The “1941 Plot” or a Bit of Alternate History (6)

Heinrich Himmler - Blut und Boden - Peter CrawfortdAs I have already mentioned, SS-Reichsfuhrer had at least one personal agent inside the coup – one Hans Bernd Gisevius. Consequently, he knew everything he needed to know about the Oster/Halder conspiracy in 1938… and in 1941 (we are in the realm of alternate history here).

After he received sufficiently detailed information about Oster/Halder Conspiracy II, Himmler had two options. The first one was obvious – expose the conspiracy to his boss Adolf Hitler, get his permission to arrest the conspirators, arrest them… in other words do just about the same thing he will do after the miserable failure of July 20th plot. Only this time “before it happens”.

However, saving the life of Adolf Hitler was not exactly what SS-Reichsfuhrer wanted. In fact, he wanted exactly the opposite – get the former killed and become a de-facto Führer himself.

So I am pretty sure that Heinrich Himmler (a really devious character) would have chosen a very different – and a far riskier – option. He would have allowed Commando Oster (or whoever its actual commander would be in this case) to ambush and kill Hitler – but annihilated (he had plenty of resources to make it happen) the teams sent to kill him and official successors – Göring and Hess (the latter by that time would have triumphantly returned to Germany).

And then used his Waffen-SS, Fallschirmjäger units and other ground forces of the Luftwaffe (even the Stuka dive bombers, if necessary) to suppress the coup, arrest the plotters, take full control over the Wehrmacht and integrate it into the State Protection Corps (thus executing the very much hostile takeover).

Officially acting on the orders of Hermann Göring – the official successor of Adolf Hitler in the case of the latter’s death (Rudolf Hess was the next in line after the Reichsmarschall).

In reality, Göring who had neither the desire, nor the ability (nor the resources for that matter) to govern the Reich, would have eagerly made Himmler the de-facto Führer immediately after becoming one de-jure.

And in a few months (at most) would retire to his beloved Carinhall northeast of Berlin in picturesque Schorfheide forest, opening the way form Himmler to become the Führer de-jure. Allowing the latter to become the transformation of Germany and German-controlled territories into SS-Staat.

Could SS-Reichsfuhrer have pulled it off? IMHO, his chances were roughly 70/30 versus the Wehrmacht generals.

What would have been the consequences? Had the generals won, we would most likely have seen the reincarnation of Imperial Germany – the Fourth Reich (possibly even officially) that would have been even more elitist and thus even less democratic than the Second one.

In the West, Germany would have returned to then 1914 borders; however, the new government would have made sure that Germany would have always remain one of three global superpowers (the other two being the British Empire and the USA).

And very probably the #1 superpower as Germany would have surely annexed and incorporated into the Reich the whole Poland, Ukraine, Belarus, the Baltic nations and a significant chunk of Russian territory.

Would it have been a change for the worse for the Poles? Oh, yes. And for the Czechs, too – compared to their independence. For much worse, I would think. The same will be true for the Baltic nations – Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, I am sure. As for Belarus, Ukraine and Russia – I do not think so. Generalplan Ost and Imperial Germany are not compatible at all (to put it mildly) so it is very much possible that under the German rule “all of the above” would have been far better off than under the murderous Bolshevik regime.

Had Himmler won… I would expect all West European nations conquered by Wehrmacht to become German protectorates. Their independence will be a thing of the past and they will be ruled by and iron fist of the SS. “The Man in the High Castle” would probably have been a reasonably accurate portrayal of the regime in those countries.

In the East… in the East the Nazi regime (surprise, surprise) would have been almost completely the same as in the West. For a very simple reason – Heinrich Himmler was a pragmatist (unlike the Wehrmacht, his Waffen-SS was a truly multinational and multicultural force and it was him, not Wehrmacht generals who let General Vlasov form the Russian Liberation Army).

Himmler had no desire to fight the nationwide revolt in occupied territories (an inevitable reaction to the genocide of the native population). Nor would he want to see the resurgence of the Red Army and of the Soviet state (also inevitable in that case).

Consequently, he would probably try to arrive at some kind of a win-win situation (for the local population, compared to life under Bolsheviks, of course). The Jews, however, would have been annihilated (there would have been no Holocaust under the new German Empire, of course).

The bottom line: Adolf Hitler would have been gone regardless of who would have won – the SS or the Wehrmacht; Himmler or the generals. Western Europe would have been much better off under the generals and in both cases much better off than in reality – as there would have been no destruction or any loss of life.

Greater Germany would have been much better off under the Generals (the second Imperial Germany would have been still way better than the totalitarian SS-Staat) and much, much better off than in reality (no loss of lives, no destruction of infrastructure, acquisition of colossal territories, etc.).

Poland and Czechoslovakia would have been much better off under Wehrmacht generals than under Himmler (obviously), but much worse off in terms of territories and regime (in both cases) than in reality.

For the German-occupied territories of the Soviet Union life under the Fourth Reich would have been far better than under the SS-Staat. And way, wat better than in reality (no Communist dictatorships, no loss of life and no wholesale destruction). Life under SS-Staat would have been probably comparable to that under Communist regime (minus the destruction and colossal loss of life).

The abovementioned analysis leads us to the following conclusions (which the “mainstream” historians would not like one bit). Had Adolf Hitler won the war, there was about 30% chance that this outcome would have been far better for all parties involved compared to what happened in reality.

And a 70% chance that the outcome would have been highly uneven – for some (i.e. Germany and even Britain who would have kept its empire intact) it would have been far better than what actually happened, for others (Western Europe, Poland, etc.) it would have been worse while for some (territories of the former Soviet Union) it would have been neither much better nor much worse.

Himmler’s Plot (2)

Heinrich Himmler - Grail - Hitler - Occult Reich - Peter Crawford 2013The situation in 1943 was even better. Much better. His control over the security services was consolidate into RSHA – Reich’s Main Security Office; his control over the economy was expanded and tightened (not least due to his total control over the supply of slave labor), more government officials were SS officers, SS-VT was now full-fledged, well-equipped and battle-hardened Waffen-SS, etc., etc.

Himmler carefully maintained the distance (and thus his autonomy) from Adolf Hitler. He deliberately stayed away from Hitler’s “inner circle”, knowing only too well that getting in was difficult, but getting out was utterly impossible.

Hitler was known to issue a very broad – and often vague – directives and left it out to his subordinate to find a way to make them a reality (and even figure out what the hell did the Führer want to be done).

Which suited Himmler just fine – and by 1943 he became an expert at presenting his own decisions and actions as those ordered by Adolf Hitler. In other words, he pretended to follow the orders of his boss while in reality he was playing his very own game.

But the most important (and radical) change was the new position of Hermann Goering who was now an official successor to Adolf Hitler as Führer of Germany (in the event of the latter’s death).

Goering had neither the ability nor the desire (nor the resources for that matter) to run the country so he would be very much willing to make Himmler the de-facto Reich President and Reich Chancellor – if only to avoid following Adolf Hitler into a better world.

Like everyone else in Germany, Goering was afraid of Himmler – and for a good reason; and his Fallschirmjäger (paratroopers), though a formidable force, were no match for Waffen-SS.

Hence I have no doubt that by 1943 (and possibly even earlier than that), Himmler and Goering developed a plan to liquidate their boss (more precisely, to let Tresckow & Co. do it) crush the military coup, execute the traitors and quite legally assume the full power in Germany proper and German-controlled territories.

This is the only explanation why the SS-run RSD (Reichssicherheitsdienst – “Reich security service”) that protected Adolf Hitler and other Nazi leaders, allowed the plotters to get the bomb on board his plane (!) and the suicide bombers (!!) to come close enough to The Führer to kill him with a 100% certainty. So on about half a dozen of occasions it was the Almighty Providence, not the RSD that saved Hitler’s life.

What was Himmler’s game plan for the “Day After”? Prior to the Kursk disaster, it was obvious – make von Manstein Commander-in-Chief of the Wehrmacht and give him a Cart Blanche for winning the war by annihilating the Red Army one battle after another.

After a year of suffering a 10:1 casualty ratio which von Manstein could deliver, Stalin would have had no other choice but to sue for peace – Brest-Litovsk style (or risk to run out of men).

The peace treaty between Germany and the Soviet Union (which obviously would give the former unrestricted access to oil and other natural resources of the latter) would automatically make war with Germany hopeless for both Great Britain and the USA as without Soviet cannon fodder and mountains of military hardware their chances of winning the war with the Third Reich were exactly zero.

So they would have reluctantly (and inevitably) signed the peace treaty with Germany on very attractive terms for the latter.

By the second half of 1943, the situation for Germany deteriorated significantly. I would say, even radically. Still, von Manstein would have been able to inflict losses on the Red Army severe enough to slow its advance substantially.

Which would have given Himmler a chance to prove to the Western Allies (via skillful diplomacy, of course) that they were fighting on the wrong side. In other words, to provide them with ample evidence (of which after Operation Barbarossa German intelligence had plenty) that the Soviet Union was an existential threat to them (and to the whole Western civilization) while the Nazi Germany was not.

In 1943 or even early 1944 (i.e. prior to the landing in Normandy), this plan would have worked. After the D-Day (and the destruction of Army Group Center by the Red Army) probably not (unbeknown to Himmler, the Americans were very close to the testing of a nuclear bomb which would stop Stalin in his tracks).

Hence the success of July 20th plot would not have changed things much for Himmler – only made his escape (leaving Goering alone in the cold) easier. Much easier, I would say. Easier enough to make a risky decision to allow the generals to blow up his boss to kingdom come.

“All of the above” proves (IMHO, beyond the reasonable doubt) that all Resistance plots (and possibly even the assassination attempt by Georg Elser) were in reality only parts of one giant Himmler’s plot.

the tools that SS-Reichsfuhrer tried to use (unsuccessfully) to get rid of his boss, achieve acceptable peace with both the Soviet Union and the Western Allies and embark on an immensely ambitious project of building the pan-European SS-Staat.

Himmler’s empire where the Mittelpunkt der Welt (the Center of the World) was to be located not in Berlin (I seriously doubt that Himmler would have pursued a technically impossible Welthaupstadt Germania project) but in Wewelsburg Castle.

Himmler was a “perverted monarchist” (his SS-Reich does look and feel like a highly distorted – dystopian even – version of a Holy Roman Empire). Consequently, it would be fair to assume that Die Neue SS (the real ODESSA – his underground Reich) was established as a monarchy of sorts.

With Heinrich Himmler as an emperor and the crown (not necessarily physical) passed to his eldest son (I have no doubt that after his escape Himmler produced quite a few children – in full compliance with the procreation ideology of the SS).


Assassination Attempts – Analysis and Conclusions

20190923_192302000_iOSAccording to “mainstream history” (i.e., anti-Nazi propaganda), all those who plotted the assassination of Hitler were heroes (this one is true), genuine patriots of Germany (debatable) who wanted to kill the Nazi dictator (true), bring down the Nazi regime (not necessarily) and restore democracy in Germany (never).

As usually is the case, the reality is very different – and far more complicated. As it happened (an, alas, still continues to happen), those who attempt to assassinate a political leader do it for a number of reasons – and Adolf Hitler was no exception (only the number of attempts was simply enormous – compared to other leaders).

Some do it because they are, well, clinically (and criminally) insane – i.e. Ludwig Assner, Josef Thomas and possibly Dr. Mylius; others to avenge religious (Maurice Bavaud) or ethnic (Helmut Hirsch) prosecution – or punish someone who they think was responsible for their professional and personal failures (Georg Elser).

Or the defeat of one’s nation in a war against Germany (General Michał Karaszewicz-Tokarzewski) or make it easier to win the war with Germany (Operation Foxley). There was even an attempt by an ex-Nazi (Beppo Römer) who felt betrayed by Adolf Hitler and wanted revenge.

As you can see, none of the above had anything to do with being a patriot of Germany (let alone transforming the Nazi state into a Weimar-style democracy).

The only attempts that could have been driven by patriotism, were the ones plotted by the Wehrmacht generals – the Oster/Halder conspiracy, the July 20th plot and half a dozen (at least) assassination plots in between.

However, in reality these attempts were driven by something else entirely. Fear. In 1938, it was a (not exactly unfounded) fear that Hitler would start a war that would lead to far more disastrous consequences than the First Great War.

In 1943-44 it was fear (very well-justified by reality) that Adolf Hitler, if allowed to live and command the Wehrmacht, will inevitably lead Germany to the worst destruction and loss of life in its history (and that’s exactly what happened).

In other words, in both cases (and the plots of 1943-44 were essentially a one giant plot) the conspirators were driven by the overwhelming, passionate, noble and patriotic desire to save Germany from Adolf Hitler.

Unfortunately, it was not the only drive behind their assassination and coup attempts. Another drive (not much less powerful) was revenge and the desire to go back to the “good old days”.

All plotters – without exception – were German aristocrats who prior to Nazi coming tom power essentially owned and run the country. Making the whole nation work for them – for the elites and for the aristocracy.

Adolf Hitler turned it by 180 degrees. In Nazi Germany, despite its numerous obvious faults (and a fundamentally criminal nature), the elites were forced to work for the nation (i.e. for the German people), not the other way around. And what was previously de-facto reserved for aristocracy only, suddenly was made oven for every German – regardless of social origins.

Hitler openly admitted that his Army (Heer) was Prussian; in other words, still, despite all his efforts, run by Prussian aristocrats. Who detested the Weimar Republic – and the whole idea of democracy – even more than the Nazis.

In other words, the plotters were profoundly anti-democratic, hoping to replace Hitler with a conservative-authoritarian government (very possibly even by a monarchy), and make the country ruled by aristocratic elites again.

They had no desire to allow the general public to have any participation in the governance of the German state – which would have meant a step back compared even to Nazi Germany which surprisingly was a democracy (albeit in a highly restricted way).

Hence, although the generals did care about Germany, first and foremost they cared about their caste – the German aristocratic elites. Hardly a definition of a genuine patriotism.

However, it did not matter. Hitler was far too well-protected by the Providence (Supreme Power) for any plot to succeed. Besides, there was always Heinrich Himmler willing and able to make sure that no plotters ever achieve their objectives.

Hence, all plots and assassination attempts on Adolf Hitler were exercises in futility – cut and dry, plain and simple, loud and clear. And a colossal waste of time, energy, valuable resources and – worst of all – human lives.

July 20th Plot (3)

590921_7Incredibly, his briefcase was not searched, although on entering the inner Security Zone I, all personnel except Adolf Hitler’s inner circle were thoroughly searched, as a precaution against assassination attempts.

In order to avoid it von Stauffenberg arranged so that he entered the Zone I with Field Marshal Wilhelm Keitel reckoning that an officer in Keitel’s company would not be searched.

IMHO, he was wrong – the fact that his briefcase was not searched had nothing to do with him being a part of Keitel’s entourage. Security procedures do not work that way – to be allowed inside a secure area without being searched, one had to be on a special list.

Von Stauffenberg was on that list, ostensibly because his wounds (he lost an eye, his right hand, and two fingers on his left hand) qualified him as someone who posed no security threat.

The reality was quite different, though – Himmler wanted Stauffenberg to kill Hitler and ordered him to be put on the “VIP List” to make sure he does the job. For the same reason – contrary to standard security procedures instituted after the Elser bombings – Hitler’s security detail (acting on orders from their boss – Heinrich Himmler) allowed the “Cointreau bottles” on board the Führer’s plane.

At around 12:30 pm – right before the meeting was to start, von Stauffenberg made an excuse to use a washroom in Wilhelm Keitel’s office where he used pliers to crush the end of a pencil detonator inserted into a 1 kg block of British plastic explosives (Abwehr failed to develop anything even remotely as efficient) prepared by Wessel von Freytag-Loringhoven.

The detonator consisted of a thin copper tube containing cupric chloride that in that weather conditions (extreme heat) would take about ten minutes to silently eat through wire holding back the firing pin from the percussion cap.

According to most historians, the process of arming the bomb was slow due to the abovementioned Colonel’s war wounds. Interrupted by a guard knocking on the door advising him that the meeting was about to begin, von Stauffenberg was not able to prime the second bomb, which he gave to his aide-de-camp, Werner von Haeften.

This story is a bunch of BS (pardon my French). It is impossible to perfectly synchronize even modern electronic detonators, let alone the chemical ones in 1944. Hence, priming the second bomb made no sense at all – and was not even needed as the detonation process would make sure that both bombs go off at exactly the same time (for all practical, purposes).

In reality, von Stauffenberg’s moral and religious convictions got the best of him. He wanted to kill only Hitler – and minimize the “collateral damage” (ideally making sure that no one else dies or even suffers serious injuries). So the Colonel – despite instructions by explosive experts – used only one block of plastics instead of two. This decision saved Hitler’s life – and doomed the conspirators to almost instant failure and a certain death.

Stauffenberg placed the single primed bomb inside his briefcase and, with the unwitting assistance of Major Ernst John von Freyend (at the time adjutant to Field Marshal Wilhelm Keitel), who volunteered to carry his briefcase, entered the conference room where Adolf Hitler and 20 senior Wehrmacht officers have already commenced the meeting.

He positioned the briefcase under the table right next to Hitler, guaranteeing that even the one-block blast would sent the Führer straight to Valhalla (or other appropriate place in the afterworld). After a few minutes, Stauffenberg received a planned telephone call and left the room being quite sure that this time Adolf Hitler will die.

However, the Providence interfered again – big time. Colonel Heinz Brandt (at the time an aide to General Adolf Heusinger, then the interim Chief of then General Staff), trying to get a better view of the map, moved the briefcase to the other side of the stout block leg, away from Hitler. The blast thus blew away from Hitler, and ironically toward Brandt, who died from it the next day.

Another (not exactly unexpected) development that saved Hitler’s life was the change of venue for a meeting. Due to the murderous July heat, the conference was moved from the bunker to the summer bungalow thus making most of the shock wave go outside, instead of staying inside.

Hence, even a 2kg block of explosives would not have necessarily killed Hitler (although he might have been seriously injured), let alone half that much.

At 12:42, exactly ten minutes after being armed, the bomb detonated, demolishing the conference room and killing a stenographer on the spot. More than 20 people were injured with three officers later dying from their wounds.

The Führer survived, as did everyone else who was shielded from the blast by the conference table leg. His trousers were singed and tattered (see photograph below) and he suffered from a perforated eardrum, as did most of the other 24 people in the room.

Hence the result of von Stauffenberg’s assassination attempt was by and large the same as the one by Georg Elser five years earlier – several innocent people dead, many more innocents injured (some seriously) with no serious or even lasting harm suffered by his intended target.

Stauffenberg, upon witnessing the explosion and smoke, erroneously assumed that this time Hitler the assassination attempt was (finally) successful and Adolf Hitler has finally left our world and was on his Walhalla (or wherever).

He climbed into a staff car with his aide Werner von Haeften and managed to bluff his way past three checkpoints to exit the Wolfsschanze complex. Well, maybe bluff had little to do with it as Himmler, not completely sure that Stauffenberg will (finally) detonate the bomb on that date, made sure he could safely get out and away.

Werner von Haeften then tossed the second unprimed bomb into the forest (an incredibly stupid thing to do as only a complete moron would leave such evidence behind) as they made a dash for Rastenburg airfield, reaching it before it could be realized that Stauffenberg could be responsible for the explosion.

By 1pm he was airborne in a Heinkel He 111 (transport version of the venerable Luftwaffe bomber) arranged by Eduard Wagner – Quartermaster-General of the German Army.

By the time he reached Berlin at approximately 4pm, the whole plot was in a complete mess. FUBAR would have been a pretty mild way to describe it (actually, the whole situation).

The key individual responsible for this confusion was the second most important plotter in Wolf’s Lair General der Nachrichtentruppe (Communications Troops) Fritz Erich Fellgiebel who promised what he could not deliver.

He was in charge of all Wehrmacht-run communication channels between Wolfsschanze and the outside world. Hence he could (and did) severe all these channels immediately after Stauffenberg’s bomb went off.

Unfortunately, he did it before confirming that Hitler was dead (or was alive); as the result, the conspirators in the Reserve Army HQ had no clue about what actually happened to Hitler for almost three hours (!). Absolutely critical hours.

That was bad enough for the plotters, unfortunately, there was something else that made the situation much worse. Himmler’s SS (more specifically, the units responsible for Hitler’s personal security and the security of Wolf’s Lair) had their own communication channels that Fellgiebel had no control over.

Consequently, Himmler, Goebbels and other Nazi leaders knew that Hitler was alive even before the plotters did. When it became clear that the attempt had failed and that the proverbial cat was out of the proverbial bag, Fellgiebel had no other choice but to override the communications black-out he had set up and to inform his co-conspirators that the attempt on Hitler’s life failed. Again.

The situation got even more confusing when von Stauffenberg phoned from the airport to tell Olbricht et al. that Hitler was in fact dead.

The Bendlerblock plotters did not know whom to believe but now there was no turning back regardless of who was telling the truth. After wasting three crucial hours waiting for the information from Wolf’s Lair (which made no sense as after the bomb went Operation Valkyrie had to be launched regardless of whether Hitler was alive or not), Olbricht issued the initiation orders pretending that the order was given by the only individual in the Reserve Army who had the right to do so – its commander Generaloberst Friedrich Fromm.

However, the letter was way too cautious to take his deputy at his word without some kind of independent confirmation. So he called Field Marshal Wilhelm Keitel at the Wolf’s Lair and was assured that Hitler was alive. Keitel demanded to know Stauffenberg’s whereabouts (by that time it was already established that the latter was the only one who could have planted the bomb).

At 16:40 Stauffenberg and Haeften arrived at the Bendlerblock. Fromm, promptly changed sides (the only decision that made sense under the circumstances) and attempted to have Stauffenberg arrested.

Olbricht and Stauffenberg restrained him at gunpoint and Olbricht then appointed General Erich Hoepner (at the time already retired from the Army) to take over his duties.

By this time Himmler (no surprise here) had taken charge of the situation and had issued orders countermanding Olbricht’s initiation of Operation Valkyrie. In many places the coup was going ahead, led by the plotters who believed that Hitler was dead.

City Commandant, and conspirator, General Paul von Hase ordered the Wachbataillon Großdeutschland – part of the Berlin Defense Force, under the command of Major Otto-Ernst Remer, to secure the Wilhelmstraße (the government district of Berlin) and arrest Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels.

Major Remer was a very brave individual – and an outstanding leader. His Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves proved both points beyond the reasonable doubt. However, he was also a natural-born politician (after the war he made a rather successful foray into far-right politics in Germany).

And thus had an excellent nose for trouble. He was later quoted as saying: “I know there’s a coup going on. What I do not know is which side are we on”. To clarify things, he (wisely) decided to listen to the other side as well before issuing any orders of his own.

So he called Joseph Goebbels – the Gauleiter (Nazi Party leader) of Berlin and asked for his comments. Goebbels invited Remer to visit him in his office and in the meantime arranged for a phone call to Wolf’s Lair to speak with Hitler himself.

The Führer (always a politician) immediately promoted Remer two ranks to Oberst (the actual order was issued on the same night) and ordering him to crush the plot in Berlin with the troops under his command. Which confirmed Remer’s suspicion that he had been taking orders from the mutineers,

He returned with his troops to the Berlin Military Headquarters at Bendlerblock, and arrested the plotters, including Stauffenberg. General Friedrich Fromm, anxious to protect his butt (ultimately unsuccessfully) had the plotters immediately summarily executed by firing squad, despite Remer protests that he had been told to keep the plotters alive pending further orders from Hitler, who was at that time already returning to Berlin.

Others would have been executed as well, but at 00:30 SS personnel led by no other than Otto Skorzeny arrived and further executions were forbidden. Over the following weeks, Himmler’s Gestapo, driven by a furious Hitler, rounded up nearly everyone who had the remotest connection with the plot.

The discovery of letters and diaries in the homes and offices of those arrested (keeping these was a really dumb idea) revealed the plots of 1938, 1939, and 1943, and this led to further rounds of arrests, including that of Franz Halder, who finished the war in a concentration camp.

Under the new Sippenhaft (“blood guilt”) laws (modeled after Stalin’s practice in such cases), many relatives of the principal plotters were also arrested in the immediate aftermath of the failed plot and sent to concentration camps.

Not all of about 5,000 executed (and even of about 7,000 arrested) were connected to the plot – the Gestapo used the occasion to do away with suspected and even potential members of the Resistance.

Hitler took his survival to be a “divine moment in history” (no surprise here), and commissioned a special decoration to be made for each person wounded or killed in the blast. The result was the Wound Badge of 20 July 1944.

As a result of the failed coup, every member of the Wehrmacht was required to re-swear his loyalty oath, by name, to Hitler and, on 24 July 1944, the military salute was replaced throughout the armed forces with the Hitler Salute in which the arm was outstretched and the salutation Heil Hitler was given.

Major General Henning von Tresckow (who did not participate in the plot but was a major inspiration behind it) right before committing suicide the day after the failure of the plot said:

The whole world will vilify us now, but I am still totally convinced that we did the right thing. Hitler is the archenemy not only of Germany but of the world. When, in few hours’ time, I go before God to account for what I have done and left undone, I know I will be able to justify what I did in the struggle against Hitler. None of us can bewail his own death; those who consented to join our circle put on the robe of Nessus [poisoned shirt that killed Hercules]. A human being’s moral integrity begins when he is prepared to sacrifice his life for his convictions

I beg to disagree. IMHO, July 20th plot was a colossal waste of life with exactly zero chances of success. In one of the next sections I will prove beyond the reasonable doubt that even if the assassination attempt had succeeded, it would have resulted only in Himmler becoming the de-facto Führer of Germany.

Which could have changed the situation for the worse (possibly much worse) – not for the better. IMHO, the right thing to do for the conspirators was either to somehow get to the Western front and find the way to surrender to the advancing Western Allies.

Or passionately and efficiently fight on the Eastern front to save the Christian civilization from being conquered and destroyed by the Bolshevik hordes (something that Wehrmacht and Waffen-SS had been doing for three years by that time).

July 20th conspirators were genuine patriots and heroes, no doubt about that. Unfortunately, they were ignorant of the most basic facts about the Nazi Germany and the Allies, naïve and thus hopelessly incompetent. So it is no surprise at all that they failed – and failed miserably.

The individual who made a 100% correct prediction of the results of the plot was Helmuth James von Moltke, the great-grandnephew of Moltke the Elder, hero of the Franco-Prussian War (subsequently arrested and executed by the Nazis for activities unrelated to July 20th plot).

When asked about his opinion on assassinating Hitler, he replied that he was against it. And added: “we are all amateurs and would only bungle it” (i.e. an assassination attempt). And that’s exactly what happened.

July 20th Plotters and the Supernatural

The Supreme Being

Just about all key July plotters claimed to be devout Christians (Goerdeler even objected to killing Hitler on religious grounds). However it appears that all these characters were Christians in name only because they definitely did not believe in supernatural.

Had they believed, they would have noticed that the Reichstag Fire (a textbook Singularity Event) was an obvious Act of God (Kripo investigation dossier available to them via Arthur Nebe proved beyond the reasonable doubt that van der Lubbe acted alone – and clinically insane individuals are known to be especially sensitive to the paranormal).

They would have also noticed that time after time Hitler had been saved by almost certain death by a supernatural power. They knew about Elser, about the Munich Agreement, about inexplicable failures of all bomb plots in 1943… so they should have asked themselves an obvious question – maybe, just maybe Hitler serves the Christian God who needs him to save the Church and the whole Christian civilization from being destroyed by Bolsheviks – agents of Satan par excellence.

And so protects him – and will protect him – from any and all attempts on his life making any assassination plot, not matter how “bulletproof” an exercise in futility. Hence the best course of action just might be to leave Hitler alone with God – and make the latter make the decision on when and how to end the life of the Führer.

But they didn’t – and paid for this fundamental theological mistake with their lives – and lives of thousands of others who believed them and followed them to the gallows (or, at best, to the firing squad).


July 20th Plot (2)

BqY4bMOn one crucial issue, I completely agree with mainstream historians: all July 20th plotters were genuine heroes and patriots of Germany. They risked their lives to achieve highly noble objectives (and most gave their lives).

Unfortunately, there were two major problems with their objectives. First, not all of them were noble (to put it mildly). Second, even those that were noble, were… well, unrealistic.

I have stated on countless occasions that Nazi ideology created a highly distorted and thus grossly inaccurate perception of the world. To put it bluntly, the Nazis (first and foremost, Adolf Hitler) were severely delusional. Which predictably led to colossal blunders and subsequently to the defeat in the Second Great War and the demise of the Third Reich (and of all its key components).

Incredibly, July 20th plotters were even more delusional than the Nazis (definitely more so than Heinrich Himmler, for example). They could not grasp a simple truth (although it was made public many times) – the Allies were fighting not the Nazis, but Germany and, consequently, would agree only to unconditional surrender of Germany.

And the British and the Americans had no desire whatsoever to start another war – with the Soviet Union. First, they needed its support to force Japan to unconditionally surrender and second, they were (correctly) confident that they had enough resources to prevent Stalin from invading the Western Europe (let alone conquering it).

Hence, their planned demands (!!!) to Allies to return Germany to even the 1939 borders (let alone to 1914 ones) were not just fanciful, but genuinely insane. Incredibly, like just about all the rest of German resistance, the July 20th plotters believed in the idea of Greater Germany.

Hence, as a condition for peace (!!) they demanded that the Western Allies recognize as a minimum the incorporation of Austria, Alsace-Lorraine, Sudetenland, and the return of pre-1918 German territories ceded to Poland, with even restoration of some of the overseas colonies. They believed that Europe should be controlled under German hegemony (Britain would have loved the last one).

Now those were the delusions of the century – the plotters did not understand (or did not want to understand) that they were not in the position of making any demands – they had no bargaining power whatsoever. Himmler had some (actually, a lot of it) but even his hopes of negotiating an acceptable peace with the Allies were totally and completely delusional.

Their second fundamental error was that they completely misjudged the attitude of the Germans towards national-socialism. Contrary to their delusions, the overwhelming majority of Germans were totally and completely happy under Nazi regime and had no desire to return to Weimar-style democracy.

Or to monarchy for that matter (it was not entirely clear which regime they disliked more). The previous military dictatorship (a duumvirate of Ludendorff and Hindenburg) ended in disaster – the Great Hunger, the defeat in the Great War, etc., so the Germans had no desire whatsoever to repeat the experience.

Even if Adolf Hitler was dead, the Germans would have eagerly submitted to the leadership of Heinrich Himmler as the SS were not just respected in 1944 Germany – they were admired and even revered.

And, finally, they did not even suspect that Heinrich Himmler was perfectly aware of every one of their steps – even without information obtained (most likely) from his personal agent Hans Gisevius. Hence, they were but a tool of SS-Reichsfuhrer in the plot of his own.

In the summer of 1943, Johannes Popitz – a member of Resistance and an associate of Carl Gördeler (and a firm supporter of the Final Solution of the Jewish Question) – conducted secret talks with Himmler, whose support he sought to win for a coup d’état and whom he tried to convince to take part in attempts to negotiate with the Western Powers for an acceptable peace deal.

Himmler was noncommittal but that conversation gave him everything he needed to put all plotters under sufficient surveillance by his agents fiercely loyal to him personally.

There is some (albeit rather thin) evidence that Popitz was not alone in seeing in Himmler a potential ally. General von Bock (Tresckow’s boss at Army Group Center who was sympathetic to the coup) advised Tresckow to seek the support of SS-Reichsfuhrer, but there is no evidence that the latter did so (I am pretty sure he didn’t).

Goerdeler was apparently also in indirect contact with Himmler via a mutual acquaintance, Carl Langbehn (IMHO, a very real possibility). Wilhelm Canaris biographer Heinz Höhne suggests that Canaris and Himmler were working together to bring about a change of regime, but this remains (IMHO, believable) speculation.

All these errors (plus a completely delusional belief that all Wehrmacht commanders will go along with Operation Valkyrie with no questions asked) predictably resulted in a miserable failure of their childish, naïve and amateurish coup. And subsequently in a colossal loss of highly valuable lives.

Operation Valkyrie was the only remotely realistic tool for executing the military coup in Nazi Germany. It was a natural (and pretty much standard) operating procedure to secure the continuity of government operations (i.e. that the government continues to function more or less normally) in case of a general breakdown in civil order of the nation.

The latter could be caused, for example, by the Allied bombing of German cities, or uprising of the millions of foreign forced laborers working in German factories… or an attempt to overthrow the legitimate government by some kind of an internal power.

In this case the Territorial Reserve Army of Germany (where the plotter General Olbricht was the second-in-command) was given the authority to essentially establish a temporary military dictatorship, restore order and then hand power back to a legitimate government.

Friedrich Olbricht, Henning von Tresckow, and Claus von Stauffenberg modified the original plan to make it possible to legitimately take control of German cities, disarm the SS, and arrest the Nazi leadership once Hitler had been assassinated (blown to kingdom come by a powerful bomb). Hitler’s death was necessary to free German soldiers from their oath of loyalty to him.

There was a minor problem, however. On September 1st, 1939, a few hours after Poland was invaded by the Wehrmacht, Adolf Hitler officially (in his address to the Reichstag) named Hermann Goering his successor as Führer of Germany in the event of his death.

Which means that for Operation Valkyrie to remain legit, the plotters had to assassinate Goering at about (ideally, exactly) the same time as Hitler (otherwise the latter would simply cancel Valkyrie right then and there).

Unfortunately, Goering was suspiciously absent at the conferences attended by von Stauffenberg so finally the plotters had to go after Hitler alone, reckoning that they would solve “the Goering problem” later. Somehow.

Contrary to a very popular misconception, it was von Tresckow, not von Stauffenberg, who made the critical changes to the blueprint for Operation Valkyrie. Stauffenberg only obtained Hitler’s approval.

Normally a no small feat but Hitler was so impressed with the Colonel that he gave his approval without even reading the new plan – let alone studying it carefully enough to grasp its implications.

Ultimately, the plotters (correctly) decided that Himmler was not an asset, but a very much lethal liability. So they intended to kill them both if possible – to the extent that Stauffenberg’s first attempt on July 11th was aborted because SS Reichsfuhrer was not there.

Neither was Goering – and there was a feeling than none of them will ever be present, so the plotters had to go after Hitler only – and hope to take care of two others later. Somehow.

On the first day of July, Stauffenberg was appointed Chief of Staff to General Fromm at the Reserve Army headquarters on Bendlerstraße in central Berlin. This position enabled Stauffenberg to attend Hitler’s military conferences, and would thus give him an opportunity, perhaps the last that would present itself, to kill Hitler with a bomb (due to Stauffenberg’s injuries, a handgun was out of the question).

Meanwhile, new key allies had been secured. Probably the most valuable one was General Carl-Heinrich von Stülpnagel, the German military commander in France, who would take control in Paris when Hitler was killed, and it was hoped, negotiate an immediate armistice with the invading Allied armies.

Von Stauffenberg was the only one who could lead and manage the coup skillfully enough to make it a success (no surprise here – the generals are usually lousy conspirators). Hence, the initial decision was to task someone else with blowing up Der Führer.

That “someone else” was Generalmajor Helmuth Stieff – Chief of Organization at OKH (Army High Command). As one of the officers who had occasional access to Hitler, he volunteered to kill Hitler himself in a suicide attack but later backed away despite repeated requests from Tresckow and Stauffenberg.

On July 7th 1944, during a demonstration of new uniforms to Hitler at Schloss Klessheim, a palace near Salzburg, Stieff did not have the courage to trigger the bomb. Which turned out to be a very bad decision.

On July 20th, 1944, he accompanied von Stauffenberg and Lieutenant Werner von Haeften in the Heinkel He 111 plane provided by General Eduard Wagner from the Wolfsschanze to Berlin.

On the same night, after the dismal failure of the coup, he was arrested and brutally interrogated under by the Gestapo. Stieff held out for several days against all attempts to extract the names of fellow conspirators.

Ousted by the Wehrmacht, he was tried by the infamous (Volksgerichtshof) under even more infamous Roland Freisler and (predictably) sentenced to death on 8 August 1944. At Hitler’s personal request, Stieff was executed by hanging in the afternoon of that same day at Plötzensee Prison in Berlin.

Due to Stieff’s sudden change of heart, Stauffenberg (who was the only other one who had a personal access to Hitler) had to kill Hitler himself. Thus taking responsibility for both assassinating the Führer and commanding Operation Valkyrie (dramatically reducing the chances for success).

The first opportunity presented itself on July 11th. However, the conspirators had (correctly) decided that Operation Valkyrie could succeed only if SS-Reichsfuhrer Heinrich Himmler and Hitler’s official successor in case of his death Hermann Göring are killed simultaneously with the Führer.

However, that presented a major problem. Though the SS Reichsfuhrer was de-facto the third most powerful individual in the Third Reich, he was not in any way involved in managing military operations (nominally his Waffen-SS were under operational command of Wehrmacht) – so it was highly unusual for him to attend military conferences.

Göring, although very much involved in military operations, normally did not attend such conferences either, choosing to send his deputy Generaloberst Günther Korten (Chief of General Staff of the Luftwaffe) instead.

And for a good reason as Hitler (mostly incorrectly) blamed the German Air Force for its inability to protect Germany from around the clock incessant pounding (and destruction) by Allied bombers. And treated the Luftwaffe commanders accordingly.

Hence, neither of the two were present on that day – and so the attempt was aborted. Recognizing the futility of hunting for both men, the conspirators finally dropped this requirement.

So on July 15th Stauffenberg was after Adolf Hitler only. The plan was for Stauffenberg to plant the briefcase with the bomb in Hitler’s conference room with a timer running, excuse himself from the meeting, wait for the explosion, then fly back to Berlin and join the other plotters at the Bendlerblock.

Operation Valkyrie would be executed, all Nazi leaders would be arrested (or executed on the spot without trial), the Reserve Army would take control of Germany, Beck would be appointed provisional head of state, Goerdeler would be chancellor, and Witzleben would be commander-in-chief of the armed forces.

However, this attempt also had to be aborted. Curiously, both Himmler and Göring were present this time, but Hitler was called out of the room at the last moment. Stauffenberg was able to miraculously intercept the bomb and prevent its discovery.

On 18 July rumors reached Stauffenberg that the Gestapo had knowledge of the conspiracy and that he might be arrested at any time. As it turned out later, there was no truth whatsoever to these rumors, but they achieved their objective, creating a sense in the conspirators that the “net was closing in” and that the next opportunity to kill Hitler must be taken because there might not be another.

On the morning of 20 July Stauffenberg flew back to the Wolfsschanze for another Hitler military conference, once again with a bomb in his briefcase. Without realizing that he (like all other conspirators) was but a pawn in an entirely different plot.

Himmler’s plot.

July 20th Plot (1)

20 July Plot 13

July 20th plot was not just an assassination attempt – it was a full-fledged military coup (not just a plan, or an attempt at a coup – but an actual coup). The coup that failed miserably. It did, however, include an attempt on Hitler’s life – this time it was an even closer call than the Elser bomb in 1939.

It was the ninth attempt to blow up Hitler to kingdom come; the second bomb that actually went off – and the first (and only) one that exploded in the presence of Der Führer.

However, end the result was exactly the same – Adolf Hitler survived (he suffered only the loss of his beloved trousers and a perforated eardrum) and the plotters were more or less promptly arrested (all 7,000 or so of them) with most (almost 5,000) more or less promptly executed – by hanging on meat hooks with a piano wire.

The latter looked a like a really horrible method of execution as it took the condemned individual almost half an hour to die (the classic method of hanging kills the condemned in a few seconds). However, in reality it felt almost exactly the same as the loss of consciousness was pretty much instantaneous in both cases.

Although this coup was numerically far stronger than the Oster/Halder conspiracy of 1938, in reality it was far less powerful. This time, the Chief of the General Staff (Adolf Heusinger) had no clue about the plot (he was standing right next to Hitler when the bomb went off); the plotters had no control over any armored division (or Berlin garrison for that matter), etc., etc. So instead of issuing direct orders to German troops they had to rely on deception (a radically modified Operation Valkyrie)

And, of course, this time Hans Oster played no role in the coup – he was arrested by the Gestapo… for helping Jews escape Nazi Germany disguised as Abwehr agents (the guy really did not know how to prioritize his treason).

However, the list of key conspirators was still pretty impressive:

  • Colonel General Ludwig Beck – one of the key participants in Oster/Halder Conspiracy as well. Both then and in July of 1944 he was a civilian, having resigned from the position of Chief of the German General Staff and retired from the Wehrmacht on August 31st, 1938
  • Admiral Wilhelm Canaris, Director of Abwehr – German Military Intelligence
  • General Alexander Freiherr von Falkenhausen, Military Commander of Belgium and Northern France
  • General Erich Fellgiebel, Chief of the Military Communications
  • Colonel (General Staff) Wessel von Freytag-Loringhoven – provided the explosives for the assassination attempt
  • Colonel General Friedrich Fromm, commander of the Reserve Army – the key tool of the plotters. Aware of the conspiracy, he refused to take any part in it; and when the plot failed, arrested and executed conspirators, including Stauffenberg, on the same day. Arrested on orders of Himmler the next day, he was executed by firing squad for “cowardice” (an appropriate charge, IMHO) on March 12th 1945
  • Major General Reinhard Gehlen, Chief of Intelligence-Gathering on the Eastern Front. His participation in the plot was not detected by the Gestapo, he survived and after the war he became the spymaster of the CIA-affiliated anti-Communist Gehlen Organization and the first director of the Federal [Foreign] Intelligence Service of West Germany. There were rumors that Himmler was perfectly aware of Gehlen’s role in the plot (the latter provided protection for key plotters) but instead of arresting and executing him, SS-Reichsfuhrer chose to recruit Gehlen into ODESSA
  • Hans Bernd Gisevius, a diplomat, an officer of the Abwehr and a key participant in both Oster/Halder conspiracy and July 20th After the latter failed miserably, he went into hiding, then fled to Switzerland. This mysterious character previously worked for Gestapo (!) but was fired over disagreements with then-chief of the latter Rudolf Diels. He went to work for the Reich Interior Ministry from where he was fired by Himmler in 1936. Or became a deep undercover agent of the latter as some conspiracy theories claim. It was rumored that Gisevius not only informed SS Reichsfuhrer on his fellow plotters but was also the liaison between Himmler and Allen Dulles – then OSS station chief in Zurich. IMHO, his miraculous survival and escape are highly suspicious, to put it mildly
  • Carl Friedrich Gördeler, ex-Mayor of Leipzig and ex-Reich Price Commissioner; he was to become the Chancellor of Germany had the plot succeeded. After his arrest on August 12th, he betrayed everyone he knew, freely giving names of numerous co-conspirators to the Gestapo (which did not lay even a finger on him), thus causing the arrests and executions of hundreds or even thousands of plotters. During his time in prison, Gördeler was asked by Himmler to assist with writing the constitution of a future SS-Staat (undoubtedly, for ODESSA/Die Neue SS)
  • Lieutenant Werner von Haeften – adjutant to Claus Schenk Graf von Stauffenberg and fellow conspirator. Executed 20 July 1944, by firing squad on orders of General Fromm
  • Lieutenant General Paul von Hase, Commander of 56. Infanterie-Division and City Commandant of Berlin. He was an active participant in the Oster/Halder Conspiracy and the uncle of a famous theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer (also a member of the conspiracy)
  • Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a prominent Lutheran pastor, theologian and a key founder of the anti-Nazi “Confessing Church”. His older brother Klaus was also a member of the plot and was also arrested, tried, convicted and executed by the Nazis
  • Wolf-Heinrich Graf von Helldorf, Chief of the Berlin Police and an active participant in the Oster/Halder Conspiracy as well
  • Colonel General Erich Hoepner, Commander of the 4th Panzer Army. Another key participant of the Oster/Halder Conspiracy
  • Field Marshal Günther von Kluge – commander-in-chief of German Armed Forces on the Western front (OB West). While not directly involved knew about the plot and so committed suicide when the plot failed miserably. Probably made the right decision given the subsequent fate of Erwin Rommel.
  • Field Marshal Erwin Rommel. Like von Kluge, he was not directly involved but knew about the plot. He also committed suicide – but on Hitler’s orders on October 14th, 1944
  • Colonel Albrecht Ritter Mertz von Quirnheim – one of the four conspirators executed by firing squad at Bendlerblock on July 20th, 1944 on the order of General Fromm
  • SS-Gruppenführer (!) Arthur Nebe, Head of the National Police (Kripo) and a commanding officer of Einsatzgruppe B (!!). Probably the most mysterious and controversial Nazi leaders
  • General Friedrich Olbricht, who as a Chief of the Armed Forces Reserve Office initiated Operation Valkyrie. Executed on orders of Colonel General Fromm on July 20th, 1944
  • Johannes Popitz, Prussian Minister of Finance. In the summer of 1943, Popitz conducted secret talks with Heinrich Himmler, whose support he sought to win for a coup d’état and whom he tried to convince to take part in attempts to negotiate with the Western Powers for an acceptable peace deal. Thus becoming an important source of information about the plot for SS Reichsfuhrer. For some time Himmler protected him, but then decided to get rid of a dangerous witness – so Popitz was hanged on 2 February 1945 at Plötzensee Prison, in Berlin.
  • First Lieutenant Fabian von Schlabrendorff. Now this guy was lucky big time. On 13 March 1943, during a visit by Adolf Hitler to Army Group Center Headquarters in Smolensk, Schlabrendorff smuggled a time bomb, disguised as bottles of Cointreau, onto the aircraft which carried Hitler back to Germany. The bomb failed to go off, however (no one really knows why). Schlabrendorff managed to retrieve the bomb the next day and elude detection. He was put on trial (by the infamous Volksgerichtshof), but the trial was aborted when an allied bomb killed the presiding judge. He was sent to concentration camps but survived. After the war he became a Member of the Federal Constitutional Court in West Germany
  • Friedrich Werner Graf von der Schulenburg, the last German Ambassador to the Soviet Union before the invasion of June 22nd, 1941. He was a firm opponent of Operation Barbarossa and one of its fiercest critics
  • Colonel (General Staff) Claus Schenk Graf von Stauffenberg, plot leader and an unsuccessful assassin of Adolf Hitler. Executed by firing squad at Bendlerblock on July 20th 1944 on the order of General Fromm
  • Major General Henning von Tresckow – leader of several unsuccessful plots against Hitler in 1943 (but not of July 20th plot). Committed suicide on July 21st, 1944 after learning of a miserable failure of the latter
  • General quartermaster of the army Eduard Wagner, supplied a plane for von Stauffenberg that took the latter to Berlin
  • Field Marshal Erwin von Witzleben the highest ranking general actively involved in the plot (also one of the leaders of Oster/Halder conspiracy)

The Oster Conspiracy (2)

Witzleben_ErwinThe overall assassination plan was developed (no surprise here) by ardent anti-Nazi (and probably the most radical member of the military Resistance) Hans Oster. As he was busy with the overall planning of the coup, he left the operational details to two his associates, Friedrich Wilhelm Heinz and Franz Maria Liedig.

These young officers, dedicated resistance fighters and former members of a right-wing Freikorps militia (happens), were prepared to do anything to put an end to the Nazi regime.

Especially Herr Heinz, who began his career as a notorious terrorist during the Weimar Republic and became a fanatical Nazi thug. The Nazis found him too fanatical (yes, such things did happen) and promptly expelled him from the Party.

Wrong decision. As it happens more often than not, rejection by his comrades-in-arms transformed him from an ardent Nazi into a committed (and quite vicious) opponent of the regime.

The methods he advocated remained the same as used during the days of his Nazi youth: violence, terror, and assassination. Unlike most members of the Oster clique – initially loyal civil servants who found their way to the resistance after much hesitation and misgiving, Heinz was a born revolutionary. For him, the underground was a way of life. This was definitely a guy who you do not want to have as your enemy.

Not surprisingly, it was Heinz whom Oster tasked with creating a dedicated special op unit. “Commando Heinz” which numbered about sixty men in all, was assembled at breathtaking speed, its soldiers armed by Oster using weapons from Abwehr supplies (what else).

Supervised by Abwehr officers (by that time already well-trained in special ops), they encompassed all types of characters: armed civilians, right-wing activists with revolutionary pasts, student leaders, and (of course) former soldiers.

Formation of the unit was completed around September 15th. It was spread among several safe houses around Berlin, and was waiting for a sign from Oster. Its job was to arrest Hitler and the Nazi leaders after Witzleben’s troops took over the capital. Heinz and Liedig, with Oster’s consent, planned to kill Hitler (I suspect that not only Hitler) during the operation under the pretext that he would resisting arrest.

Only four individuals knew about this plot – Oster, Heinz, Liedig and von Witzleben (even the members of “Commando Heinz” did not know their final objective).

Witzleben’s troops were to be supported by Berlin police force led by Count Wolf von Helldorff (Police President of Berlin) and – surprise, surprise – head of the Kripo (national criminal police) SS-Gruppenführer (!) Arthur Nebe.

The latter appeared to be permanently confused of whether he wanted to serve the Nazi regime – or bring it down. Ultimately he chose the latter – with disastrous consequences for himself.

The timing of the coup was as follows. Halder predicted that the mobilization plans would be laid before him at least three days before the outbreak of the war which would have given the conspirators ample time to make the last necessary preparations for the coup.

As soon as he received the marching order from Hitler. Halder would instruct Witzleben to launch the coup. The troops of Brockdorff and Hase would occupy the capital, laying siege to the government quarter (supported by Hoepner’s tanks and srmored vehicles).

Helldorff and Nebe guaranteed that police will either support the coup or (more likely) remain neutral. On July 20th, 1944 the latter was the case. “Commando Heinz” would spring out of their hideouts, storm the government buildings, arrest (and, most likely, kill) the Nazi leaders.

Simultaneously, the conspirators would take over the radio stations. Their broadcast to the people would explain that they were only keeping public order and repressing a revolt of SS and Gestapo elements. Which means that the famous Operation Valkyrie was designed six years prior to when it was actually launched.

A martial law would be declared, followed by a new government, possibly a monarchy (former Crown Prince Wilhelm apparently gave his consent to become the next Kaiser).

The biggest question is: Did Himmler know? Just about all mainstream historians are confident that he did not. They claim that the Gestapo (i.e. Himmler) new nothing about this conspiracy, even many years later. That had to do, in part, with the close-knit structure of the conspiratorial network.

In 1938, the military resistance group was a small circle of close friends and relatives, mostly of elite background. This made betrayal very unlikely. It also had to do with unbelievable negligence on the Gestapo’s part as far as traditional elites – the nobility and the army – were concerned.

Practically all resources of the secret police were spent on endless persecution of the networks of the beaten left, which they still considered the greatest threat to the regime. And of the Jews, of course – the Nazis (incorrectly) believed that they were fighting an existential racial war with the “Jewish race” (which existed only in their imagination).

The right and the traditional elites were not considered such a menace, even though in reality that was where the real danger to National Socialism lay. This negligence of the dreaded Nazi secret police was to be a persistent phenomenon that allowed the conspirators to survive and work until July 20, 1944.

I beg to disagree. Heinrich Himmler was an extremely talented, clever, skilled and experienced political operation who not only survived but was astoundingly successful in a cutthroat world of Nazi politics (Hitler’s Führerstaat was designed to create a ruthless competition at every level where only the fittest, the strongest and the most powerful would survive and succeed).

Risk management skills are absolutely essential for success; besides, Himmler was in a state security business which means that he had to know what happens before it happens.

It is also well-known that the conspirators were quite careless about concealing their illegal activities (which ultimately got Oster – and not just Oster – arrested). And Heydrich’s SD was very probably the most extensive and efficient domestic intelligence services in the world with informers everywhere – to the very top.

Consequently, it is much more likely than not that Himmler knew (or had at least a general idea) of both the September’38 plot and its July’44 clone. Knew – and chose to do nothing about it. For a very simple reason – his loyalty to Adolf Hitler was a skillfully crafted and supported myth.

In reality, Himmler considered himself an aristocrat far superior to Adolf Hitler in just about everything (especially in education – which was obviously true). Besides, he had his own vision of the Third Reich that was very different from Hitler’s (and which he very much wanted to make a reality).

By 1938, his SS was already a “state within a state” (fiercely loyal to him – not to Adolf Hitler); he was in command of all German security services; he all but controlled the German economy (via the “Circle of Friends of SS-Reichsfuhrer”)… hey, he even already had his own armed forces.

In his opinion, he was ready to take over Germany… if only he could figure out how to get Hitler out of the way. So I am confident that in September of 1938 (and in July of 1944) he had a quite realistic plan to take over the Reich after the generals (or “Commando Heinz”) did the dirty job for him.

And not just “Plan A”, but “Plan B”. “Plan C”, etc., etc. – he was obsessive about even the minute details and about planning for every imaginable contingency.

It is a well-known fact that Oster’s “partners-in-crime” (their actions and plans were, indeed, a capital crime according to the German law) contacted the British government officials on literally dozens of occasions trying to secure their assistance (or at least) cooperation. To no avail – all his offers were either rejected outright or (at best) ignored.

It is a much less-known fact that Heinrich Himmler’s emissaries made very similar proposals – only to the American government. Which ultimately reacted in about the same way as the British (joint business ventures were a different matter entirely).

The USA and Britain (and their intelligence services) were very close so it is no surprise that the latter knew about Himmler’s proposals to their American friends. They also knew of at least some contacts between the civilian opposition to Hitler and Himmler’s associates (probably inevitable in Nazi Germany – and another source of information about the plans of the former for Heinrich Himmler).

Hence they could not figure out (as one British official bluntly put it) “where the opposition ends and Heinrich Himmler begins” – especially given the fact that the foreign policy objectives of the plotters were in many cases identical to Hitler’s. Which probably was another reason behind their decision not to have any relationship with German resistance.

On the evening of September 26th, Adolf Hitler and gave Czechoslovakia a deadline of 2:00 pm on September 28th, to cede the Sudetenland to Germany or face war. Not knowing that with this ultimatum he all but signed his death warrant.

In early morning of September 28th (eight hours or so before the deadline) Hans Oster (or possibly von Witzleben who far outranked him), convinced that the ultimatum will be rejected and thus the war with Britain and France will inevitably start in a matter of hoursordered Captain Heinz to prepare for an assault of the Nazi government.

Heinz ordered his men to leave their safe houses and gather in the army high command. He distributed rifles, ammunition, and hand grenades, which he had received from Oster and Canaris.

Everything was ready for the assault. Heinz was told that when his men stormed the chancellery, they would be greeted by Erich Kordt, a resistance agent in the foreign ministry, who would open the doors to them.

On the same day, the conspirators secured (or so it seemed) a crucial ally. Gen. Walther von Brauchitsch, commander in chief of the army and usually an obedient servant of the Nazi regime, firmly believed that the war with the Western powers (and very possibly with the USSR as well) would mean the end of Germany. Hence he was all but ready to support the coup.

And then everything fell apart. Britain and France (joined by Fascist Italy and supported by the United States), accepted the German ultimatum. First, the deadline was moved forwards by 24 hours, then Hitler accepted Chamberlain’s proposal four-power conference of Britain, France, Germany, and Italy in Munich on 29 September to settle the Sudeten problem prior to the deadline of 2:00pm.

Then (quite predictably), a deal was reached on 29 September, and at about 1:30 a.m. on 30 September 1938, Adolf Hitler, Neville Chamberlain, Benito Mussolini and Édouard Daladier signed the now-infamous Munich Agreement.

According to the agreement the German army was to immediately begin the occupation of the Sudetenland and complete it by 10 October, and an international commission would decide the future of other disputed areas.

Czechoslovakia was informed by Britain and France that it could either resist Nazi Germany alone or submit to the prescribed annexations. The Czechoslovak government, realizing the hopelessness of fighting the Nazis alone, reluctantly capitulated (on September 30th) and agreed to abide by the agreement that it was not even a part of. The Providence saved Adolf Hitler from all but certain death – again.

This time (again) it was a close call. A very close call. More than six years later, Franz Halder told the international tribunal at Nuremberg,

“I had already passed the order to Witzleben for starting the coup when the information reached us that Chamberlain and Daladier were [accepting the ultimatum and] coming to Munich and, therefore, I had to withdraw my order”

Proving that it was, indeed, Halder’s conspiracy, not Oster’s. After the news of the signing of the Munich Agreement became public, the heartbroken conspirators met in Witzleben’s apartment and put the plans for the coup in the fireplace.

There they burned, along with a great deal of hope and self-confidence of the conspirators. Never again would they have at their disposal an armored division, a friendly commander in Berlin, shock troops, and a sympathetic chief of staff.

Gisevius and Oster had to quietly dissolve Commando Heinz’s shock troop unit. They would never be able to reassemble it. Its soldiers dispersed all over the country and later performed various military functions during the war.

All that was left, was hope that sometime in the future, a genuinely miraculous chain of events will create an opportunity to plan and execute another coup. That they the Fate will give them the second chance.

And it did – a little less than six years later, in hot July of 1944. However, that time the conspirators will be not nearly as powerful as in September of 1938.

The Oster Conspiracy (1)

Hans-Oster_557040c45ced1All conspiracies except two were pretty much limited to murdering (let’s be frank) Adolf Hitler. Even the Wehrmacht generals in 1943 who developed and (almost) executed assassination attempts on Hitler’s life, had a rather vague idea of what to do after Der Führer is gone.

Only two plots were well-thought plans for genuine military coups – i.e. the very much hostile takeover of Germany, demolition of the Nazi regime and establishment of a military dictatorship (Ludendorff-Hindenburg style) or – believe it or not – semi-civilian government (Weimar style – sort of).

The first such plot was almost launched at the very end of September of 1938. English-speaking audience knows it by the name of Oster Conspiracy – after then Oberstleutnant (subsequently Generalmajor) Hans Oster – the informal leader of the conspirators.

The German-speaking audience uses (IMHO) a far more accurate term – Septemberverschwörung (September Conspiracy), because Oster was – let’s be honest – not the one who was calling the shots.

I would give this plot a very different name, however – the Halder Conspiracy of 1938. For three key reasons – (1) Oster was just an officer in the Abwehr – German military intelligence and did not have sufficient manpower and firepower at his disposal to execute a successful military coup; (2) the guy who had both was Franz Halder – Chief of Staff of OKH – the High Command of the German Army; and (3) the drive behind the whole conspiracy was Halder’s fear of the war and the determination to prevent the war with Britain and France by any means that would do the job.

Including murdering his boss – Adolf Hitler. But only if it was the only way to prevent the disastrous (in Halder’s opinion) war with Britain and France (and possibly with the Soviet Union as well).

It was Halder who ordered the conspirators to plan the coup down to the last and smallest detail. Leaving the day and time of launching the coup to himself, of course (so much for Oster’s leadership).

In his opinion, the right moment would be when Hitler issues orders to invade Czechoslovakia (the Führer did not believe that war-weary Britain, France – or even the USSR for that matter – would intervene). Then Halder (who firmly believed in exactly the opposite) would issue counter-orders – and instead of Prague, the Wehrmacht would (hopefully) march on Berlin.

To hedge their bets (always a good idea), Oster & Co. developed an alternative plan for a military coup (unlike Halder, they wanted to get rid of Hitler regardless of whether Hitler decided to go to war with its Eastern neighbor).

So they brought into the conspiracy several more high-ranking Wehrmacht officers – Karl-Heinrich von Stülpnagel (Halder’s deputy in the General Staff), Admiral Wilhelm Canaris (head of Abwehr), General Georg Thomas (a competent economist and a Chief of Staff for the Army Weapons Office) and the commander of Greater Berlin defense district General Erwin von Witzleben.

The latter was the most valuable (by far) because, unlike the others who pretty much commanded their desks, he had some serious troops under his command. Serious enough for a successful military coup, that is.

Von Witzleben brought with him several more highly valuable asset – commander of the Potsdam Division, Lt. Gen. Walter von Brockdorff-Ahlefeldt; Maj. Gen. Paul von Hase, a junior commander who had more troops at his disposal and Lt. Gen. Erich Hoepner, commander of an armored division in Thuringia who provided the conspirators with critically important weapons – the tanks.

Obviously, Halder was made aware of (and approved) the participation of the abovementioned officers in de-facto his coup. However, he was seriously (and understandably) bothered by a very natural question: What next? What exactly would happen after the assassination of Adolf Hitler and destruction of the Nazi regime. What kind of future do Oster & Co. have in store for his beloved Germany?

He complained to Oster:

“The putsch and the assassination that will remove Hitler is only the negative side. Every person interested in the fate of his nation has to be concerned also with the positive side. What will happen afterward? No one told me anything about it. The soldiers were only asked to ‘clean the place,’ like housemaids, but what will be in the room afterward?

Conspirators, indeed, did not have a sufficiently detailed vision of Germany’s future – they agreed only on some very basics. After Hitler’s removal, the country would be run by a military dictatorship for a short transition period, followed by the restoration of the rule of law.

The SS and Gestapo would be (obviously) outlawed, and a short while afterward elections would be held according to the old Weimar constitution (the Reichstag Fire Decree and the Enabling Act would be annulled, of course). Hjalmar Schacht (who was very much a part of this conspiracy) even mentioned a parliamentary government at some point, though most conspirators favored an authoritarian regime, perhaps even a restoration of the monarchy.

Like the conspirators in July 20th plot six years later (many of whom were exactly the same faces), the September plotters had very different visions of what to do with Adolf Hitler.

Although he accepted that it might have had to be done, Halder (who de-facto called all the shots) strongly opposed an assassination (maybe because he feared a new “stab in the back” legend that would stigmatize him as a murderer) and proposed instead arresting the Führer and putting him on public trial.

Which, IMHO, proved only that Franz Halder was totally clueless about the attitude of Germans towards Hitler in 1938 (instead of letting Halder at all try Hitler in a court of law, Germans would have lynched them all right then and there).

Goerdeler, who opposed assassination on religious grounds (he would continue to do so six years later as wee), probably supported the public-trial option as well. Dr. Hans von Dohnanyi, an anti-Nazi jurist and prominent Abwehr conspirator had a slightly different plan.

To stage a medical committee that would declare Hitler insane and order him to be locked up in a mental institution. Which in reality would have had the same result – public lynching of all conspirators by ferociously angry Germans.

Hans Oster and a few other conspirators had a far more realistic understanding of the situation. They understood that Hitler’s charisma and his immense popularity among military and civilians alike was the cement binding the Third Reich together and hence as long as he was alive, Nazism would survive.

Therefore, a coup could succeed only if Hitler is assassinated before everything else. So a “conspiracy within the conspiracy” was developed that had but one objective – kill Hitler by executing the “special of” without Halder’s knowledge (or informing other co-conspirators beforehand).


Assassination Attempts on Adolf Hitler (8)

20190910_095421000_iOSUndeterred by this mystical failure, von Tresckow made another attempt on Hitler’s life – just one week later. Again, not in person – this time his agent (tool, actually) was one Generalmajor Rudolf Christoph Freiherr von Gersdorff – intelligence liaison with the Abwehr (hotbed of anti-Nazi resistance).

On 21 March 1943, Hitler visited the Zeughaus Berlin, the old armory on Unter den Linden, to inspect captured Soviet weapons. A group of top Nazi and leading military officials—among them Hermann Göring, Heinrich Himmler, Field Marshal Wilhelm Keitel, and Grand Admiral Karl Dönitz—were present as well.

As an expert on Soviet weapons, Gersdorff was to guide Hitler on a tour of the exhibition. Moments after Hitler entered the museum, Gersdorff set off two ten-minute delayed fuses on explosive devices hidden in his coat pockets.

His plan was to throw himself around Hitler in a “death embrace” that would blow them both up. Like a week earlier, the assassination was supposed to be followed with the same suicidal attempt at coup d’état by General Olbricht (subsequently one of the key conspirators in July 20th plot).

But again, the omnipresent and seemingly omnipotent Providence saved Adolf Hitler. It somehow made Hitler (contrary to all expectations) Hitler race through the museum in less than ten minutes – and leave immediately.

Gersdorff survived – he somehow managed to defuse the bombs in a public bathroom “at the last second” and without being discovered – not a small feat, if you ask me. After the attempt, he got himself immediately transferred back to the Eastern Front where he managed to evade suspicion.

Looks like he (for some unknown reason) was also protected by the Almighty Providence. Although he supplied bombs that were used in an attempt on Hitler’s life on July 20th, 1944, he was able to escape arrest and certain execution. Thus becoming one of the few German military anti-Hitler plotters to survive the war.

Following the war, Gersdorff participated in the work of the U.S. Army Historical Division, in which, under the guidance of Franz Halder, German generals wrote World War II operational studies for the U.S. Army, first as POWs and then as employees.

In the mid-1950s, Gersdorff tried to join the Bundeswehr, the armed forces of postwar West Germany. Despite his distinguished record and decorations, his attempts were, according to Gersdorff, opposed by Hans Globke, the powerful head of the German Chancellery and confidant of Chancellor Konrad Adenauer, and by various former Wehrmacht officers in the Bundeswehr who did not want a “traitor” in their midst.

Incredibly, nine months later, another tool (this time of Colonel Graf von Stauffenberg) attempted to kill Hitler using almost exactly the same scenario. Major Axel von dem Bussche, over two meters tall, blonde and blue-eyed (and a Knight’s Cross recipient to boot), exemplified the Nazi “Aryan ideal”.

Consequently, it is no surprise that was thus chosen to personally model the Army’s new winter uniform in front of the Fuhrer. He intended to conceal a land mine (!) inside his clothing (it would have been a miracle to pull that off) and detonate while embracing the Fuhrer Gersdorff-style.

However, the Providence intervened again – this time by having the Allied bombers destroy the railway truck containing the new uniforms. So the viewing was canceled and Adolf Hitler again missed his rendezvous with death.

Like his role model von Gersdorff, von dem Bussche survived the war. After the German defeat, Bussche studied law at Göttingen University and later became an accomplished  diplomat, serving from 1954 to 1958 in the German Embassy in Washington.

He was also a member of the presidency of the Evangelical Church in Germany, an adviser to the World Bank, and a delegate to the Stockholm UN environment conference of 1972.

Einstein’s definition of idiocy is doing the same thing over and over again expecting to somehow get the different results. By this definition, some Wehrmacht officers were super-idiots as they expected radically different results while taking exactly the same route to kill Adolf Hitler.

In January of 1944, two months after the heroic attempt of Major Axel von dem Bussche predictably went nowhere, one Ewald-Heinrich von Kleist-Schmenzin, a 22-year old infantry company commander, decided to assassinate Hitler in exactly the same way as was planned by Major Bussche.

Kleist and his men were scheduled to show Hitler new uniforms that had been tested at the front. Kleist planned to set off explosives hidden in his briefcase (which made much more sense than trying to conceal the bomb in his uniform).

He believed that he might have been able to escape alive, even if the briefcase exploded in his hands (now that was real lunacy). But like earlier attempts, the plan was not carried out, as Hitler simply never showed up (apparently somehow warned by the Providence). Thus saving the life of von Kleist who lived to the ripe old age of 90 (!).

After reading about all these attempts by Hitler’s generals to assassinate their commander-in-chief, I have only one question – where the hell was Hitler’s personal security??? And what on Earth was Gestapo doing??

I understand that the latter was prohibited by law from spying on Wehrmacht officers and generals – but there sure was a way to get to them via civilians. And a simple “no-gifts-on-aircraft” policy (standard these days) would have rendered von Tresckow and his co-conspirators totally and completely impotent.

The same thing would have happened with von Gersdorff and his copycats – had a ruthless “stop-and-frisk” policy been in effect in on events attended by Hitler. Complemented with thorough inspection of all carry-ons, of course.

The last plotter before July 20th, 1944 (the plot that ended all plots) made an attempt somewhat similar to three previous ones but decided against using the bomb (which, however made no difference at all in terms of results).

Instead, one Eberhard von Breitenbuch (a German cavalry officer who served in Army Group Centre with the rank equivalent to Hauptmann) decided to assassinate the Führer by shooting him in the head[1] using a 7.65mm Browning pistol concealed in his trouser pocket.

How he hoped to pull it off given that Hitler was well-protected by SS bodyguards, is beyond me. However, it did not matter – on that day Providence somehow warned Hitler and he ordered his LSSAH men not to permit aides into the conference room with Hitler.

Thus sparing von Breitenbuch’s life as well – the latter survived the war and lived a totally unremarkable life and dying at the age of 70.