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Germany commemorates failed anti-Hitler plot

AFP · 20 Jul 2010, 18:08

Published: 20 Jul 2010 18:08 GMT+02:00

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Defence Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg, who had a relative with links to the resistance, led a wreath-laying ceremony at a memorial in his ministry's Bendlerblock courtyard, where some of the conspirators were executed.

Later Tuesday, he and Chancellor Angela Merkel were to observe the swearing-in in front of the Reichstag parliament building of about 420 recruits to the military, which has carefully tended the memory of the July 20 plotters.

"The women and men of the resistance set ethical standards with their actions and became role models," Mayor Klaus Wowereit said at the Bendlerblock ceremony.

The July 20 plot, as it has come to be known, was led by an aristocratic army officer called Count Claus Schenk von Stauffenberg, who wore a patch to cover an eye lost in battle.

Stauffenberg placed a bomb under a table in Hitler's eastern headquarters in East Prussia, in modern-day Poland. But the Nazi leader escaped with slight injuries because the briefcase carrying the explosives was moved by chance behind a sturdy oak leg of the table.

Confusion reigned 700 kilometres (435 miles) away in Berlin, with conflicting information about whether Hitler had survived the attack, but it soon became clear that the plot had failed.

Co-conspirator Philipp von Boeselager was meant to return from the Eastern Front with 1,200 men and overthrow the clique at the head of the Third Reich, which had unleashed the catastrophic war and the Holocaust.

Stauffenberg and several others were executed the same evening in the Bendlerblock courtyard, part of a complex of buildings where the plot was hatched.

The episode was turned into a recent movie called "Valkyrie" with Tom Cruise playing the part of Stauffenberg.

Story continues below…

Historian Fritz Stern said at the Bendlerblock ceremony Tuesday the assassination attempt had been unique in German history.

"Never before had there been such an uprising for liberation, justice and human dignity in Germany," he said.

That the plot failed is seen as one of the tragedies of World War II as millions more people were killed on the battlefield and in the gas chambers before Hitler was defeated in 1945.

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Your comments about this article

18:36 July 20, 2010 by NYsteve
I agree with hech54 about Tom Cruise.....I love the movie tho and watch it often (along with Der Untergang)...makes me wonder how things would have gone if von Stauffenberg and the others would have succeeded...in another article (Spiegel) it was mentioned that when people (outside of Germany) think of Germany, they picture Beer & Hitler...i don't...I think of beer (lol!) & technology, history, culture, pride, workmanship, some of the best looking women in the world and a GREAT football team!!!
19:09 July 20, 2010 by Der Grenadier aus Aachen
What is most important about this memorial is that it serves as a note that we have not forgotten all the righteous men and women who died an anonymous death in execution of the will of their conscience. There are many that we will never know; can never know. Many who fell in obscurity with only the voice of righteousness in their ears as they died.

And that is fine, since they never sought glory for themselves. What they did seek is to remind us, and what we will always remember, that even in humanity's darkest hours, with the entire world gone mad, someone, somewhere, will remember the right thing to do, and have the courage to do it.

Sometimes, often purely by coincidence, that man or woman wears a uniform - and does their nation the greatest of pride, whether they ultimately succeed or not.
21:15 July 20, 2010 by Canadianhaggis
Visited Germany last year for the first time to see friends there.I will remember good times nice people , lovely Castles like Marienburg castle. and fantastic towns like Celle. And great food. Not once did the Third Reich ever enter my mind.It happened and its time to let the past go. The German people have also paid the price .
21:36 July 20, 2010 by moreanon
I'm glad they got in that mention of von Stauffenberg's eyepatch.
22:25 July 20, 2010 by mikecowler
Der Grenadier aus Aachen the words you chose were very touching and exactly to the point..And to Hecht 54 The Yanks will sensationalise anything to make a million dollars unfortunatley...What matters is that the History is taught correctly to our children and not from films,, so they learn to value wrong from right so the hotror of mass killing never happens in Europe again...to foget about the past is very wrong...remember the people that killed in the concentration camps were origionally bus drivers, conductors, farm labourers, shop workers etc some with ordinary families like you and me, they joined the Nazi party on false promises...Promise we never foget to remember the hero,s and the horror our forfathers endured...

23:47 July 20, 2010 by Eagle1
So many liberals abhor the use of any violence whatsoever to solve the world's problems. These are the same people who would ask Stauffenberg to change Hitler's mind through the use of a series of hugs and kisses instead of taking Hitler out with a bomb. What childlike idiots. They all should be rounded up and sent to the Island of Fruitcakes.
01:34 July 21, 2010 by Der Grenadier aus Aachen

I think you have your history somewhat confused. The Nazi regime was, by and large, heavily support by conservatives through-out Germany. It was, as a rule, the liberals and communists that were shot by the Nazis. Stauffenberg had a conservative upbringing, but was most definitely a liberal his entire adult life.

In other words, please keep your idiotic, polarizing debates out of this. This insanity of left/right-bashing, has absolutely nothing to do with real courage or heroism.
01:44 July 21, 2010 by JAMessersmith
I find our selective memory a bit odd. We don't seem to apply the same standards we applied to Hitler to other tyrants throughout the world. For example, we're not firebombing Sudanese cities to end the genocide in Darfur. And the ruthlessness we employed against Ho Chi Minh in Vietnam is viewed as some kind of abomination by the history books, even though innocent Vietnamese men, women and children who opposed his tyrannical rule were being put to the sword en masse. Yet those same tactics were applauded in Europe and Japan. Similarly, men like Pol Pot, Chairman Mao, and even Stalin to a certain extent, are rarely remembered in the same vain as Hitler, even though they were responsible for as many deaths, if not more so, than he was. Perhaps it's because we in the West don't personally know many, if any, Sudanese, Vietnamese, Chinese, Cossacks, Abkhazians, Tatars, etc...? So the suffering of said peoples isn't as personal. We even go as far as to say that such examples of unbridled killing are none of our business... Just seems to me like we didn't learn a whole lot.
08:44 July 21, 2010 by Prufrock2010
Grenadier --

Extremely well expressed. Both times.
14:38 July 21, 2010 by Der_mutigste_des_Dorfes!
@mikecowler, WOW I would never have guessed that a post referring to Nazi Germany would somehow involve a conspiracy of Americans making money. Next someone is going to say that the US were only trying to make money off of the combatants in WWII, prior to December 1941.

Can we just stick to the real topic and that is that at least an Officer from Bamberg had the bravery and moral conscious to attempt to kill Hitler. I do dispute the articles premise that the conspirators were trying to stop the war, I believe they just wanted the Austiran out of the way so they prosecute the war and defeat the allies.
17:07 July 21, 2010 by bernie1927
I wonder what would have happened if Stauffenberg had acted like a Taliban, sacrificing his own life to assure the success of the assassination? It just was not the German psyche. Hitler pushed the briefcase with the bomb aside and thus prevented the attempt to assassinate him and instead it killed many of Stauffenberg's officer comrades and it fed the belief that Hitler was indestructible, and it cost hundreds of soldiers and civilians their lives. And what if he had succeeded? The allies at that point were in no mood to make any concessions to Germany, no matter what, right? Just wondering.
17:16 July 21, 2010 by Der Grenadier aus Aachen
Stauffenberg was ready to kill himself to take down Hitler. However, it would have been completely useless. Himmler would have become the Fuehrer, and if you thought Hitler was a lunatic...trust me, you didn't want to see that. No, Stauffenberg was/would have been necessary after the plot since he had the ears of reserve Wehrmacht commanders, to secure the government in Berlin, and arrest disloyal officers and the SS leadership - which they attempted.

Whether the allies would have been amiable to a peace with a reconstituted German government is anyone's guess. If they hadn't, the war would probably have lasted a bit longer since that raving lunatic wouldn't have had the privilege of ordering practical suicide missions reinforced by phantom divisions. However, I think in this alternate history, if the allies had then offered some small number of concessions behind an *officially* unconditional surrender, the Generals would have probably surrendered. They knew that the war was lost as soon as the tide turned in the Soviet Union. The western front was really just a side-show in comparison, with the war in Russia destroying well over 70% of the German armed forces.
18:10 July 21, 2010 by michael4096
If ww2 had worked out differently, von stauffenberg would be a footnote in history and probably been called a traitor. For 40 years he was, anyway. As it is now, he is credited with one of the 37 attempts on the life of hitler. Can anyone say anything at all about the other 36? The people who died because of them?

@grenadier - I disagree that himmler would have taken over. Unlike bush in iraq, von stauffenburg had already got the post-win situation planned very well with many civilian leaders as well as abwehr commanders poised ready for the take-over. There are even rumours of a deal with the allies but I haven't seen any proof of that.
19:00 July 21, 2010 by Beachrider
Stauffenberg's attempt was relevant because it showed that severe Nazi policies begat severe counter-flow movements within Germany. Those movements were unable to gather sufficient momentum to curb Nazi influence. Ultimately the Nazis lost control ONLY AFTER foreign troops penetrated Germany.

All this talk about possible scenarios and political alternatives is conjecture. Have fun with it, but don't take it very seriously.

History proves that Nazi leadership weren't prepared to surrender at all. Although it fell apart proximal to Hitler's death, it was also proximal to the Russians overrunning Berlin, too. Berlin was the bigger deal.
19:00 July 21, 2010 by Der Grenadier aus Aachen

I think you misread my paragraph above. The condition for Himmler's taking control would have been in Staufenberg's absence, as per the earlier mention of a suicide attack, which all boil down to Staufenberg's connections within the reserve command.

And no, there was no deal with the allies.
23:48 July 21, 2010 by bernie1927
@Der Grenadier aus Aachen:

You are absolutely right: Stauffenberg was very important and yet I feel that others, like Rommel, would probably have had even more of an influence but, as you said, the whole thing was extremely risky and dangerous. My daughter saw a filmstrip here at school, showing my uncle, with his name directly under his picture, being insulted by the dreaded judge and being sentenced to death. I was a member of the 5th Panzer division in Neuruppin when we received the news of the failed attempt. Ours was an old Prussian regiment and we were very disappointed but also quite afraid because the German nobility was now definitely on the blacklist and we feared that, should the war be won, we would all end up in concentration camps.
16:16 July 22, 2010 by beckyhead

Thank you for that amazing perspective. In Germany, you never hear much from the German soldier's perspective on these things. As a historian, I would be fascinated to hear your story!
18:11 July 23, 2010 by bobinguelph
Enjoying this discussion however I do have a question about the succession of Himmler. Wasn't Göring, as reichsmarschall the one who would have taken over?

Incidentally I've only been back in Canada after a glorious month traveling throughout Germany, met so many wonderful people, strangers who stopped to help seeing the obvious look on my face. Of course I remembered the history, it was taught to us from an early age. With my uncles and aunt who served with the Canadian army during the war, I remember the ongoing suffering they had brought back with them, the stress, the nightmares, the loss of so much and yet and no point we were ever taught to hate. I've never forgotten being told by one of those uncles at a very young age, probably about 1968 that you can't hate a country for the actions of a handful.
18:38 July 23, 2010 by Der_mutigste_des_Dorfes!
@bobinguelph "that you can't hate a country for the actions of a handful."

I hate to burst your bubble, but I think you need to read a little bit more about Panzer Meyer (sp?) and what his 12th SS boy soldiers did to the CDN 3ID.

I am not sure how to respond to this? Deutschland and its people have done a lot to wipe the stain of what it and their grandparents did, however to say that it was only a handful? Please quit being so naive!
19:01 July 23, 2010 by michael4096
@mutig - it is a shame that so many are, like you, still fighting last century's wars

if you really believe that the germans you meet today are in anyway related to "Panzer Meyer(sp?)" or that the british you meet hate sepoys or that the americans you meet are just ready for another mei lei then *you* are the naive one
19:21 July 23, 2010 by Bildad
So now we must applaud German officers who hide bombs under tables. I would have had more respect for von Stauffenberg if he had walked up to Hitler and attempted to shoot him. Hitler would have as well. He was a hapless coward who managed to kill or maim just about everyone else but his target. Disgrace to his uniform.
12:45 July 26, 2010 by slippery777
Bildad you are so right! He took he cowards way, making sure he was safe. If he was that desperate to kill Hitler, he could have shot him, of course he would have given his own life in doing so.

As for Hitler i'm not sure Germany was better of without him, Stalin was far worse. After years of war nothing was really concluded in the end. Many Eastern European countries just ended up under Stalins rule, Germany lost large parts of its territory and the US,Britain and France just left them to it. Don't forget that between 1945 and 1948 12 to 15 MILLION Germans were starved, beaten, marched or froze to death, including children. Shame on them and what they did to innocent German people, the people they said they went to rescue from tyranny.
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