20 July 2008
The day is Thursday, July 20, 1944, the
time 12.42 hours, and the place the Nazi nerve centre, the Wolfsschanze (Wolfs
Lair), in Rastenberg, East Prussia. The scene is a military conference. The room
is filled with black-suited SS officers standing around as the chief of operations
of the army high command, General Adolf Heusinger, reads a report on the central
Russian front. Chairing the conference is Adolf
, and with him are 23 other Nazi officers. A time bomb explodes from
below the table, killing four. The blast is the culmination of Operation Valkyrie,
organised by a group of army officers. Adolf
Director Bryan Singer and his team are presently
working on a Hollywood film based on the World War II incident. The United Artists
US$100 million production, titled Valkyrie, is slated for release
on February 13, 2009. Shooting commenced at the Bendlerblock memorial in Germany
last July. The official trailer is now on YouTube. Tom Cruise acts as the key
instigator of the revolt, Colonel Claus Schenk Count Stauffenberg, chief-of-staff
to Col-Gen. Erich Fromm (Tom Wilkinson), commander of the reserve or home army.
Tom Cruise as Col. Claus von Stauffenberg. (Pic courtesy firstshowing.net)
The plot to assassinate Adolf
is well documented in a number of books, including British historian
Alan Bullocks Adolf
(1952); John Wheeler-Bennetts The Nemesis of Power
(1953); Constantine Fitzgibbons The Shirt of Nessus (1955);
William Shirers The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich (1960);
Jacques Delarues The Gestapo (1962); and Roger Manvell and Heinrich
Fraenkels The July Plot (1964), and the brilliant 822-page Inside
the Third Reich (1970), by Adolf
armaments minister Albert
A Roman Catholic aristocrat, Col. Stauffenberg arrives at
the Rastenberg conference attired in a field-grey Wehrmacht uniform, glittering
with an array of medals, including the Iron Cross 1st Class, the Wound Badge and
the German Cross, both in gold. He cuts a remarkable figure: he is wearing a black
eye-patch, the result of a war incident in Tunisia, on April 7, 1943, when his
staff car was riddled with fire from low-flying aircraft, causing him to lose
his right hand and arm, two fingers of his left hand and his left eye, with injuries
to his left ear and knee.
The colonel walks into the room carrying a
briefcase containing a time bomb. Depending on what side you were on, Stauffenbergs
act was either heroic or high treason. When Marcus Brutus delivered the coup de
grâce in the assassination of Roman dictator Julius Cæsar, he said
he was doing so not because he loved Cæsar less, but because he loved Rome
more. Every German officer had to pledge a personal oath of loyalty to Adolf
early victories saw the Third Reich taking control of almost the whole
of Europe, sections of Scandinavia, the Balkans and North Africa. It was during
advance on Russia, when the German army had almost reached Moscow, that the tide
Following the failed plot to kill Adolf
, Col. Stauffenberg and three other officers faced a summary court martial
decreed by Gen. Friedrich Fromm. They were shot that very evening, on July 21,
1944, in the courtyard of the Bendlerstrasse by a firing squad of 10 men commanded
by a lieutenant. Fromm turned the tables on the conspirators when the putsch misfired.
But it did not save his neck. He finally faced a firing squad on March 19, 1945.
Those who fell with Stauffenberg that evening were his adjutant, Lieut. Werner
von Haeften; Col. Gen Freidrich Olbricht (played by actor Bill Nighy); head of
the supply section of the reserve army, and his chief-of-staff, Col. Mertz von
Quirnheim (Christian Berkel). Gen. Ludwig Beck (Terence Stamp), who was Franz
Halders predecessor as chief of the army general staff, was given the option
of shooting himself, which he failed in doing twice. He was dispatched by a sergeant.
Major Otto Ernst Remer and SS Obersturmbannfuehrer (Lieut. Col.) Otto Skorzeny,
both holders of the Knights Cross with oak leaves, were key bulwarks against
the conspirators and contributed indefatigably towards quashing the coup.
Major Remer (Thomas Kretschmann), who commanded the guard battalion inside
Berlin, was ordered by Lieut-Gen. Paul von Hase, commandant of Berlin, who was
a conspirator, to throw a cordon around the ministry buildings in the Wilhelmstrasse
and the SS security offices. However, Remer was confused and referred to propaganda
minister Dr Joseph Goebbels, who put through Remer on a priority call to Adolf
. The Führer directly instructed Major Remer to quell the coup,
promoting him two grades to full colonel.
Shirer writes: On July
24, the Nazi salute was made compulsory in place of the old military salute as
a sign of the Armys unshakeable allegiance to the Füehrer and of the closest
unity between Army and Party. View www.youtube.com/watch?v=FQgESliKQUA.
Col. Remer was made major-general and given command of the legendary Panzer Führer-Begleit
Lieut.-Col. Skorzeny, famous for rescuing Mussolini in a daring
operation in September 1943, was hauled out of his sleeping berth on the night-express
to Vienna when it stopped at Lichterfeld, where repeated announcements went over
the tannoy for him to immediately report to Berlin on the instructions of SS Brigadefuehrer
(Maj-Gen.) Walther Schellenberg, the number two man in the SD. Skorzenys
company entered the Bendlestrasse and took control from within, while Remers
detachment isolated the entire block.
Former Afrika Korps commander Field
Marshal Erwin Rommels role in the conspiracy was revealed after the war.
Although the Desert Fox was privy to the plot, he favoured arresting
rather than killing Adolf
. Rommels last posting was as commandant of Heeresgruppe B (Army
Group B) amongst five other army groups spread out in northern France in defence
of the D-Day operation. Rommels staff car was strafed on July 17 and he
sustained major head injuries. On October 14, 1944, Rommel was given the option
of suicide by poison, followed by a state funeral with full military honours,
instead of facing treason in the Peoples Court. Rommel chose suicide.
Field Marshal Günther
was replaced by Field Marshal Walter
as the Heeresgruppe commander in France, and was recalled to Berlin.
On his way by car near Verdun,
(who, like Fromm, switched sides on learning of Adolf
escape), probably guessed the game was up and committed suicide by
Col. Gen Heinrich von Stuelpnagel, the military governor of
France, moved to arrest all SS and SD personnel in Paris. SS Obergruppenfuehrer
(Gen.) Karl Oberg and his deputy, SS Obersturmbanfuehrer (Lieut-Col.) Dr Helmuth
Knochen, with their troops were later released after the coup had gone awry. Recalled
to Berlin, Steulpnagel, shot himself at Verdun during a car journey, only to blind
himself in both eyes. He and Lieut. Col. Caesar von Hofacker, who served on his
staff, were sentenced to death and hanged.
Shirer states the Gestapo
recorded 7,000 arrests, and another source some 4,980 deaths, but the figure is
thought to be much higher.
The SS, its intelligence unit the SD, the
Gestapo, and a series of departments fell under the umbrella of the Reichssicherheitshauptamt
or RSHA (Reich Security Main Office), headed by SS Obergruppenfuehrer (Gen.) Dr
Ernst Kaltenbrunner. He was placed in charge of the Special Commission of July
20 by Adolf
(David Bamber) and Himmler (Matthias Freihof), now Commander in Charge
of the reserve army, and conducted extensive investigations and interrogations
to round up even those remotely connected with the attempt.
to Manvell and Fraenkel, Adolf
appointed a military court of honour led by field marshals Wilhelm
and Col. Gen Heinz
, who replaced Gen. Kurt Zeitzler as chief of the general staff, to
dismiss from the Army all officers remotely concerned in the putsch. The
conspirators were tried by Roland Freisler in his Peoples Court as civilians
and hanged, instead of facing a firing squad. Notable was the acquittal of Rommels
chief of staff Maj-Gen. Dr Hans Speidel, a conspirator.
of the conspiracy, Maj-Gen. Henning von Trescow (Kenneth Branagh), chief-of-staff
in the central army group, Eastern Front, walking on no-mans land towards
the Russian Forces, exploded a hand grenade and died.
last words to von Schlabrendorff were: God once promised Abraham to spare
Sodom should there be found 10 just men in the city. He will, I hope, spare Germany
because of the thing that we have done, and not destroy her
the resistance movement put on the shirt of Nessus. The worth of a man is certain
only if he is prepared to sacrifice his life for his convictions. Other:
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© Firoze Sameer.
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