The price of victory. July 1944. An attempt on Hitler

Historians argue about the number of attempts on the life of Hitler. According to various estimates, their number goes to tens. One of the most famous conspiracies against the Fuhrer is the operation "Valkyrie".
Those who disagreed with the policies of the leader of the Third Reich were many. These included Karl Gordeler and Ludwig Beck, who, as early as 1938, wanted to remove the Fuhrer, form a provisional government, and hold new democratic elections.


Karl Gördeler and Adolf Hitler during the latter’s visit to Leipzig, March 1934

Before Hitler came to power, Karl Gördeler held high government positions: he was Reich Commissar for Prices, Second Mayor of Königsberg, and Chief Mayor of Leipzig. Being a born organizer, capable speaker, Goordeler was able to lead people. As for his political position, it can be safely called pro-Western or even anti-Soviet. First, Goerdeler believed that the future Germany should be arranged with full use of the "achievements of the national socialist regime", and, secondly, insisted on agreements with the Anglo-American allies regarding the future borders of the new state. And he insisted on the borders of 1938, that is, with Austria already included in Germany. In his documents (protocols and a memorandum were preserved), he wrote that we should still fight with the allies for Alsace and Lorraine.
As for the east, Goerdeler proposed to keep the front line that existed at the time, or to liberate Poland (apparently, he recognized that Poland would have to give up), but he still intended to keep the Danzig corridor, compensating all of it for Poland at the expense of the Soviet lands.

Many German generals did not share Hitler’s foreign policy views.

Another anti-Hitler conspirator was Claus von Stauffenberg, an active and enterprising man who, unlike Karl Goerdeler, insisted on the need to reach agreements not only with the Western allies, but also with the Soviet Union. He believed that it was almost impossible to get out of the war, relying only on the West.
As you know, the bulk of the conspirators are military Wehrmacht, more precisely, one of its components is ground troops. Neither Kriegsmarine nor the Luftwaffe (in its mass) participated in the conspiracy.


Ludwig Beck (right) and Werner von Fritsch, 1937

Returning to the conspirators (by the way, in East German and Soviet historiography, they were divided into two wings: “reactionary” (conservative) led by Goderdeler and “patriotic” (progressive) under the leadership of von Stauffenberg), it is worth noting that before the operation to eliminate Hitler, they actively discussed posts in the new government. So, initially Karl Goerdeler was proposed for the post of Chancellor, although some of the conspirators considered him too conservative for this position. Klaus von Stauffenberg actively lobbied for the candidacy of the Social Democrat Wilhelm Leuschner, who was ready to cooperate with all political forces. The post of Reich President demanded Ludwig Beck, who, by the way, was one of the organizers of the plot against Hitler in 1938. The Minister of War, commander of the Wehrmacht, saw Erwin von Winzleben, the head of the Berlin police — Count von Heldorf, and so on.

But back to Operation Valkyrie. From the winter of 1941 to 1942, one of the conspirators, Friedrich Olbricht, worked on the Valkyrie Plan, designed for the case of sudden unrest and internal uprisings in Germany. According to the plan, in the event of a military uprising, sabotage or similar emergencies, the reserve army had to be mobilized to quell insurgency. The plan was submitted to Hitler for consideration, and he approved it. Later Olbricht secretly changed the plan "Valkyrie" in such a way that when attempting a coup, the reserve army would become a tool in the hands of the conspirators.

A one million mark reward was awarded to Karl Gördeler’s head.

After the murder of Hitler, she was to occupy key sites in Berlin, disarm and arrest the Nazi leadership and block a number of government lines of communication other than those used by the conspirators. In short, a perfect plan, if not for one "but." Klaus von Stauffenberg, Friedrich Olbricht, Merz von Kvirnheim and other "rebels" expected that the commanders of the military districts, having received the order, would carry it out. Pretty romantic situation. Although, of course, most of the commanders were officers of the old school.


Klaus von Stauffenberg (left), Adolf Hitler (center) and Wilhelm Keitel at the Wolfhair Lair of the Fuhrer, July 15, 1944

However, when the attempt on Hitler failed, when the main culprit of the event (von Stauffenberg) flew away, the operation failed. Erich Velgibel, who was supposed to call Friedrich Olbricht on Bendlerstrasse and report the result of the assassination, did not fulfill his order. At this moment, Hitler, unexpectedly for everyone, decides to call Goebbels and announce for two hours the complete radio silence around the Wolf Den. Why? The Fuhrer wanted to see how events would develop further.

Hitler ordered to deal with the conspirators "like cattle in a slaughterhouse"

So silence was announced. And on Bendlerstrasse, people were still sitting and did not know whether the attempt occurred or not. They could not give the signal to the “Valkyrie”, because on July 15, five days before this event, they had already done this. Klaus von Stauffenberg had to fulfill his plan, everything went according to plan, and the order "Valkyrie" was given two hours before the "moment X". However, the attempt did not take place. The conspirators had to say that it was a training order. As a result, Fromm gave Olbricht a grand dressing, so it never occurred to anyone to repeat this. Everyone was waiting for the result of the attempt. And only at 15:30, when von Stauffenberg was already approaching Berlin, Lieutenant General Fritz Tille was able to contact the headquarters and find out that the attempt on the Fuhrer did happen. However, the result of the operation was not reported to him. After receiving this information, on Bendlerstrasse began to prepare to give the order "Valkyrie".


A soldier demonstrates all that remains of Hitler's pants after the explosion

At 16:00, von Stauffenberg landed on the airfield near Berlin, who certified everyone that Hitler was dead. And only then operation "Valkyrie" began to unwind. However, three and a half hours have already passed since the assassination attempt. Time was lost ...
And yet in two places the plot was a success. In Paris, from 18:00 - 19:00 to 00:00, the Wehrmacht forces arrested about 1,200 people, that is, almost all the local party leadership. All supporters of the regime were put in hotels, converted into places of detention. And, surprisingly, none of the prisoners offered any resistance. Roughly the same thing happened in Prague.

In modern Germany, July 20 is the day of mourning for the executed conspirators.

As historians say, the massacre of the participants in the conspiracy on July 20 was especially bloody. The conspirators were not executed on the guillotine, as civilian criminals, they were not shot as military men, they were hung on piano strings attached to a butcher hook on the prison ceiling. Hitler ordered Roland Freisler, chairman of the People’s Court of Justice, to deal with the defendants "like cattle in a slaughterhouse." In total, as a result of executions and repressions, 7,000 people were arrested, about 200 were sentenced to death.

Watch the video: The Great Russian Offensive 1944 (November 2019).

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