German resistance to Nazism


German resistance to Nazism (German: Widerstand gegen den Nationalsozialismus) was the opposition by individuals and groups in Germany to the National Socialist regime between and

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Assigned to the staff of his uncle's command, Army Group Centre, for the forthcoming Operation Barbarossa , Tresckow systematically recruited oppositionists to the group's staff, making it the new nerve centre of the army resistance.

American journalist Howard K. Smith wrote in that of the three groups in opposition to Hitler, the military was more important than the churches and the Communists. In December , the United States entered the war, persuading some more realistic army officers that Germany must ultimately lose the war. But the life-and-death struggle on the eastern front posed new problems for the resistance. Most of its members were conservatives who hated and feared communism and the Soviet Union.

How could the Nazi regime be overthrown and the war ended without allowing the Soviets to gain control of Germany or the whole of Europe? This question was made more acute when the Allies adopted their policy of demanding Germany's "unconditional surrender" at the Casablanca Conference of January During , the tireless Oster nevertheless succeeded in rebuilding an effective resistance network.

His most important recruit was General Friedrich Olbricht , head of the General Army Office headquartered at the Bendlerblock in central Berlin, who controlled an independent system of communications to reserve units all over Germany. Linking this asset to Tresckow's resistance group in Army Group Centre created what appeared to a viable structure for a new effort at organising a coup.

Bock's dismissal did not weaken Tresckow's position. In fact he soon enticed Bock's successor, General Hans von Kluge , at least part-way to supporting the resistance cause.

Tresckow even brought Goerdeler, leader of the civilian resistance, to Army Group Centre to meet Kluge — an extremely dangerous tactic. The entry of the Soviet Union into the war had certain consequences for the civilian resistance. After June , however, all Communists were expected to throw themselves into resistance work, including sabotage and espionage where this was possible, regardless of risk.

A handful of Soviet agents, mostly exiled German Communists, were able to enter Germany to help the scattered underground KPD cells organise and take action. This led to the formation in of two separate communist groups, usually erroneously lumped together under the name Rote Kapelle "Red Orchestra" , a codename given to these groups by the Gestapo. This group made reports to the Soviet Union on German troop concentrations, air attacks on Germany, German aircraft production, and German fuel shipments.

In France, it worked with the underground French Communist Party. Agents of this group even managed to tap the phone lines of the Abwehr in Paris. Trepper was eventually arrested and the group broken up by the spring of The second and more important "Red Orchestra" group was entirely separate and was a genuine German resistance group, not controlled by the NKVD the Soviet intelligence agency and predecessor to the KGB.

The group however contained people of various beliefs and affiliations. It thus conformed to the general pattern of German resistance groups of being drawn mainly from elite groups. The main activity of the group was collecting information about Nazi atrocities and distributing leaflets against Hitler rather than espionage.

They passed what they had learned to foreign countries, through personal contacts with the U. When Soviet agents tried to enlist this group in their service, Schulze-Boysen and Harnack refused, since they wanted to maintain their political independence. The group was betrayed to the Gestapo in August by Johann Wenzel , a member of the Trepper group who also knew of the Schulze-Boysen group and who informed on them after being arrested.

Schulze-Boysen, Harnack and other members of the group were arrested and secretly executed. Meanwhile, another Communist resistance group was operating in Berlin, led by a Jewish electrician, Herbert Baum , and involving up to a hundred people. Until , the group operated a study circle, but after the German attack on the Soviet Union a core group advanced to active resistance.

In May , the group staged an arson attack on an anti-Soviet propaganda display at the Lustgarten in central Berlin. The attack was poorly organised and most of the Baum group was arrested.

Twenty were sentenced to death, while Baum himself "died in custody". This fiasco ended overt Communist resistance activities, although the KPD underground continued to operate, and re-emerged from hiding in the last days of the war. In late , von Tresckow and Olbricht formulated a plan to assassinate Hitler and stage a coup. For such an occasion, von Tresckow had prepared three options: Von Tresckow asked Lieutenant Colonel Heinz Brandt , on Hitler's staff and usually on the same plane that carried Hitler, to take a parcel with him, supposedly the prize of a bet won by Tresckow's friend General Stieff.

It concealed a bomb, disguised in a box for two bottles of Cointreau. Von Tresckow's aide, Lieutenant Fabian von Schlabrendorff , set the fuse and handed over the parcel to Brandt who boarded the same plane as Hitler.

Hitler's Focke-Wulf Fw Condor was expected to explode about 30 minutes later near Minsk , close enough to the front to be attributed to Soviet fighters. Olbricht was to use the resulting crisis to mobilise his Reserve Army network to seize power in Berlin, Vienna, Munich and in the German Wehrkreis centres. It was an ambitious but credible plan, and might have worked if Hitler had indeed been killed, although persuading Army units to fight and overcome what could certainly have been fierce resistance from the SS could have been a major obstacle.

However, as with Elser's bomb in and all other attempts, luck favoured Hitler again, which was attributed to "Vorsehung" providence. The British-made chemical pencil detonator on the bomb had been tested many times and was considered reliable. It went off, but the bomb did not.

The percussion cap apparently became too cold as the parcel was carried in the unheated cargo hold. Displaying great sangfroid , Schlabrendorff took the next plane to retrieve the package from Colonel Brandt before the content was discovered. The blocks of plastic explosives were later used by Gersdorff and Stauffenberg. A second attempt was made a few days later on 21 March , when Hitler visited an exhibition of captured Soviet weaponry in Berlin's Zeughaus.

One of Tresckow's friends, Colonel Rudolf Christoph Freiherr von Gersdorff , was scheduled to explain some exhibits, and volunteered to carry out a suicide bombing using the same bomb that had failed to go off on the plane, concealed on his person. However, the only new chemical fuse he could obtain was a ten-minute one. Hitler again left prematurely after hurrying through the exhibition much quicker than the scheduled 30 minutes.

Gersdorff had to dash to a bathroom to defuse the bomb to save his life, and more importantly, prevent any suspicion. Gersdorff reported about the attempt after the war; the footage is often seen on German TV documentaries "Die Nacht des Widerstands" etc. Axel von dem Bussche , member of the elite Infantry Regiment 9 , volunteered to kill Hitler with hand grenades in November during a presentation of new winter uniforms, but the train containing them was destroyed by Allied bombs in Berlin, and the event had to be postponed.

A second presentation scheduled for December at the Wolfsschanze was canceled on short notice as Hitler decided to travel to Berchtesgaden. In January , Bussche volunteered for another assassination attempt, but then he lost a leg in Russia. On February 11, another young officer, Ewald-Heinrich von Kleist tried to assassinate Hitler in the same way von dem Bussche had planned.

However Hitler again canceled the event which would have allowed Kleist to approach him. On 11 March , Eberhard von Breitenbuch volunteered for an assassination attempt at the Berghof using a 7. He was not able to carry out the plan because guards would not allow him into the conference room with the Führer. The next occasion was a weapons exhibition on July 7 at Schloss Klessheim near Salzburg, but Helmuth Stieff did not trigger the bomb.

At the end of , Germany suffered a series of military defeats, the first at El Alamein , the second with the successful Allied landings in North Africa Operation Torch , and the third the disastrous defeat at Stalingrad , which ended any hope of defeating the Soviet Union.

Most experienced senior officers now came to the conclusion that Hitler was leading Germany to defeat, and that the result of this would be the Soviet conquest of Germany — the worst fate imaginable.

This gave the military resistance new impetus. Halder had been dismissed in and there was now no independent central leadership of the Army. Tresckow and Goerdeler tried again to recruit the senior Army field commanders to support a seizure of power. Kluge was by now won over completely. The prospect of a united German Army seizing power from Hitler was as far away as ever.

Once again, however, neither officer reported that they had been approached in this way. Nevertheless, the days when the military and civilian plotters could expect to escape detection were ending.

He already suspected Canaris and his subordinates at the Abwehr. On the civilian front, Dietrich Bonhoeffer was also arrested at this time, and Goerdeler was under suspicion.

Under interrogation, Schmidhuber gave the Gestapo details of the Oster-Dohnanyi group in the Abwehr and about Goerdeler and Beck's involvement in opposition activities. The Gestapo reported all this to Himmler, with the observation that Canaris must be protecting Oster and Dohnanyi and the recommendation that he be arrested.

Himmler passed the file back with the note "Kindly leave Canaris alone. Nevertheless, Oster's usefulness to the resistance was now greatly reduced. However, the Gestapo did not have information about the full workings of the resistance. Most importantly, they did not know about the resistance networks based on Army Group Centre or the Bendlerblock. Meanwhile, the disaster at Stalingrad, which cost Germany , casualties, was sending waves of horror and grief through German society, but causing remarkably little reduction in the people's faith in Hitler and in Germany's ultimate victory.

This was a source of great frustration to the military and civil service plotters, who virtually all came from the elite and had privileged access to information, giving them a much greater appreciation of the hopelessness of Germany's situation than was possessed by the German people.

The only visible manifestation of opposition to the regime following Stalingrad was the spontaneous action of few university students who denounced the war and the persecution and mass murder of Jews in the east.

They were organised in the White Rose group, which was centered in Munich but had connections in Berlin, Hamburg, Stuttgart and Vienna. In January , they launched an anti-Nazi campaign of handbills and graffiti in and around Ludwig Maximilians University in Munich.

They were detected and some arrested. They were guillotined that same day at Stadelheim Prison. Kurt Huber , a professor of philosophy and musicology, Alexander Schmorell , and Willi Graf had to stand trial later and were sentenced to death as well, whereas many others were sentenced to prison terms.

The last member to be executed was Hans Conrad Leipelt on 29 January This outbreak was surprising and worrying to the Nazi regime, because the universities had been strongholds of Nazi sentiment even before Hitler had come to power. Similarly, it gave heart to the scattered and demoralised resistance groups. But White Rose was not a sign of widespread civilian disaffection from the regime, and had no imitators elsewhere, although their sixth leaflet, re-titled "The Manifesto of the Students of Munich", was dropped by Allied planes in July , and became widely known in World War II Germany.

The underground SPD and KPD were able to maintain their networks, and reported increasing discontent at the course of the war and at the resultant economic hardship, particularly among the industrial workers and among farmers who suffered from the acute shortage of labour with so many young men away at the front.

However, there was nothing approaching active hostility to the regime. Most Germans continued to revere Hitler and blamed Himmler or other subordinates for their troubles.

From late , fear of the advancing Soviets and prospects of a military offensive from the Western Powers eclipsed resentment at the regime and if anything hardened the will to resist the advancing allies.

Across the twentieth century public protest comprised a primary form of civilian opposition within totalitarian regimes. Potentially influential popular protests required not only public expression but the collection of a crowd of persons speaking with one voice. In addition, only protests which caused the regime to take notice and respond to are included here. Improvised protests also occurred if rarely in Nazi Germany , and represent a form of resistance not wholly researched, Sybil Milton wrote already in Hitler recognized the power of collective action, advocated non-compliance toward unworthy authority e.

The regime rationalized appeasement of public protests as temporary measures to maintain the appearance of German unity and reduce the risk of alienating the public through blatant Gestapo repression. An early defeat of state institutions and Nazi officials by mass, popular protest culminated with Hitler's release and reinstatement to church office of Protestant bishops Hans Meiser and Theophil Wurm in October Unrest had festered between regional Protestants and the state since early and came to a boil in mid-September when the regional party daily accused Meiser of treason, and shameful betrayal of Hitler and the state.

By the time Hitler intervened, pastors were increasingly involving parishioners in the church struggle. Their agitation was amplifying distrust of the state as protest was worsening and spreading rapidly.

Alarm among local officials was escalating. Some six thousand gathered in support of Meiser while only a few dutifully showed up at a meeting of the region's party leader, Julius Streicher. Mass open protests, the form of agitation and bandwagon building the Nazis employed so successfully, were now working against them. This early contest points to enduring characteristics of regime responses to open, collective protests. It would prefer dealing with mass dissent immediately and decisively—not uncommonly retracting the cause of protest with local and policy-specific concessions.

Open dissent, left unchecked, tended to spread and worsen. Church leaders had improvised a counter-demonstration strong enough to neutralize the party's rally just as the Nazi Party had faced down socialist and communist demonstrators while coming to power.

Hitler recognized that workers, through repeated strikes, might force approval of their demands and he made concessions to workers in order to preempt unrest; yet the rare but forceful public protests the regime faced were by women and Catholics, primarily.

Some of the earliest work on resistance examined the Catholic record, including most spectacularly local and regional protests against decrees removing crucifixes from schools, part of the regime's effort to secularize public life. Popular, public, improvised protests against decrees replacing crucifixes with the Führer's picture, in incidents from to , from north to south and east to west in Germany, forced state and party leaders to back away and leave crucifixes in traditional places.

Prominent incidents of crucifix removal decrees, followed by protests and official retreat, occurred in Oldenburg Lower Saxony in , Frankenholz Saarland and Frauenberg East Prussia in , and in Bavaria in Women, with traditional sway over children and their spiritual welfare, played a leading part. German history of the early twentieth century held examples of the power of public mobilization, including the Kapp military Putsch in , some civilian Germans realized the specific potential of public protest from within the dictatorship.

After the Oldenburg crucifix struggle , police reported that Catholic activists told each other they coulddefeat future anti-Catholic actions of the state as long as they posed a united front. Catholic Bishop Clemens von Galen may well have been among them. He had raised his voice in the struggle, circulating a pastoral letter. Some argue that the regime, once at war, no longer heeded popular opinion and, some agencies and authorities did radicalize use of terror for domestic control in the final phase of war.

Hitler and the regime's response to collective street protest, however, did not harden. It is certain, however, that Galen intended to have an impact from the pulpit and that the highest Nazi officials decided against punishing him out of concern for public morale. Another indication that civilians realized the potential of public protest within a regime so concerned about morale and unity, is from Margarete Sommers of the Catholic Welfare Office in the Berlin Diocese.

Following the Rosenstrasse Protest of late winter One said that if she had first calculated whether a protest could have succeeded, she would have stayed home.

Even intermarried Jews who had been sent to Auschwitz work camps were returned. Another potential indication that German civilians realized the power of public protest was in Dortmund-Hörde in April According to an SD Report from July 8 of , in the early afternoon of April 12, , an army captain arrested a Flak soldier in Dortmund- Hörde because of an insolent salute. The townsfolk looking on took his side. A crowd formed of three to four hundred comprised essentially of women.

The recentness of the weeklong protest on Rosenstrasse strengthens this possibility. On Rosenstrasse the chant had been coined as the rallying cry of wives for their incarcerated husbands.

Here on behalf of one man it made little sense. Rosenstrasse was the only open, collective protest for Jews during the Third Reich , and in the estimation of historians over the decades, it rescued some 2, intermarried Jews. Intermarried German Jews and their children were the only Jews to escape the fate Reich authorities had selected for them, [] and by the end of the war 98 percent of German Jews who survived without being deported or going into hiding were intermarried.

Wolf Gruner argues that events at Rosenstrasse ran according to Gestapo plans. On October 11, , some three hundred women protested on Adolf Hitler Square in the western German Ruhr Valley city of Witten against the official decision to withhold their food ration cards unless they evacuated their homes.

Under increasing Allied bombardments, officials had struggled to establish an orderly program for evacuation. Yet by late many thousands of persons, including hundreds from Witten, had returned from evacuation sites. The Witten protesters had the power of millions of likeminded Germans behind it, and venerable traditions of family life.

Within four months Hitler ordered all Nazi Party Regional Leaders Gauleiter not to withhold the ration cards of evacuees who returned home without permission. Should we make this spot hard where we have been soft up until now, then the will of the people will bend to the will of the state. In Berlin , leaders continued to assuage rather than draw further attention to public collective protests, as the best way to protect their authority and the propaganda claims that all Germans stood united behind the Führer.

In this context, ordinary Germans were sometimes able to exact limited concessions, as Goebbels worried that a growing number of Germans were becoming aware of the regime's soft spot represented by its response to protests. It cannot be disputed that many Germans supported the regime until the end of the war. But beneath the surface of German society there were also currents of resistance, if not always consciously political.

The German historian Detlev Peukert , who pioneered the study of German society during the Nazi era, called this phenomenon "everyday resistance. Peukert and other writers have shown that the most persistent sources of dissatisfaction in Nazi Germany were the state of the economy and anger at the corruption of Nazi Party officials — although these rarely affected the personal popularity of Hitler himself.

The Nazi regime is frequently credited with "curing unemployment," but this was done mainly by conscription and rearmament — the civilian economy remained weak throughout the Nazi period. Although prices were fixed by law, wages remained low and there were acute shortages, particularly once the war started.

To this after was added the acute misery caused by Allied air attacks on German cities. The high living and venality of Nazi officials such as Hermann Göring aroused increasing anger. The result was "deep dissatisfaction among the population of all parts of the country, caused by failings in the economy, government intrusions into private life, disruption of accepted tradition and custom, and police-state controls. Otto and Elise Hampel protested the regime by leaving postcards urging resistance both passive and forceful against the regime around Berlin.

It took two years before they were caught, convicted and then put to death. Opposition based on this widespread dissatisfaction usually took "passive" forms — absenteeism, malingering, spreading rumours, trading on the black market, hoarding, avoiding various forms of state service such as donations to Nazi causes.

But sometimes it took more active forms, such as warning people about to be arrested, hiding them or helping them to escape, or turning a blind eye to oppositionist activities. Among the industrial working class, where the underground SPD and KPD networks were always active, there were frequent if short-lived strikes.

These were generally tolerated, at least before the outbreak of war, provided the demands of the strikers were purely economic and not political.

Another form of resistance was assisting the persecuted German Jews. By mid the deportation of German and Austrian Jews to the extermination camps in occupied Poland was well under way.

It is argued by some writers that the great majority of Germans were indifferent to the fate of the Jews, and a substantial proportion actively supported the Nazi programme of extermination. This was most pronounced in Berlin, where the Gestapo and SS were headquartered, but also where thousands of non-Jewish Berliners, some with powerful connections, risked hiding their Jewish neighbors. Aristocrats such as Maria von Maltzan and Marie Therese von Hammerstein obtained papers for Jews and helped many to escape from Germany.

In Wieblingen in Baden, Elisabeth von Thadden , a private girls' school principal, disregarded official edicts and continued to enroll Jewish girls at her school until May when the school was nationalised and she was dismissed she was executed in , following the Frau Solf Tea Party.

At the Foreign Office, Canaris conspired to send a number of Jews to Switzerland under various pretexts. It is estimated that 2, Jews were hidden in Berlin until the end of the war.

Martin Gilbert has documented numerous cases of Germans and Austrians, including officials and Army officers, who saved the lives of Jews. The Rosenstrasse protest of February was sparked by the arrest and threatened deportation to death camps of 1, Jewish men married to non-Jewish women. Before these men could be deported, their wives and other relatives rallied outside the building in Rosenstrasse where the men were held.

About 6, people, mostly women, rallied in shifts in the winter cold for over a week. Eventually Himmler, worried about the effect on civilian morale, gave in and allowed the arrested men to be released.

Some who had already been deported and were on their way to Auschwitz were brought back. There was no retaliation against the protesters, and most of the Jewish men survived. Nazism had a powerful appeal to German youth, particularly middle-class youth, and German universities were strongholds of Nazism even before Hitler came to power.

The Hitler Youth sought to mobilise all young Germans behind the regime, and apart from stubborn resistance in some rural Catholic areas, was generally successful in the first period of Nazi rule. After about , however, persistent alienation among some sections of German youth began to appear. This rarely took the form of overt political opposition — the White Rose group was a striking exception, but was striking mainly for its uniqueness.

Much more common was what would now be called "dropping out" — a passive refusal to take part in official youth culture and a search for alternatives.

Although none of the unofficial youth groups amounted to a serious threat to the Nazi regime, and although they provided no aid or comfort to those groups within the German elite who were actively plotting against Hitler, they do serve to show that there were currents of opposition at other levels of German society. Examples were the so-called Edelweisspiraten "Edelweiss Pirates" , a loose network of working-class youth groups in a number of cities, who held unauthorised meetings and engaged in street fights with the Hitler Youth; the Meuten group in Leipzig , a more politicised group with links to the KPD underground, which had more than a thousand members in the late s; and, most notably, the Swingjugend , middle-class youth who met in secret clubs in Berlin and most other large cities to listen to swing , jazz and other music deemed "degenerate" by the Nazi authorities.

This movement, which involved distinctive forms of dress and gradually become more consciously political, became so popular that it provoked a crackdown: In October , as the American and British armies approached the western borders of Germany, there was a serious outbreak of disorder in the bomb-ravaged city of Cologne , which had been largely evacuated.

The Edelweisspiraten linked up with gangs of deserters, escaped prisoners and foreign workers, and the underground KPD network, to engage in looting and sabotage, and the assassination of Gestapo and Nazi Party officials. Explosives were stolen with the objective of blowing up the Gestapo headquarters. Himmler, fearing the resistance would spread to other cities as the Allied armies advanced into Germany, ordered a savage crackdown, and for days gunbattles raged in the ruined streets of Cologne.

More than people were arrested and dozens were hanged in public, among them six teenaged Edelweisspiraten , including Bartholomäus Schink. The various groups of German resistance against the Nazi government had different attitudes to the Allies. The most visible resistance group of the July 20 plot wasn't interested in dealing with all the Allies, and pressed demands against such Allied countries as Poland and the Soviet Union; some of its members were involved in atrocities against people in these countries.

In particular the July 20th plotters demanded in their proposals to occupy Poland and annex its territory, while occupying the rest of East Europe and continuing war with the Soviet Union. The token representative of the July 20 Group, Claus von Stauffenberg, was known for his support towards German colonization of Poland as well as racist remarks regarding Polish Jews.

Many postwar German commentators blamed the Allies for having isolated the resistance with their demand of unconditional surrender, while ignoring that the resistance offered unrealistic demands towards the Allies. While English historians too have criticized the unconditional surrender, most of them agree that it had no real impact on the final outcome of the war.

While German popular memory and public discourse portrays the resistance as isolated due to demand of unconditional surrender, in reality its isolation was due to unrealistic expectations of what the Allies would accept; while German commentators write that the resistance tried "to save that which remained to be saved", they omit the fact that it included a significant portion of territories conquered by Nazi Germany from its neighbours.

The Allied doctrine of unconditional surrender meant that " President Roosevelt a telegraph message from Bern, warning him of the consequences that the knowledge of the Morgenthau plan had had on German resistance; by showing them that the enemy planned the enslavement of Germany it had welded together ordinary Germans and the regime; the Germans continue to fight because they are convinced that defeat will bring nothing but oppression and exploitation.

So far, the Allies have not offered the opposition any serious encouragement. On the contrary, they have again and again welded together the people and the Nazis by statements published, either out of indifference or with a purpose. To take a recent example, the Morgenthau plan gave Dr.

Goebbels the best possible chance. He was able to prove to his countrymen, in black and white, that the enemy planned the enslavement of Germany. The conviction that Germany had nothing to expect from defeat but oppression and exploitation still prevails, and that accounts for the fact that the Germans continue to fight. It is not a question of a regime, but of the homeland itself, and to save that, every German is bound to obey the call, whether he be Nazi or member of the opposition.

On 20 July — the first anniversary of the failed attempt to kill Hitler — no mention whatsoever was made of the event. This was because reminding the German population of the fact that there had been active German resistance to Hitler would undermine the Allied efforts to instill a sense of collective guilt in the German populace.

By mid the tide of war was turning decisively against Germany. The Army and civilian plotters became more convinced than ever that Hitler must be assassinated so that a government acceptable to the western Allies could be formed and a separate peace negotiated in time to prevent a Soviet invasion of Germany. This scenario, while more credible than some of the resistance's earlier plans, was based on a false premise: Since the Foreign Office was a stronghold of resistance activists, it was not difficult for the conspirators to reach the Allies via diplomats in neutral countries.

Bell passed their messages and plans on to Foreign Secretary Anthony Eden. An American journalist, Louis P. Lochner , carried coded messages out of Germany and took them to Roosevelt. Other envoys worked through Vatican channels, or via diplomats in Lisbon — a recognised site for indirect communication between Germany and the Allied countries. All of these overtures were rejected, and indeed they were usually simply ignored.

The western Allies would give the German resistance no assistance or even recognition. There were several reasons for this. First, they did not know or trust the resisters, who seemed to them to be a clique of Prussian reactionaries concerned mainly to save their own skins now that Germany was losing the war. This attitude was encouraged by visceral anti-Germans such as Lord Vansittart , Churchill's diplomatic adviser, who regarded all Germans as evil. Second, Roosevelt and Churchill were both acutely aware that the Soviet Union was bearing the brunt of the war against Hitler, and were aware of Stalin's constant suspicions that they were doing deals behind his back.

They thus refused any discussions that might be seen as suggesting a willingness to reach a separate peace with Germany. Third, the Allies were determined that in World War II , unlike in World War I , Germany must be comprehensively defeated in the field so that another "stab in the back" myth would not to arise in Germany.

Olbricht now put forward a new strategy for staging a coup against Hitler. The Reserve Army had an operational plan called Operation Valkyrie, which was to be used if the disruption caused by the Allied bombing of German cities caused a breakdown in law and order, or a rising by the millions of slave labourers from occupied countries now being used in German factories. Olbricht suggested that this plan could be used to mobilise the Reserve Army to stage a coup.

In the autumn of , Tresckow revised Valkyrie plan and drafted supplemental orders to take control of German cities, disarm the SS and arrest the Nazi leadership after Hitler's assassination. Operation Valkyrie could only be put into effect by General Friedrich Fromm , commander of the Reserve Army, so he must either be won over to the conspiracy or in some way neutralised if the plan was to succeed.

Fromm, like many senior officers, knew about the military conspiracies against Hitler but neither supported them nor reported them to the Gestapo. Badly wounded in North Africa, Stauffenberg was a devout Catholic, a political conservative and a zealous German nationalist with a taste for philosophy. He had at first welcomed the Nazi regime but had become rapidly disillusioned.

By he shared the widespread conviction among Army officers that Germany was being led to disaster and that Hitler must be removed from power.

For some time his religious scruples had prevented him from coming to the conclusion that assassination was the correct way to achieve this. After Stalingrad, however, he decided that not assassinating Hitler would be a greater moral evil. During late and early there were a series of attempts to get one of the military conspirators near enough to Hitler for long enough to kill him with a bomb or a revolver.

But the task was becoming increasingly difficult. As the war situation deteriorated, Hitler no longer appeared in public and rarely visited Berlin. He spent most of his time at his headquarters in East Prussia, with occasional breaks at his Bavarian mountain retreat in Berchtesgaden. In both places he was heavily guarded and rarely saw people he did not already know and trust. Himmler and the Gestapo were increasingly suspicious of plots against Hitler, and specifically suspected the officers of the General Staff, which was indeed the place where most of the young officers willing to sacrifice themselves to kill Hitler were located.

All these attempts therefore failed, sometimes by a matter of minutes. Further blows came in January and February when first Moltke and then Canaris were arrested. By the summer of the Gestapo was closing in on the conspirators.

There was a sense that time was running out, both on the battlefield, where the eastern front was in full retreat and where the Allies had landed in France on 6 June , and in Germany, where the resistance's room for manoeuvre was rapidly contracting. The belief that this was the last chance for action seized the conspirators.

Few now believed that the Allies would agree to a separate peace with a non-Nazi government, even if Hitler was assassinated. By this time the core of the conspirators had begun to think of themselves as doomed men, whose actions were more symbolic than real.

The purpose of the conspiracy was seen by some of them as saving the honour of themselves, their families, the Army and Germany through a grand, if futile, gesture, rather than altering the course of history.

Even if it fails, we must take action in Berlin. For the practical purpose no longer matters; what matters now is that the German resistance movement must take the plunge before the eyes of the world and of history. Compared to that, nothing else matters. In retrospect it is surprising that these months of plotting by the resistance groups in the Army and the state apparatus, in which dozens of people were involved and of which many more, including very senior Army officers, were aware, apparently totally escaped the attentions of the Gestapo.

In fact, as was noted earlier, the Gestapo had known since February of both the Abwehr resistance group under the patronage of Canaris and of the Goedeler-Beck circle. If all these people had been arrested and interrogated, the Gestapo might well have uncovered the group based in Army Group Centre as well and the July 20 assassination attempt would never have happened.

This raises the possibility that Himmler knew about the plot and, for reasons of his own, allowed it to go ahead. Himmler had had at least one conversation with a known oppositionist when, in August , the Prussian Finance Minister Johannes Popitz came to see him and offered him the support of the opposition if he would make a move to displace Hitler and secure a negotiated end to the war.

It is possible that Himmler, who by late knew that the war was unwinnable, allowed the July 20 plot to go ahead in the knowledge that if it succeeded he would be Hitler's successor, and could then lead to a peace settlement.

Popitz was not alone in seeing in Himmler a potential ally. General von Bock advised Tresckow to seek his support, but there is no evidence that he did so. Gordeler was apparently also in indirect contact with Himmler via a mutual acquaintance Carl Langbehn.

Canaris's biographer Heinz Höhne suggests that Canaris and Himmler were working together to bring about a change of regime. All of this remains speculation. Himmler in fact knew more about the real level of opposition to the Nazi regime than did the opposition itself. To the resistance activists it seemed that the German people continued to place their faith in Hitler no matter how dire the military and economic situation had become.

They showed a sharp decline in civilian morale and in the level of support for the Nazi regime, beginning after Stalingrad and accelerating through as the military setbacks continued, the economic situation deteriorated and the Allied bombing of German cities grew more intense.

By the end of Himmler knew that most Germans no longer believed that war could be won and that many, perhaps a majority, had lost faith in Hitler. Nevertheless, organised resistance begun to stir during As a result, Catholic unionists had been less zealously repressed than their socialist counterparts, and had maintained an informal network of activists.

Their leaders, Jakob Kaiser and Max Habermann , judged by the beginning of that it was time to take action. They organised a network of resistance cells in government offices across Germany, ready to rise and take control of their buildings when the word was given by the military that Hitler was dead. This position enabled Stauffenberg to attend Hitler's military conferences, either in East Prussia or at Berchtesgaden, and would thus give him a golden opportunity, perhaps the last that would present itself, to kill Hitler with a bomb or a pistol.

Conspirators who had long resisted on moral grounds the idea of killing Hitler now changed their minds — partly because they were hearing reports of the mass murder at Auschwitz of up to , Hungarian Jews, the culmination of the Nazi Holocaust.

These included General Carl-Heinrich von Stülpnagel , the German military commander in France, who would take control in Paris when Hitler was killed and, it was hoped, negotiate an immediate armistice with the invading Allied armies.

Non-territorial demands included such points as refusal of any occupation of Germany by the Allies, as well as refusal to hand over war criminals by demanding the right of "nations to deal with their own criminals". These proposals were only directed to the Western Allies — Stauffenberg wanted Germany only to retreat from western, southern and northern positions, while demanding the right to continue military occupation of German territorial gains in the east.

The plot was now as ready as it would ever be. Twice in early July Stauffenberg attended Hitler's conferences carrying a bomb in his briefcase. But because the conspirators had decided that Himmler, too, must be assassinated if the planned mobilisation of Operation Valkyrie was to have any chance of success, he had held back at the last minute because Himmler was not present — in fact it was unusual for Himmler to attend military conferences. By 15 July, when Stauffenberg again flew to East Prussia, this condition had been dropped.

The plan was for Stauffenberg to plant the briefcase with the bomb in Hitler's conference room with a timer running, excuse himself from the meeting, wait for the explosion, then fly back to Berlin and join the other plotters at the Bendlerblock. Operation Valkyrie would be mobilised, the Reserve Army would take control of Germany and the other Nazi leaders would be arrested. Beck would be appointed head of state, Gordeler Chancellor and Witzleben commander-in-chief. The plan was ambitious and depended on a run of very good luck, but it was not totally fanciful.

Again on 15 July the attempt was called off at the last minute, for reasons which are not known because all the participants in the phone conversations which led to the postponement were dead by the end of the year.

Stauffenberg, depressed and angry, returned to Berlin. On 18 July rumours reached him that the Gestapo had wind of the conspiracy and that he might be arrested at any time — this was apparently not true, but there was a sense that the net was closing in and that the next opportunity to kill Hitler must be taken because there might not be another. It is remarkable in retrospect that despite Hitler's mania for security, officers attending his conferences were not searched.

Stauffenberg, having previously activated the timer on the bomb, placed his briefcase under the table around which Hitler and more than 20 officers were seated or standing. After ten minutes, he made an excuse and left the room. Several officers were killed, but not Hitler. Possibly he had been saved because the heavy oak leg of the conference table, behind which Stauffenberg's briefcase had been left, deflected the blast.

But Stauffenberg, seeing the building collapse in smoke and flame, assumed Hitler was dead, leapt into a staff car and made a dash for the airfield before the alarm could be raised. By the time Stauffenberg's plane reached Berlin at about This was a fatal step literally so for Fellgiebel and many others , because the Berlin plotters immediately lost their nerve, and judged, probably correctly, that the plan to mobilise Operation Valkyrie would have no chance of succeeding once the officers of the Reserve Army knew that Hitler was alive.

There was more confusion when Stauffenberg's plane landed and he phoned from the airport to say that Hitler was dead. The Bendlerblock plotters did not know whom to believe. The vacillating General Fromm, however, phoned Keitel, who assured him that Hitler was alive, and demanded to know Stauffenberg's whereabouts. This told Fromm that the plot had been traced to his headquarters, and that he was in mortal danger.

Fromm now changed sides and attempted to have Stauffenberg arrested, but Olbricht and Stauffenberg restrained him at gunpoint. By this time Himmler had taken charge of the situation and has issued orders countermanding Olbricht's mobilisation of Operation Valkyrie. In many places the coup was going ahead, led by officers who believed that Hitler was dead. The Propaganda Ministry on the Wilhelmstrasse , with Joseph Goebbels inside, was surrounded by troops. The decisive moment came at By phone he personally empowered a loyal officer, Major Otto Remer , to regain control of the situation in Berlin.

Witzleben left shortly afterwards. At around this time the planned seizure of power in Paris was aborted when Kluge, who had recently been appointed commander-in-chief in the west, learned that Hitler was alive, changed sides with alacrity and had Stülpnagel arrested.

The less resolute members of the conspiracy in Berlin also now began to change sides. Fighting broke out in the Bendlerblock between officers supporting and opposing the coup, and Stauffenberg was wounded. Beck, realising the game was up, shot himself — the first of many suicides in the coming days.

Fromm declared that he had convened a court-martial consisting of himself, and had sentenced Olbricht, Stauffenberg and two other officers to death. Others would have been executed as well, but at Fromm went off to see Goebbels to claim credit for suppressing the coup. He was immediately arrested. That was the end of the German resistance. Over the coming weeks Himmler's Gestapo, driven by a furious Hitler, rounded up nearly everyone who had had the remotest connection with the July 20 plot.

The discovery of letters and diaries in the homes and offices of those arrested revealed the plots of , and , and this led to further rounds of arrests, including that of 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. Many people killed themselves, including Tresckow, Stülpnagel, Kluge and Rommel under Hitler's orders. Very few of the plotters tried to escape, or to deny their guilt when arrested.

It was as if they felt that now that honour had been satisfied, there was nothing further to be done. Hassell, who was at home in Bavaria, returned to his office in Berlin and awaited arrest. Others turned themselves in. Some plotters did manage to get away — Gisevius to Switzerland, for example.

Others survived by luck or accident. It appears that none of the conspirators implicated anyone else, even under torture. It was well into August before the Gestapo learned of the Kreisau Circle. Goerdeler was not arrested until August Those who survived interrogation were given perfunctory trials before the People's Court and its bullying Nazi judge Roland Freisler. Eventually some 5, people were arrested and about were executed [] — not all of them connected with the July 20 plot, since the Gestapo used the occasion to settle scores with many other people suspected of opposition sympathies.

After February 3, , 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's diary was found, and many more people were implicated. Executions continued down to the last days of the war. One of the final acts of resistance was Aktion Rheinland , an operation carried out by the resistance group in Düsseldorf led by Karl August Wiedenhofen.

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