Who first coined the term assassin?

Attack on Hitler Stauffenberg and the assassination attempt of July 20, 1944

Claus Graf Schenk von Stauffenberg was born in 1907 in Jettingen, Bavaria. The son of a Catholic aristocratic family decided to join the military after graduating from high school in 1926. His attitude was marked by pride, obedience, loyalty and loyalty to Adolf Hitler. As early as the 1932 presidential election, he spoke out against Hindenburg and in favor of Hitler. Appointed lieutenant in 1933, Stauffenberg took part in the military training of the "Sturmabteilung" (SA), a mass terrorist organization of the NSDAP with over 400,000 members ("Brown Shirts").

War academy and general staff training

From October 1936 Stauffenberg studied at the War Academy in Berlin. He read Hitler's "Mein Kampf" without clashing with his criminal principles such as the extermination of the Jews, the abolition of democracy and the abolition of fundamental rights. As for many representatives of his generation, the revenge for the "disgraceful peace" of Versailles was a driving force behind him. In Adolf Hitler, Stauffenberg and many other young officers saw the man who gave them the means to do so. In 1938 Stauffenberg completed general staff training in Berlin. He then worked as a second general staff officer to the highest military leadership. In 1938 he took part in the occupation of the Sudetenland, which was annexed to the German Reich under the Munich Agreement. With the beginning of the Second World War in 1939 he was used as a first lieutenant in a tank division in the Poland campaign.

Rejection of the resistance group

The lieutenant and adjutant of a tank regiment in the Poland campaign in 1939, Count Peter Yorck von Wartenburg, son of one of the largest landowners in Silesia, and his friend Ulrich Wilhelm Graf Schwerin von Schwanenfeld, an officer and also a large landowner, asked Stauffenberg for help in an attempted coup. They belonged to the closest circle of resistance. Stauffenberg refused. As a general staff officer, he took part in the victorious western offensive against France in the spring of 1940. The military successes of the Wehrmacht continued, Stauffenberg remained loyal to Hitler.

Increasing doubts from 1942

It was only in 1942, after the failed "Blitzkrieg" against the Soviet Union, that his doubts about Hitler's war of annihilation in the East increased. In March 1943 he was transferred to the 10th Panzer Division in North Africa, which was supposed to cover the withdrawal of Erwin Rommel's Army Group Africa.

Stauffenberg was seriously wounded in a low-flying attack. He lost his right eye, his right hand, and two fingers on his left hand. While still in the hospital, he made the decision to "save the Reich". The atrocities on the Eastern Front were decisive, on the one hand, and the amateurish military leadership on the other. In 1942 and 1943 the military situation became hopeless. The tone of the propaganda continued to intensify. The fight is to be waged with "relentless severity". The country's last reserves have been mobilized.

Post-coup plans

Stauffenberg realized that the war could no longer be won this way. And he knew that the Wehrmacht was able to overthrow Hitler. Together with his brother Berthold and members of the "Kreisau Circle", he drafted government statements for the period after the coup. Their goals: ending the war and the persecution of the Jews as well as restoring the rule of law from 1933. Parliamentary democracy rejected a large part of the mostly conservative conspirators, who came from the aristocracy and the military.

Setting an example for the world

In October 1943 Stauffenberg was appointed Chief of Staff of the General Army Office in Berlin's Bendlerstrasse. This gave him access to the briefing at the Fuehrer's headquarters. After several attempts by others to assassinate Hitler had failed, Stauffenberg decided to detonate a bomb himself. It was now too late to forestall the Allied invasion. But Colonel Henning von Tresckow urged an assassination attempt - if only to demonstrate the determination of the resistance movement "before the world and before history": "Everything else is a matter of indifference."

How the coup failed

The attack should be concealed with Hitler's own emergency plan "Valkyrie", which the conspirators had adjusted in their favor. On July 20, 1944, Stauffenberg met Hitler for a briefing in the "Wolfsschanze" near Rastenburg / East Prussia. Himmler and Goering were not present. As co-conspirator Fabian von Schlabrendorff reported, Stauffenberg was able to deposit a bomb that also exploded. But Hitler survived, only slightly injured. Stauffenberg, convinced of Hitler's death, was able to flee to Berlin to take over the further organization of the putsch.

However, the troops requested to support the revolution did not reach Berlin. The "Wolfsschanze" reacted almost at the same time as the "Valkyrie" orders were issued. In the afternoon the Reichsrundfunk reported Hitler's survival. The contradicting news created uncertainty among the officers, including in the Bendler bloc. Some officers informed about the coup plans began to doubt or defected. On the night of July 21, 1944, Stauffenberg and other conspirators were arrested and shot dead in the courtyard of the Bendler block. A wave of persecution and executions began against other people involved and their families.

"Operation Valkyrie" was originally an emergency plan of the Wehrmacht to suppress an uprising by the population, concentration camp inmates or prisoners of war. The plan was repurposed by the conservative military resistance in order to regulate the time after the successful Hitler assassination attempt militarily and politically.

The "Kreisau Circle" was a loose group of members of the bourgeois resistance around Helmuth James Graf von Moltke, Peter Yorck Graf von Wartenburg and Adam von Trott zu Solz. At regular meetings on the Lower Silesian Gut Kreisau, in Berlin and Munich, the restructuring of the state after the end of the Nazi dictatorship was discussed.

"Bendlerblock" is an unofficial name for a building complex in the Berlin district of Tiergarten, which was used for military offices from 1914 onwards. In the Third Reich, parts of the Naval War Command, the Foreign / Defense Office and the Wehrmacht High Command were housed here. The Bendlerblock gained notoriety after the failed coup attempt on July 20, 1944, when Stauffenberg and four of his colleagues were executed. The Ministry of Defense has resided in the building since 1993 (second office).