Tuesday, March 15, 2016

20 July 1944 Bomb Plot - It's Political and Military Failure

The German Army 1933-1945 – It’s Political and Military Failure, by Mathew Cooper (Scarborough House, Lanham, MD, 1978) p. 532-534

“Things and actions are what they are, and the consequences of them will be what they will be; why, then, should we desire to be deceived?” – Bishop Joseph Butler 1692-1752

“The history of the German opposition to Hitler from 1939 had been a sad one. The conspirator’s plans were frustrated by the early successes of Hitler’s aggression, the hesitation of his generals, the strict nature of his police state, and the tight security that surrounded his person. Death had come to be seen as the only way by which Hitler’s tyranny could be removed….only failure abroad offered any hope for the underground opposition. During 1943 there were several attempts on the Fuherer’s life, but all came to nothing….By 1944 the new men were the most active. Foremost among them were Colonel Count Claus von Stauffenberg, a handsome, educated, brace officer in his late thirties who had sustained severe injuries in early 1943 and was now Chief of Staff to the Reserve Army; General Friedrich Olbricht, a deeply religious man and Head of the Supply Section of the Reserve Army, and Henning von Tresckow, Chief of Staff of Army Group Centre…"

"In the first half of 1944 these officers and civilians built up a new organization capable of taking over the government as soon as Hitler had been removed by either bomb or bullet; the plan evolved was code-named ‘Valkerie’. After the dictator’s death, the key installations in Berlin, such as the radio, power, and railway stations would be occupied by the military, the SS would be disarmed, and all Army units at home and abroad would be informed that, as the Fuhrer and Supreme Commander was dead, the Army had been empowered to form a new government…At the same time, all senior Party, SS, and Police officials would be arrested and precautionary measures taken against the militarized political formations.”

“On 20 July 1944 von Stauffenberg placed a bomb, concealed in a briefcase, under the table at a midday conference in the Fuhrer’s East Prussia headquarters, to which he had been asked to give a report. Having already left the room, he made his escape after the resulting explosion, but thanks to the small amount of charge used, to the flimsy construction of the hut in which the conference was being held, and to the action of another officer, who inadvertently pushed the bomb away from the target behind a heavy wooden plinth supporting the table, Hitler was not killed, but merely shocked. Failure at the headquarters as matched by failure in Berlin; hours were lost through vacillation, bad organization, and ill-luck. At 6:45 p.m., six hours after the explosion, the news of Hitler’s survival was broadcast throughout the Reich, and all attempts at a coup came to an abrupt end….Hitler’s revenge was immediate and terrible. At midday on the day after the explosion, he broadcast to the German nation:

             ‘If I speak to you today, it is first in order that you should hear my voice, and should know that I am unhurt and well, and secondly you should know of a crime unparalleled in Germany history. A very small clique of ambitious, irresponsible and, at the same time, senseless and very stupid officers had formed a plot to eliminate me and the command of the German Wehrmacht. The bomb….exploded two metres to my right….I myself sustained only some very minor scratches, bruises, and burns. I regard this as a confirmation of the task imposed upon me by Providence….The circle of these conspirators is very small and has nothing in common with the spirit of the German Wehrmacht and, above all, none with the German people. I therefore order now that no military authority, no leader of any unit, no private in the field is to obey any orders emanating from these groups of usurpers. I also order that it is everyone’s duty to arrest, or, if they resist, kill at sight anyone issuing or handling any such orders….This time, we shall get even with them in the way that we National Socialists are accustomed.’”

“How many people were executed in the ensuing purge, carried out with efficiency by (Heinrich) Himmler’s (SS) security services, is unknown. One estimate, based on the names of individuals known to have perished, sets the number at 250, but another states that some 10,000 were sent to concentration camps, gassed, shot, or hanged. At least two field marshals and sixteen generals met their end, among whom were Rommel, von Witzleben, Fellgiebel, Chief of Army Communications, von Hase, commandant of the Berlin garrison, Hoepner, Olbricht, Oster, Stieff, Chief of the Army Organization Office, and von Stulpnagel, as well as Colonel von Stauffenberg and Goerdeler. Beck, von Tresckow, and Wagner, the Army Quartermaster-General, cheated the hangman by committing suicide. Canaris also died at the hands of the SS. In the wake of the intense suspiciou that the bomb plot had engendered, Fromm was arrested, and, in due course, done away with (despite the fact that he had been responsible for the killing of conspirators on 20 July), and von Kluge, recalled from the Western Front owing to Hitler’s fear that he was meeting with the enemy, took poison rather than face certain arrest, humiliation, and death in Berlin. Many other officers were imprisoned, foremost among them were Halder, together with his wife, von Falkenhausen, and Thomas….”

“The 20 July Bomb Plot, instead of destroying Hitler, had only hardened his will to resist. Although he was obviously a sick man, bent and shuffling, the explosion appeared to have released a source of hither-to untapped energy; the new Chief of the General Staff believed that ‘All the forces that had lurked within him were aroused and came into their own. He recognized no limits anymore…’”

“A document dated 19 November 1945, signed at Nuremberg by (German Generals) read in part: ‘A group of officers decided to effect a radical change by killing Hitler [in July 1944]. The question whether this was the only way to save Germany had undoubtedly been asked by many. Officers who had been educated in the Christian faith – and they were the overwhelming majority,…did not find a place in their creed for breaking their oath of allegiance or for murdering their commander….It is the responsibility of a man who undertakes to change the government of his country to provide a new and better government, a new leader. The Army had been trained since the last war to keep entirely out of politics. It had now, in the hour of emergency, neither the men nor the means to take the political leadership of the nation into its hands.’”

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