The 2008 Tom Cruise movie “Valkyrie” tells a story on how a military conspiratorial group led by Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg planned to assassinate German dictator and fascist Adolf Hitler. This attempt was not the first plot to kill Hitler. According to National Geographic, there were 42 discovered plots to kill Hitler and none was successful. Here are some of the most notable plots.
- 1 Maurice Bavaud (Munich, 9th November 1938)
- 2 Georg Elser, (Burberbraukeller, Munich, 8th November 1939)
- 3 Polish Army (Warsaw 5th October 1939)
- 4 Soviet Inteligence (1940s)
- 5 Foxley Operation (1944)
- 6 Henning Von Tresckow (1941 – 1944)
- 7 Rudolf von Gersdorff (March 1943)
- 8 Claus Von Stauffenberg (20 July 1944)
Maurice Bavaud (Munich, 9th November 1938)
Being a Swiss Roman Chatolic citizen and having attended Saint Ilan Seminary in Brittany France, Bavaud believed that Hitler was a thread to mankind and most importantly to Chatolic church in Switzerland and Germany. Bavaud became obsessed with the idea of killing Hitler and planned to do the assassination himself.
Bavaud planned to shot Hitler when marching in a parade called “Reichskristallnactht” in the city of Munich on 9th November 1938 . By posing as a Swiss reporter, Bavaud managed to get a VIP seat. Unexpectedly, Hitler changed his marching position to the far end of the street instead of in the middle. Bavaud tried to pull out his gun from inside his pocket but just when Hitler marched past him, the entire bystander reached out their arms for the Hittler’s salute, thus hindering Bavaud from taking the shot. But even if he made the shot, it would have failed anyway since the distance between him and Hitler was too wide to make the shot deadly.
After his first failure, Bavaud tried to follow Hittler’s move in order to get close enough to him. His attempts were never successful. Finally he ran out of money and took a train trip to Paris without buying ticket. The conductor turned him over to the police. Upon the discovery of the gun amongst Bavaud’s belonging, the police turned him over to the Gestapo. Swiss government had done nothing to save him. On 14th May 1941, Bavaud was beheaded by guillotine.
Georg Elser, (Burberbraukeller, Munich, 8th November 1939)
Image via DamnInteresting
Elser was a German citizen who was afraid that Hitler would bring devastation to Germany. He had no religious motive, instead he mainly concerned about labour issues. Elser despised restricted worker’s freedom, poor working condition and low wages. His skill as carpenter and previous working experience in a watch factory gave him the ability to build a wooden time bomb.
Elser planned to assassinate Hitler when giving annual speech in Burberbraukeller, a large beer hall in Munich, which was one of the gathering places of Nazi Party. Elser got this idea when he was attending the 1938’s Nazi gathering in that place and noted that the event was poorly guarded. In November 1938 Elser came to Munich and managed to stay inside Burberbraukeller. Every night he crawled into a hollow space behind a column where Hitler would give his speech. His bomb was so carefully made. Until today it is still consider a work of art. On 5th November 1939, the 50 kg bomb was completely installed. Elser set the bomb to explode at 21.20 on 8 November 1839.
Unexpectedly, in the last moment, Hitler decided to take late night train to get back to Berlin as Munich Airport was closed due to bad weather. Consequently he had to end his speech at 21.07. Thirteen minutes earlier than anticipated. At exactly 21.20 the bomb exploded killing 8 people and injuring more than 60 others. Elser’s assassination plan that would have changed history was failed. At the time of explosion, Elser was already on his way to Switzerland. He was arrested by the police when trying to cross the border. Elser was transferred to Munich and interrogated by Gestapo. He finally confessed. He was shot to death in 1945 only three weeks before the end of war in Dachau concentration camp.
Polish Army (Warsaw 5th October 1939)
In September 1939 Hitler’s troops invaded Poland. Polish Army, however, managed to continue their underground activity during the war. The underground army planned to assassinate Hitler during a Victory parade in Warsaw by planting a bomb in Square Charles de Gaulles. The bomb failed to explode.
Soviet Inteligence (1940s)
Image source : en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Olga_Chekhova
The soviet recruited Olga Checkova, a Russian-born actress who fled to and gain recognition in Berlin, as spy. Checkova was recruited due to her good relationship with Hitler. Soviet intelligence asked Checkova to introduce Hitler to two assassins. The plan was abandoned when the Russian started to win the war.
Foxley Operation (1944)
Image source : en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Berghof_(Hitler)
British Government through its Special Operation Executive (SOE) also planned to assassinate Hitler. The SOE first planned to put bombs in train that Hitler travelled in. This plan was abandoned because Hitler’s train schedule was never predictable and too irregular. The second plan was to poison Hitler’s food and beverage while he was travelling by train. Once again, this plan was abandoned as the SOE would require an inside man. The third plan which was considered the most acceptable was to assign a sniper to shot Hitler.
From a prisoner of war who had been part of Hitler’s security guard, the SOE obtained information of Hitler activities at the Berghof, a vocational place regularly visited by Hitler. It was revealed that at 10 AM everyday, Hitler would take his private walk around the woods, unguarded and out of sight of sentry posts. A Nazi flag visible from a nearby café was put up every time Hitler was there. The SOE planned to send 2 men wearing a German uniform by parachute into the area surrounding the compound.
Although Churhill favored the plan, not all SOE’s executive supported it. Many still believed that with the war almost over, it would not be a good idea to assassinate Hitler. Killing Hitler would make him sort of a martyr to some Germans and Nazism would probably live on. No decision was reached and the plan was never executed.
Henning Von Tresckow (1941 – 1944)
Image source : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Henning_von_Tresckow
Tresckow came from a Prussian noble family with long military tradition. He didn’t like the cruelty shown by Hitler’s regime in particular when Hitler started the mass shooting towards Jewish woman and children. Tresckow made numerous attempts to kill Hitler from 1941 – 1944.
In August 1941, Tresckow and his cousin Schlabrendroff planned to kidnap Hitler when travelling to Heeresgruppe Mitte. The plan failed because of high security. On March 1943 Tresckow concealed a plastic bomb in a package purportedly contained cognac bottles and tried to place it in Hitler’s Condor plane. The bomb failed to explode because the luggage compartment where the package was located was not heated. The low temperature had prevented the bomb from detonating. Schlabrendroff retrieved the package from the plane to prevent the discovery of the plot. A week after this failed plot, Tresckow made another attempt to blow Hitler. This time, the execution of the plan was on the hand of Gersdorff, Tresckow’s friend and ally.
Rudolf von Gersdorff (March 1943)
Gersdorff intended to do a suicide bombing. He carried 8 ounces C2 bomb and hide it in his pocket. He was a tour guide when Hitler visited Zeughaus Berlin to inspect Soviet captured weapons. His plan was to throw himself around Hitler after Hitler made his speech and blew the bomb that would surely kill them both. The bomb was set to explode within 10 minutes after the detonator was activated. Unexpectedly, Hitler ended the tour sooner than expected. Probably because he felt Gersdorff,s anxiety. Gersdorff managed to diffuse the bomb in a public lavatory. He evaded suspicion and become one of few German Military anti Hitler plotter who survive the war.
Claus Von Stauffenberg (20 July 1944)
Image source : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Henning_von_Tresckow
Born into an aristocrat Catholic family; Stauffenberg felt uneasy towards Hitler’s ill-treatment of Jews. Finally, his personal sense of justice and religious morality made him turn against Hitler.
Stauffenberg named his assassination plan “Valkrie Operation”. This is perhaps the most famous plot to kill Hitler. Stauffenberg planned to conceal two bombs in a briefcase and put it in the briefing room in Wolfsschanze, one of Nazi’s Headquarters, when Hitler held a meeting there on 20 July 1944.Because there was not enough time to arm the second bomb before the meeting began, only one bomb was successfully carried into the briefing room. Stauffenberg placed the briefcase as close as possible to Hittler and hurriedly excused himself. Unexpectedly, after his exit from the room, Colonel Brandt moved the briefcase away from its intended position.
The bomb exploded. Stauffenberg watched the explosion and convinced himself that no one could have survived the blast. He was wrong. He was in Berlin to initiate a military coup against Nazi’s leaders when he heard the news that Hitler suffered only minor injury. Scientist believes that the existence of windows on the walls of the meeting room had reduced the power of explosion. Moreover, the wrong placement of the bomb caused a heavy and solid oak conference table to form a shield that protected Hitler. Modern computer simulation shows that if only the second bomb were also used, the blast would have killed Hitler. Stauffenberg was shot to death.
Besides the above attempt, there are still numerous plots to kill Hitler, from bombing to poisoning. Although all have failed, it shows the world that not all German citizens or their military supported Hitler’s conduct and ideology.