Tuesday, 21 July 2009

July 20th


I again apologise for the gap in time since my last post, but I was as usual busy with something else. Anyway yesterday was the 40th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing, and seeing as that was so widely published I am not going to bother writing about that. Instead I am going to write about lesser known anniversary that took place on that same day.
July 20th was the 60th anniversary of the July 20th plot, where Claus von Stauffenberg attempted to assassinate Hitler. It is the one that was recently made into a film starring Tom Cruise. The plot was orchestrated by the German Resistance, who planned to overthrow the Nazi regime. To do this they intended to remove Hitler and claim the SS where staging a coup. Therefore initiating operation Valkyrie, which would arrest all the other head Nazi’s (Himmler).Finally if all this was successful the resistance would install a democratic government and call for a truce with the allies. Of course the plot failed. And in the subsequent days and weeks hundreds of conspirators were rounded up and brutally executed.
Before the July 20th plot there had been innumerable plots to assassinate Hitler, all failed for different reasons. Either Hitler didn’t show up at the predicted area, or a fuse for a bomb was unsuccessful. One of the most recent plots before July 20th was lead by a Prussian general named Henning von Tresckow. Secretly he slipped a bottle of liqueur on to a plane with Hitler, timing the fuse so it would detonate in flight. Again this plot failed, due to the high altitude the fuse was delayed and Hitler cheated death once more. It appeared to many that Hitler had the luck of the devil.
By this time 1944 ish Germany was certain to lose the war; the Red army was advancing as was the British and American forces after D day. So you may ask why the resistance didn’t wait for the allies to kill Hitler for them. The answer to this is simple the people who rallied around Stauffenberg, were high ranking members of the army. Who followed there conscience rather than orders and they all knew that every single day literally thousands of people were dying. Most of which were innocent civilians murdered in the Nazi death camps. And they simply and rightly agreed this must end.
So they put in motion what would become the July 20th plot. However before they could put it under way they needed to get General Fromm on side. Fromm was leader of the reserve army and, without him Operation Valkyrie could not be initiated. Eventually the resistance got Fromm on side by promising him a better position in the new leadership.
So on July 20th Stauffenberg and an assistant named Von Haeften set off to the wolf’s lair carrying two bombs in their brief cases, ready to be armed before the meeting.
Just before the meeting started Stauffenberg and Haeften attempted to arm the bombs. However an interruption forced Haeften to leave, giving Stauffenberg only one bomb. Also due to an allied bombing attack a couple of years earlier Stauffenberg was left permanently disabled. He lost one hand, three fingers from the remaining hand and his right eye. Even with these injuries Stauffenberg armed the bomb and headed from the meeting.
Stauffenberg remained confident that one bomb would do the job, as the bunker most meeting was held in was solid concrete, thus magnifying the blast. However due to the heat the meeting was moved to a wooden conference hut, which unfortunately had many windows. Too late to back out Stauffenberg positioned the bomb as close to Hitler as possible, Leaving under the guise of taking a phone call. Minutes later the blast rocked the hut.
Stauffenberg was unsure as to whether Hitler was dead, but seeing as he had to leave immediately he trusted the bomb had succeeded. Meanwhile in Berlin Fromm had failed to initiate Valkyrie, so another General Friedrich Olbricht initiated the order in his name.
So when Stauffenberg everything was in place and the reserve army began to round up all SS officials. However Back at the wolf’s lair Hitler had survived! Sustaining no major wounds. To the right is the destroyed conference hut.
Unaware of this Stauffenberg continued as per operation Valkyrie.
Eventually however in the late hours of July 20th the news of Hitler’s survival was known. And the reserve army was called to arrest the conspirators.
In an attempt to prove loyalty to Hitler, Fromm convened a quick court marshal and immediately sentenced Stauffenberg, Olbricht and Haeften to death. They were shot by firing squad in the early hours of July 21st outside their own office at the war ministry. Stauffenberg’s last words were “Es lebe unser heiliges Deutschland!" ("Long live our sacred Germany!")

The July 20th plot was the last major attempt to kill Hitler, 9 months later with Berlin surrounded Hitler shot himself. Doing what hundreds of attempts could not. Stauffenberg and his conspirators are memorialised in the Bendler block. The place of there execution.
As I mentioned recently this story as been made into a film staring Tom Cruise, I recomend you to watch it as it is very good.


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