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'We wanted to end the dreadful crimes'
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'We wanted to end the dreadful crimes'

Published: 14 Mar 2013 06:04 GMT+01:00
Updated: 14 Mar 2013 06:04 GMT+01:00

Ewald Heinrich von Kleist, a former German army lieutenant who took part in a failed attempt to assassinate Adolf Hitler, has died at the age of 90. The last surviving member of the "20th of July" plot is The Local's German of Week.

Kleist, who was arrested and sent to a concentration camp after the 1944 bid to remove Hitler, died last Friday in Munich, a spokesman for the Munich Security Conference said on Wednesday.

Under the "20th of July" plot, German army officers teamed up with members of the resistance including trade unionists to try to blow up Hitler at Rastenburg, in Eastern Prussia, now part of Poland.

Among the key plotters was Claus Schenk von Stauffenberg – played by US actor Tom Cruise in the 2008 film "Valkyrie" about the failed assassination – who had personally recruited Kleist.

Kleist was 22 at the time and volunteered to wear a suicide vest at a meeting with Hilter. But the plot failed and Hitler survived although he was injured in the blast. Leading members of the plot were arrested shortly afterwards and executed.

Kleist was imprisoned at the Bendlerblock building in Berlin where the plot had been hatched and today is used by the defence ministry, before he was sent to Ravensbrück concentration camp.

After the Second World War, he studied law and economics and went into publishing.

He was also a co-founder of the Munich Security Conference, which annually brings together global defence and foreign policy chiefs.

"We lost a great German, a great security policy maker," Oliver Rolofs, spokesman for the conference told news agency AFP.

During a 2010 commemoration of the failed plot, Kleist said "we wanted to end the dreadful crimes" of the Nazi regime, which continued for nearly another 10 months after the assassination attempt.

AFP/mry

The Local (news@thelocal.de)

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Your comments about this article

00:09 March 15, 2013 by neunElf
There didn't appear to be much interest in assassinating Hitler until the war started going badly for Germany.
02:53 March 15, 2013 by wood artist
@neunElf

There is some truth in your observation, but given the level of control he had established, it was going to be a pretty tough job regardless. The Wehrmacht had considered dealing with him several times, and there were numerous "talking groups" that deplored what had happened to Germany, but none of them really had the power necessary to take him out, and realistically feared that someone else in the Nazi system would simply take over.

Hitler personally was way ahead of the curve on personal security. He frequently changed plans at the last minute, didn't go where he was expected, and generally kept people guessing. There were numerous "plots" that failed because he didn't show up or whatever. That said, yes, the real plotters got going when they could all see the war was never going to turn out well. Part of the problem they faced was that the allies never took them very seriously, and, of course, Stalin wasn't about to do anything that would limit his own potential power, so even if the US and the British had supported some group, Stalin wouldn't have agreed.

wa
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