Category Archives: News/Stories

20 July 1944 – Adolf Hitler Survives Another Assassination Attempt

Stauffenberg, left, with Hitler (center) and Wilhelm Keitel, right, in an aborted assassination attempt at Rastenburg on 15 July 1944.

By the middle of July 1944, Germany’s war situation had gone from bad to worse. The collapse of the Eastern Front and the evident strength of the Allies in Normandy meant that many senior German officers believed that the war was lost. A relatively small group of them chose to take action. It was obvious that only the removal of Hitler could bring the war to an end.

After several abortive attempts Claus von Stauffenberg, a Staff Officer with access to Hitler’s Wolf’s Lair HQ Conference room came very close to succeeding. Several things went wrong. Stauffenberg only had one eye and three fingers on his left hand so could only arm one of the two bombs, then, because of the hot day the meeting was transferred from an underground bunker to a wooden hut. Finally, after depositing his briefcase bomb as close to Hitler as possible and making an excuse to leave, Stauffenberg’s briefcase was moved by another officer. It was placed on the other side of a solid wood trestle table leg, yet still only feet away from Hitler.

Heinrich Bucholz was one of the stenographers present, recording the discussions at the conference:

I remember it as a clap of thunder coupled with a bright yellow flash and clouds of thick smoke. Glass and wood splintered through the air. The large table on which all the situation maps had been spread out and around which the participants were standing — only we stenographers were sitting — collapsed. After a few seconds of silence, I heard a voice, probably Field Marshal Keitel, shouting: “Where is the Fuhrer?” Then further shouts and screams of pain arose.

The wrecked conference room at the “Wolfsschanze” near Rastenburg in East Prussia after the explosion on 20th July.

Paul Schmidt, Hitler’s interpreter, was one of the first people to see Hitler after the explosion. He arrived to be present for Hitler’s meeting with Mussolini that had previously been arranged. Because of the heightened security, he had difficulty going into the private railway station nearby, where Mussolini was due to arrive:

I did finally succeed in getting past the sentries and reached this station, where I was to meet Mussolini on his arrival early in the afternoon. At the station, I heard what had actually happened from Hitler’s physician, Professor Morell, who had not himself fully recovered from the shock of the explosion.

He told me that Hitler had, miraculously, escaped practically unhurt, whereas other people in the room had been severely wounded. He expressed great admiration for Hitler’s complete calm; he had found his pulse quite normal when examining him for injuries.

While the doctor was telling me this, Hitler himself suddenly appeared on the platform to welcome Mussolini. There was no evidence of what had happened, except that his right arm was rather stiff. When the train came in, I noticed that he held out his left hand to Mussolini and that he moved much more slowly than usual; it was as though one were watching him in a slow-motion film.

During the three-minute drive to his quarters, Hitler told Mussolini what had just happened, quietly and almost in a monotone as though he had had no part in it. Mussolini’s naturally prominent eyes seemed to start out of his head with horror.

We went straight to the conference room, which looked like a bombed house after an air-raid. For a while, the two men looked round in silence, and then Hitler related some of the details. He showed Mussolini how he had been bending over the table to see something on the map and was leaning on his right elbow, when the explosion occurred, almost exactly beneath his arm.

The top of the table had been blown off and it was this which had hurt his right arm. In a corner of the room was the uniform which Hitler had been wearing that morning, and he showed Mussolini the tattered trousers and the slightly torn tunic, and also showed the back of his head, where his hair was singed.

Mussolini was absolutely horrified; he could not understand how such a thing could happen at Headquarters; his face expressed utter dismay. In the ruins of this office, the nerve center of the Italo-German partnership, he must have seen the ruins of the whole political structure of the Rome-Berlin Axis.

At first, he could only think of the event as a bad omen, and some time elapsed before he pulled himself together enough to congratulate Hitler on his escape.
Hitler’s reaction was completely different.

“I was standing here by this table; the bomb went off just
in front of my feet. Over there in the corner of the room colleagues of mine were severely injured; just opposite me an officer was literally blown through the window and lay outside severely injured. Look at my uniform!

Look at my burns! When I reflect on all this I must say that to me it is obvious that nothing is going to happen to me; undoubtedly it is my fate to continue on my way and to bring my task to completion. It is not the first time that I have escaped death miraculously. First, there were times in the first war, and then during my political career, there were a series of marvelous escapes.

What happened here today is the climax! And having now escaped death in such an extraordinary way I am more than ever convinced that the great cause which I serve will be brought through its present perils and that everything can be brought to a good end.”

Hitler had talked himself with these words into a state of fine enthusiasm, as he was always able to do; he had passed from the quiet reporting tone in which he had related the details of the event, into that kind of rhetoric which seldom failed of its effect on the man to whom he was talking. It was something quite different from the raging and ranting of his public speeches. Outbursts of rage like those which occurred in the speeches, which he has often been credited within private conversations, never took place at any conversation where I was present as an interpreter.

Hitler shows Benito Mussolini the scene of his narrow escape.

Another account comes from Hitler’s masseur, A. J. Weinert, who was tracked down by Wolfe Frank, employed by the New York Herald Tribune after the war:

I was at Hitler’s Rastenburg headquarters at the time of the attempted assassination of 20 July 1944.

I must say I haven’t much respect for the people who bungled that affair. If you plan to pull off something like that, you should go ahead boldly, prepared to go down the drain yourself. But Graf von Stauffenberg wouldn’t have it that way. He simply plonked the briefcase containing the bomb down on a chair in Hitler’s conference room and beat it.

What happened next was miraculously lucky for Adolf. He somehow pushed the chair with the loaded briefcase on it under the heavy conference table and stood behind the chair while talking to the assembled group.

At the moment the bomb exploded, Hitler’s hand was outstretched over the table, making a gesture. The top of the table was blown upward, against his arm, which was badly sprained and bruised. But that was just about his only injury.

By some freak, the main force of the explosion was directed away from Hitler and blew the legs off some of the people who were standing on the other side of the table. Four people were killed in the explosion.

I saw Adolf less than five minutes after it happened. His trousers hung in shreds. In fact, all the horizontal threads seemed to have been blown away, leaving only the vertical ones hanging down. He controlled himself pretty well, I must admit, under the circumstance. He sat on the couch and laughed and laughed for quite a long time. And he kept slapping his thigh with his uninjured arm as he laughed. All his entourage crowded around to tell him he had been saved by an act of God. He seemed to believe it…

Shortly afterward Hitler made a radio broadcast to the German nation to confirm to all that the coup had failed and that he lived:

At the very moment when the German armies are engaged in a most difficult struggle, a small group formed in Germany, as happened in Italy, which thought that as in 1918 it could now deliver the stab in the back. However, this time they totally miscalculated.

The claim by these usurpers that I am no longer alive, is at this very moment proven false, for here I am talking to you, my dear fellow countrymen.

The circle which these usurpers represent is very small. It has nothing to do with the German armed forces, and above all nothing to do with the German army. It is a very small clique composed of criminal elements which will now be mercilessly exterminated.

An aide holds up Hitler’s trousers to show how close he was to the explosion.
0Shares

15 July 1944 – Rommel’s Last Report on the Battle in France

Field Marshals Gerd von Runstedt and Erwin Rommel pictured together early in 1944.

While some amongst the Allies started to worry that their advance was not going as swiftly as expected, the situation within the German High Command was a great deal worse. At the beginning of July, Field Marshal von Rundstedt had told Fuhrer HQ that it was ‘time to make peace’. He had promptly been relieved of his command.

Field Marshal Erwin Rommel had seen his predictions come true – Allied air power had severely curtailed German freedom of movement around the battlefield. While the Allies were able to make good their losses the Germans were not. He felt that an Allied breakout was imminent – but he was more circumspect about his recommendations than von Rundstedt “so the end of this unequal battle is in sight. In my view, we should learn a lesson from this situation.”

German soldiers with MG 34, somewhere on the Normandiefront, their bicycles on the ground behind them.
This was the report that he sent to Hitler:
ANALYSIS OF THE SITUATION, JULY 15, 1944

The position on the Normandy front is becoming daily increasingly difficult, and it is rapidly approaching its crisis. Owing to the fierceness of the fighting, the enormous amount of material in the enemy’s possession, especially their artillery and armor, and the undisputed mastery of the air obtained by the enemy air forces, our losses are so great that the battle potential of our divisions is rapidly deteriorating.

Reinforcements from home come in very small quantities, and take weeks in arriving because of the bad transport situation. We have lost about 97,000 men, including 2,360 officers — which means an average loss of 2,500 to 3,000 men per day — and we have received until now 10,000 men as replacements, of which 6,000 have already been sent to the front.

Also, the losses in supplies for the troops have been extraordinarily high, and it has not been possible to provide more than very meager replacements, as for example 17 tanks up till now to replace about 225.

The divisions which have been newly brought in are not used to battle conditions and with their small consignments of artillery, anti-tank weapons, and means of engaging tanks in close combat they are not able to offer effective resistance to enemy large-scale attacks for any length of time, after being subjected to concentrated artillery fire and heavy air raids for hours on end. It has been proved in the fighting that even the bravest unit is gradually shattered by the well-equipped enemy and loses men, weapons, and territory.

The destruction of the railroad network and the great danger of enemy air attacks on all the roads and paths for 150 kilometers behind the front has made the supply position so difiicult that only the absolutely essential things could be brought up, and above all artillery and mortar ammunition was at a premium.

These conditions are not likely to improve, as convoy vehicles are decreasing as a result of enemy action, and with the enemy capturing airfields in the bridgehead it can be expected that their air activities will increase.

No forces worth mentioning can be brought in to the Nor- mandy front without weakening the 15th Army on the English Channel, or the Mediterranean front in southern France. The 7th Army front alone requires most urgently 2 fresh divisions, as the forces there are worn out.

The enemy are daily providing new forces and masses of materials for the front; the enemy supply lanes are not challenged by the Luftwaffe and enemy pressure is continually increasing.

In these circumstances, it must be expected that the enemy will shortly be able to break through our thinly-held front, especially in the 7th Army sector, and push far into France. I should like to draw attention to the attached reports from the 7th Army and II Parachute Corps.

Apart from local reserves of Panzer Group West, which are about to be sent to the Panzer Group’s sector, and which in the face of the enemy air forces can only march during the night, there are no mobile reserves at all at our disposal to counter any breakthrough on the 7th Army front.

Our own air force has hardly entered the battle at all as yet.

Our troops are fighting heroically, but even so, the end of this unequal battle is in sight. In my view, we should learn a lesson from this situation. I feel it is my duty as C. in C. of the Army Group to point this matter out.

(signed) Rommel

Whatever Hitler felt about the report he did not have to trouble himself about replacing Rommel. On the 17th July Rommel was badly injured when his staff car was attacked by an Allied fighter. He was flown back to Germany for treatment and never returned.

Panzer VI “Tiger II” (Königstiger) or King Tiger parked under trees in Normandy.
0Shares

Merkel honors Hitler Assassins, Laments Rise of Far Right

by DW

The chancellor said Germans have a “duty” to stand up to right-wing extremists just as the resistance faced down Adolf Hitler. July 20 is the 75th anniversary of the failed assassination attempt on the Nazi dictator.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Saturday urged strong opposition from all sections of German society against the resurgence of right-wing extremism.

In her weekly video address, a week before the 75th anniversary of the assassination attempt on Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler, she paid tribute to those who opposed the Führer’s rule and took action.

“They followed their conscience and thereby shaped a part of Germany’s history that otherwise would have been solely defined by the darkness of National Socialism,” Merkel said.

“We, too, have a duty today to stand up against all those tendencies that want to destroy democracy,” the chancellor added.

July 20 marks the anniversary of the 1944 bomb plot to murder Hitler and remove the Nazi Party from power. The attempt failed and Hitler survived with minor injuries. The plot’s orchestrator, Claus Schenk Graf von Stauffenberg, and some 200 co-conspirators were executed.

Assassins were role models

Merkel said Germany owes them a debt of gratitude, noting that the country’s post-war constitution may not have come into existence without such actions.

The chancellor also singled out the “terrible murder” last month of German politician Walter Lübcke, which prosecutors think was politically motivated by those with links to neo-Nazi extremism.

Lübcke had become a target of threats because of his support for Merkel’s refugee policies.

The chancellor said his killing showed how important it was to support those who assume political responsibility — whether at the local level, as politicians or in non-governmental organizations and in society as a whole. “It requires a clear response from everyone.”

All Germans were invited “to do their part in our society to ensure that democracy is strong, that civil society is strong and that right-wing extremism has no chance.”

0Shares

Wolf’s Lair: Hitler’s Infamous Bunker Faces Its Past

by DW

A complex of crumbling former Nazi bunkers in a northeast Poland forest became a Disneyland for selfie-stick wielding tourists. Also the site of an assassination attempt on Hitler, it’s now getting a facelift.

The room where Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg tried to kill Hitler on July 20, 1944 is being rebuilt this year as part of a major renovation of the Wolfsschanze, or Wolf’s Lair, the bunker complex in eastern Poland where the Nazi leader spent much of the war.

The conference room was devastated in the infamous assassination attempt in which an explosion killed four Nazi officers, but which Hitler survived with light wounds. A thick oak table deflected the blast of the briefcase bomb that Stauffenberg had placed on the floor before leaving the room and travelling back to Berlin.

The renovation project coincides with this year’s 75th anniversary of the July 20 assassination attempt. It will feature life-size models of Hitler and all those who were present that fateful day.

“The priority this year is the reconstruction of the meeting room in which Stauffenberg carried out an unsuccessful assassination attempt on Hitler,” said Sebastian Trapik, a spokesman for the Wolf’s Lair memorial site. In addition to the placement of “symbolic figures depicting those present at the time of the explosion,” re-enactments might also be performed, he added.

Only the foundations of the barrack building where the explosion happened remain. Set in dense woods near Kętrzyn in former East Prussia, the site is marked by a memorial to resistance hero Stauffenberg, who, together with three co-conspirators, was shot dead in the courtyard of the Bendlerblock military headquarters in Berlin within hours of the failed assassination.

Hitler and recently arrived guest Benito Mussolini visit the scene of the failed assassination attempt in the hours after the explosion.

Ordering the Holocaust

The reconstruction of the Wolf’s Lair is the latest in a series of measures aimed at refocusing the historical significance of the site for its 300,000 annual visitors.

Historians and visitors have long condemned the Eastern Front bunker as a ghoulish tourist trap focused more on entertainment than informing people about the fateful decisions taken there. Warsaw Uprising Museum director, Jan Oldakowski, for example, once described the site as a “grotesque Disneyland.”

But in the bunkers that now stand cracked and covered in moss like Mayan temples in a jungle, decisions were made to carry out the Holocaust, and to take no prisoners in the crushing of the Warsaw Uprising in August 1944 — when 250,000 Poles were killed.

This important history will be central to the complete redesign of the Wolf’s Lair that was launched by the Polish Forestry Inspectorate, which took over the site from a private leaseholder in 2017.

The crumbling Stauffenberg memorial at the Wolf’s Lair.

Reflecting on the past

Before the modernization, there was scant historical information apart from some boards with maps showing the main bunkers and a sign explaining the July 20 plot. Private guides were on hand but some of them focused more on technical information, such as the thickness of the walls, rather than on historical context.

The new management has shut down what Sebastian Trapik calls “fairground entertainment,” including a ramshackle shooting range where tourists could, for a few cents, fire bursts of pellets at plastic bottles from replica pneumatic MP40 submachine guns. It was housed in the former bunker of General Alfred Jodl, who was hanged at Nuremberg for war crimes. Paintball sessions that used to be on offer here have also been stopped.

Meanwhile, information panels have been installed outside the buildings this month, and a documentary film is now screened in one of the shelters. New exhibitions about weapons and military equipment, and on the Warsaw Uprising, have been opened. A multimedia app for visitors has also been launched.

Trapik says the inspectorate had consulted historians and literature on the site in designing the new exhibitions and information panels, and that visitor numbers were already on the increase. The reconstruction of sightseeing trails and the installation of new lighting this year will also allow visitors to walk around the bunkers at night.

And while tourists can currently spend the night in one of the few intact buildings, a green-painted barracks that used to house SS officers, a new hotel, restaurant, conference room and visitor center will be completed in the next five years.

De facto Nazi capital

After Hitler relocated to his far eastern bunker in June 1941, two days after launching the invasion of the Soviet Union, the Wolf’s Lair became the effective capital of the Third Reich. The Nazi dictator spent 850 days at the sprawling site that includes 50 bunkers and 70 barrack buildings, two airfields, a railway station and anti-aircraft batteries.

German military operations on all fronts were directed from the Wolf’s Lair, which was home to some 2,000 people. There were eight huge bunkers for the Nazi leadership. Hitler, his secretary Martin Bormann and Hermann Göring had their own, and there was a guest bunker for state guests such as Benito Mussolini and Pierre Laval, the leader of France’s Vichy regime.

The roofs were continuously thickened to protect the bunkers from Allied bombs. Hitler’s ceiling was eight meters thick in the end.

The remains of the ‘guest bunker’ for VIP visitors, among them Mussolini.

‘Site of the perpetrators’

The Wolf’s Lair was evacuated in November 1944 as the Red Army closed in. German engineers tried to detonate all the bunkers in January 1945, however the steel-reinforced concrete was so strong that many buildings remained standing. Today they remain spectacularly mangled in parts, with walls at precarious angles and lumps of masonry hanging from rusted steel wires.

The site is especially significant since few so-called “sites of the perpetrators” remain from the Nazi era. Hitler’s Berghof retreat on Obersalzberg mountain in Bavaria, and the Berlin bunker where he committed suicide, were razed at the end of the war.

Historian say that with wartime generations dying out fast, original locations like the Wolf’s Lair can, when their history is properly presented, help younger generations comprehend the evils of — and resistance to — the Nazi regime.

0Shares

Dresden Commemorates 1945 Allied Area Bombing with Human Chain

By DW 

Tens of thousands gathered in Dresden’s old town to pay tribute to the victims of Allied air raids in 1945. The commemoration has taken place every year since 2010 and often attracts right-wing demonstrators.

Around 11,500 people stood hand-in-hand to form a human chain around Dresden’s old town on Wednesday commemorating the 74th anniversary of an allied bombing in 1945 during World War II.

Dresden was decimated by a series of four air raids from February 13-15, 1945, during which British and US air forces dropped more than 3,900 tons of explosives. The heavy use of various incendiary bombs led to a firestorm in the city, a phenomenon is more typically seen in nature when a fire becomes so large it creates and sustains its own wind systems, sucking in more oxygen and facilitating its own spread.

Between 23,000 and 25,000 people are thought to have died in the area bombing, concentrated not on strategic targets but on a population center.

Since 2010, thousands have traditionally gathered in Dresden every year on February 13 to form a human chain around the old town, where most of the destruction occurred, to symbolically protect it.

City partnerships

Saxony’s state premier Michael Kretschmer and Dresden’s Mayor Dirk Hilbert were among those who participated. A delegation from Wroclaw, Poland and the British city of Coventry also joined the ranks — both cities suffered severe damage from the air in World War II and have had partnerships with Dresden over the past 60 years.

Hilbert, mayor since 2015, recalled the victims not only in Dresden but also in other European cities. He highlighted the importance of reconciliation, saying there were currently “reconciliation gaps” around Europe that need to be closed.

Around 100 people also gathered at Dresden’s Frauenkirche for a prayer for peace, where pastor Sebastian Feydt paid tribute to the 60-year partnership between Dresden and Coventry. All church bells in Dresden are also set to ring at 9:45 p.m. CET (2045 UTC), the time of the first air raid on February 13.

Right-wing demonstrations

The annual commemorations in Dresden, a city that was once strong in its Nazi sympathies, have also traditionally attracted right-wing extremists, who organize events on the February 13 anniversary for their own political purposes.

The high numbers of civilian casualties during the bombings of cities like Dresden and Hamburg, coupled with historians questioning their strategic value so late in the war, are popular talking points among the far-right in Germany.

On Wednesday, members of the Young Alternative for Germany, the youth wing of Germany’s AfD party, and the ultranationalist National Democratic Party (NDP) laid a wreath at the Heide cemetery in Northern Dresden.

Other AfD party members also leaned wreaths on the Altmarkt memorial at the center of Dresden’s old town, where the bodies of thousands of victims were burned after the Allied attacks in 1945.

38Shares

2019 State of the Historical Society and Website

 

Hello All Members,

I’m writing this to discuss the website and historical society in which we will cover some of the good things and issues we are running into while going into 2019.

We are growing. While we do not have a brick and mortar organization as of yet, we are seeing an uptick and improvement in membership and donations while we are working on growing the website in all areas from writing to photography. This is something we strive to bring to all who enjoy this website: the information of history with current events and photos. As we boast, we by far have one if not the largest collection of German historical and military photos beneath the actual German Federal Archives.

We are still focusing on the writing and mainly working on the World War II area of German military history. This will in time change to other areas such as World War I and other parts of German history. I know, I know. We are working towards that for the WWI buffs. But if we come across pictures from all eras, they will be posted soon after when time allows.

Here are some good things we are seeing or accomplishing:
  1. Pages on the Website: 466
  2. Photos and Images on Website: 20,854
  3. The writing is being worked on weekly with more and more information being added.
  4. Website Members lists are growing!
  5. Paying or Society Members are growing at a nice rate!
  6. Donations have been coming in for the website and museum!
  7. We added a Forum for members to talk about historical subjects.
  8. Upgraded security features for the website.
Unfortunately, there are down things also:
  1. We need more donations or the long term goal of the museum will not happen!
  2. We are seeing constant web attacks from spammers and more. Granted the entire internet has this issue, but we are forced to remove members when they don’t follow our Sign Up Rules.
  3. Removing members due to their emails being blacklisted on the web due to spam accounts. People you have to change your passwords and they must be strong or your accounts will be broken into. This causes your email to do illegal things.
  4. Removing the Chat Feature. It was not popular, but maybe one day we will bring it back.
  5. The last and always the constant pain – People coming here thinking we will support their National Socialist – Nazis beliefs, non-sense, stupidity, etc. We cover the history and support the soldaten that served Germany. Nazism is Dead. The Holocaust is a Stain on German Honor. This is not forgivable. Nazis will never secure a majority anywhere around the world. Take the hate and go crawl back into your hole.

I hope everyone has enjoyed my short report on things. Any questions, please send them to our inbox. Danke.

 

Mit Freundlichen Gruß,

Hans-Wilhelm B. von Richter, Chancellor of the Society
Historical Society of German Military History

Please make a Donation to help the study of German History and to help honor German Veterans. Danke.

80Shares