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July Plot

July Plot


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On July 20, 1944, during World War II (1939-45), a plot by senior-level German military officials to murder Adolf Hitler (1889-1945) and then take control of his government failed when a bomb planted in a briefcase went off but did not kill the Nazi leader. The assassination attempt took place at the “Wolfsschanze” (“Wolf’s Lair”), a command post near Rastenburg, East Prussia (present-day Poland). Hitler’s would-be assassins were executed after being discovered.

July Plot: Background

Since the late 1930s, there had been repeated attempts by various groups in the German resistance to assassinate Adolf Hitler and overthrow the Nazis. As time went on, Hitler became increasingly suspicious and more heavily guarded, and often changed his schedule at the last minute.

The men behind the July Plot were a group of high-level German military leaders who recognized that Hitler was leading Germany in a suicidal war on two fronts. They decided to assassinate him then stage a coup d’état, with the belief that a new government in Berlin would save Germany from complete destruction at the hands of the Allies.

The July Plot leaders included Colonel General Ludwig Beck (1880-1944), former chief of the army general staff, Colonel General Friedrich Olbricht (1888-1944) and Major General Henning von Tresckow (1901-44). Lieutenant Colonel Claus Schenk von Stauffenberg (1907-44), chief of staff of the reserve army, also played a central role in the conspiracy.

READ MORE: 6 Assassination Attempts on Adolf Hitler

July Plot: July 20, 1944

During a July 20 meeting in a Wolf’s Lair conference room with Hitler and more than 20 German officers and staff, Stauffenburg planted an explosives-packed briefcase under a table that the Nazi leader was using. Stauffenberg then said he had to make a phone call and left the room. Another officer subsequently happened to move the briefcase out of place, farther away from Hitler. The bomb detonated at 12:42 p.m. One person died instantly as a result of the powerful explosion and three others were mortally wounded; however, Hitler suffered only minor injuries. He was even well enough to keep an appointment with Benito Mussolini (1883-1945) that same afternoon, and gave the Italian dictator a tour of site where the blast occurred.

After the bomb went off, Stauffenberg, believing Hitler was dead, flew to Berlin to initiate Operation Valkyrie, a plan to use Germany’s reserve army to stage an uprising against the Nazi regime. However, with no official confirmation of Hitler’s demise, the plan stalled. When the news came through that Hitler was alive, General Friedrich Fromm (1888-1945), commander of the reserve army and someone who condoned the July Plot, turned on the conspirators in order to have his association with them covered up. Stauffenberg and Olbricht were arrested and executed on July 21.

Hundreds of people thought to be involved in the conspiracy also soon were arrested, and around 200 eventually were executed. Beck was arrested and chose to commit suicide rather than stand trial. Tresckow committed suicide after he learned the July Plot had failed. Erwin Rommel (1891-1944), a highly respected field marshal also linked to the plot, was given the choice of facing trial or committing suicide in order to spare his family. He opted to take his own life. (Because Rommel was a renowned figure, the Nazis covered up the true cause of his death and gave him a state funeral.) Fromm also was executed by firing squad in 1945.

July Plot: Aftermath

In the aftermath of the July Plot, Hitler and his top officials took an even firmer grip on Germany and its war machine. The Nazi leader became certain that fate had spared him. “Having escaped death in so extraordinary a way,” Hitler stated, “I am now more than ever convinced that the great cause which I serve will survive its present perils and that everything can be brought to a good end.”

On April 30, 1945, shortly before Germany surrendered to the Allies, Hitler committed suicide. The Wolf’s Lair compound, where the Nazi leader spent more than 800 days between 1941 and 1944, was blown up by the Soviet army in January 1945.


BIBLIOGRAPHY

Fest, Joachim. Plotting Hitler's Death: The Story of the German Resistance, 1933–1945. Translated by Bruce Little. London, 1996.

Galante, Pierre, with Eugène Silianoff. Operation Valkyrie: The German Generals' Plot against Hitler. Translated by Mark Howson and Cary Ryan. New York, 1981.

Hamerow, Theodore S. On the Road to the Wolf's Lair: German Resistance to Hitler. Cambridge, Mass., 1997.

Heuss, Theodor, et al. Reflections on July 20th 1944. Translated by Larry Fischer. Mainz, Germany, 1984.

Hoffmann, Peter. German Resistance to Hitler. Cambridge, Mass., 1988.

Jacobsen, Hans-Adolf, ed. July 20, 1944: The German Opposition to Hitler as Viewed by Foreign Historians, an Anthology. Bonn, Germany, 1969.

Large, David Clay, ed. Contending with Hitler: Varieties of German Resistance in the Third Reich. Washington, D.C., 1991.

Manvell, Roger, and Heinrich Fraenkel. The July Plot: The Attempt in 1944 on Hitler's Life and the Men behind It. London, 1964.

Roon, Ger van, German Resistance to Hitler: Count von Moltke and the Kreisau Circle. Translated by Peter Ludlow. London, 1971.

Zeller, Eberhard. The Flame of Freedom: The German Struggle against Hitler. Translated by R. P. Heller and D. R. Masters. Coral Gables, Fla., 1969.


List of people killed or wounded in the 20 July plot

On 22 June 1944, the Soviet Armed Forces launched a massive attack against the German forces based in Belorussia, which formed what was known as Army Group Centre. Ώ] As had become routine in military crises, Adolf Hitler ordered Field Marshal Ernst Busch, the commander of the German forces, to stand and fight wherever the enemy was met and never retreat. ΐ] By mid July, Army Group Centre had lost no fewer than 250,000 men in less than a month of fighting, making the German position close to hopeless. Α] Β]

Hermann Göring and Martin Bormann surveying the shattered conference hut shortly after the explosion

In deciding what to do, a series of military conferences was scheduled at the Wolf's Lair headquarters in East Prussia. Γ] On 22 July, Hitler and his top military commanders entered the briefing hut of the headquarters, as the usual bombproof room, with no windows and thick walls of solid concrete, and was considered "unbearably hot". Γ] In attendance was Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg who had lost an eye, his right hand and half his left in action during the North African theatre of war. Δ] Although unknown to Hitler's ring of bodyguards, Stauffenberg was secretly carrying a British-made bomb in his briefcase. Ε] His plan was to get as close as possible to Hitler, leave the briefcase nearby, and then make an excuse to quickly leave the conference by car with his adjutant and fellow conspirator Werner von Haeften. Γ] This was part of a larger and carefully planned coup d'état led by a group of disillusioned army officers, appalled by the way Hitler was leading Germany. Ζ] Stauffenberg's plan went like clockwork, until the bomb exploded as he was walking towards his car, earlier than hoped. Γ] Although strictly against security doctrines imposed at the Wolf's Lair, Stauffenberg and Haeften were allowed to pass all checkpoints and proceed to the airport, succeeding in getting away before clarity could be established back at the now completely demolished briefing hut. Γ]

As Stauffenberg had seen the huge explosion with his own eyes, and aware of the exact location he had placed the bomb when he left, he was unshakably convinced that Hitler was dead. Γ] Unaware to Stauffenberg, however, was that staff officer Heinz Brandt had moved the briefcase containing the bomb further away from Hitler, behind a solid wooden table leg, as it was in his way. Luck had yet again come to Hitler's rescue, and he survived with only minor injuries, Η] as did most of the others present, although three officers and a stenographer were killed by the shockwave. Γ]


What if: the July 20 Bomb Plot Had Succeeded?

At 12:42 p.m. on July 20, 1944, a massive explosion destroyed a conference room at Wolfsschanze (“Wolf ’s Lair”), Adolf Hitler’s headquarters in East Prussia. Hitler’s miraculous survival of the assassination attempt has long been seen as one of the most agonizing near-misses of the war. Many have argued that but for the tiniest quirks of chance, Hitler would have died that day, the war in Europe would have ended nearly a year sooner, and millions of lives would have been saved.

But there is a counterintuitive and surprisingly strong case that even if Hitler had been killed in the July 20 blast, the coup it was to have set in motion would have failed—and Hermann Göring, Hitler’s second-in-command, and Heinrich Himmler, chief of the SS and Gestapo, would have emerged firmly in control of a Nazi regime every bit as fanatical and determined to fight on as the one the führer himself created and led. Consider the following scenario:

As soldiers rush into the conference room to pull survivors from the rubble, only four men know for sure what has taken place. Two of them, Gens. Helmuth Stieff and Erich Fellgiebel, are high-ranking members of the OKH, the high command of the Wehrmacht. The third is Lt. Werner von Haeften, aide-de-camp to Col. Claus von Stauffenberg, chief of staff of Germany’s Replacement Army. The last is Stauffenberg himself. All four men are part of the conspiracy aimed not only at killing Hitler but also toppling his regime and negotiating an end to the war before Germany’s complete destruction.

Stauffenberg had placed his briefcase, containing a time bomb, beneath a large oak table only a few feet from Hitler, then quietly excused himself on the pretext of making a phone call. Within moments of the blast, he and Haeften had leapt into a Mercedes that sped them to a nearby air field, where a plane waited to take them on the 350-mile flight back to Berlin.

Stieff and Fellgiebel remain at Wolfsschanze. Stieff ’s role in the plot is complete—he provided Stauffenberg with the two pounds of explosives needed to create the bomb—but Fellgiebel’s role is just beginning. With Hitler dead, his task is to alert the conspirators in the German capital that the assassination has succeeded. As chief of army signals, he is ideally positioned to do so. To his astonishment, however, Field Marshals Wilhelm Keitel and Alfred Jodl, both of whom survived the blast, immediately order a complete communications blackout. Only calls to Göring and Himmler are permitted.

In Berlin, Gen. Friedrich Olbricht waits impatiently for word on the assassination attempt. As chief of the General Army Office, he is the conspirator best positioned to transform the event from simple tyrannicide to coup d’état. Ironically, the individual who did the most to place Olbricht in this position was Hitler himself. Months before, Olbricht persuaded Hitler of the danger of an uprising by the millions of foreign laborers and prisoners of war within the borders of the Third Reich. Such an uprising could be quelled, he pointed out, by using the Replacement Army, a reserve force consisting of trainees, cadets, and soldiers who were lightly wounded or on sick leave. Hitler accepted Olbricht’s proposal and approved a contingency plan to foil an uprising. The plan is code-named Operation Valkyrie.

Since then, Olbricht and the other conspirators have recrafted Valkyrie into a plan to neutralize SS and Gestapo installations and capture communications facilities. The plotters have decided their best chance of success is to persuade military commanders and the German public that a cabal within the SS and Gestapo has assassinated Hitler and that their coup is in reality a countercoup. By the time the true story emerges, they will have a new government in place and will have secured the backing of the army leadership. Former chief of staff Ludwig Beck, still much respected by the officer corps and one of the original members of the conspiracy, is to serve as head of state, with Olbricht as minister of war and Field Marshal Erwin von Witzleben as head of the German army.

Stauffenberg’s appointment as chief of staff of the Replacement Army was a stroke of luck. This not only gave him direct contact with Hitler, but allowed him, along with Olbricht, to place many sympathetic officers in key positions.

Although Olbricht knows the approximate time the bomb should have gone off, he cannot act until he hears for certain that the assassination has taken place. He orders several attempts to contact the Wolfsschanze. None get through until 3:00 p.m. even then, the officer who answers indicates only that an explosion has occurred, saying nothing about whether the führer has been killed or even wounded. But since the bomb clearly has been detonated, Olbricht and Beck agree that Valkyrie must be set in motion.

Olbricht contacts fellow conspirator Lt. Gen. Paul von Hase, the city commandant in Berlin. Hase sends a battalion to sur round a number of key government buildings. Count Wolf Heinrich von Helldorf, the Berlin police president and fellow Valkyrie conspirator, is told to place his force in readiness to arrest high-ranking Nazi officials. Olbricht himself arrests Gen. Friedrich Fromm, commander of the Replacement Army. Soon thereafter a carefully prepared message is sent out from Berlin over Witzle ben’s signature, announcing that subversives within the SS have killed Hitler, the army has taken control, and it has begun the arrest of SS security forces in Berlin.

Almost nothing goes right. Helldorf ’s police make no move to arrest the high party officials. The message announcing the countercoup is sent out classified top secret, so that instead of flashing around the country, the cover story takes literally hours to be decrypted and understood. The place that decodes the message most efficiently is the headquarters at Wolfsschanze. The more the conspirators try to put their coup in motion, the more their blizzard of dispatches reveal to Hitler loyalists their activities and ultimate purpose.

Most fatally, thirty-one-year-old major Otto Remer now almost single-handedly wrecks the last hope for the coup’s success. It is Remer who commands the battalion Hase had sent to surround the government buildings. At first he follows Hase’s orders, but one of his officers becomes suspicious and goes to see Josef Goebbels, the Nazi propaganda minister. Goebbels says he has heard nothing of the assassination attempt, but a call to Wolfsschanze convinces him that his beloved führer is dead, and the murderers are at that moment trying to seize control of the Third Reich.

Goebbels quickly summons Remer and explains the situation. He puts Remer on the line to Keitel, who orders Remer to take charge of all forces in Berlin, arrest the leaders of the coup (whose own messages have revealed that they are concentrated at Office of the Army headquarters on Bendlerstrasse), and shoot anyone who tries to stop him. These instructions, not Hase’s, are the ones Remer now vigorously obeys. He promptly surrounds the Bendlerstrasse headquarters. By 10:30 p.m. an SS unit arrives to relieve him. Within two hours, Beck, Olbricht, Stauffenberg, and Haeften are dead. The roles played by Stieff, Fellgiebel, and Witzleben are soon discovered, and within weeks they too have paid with their lives. So do some five thousand others involved—or imagined to be involved—in the conspiracy.

This scenario departs from historical reality in only three major respects. The July 20 blast left Hitler only slightly wounded. It was Hitler himself, not Keitel and Jodl, who ordered the communications blackout. And it was he, not Keitel, who ordered Remer to stop the coup.

But it strains credulity to believe that Keitel or Jodl—both of whom, as Hitler stalwarts, had also been intended targets of the time bomb—would have reacted any differently than did Hitler himself, or that Remer ultimately would ever have followed orders from the plotters.

The Valkyrie conspirators quite rightly recognized that Hitler retained a strong hold on the loyalty of the German people for that reason they believed they could succeed only by portraying themselves as Hitler’s avengers, using that bluff to buy enough time to gather the reins of power. They also rightly feared the police state created by Heinrich Himmler—hence the emphasis on seizing SS and Gestapo facilities. Most of all, they counted on the unquestioning obedience of the German officer corps, particularly at the junior level, to carry out whatever orders it received. But as Remer demonstrated, to their extinction, that unquestioning obedience was a double-edged sword.

Originally published in the February 2008 issue of World War II Magazine. To subscribe, click here.


World War II Resistance: Operation Valkyrie - The "July Plot" to Assassinate Hitler

At the end of 1943 the Schutz Staffeinel (SS) and the Gestapo managed to arrest several Germans involved in plotting to overthrow Adolf Hitler. This included Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Klaus Bonhoeffer, Josef Mueller and Hans Dohnanyi. Others under suspicion like Wilhelm Canaris and Hans Oster were dismissed from office in January, 1944.

Major Claus von Stauffenberg now emerged as the leader of the group opposed to Nazi rule. In 1942, he decided to kill Adolf Hitler. He was joined by Wilhelm Canaris,Carl Goerdeler, Julius Leber, Ulrich Hassell, Hans Oster, Peter von Wartenburg, Henning von Tresckow, Friedrich Olbricht, Werner von Haeften, Fabian Schlabrendorft, Ludwig Beck and Erwin von Witzleben.

The plot was developed as a modification of Operation Valkyrie (Unternehmen Walküre), which was approved by Hitler for use if Allied bombing of German cities or an uprising of forced laborers from occupied countries working in German factories resulted in a breakdown in law and order. Members of the Reserve Army, including members of the Kreisau Circle, modified the plan and decided to assassinate Adolf Hitler, Hermann Goering and Heinrich Himmler. Afterward, they planned for troops in Berlin to seize key government buildings, telephone and signal centers and radio stations. Hitler's death was required to free German soldiers from their oath of loyalty to him. Operation Valkyrie was meant to give the plotters control over the government so they could make peace with the Allies and end the war.

At least six attempts were aborted before Claus von Stauffenberg decided on trying again during a conference attended by Hitler on July 20, 1944. It was decided to drop plans to kill Goering and Himmler at the same time. Stauffenberg, who had never met Hitler before, carried the bomb in a briefcase and placed it on the floor while he left to make a phone-call. The bomb exploded killing four men in the hut. Hitler's right arm was badly injured but he survived the bomb blast.

The plan was for Ludwig Beck, Erwin von Witzleben and Friedrich Fromm to take control of the German Army. The coup failed in part because they delayed implementing the plan until official confirmation of Hitler's death could be received. When they learned that Hitler had survived, Valkyrie was not put in effect.

In an attempt to protect himself, Fromm organized the execution of Claus von Stauffenberg along with two other conspirators, Friedrich Olbricht and Werner von Haeften, in the courtyard of the War Ministry. It was later reported the Stauffenberg died shouting "Long live holy Germany".

As a result of the July Plot, the new chief of staff, Heinz Guderian demanded the resignation of any officer who did not fully support the ideals of the Nazi Party. Over the next few months Guderian sat with Gerd von Rundstedt and Wilhelm Keitel on the Army Court of Honor that expelled hundreds of officers suspected of being opposed to the policies of Adolf Hitler. This removed them from court martial jurisdiction and turned them over to Roland Freisler and his People's Court.

Over the next few months most of the group, including Wilhelm Canaris, Carl Goerdeler, Julius Leber, Ulrich Hassell, Hans Oster, Peter von Wartenburg, Henning von Tresckow, Ludwig Beck, Erwin von Witzleben and Friedrich Fromm, were either executed or committed suicide. Ninety of the supposed conspirators were executied between August 1944 and April 1945 at the Plotzensee Prison.

It is etimated that 4,980 Germans were executed after the July Plot. Hitler decided that the leaders should have a slow death. They were hung with piano wire from meat-hooks. Their executions were filmed and later shown to senior members of both the NSDAP and the armed forces.

In March 2013, the last surviving member of the plot - Ewald-Heinrich von Kleist-Schmenzin - died in Munich.

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The &lsquoJuly 20&rsquo plot

Towards the end of the second World War in 1944, Germany&rsquos hope of pulling off a comeback was all but finished. A significant portion of the German populace, including many senior officers of the Nazi Army itself, was completely disillusioned with the leadership of Adolf Hitler, who was adamant on continuing the war until the last Nazi breath. By doing this, he was essentially leading his already ravaged country to complete annihilation at the hands of the Allies. Something had to be done to stop this from happening.

And thus, the &lsquoJuly 20 plot&rsquo was hatched: a few top politicians and some high-ranking German Army officers planned to assassinate Hitler on July 20, 1944 and subsequently take control of the government and present peace initiatives to the Allies in order to end the war. Also known as &lsquoOperation Valkyrie&rsquo, it became one of the most defining events in the final chapters of the world war.

The Plan

As mentioned earlier, the list of plotters included some eminent political and military figures, but the principal plotter who took charge of planning and executing the plan, including the assassination itself, was Claus Schenk Graf von Stauffenberg, a colonel of the German Army who had lost his left eye, his entire right hand, and two fingers on his left hand during an air raid in April 1943.

What was supposed to happen

The assassination was to be carried out by planting a pair of explosives in a conference room &ndash an underground bunker made of reinforced concrete with only one steel door and no windows. A closed, reinforced area like that would be an ideal place for exploding a bomb&hellip internally.

You see, a reinforced building &ndash made of steel and concrete &ndash provides impeccable protection against external explosions, because blast waves can&rsquot penetrate the thick, strong surface of the building. However, even if a low-order explosive were to go off inside such a building, the consequences would be disastrous. The blast waves (and the shrapnel) produced by the explosion wouldn&rsquot be able to penetrate the walls and would bounce right back inside the room. The air pressure generated by even a small explosion would kill everyone instantly.

Blast waves of an explosion in a closed room

Still, the plotters decided to plant two explosives in the bunker for good measure. Stauffenberg was to put the briefcase containing two armed explosives as close to Hitler as possible and leave the room a few moments later. The plan seemed foolproof&hellip until three small variables changed in the final moments before the plan was executed.


Twilight of the Valkyries: A 20 July Plot TL (Redux)

Most sources paint Müller as both having a fanatical belief in 'Endsieg' (he told one of his subordinates that the Ardennes Offensive would result in the recapture of Paris and was still at his post in Berlin when Hitler committed suicide) and being a cynical opportunist who gravitated to whoever was in power. In that regard, his profile differs a bit from many officials in the RSHA (many were not Alte Kämpfer of the Nazi Party, but had been involved in right-wing groups, especially at universities).

He seems to have hated Communism since the short-lived Bavarian Soviet Republic, but was not involved with the Nazi Party during the Weimar Republic, when he headed the political department of Munich's police force. Indeed, he was regarded as a supporter of the Bavarian People's Party and is said to have advised his superiors to use force against the Nazis when they removed Bavaria's minister-president (basically like a governor in a US state).

Ironically, this probably helped Müller. Minions with a, in the Nazi view, checkered past were useful to Heydrich since they were dependent on his favour. Müller was also a competent policeman and knew a lot about Communist activities. So he quickly executed a sharp pivot and became Himmler's and Heydrich's man, leading to his rise in the Gestapo after Göring transferred it to the SS duo.

He only joined the Nazi Party in 1939. Indeed, the evaluation he got from the Party was a negative one (it basically boiled down to 'this guy is not one of us'). Then he became an ally of Bormann in 1943. He'd presented Himmler with evidence that Canaris was working against the regime, but was told to drop the case. Incidentally, Himmler had a noncommittal meeting with Popitz, Prussian minister of finance and a (very reactionary) member of the Resistance. It had been arranged by Carl Langbehn, a lawyer and acquaintance of Himmler.

Popitz wanted to try and win Himmler over (which needless to say put him in poor standing with several members of the group. I think Popitz ended up marginalised and no longer appeared on proposed cabinet lists). Nothing came of the meeting (the whole affair is a bit opague, though it seems to be the common opinion in German academia that while the SS had some knowledge of the resistance groups and several players, the actual coup took them by surprise), but Langbehn travelled to Switzerland to meet with Dulles in Himmler's name, but then he was arrested by the Gestapo. Information regarding his associations had reached Bormann and Gestapo. Following the suppression of the 20 July coup, Himmler gave a speech to the Gauleiters where he presented his contacts as an operation to find out more about the 'traitors'.

Reminds me of a bigger version of Sonderaktion 1005. Hopefully, it won't be more successful.

I like the update, especially the examination of how German's satellites/allies are reacting. I've grown more interested in German-Romanian wartime relations since reading a a very informative book by Andrej Angrick about Einsatzgruppe D in Ukraine and the Caucasus.

Kurt_Steiner

Tolkiene

Speaking of Gestapo-Müller it seems his body was found in Berlin in 2013.

Apparently it had been buried in a - I am not making this up - Jewish cemetery. That was ascertained by Johannes Tuchel, head of the German Resistance Memorial Centre. It is assumed he died in the night from 1 May to 2 May 1945, though it is unclear whether he committed suicide or perished in the fighting, though it's pertinent to note that Müller had declared he'd take his own life.

First his body was buried in the garden of the Reich Aviation Ministry. Then in August 1945 it was disinterred and buried in a mass grave in the Jewish cemetery. Apparently Tuchel found archival documents that confirm he's buried there.

Athelstane

VanOwen

Interesting update, I like how you've addressed the second tier Axis members.

I'm still waiting to see what was in the von Manstein letter that caused Guderian to contact Muller for a "favor".

Old1812

Kurt_Steiner

Speaking of Gestapo-Müller it seems his body was found in Berlin in 2013.

Apparently it had been buried in a - I am not making this up - Jewish cemetery. That was ascertained by Johannes Tuchel, head of the German Resistance Memorial Centre. It is assumed he died in the night from 1 May to 2 May 1945, though it is unclear whether he committed suicide or perished in the fighting, though it's pertinent to note that Müller had declared he'd take his own life.

First his body was buried in the garden of the Reich Aviation Ministry. Then in August 1945 it was disinterred and buried in a mass grave in the Jewish cemetery. Apparently Tuchel found archival documents that confirm he's buried there.

LumineVonReuental

Well, I have good news and bad news regarding that request. The bad news is that I haven't really kept an organized list until now, meaning I didn't kept records on a lot of articles and book extracts I read online while writing the original version back in 2016 (which is where several details were found for the whole Valkyrie process). The good news is that I've just made a list of the important books and sources, to which I can add a small list of some books/articles I've consulted over the past few months. It won't be all the sources I've used thus far, but it's the closest thing that can be shared.

Added a few comments for certain books regarding their importance or usefulness, but you might be better off asking for particular subjects/individuals so I can be more specific as to what sources helped. Anyway, hope it helps!


Aftermath [ edit | edit source ]

The courtyard at the Bendlerblock, where Stauffenberg, Olbricht and others were executed.

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 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 Himmler's new Sippenhaft (blood guilt) laws, all the relatives of the principal plotters were also arrested.

More than 7,000 people were arrested ⎪] and 4,980 were executed. ⎫] Not all of them were connected with the plot, since the Gestapo used the occasion to settle scores with many other people suspected of opposition sympathies. The British radio also named possible suspects who had not yet been implicated but then were arrested. ⎬]

Very few of the plotters tried to escape or to deny their guilt when arrested. Those who survived interrogation were given perfunctory trials before the People's Court (Volksgerichtshof), a kangaroo court that always decided in favour of the prosecution. The court's president, Roland Freisler, was a fanatical Nazi seen shouting furiously and insulting the accused in the trial, which was filmed for propaganda purposes. ⎭] The first trials were held on 7 and 8 August 1944. Hitler had ordered that those found guilty be "hanged like cattle". ⎭]

Many people took their own lives prior to either their trial or their execution, including Kluge, who was accused of having knowledge of the plot beforehand and not revealing it to Hitler. Stülpnagel also tried to commit suicide, but survived and was hanged.

While Stülpnagel was being treated, he blurted out General Field Marshal Erwin Rommel's name. A few days later, Stülpnagel's personal adviser, Caesar von Hofacker, admitted under gruesome torture that Rommel was an active member of the conspiracy. The extent to which Rommel had been involved has been debated, but many historians have concluded that he at least knew of the plot even if he wasn't involved directly. Hitler, however, knew it would cause a major scandal to have the popular Rommel branded as a traitor. With this in mind, he opted to give Rommel the option of suicide via cyanide or a public trial by Freisler's People's Court. Had Rommel chosen to stand trial, his family would have been severely punished even before the all-but-certain conviction, and they would have been executed along with his staff. Knowing that being hauled before the People's Court was tantamount to a death sentence, Rommel committed suicide on 14 October 1944. He was buried with full military honours his role in the conspiracy didn't come to light until after the war. ⎘]

Tresckow also killed himself the day after the failed plot by use of a hand grenade in no man's land between Russian and German lines. Before his death, Tresckow said to Fabian von Schlabrendorff:

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. A human being's moral integrity begins when he is prepared to sacrifice his life for his convictions. ⎮]

Fromm's attempt to win favour by executing Stauffenberg and others on the night of 20 July had merely exposed his own previous lack of action and apparent failure to report the plot. Having been arrested on 21 July, Fromm was later convicted and sentenced to death by the People's Court. Despite his involvement in the conspiracy, his formal sentence charged him with poor performance in his duties. He was executed in Brandenburg an der Havel. Hitler personally commuted his death sentence from hanging to the "more honourable" firing squad. Erwin Planck, the son of the famous physicist Max Planck, was executed for his involvement. ⎯] ⎰]

The Kaltenbrunner Report to Adolf Hitler dated 29 November 1944 on the background of the plot, states that the Pope was somehow a conspirator, specifically naming Eugenio Pacelli, Pope Pius XII, as being a party in the attempt. ⎱] Evidence indicates that 20 July plotters Colonel Wessel von Freytag-Loringhoven, Colonel Erwin von Lahousen and Admiral Wilhelm Canaris were involved in the foiling of Hitler's alleged plot to kidnap or murder Pope Pius XII in 1943, when Canaris reported the plot to Italian counterintelligence officer General Cesare Amè, who passed on the information. ⎲] ⎳]

Arthur Nebe was implicated in the plot due to his anti-Nazi feelings, even though he was a full member of the SS and had even commanded an Einsatzgruppe. Nebe's "fall from grace" was considered due to his many years as a civilian police detective and how he saw most SS security police as incompetent. Nebe himself was quoted, upon investigating the death of Reinhard Heydrich, that the Gestapo seemed more concerned with reprisals than actually investigating the crime. [ citation needed ]

A member of the SA convicted of participating in the plot was Wolf-Heinrich Graf von Helldorf, who was the Orpo Police Chief of Berlin and had been in contact with members of the resistance since before the war. Collaborating closely with Nebe, he was supposed to direct all police forces in Berlin to stand down and not interfere in the military actions to seize the government. However, his actions on 20 July had not much influence on the events. For his involvement in the conspiracy, he was later arrested, convicted of treason and executed. ⎴]

After 3 February 1945, when Freisler was killed in an American air raid, there were no more formal trials, but as late as April, with the war weeks away from its end, Canaris' diary was found, and many more people were implicated. Executions continued to the last days of the war.

Hitler took his survival to be a "divine moment in history", and commissioned a special decoration to be made. The result was the Wound Badge of 20 July 1944, which Hitler awarded to those who were with him in the conference room at the time. This badge was struck in three values Gold, Silver and Black, a total of 100 badges, ⎵] and 47 are believed to have been awarded, along with an ornate award document for each recipient personally signed by Hitler, making them among the rarest decorations to have been awarded by the Third Reich. ⎶]

For his role in stopping the coup, Major Remer was promoted to Colonel and ended the war as a Major General. After the war he co-founded the Socialist Reich Party and remained a prominent Neo-Nazi and advocate of Holocaust Denial until his death in 1997. ⎷]

Philipp von Boeselager, the German officer who provided the plastic explosives used in the bomb, escaped detection and survived the war. He was the second to last survivor of those involved in the plot and died on 1 May 2008 aged 90. ⎸] The last survivor of the 20 July Plot was Ewald-Heinrich von Kleist-Schmenzin, the thwarted plotter of just a few months before. He died on 8 March 2013 aged 90. ⎹]

As a result of the failed coup, every member of the Wehrmacht was required to reswear 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. ⎺]


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