July 20, 1944: Claus Philipp Maria Schenk Graf (Count) von Stauffenberg is unsuccessful. Stauffenberg was born in the Kingdom of Bavaria in the German Empire in 1907. The aristocratic family lived in the family castle with the patriarch being the last Oberhofmarschall of the Kingdom of Wutemberg. They were one of the most distinguished as well as the oldest Catholic aristocracies in southern Germany. On November 11, 1919, the new constitutional law as part of the Weimar Republic, abolished nobility privileges. Stauffenberg agreed with some of the Nazi Party’s nationalistic views, he was dismayed by their treatment of Jews and disrespect of religious freedom. He was also impressed by Hitler’s military acumen. He vacillated between these two positions even prior to the outbreak of war.
He was a loyal officer when the war began and saw much combat throughout the European theater. He was severely wounded on April 7, 1943 when his vehicle was strafed by fighter bombers. He lost his left eye, right hand, and two fingers on his left hand. He was sent home to one of the family castles to recuperate. He was approached (again) by the resistance to help them overthrow the Nazi Party and institute a coup d’état. The assassination of Hitler was part of the plan, the resulting coup was known as Operation Valkyrie. In August 1943, Colonel Henning von Tresckow met with Lieutenant Colonel Stauffenberg. The younger man, sure that Germany was being led to disaster, agreed that the solution was found in the removal of Hitler.
The two men plotted and organized at least four attempts to assassinate the Fuhrer. No one was able to get close enough to Hitler for long enough to complete the job with hand grenades, bombs, or guns. The war situation was worsening. The Gestapo was closing in and the feeling of “now or never” consumed the group. They were able to bring Erwin Rommel, the most popular General in Germany, into their fold. There was hope to carry out the plan but it was rumored that time was of the essence as impending arrests were on the horizon. Stauffenberg was invited to another Hitler conference on this day and flew in at 10 AM. He arrived with a bomb in his briefcase (again). The conference took place in the main room of the Wolf’s Lair rather than an underground bunker because of heat.
Around 12.30, the conference began. Stauffenberg used a rest room and while hidden away, crushed the pencil detonator inserted into a 2 pound block of plastic explosive wrapped inside paper. It would take about ten minutes before detonation. The set up was hampered by Stauffenberg’s war injuries and because he was interrupted before being able to set a second bomb. A planned phone call came in for Stauffenberg who left the room. Unfortunately, another attendee moved the briefcase with his foot and the bomb was deflected away and did not kill Hitler. The coup failed and over 7,000 arrests were made for the attempt. Stauffenberg was among those arrested. He died the next day at the age of 36. He was executed by firing squad.
Long live our sacred Germany! – Claus von Stauffenberg’s last words
Stauffenberg was motivated by the impulsive passions of the disillusioned military man whose eyes had been opened by the defeat of German arms. – Hans Bernd Gisevius
Had Stauffenberg’s bomb succeeded in killing Hitler, it is unlikely that the military coup planned to follow it would have moved the leading conspirators smoothly into power. – Richard Evans
Stauffenberg had a strong moral imperative – whether this stemmed from an aristocratic code of honour, Catholic doctrine or Romantic poetry – then this also underpinned his initial affinity for National Socialism which Stauffenberg misinterpreted as ‘spiritual renewal.’ – Karl Heinz Bohrer
Also on this day: One Small Step – In 1969, Neil Armstrong stepped out of the Eagle and walked on the moon.
Dethroned – In 1984, Vanessa Williams was asked to step down as Miss America.
Women’s Army Corps – In 1942, the Women’s Army Corps began training.
Special – In 1968, the first Special Olympics were held.
Alexander the Great – In 356 BC, the conqueror was born.
* “Bundesarchiv Bild 146-1972-025-12, Zerstörte Lagerbaracke nach dem 20. Juli 1944” by Bundesarchiv, Bild 146-1972-025-12 / CC-BY-SA. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 de via Wikimedia Commons – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Bundesarchiv_Bild_146-1972-025-12,_Zerst%C3%B6rte_Lagerbaracke_nach_dem_20._Juli_1944.jpg#/media/File:Bundesarchiv_Bild_146-1972-025-12,_Zerst%C3%B6rte_Lagerbaracke_nach_dem_20._Juli_1944.jpg