6 Assassination Attempts on Adolf Hitler

6 Assassination Attempts on Adolf Hitler



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1. 1921: The Munich Beer Hall Melee

The first attempt on Hitler’s life occurred nearly 20 years before the start of World War II. In November 1921, the young and still largely unknown radical made a speech at Munich’s famed Hofbräuhaus beer hall. Along with members of the newly formed Nazi Party, the crowd also included dozens of social democrats, communists and other political opponents. Hitler’s fiery rhetoric had soon whipped them all into a frenzy. A drunken brawl broke out, and while the fists, beer steins and chairs were flying, a group of unknown assailants drew pistols and fired several shots in the direction of the speaker’s podium. Hitler was unhurt, however, and he even continued ranting for another 20 minutes until police arrived. The future dictator’s brush with death only increased his zeal for the Nazi cause. Two years later, the nearby Bürgerbräukeller would be the site of the start of his infamous “Beer Hall Putsch,” a failed coup that won him national attention and a multi-year jail sentence.

2. 1938: Maurice Bavaud’s Plot

In late-1938, a Swiss theology student named Maurice Bavaud bought a pistol and began stalking Hitler across Germany. Bavaud was convinced the so-called “Führer” was a threat to the Catholic Church and an “incarnation of Satan,” and he considered it his spiritual duty to gun him down. He finally got his chance on November 9, 1938, when Hitler and other Nazi leaders marched through Munich to celebrate the anniversary of the Beer Hall Putsch. Bavaud took a seat in a grandstand along the parade route and waited until Hitler approached. He had his pistol tucked into his pocket, but before he could draw and take aim, the swooning, swastika-waving crowd raised their arms in a Nazi salute and blocked his view. Bavaud reluctantly gave up his hunt and was later arrested as he tried to stow away on a train out of Germany. When the Gestapo found his gun and maps, he confessed under interrogation to plotting to kill Hitler. In May 1941, he was executed by guillotine in Berlin’s Plötzensee Prison.

3. 1939: Georg Elser’s Beer Hall Bomb

Georg Elser was a struggling German carpenter and communist who was vehemently opposed to Nazism. He anticipated that Hitler’s regime would lead his country on the path toward war and financial ruin, and in late-1938, he resolved to do something about it. Knowing that Hitler would speak at Munich’s Bürgerbräukeller brewery the following year on the anniversary of the Beer Hall Putsch, Elser spent several months building a bomb with a 144-hour timer. When his weapon was complete, he moved to Munich and began sneaking into the Bürgerbräukeller each night to hollow out a cavity in a stone pillar behind the speaker’s platform. After several weeks of painstaking clandestine labor, Elser successfully installed his bomb. He set it to explode on November 8, 1939 at 9:20 p.m.—roughly midway through Hitler’s speech.

Elser had planned his bombing to perfection, but luck was not on his side. World War II had started in earnest a few months earlier, and Hitler moved the start time of his speech to 8 p.m. so he could be back in Berlin as soon as possible. The Führer finished his remarks by 9:07, and by 9:12, he had left the building. Only eight minutes later, Elser’s bomb went off, leveling the pillar and sending a section of the roof crashing down on the speaker’s podium. Eight people were killed and dozens more injured, but Hitler was not among them. Elser was captured that same night while trying to steal across the Swiss border, and he later confessed after authorities found his bomb plans. He would spend the next several years confined to Nazi concentration camps. In April 1945, as the Third Reich crumbled, he was dragged from his cell and executed by the SS.

4. 1943: Henning von Tresckow’s Brandy Bomb

One of the most audacious plots unfolded on March 13, 1943, when Hitler arrived at the Smolensk post of Henning von Tresckow—a disillusioned German military officer—for a brief visit. Before the Führer and his entourage boarded their plane for the return trip, Tresckow approached a member of Hitler’s staff and asked if the man would take a parcel containing two bottles of Cointreau brandy to a friend in Berlin. The officer obliged, not knowing that the package actually held plastic explosives rigged to a 30-minute fuse.

Tresckow and his co-conspirator Fabian von Schlabrendorff hoped Hitler’s death would be the catalyst for a planned coup against the Nazi high command, but their plan went up in smoke only a few hours later, when they received word that the Führer’s plane had landed safely in Berlin. “We were stunned and could not imagine the cause of the failure,” Schlabrendorff later remembered. “Even worse would be the discovery of the bomb, which would unfailingly lead to our detection and the death of a wide circle of close collaborators.” A panicked Tresckow phoned the staff officer and told him there had been a mistake with the package. The next day, Schlabrendorff traveled to Hitler’s headquarters and exchanged the concealed bomb for two bottles of brandy. Upon inspection, he found that a defective fuse was all that had prevented Hitler’s plane from being blown out of the sky.

5. 1943: Rudolf von Gertsdorff’s Suicide Mission

Only a week after Tresckow’s brandy bomb failed to explode, he and his co-conspirators made yet another attempt on Hitler’s life. This time, the scene of the assassination was an exhibition of captured Soviet flags and weaponry in Berlin, which the Führer was scheduled to visit for a tour. An officer named Rudolf von Gertsdorff volunteered to be the triggerman for a bomb attack, but after scouting the premises, he came to a grim realization: security was too tight to plant explosives in the room. “At this point it became clear to me that an attack was only possible if I were to carry the explosives about my person,” he later wrote, “and blow myself up as close to Hitler as possible.” Gersdorff decided to proceed, and on March 21, he did his best to stay glued to the Führer’s side as he guided him through the exhibit. The bomb had a short 10-minute fuse, but despite Gersdorff’s attempts to prolong the tour, Hitler slipped out a side door after only a few minutes. The would-be suicide bomber was forced to make a mad dash for the bathroom, where he defused the explosives with only seconds to spare.

6. 1944: The July Plot

Shortly after the D-Day invasions in the summer of 1944, a clique of disgruntled German officers launched a campaign to assassinate Hitler at his “Wolf’s Lair” command post in Prussia. At the center of the plot was Claus von Stauffenberg, a dashing colonel who had lost an eye and one of his hands during combat in North Africa. He and his co-conspirators—who included Tresckow, Friedrich Olbricht and Ludwig Beck—planned to kill the Führer with a hidden bomb and then use the German Reserve Army to topple the Nazi high command. If their coup was successful, the rebels would then immediately seek a negotiated peace with the Allies.

Stauffenberg put the plan into action on July 20, 1944, after he and several other Nazi officials were called to a conference with Hitler at the Wolf’s Lair. He arrived carrying a briefcase stuffed with plastic explosives connected to an acid fuse. After placing his case as close to Hitler as possible, Stauffenberg left the room under the pretense of making a phone call. His bomb detonated only minutes later, blowing apart a wooden table and reducing much of the conference room to charred rubble. Four men died, but Hitler escaped with non-life-threatening injuries—an officer had happened to move Stauffenberg’s briefcase behind a thick table leg seconds before the blast. The planned revolt unraveled after news of the Führer’s survival reached the capital. Stauffenberg and the rest of the conspirators were all later rounded up and executed, as were hundreds of other dissidents. Hitler supposedly boasted that he was “immortal” after the July Plot’s failure, but he became increasingly reclusive in the months that followed and was rarely seen in public before his suicide on April 30, 1945.


List of assassination attempts on Adolf Hitler

All attempts occurred in the German Reich, except where noted. All attempts involved citizens of the German Reich, except where noted. No fewer than 42 plots have been uncovered by historians. [2] However, the true number cannot be accurately determined due to an unknown number of undocumented cases.

  • Under the direction of Major Georg von Boeselager, several officers were to intercept and assassinate Hitler in a grove on his way from the airport to the headquarters. Hitler was guarded by an armed SS escort the plan was then dropped.
  • During lunchtime, Tresckow, Boeselager, and others planned to get up at a sign and fire pistols at Hitler. The commander-in-chief of the Army Group, Field Marshal Günther von Kluge, knew about the plan but decided not to intervene. However, the plan was abandoned when it became clear that Hitler would not be present. Kluge forbade the attack, citing his fear of a possible civil war erupting between the SS and the army.
  • In a last-ditch attempt, Fabian von Schlabrendorff gave a time bomb camouflaged as a package of two liqueur bottles to an officer in Hitler's entourage, as a supposed gift to a friend in Germany. The bomb was supposed to explode on the return flight over Poland. The package was placed in the hold of the aircraft, where it iced up, causing the detonator to fail. Realizing the failure, Schlabrendorff immediately flew to Germany and recovered the package before it was discovered.

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, 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. A detailed plan for a coup d'état had been worked out and was ready to go but, contrary to expectations, Hitler raced through the museum in less than ten minutes. After Hitler had left the building, Gersdorff was able to defuse the devices in a public bathroom “at the last second.” After the attempt, he was transferred back to the Eastern Front, where he managed to evade suspicion. [13]


Plots To Assassinate Adolf Hitler: The Early Attempts

There were many conspired to kill or depose Hitler right from the Nazi era’s very beginnings. He was genuinely popular, however, so most of the early attempts were divided between half-crazed lone gunmen and halfhearted former government officials.

The former tended to fail because they were disorganized and careless, while the latter was naively convinced it would be enough to simply arrest Hitler and depose his government. These are the men who failed:

Josef “Beppo” Römer was a war veteran who spent the 1920s cracking skulls for the Freikorps he ran. Sometime in the mid-󈧘s, he apparently had a change of heart and converted to communism. After being kicked out of his own paramilitary organization, Römer earned a law degree and started organizing workers into labor unions.

In 1933, appalled at Hitler’s rise to power, he conspired with a handful of other communists to kill the new Chancellor. The plans came to nothing, and the Nazis didn’t even bother to kill him. After his 1939 release from Dachau, Römer got back to work organizing plots, seemingly unaware that the Gestapo would be watching him. In 1942, he was back in prison. In September 1944, Römer was finally executed.

Helmut Hirsch was technically an American citizen, though he was born in Stuttgart and had never visited the United States. As a Jewish man with doubtful legal status in Hitler’s Germany, he certainly had a grievance. Unfortunately for him, that grievance led him to join the Black Front, a Czechoslovakian anti-Nazi group that was thoroughly penetrated by German intelligence.

In 1938, somebody in the group – possibly the Nazi agent who later gave evidence at Hirsch’s trial – sent him across the German border with instructions to pick up a couple of bombs and kill Hitler. Instead, Hirsch was picked up at the border, interrogated by the Gestapo, and beheaded in 1939.

Maurice Bavaud was an odd man. A devout Catholic from Switzerland, he traveled to Germany in 1938 with plans to kill Hitler on orders from a man he thought was – of all things – the heir to the Romanov dynasty.

Bavaud’s multiple attempts on Hitler’s life were a comedy of errors. At the 1938 Nuremberg rally, Bavaud positioned himself on an overpass Hitler was scheduled to travel under — the plan was to shoot him from above with a .25 pistol Bavaud had in his pocket.

As Hitler approached, Bavaud reached for the gun, only to lose sight of his target when scores of people in front of him stood up and saluted, blocking his view.

Directly after that failure, Bavaud bought a ticket to Berchtesgaden, where he’d heard Hitler would be relaxing after the rally. When he got there, he learned that Hitler was still in Munich. Bavaud bought another ticket to Munich, only to learn when he got there that Hitler was now in Berchtesgaden.

Out of money, Bavaud was arrested for vagrancy at a train station. Police found the gun, a forged letter of introduction, and another document addressed to Hitler himself. Bavaud confessed everything and was sent to the guillotine in 1941.

Bizarrely, the German government put Bavaud on trial twice after his death. In 1955, his death sentence was commuted to five years, which would have been nice to hear 14 years earlier. A year after that, Bavaud’s conviction was overturned entirely and his family given a pension for his anti-Hitler activities.

Elser on his way to Dachau. Image Source: Wikimedia Commons

Georg Elser was the real deal. In November 1939, 13 minutes after most of the German leadership left the beer hall where Hitler had given his customary speech to commemorate the 1923 Beer Hall Putsch, a bomb Elser had spent months planting in a column behind the speaker’s podium went off, killing eight and wounding many more.

Elser was arrested trying to cross the Swiss border. He had wires and bomb components in his pockets, photographs of the beer cellar, and diagrams of the explosive device he’d built.

The next day, when word of the attempt reached the local authorities, Elser was remanded to the Gestapo. According to a witness, Himmler himself took part in the beating Elser got. After several delays, Elser was sent to Dachau, where he was executed days before the camp’s liberation in 1945.


5. Adolf Hitler

Although there were several attempts to assassinate him, Hitler eventually died by committing suicide. Image credit: A headline in the U.S. Army newspaper Stars and Stripes announcing Hitler's death/Bundesarchiv, Bild/Public domain

Hitler was almost assassinated six times. One attempt was made in 1921, twelve years before he became the Chancellor of Germany, at a time when he was still relatively unknown. He escaped that attempt unscathed. More attempts were made when he was chancellor, in 1938, 1939, 1943, and 1944, but he escaped all of them unharmed. The most famous of the assassination attempts against the Fuhrer was arguably the one planned in 1944, when a few Nazi officers, led by Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg, organized a plot to kill Hitler with a bomb, then have the German Army Reserves take over the government so that they could negotiate peace with the Allied powers. The bomb was successfully detonated, but Hitler escaped with non-life threatening injuries, and news of his survival caused the planned revolt to fail. The conspirators were eventually rounded up and executed.


Bloody Vengeance

The SS reaction to the July 20 plot was as brutal as it was swift. Thousands of people, both real and alleged plotters, were rounded up and executed. Many were tortured for days before execution.

Leading plotters were given a show trial and slowly hung from piano wire suspended on meat hooks. The Wehrmacht was purged and political officers were posted to every command. Spontaneous demonstrations of loyalty and affection for Hitler broke out all over Germany. Soldiers’ letters from this period reveal the men’s disgust at what their officers had done.

Four months after the last attempt on his life, Hitler moved into a bunker under the Chancellery building in Berlin. Five months after that, he took his own life with cyanide and a self-inflicted gunshot.

Abwehr chief Wilhelm Canaris, who had been swept up in the July 20 backlash, was survived by a widow who spent the rest of her life collecting a pension from the CIA, hinting at the role American intelligence had played in these failed plots.

After you read about the many Adolf Hitler assassination attempts, check out the people who enabled Hitler’s rise to power, and the photo of Hitler that he had banned.


List of assassination attempts on Adolf Hitler

All attempts occurred in the German Reich, except where noted. All attempts involved citizens of the German Reich, except where noted. No fewer than 42 plots have been uncovered by historians. [2] However, the true number cannot be accurately determined due to an unknown number of undocumented cases.

  • Under the direction of Major Georg von Boeselager, several officers were to intercept and assassinate Hitler in a grove on his way from the airport to the headquarters. Hitler was guarded by an armed SS escort the plan was then dropped.
  • During lunchtime, Tresckow, Boeselager, and others planned to get up at a sign and fire pistols at Hitler. The commander-in-chief of the Army Group, Field Marshal Günther von Kluge, knew about the plan but decided not to intervene. However, the plan was abandoned when it became clear that Hitler would not be present. Kluge forbade the attack, citing his fear of a possible civil war erupting between the SS and the army.
  • In a last-ditch attempt, Fabian von Schlabrendorff gave a time bomb camouflaged as a package of two liqueur bottles to an officer in Hitler's entourage, as a supposed gift to a friend in Germany. The bomb was supposed to explode on the return flight over Poland. The package was placed in the hold of the aircraft, where it iced up, causing the detonator to fail. Realizing the failure, Schlabrendorff immediately flew to Germany and recovered the package before it was discovered.

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, 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. A detailed plan for a coup d'état had been worked out and was ready to go but, contrary to expectations, Hitler raced through the museum in less than ten minutes. After Hitler had left the building, Gersdorff was able to defuse the devices in a public bathroom “at the last second.” After the attempt, he was transferred back to the Eastern Front, where he managed to evade suspicion. [13]


See also

  1. ^ Christian Zentner, Friedemann Bedürftig (1991). The Encyclopedia of the Third Reich, pp. 47–48. Macmillan, New York. ISBNـ-02-897502-2
  2. ^Killing Hitler: The Plots, the Assassins, and the Dictator Who Cheated Death, pp 3
  3. ^ ab T. D. Conner, Demolition Man: Hitler: from Braunau to the Bunker, pp 769
  4. ^The German Opposition to Hitler: The Resistance, the Underground, and Assassination Plots (1938-1945), pp 87
  5. ^Disobedience and Conspiracy in the German Army, 1918-1945, pp 180
  6. ^History of the German Resistance, 1933-1945, pp 34
  7. ^ abFamous Assassinations in World History: An Encyclopedia, pp 227
  8. ^"Warszawski zamach na Hitlera: Hitler przemknął im koło nosa" (in Polish). October 5, 2011.
  9. ^German Resistance against Hitler: The Search for Allies Abroad 1938-1945, pp 73
  10. ^History of the German Resistance, 1933-1945, pp 253
  11. ^ Röll 2011, pp. 182–183.
  12. ^ Röll 2011, pp. 184–186.
  13. ^ Roger Moorhouse, Killing Hitler (2006), pp.192-193.
  14. ^Ian Kershaw (2000). Hitler 1936-1945: Nemesis. Penguin Press. ISBN  0-393-32252-1 .
  15. ^ Michael C Thomsett (1997). The German Opposition to Hitler: The Resistance, the Underground, and Assassination Plots, 1938-1945. McFarland. ISBN  0-78-6403721 .

18 of the Many Attempts to Assassinate Adolf Hitler by the German Resistance

Swiss student Maurice Bauvaud&rsquos attempts to kill Hitler were thwarted by bad timing and too little money. Wikimedia

9. Maurice Bauvaud and the planned Munich assassination attempt

That Hitler led a sometimes charmed existence is evident in the attempted assassination of the Fuhrer by Maurice Bauvaud, a Swiss Catholic theology student and strident anti-communist. Through the teachings of a mentor who held a Svengali-like grip on the young man, Bauvaud grew to believe that the destruction of communism in the Soviet Union would lead to the return of the Romanov Dynasty to the throne of the Tsar of all the Russias. Bauvaud believed that killing Hitler would somehow expedite the fall of communism and in October 1938 he journeyed by train to Basel, Germany, where he purchased a semi-automatic pistol. He then journeyed to Berlin, where a conversation with a policemen revealed to him that he would need a letter of introduction from a foreign dignitary to obtain an audience with the Fuhrer. Instead of seeking an introduction, Bauvaud traveled to Munich for the annual observation of the anniversary of the Beer Hall Putsch, which Hitler invariably attended.

Bauvaud purchased a seat on the reviewing stand used by reporters, using false credentials as a Swiss correspondent, carrying his pistol, intent on shooting Hitler when he passed by the stand. When Hitler did appear, well within range, he was surrounded by other Nazi leaders and Bauvaud, not wanting to injure anyone else, did not fire. Bauvaud then attempted to obtain an interview with Hitler at Berchtesgaden using forged documents, but when he arrived Hitler was still in Munich. Out of money, Bauvaud hopped a train and was caught, still carrying the forged documents and pistol. Under Gestapo questioning he broke down and admitted the attempted assassination. Despite strong protests from the Swiss government and attempts to obtain his release through the exchange of a German spy held by the Swiss, Bauvaud was executed by guillotine in Berlin in May, 1941.


The Families Who Tried to Kill Hitler

On July 20th this year, President Joachim Gauck of Germany led the country's political elite in commemorating the 70th anniversary of the best-known assassination attempt on Adolf Hitler, in 1944. The plot's leader, Colonel Claus Schenk von Stauffenberg (played by Tom Cruise in the movie Valkyrie), put a briefcase containing a bomb underneath Adolf Hitler's table at the Führer's headquarters in East Prussia. The bomb exploded, but Hitler sustained only minor injuries. Von Stauffenberg, who initially believed that Hitler had been killed and had made his way to Berlin to lead the coup, was summarily shot, along with three other participants at the Bendlerblock, the then-military headquarters now housing the Ministry of Defence, where this year's commemoration ceremony took place.

Almost all the other members of the July 20th plot &ndash officers, jurists, trade unionists, clergymen, diplomats &ndash were also executed. Had the assassination succeeded, the plotters had planned to overthrow the regime, arrest leading Nazis, liberate the concentration camps, establish the rule of law, and negotiate peace with the Allies.

Today, the 200 or so participants of the plot are treated as heroes. But for a long time they were considered ­traitors. Dr. Axel Smend, a corporate lawyer, recalls how his mother was often called in to meetings with his teachers because of his and his siblings' poor grades. "Once," recalls Smend, "she mentioned to my maths teacher that my father had been a member of July 20th. 'Well, then it's no surprise that he's bad at maths', my teacher responded. 'He's the son of a traitor.'"

Smend's father, Günther Smend, was 31 when he was hanged at Berlin's infamous Plötzensee prison, strung up from a meathook and condemned to a slow and painful death for the crime of having tried to recruit his superior to the plot. Hitler's command was that the plotters should be killed like ­animals. The plot had been carried out by "a tiny clique of criminals who will now be exterminated," the dictator raged on national radio. Some 88 other July 20th participants suffered the same fate as Günther Smend at Plötzensee, while several dozen others were executed in concentration camps. A few lucky ones awaiting their execution were saved only by the arrival of the Allies.

Smend, who was four months old when his father died, sheds a tear as he recounts the painful meeting with his teacher, one of many indignities that Smend's 26-year-old mother and her three young children underwent. Neighbours avoided the family "traitor widows" were, a court later decided, not eligible for the pension every other war widow received. Renate Smend didn't discover that her husband had been executed until the postman delivered a small package containing Günther's wedding ring, a notebook he'd kept at Plötzensee, and the bill for his execution. "It wasn't until my mother took me to Plötzensee when I was nine that I understood how my father had died," Smend says.

Had the plot succeeded, Ulrich von Hassell would have become Foreign Minister. The veteran diplomat, a friend of Mussolini's who had been Germany's ambassador to Italy in the early 1930s but was dismissed by Hitler, envisioned a Europe of shared values. Instead, he too was hanged.

Von Hassell's grandson, Corrado ­Pirzio-Biroli, recalls an incident relayed to him by his grandmother: "My grandfather had heard about this new agitator Adolf Hitler, and in 1928 he went to see him to find out who he was. Hitler was famous for staring at people, so he stared at my grandfather. My grand­father stared back. That's how the meeting ended, with not a word being spoken. Afterwards, my grandfather wrote to my grandmother: 'If this man comes to power, it's the end of Germany'."

Pirzio-Biroli, born to von Hassell's daughter Fey and her Italian husband Detalmo, still remembers the plot's failure: Fey von Hassell was arrested and little Corrado and his brother Roberto, then aged three and two respectively, were sent to an orphanage in the Tyrolean town of Hall. Their fates were common enough. The regime tended to arrest the wives and older children of plotters, while younger children were sent to orphanages for subsequent adoption by 'reliable' families. Corrado and Roberto were renamed von Hof. "We had been adopted by an Austrian family when my grandmother von Hassell managed to track us down," recalls Pirzio-Biroli. "So before I was proud of my grandfather, I was proud of my grandmother, because she saved us." Today Pirzio-Biroli, who identifies as Italian and German in equal measures, takes great comfort in the efforts of his grandfather.

IF WE SHOULD FAIL

Outside Clarita Müller-Plantenberg's Berlin home, children of different ­ethnicities are playing in the park. This is the kind of Germany for which Müller-Plantenberg's father fought. Adam von Trott zu Solz, born into a distinguished family that included John Jay, the United States' first Chief Justice, was a cosmopolitan young lawyer who had also read politics, philosophy and economics as a Rhodes scholar at Oxford University.

In 1939, von Trott travelled to Britain with secret information about Hitler's military plans, hoping to persuade the British government to prevent a war. Later, his crucial role in the July 20th attempt included trying, without success, to win British support for the assassination. "The British government dismissed the plotters as just dissidents," says Richard Evans, Regius professor of History at Cambridge University and a leading authority on World War II.

"From its point of view, the war was not about concentration camps but about German efforts to dominate Europe. The plotters wanted to keep Germany a major power in Europe, and Britain wanted to prevent that."

Von Trott, says Müller-Plantenberg, knew that the plot could fail. "He always told my mother, 'If something goes wrong, please tell the world about us'." The widows tried, but even after the war many ordinary Germans considered the July 20th members traitors. In a 1951 survey, only 43 percent of men and 38 percent of women had a positive opinion of them, and in a 1956 survey a mere 18 percent of the respondents approved of naming a school after von Stauffenberg or the civilian leader of the plot, former Leipzig mayor Carl Friedrich Goerdeler. A planned law granting the plotters' widows pensions was never introduced, although, as a compromise, the families eventually received an annual sum. Amid such disapproval, one of the few conspirators who had escaped the gallows, a young lawyer named Fabian von Schlabrendorff, took on the thankless task of shoring up support for the shunned families. "He received death threats until his death [in 1980]," recalls his son Jürgen-Lewin, a banker. "Germany had lost the war but Nazism still permeated the country."

Von Schlabrendorff, who had been a member of the resistance since 1933, was involved not only in the July 20th plot but in an earlier assassination attempt on the Führer as well. A year earlier, in a plan that seemed foolproof, he had given an officer travelling with Hitler a bomb disguised as some cognac bottles. Inexplicably, the bomb failed to explode. Though he risked being discovered, von Schlabrendorff travelled back to retrieve the bomb, and returned with it to Berlin, knowing that it might yet explode.

The failure of the July 20th plot meant certain death for von Schlabrendorff. Roland Freisler, the exceptionally sadistic judge at the "People's Court" that handled political cases, was known to deliver death sentences with incredible speed: three to four per day, followed by swift execution. Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels planned to make a film of the July 20th trials, but when he saw the dignified behaviour of the accused, he decided against the idea. Harrowing snippets of the trials can still be viewed online.

Between 1942 and 1945, Freisler sent not just the July 20th plotters but a total of 3,600 individuals convicted of politically motivated crimes to the gallows. On February 3rd, 1945, von Schlabrendorff was in the midst of receiving his death sentence when an American bomb caused a beam to fall on Judge Freisler, instantly killing him. The severely-tortured von Schlabrendorff was sent to a string of concentration camps he was later liberated by American soldiers.

Yet at home, von Schlabrendorff rarely spoke about his ordeal. "He wanted to shield us from his experiences," explains Fabian Jnr, Jürgen-Lewin's younger brother and a lawyer. "And all his friends had been executed. Besides, every time he spoke about what had happened, he felt sick."

In the Gestapo's Prinz-Albrecht-Strasse prison in Berlin, the father of three had been subjected to an induced heart attack. "As a result, his health was always precarious," recalls the eldest brother, Dieprand, who is also a lawyer. "But we never doubted that he did the right thing. And when the July 20th families got together, we were always the privileged ones, because we were the only ones with a father."

Luitgarde von Schlabrendorff gave birth to Fabian Jr. during her husband's Gestapo incarceration.

OFFICERS AGAINST HITLER

It's largely thanks to Fabian von Schlabrendorff's efforts that the July 20th plotters were not lost in the collective post-war amnesia. Officers against Hitler, published in 1959, was von Schlabrendorff's tribute to his executed friends and perhaps also a form of self-therapy in an era that long preceded the recognition of post-traumatic stress disorder.

But while von Schlabrendorff, von Trott and others such as Hans von Dohnanyi had been early foes of the Nazis, other plotters joined the resistance much later. "Initially my grandfather was a committed Nazi, no doubt about it," explains Robert von ­Steinau-Steinrück, sitting in the execution chamber at Plötzensee, where his grandfather was hanged. "He wasn't exactly a democrat, but as time went by, he realised that the Nazis were criminals. For him, it was a matter of the rule of law."

Von Steinau-Steinrück's ­grandfather, reserve officer Fritz-Dietlof von der Schulenburg, was a government ­official in eastern Germany who joined the resistance after witnessing the Nazi regime's crimes. Had the plot ­succeeded, he was supposed to become Minister for the Interior. "For him, acting against Hitler was a matter of decency," says von ­Steinau-Steinrück, one of Germany's top labor attorneys. "The plotters could have decided to do nothing, saved their life and played a positive role in postwar Germany. But they knew that somebody had to do something."

What the July 20th plot has done, reflects von Stauffenberg's granddaughter Sophie Bechtolsheim, is show that there was another kind of Germany. "Otherwise, how would we be able to look the victims of the Nazi regime in the eyes?" she asks. "We can learn [from the plotters] that taking a stand and taking the resulting action is not just necessary but ­possible."

The conspirators, however, faced a conundrum: not only did Hitler have considerable support he'd initially also enjoyed a certain democratic ­legitimacy. As a result, it was easy for the regime to dismiss them as a resentful minority. "The resistors' programme was not a democratic one," adds Evans. "One can understand why it wasn't, because democracy had failed in the Weimar Republic. But they provided a moral example of courage in a dictatorship."

At his trial, a composed von der Schulenburg told Judge Freisler: "We took this act upon ourselves in order to save Germany from [ . . . ] misery. I'm aware that I'll be executed but don't regret my deed and hope that somebody else will carry it out in a more fortuitous moment." That lack of courage plagued West Germany after the war, and the country's initial response was simply to try to forget the Third Reich. The parliament passed amnesty laws not once but twice, in 1949 and 1954. The 1949 law granted amnesty for crimes committed prior to 1949, including Nazi-related crimes. Some 800,000 people benefited from this law. The law passed five years later helped some 400,000 individuals, including a smaller number of Nazis.

But von Schlabrendorff's bestseller, emerging research by historians, and a generation of children probing their ­parents' actions during the war changed that. So did the emerging government-supported reassessment of Third Reich guilt. For the July 20th families, that constituted a restitution of sorts.

"My mother had tried to talk about the plot, but politicians only started talking about the resistance when it became politically necessary to do so," recalls Müller-Plantenberg. Growing up, she felt like an outsider in school. "We thought you were Jewish," a classmate later told her. But like other plotter children, she'd found community in the unorthodox fold of July 20th families.

Gradually, the so-called "traitors" gained respect. In 1967, Berlin politicians decided that the Bendlerblock should feature a memorial to the asssassination attempt, and in the 1980s a resistance documentation centre was added. By 1970, 39 percent of Germans viewed the would-be assassins positively. In 2004, only 5 percent of Germans said they opposed or despised the plotters. Today, the July 20th families' association, which initially disbursed the government compensation, makes presentations to schools and jointly organises the commemorations.

Since 2002, German military recruits have sworn their oaths on July 20th. This year's speakers at the Bendlerblock were the Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen and von Stauffenberg's oldest child, retired general Berthold Schenk von Stauffenberg.

"When the Bundeswehr [German military] introduced the [July 20th oath] I thought, of course!" exclaims Müller-Plantenberg. She's not resentful of her father's fate, arguing instead that today's Germany strives for the values he died for: "democratisation, the rule of law and the protection of minorities."

Clarita von Trott, Müller-Plantenberg's mother, tried to gain entry to her 34-year-old husband's trial, in which the raging Freisler had called Adam a pretentious "intellectualist", denouncing his "un-German education". But she and her two girls never saw him again. (The girls, too, were sent to an orphanage.) One photo of herself with her father is all Müller-Plantenberg has left.

"The plotters," explains Evans, "knew at the later stages that they'd fail. The coup was a moral gesture." In fact, the conspirators must have felt that destiny was conspiring against them. In one particularly inspired plan, the handsome young soldier Axel von dem Bussche, who'd been selected to model the new army uniform for Hitler, was to conceal a bomb on his body. The assassination was thwarted when an Allied air raid destroyed the kit the night before it was due to be shown. In another 1943 plan, General Major Henning von Tresckow was to simply stand up and shoot the dictator at a dinner. It failed when von Tresckow's ­superior got wind of the plan.

And in 1938, a carpenter called Georg Elser almost succeeded in killing ­Hitler by planting a bomb in the Führer's favourite Munich pub. Hitler, displaying a habit that would frustrate several later attempts as well, left the pub early. In total, historians have documented some 40 assassination attempts by the July 20th members and other conspirators.

As a concentration camp survivor, Fey von Hassell was entitled to German government compensation. Von ­Hassell's family physician near her home in Rome, a German Jew, kept writing the required doctor's notes long after her concentration camp-induced ailments had subsided. "That's the least I can do for Ulrich von Hassell," he said.

Like Clarita Müller-Plantenberg, Axel Smend has only one photo of himself with his father. But he also has the notebook that the postman delivered to his mother after Günther's execution.

Our meeting is over, and Smend has to rush to the airport for a court case in Munich. Still misty-eyed, he gets into the waiting taxi he looks the epitome of post-war success. On top of the legal documents in his briefcase, he's put Günther's green notebook.

Correction: This article originally mispelt Ursula von der Leyen as von den Leyen.


PICTURES FROM HISTORY: Rare Images Of War, History , WW2, Nazi Germany

Most of thought (including myself) thought there was only one attempt to kill Adolph Hitler. We are badly mistaken! There were many. They are described below.

Agreed, the von Stauffenberg one was the most important one. Hitler almost died then.

Johann Georg Elser, born January 4, 1903, had served an apprenticeship as cabinetmaker (Schreiner) and from 1929 to 1932 worked in Switzerland at this trade then returned to Germany to assist in his fathers lumberyard. He bitterly resented the Nazi stranglehold on labour unions and the growing restrictions on religious freedom. He then decided to kill Hitler by placing a time bomb in one of the columns behind the podium where Hitler was to give a speech in the Burgerbrau Beer Cellar in Munich. The bomb was set to detonate at preciesly 9.20pm on Wednesday, November 8, 1939. At 8.10 Hitler enters the beer hall but at 9.12pm he suddenly ends his speech and departs. Eight minutes later the bomb explodes killing eight people and wounding sixty-five including Eva Braun's father. Seven of those killed were Nazi Party members. Elser, who, since 1933, refused to give the nazi salute, is later arrested as he tried to cross the border into Switzerland at Konstanz. He was held for questioning due to the 'strange content' of his belongings. He was transported to Sachsenhausen concentration camp, and later confined in the concentration camp at Dachau. On the 9th Of April, 1945, two weeks before the war ended in Europe, Johann Elser was executed by the SS. In the city of Bremen a street was named in his honour, Georg-Elser Weg. In Berlin a memorial has been erected and a plaque to his memory is sited in his hometown, Koenigsbronn. (In September, 1979, the Burgerbraukeller was demolished. On its site now stands the Munich City Hilton Hotel)

On March 11, 1944, Cavalry Captain Eberhard von Breitenbuch attended a conference at Hitler’s villa the ‘Berghof’ on the Obersalzberg. Concealed on his person was a small Browning pistol with which he intended to shoot his Führer and at the same time was willing to sacrifice his own life in the attempt. He felt that the war was now at such a stage that the complete destruction of Germany was inevitable and that Hitler had to be stopped. Breitenbuch enters the conference room behind Field Marshal Ernst Busch, who suspects nothing, but as he approaches the door he is stopped by the Duty Sergeant who explains "Sorry, no adjutants beyond this point, Führers orders". So yet another attempt fails.

On March 20, 1943, Colonel Rudolf von Gertsdorff, General Kluge's chief of intelligence, tried to kill Hitler in the Zeughaus. The concealed bomb was to be detonated by acid while he stood close to Hitler in the exhibit hall. Unfortunately Hitler left the building before the acid could act and Gertsdorff immediately entered the men's room and flushed the fuse down the toilet.

In February, 1944, Infantry Captain Axel von dem Bussche agrees to blow up Hitler and himself while he demonstrates a new army winter overcoat to the German leader. Fate intervenes the day before when during a British air raid the uniforms were destroyed and Bussche was returned to duty at the front. A few weeks later another ‘overcoat’ attempt was made. This time the volunteer model was Ewald Heinrich von Kleist, son of one of the original conspirators and included Major General Helmuth Stieff. Again the RAF saved the day with an air-raid just before the demonstration was about to take place forcing its cancellation.

On July 11, 1944, Staff Officer Lt. Colonel Count Claus Schenk von Stauffenberg, convinced that he and he alone could assassinate Hitler, attended another conference at the Berghof. Concealed inside his briefcase was a time bomb. Waiting outside in a gateaway car was his co-conspirator, Captain Friedrich Klausing. Inside the Berghof, Stauffenberg telephones his colleagues in Berlin to tell them that neither Goering nor Himmler is present. They insist that the attempt be aborted. Stauffenberg then returns to Berlin to plan his next assassination attempt.

Stauffenberg’s second attempt occurs at Hitler’s Wolf’s Lair headquarters in East Prussia. On July 15, 1944, he attends a Fuhrers briefing and observes with dismay that Himmler is again absent. The attempt was once again aborted.

Thirty six year-old Stauffenberg’s final attempt occured on July 20, 1944. Four days earlier, the attempt was decided upon during a meeting at his residence at No. 8 Tristanstrasse, Wansee. Himmler or no Himmler, the attempt must go ahead, come what may. At 12.00pm Stauffenberg and General Fromm report to Field Marshal Keitel’s office for a briefing before entering the conference room. At 12.37pm, Stauffenberg places his briefcase, containing 2,000 grams of Plastik-W explosives, under the map table, then leaves the room on the pretext of making a telephone call. The officer Colonel Brandt, No.4 who took his place noticed the briefcase and with his foot pushed it further under the table. The heavy oak table support protected Hitler from the full force of the explosion. At 12.42pm, the bomb explodes. By this time Stauffenberg is on his way back to Berlin. At 6.28pm a radio broadcast from Wolf’s Lair reports that Hitler is alive but only slightly wounded. Later that night, at 12.30am, Stauffenberg and his co-conspirators, Haeften, Olbricht and Mertz, are arrested and executed by firing squad in the inner courtyard of the Bendlerstrasse Headquarters in the glare of a trucks lights.

(Immediately after Colonel Stauffenberg's assassination attempt, his wife and four children were arrested and imprisoned. Freed by the Allies at the end of the war and pregnant at the time of her arrest, she gave birth to her fifth child while in prison. One of her brothers, Berthold, was also arrested and executed after the failed plot)

THE BOMB PLOT AT HITLER'S HQ. The situation as at 12.30pm on July 20, 1944.


1. Adolf Hitler
2. General Heusinger
3. Luftwaffe General Korten (Died of wounds)
4. Colonel Brandt (Died of wounds)
5. Luftwaffe General Bodenschatz (Severely wounded)
6. General Schnunt (Died of wounds)
7. Lt. Colonel Borgman (Severely wounded)
8. Rear Admiral Von Puttkamer
9. Stenographer Berger (Killed on the spot)
10. Naval Captain Assmann
11. General Scherff
12. General Buhle
13. Rear Admiral Voss
14. SS Group Leader Fegelein
15. Colonel Von Bellow
16. SS Hauptsturmfuhrer Gunsche
17. Stenographer Hagen
18. Lt. Colonel Von John (Adjutant to Keitel)
19. Major Buchs (Adjutant to Jodl)
20. Lt. Colonel Weizenegger
21. Min. Counsellor Von Sonnleithner
22. General Warlimont (Concussion)
23. General Jodl (Lightly wounded)
24. Field Marshal Keitel


Between August 8, 1944 and April 9, 1945, Ninety persons were executed in Plötzensee prison for their part in the attempted coup of July 20.

Another attempt to assassinate Hitler was planned for July 27, 1940, in Paris, where Count Fritz-Dietlof von der Schulenberg planned to shoot Hitler from the reviewing stand during a military parade in Hitler’s honour. Hitler however secretly visited Paris in the early hours of July 23, visiting all the city’s famed buildings. He began his tour at 6am and by 9am he ended his tour and departed the city. A few days later Schulenberg recieved word that his hoped for July 27 military parade had been cancelled.

Despite Schulenberg’s failure to lure Hitler to Paris for the special parade, Field Marshal Erwin von Witzleben had plans of his own to assassinate Hitler. In May, 1941, he attemped to lure Hitler to Paris under a similar pretext. The visit was scheduled for May 21st but was abruptly called off at the last minute.

In 1939, prior to the outbreak of WWII, German General Kurt von Hammerstein repeatedly attempted to lure Hitler into visiting the Army’s fortifications along the Seigfried Line near the Dutch border where he commanded a base. Hammerstein and his co-conspirator, retired General Ludwig Beck, had planned a ‘fatal accident’ to Hitler during his inspection of the base. Hitler however, never honoured the invitation, instead he turned the tables on Hammerstein by placing him on the retired list.

Another plot to assassinate Hitler was hatched at Army Group B Headquarters at Walki near Poltava in the Ukraine. This time the conspirators were General Hubert Lanz, his Chief of Staff, Major-General Dr. Hans Speidel and Colonel Count von Strachwitz, the commanding officer of the Grossdeutschland Tank Regiment. The plan was to arrest Hitler on his anticipated visit to Army Group B in the spring of 1943. Hitler, at the last minute, changed his mind and instead decided to visit his forces fighting in Saporoshe further east.

On March 13, 1943, three attempts were planned on Hitler’s life. Field Marshal Guenther von Kluge, commander of Army Group Center on the eastern front, finally managed to lure Hitler into visiting his headquarters at Smolensk. However a number of officers on Kluge’s staff had other thoughts on how to assassinate Hitler. Colonel Henning von Tresckow, who hated Hitler and the Nazis, together with Lt. Fabian von Schlabrendorff, Colonel Rudolf von Gersdorff and Cavalry Captain Georg von Boeslager had hatched a plan to get rid of their Führer.

Captain von Boeslager and his company were to serve as armed escort to Hitler’s motorcade. During the drive from the airfield the Führer’s car was to be gunned down in an ambush. The attempt was aborted when Hitler arrived with his own armed escort of 50 SS guards.

The second attempt was to take place during lunchtime in the mess hall. At a given signal, Tresckow was to rise from the table and open fire on Hitler as he ate lunch, but the sight of so many SS close to Hitler arouses fear of failure and so once again the attempt was aborted.

As Hitler leaves by plane for Berlin, Tresckow instructs Schlabrendorff to hand over a package to Colonel Heinz Brandt who is flying back with Hitler. The package, containing two bottles of brandy, is a gift for Major-General Helmuth Stieff in Berlin. Concealed in the package is a time bomb but it failed to explode owing to the high altitude cold air freezing the acid in the detonator cap. When news of Hitler’s safe arrival reached the plotters, Schlabrendorf immediately flew to Berlin with the regular courier plane and retrieved the package from Colonel Brandt, replacing it with two genuine bottles.

In February, 1945, Albert Speer, Hitler’s Armaments Minister, came to the conclusion that his Führer was deliberately committing high treason against his own people. It was then that Speer decided that Hitler must be eliminated. During one of his many walks in the Chancellery gardens he took note of a ventilation shaft leading to Hitler’s bunker. An idea formed in his mind and he discreetly asked the head of munitions production, Dieter Stahl, if he could procure some of the new gas, Tabun, which he intended to conduct into the ventilation shaft of the bunker. Stahl, who was sympathetic to the idea, revealed that Tabun was effective only after an explosion and would not be suitable for the purpose which Speer intended. Another gas had to be found but the whole idea was thwarted when armed SS sentries were placed around the bunker entrances and on the roof. A chimney had also been built around the ventilation shaft to a height of ten feet which put the air-intake of the shaft out of reach. At the Nuremberg War Crimes Trials, Albert Speer was sentenced to twenty years imprisonment, which he served to the very last minute, in Spandau Prison, Berlin.


The German officer who tried to kill Hitler

On 20 July 1944, a 36-year-old German army officer, Col Claus Schenk Graf von Stauffenberg, arrived at a heavily guarded complex hidden in a forest in East Prussia. His mission was to kill Adolf Hitler.

The Wolfsschanze, or Wolf's Lair, was Hitler's secret headquarters on the Eastern Front. Stauffenberg was attending the daily briefing between the Fuhrer and Germany's high command - but in his briefcase, he carried a bomb.

"We were standing around and Hitler came in, and then the conference began," recalled German army officer Gen Walter Warlimont in a BBC interview in 1967.

"Suddenly the door opened again, and I happened to turn around, and I saw that a colonel came in. he made a very deep impression on me, because his right eye was covered by a black patch and one arm was amputated, and he stood there quite erect, and he seemed to me to be the picture of a classical soldier."

"Hitler turned around and looked at him without any kind of benevolence and [Gen] Keitel introduced him."

Stauffenberg was an aristocratic, Catholic, career army officer. "Everyone says my father was extremely good looking - dark hair, blue eyes, slightly wavy hair, tall. He was a very cheerful man, he used to laugh a lot and we thought he was absolutely wonderful," says his son, Berthold Schenk Graf von Stauffenberg, who's now 80 years old.

In 1943, Stauffenberg was badly injured while serving in Tunisia - heɽ lost an eye, his right hand, and two fingers from his left hand.

"You know wounds were so commonplace at the time and having lost an arm, having lost an eye, was quite normal. It was really a relief that he was alive," says Berthold.

Though not overtly political, Stauffenberg was a conservative and a nationalist. At times, he had supported Nazi policies, but as the war progressed, his opposition to the regime grew - he was horrified by German atrocities in the east and the realisation that Germany was losing the war.

"He was disenchanted with Hitler's strategic capabilities and that really Hitler was a different type of person from what we thought acceptable," says Berthold.

"I was a boy of 10, very interested in what was going on in the world. I was just about to become a little Nazi, like all of us. But we never discussed that with my father or my mother. If he had discussed politics with us he couldn't have shown his real feelings because it would have been too dangerous. Children give things away."

As he recovered from his injuries, Stauffenberg was approached by a group of conspirators led by Gen Henning von Tresckow, who wanted to kill Hitler and overthrow the Nazi regime. Stauffenberg became a leading member of the plot.

In the months that followed there were several abortive attempts to kill Hitler and there was a growing fear that the Gestapo was closing in on the conspirators.

But in 1944, Stauffenberg became chief of staff for the commander of the German Replacement Army. The post gave him access to Hitler and an opportunity to carry out the assassination.

The conspirators' plan was fraught with risk. Stauffenberg would carry explosives in his briefcase, through the security checks surrounding the Wolf's Lair, prime the bomb and place his briefcase near Hitler during the daily briefing. He would then make his excuses and leave the room. After the explosion, Stauffenberg would dash back to Berlin where the conspirators would use the Replacement Army to take control.

"They were not sure they would succeed but Tresckow said the attack on Hitler must go on, if only to prove that not all Germans were his followers," says Berthold.

But if the plot failed, it was not just the conspirators who would be at risk. "My mother always said she knew what was planned. Sheɽ found out and confronted my father and so he told her. But she didn't know that he was to plant the bomb."

"They knew the consequences, but in times of war, life is not as important as it is now in a peacetime environment. People die all the time and to sacrifice oneself seems to be an enormous thing, but in wartime it's different."

On Thursday 20 July, Stauffenberg arrived at the Wolf's Lair - the briefing was set for 12:30. But he was interrupted as he tried to set the bomb, so he put only one of two explosive devices in his briefcase before he entered the meeting.

"I remember that Stauffenberg had a big black briefcase under his good arm," said Warlimont in 1967.

"But then I didn't look at him anymore, so I didn't see him putting it under the table, or leaving the room shortly afterwards. About five to 10 minutes passed - I had forgotten about him when the explosion happened."

Stauffenberg saw the explosion as he left the compound to head back to Berlin. He was sure that Hitler was dead.

But just before the explosion, Stauffenberg's briefcase had been moved behind a table leg away from Hitler. The bomb was not as powerful as intended and Hitler was leaning over the thick oak table looking at maps when it went off which shielded him from the blast. Four died in the explosion and many were injured, but Hitler survived.

"When the bomb went off I just had this feeling that a big chandelier had fallen on my head. I went down. I saw Hitler was led out of the room, supported on the arm of Keitel and my first impression was that he was not injured at all, or at least not seriously," recalled Warlimont.

When, hours later, it became clear the Fuhrer was still alive, the attempted takeover of Berlin fell apart. Stauffenberg and other leading conspirators were arrested at the War Office in Berlin and shot.

At the time, Stauffenberg's pregnant wife, Nina, and their four children were staying at the family's estate in the Swabian hills. Berthold didn't know what was going on.

"I heard reports on the radio, reports that an attempt on Hitler's life had taken place and something about a small clique of criminal and stupid officers. I was 10 years old and I read a newspaper every day, I wanted to know what was going on. The grown-ups tried to keep me away from the radio. Me and my brother were sent on a long walk with my great uncle, Count Uxkull, who told us a lot of things about his life hunting big deer in Africa."

"It was actually the next day that my mother took me and my brother aside and told me that it was our father whoɽ laid the bomb. I said 'How, could he do it?' And she said, 'He believed he had to do this for Germany.'"

"It was a total shock, I couldn't believe it. An attack on the Fuhrer! We were brought up in school and everywhere else, to believe that the Fuhrer was a wonderful man."

That night the Gestapo came - Berthold's mother, grandmother and great uncle were among those arrested. Berthold and his siblings were sent to a children's home.

"The reason why, was never discussed. We were given different names - there is a theory that these were the names of families where we would have been taken after the war, probably SS families."

In the aftermath, thousands were arrested and executed for their alleged connection to the resistance. Berthold's mother was taken to a Gestapo prison at the Ravensbruck concentration camp. She was reunited with her children after the war - she never remarried. "For my mother there was my father and that was just it. He was the man of her life."

Berthold went on to become a general in the West German army. He still lives in the family's home town.

"For me there is no question that the plot has saved a little of the honour of Germany."

Berthold von Stauffenberg spoke to Witness on the BBC World Service

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