German Resistance and the "Conspiracy of Generals"
70 years ago, 20 July 1944, the most famous assassination attempt on Adolf Hitler took place at Fuchrer's “Wolf's Lair” in Rustenburg (East Prussia). The colonel of the ground forces reserve headquarters, Klaus Schenk von Stauffenberg, and his adjutant, Lieutenant Werner von Heften, attempted to assassinate their commander-in-chief. A powerful explosion was the culmination of the so-called. “Conspiracy of Generals” (“July 20 Conspiracy”), with the goal of eliminating Hitler and overthrowing the Nazi government.
Part of the German generals and senior officers, foreseeing the inevitable defeat of Germany in World War II, went to the conspiracy to eliminate Hitler and conclude a separate peace with the Western powers, thus preventing the final defeat of the Third Reich. However, Hitler was literally saved by a miracle - during the meeting, one of the officers moved a briefcase with an explosive device a few meters away. A strong explosion led to the death of 4 people, the rest were injured or injuries of varying severity. Hitler was also injured. The investigation revealed a widespread conspiracy - more than 7 thousand people were arrested, about 200 people were executed. The German Resistance was crushed.
The attempt on 20 July 1944 was not the first. On Hitler, more than 40 attempts were made. Often the Führer survived by some miracle. Hitler's popularity was very high in the German people, but there were plenty of enemies. The resistance movement arose in Germany immediately after the coming to power of the National Socialists. The resistance movement was not united and homogeneous, it included pacifists, liberals, conservatives, religious leaders, extreme nationalists (the Black Front), communists, social democrats and military. But the greatest capabilities were possessed by the military, dissatisfied with the reinforcement of the SS troops and who believed that Germany was not ready for a big war, that Adolf Hitler was leading the country to a catastrophe.
From the left the Fuhrer, basically, tried to eliminate the loners. In 1930, four serious attempts were made to liquidate the leader of the National Socialist German Workers Party (NSDAP). 9 November 1939. Hitler spoke on the occasion of the anniversary of the “beer putsch” that failed in 1923 in the famous Munich beer house. Former communist Georg Elzer organized an assassination attempt. He prepared and detonated a bomb. Hitler was not injured, although several people were killed during a severe explosion, and more than sixty people were injured. For some reason, Hitler completed his introduction ahead of time and left the building a few minutes before the bombing.
Part of the German military elite and diplomats believed that the Third Reich was not yet ready for war. Many of them were aristocrats and monarchists, did not approve of the ideology of national socialism and were unhappy with the rise of the SS troops. The big war, in their opinion, should have led Germany to a military-political catastrophe. Back in 1938, there was a conspiracy against Hitler. The conspirators believed that the conflict over Czechoslovakia would lead to war with the great Western powers - France and England, as well as the Soviet Union. The weak German army, which has just begun the process of transformation and rearmament, will be defeated. Germany will survive the catastrophe. Therefore, it was decided to remove Hitler after he gave the order to attack Czechoslovakia, to form a provisional government and hold new democratic elections.
Among the conspirators was Colonel General Ludwig Beck, Chief of Staff of the Ground Forces. He believed that Hitler put Germany at unnecessary risk. In July, the 1938 general sent a memorandum to the commander-in-chief of the land forces, Colonel-General von Brauchitsch, where he invited the top military leadership of Germany to resign and prevent the outbreak of war: “The question of the existence of a nation is at stake. History will brand the leadership of the armed forces with bloody guilt, if they do not act in accordance with their professional and state-political qualities and conscience. " But, the rest of the German generals did not have such a force of will, besides, many were passionate about the idea of revenge, so Beck was not supported. The general resigned and gradually became the head of the military opposition.
20 July Performance Leader Ludwig Augustus Theodore Beck (29 Jun 1880 - 20 July 1944). After the failure of the conspiracy, he tried to commit suicide and was finished off by the subordinates of General Friedrich Fromm (participated in the suppression of the conspiracy)
The new chief of staff Franz Halder shared the views of Beck, the commander of the 1 Army (defending the German-French border during the Sudeten crisis) General Erwin von Witzleben was also ready for action. In the active group of conspirators were one of the senior officers of the Abwehr, Colonel Hans Oster, supported him and the head of the Abwehr, Wilhelm Franz Canaris, Generals Erich Hoepner and Walter von Brockdorff-Ahlefeld, the Prussian Finance Minister Johannes Popitz banker Hjalmar Schacht, the former mayor of Leipzig, Carl Goerdeler and diplomat Ulrich von Hassel. The chief of the ground forces, Walter von Brauchitsch, also knew about the plot. He refused to participate in it, but did not inform on the conspirators.
The conspirators tried to establish contacts with the British, planning to speak when a military-political crisis broke out. When the great powers enter against the policies of Hitler. However, England and France simply surrendered Czechoslovakia at the Munich Conference. Czechoslovakia, under pressure from the great powers, gave Germany the Sudetenland without resistance. As a result, Germany was overjoyed, and the entry of military conspirators became meaningless. A significant part of the conspirators was disappointed in the possibility of overthrowing the Hitler regime. So, Vitsleben declared: “... for this unfortunate stupid people, he is again“ our beloved Fuhrer, ”the only one sent by God, and we ... we are just a pitiful handful of reactionaries and disgruntled officers and politicians who dared at the time of the highest triumph of the greatest politician of all time throwing stones in his way. "
Erwin von Winzleben (1881 - 1944). After the assassination of von Stauffenberg against Hitler, he assumed the duties of the commander-in-chief of the Wehrmacht. 8 August, like the other defendants, was sentenced to death by hanging
The next time the conspirators intensified in the 1939 year, when Hitler decided to attack Poland. The motive was the same. The military believed that Germany was not ready for war, and a strike by France and England from the west would lead to a military catastrophe. Halder, Schacht and other conspirators on several channels warned the British and French governments of intelligence about Germany’s impending strike on Poland. In fact, the conspirators committed an act of betrayal, telling the potential adversary about the decision taken by Hitler, the alleged timing of the attack. Moreover, they proposed retaliatory measures that would contain the aggression of Germany. In particular, it was proposed to send a squadron to the Baltic Sea to support Poland from the sea, transfer British troops to France and introduce Chamberlain Winston Churchill to the British cabinet, which was ready to actively resist German aggression.
However, London and Paris did not use this opportunity. The West at this time believed that after Poland Hitler would strike the Soviet Union. Therefore, Poland gave Hitler. A “strange war” began when the armies of England and France were inactive, while the Wehrmacht smashed Poland. The plans of the conspirators were not implemented.
When, after the defeat of Poland, the Fuhrer gave the order to prepare for war with France, the conspirators became more active again. The head of the Abwehr, Canaris, and the Deputy Chief of the General Staff, First Chief Quartermaster, General Karl Heinrich von Stülpnagel, attempted to persuade Halder and Brauchitsch to lead the coup d'état. But, Halder and Brauchitsch showed hesitancy.
In addition, Oster handed over to the military attache of the Netherlands in Germany information about the forthcoming attack of the Third Reich on Belgium and the Netherlands. The same information was given to the Belgian ambassador in Rome and to the Belgian king. In addition, Austen contacted Great Britain and France through Rome. Secret negotiations were even held in Rome on a draft peace treaty between Germany and Great Britain after Hitler was eliminated. This Memorandum X project was drafted in the Vatican and delivered to Berlin. However, all these plans, due to the indecisiveness of high-ranking conspirators and the passivity of Britain and France, who did not take full advantage of the secret information provided, were not realized.
Hans Paul Oster (9 August 1887 - 9 April 1945). Executed 9 on April 1945 with Admiral Canaris
It should be noted that in the future the leaders of the German Resistance gave out the secrets of Germany and offered the Western powers to enter into negotiations. Thus, the main informant for Allen Dulles, who was the special representative of the American President Roosevelt and headed the Swiss Residency of the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) of the United States in Switzerland, was Vice-Consul of the German Consulate General in Zurich Hans Gizevius. Abwehr agent Gizevius was an active conspirator and the "eyes and hands" of Admiral Canaris in Switzerland. Among the German informers Dulles was another conspirator, adviser to the German Foreign Ministry, Adam von Trott zu Solz. The Germans actively tried to conclude an agreement with the Western powers. Dulles, on the other hand, considered negotiations with the German opposition as a means of establishing a regime advantageous for the United States in post-war Germany.
Karl Friedrich Hordeler, one of the key civil figures in the German opposition (he was considered as the future Chancellor), was guided by the UK and the United States. Goderdeler, like Beck, pushed through the "Western solution" - an alliance with Britain and America against Russia. Goderdeler especially tried hard to make an alliance with London.
However, the United States and Britain did not go to direct negotiations and did not give guarantees to the leaders of the German Resistance. Roosevelt demanded the unconditional surrender of Germany. Churchill, who was eager to crush not only Hitler’s National Socialism, but also “Prussian militarism,” wishing to permanently destroy Germany as a rival of England on the world stage, opposed any contact with the German opposition figures. Only in 1944, after the victorious spring-summer offensive of the Soviet troops and the landing of the Anglo-American forces in Normandy, when the German opposition was defeated, the leader of the West began to look for an opportunity to conclude a separate agreement, and negotiated with SS Reichsführer Himmler.
Karl Friedrich Hordeler (July 31 1884 - February 2 1945). A few days before the July attempted 20 coup, he went into hiding, having learned that the Gestapo plans to arrest him. A reward of one million marks was assigned to his head. 12 August identified and captured. The execution was delayed due to the development of a program for the development of local self-government, the economy and the urban economy. 2 February 1945 He was executed in Plötzensee prison
The unexpected successes of Hitler and the Wehrmacht in Poland, Denmark, Norway, Holland and France, and later in the USSR, also became the defeat of the German Resistance. Some believed in the "lucky star" of Hitler, others lost heart and became disillusioned. Fought only the most implacable with the policies of Hitler.
Thus, among the active opponents of the war with the USSR was the former German ambassador to the Union, Count Friedrich Werner von der Schulenburg. Even before the German attack, von Schulenburg in May 1941 warned Moscow about the imminent German attack on the USSR. He made every effort to prevent the war, informing Berlin about the powerful military-industrial potential of the USSR. After the defeat of the German troops near Moscow in the winter of 1941-1942. and the failure of the blitzkrieg, Schulenburg sent a note to the Führer with a proposal to start separate negotiations with Moscow, but did not receive support. After that, Schulenburg became a leader of the Resistance and was considered a possible candidate for the post of Minister of Foreign Affairs after the coup.
Schulenburg in the German Resistance represented the wing, which was oriented not only to the Western powers, but also to the USSR. They opposed an alliance with Britain and the United States against the USSR. They did not consider the Stalinist regime an obstacle to the restoration of normal relations after the liquidation of Hitler, since Weimar Germany successfully cooperated with Moscow, including the military-technical sphere. Schulenburg and his associates wanted peace with the USSR and the resumption of mutually beneficial German-Soviet relations.
Friedrich-Werner von der Schulenburg (20 November 1875, Kemberg - 10 November 1944). After the failed 20 on July 1944, the attempt on the life of Schulenburg was arrested and imprisoned in Pletzensee Prison in Berlin, where 10 on November 1944 was executed by hanging
One of the most irreconcilable conspirators was a Prussian nobleman, an officer of the General Staff at the headquarters of Army Group Center, Henning von Treskov. He established contacts with conspirators back in the 1938 year, and after the start of the war with the USSR, he expressed a sharp rejection of terror in relation to Jews, commanders and political workers of the Red Army. Considering that the bloody terror leads to the loss of honor of Germany: “Germany will finally lose its honor, and this will make itself felt for hundreds of years. The blame for this will be laid not on Hitler alone, but on you and me, your wife and mine, your children and mine. ”
Even before the start of the war, Treskov asserted that only the liquidation of Hitler would save Germany. Treskov believed that the conspirators should revolt in any case. Even if the assassination attempt of Hitler and the military coup fails, they will remove the shame from Germany, show the whole world that not all Germans agree with the policies of the National Socialists. In addition, Treskov, as Schulenburg and Count Klaus Schenk von Stauffenberg, was a supporter of good relations with the USSR. The Stauffenberg and Treskov group believed that peace should be concluded not only with England and the United States, but also with the USSR.
Treskov, being on the eastern front, prepared several plans for the assassination of the Fuhrer. However, each time something interfered with the implementation of the plan. So, 13 March 1943, during a visit to Adolf Hitler Army Group "Center", the plane of the Fuhrer laid under the guise of sending a bomb (Operation "Flash"). She was supposed to explode during the return of Hitler on a plane from Smolensk to Berlin. But the fuse didn't work. There is a version that it did not work due to too low temperature in the luggage compartment of the aircraft.
Henning Hermann Robert Karl von Treskov (January 10 1901 - July 21 1944). Upon learning of the failure of the July 20 conspiracy, Treskov imitated a fight with the enemy, and then blew himself up with a hand grenade to save his family members from persecution and not extradite his comrades during the torture
A few days later, the commander of Treskov, Colonel Baron Rudolf-Christoph von Gersdorf, attempted an attempt on the Fuhrer. 21 March 1943, Hitler and other top leaders of the Third Reich were to attend the war trophy exhibition at the Ceughgauz arms museum on Unter den Linden, where the war was commemorated. Hitler should have stayed Zeihgauze hour. As the guide, the head of the intelligence of Army Group “Center” von Gersdorf was supposed to act.
Gersdorf was ready to sacrifice himself for the common cause. The colonel hid two small time-lapse magnetic mines in his clothes and planned to blow himself up in close proximity to Hitler and his entourage. When the Führer appeared on the inset of captured weapons, Gersdorf set the fuse to 20 minutes. But after 15 minutes, Hitler unexpectedly left the building and the plan was not implemented. With great difficulty, the officer managed to prevent an explosion.
There were other German officers willing to sacrifice themselves to eliminate the Fuhrer. In November, 1943, a young German officer, Axel von dem Boucher, planned to kill Adolf Hitler during a demonstration of a new German military uniform. During the show, he hid a grenade in clothes and planned to undermine them when the Führer approached. However, for some unknown reason, Hitler did not arrive at the show.
A similar attempt was prepared by Lieutenant Edward von Kleist. Recovering after being wounded on the Western Front, the 22-year-old Wehrmacht lieutenant received a telegram instructing to return immediately to his unit. The commander of the reserve army, von Stauffenberg, met with the lieutenant and asked whether he would agree to destroy the Fuhrer at the cost of his own life.
Hitler was going to present a distinguished compound and show a new form. Kleist was supposed to bring an explosive device on himself and blow it up when Hitler was nearby. Edward's father, a native of the aristocratic Prussian clan and commander tank during the invasion of France and the USSR, the Field Marshal supported the son: “you have to agree. If you miss a moment, there will be no meaning in your life. And I made up my mind. I do not think that the reason for this decision was my courage. The reason was conscience. ” However, this attempt was not realized. The entire stock of the new form was destroyed during the bombing, the parade was canceled.
Rudolf-Christoph von Gersdorf (March 27 1905 - January 27 1980). After the failure of the "Conspiracy of the Generals" was one of the few who managed to survive. His accomplice, one of the leaders of the German military intelligence, Colonel of the General Staff, Baron Wessel Freytag von Loringofen committed suicide, but did not extradite the Gestapo comrade.
To be continued ...
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