Ein Anderer Hitler by Hermann Giesler: Valkyrie! part one
Valkyrie! The Last Plot against Hitler
Part One – The Bomb
Translation and Commentary by Carolyn Yeager and Wilhelm Mann
Copyright 2009 Carolyn Yeager
With the release of the Hollywood blockbuster movie starring Tom Cruise, the public has been given a dramatization of the historic confrontation between two visions of Germany during a time of total war – that of the old military-industrial aristocracy versus the new National Socialist. While media mavens have made heroes of the members of the Valkyrie conspiracy, Herman Giesler points out the substantial damage their plotting and communicating with the enemy did to the German war effort, costing many thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of German lives. In this and following articles in this "Valkyrie" series, you're shown the view from the other side – from the very commanding center of the struggle for the life of a nation.
Many of the same men were involved in earlier assassination attempts in November 1939 and March 1943; there was even a plot in 1938 led by Lt Colonel Hans Oster to prevent a military invasion of Czechoslovakia. Contacts with the British Foreign Office at that time led Undersecretary Vansittart to comment: “But that is treachery!” After the war, publication of an account of those contacts was forbidden in England.
In 1939, Georg Elser planted a bomb near the lectern at the November 8th, 1923 Putsch Anniversary dinner in Munich, but Hitler left early, escaping the explosion that left several dead and injured.
In 1942 and ’43, resistance member Helmuth von Moltke persisted in trying to arrange meetings in Stockholm with the British Political Warfare Executive. It was blocked by Churchill. In this regard, it should be remembered that beginning in 1939 the Hitler government was itself sponsoring secret peace feelers, and even detailed proposals, to high British government officials. All were rejected.
March 1943 saw two attempts to kill Hitler masterminded by General Henning von Tresckow. The first was a bomb placed on Hitler’s plane that failed to detonate [see Inside Secret Headquarters, Part Two, TBR May/June]; a week later Tresckow gotColonel Freiherr von Gersdorff to act as a suicide bomber at an exhibition Hitler would be attending. With two10-minute fuse bombs in his coat pockets, he was to get near to Hitler before they went off. But Hitler stayed only 8 minutes, leaving Gersdorff to run to the lavatory to defuse his bombs!
Hitler repeatedly escaped harm, making it seem that fate was on his side.
Much has been made of Hitler’s supposed “rage” against his generals and other military staff – for example, over the Elbrus affair (see TBR, May/June) and Halder’s dismissal. But Giesler reports nothing like that. Adolf Hitler didn’t chew the carpet or throw chairs around, but he did get angry. He seemed to have a reliable sense for loyalty or lack of it around him. It turns out that leading generals like Beck, von Kluge, von Hammerstein and Witzleben, and even von Brauchitsch, were already in the mid-thirties expressing cynical remarks and doubts within their old Reichswehr circles.
These men were often from old, aristocratic families with long military service; they felt resentment toward Hitler’s strategic and tactical directives, often disagreed with his decisions, considered them interference with general staff’s established knowledge and wisdom. It should be noted that most of the conspirators were from the general staff, not commanding officers in the field.
What makes Giesler a rare source is his close relationship to Adolf Hitler. As someone whose company Hitler enjoyed, Giesler was often called to Führer Headquarters to spend long evenings in discussion and drawing of city building projects. This time he arrived at Wolf’s Lair in East Prussia at the beginning of August; to keep Giesler from asking questions of the Führer, Martin Bormann made all the investigatory reports of the conspiracy available to him.
Giesler’s account begins in Munich on that fateful day.
On the late afternoon of July 20, 1944 my brother called me. “Close your office; organize all your co-workers who have military training and form a guard unit – if necessary, supply them with weapons. Send the rest home and stay by your telephone.
“After you give the necessary orders, drive immediately to my office and by no means allow yourself to be stopped on your way, even by military police. Do you have a weapon? No? It may be better I send a car and driver to pick you up. Your place now should be at my office.”
“Assassination of the Führer and the military is alarmed; Valkyrie has been unloosed in Berlin; the situation is still unclear.”
My brother, as an experienced company commander, secured his post and the immediate surrounding area. We then waited tensely for further news from Führer headquarters via the telegraph, from telephones, from the liaison office of the Wehrkreis (military district), for messages from the Party office, from the SS and the Gau1. It was with great relief when finally, in the late evening, we heard the Führer’s voice. In Munich and the whole Wehrkreis VII, everything was quiet; it remained that way, as far as we could judge, during the night.
A week later, architect and Minister of Armaments Albert Speer, under time pressure, picked up Giesler on his way to Stuttgart so they could discuss war construction, the labor force and steel quotas.
We then talked about July 20th ... Speer had been atFührerheadquarters and gave me his impressions of the fuller extent of the conspiracy. Worried, he said: “Even now, after the assassination, the Führer is still very much involved with the military and political consequences … he needs some distance from the assassination and all the disappointments. I believe that it’s time that you arrive at headquarters, Giesler, as you are the only one who can distract him, even for a few hours a day. Present him with city building plans – Linz and the Danube Bank construction; that will still be of interest and lead him out of permanent worrying.”
After a few days, the call came from Führer headquarters. Bormann was short: “Please come as soon as possible; the Führer is expecting you. Please bring along all the plans that might interest him; naturally everything that refers to Linz!”
Full of excitement to see Adolf Hitler and talk to him, I arrived at Hitler Headquarters Wolfsschanze. But what he told me confidentially during the following week, and what I found out, as ordered by him, from others; what I was reading in documents and protocols, and what I saw around me – shattered me deeply. All that I learned I would have thought impossible; it felt as unreal as spooks in the night.
Now that controls had been introduced, I entered Sperrkreis (restricted zone) I to report to Adolf Hitler; I met him in front of his bunker talking to his adjutant. Actually, Adolf Hitler made a few steps toward me: “I expected you and I’m glad to see you.” He shook my hand, guarding his right arm which was bent and held in a sling, and his right leg also, obviously hurting. The side of his face that was toward the explosion was slightly swollen; he had cotton in his ears. But I was surprised by his posture – I thought it would be worse.
At tea time, to which he invited me, he mentioned the assassination only briefly and spoke little about his injuries. Linge (his servant) showed me Hitler’s coat and the torn trousers which were split lengthwise like the ones worn by medieval mercenary soldiers. “They did check you, Giesler – understand that. It is an order for the time being, caused by the assassination – in future it will not be done with you.”
I didn’t agree. After all that happened here, I thought the control was naturally necessary – it could have been that someone put something into my briefcase. “No,” Hitler said, “you check for yourself before you cross the checkpoints.” Apparently, he must have given the orders because any checking in the future didn’t happen – as in late autumn, as well as January/February 1945 in the command bunker at the Reich Chancellery. I always, however, checked my briefcase and blueprints.
On the first evening we talked about city construction in Linz and Munich. For me, it was an unexpected and rare conversation during days of turbulent military and political events. At the beginning, Adolf Hitler looked deflated; in the course of our discussion he became visibly more energetic and open-minded.
The Kaltenbrunner Reports
The next morning Bormann asked me to see him, giving me this advice: “Please don’t put any questions to the Führer about July 20th and all that was connected with it, unless he himself talks about it. Try, however, to distract him – talk with him primarily about Linz. That’s what interests him most. On the other hand, I think it proper that you be informed correctly about all the happenings of July 20th. I will see to it that you will be informed about every detail of the deep web.” After a short pause –
"One happening is under absolute secrecy – the Führer will decide if you are to have knowledge about it. But I urgently ask, don’t approach Hitler on that matter!”
However, I could see all the supporting documents and interview protocols delivered by Kaltenbrunner to Bormann’s office. By getting an overview of the total network of the clique of traitors and the larger circle of people involved, I would be more likely to refrain from asking Hitler about the affair during our discussions.
Only later was it clear to me what Bormann really meant by that. From then on, in the morning hours and during the “Lage2” meetings, I was primarily in Bormann’s office. At those times, he pulled out of the vault the reports, the interview protocols, and lists of persons and investigations which are known today as the Kaltenbrunner Reports. But those documents were only a part – even though a very important one – of the entire web of high treason.
I sat down in the corner of his office and began reading the sober reports of conspiracy which already began pre-war and gradually increased in strength until it developed into a perfect form – betraying, above all, the struggling frontline and killing hundreds of thousands of soldiers.
The often dissonant-sounding remarks of Adolf Hitler since 1939: “I have the feeling of being surrounded by treason” – his former hints, as on November 6, 1939; middle January 1940; then, during “Weseruebung” (Norway campaign) at the end of the French campaign; adding in the partly depressing, partly angry reactions as I experienced them at Winniza in 1942 and Wolfsschanze in 1943 – now, by these reports and protocols, his suspicion was confirmed. But far more than that: happenings up to now unexplainable became transparent and finally made sense, worse than ever imagined.
I began with the reading of the (prepared) appeals to the Armed Forces and the German people. Gördeler 3 to the Armed Forces: “... something additional threatens to deprive you of the success of your victories which you gained from a leadership of educated and experienced men: Hitler's ‘strategic genius,’ which he claimed in an irrational delusion, and was disgustingly idolized by his lackeys. ‘Who wants to sole a boot has to learn it4.’”
Another appeal still better: “The Führer is dead! An immoral clique of battle-ignorant Party leaders, misusing the present situation, is trying to take over the government for selfish reasons, stabbing the fighting troops in their back ...” With that, (Field Marshal) von Witzleben wanted to address the German people and the Armed Forces, to introduce himself as the new Supreme Commander. I knew him – then still fresh from the glory of crossed marshal batons5. At the People’s Court they took pictures when he denied having any knowledge of the assassination and the military conspiracy, which was immediately refuted. When questioned: Well, what were your thoughts then, what was going to happen if the assassination would have succeeded? – he answered: “I am a military, I don't know anything about political and civilian matters.” In the second part of the sentence he sounded absolutely convincing.
The next documents were photocopies: kind of an operational plan of the putsch-government and a list of the ministers selected for the Reichskanzler (Federal Chancellor) Gördeler. On both documents ‘Speer’ was listed as minister – with a question mark, however. Surprised, I jumped up and went to Bormann, “What does that mean? – that's not possible!” Bormann looked up, “Comrade Giesler, on that matter everything is possible.”
Slowly he stood up, went to the vault, took out a voluminous file, opened it and showed me the top sheet – there was the name ‘Speer.’ Only that. “For your personal information,” he said, and returned the file to the vault. “You keep silent about all that,” he said, sitting down at his desk. That was enough for that day; I could not continue reading!
Giesler reflects on the role of Albert Speer
My thoughts went back to a talk with (Karl) Hanke, Gauleiter of Silesia. A war construction site in lower Silesia caused me to meet him several times in March 1944. In my judgment, he was a man full of character, with wise, attentive eyes and a well-shaped head. Hanke proved himself during the political battles in Berlin, and later as a soldier at the front. His clear formulations corresponded with his long activities as an under-secretary of state at Dr. Goebbels’ office.
One evening in Salzbrunn, Hanke asked me to advise him after the war with his plans for city rebuilding and solutions for traffic problems in Breslau, the capitol of Silesia. “Well,” I said to him, “aren't you closely associated with Speer? If I agree to fulfill your request, apart from being overloaded with my own work, it would be an affront against him which I don't want to happen.” Up till then, Speer could not even overlook the fact that I got the Munichassignment, and then in addition Linz. My job as an architect included, with the exception of Weimar, most of the Southwestern region of Germany.
"But, you also advise Mayor Freyberg in Leipzig."
"Yes," I answered, "but only because of the Führer's order when problems at the fair (Leipzig's annual International Trade Fair) arose in connection with the planned extension of the railway system.”
That was one more reason for him to talk to the Führer. For various reasons, he wanted me and not Speer as an advisor for Breslau. He had a very clear opinion of Speer's goals, knowing what's going on in his office. That worried him and did not sit well – the Führer should know about it. His particular mistrust extended to two of Speer's closest co-workers. Hanke mentioned the names – I knew both of them, one highly-ranked in the SA, the other in the SS.
"Do you know that Speer is after succeeding Hitler?” Yes, I had heard about it, but I considered it gossip – as an incorrect and overbearing opinion of Speer's personality by his staff. Here, wish might be the father of the thought.
"No,” contradicted Hanke, “there is more to it.” He doesn’t want to burden me with that stuff, but the Führer should know about it. He, however, cannot get an appointment; Bormann is completely shielding Hitler, isolates him from everything – that worries him also. I could ...”
"The protection by Bormann is Hitler's order,” I interrupted him. “And Adolf Hitler considers me only as his architect and would strongly object if I would dare to get mixed up in matters which are none of my business. Please understand that.”
"You’re right – I have to try by myself to talk to the Führer."
Remembering that talk with Hanke, his critique of Speer and Speer’s two co-workers, made me pensive. But how was Speer's attitude after the July 20th assassination to be explained, when he expressed to me his deep worry about Adolf Hitler, and when he asked me to take the Linz plans with me to the Führer headquarters? Other small events before the assassination, unimportant as they were then, seemed to me now rather strange.
At the end of June 1944, for instance, Speer called the leaders of the defense industry, the armament industry and the directors of the building industry to Linz and urged their utmost effort toincrease the production of the armament industry. That "Linzer convention" ended with Adolf Hitler's speech at the Platterhof at the Obersalzberg.
Speer and I were Hitler's guests that evening at the Berghof. After dinner, Speer said with urgency, "Giesler, by all means, find a moment to tell Hitler about the Linz convention and let him know that I ended it with the performance of Bruckner's 4th Symphonyat the aula of the St. Florian Abbey.” Speer knew how much Hitler liked that symphony. Late that evening, he suggested, “My Führer, I propose that Giesler should tell some funny anecdotes.”
With Speer, everything was practical and calculated – even as a ‘friend’ I considered him a stranger and full of riddles. Now his name appeared, though with a question mark, on the list of ministers of the traitors.
In the evening, Hitler talked to me about his successor. Was it a coincidence or was it a hint by Bormann, caused by my reaction in the morning? Adolf Hitler said, "After this terrible war, the only one who is privileged to appear in front of the nation is he who, as a soldier, risked his life, and justified it with his bravery and willingness to sacrifice. Naturally, he has to show the quality of a leader and charisma; he has to be wise and think logically – above all, however, he has to have character. Only a brave soldier of that war has the right to lead the Nation!”
Then he was silent for a long time. Next morning, I was sitting again in the corner of Bormann’s office and reading more messages, reports, documents. No further mention of Speer
The People’s Court
The reports and interrogations got more and more complicated. One peculiar incident of the interrogation of Theodor Strünck 6, for instance, impressed me quite a bit. He called Admiral Canaris shameless because, at Strünck’s interrogation, Canaris requested that he put everything on Oster and Dohnanyi 7.
During the evening hours, primarily around the time the “Lage” took place, the first film clips of the trial at the People's Court were shown. I did not want to miss anything and looked at the film for a while. Some of the accused I knew personally; of the others, I had formed impressions from reading the protocols, which the films now completed. Höpner, von Witzleben, Stieff – how much they differed from the young officers like Klausing and Bernardis! These admitted their deeds with military composure and yet still wanted to distance themselves. Well, if the younger ones would only have known what a miserable attitude dominated the plotter's heads.
I saw the counter-position of Major Von Leonrod with his confessor-priest, Father Wehrle 8, and listened to their terrifying discussion – I felt my way to the door and avoided further films.
On one evening, for one reason or another, Adolf Hitler talked about the 20th July. I told him I had seen some films of the trials at the People’s Court and I was shattered. Adolf Hitler remarked:
"I don’t want to see anything of that; it is enough that I have to read the reports. The assassination revealed very clearly to me that not only high treason – but also the ugly “Landesverrat”9 lost it’s disguise. For a long time I had already suspected treason; in Winniza I felt it directly – often I thought I felt physically furtive glances. But much more, far beyond what has been reported, I have now learned. After a sober consideration, I think it’s proper to be silent – for the sake of the fighting troops and the unity of the nation.
"That reactionary clique plotted since 1938, if not earlier, for my fall by revolt or assassination. But it was not in accordance with their character to confront me openly with a weapon. How they must have hated me, and National Socialism, when they betrayed without scruple, and so miserably, even the fighting troops. The whole scope of that shameful plot one can now see – it is so revolting! Rattenhuber and Högl will tell you some of it; however, keep it confidant. I’ve bound everyone who knew about it to silence; that also includes you.”
1) Gau is a Party District. It usually covered the same territory as the state administration, but the Gauleiter was the NSDAP head of the Gau, while the Reichstatthalter was the chief administrator for the State.
2) Short for Lagebesprechung, a military situation meeting held twice a day with all the Führer’s close advisors, and field commanders called in as needed.
3) Carl Friedrich Gördeler was mayor of Liepzig from 1930 until his resignation in 1937. He then became director of the overseas sales department at the firm of Robert Bosch GmbH and used the "cover" of his job to travel abroad promoting an anti-Nazi position. He was the leading instigator in several planned putsches against Hitler and was to be the new federal chancellor upon the success of the Valkyrie plot.
4) A popular saying of German shoemakers.
5) Under Hitler, Col. Generals received the new rank of Fieldmarshal, in a ceremony in which they were given ornate gold and ivory batons.
6) An insurance executive who also worked in Canaris’ Abwehr; clandestinely active with the heads of the conspiracy.
7) Hans Oster was a general and deputy of Admiral Canaris at the Abwehr. Hans von Dohnanyi was a civil servant, a high-ranked lawyer recruited by Oster for the Abwehr.
8) Leonrod, a member of Bavaria’s old nobility, was designated in the Valkyrie plans as liaison officer in military district VII (Munich). He said in his defense that he consulted his “father confessor” Chaplain Hermann Wehrle, who did not take him into the confessional, but advised him to stay away from treasonable enterprises. Thus Wehrle was implicated and both were executed.
9) Landesverrat is a kind of treason of passing domestic or military secrets to a foreign power.
A Day at the Bendlerblock—July 20th, 1944
As a supplement to Hermann Giesler’s story of the day’s events as given to him by the investigators, Wilhelm Mann has written this dramatic account of how the conspiracy unfolded and collapsed within the walls of the Bendlerblock, the makeshift headquarters of the hopeful new governing elite of the Reich.
The Bendlerblock was a complex of buildings taking up most of a city block that housed the main military offices in Berlin. It was so named because it was located on Bendlerstrasse (Bendler Street) in central Berlin. Bendlerstrasse and Bendlerblock were used interchangebly to identify the military headquarters. Today it serves as a secondary office of the German Federal Ministry of Defense. In 1955, the street name was changed to Stauffenbergstrasse, as part of the glorification of the July 20thassassin as a hero of the nation.
By Wilhelm Mann
Bendlerblock entry in 1942 (left) and more recent
Trusted generals of the Third Reich waited nervously in their offices at the Bendlerblock – Berlin headquarters of the OKW Home Command and General Army Office (AHA) – for the call from Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg that the bomb had this time exploded and killed Hitler.
Notable among them were: Col General Ludwig Beck (retired since 1938); Col General Friedrich Fromm, Chief of the Home Army Command; General Friedrich Olbricht, Chief of the AHA, and his chief of staff Colonel Albrecht Mertz von Quirnheim; General Fritz Thiele, Deputy Chief of Communications (under General Erich Fellgiebel); Col General Erich Hoepner, retired but now in uniform again; Hans Bernt Gisevius, ex-Gestapo man just in from Switzerland.
Shortly after 1 p.m. the message came in from Wolfsschanze and it was Fellgiebel’s voice: “Something fearful has happened; the Fuehrer’s alive.”
General Thiele and General Olbricht listened on the phone. Fellgiebel, Chief of Communications at Headquarters, did not tell them that, shortly before, hoping to avoid serious complications for himself, he had congratulated Hitler on his escape. The two didn’t know what really happened – if the bomb didn’t explode or Stauffenberg failed to place the briefcase that contained it. They didn’t convey the message to anyone else either, instead decided to wait and went to lunch, or – as Thiele was said to do – walk uneasily through the nearby Tiergarten Park.
By 3 p.m. they were back at Bendlerstrasse, still very cautious, unsure what to do. Rumors of a failed bomb attempt were floating. Communication between different Army offices and Headquarters went on, causing further confusion – the telephone line from Wolfsschanze remained open (an error by Fellgeibel), so Field Marshal Wilhelm Keitel and Lt General Wilhelm Burgdorf were able to call various Wehrkreise and individual commanding officers to counteract the Valkyrie order.
Stauffenberg landed at Berlin-Rangsdorf airport shortly after three o‘clock and called Bendlerstreet with the message: “Hitler is dead.” When the Colonel arrived after 4 p.m., General Olbricht was still hesitant to act. Without Olbricht’s authority, his chief of staff Col. Mertz von Quirnheim initiated the first written and verbal orders of Valkyrie. “He railroaded me,” Olbricht said later to Gisevius.
Stauffenberg and Olbricht together entered the office of Home Army Chief Fromm and informed him of Hitler’s death, then requested that the Army take over as the governing authority of Germany. Fromm expressed strong doubts. Olbricht, now convinced that Stauffenberg was telling the truth that Hitler had been killed, suggested that Fromm might call Field Marshal Keitel at Wolfsschanze to find out. Upon doing so, Keitel assured him that Hitler was alive.
A highly dramatic exchange of words, blunt confrontations and even physical encounters with drawn revolvers followed.
Fromm: “Keitel told me Hitler is alive!”
Stauffenberg: “Keitel is a liar – he has lied often in the past. I saw Hitler carried out dead.”
Olbricht: “We issued Valkyrie.”
At that Fromm exploded. He raised his fist, accused the three of high treason and put them under arrest. Stauffenberg turned it around and tried to put Fromm under arrest – a comic situation except for the seriousness of it. Stauffenberg shouted, “I activated the bomb – Hitler is dead.” Fromm countered: “You shoot yourself, the assassination failed.” Stauffenberg moved toward Fromm; Fromm jumped up and threatened Stauffenberg. Now von Kleist and von Haeften, Stauffenberg’s aides, rushed in with drawn pistols and the turbulence settled at once.
No longer in authority, General Fromm was given another chance to change his mind – he did not. He and his adjutant, Capt. Bartram, were locked in his office with their telephone blocked and Col General Hoepner took over.Now the new Commander of the Home Army, Hoepner had been stripped of his army command a few years ago and had arrived at the Bendlerblock in his civilian clothes, carrying his uniform in a suitcase.
In the meantime, the teleprinters had started to dispatch the Valkyrie code and follow-up orders to all the sixteen Wehrkreise. It was a slow process as the order sheets had to first be coded, and then decoded at the other end; some Wehrkreis offices didn’t receive it until the whole affair was over.
General Paul von Hase, the Berlin city commander, was now supposed to move the various military units in and around Berlin – to occupy or cordon off all the places, offices and ministries according to the Valkyrie plan.
Bendlerblock on the afternoon of July 20, 1944
Between 4:00 and 5:00 p.m., the Bendlerblock saw many new arrivals. It began to look like a gathering of the old Reichswehr, with the Prussian/Bavarian/Silesian nobility: Ludwig Beck, retired Col General and former chief of staff, now designated commander of the revolt government, dressed in civilian clothes; the Counts von Schulenburg, York von Wartenburg, von Bismark-Schoenhausen, von Schwerin-Schwanenfeld, von Hammerstein, and Berthold von Stauffenberg (brother of Claus); Klaus Bonhoeffer and Dr. Otto John. Shortly afterward, Berlin’s Chief of Police Wolf-Heinrich Count von Helldorf arrived with Hans Gisevius.
Only Carl Goerdeler, the future chancellor, and Field Marshal Erwin von Witzleben, the new chief of the Wehrmacht, were missing. Goerdeler’s whereabouts were unknown; he had gone into hiding several days before. Beck asked about Witzleben and was told by Gisevius that he was on his way to Zossen (OKH - Oberkommando Heer/Army Supreme Command) to take over command of the Wehrmacht.
The commander of Wehrkreis III-Berlin, General Joachim von Kortzfleisch, was called to Bendlerstrasse and told by Olbricht that Hitler was dead, the Army was taking over and the troops in Berlin should be dispatched according to Valkyrie plans. Kortzfleisch refused and shouted, “The Fuehrer is not dead – Fuehrer is not dead!” When he tried to leave the offices, he was detained at gunpoint. General von Thuengen took over for Kortzfleisch, going to his headquarters at Hohenzollerndamm, where he was not involved in any further action.
Olbricht gave chief of police Helldorf the order to alert his police forces and await further instructions; after a short while Helldorf left for the police headquarters and Olbricht returned to his office. Increasingly impatient, Gisevius asked Beck to call Lt. General Wagner, the deputy chief of staff in Zossen, and order him to proceed according to the Valkyrie plans.
But at Zossen, Lt. General Wagner informed Witzleben that Hitler was alive. When Witzleben arrived at the Bendlerblock around 8:00 p.m. he was furious about the course of events. “This is a fine mess,” he said, and vehemently argued with both Stauffenberg and Beck, banging his fist on the table. He left for Zossen in a rage; the conspiracy was without its military commander – the commander never had any troops! Witzleben was not seen again; he realized the putsch was over.
The talking, arguing and telephoning continued. Beck quietly overlooked the operation, not saying a word. Stauffenberg feverishly telephoned the Wehrkreise to get Valkyrie activated. Gisevius urged ‘action now’ and argued for forming assault parties of officers to go into the field, pending the arrival of troops. Soon after, he left for Helldorf’s police headquarters to answer Helldorf’s urgent request to know the situation at Bendlerblock..
In the middle of all the turbulence, an unbelievable scene occurred: The black-silver uniformed SS Oberfuehrer Pifrader from the RSHA (Reichs Sicherheits Hauptamt-SS Security chief) walked in and requested that Colonel Stauffenberg accompany him for an interview at the RSHA office. He was immediately apprehended by the conspirators and put under guard.
From a newspaper story at the time commending Major Remer
Remer’s decisive move
The Guard Battalion “Grossdeutschland,” commanded by Major Otto Ernst Remer, was an elite troop of battle-hard soldiers and highly decorated front officers. It was divided into four companies of about 1000 to1200 men. Remer dispatched three companies to cordon off the center of the city, according to General Hase’s order. He kept one company in reserve at the Lustgarten area. As a good soldier Remer obeyed the order, but when General Hase gave him a Lt Colonel as a liaison, he became suspicious.
By 6 p.m. the platoons were all in their positioned places. Remer checked them out and returned to Hase’s headquarters at Unter den Linden. When he overheard a muffled talk between Hase and his chief of staff Lt. Colonel Schoene to arrest Goebbels, he knew there was something fishy going on. He called his officers to a meeting.
Josef Goebbels was Gauleiter for Berlin and Minister for Propaganda and Cultural Affairs, but also Reichs Defense Commissioner for The Gau-Berlin. Lt. Hagen, one of Major Remer’s officers who worked for a time at Goebbels’ ministry, suggested he visit Goebbels at his residence immediately. Remer was suspicious that perhaps Goebbels was involved in a Party conspiracy against Hitler, and Goebbels was not sure about Remer. After a dramatic verbal exchange between the two at Goebbels’ apartment, Remer was handed the telephone and heard the Fuehrer at the other end of a direct line to Wolfsschanze, never blocked by Fellgiebel.
“Do you recognize my voice, Major?” asked Hitler, and Remer acknowledged that he did, having spoken privately with Hitler not that long ago. Hitler gave him the order to snuff out the plot with all his might and energy. He made Remer the de facto Commandant of Berlin until the newly appointed Commander of the Home Army, Reichsfuehrer SS Heinrich Himmler, arrived. At Goebbels’ invitation, Remer set up a new command post in the downstairs room of the house. It was 6:30 p.m.
“Alea iacta”- The die has been cast
By that time, the teleprinter and telephones at Bendlerblock had ordered the Wehrmacht units located in and around Berlin to their specified areas. When most of the marching military units reached the areas cordoned-off by Remer, his officers contacted the commanders of the arriving units and they were put under Remer’s command. For a short while a serious problem occurred – Remer’s platoons were confronted with an armored group from Krampnitz, a suburb of Berlin. Their tanks were on standby not far away from Goebbels’ residence. It took some talking, telephoning and some pushing by Remer’s subalterns before they learned that the unit would only obey orders from Col General Guderian, and Guderian was on Hitler’s side. Clear road all the way.
Remer sealed off the whole district around the Bendlerblock and set guards at all street corners and building entrances; he issued strict instructions to accept orders only from his command post. Lt. Schlee, one of Remer’s platoon leaders who guarded the front and main entrance of the Bendlerblock, was shuttling between Remer and Olbricht, receiving different orders. He was detained at one point by Col. Mertz von Quirnheim, but when Quirnheim left the room, he walked out without being checked or held up. He immediately reported to Remer the situation there, including discovering General Kortzfleish locked in an upper story room, and that none of the orders of Fromm’s Home Army had been dispatched. (The men in the communications center, starting to catch on, deliberately delayed sending the messages, or in some cases didn’t dispatch them at all.) This report convinced Remer that the center of the conspiracy was located in the building on Bendlerstrasse.
Col. Gen Fromm and his adjutant Capt. Bartram were still locked up at Fromm’s office without a telephone connection, but with a functioning radio, which told them that the assassination failed. A small, little known exit in their office made it possible for Bartram to slip out several times and deliver a counteraction order from Fromm to the staff officers of the AHA on a different floor of the building. Fromm was also allowed by Olbricht to move to his apartment in another part of the building.
Herbert, von Heyden, Pridun and Harnack – officers of AHA not in the conspiracy – were ordered to Olbricht’s office for guard duty. They instead requested answers about the tumultuous goings on in his offices and the Bendlerblock entrance. Olbricht’s answer was halting and evasive. The four officers refused cooperation and let Olbricht know their soldier’s oath to Hitler was binding. They left the office without any hindrance.
All of a sudden, shots were fired. A dozen officers entered with weapons – Herbert was shooting, Pridun was shot by Stauffenberg, who in turn took a hit in his arm. Bullets were flying; blood was on the floor – an unbelievable tumult.
During all this tangled confusion, Lt. Colonel Herbert was able to get Fromm out of his apartment and back to his office, where Beck, Stauffenberg, Hoeppner, Olbricht, Mertz von Quirnheim and Haeften were held at gunpoint by the AHA officers. Fromm then said to them, “Well gentlemen, I am now going to do to you what you did to me this afternoon.” They were disarmed and a court martial was set up. General Beck asked to keep his revolver; he was granted permission, with Fromm telling him to “hurry.” He raised his gun and shot himself through his temple, but the wound was not fatal. He staggered and, helped by Stauffenberg, tried again, collapsed, but remained alive.
Fromm ordered Capt. Bartram to form a firing squad and gave the five men time to write their last words and wishes. Olbricht immediately began writing, while Hoepner asked Fromm for a man-to-man talk. After a half hour, Fromm urged them to finish.
In the meantime, the order was given by Major Remer to the Lt.’s Schlee, Arnds and Schady to enter the Bendlerblock and arrest the leaders of the conspiracy. When they approached the building, a scuffle began with a group of officers guarding the entrance. Fists were swinging, bodies pushing, but no shots exchanged. The officers who tried to block them were locked up in the porter’s lounge. When Schlee entered the hall, shouts and shots echoed through the floor and ceilings.
Informed that Schlee’s Guard Battalion soldiers were entering the building, Fromm quickly announced, “In the name of the Fuehrer … (naming the accused) … are condemned to death.” Stauffenberg then spoke, trying to take responsibility for the whole thing, saying the others were only following his orders, to which Fromm said nothing. The condemned men, except for Hoepner, who was taken away to a military prison after his private meeting with Fromm, were marched out of the office. Fromm now ordered a staff officer to give General Beck the mercy shot and left the building for Goebbel’s residence.
In the courtyard of the Bendlerblock, shortly after midnight, under the glare of some automobile head lights, Valkyrie found its bloody end.~~
The History of the German Resistance 1933-1945. Peter Hoffmann, McGill-Queen’s University Press, Montreal & Kingston, Third Edition 1996
History of the German General Staff 1657-1945. Walter Goerlitz, Barnes & Noble Inc., 1995
To The Bitter End. Hans Bernd Gisevius, Houghton Mifflin Co., Boston, 1947
Inside Hitler’s Headquarters, 1939-1945. General Walter Warlimont, Presidio Press, Novato, Cal., Bernard & Graeve Verlag, 1962.
The Journal for Historical Review, Vol. 8, No.1, 1988, “My Role in Berlin on July 20, 1944” by Otto Ernst Remer.
Ein Anderer Hitler by Hermann Giesler: Valkyrie! part three
Valkyrie! The Last Plot against Hitler
Part Three – The Last Circle
Translation and commentary by Carolyn Yeager and Wilhelm Mann
from Hermann Giesler’s memoir, Ein Anderer Hitler, Druffel Verlag, Leoni am Starnberger,6th edition, 1982.
Copyright 2009 Carolyn Yeager
"They asked for the death sentence and it cannot be anything else. It is just. I erred and did wrong. It was not right to arrogantly interfere as a little human being with God’s doing.”
Those were the last lines written by General Helmuth Stieff to his wife immediately after being sentenced to death by the People’s Court on the afternoon of August 8, 1944 – going to the gallows the same day.1 As Chief of Operations at Army High Command (OKH), Stieff was in a prime position to help the conspiracy – he had regular access to Hitler; he hid the bombs in his office at the OKH headquarters inMauerwald, East Prussia, not far from Wolfsschanze.
Stieff’s first contact was with Army Group Center Chief Henning von Tresckow; together they met with Generals Friedrich Olbricht and Ludwig Beck in Berlin in August 1943. They approached General Guderian and General Kluge, but neither one would commit. In October, Stauffenberg asked Stieff outright to kill Hitler and Stieff refused. But Stieff put the bombs into the uniforms to be displayed to Hitler at Klessheim Castle, as described by Giesler in this chapter. Stieff was in charge of the event at Klessheim, and after this failure, it was decided that Stauffenberg was the only one who could complete the job.
General Stieff was on the plane with Stauffenberg and his aide Lt. Haeften on their flight to Wolf’s Lair July 20th. He was arrested that night at the OKH headquarters, interrogated by SS investigator Hans Rattenhuber, and held from then on.
In this third segment of our Valkyrie series from Herman Giesler, the final reaches of the multiple conspiracies and related treasons and betrayals are probed. You will feel, in their anger and arguments against these men and their methods, the sharp pain and deep sadness felt by Hitler and Giesler at the inestimable damage done to the war effort.
Giesler and Bormann review past assassination attempts
The hard and sober Kaltenbrunner reports about the interrogations and confessions of the conspirators continued to come in. I had a backlog of reading. For quite a while in my off hours I was busy with design sketches – partly as supporting material for new discussions, partly due to the ideas and suggestions Adolf Hitler brought to our nightly talks. Moreover, I needed time in order to absorb and gain some distance from what Rattenhuber and Hoegl had told me.
One morning as I visited Bormann again, he handed me the reports about the interrogation of Major General [Helmuth] Stieff. One could get the impression that instead of working for the tasks they were supposed to perform, the plotters spent most of their time brooding about set-ups and ways to kill their supreme commander – by means of the least danger for themselves. They must stay alive.
According to Stieff, Stauffenberg, at least for awhile, thought to let his adjutant, Lt. [Werner von] Haeften, attempt to shoot the Führer; that would be possible at the “Führer-Lage” or at a weapons demonstration. Then, however, they thought that might not be secure enough.
After that much hesitation, Stieff himself – so he said – wanted to take over the assassination on the occasion of a weapons demonstration at the Klessheim Castle near Salzburg, built by Fischer von Erlach2. I had participated in redesigning it into a guesthouse of the Reich. After the heavy weapons demonstration, the Führer was to be shown the new assault uniform for the attack units: backpack, assault rifle, hand grenades. Three sergeants and non-commissioned officers, highly decorated with the Gold Ranger Bar (Nahkampf-spange)3, were selected. Major General Stieff intended to have the packs loaded with English explosives and a time igniter – to be sure to keep his self at a proper distance from the explosion. But because of a time lapse and a predetermined appointment, the Führer cancelled the presentation of the new assault equipment after the weapons demonstration and we returned to the Berghof.
During the demonstration, a little general kept my attention: nervously busy, he stood out amongst the rest of the military staff. “Who is that little one here?” I had asked the SS adjutant. “That is Major General Stieff.” I recalled that particular moment as I continued to read the Rattenhuber report: “….true horror among the population, especially amidst soldiers and low ranked leaders, caused by the fact that the traitors planned to lay the bomb into the knapsacks of three battle-proven soldiers who would demonstrate the new uniforms for the Fuehrer….”
I looked at Bormann and said, “If what Stieff admitted is correct, then he is really a special jewel of this conspiracy clique! Do you judge Stauffenberg, who carries out the assassination without consideration for his co-conspirator Brandt, whom he blows into the air, as the better one? For me, the over-all picture is very clear: when Stauffenberg landed at Berlin-Rangsdorf and reported the – what he thought successful – assassination to those waiting at Bendlerstrasse, didn’t he say then: ‘General Stauffenberg speaking here!’ Look at that, he had promoted himself to a general. By the way, do you remember the report of the ordnance officer about the strange behavior of Stauffenberg at the Berghof on July 11?”
"The ‘Lage’ held in the large living room at the Berghof was not yet over. Stauffenberg was no longer needed and asked for permission to be absent – it happened not so long ago. We were both chatting at the back of the hall towards the small living room when the orderly appeared and reported: ‘I just looked over the dining room to make sure that everything is ready for lunch, and there in the middle, behind the Führer’s chair, stands the Colonel with the one arm. I told him: The room is private, may I ask you ….? He interrupted me: Pardon, I only wanted to have a look at it!’”
"Yes,” I said to Bormann, “I remember that the Colonel with the one arm also said to the orderly: Very neat here, beautiful, especially with the bay window – before the orderly asked him to leave the dining room.”
Bormann said, “I then questioned the orderly further – I found out he (Stauffenberg) had a briefcase with him. What do you think was in it?”
"Turnip salad and pudding – in order to contribute something for lunch?” was my joking remark.
Bormann grimaced. “Today we know that nobody could have noticed the briefcase under the broad, long table with the low-hanging tablecloth. At that time, you were the honored guest, sitting across from the Führer – sometime you might thank that Corporal!”
The Berghof dining room, with its decorative cembra pine paneling (Swiss stone pine). The dining room was located in the eastern extension of the Berghof building. Hitler sat in the middle of the table on the right, facing the windows and the view of the Untersberg mountains. Stauffenberg commented on the view through the window when he was discovered in the dining room by the orderly on July 11, 1944. (period postcard)
I replied, “Those repeated assassination tries which ended in vain seem to be fateful. I think about the plot at the Buergerbraeu4 – and with a bomb on the airplane5 they have tried it once before. Now I’m reading about the infamy at Klessheim, and the memory of the affair at the Berghof. Then the 20th July – miraculously the Führer survives with only light injuries. Are there still some more attempts I don’t know about?”
"That 'attempt' with the slight injury is only one side of the coin,” Bormann said. “The other one sits much deeper, believe me! To your question: Yes, there were more assassination attempts which only now we are aware of. Talk about it with both of them6 – I don’t have time.”
For awhile I continued reading the interrogation protocols of Admiral Canaris and his protégé Oster – very opaque, strangely blurred. Dark and depressing as those reports were, an amusing moment occurred: the copy of a letter to Major General [Hans von] Oster from his son Achim, IA at an army corps in Upper Silesia. Its content stayed strongly engraved in my mind. It read like:
The conditions are very pleasant here. The commanding general is a horseman and grand seigneur of the ancient regime, a real general, not one of those ‘people’ soldiers.
I would have liked to have a look at that General.
Treason Centered in The Abwehr and Army Group Center
Translators’ commentary: General Major Hans von Oster was an early opponent of what he feared would be inopportune military solutions for the Czechoslovak and Polish questions. He was a religious man (as were Stieff and Stauffenberg) who was forced to resign from the Army in 1932 because of an indiscretion involving the wife of another officer. After a job in connection with the Prussian Police, he was able to transfer to the Abwehr, the state intelligence agency, the following year, where he met Hans Berne Gisevius and Arthur Nebe, working in the Gestapo, and became a confidante of Wilhelm Canaris, the chief of the spy agency.
By 1935, Oster was allowed to re-inlist in the Army, but never on the General Staff. When Canaris reorganized the Abwehr in 1938, he made Oster head of the Central Division (Zentralamt), in charge of personnel and finances. As such, Oster was able to build up a dense network of contacts to Western countries. He was in the thick of secret efforts to prevent a Czech invasion in ’38; through his office, he arranged foremissaries to Great Britain to urge the British to stand firm over the Czech/Sudenten crisis – clear treason. Hitler's diplomatic triumph with Chamberlain in Munich left the conspirators disheartened. Some lost interest, at least temporarily, but Oster did not give up. He took upon himself the central planning of all future plot plans.
To understand the contempt that Hermann Giesler expresses for Hans Oster, the following incident should suffice: Oster informed the Netherlands' military attaché, his friend Bert Sas in Berlin, more than twenty times of the exact date of the many times weather-delayed invasion of the Netherlands. Sas passed the information to his government, but was not believed! Oster himself said he calculated that his treason could cost the lives of 40,000 German soldiers, but concluded that it was necessary to prevent even more deaths during a protracted war should Germany achieve an early victory.
Oster worked closely with Henning von Tresckow, Chief of Army Group Center, and with General Friedrich Olbricht, head of the General Army Office at the Bendlerblock in Berlin. It was Oster’s Abwehr group that supplied the English-made bombs that Tresckow used in the assassination attempts of 1943. One of this group was Hans von Dohnanyi, Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s part Hungarian-Jewish brother-in-law.
But trouble came in April 1943 when the Gestapo entered the Abwehr to arrest Dohnanyi for violations of foreign exchange regulations (illegal money transfers, to be exact), including cash transactions with Jauch & Huebener, Germany’s largest insurance company. (Today it is American firm Aon. Walter Jauch was related by marriage to Hans Oster.) Present at the time, Oster was caught trying to hide incriminating notes. That was the end of his Abwehr intrigues; he was dismissed and closely watched by the Gestapo from then on. Dohnanyi was eventually sent to the Sachensausen detention camp for political prisoners, where he was put to death on April 8, 1945 as a July 20th conspirator. Oster was arrested on July 21, 1944, the day after the assassination; on April 4, 1945, the diaries of Wilhelm Canaris were discovered. That sealed the fate of both men. Thus on April 9th, Oster and Canaris, along with Bonhoeffer and four other men, were hanged at Flossenbuerg as traitors to their country.
Wilhelm Canaris had been playing a double game for a long time. Enough evidence had finally come to light that Hitler had already dismissed him from the Abwehr in Feburary 1944, replacing him with Walter Schellenberg and merging much of the Abwehr with the Sicherheitsdienst (SD), the SS Security Office headed by Heinrich Himmler. Canaris was put under house arrest, preventing him from taking part in the July 20th plot.
An interesting detail: Under Canaris (and Oster and Dohnanyi), hundreds of Jews were given token Abwehr training and issued papers to leave Germany. One of those is said to have been the Lubavitcher Rebbe in Warsaw, Rabbi Yosef Schneersohn.7 If true, we can thank Canaris for the strong presence of the Lubavitcher tribe in the U.S.
General Hans Oster ....Admiral Wilhelm Canaris ...… Hans Dohnanyi
Years later as a “war criminal” at Landsberg, I would hear at our round walks in the jail yard the rather dreamy opinion held by Oster: by betraying the German operation plans, causing the death of countless German soldiers – no, that was by no means treason! Oster just wanted to avoid an extension of the war goals to the North and West. He only wanted to counteract the attack on Denmark and Norway, Belgium and Holland – all neutral states. The governments of those states had only been warned by Oster so they could protest in time, before God and the world, about Hitler’s intention to attack. That might stop Hitler and force him to a peaceful settlement of all conflicts. (These were) unlikely explanations and justifications for high treason and Landesverrat8.
Another of these prophets – who thought they could define treason as a cavalier offence and considered it proper to sacrifice German soldiers and endanger the nation’s existence for the higher cause of humanity – was the diplomat and former Undersecretary at the Foreign Office, [Ernst] von Weizsaecker. I am sure he expressed that opinion in order to justify his own behavior. I met him at the Landsberg WCP (war criminal camp) with open contempt.
Entrance to Landsberg Prison in Bavaria (southwestern Germany. The prison was used by Allied power during the occupation of Germany for holding National Socialist 'war criminals. In 1946 General Joseph T. McNarney, commander in chief, U.S. Forces of Occupation in Germany renamed Landsberg: War Criminal Prison Nr. 1. The Americans closed the war crimes facility in 1958. Control of the prison was then handed over to the Federal Republic of Germany. Landsberg is now maintained by the Prison Service of the Bavarian Ministry of Justice.
To the ones who were influenced by that prattle, I said, “A peaceful settlement of all conflicts had just been successfully prevented by those new propagandists, because Adolf Hitler did not want war and the war in the East was forced upon him by the East as well as by the West.” I said to them, “Combined with a reasonable land reform9, Adolf Hitler would have preferred to build, perform social work and do an outstanding job of renewing cities. Many of those imbeciles really believed the Autobahn was nothing else but a road-megalomania!”
All that mental confusion I met with a quotation which was attributed to Napoleon, but was really by Josef Goerres from the Rheinische Merkur newspaper, 1814: “No people are more gullible than the Germans … among them they strangled each other and believed, by doing it, they have done their duty. No other nation on this earth is dumber. No sillier lie can be dreamed – the Germans believe it. A slogan handed to them will cause persecution of their own people more severe than against their real enemies.”
The weeks I spent at the Fuehrer Headquarters Wolfsschanze in August 1944 were the most turbulent ones I ever experienced in my life. What I saw troubled me deeply; I felt the downfall, I thought the Reich would now collapse. The fronts were shaking; threat closed in from all sides. Add to that the depression of being more and more aware of the scope of the treason done.
The assassination of July 20th was like a stone thrown into calm water, causing first a bubbling stir, then, by the interrogations and confessions, forming circle after circle until finally Goerdeler’s grandiose, mad obsession of confessing, traitor now of the traitors. But now – when in the center the bubbles are still rising and bursting – a last circle is formed before the water’s viscosity holds to its own. But just that circle, for many not visible anymore, caused Adolf Hitler a big shock: the Front itself.
For years he asked himself: why all those failures? The enemy knew about our military operations at the same time as our commanding officers received them!
Already in 1942 in Winniza, he told me something wrong is going on, he suspects treason at the highest level. After the catastrophe of Stalingrad, communist emigrants worked openly together with part of the officers captured by the Russians.10 The collapse of Army Group Center from the Russian attack of July 1944 caused the loss of twenty-five German divisions and hit Adolf Hitler hard. He suspected treason here also, as he did at the failure of the Citadel offensive11 the previous year.
The investigations following the assassination revealed, and then confirmed, Adolf Hitler’s suspicion of high treason. General (Henning) von Tresckow, general staff officer of Army Group Center, shot himself; general staff officer Major (Joachim) Kuhn deserted to the Russians. The statement of (Wilhelm) Leuschner, former Hessian Secretary of the Interior and future Vice Chancellor under Goerdeler, clarified the situation further. Leuschner’s statement didn’t get much attention at first at Wolfsschanze, but he made his statement after his conviction and, faced with death, there is hardly any doubt that he spoke the truth.
By that statement the scope of the treason causing the destruction of Army Group Center became clearer. At the same time, Ludwig Beck, the former Chief of the General Staff, glimmered in an enigmatic light. Knowing that the assassination failed and the revolt fell apart, he took his life already on that evening of July 20th, at the Bendlerstrasse.
Treason in the West
Translators’ commentary: Giesler says little about how Valkyrie played out on the Western front. To fill in: conspirator Lt.Col Caesar von Hofacker, officer on the staff of General Karl-Heinrich von Stuelpnagel, military chief of France, received the call from Stauffenberg at 4 o’clock in the afternoon telling him Hitler was dead. Based on that, Stuelpnagel issued the order to arrest members of the SS command post in Paris according to the Valkyrie plan. Field Marshall Guenther von Kluge’s chief of staff, General Speidel, got the call from Stuelpnagel’s chief of staff, General Blumentritt, but decided to wait for Kluge to return from the front. The arrest of around 120 members of the SS took place before two Waffen SS Generals were informed and a navy attachment was alarmed enough to warn of armed intervention unless the SS prisoners were released. By then, radio and telephone were revealing that Hitler was alive.
Kluge returned to headquarters at 6 p.m. and summoned Stuelpnagel and Generals Sperrle, Blumentritt and Speidel to report to him. During the following two hours they shared a tense, but civil dinner until a call from General Stieff at OKH gave the definite word that Hitler was alive and any action on Stauffenberg’s Valkyrie "ist Wahnsinn"(madness).
After Stuelpnagel returned to Paris, von Kluge relieved him of his command, replaced him with Blumentritt whom he ordered to "tidy up and get back to normal." But this was not possible; it became another inglorious end of suicide and suicide attempts for the conspirators.
To complete the score of treason and infidelity, sometime during the 15th and 18th of August, Adolf Hitler learned of a conspiracy-attempt between the German military leadership in the West and the Allies.
The breach of loyalty and suicide attempt by General [Karl-Heinrich] von Stuelpnagel, military commander of France, was alarming. Field Marshal [Guenther] von Kluge, Supreme Commander West, was relieved of his service and called back to headquarters for report. On the way to the airfield, he took poison.A contradiction in itself was, on one side, the at-that-time known efforts of the Field Marshal to enter into negotiations with the Allies for an armistice without the Führer’s knowledge – even though he must have known that would cause the collapse of all fronts – and, on the other side, the fact that shortly before his death he sent the Führer a letter assuring him of his loyalty.
At one of those evenings at the Wolf’s Lair, Adolf Hitler talked to me about those treasonous affairs and said: “Those were the worst days of my life! How easy and simple it would be for me to terminate my life. What is my life? Added to all those disappointments – only struggle and worry and grinding responsibility.
"Fate and providence assigned those tasks and burdens to me – and doesn’t the last assassination just demand more steadfastness than ever, to continue the struggle with trust and confidence? And if that struggle is to make sense, we must succeed in exterminating the bearers of that treason – because all the effort, all the bravery are in vain against treason within your own people.
"How malicious and wretched is that treason! I could sense it through all the years, but struggled with myself to believe that German officers, generals, could be connected with it. Beyond any imagination is treason during a war, treason against the nation and treason against the fighting soldiers.
"I believed I could win them over since the existence of Germany was at risk … even Europe! I stood up to overcome Marxism and introduce instead a socialism of a unified nation (Volksgemeinschaft). I did win the workman, but I misjudged the reactionary – they were here, in the Reichswehr, within industry, the powerful economic and money circles. They were here, too, as failed politicians and diplomats.
"I misjudged their vain ambition, their need for admiration and their intellectual shortcomings – all that I misjudged! I forgot to get rid of those fossils of a long past era. In a time of urgency, reconstruction, reformation, war requirements and burdening pressure, I forgot that I am a revolutionary.
"That someone from that reactionary group might at some time shoot at me – I thought about that and had to live with it. But I never believed it possible that a General Staff officer was able to commit such a characterless crime – even though, due to my experiences since 1938, I had to expect all that. They didn’t have the courage to openly resist me or shoot me.
"We have to create a new aristocracy, a value and rank order based on character, courage and steadiness. One sentence of Nietzsche’s I identify with: What today can prove if one be of value or not? – that he is steadfast!”
The evening closed with discussions about city rebuilding and reconstruction. Was it denial and relaxation? Was it confidence? I don’t know. That night, Adolf Hitler was dealing with traffic structures of cities.
1. Vierteljahreshefte fuer Zeitgeschichte, 2.Jahrgang 1954-3.Heft Juli, Ausgewaehlte Briefe des Gen Maj Helmuth Stieff, Seite 295.
2. An Austrian Baroque architect
3. A special decoration for soldiers involved in close battle.
4. Refers to Buergerbrauekeller in Munich where the reunion of the 1923 Putsch is held every year on Nov. 8th. In 1939 a bomb exploded behind the speaker’s desk, killing 6 and injuring many. Hitler said an inner voice urged him, Get out, get out; after some hesitation, he followed the urge.
5. The March 1943 assassination attempt by General von Treskow, who had a bomb placed on Hitler’s plane. The bomb failed to go off.
6. Rattenhuber and Hoegl
7. Altein, R, Zaklikofsky, E, Jacobson, I: “Out of the Inferno: The Efforts That Led to the Rescue of Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn of Lubavitch from War Torn Europe in 1939-40”, page 160. Merkos L’Inyonei Chinuch, 2002
8. Landesverrat is considered worse than high treason. It is “country treason” – the passing of state secrets by a citizen to a foreign power through written message, verbal report or otherwise.
9. "Raumordnung,” expansion to the East, according to the party ideology of “Volk ohne Raum”, people without space.
10. Ullbricht, Markus Wolf, Pieck, von Einsiedeld and consortium (all communist émigrés from Germany) were meeting with POW General Walther von Seydlitz and his Stalingrad clique, working on actions, radio propaganda, and Front voice messages. Seydlitz formed the Committee for a Free Germany.
11. Operation Citadel was the military code name for one of the largest military operations in WWII, a pincer offensive to cut off the Soviets from the bulge between Orel and Kursk in July 1943. It was postponed several times, then at first successful, but strong Russian counterattacks caused eventual collapse of the operation, with great losses on both sides.
Ein Anderer Hitler by Hermann Giesler: Valkyrie! part four
Valkyrie! The Last Plot against Hitler
Part Four – Methods & Morals of the Traitors
Translated by Carolyn Yeager and Wilhelm Mann
Ein Anderer Hitler, Druffel Verlag, Leoni am Starnberger, 6th edition, 1982
Copyright 2009 Carolyn Yeager
Fuehrer Headquarter Wolfsschanze – Autumn 1944
"Valkyrie” was the code name for the alarm-ready troop response to emergency situations in the Reich – troops in their barracks and boot camps, soldiers on leave and in training classrooms. They should prevent revolts of prisoners of war and foreign workers. “Valkyrie” also meant military actions against enemy landings on the coastal shores and via airborne operations – in short all actions necessary to protect the Reich. By their nature, the Armed Forces were in command.
The investigations of the July 20th assassination were now finished in principle. Isolated at his sleeping cell during an illness in September 1944, Adolf Hitler had time to reflect. He told me:
Valkyrie was planned for the protection of the Reich – the plotters used Valkyrie as a deceiving tool for a cunning coup d’etat. But they could not turn their powerful positions and the potential they had to their advantage, in that they had neither the ability nor the strength to make decisions. The assassination – the “ignition” as they called it – failed. The conspirators did not have a Brutus.An aristocrat – a colonel, with the knowledge and approval of the general’s clique – tried to take me from this world by deceit. I have to admit that the hypocrisy, cowardice and maliciousness – the breach of oath, treason and Landesverrat – hurt me more than the explosion of the hellish machine with English explosives that that aristocrat had put under the work table.From a safe distance he watched the explosion – the co-conspirator and general of communications (Fellgiebel) at his side; then he flew back to Berlin full of energy to trigger Valkyrie.It must have been a shock for that general to see that his victim was only lightly injured – yet he was still shameless enough to congratulate him. He considered it too dangerous to warn his fellow conspirators in Berlin. Well, they were ready to command soldiers, to give them orders that could cost them their lives, but they themselves were not ready for that. They would have thought themselves too important.
Not one had the courage to face him openly with a weapon. Instead of entering history by a manly deed, they tried to fell their supreme commander by treachery. Only self-sacrifice would have given them a chance to distinguish their act from that of a cowardly criminal.
How did they justify breaking their oath? Who would give them the right to assassination and revolt at a time of highest pressure and distress, at a time when fierce battles are fought on all fronts? They tried to justify their deed by pretending they were acting in the interest of higher human goals! They saw Churchill and Roosevelt, even Stalin, as their guarantors. They said that for the sake of humanity’s higher objectives the blood sacrifice of German soldiers and their comrades is justified.
After the 'assassination' Adolf Hitler insisted on being fully informed, and without glossing, of all the results of the interrogations: the statements and testimony of the conspirators. He asked for exact information of the circle of persons involved, and their reasoning; he was also interested in the operational plan for the revolt after Valkyrie. He soon found there was nothing planned!
The first proclamations of the bearers of an illusionary power were lies – with lies they confronted the nation and the Armed Forces. After what they thought was a successful assassination, they didn’t have the courage to confess to it.
Mr. Fellgiebel could not turn off all telephone lines. I was able to talk to Dr. Goebbels and the major1 of the Berlin Guard Battalion “Gross Deutschland”— who then cleared up the confusion. The putsch collapsed, the conspirators had not one company on their side.Who would give them the authority for the assassination and the coup? With one voice, the front expressed its anger; the front line soldier could not understand how officers were able to do such a deed. The front could see the consequences and results, its judgment was also quite clear: it would burden us; only the enemy would benefit.
The reaction of a troubled community was the unanimous rejection of the assassination and coup. Worry and mistrust arose. Neither the nation nor the Armed Forces gave the conspirators the authority for the assassination or the coup d’etat – above all, not for rebellion and contemptible treason.
From the investigation and testimony one could learn that the conspirators didn’t think very far ahead – an egocentric attitude led to a euphoric opinion of the political situation, as in: First we get rid of the dictator, then, via Valkyrie, his party – the Allies will then help us! And once again those vague phrases of higher human ideals for which one had to sacrifice – that’s what their conscience demanded.
Also his writings gave them a legitimate reason for their deeds. Better than many of his party comrades who were reading Mein Kampf, they rummaged through the book and found sentences they thought they could translate to fit their shabby thinking. Since he “drags the nation” into destruction, he justifies in Mein Kampftheir right to stop him through resistance, rebellion and the coup d’etat. It is, therefore, not only their right but their obligation to get rid of him, the tyrant – that’s how they read Mein Kampf.
He is ready to face the people’s criticism at any time. Not “he” dragged the nation into distress, but the openly declared will of Churchill, Roosevelt and their big ally, the international Jews – to destroy us. The reactionaries and the plotter’s clique encouraged that intention, and theirs was the best way to push the nation, via the putsch and assassination, beyond the present trouble, into the abyss. No—he denies those men the right of high treason, rebellion and the right to assassinate! Where indeed could they ever have shown the power to build a new state regime made necessary by the last war and the new century?
Again and again he asks himself: Where really are their ideas? What can they offer the nation? Only their names and an honor only they believed in? Both are tattered by their deeds!
One can lift a revolution to a big wave, releasing enthusiasm, national strength and willingness to sacrifice. One can not keep that wave permanently, one can not conserve it. But the start of a revolution also depends on the person who carries it and his authority – on the thoughts and ideas, if they are understood, if they have roots and find confirmation in the spirit of the time and the sense of the nation.
His way to the leadership of the nation is proof of his harmony with the national spirit.
The bearers of the assassination imagined a past they themselves did not understand. For him, it had been inconceivable up to now that a German officer – above all a general – could commit treason. Treason at wartime – damaging the German people, burdening the fighting German soldier – impossible!
The day will come when he can announce clearly and without misunderstanding just who instigated that war. Who? As long the fighting goes on, he cannot talk. That shock would be too much for the German people and the front.
For a commander, the most important quality is his character, his attitude. Intelligence does not stand higher. The character and the strength of his will alone are decisive when he has to withstand severe blows of fate. Courage, bravery and willingness to sacrifice are the prerequisites of a leader. He always requests that from his soldiers. So he shall and must be a role model – even more, he must be able to give strength and convince!
When he had to accept the capitulation of [Field Marshal Friedrich] Paulus and the behavior his generals, Hitler had said:
Now they will take their way down into the lowlands of wretchedness, the oath being only a fiction. A steady character is not their strength, intellectual self-esteem more so. They may try to work with the Russians and will lose face at the same time. It won’t take long and we are going to hear them on the Russian propaganda radio. Step by step, they will show a lack of character and, in the end, slander their military tradition. They may forget they carry a name of a dutiful obligation.
There were some co-workers here, generals too, who could not believe that something like that was possible. Hitler had said, “Yes it is, sooner or later, and all the way up a Field Marshal!”
That he still promoted Paulus to that rank, he never would forgive himself.
So one leads an army, the army fights and dies, and he who was entrusted to lead that army and the soldiers – does he die heroically with his soldiers? The meaning of that battle, the heroism and sacrifice of many ten thousands of brave soldiers, officers and generals will lose its value, will be trampled down by the one who should have been their example.He will take the road to Moscow; we will live to see him at the radio station!
Hitler said that and he had it right, but that it would lead to such a disgusting mess as the so-called “National Committee for a Free Germany” by that Seydlitz-Kurzbach – I myself could never have imagined!
Well, Seydlitz might feel like York at Tauroggen!2 Seydlitz and his creatures did not grasp that it was Bolsheviks they signed up with; they didn’t get it because with their thinking they were still entrenched in the 19th century. They hadn’t learned anything at all. They hadn’t recognized that this is a war of life or death, not restricted to soldiers, folk or the nation. They could not imagine that we are involved in a fateful struggle, in a revolutionary fight for the existence of Europe—in a battle for a new idea of life (Lebensbasis), against destruction and the powers who want to destroy us.
If we still had such schizophrenic twits who thought: We do that with the Russians – we drop our weapons honorably, we hand over our epee3, which Marshal Stalin honorably hands back to us again – yes, in such a world they still lived! Then we sign a peace agreement with them – that’s how those idiots thought, and the ones oriented towards the West thought similarly.
Is it surprising that optimism dwindles? That our allies and the Neutrals might lose their confidence? And are we surprised about the demand for “Unconditional Surrender?”
What shall the front think, the soldier, when asked by those shameful tracts of cowardice to surrender, to sabotage, to commit treason and to refuse to obey orders – pamphlets signed by former commandants? We have to overcome that moral crisis!
They wanted to end the war and submit the nation to the 'Unconditional Surrender'; they would have surrendered the soldiers of the Eastern front to the Russians – they did not care!
He would have been relieved of worries, sorrows, pressing responsibility and sleepless nights if the infamy of Stauffenberg had succeeded. But what would have been the consequence? Chaos and destruction at the fronts! Hate and civil war and despair.
They wouldn’t have understood – it is not about him, but Germany! Churchill declared it frankly and cynically: It is about Germany’s destruction! Where can you find in this a political foundation for a conspiracy that makes history?
From a rare kind, they found each other: reactionaries, liberals, marxists, representatives of the church – the “Bekennende Kirche” specifically – they even prayed for Germany to lose the war. And let’s not forget the diplomats! And the Herren Generals! He can not expect to be understood by his generals, but he can request that they obey his orders.
They just could not see that we lived in a changing era and had to endure a fateful war. Instead of fighting for the nation as their oath required, they committed destruction, sabotage and subversion. The conspirators had no right, however, for the coup destroyed any trust by the mere try.
From the first war year on I suspected treason, often I felt it physically; I am sure that treason started much earlier. Now, after the assassination, proof of the permanent treason is clear. Still, not all traitors are recognized.What damage they caused!
1. Referring to Major Otto Ernst Remer, later awarded the rank of Major General.
2. York was a Prussian general during the Napoleonic war. In Tauroggen in East Prussia, he sided with the Russians against King Friedrich Wilhelm’s order.
3. An epee is a blunted fencing sword developed in the 19th Century for practice and competition.