The Plot That Failed But Created A Legend
|Claus von Stauffenberg, far left, and his intended target - Adolf Hitler.|
As everyone familiar with the basic course of World War II knows, the 20 July Bomb Plot failed. However, it came within a whisker succeeding. Many now view the attempt to assassinate Hitler as one of the shining moments for Germany of the entire war, so it is well worth reviewing.
Let's take a look at the plot, its origination, and why it failed.
|Colonel-General Ludwig Beck, the godfather of the plots to kill Hitler. (Deutsches Bundesarchiv (German Federal Archive), Bild 183-C13564).|
Origins of the PlotOpposition to Hitler within the highest reaches of the Wehrmacht began well before the invasion of Poland on 1 September 1939. The Chief of the General Staff, Colonel-General Ludwig Beck, deeply opposed Hitler's strategy of aggression and intimidation and engaged in various acts of defiance. For instance, he flatly refused to draw up plans for an invasion of Austria ("Fall Otto," or Case Otto), but later fell in line when he realized that Austria would not oppose the Anschluss. He also opposed the invasion of Czechoslovakia, writing several memoranda arguing that Germany was not yet strong enough to embark on any military campaigns. He went so far as to write a memo dated 29 July 1938 in which he argued that the Wehrmacht needed to prepare "for an internal conflict which need only take place in Berlin." This led to a 10 August 1938 meeting at which the other generals supported Hitler, so Beck resigned on 18 August 1938. From that point forward, he was at the heart of a conspiracy to replace Hitler.
|Carl Friedrich Goerdeler. Slated to be the new chancellor in a post-Hitler government, he instead was executed on 2 February 1945.|
Von Stauffenberg and the 20 July Bomb Plot
|Claus von Stauffenberg.|
|Claus von Stauffenberg.|
|A diagram of the position of the bomb and the conference participants. Those who perished were on the wrong side of the solid-oak table leg. It shielded the intended target, Hitler.|
|Hermann Goering rushed over to inspect the damage.|
AftermathHitler sent his shredded clothes home to sweetheart Eva Braun at the Berghof. Why he did so is unclear, but US Army soldiers found them in her trunk there after the war.
|Hitler's shredded pants, indicating that his injuries were more severe than he let on.|
It is apparent from the condition of Hitler's clothes that the bomb did indeed detonate as expected under the conference table. They show that Hitler's legs took the full force of the explosion, but his torso was spared.
|A member of the US Army with Hitler's clothes and shoes that he was wearing during the 20 July Bomb Plot.|
|Acting as if the assassination attempt had been nothing but a nuisance, Hitler kept his appointment to greet Mussolini at the train station shortly afterward.|
|Hitler and Mussolini inspect the damage only hours later. Mussolini's interpreter Dr. Paul Schmidt stands behind the two leaders (Bundesarchiv, Bild 146-1970-097-76 / CC-BY-SA).|
|Hitler and Mussolini view the wreckage.|
|Hitler visited some of the badly injured men from the bomb blast later at the hospital.|