard Overy, The Ulrich von Hassell Diaries, 1938-1944 (2011) page x

(23) Roger Manvell, The July Plot: The Attempt in 1944 on Hitler's Life and the Men Behind It (1964) page 77

(24) Peter Hoffmann, The History of German Resistance (1977) page 318

(25) A. J. Ryder, Twentieth Century Germany: From Bismarck to Brandt (1973) page 425

(26) Joachim Fest, Plotting Hitler's Death (1997) page 157

(27) Ulrich von Hassell, diary entry (21st December, 1941)

(28) Joachim Fest, Plotting Hitler's Death (1997) page 164

(29) Theodore S. Hamerow, On the Road to the Wolf's Lair - German Resistance to Hitler (1997) page 295

(30) Peter Hoffmann, The History of German Resistance (1977) page 184

(31) Joachim Fest, Plotting Hitler's Death (1997) page 227

(32) Albert Speer, Inside the Third Reich (1970) page 509

(33) Don Allen Gregory, After Valkyrie: Military and Civilian Consequences of the Attempt to Assassinate Hitler (2018) page 32

(34) Susan Ottaway, Hitler's Traitors, German Resistance to the Nazis (2003) page 156

(35) Louis R. Eltscher, Traitors or Patriots: A Story of the German Anti-Nazi Resistance (2014) page 311

(36) Peter Hoffmann, The History of German Resistance (1977) page 381

(37) Louis R. Eltscher, Traitors or Patriots: A Story of the German Anti-Nazi Resistance (2014) page 298

(38) Peter Hoffmann, The History of German Resistance (1977) pages 382-383

(39) Joachim Fest, Plotting Hitler's Death (1997) page 240

(40) Louis R. Eltscher, Traitors or Patriots: A Story of the German Anti-Nazi Resistance (2014) page 298

(41) Theodore S. Hamerow, On the Road to the Wolf's Lair - German Resistance to Hitler (1997) page 349

(42) Ian Kershaw, Luck of the Devil: The Story of Operation Valkyrie (2009) page 39

(43) Peter Hoffmann, The History of German Resistance (1977) page 400

(44) Joachim Fest, Plotting Hitler's Death (1997) page 258

(45) Peter Hoffmann, The History of German Resistance (1977) page 401

(46) Louis R. Eltscher, Traitors or Patriots: A Story of the German Anti-Nazi Resistance (2014) page 313

(47) Hans Gisevius, interviewed by Peter Hoffmann (8th September, 1972)

(48) Ian Kershaw, Luck of the Devil: The Story of Operation Valkyrie (2009) page 46

(49) Joachim Fest, Plotting Hitler's Death (1997) page 272

(50) James Taylor and Warren Shaw, Dictionary of the Third Reich (1987) page 281

(51) Hans Gisevius, Valkyrie: An Insider's Account of the Plot to Kill Hitler (2009) page 173

(52) Anton Gill, An Honourable Defeat: A History of German Resistance to Hitler (1994) pages 247-248

(53) Hans Gisevius, Valkyrie: An Insider's Account of the Plot to Kill Hitler (2009) page 193

(54) Michael C. Thomsett, The German Opposition to Hitler: The Resistance, the Underground, and Assassination Plots (1997) page 218

(55) Albert Speer, Inside the Third Reich (1970) page 383

(56) Louis R. Eltscher, Traitors or Patriots: A Story of the German Anti-Nazi Resistance (2014) page 320

(57) Albert Speer, Inside the Third Reich (1970) page 388

(58) Nigel Jones, Countdown to Valkyrie: The July Plot to Assassinate Hitler (2008) page 254

(59) Joachim Fest, Plotting Hitler's Death (1997) page 278

(60) General Friedrich Olbricht, comment just before his execution (20th July, 1944)

(61) Susan Ottaway, Hitler's Traitors, German Resistance to the Nazis (2003) page 250

(62) Peter Hoffmann, The History of German Resistance (1977) page 508

(63) William L. Shirer, The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich (1964) page 1272

(64) John Wheeler-Bennett, The Nemesis of Power: The German Army in Politics (1964) page 681

(65) Alan Bullock, Hitler: A Study in Tyranny (1962) page 750

(66) Samuel W. Mitcham, Hitler's Field Marshals (1988) page 338

(67) Fabian Schlabrendorff, Secret War Against Hitler (1959) pages 128-129

(68) Theodore S. Hamerow, On the Road to the Wolf's Lair - German Resistance to Hitler (1997) page 369

(69) Gerhard L Weinberg, Hitler's Table Talk: Secret Conversations (2008) page 91

(70) Joachim Fest, Plotting Hitler's Death (1997) page 293

(71) Joachim Fest, Plotting Hitler's Death (1997) page 282

(72) Susan Ottaway, Hitler's Traitors, German Resistance to the Nazis (2003) page 165

(73) Peter Hoffmann, The History of German Resistance (1977) page 514

(74) Gestapo report to Martin Bormann (28th July, 1944)

(75) Heinrich Himmler, speech (3rd August 1944)

(76) Peter Hoffmann, The History of German Resistance (1977) page 520

(77) Fabian Schlabrendorff, Secret War Against Hitler (1959) page 312

(78) Louis R. Eltscher, Traitors or Patriots: A Story of the German Anti-Nazi Resistance (2014) page 347

(79) Field Marshal Günther von Kluge, telegram to Adolf Hitler (20th July, 1944)

(80) Joachim Fest, Plotting Hitler's Death (1997) pages 290-291

(81) Günther von Kluge, suicide letter to Adolf Hitler (19th August, 1944)

(82) Joachim Fest, Plotting Hitler's Death (1997) page 282

(83) Susan Ottaway, Hitler's Traitors, German Resistance to the Nazis (2003) page 165

(84) Peter Hoffmann, The History of German Resistance (1977) page 517

(85) Joachim Fest, Plotting Hitler's Death (1997) page 306

(86) Gerhard Ritter, German Resistance: Carl Goerdeler's Struggle Against Tyranny (1984) page 422

(87) Theodore S. Hamerow, On the Road to the Wolf's Lair - German Resistance to Hitler (1997) pages 350-351

(88) Joachim Fest, Plotting Hitler's Death (1997) page 308

(89) Peter Hoffmann, The History of German Resistance (1977) page 526

(90) Louis L. Snyder, Encyclopedia of the Third Reich (1998) page 381

(91) Louis R. Eltscher, Traitors or Patriots: A Story of the German Anti-Nazi Resistance (2014) page 360

(92) Cardinal Michael von Faulhaber, statement to be issued by the Catholic episcopate condemning the attempt to assassinate Adolf Hitler (August, 1944)

(93) The Times (24th July, 1944)

(94) John Wheeler-Bennett, Assistant Director General of the Political Intelligence Department of the Foreign Office, memorandum (25th July, 1944)

(95) The Nation (29th July, 1944)

(96) Alfred Vagts, The Nation (5th August, 1944)

(97) Karl Otto Paetel, The New Republic (7th August, 1944)

(98) The New Republic (31st July, 1944)