On 20 July 1944, an attempt was made to assassinate Adolf Hitler, Führer of the Third Reich, inside his Wolf’s Lair field headquarters near Rastenburg, East Prussia. The apparent purpose of the assassination attempt was to seize political control of Germany and its armed forces from the Nazi Party (including the SS) in order to obtain peace as soon as possible. The underlying desire of many of the involved high ranking Wehrmacht officers was apparently to show to the world that all Germans were not like Hitler and the NSDAP. However, no details of intended peace initiatives to be proposed by the conspirators have been identified.
The plot was the culmination of the efforts of several groups in the German Resistance to overthrow the Nazi-led German government. The failure of both the assassination and the military coup d’état which was planned to follow it led to the arrest of at least 7,000 people by the Gestapo. According to records of the Führer Conferences on Naval Affairs, 4,980 of these were executed.
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Modern Day Photos
Benderblock Memorial for the Officers in the Coup Attempt. The place where they were executed after the failed attempt.
The courtyard at the Bendlerblock, where Stauffenberg, Olbricht and others were executed.
Memorial statue at the Bendlerblock by Richard Scheibe.
Memorial at the Bendlerblock: “Here died for Germany on 20 July 1944” (followed by the names of the principal conspirators).
Memorial at the cemetery (Alter St.-Matthäus Kirchhof, Berlin) where the corpses were buried but afterwards removed to an unknown place.
Approximate positions of the participants at the meeting in relation to the briefcase bomb when it exploded.
Black and Whites Photos
At Rastenburg on 15 July 1944. Stauffenberg at left, Hitler center, Keitel on right. (The person shake-handed by Hitler is the General Karl Bodenschatz, who five days later, in contrast to Hitler, was heavily injured by Stauffenberg’s bomb.)
The conference room after the bomb exploded.
The Wolf’s Lair conference room soon after the explosion.
A soldier holding the trousers Hitler wore during the failed assassination attempt.
Soldiers and Waffen SS at the Bendlerblock.
Hitler visits Admiral Karl-Jesco von Puttkamer in the hospital.
Hitler visiting Heinrich Borgmann in hospital after the failed 20 July bomb, 1944.
Funeral of General Günther Korten at the Tannenberg Memorial.
In the first days of August 1944, Adolf Hitler receives Wachtmeister Arthur Adam. Following the assassination attempt of 20 July 1944 he was the first to become suspicious of Oberst Claus Schenk Graf von Stauffenberg. It was he who noticed that the colonel left the conference early and had forgotten his briefcase and service cap in the outer office. After a vain attempt to report this to the two responsible intelligence officers, he turned directly to Reichsleiter Martin Bormann who took him to Hitler in order to state his suspicions. For his deeds, Wachtmeister Arthur Adam was promoted to Oberwachtmeister and received a small house near Berlin and 20,000 RM (Reichsmark).
Claus Philipp Maria Schenk Graf von Stauffenberg, commonly referred to as Claus Schenk Graf von Stauffenberg (German: [ˈklaʊs ˈʃɛŋk ˈɡʁaːf fɔn ˈʃtaʊfənbɛɐ̯k]), Claus von Stauffenberg, or Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg (15 November 1907 – 21 July 1944), was a German army officer and aristocrat who was one of the leading members of the failed 20 July plot of 1944 to assassinate Adolf Hitler and remove the Nazi Party from power. Along with Henning von Tresckow and Hans Oster, he was one of the central figures of the German Resistance movement within the Wehrmacht. For his involvement in the movement he was shot shortly after the failed attempt known as Operation Valkyrie.
Albrecht Ritter Mertz von Quirnheim (25 March 1905 – 21 July 1944) was a German officer and a resistance fighter in Nazi Germany involved in the 20 July plot against Adolf Hitler.
Werner Karl von Haeften (9 October 1908 – 21 July 1944) was an Oberleutnant in the Wehrmacht, who took part in the military-based conspiracy against Adolf Hitler known as the 20 July plot. He is considered a hero of the German anti-Nazi resistance.
Friedrich Olbricht (4 October 1888 – 21 July 1944) was a German general and one of the plotters involved in the attempt to assassinate Adolf Hitler at the Wolfsschanze in East Prussia on 20 July 1944.
Herrmann Karl Robert “Henning” von Tresckow (January 10, 1901 – July 21, 1944) was a Generalmajor in the German Wehrmacht who organized German resistance against Adolf Hitler. He attempted to assassinate Hitler in March 1943 and drafted the Valkyrie plan for a coup against the German government. He was described by the Gestapo as the “prime mover” and the “evil spirit” behind the July 20 plot to assassinate Hitler. He committed suicide on the Eastern Front upon the plot’s failure.
Generaloberst Ludwig August Theodor Beck (29 June 1880 – 21 July 1944) was a German general and Chief of the German General Staff during the early years of the Nazi regime in Germany before World War II. Ludwig Beck was never a member of the Nazi Party, though in the early 1930s he supported Adolf Hitler’s forceful denunciation of the Versailles Treaty and belief in the need for Germany to rearm. Beck had grave misgivings regarding the Nazi demand that all German officers swear an oath of fealty to the person of Hitler in 1934, though he believed that Germany needed strong government and that Hitler could successfully provide this so long as he was influenced by traditional elements within the military rather than the SA and SS.
Job Wilhelm Georg Erdmann Erwin von Witzleben (4 December 1881 – 8 August 1944) was a German officer, by 1940 in the rank of a Field Marshal (Generalfeldmarschall), and army commander in World War II. A leading conspirator in the 20 July plot, he was designated to become commander-in-chief of the Wehrmacht armed forces in a post-Nazi regime.
Hans Oster (August 9, 1887 – April 9, 1945) was a German Army general, deputy head of the Abwehr under Wilhelm Canaris, and an opponent of Adolf Hitler and Nazism. He was a leading figure of the German resistance from 1938 to 1943.
Carl Friedrich Goerdeler (31 July 1884 – 2 February 1945) was a monarchist conservative German politician, executive, economist, civil servant, and opponent of the Nazi regime. Had the 20 July plot of 1944 succeeded, Goerdeler would have served as the Chancellor of the new government.
Late in the war, Rommel was linked to the conspiracy to assassinate Adolf Hitler. Because Rommel was a national hero, Hitler desired to eliminate him quietly. He forced Rommel to commit suicide with a cyanide pill, in return for assurances that Rommel’s family would not be persecuted following his death. He was given a state funeral, and his cause of death announced as a heart attack, following a car crash.
Friedrich Fromm (8 October 1888 – 12 March 1945) was a German army officer. A recipient of the Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross, he was executed for failing to act against the 20 July plot to assassinate Hitler.