Frank Johnson

The Stauffenberg plot to kill Hitler failed — and a good thing too

The Stauffenberg plot to kill Hitler failed — and a good thing too

If only the assassination attempted 60 years ago last Tuesday had succeeded, we have heard all this week. But what was the conspirators’ idea of success? In particular, what did the awesome man whose sonorous name we have heard this week really believe? Colonel Claus Graf Schenk von Stauffenberg was of his time and his class, we are told. What then was his attitude to, say, Slavs and Jews?

But first, to recount what happened 60 years ago last Tuesday. It is untrue that Stauffenberg and the other leading conspirators resolved to kill Hitler only once they knew that Germany was going to lose the war. They had long been anti-Hitler. By 1944, Stauffenberg, aged 37, was chief of staff to Colonel-General Fromm, head of the reserve army. Stauffenberg had been called from Berlin — to brief Hitler — on 20 July at Hitler’s eastern headquarters, the luridly named Wolf’s Lair in East Prussia, now Poland. Stauffenberg rose early that day at his Berlin home. A staff car took him to a Berlin airstrip. A bomb was in his briefcase.

On arrival in East Prussia, he was driven the ten miles to the Wolf’s Lair. He had breakfast, and set out with the chief of defence staff, Keitel, for Hitler’s conference. Stauffenberg asked Keitel to excuse him for a moment, since he wanted to ‘freshen up’. In fact, he went to prepare the bomb for detonation and put it back into the briefcase. Nothing could now prevent it exploding ten minutes later.

Hitler returned their salute as they entered the room. Stauffenberg placed the briefcase under the table.

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