Saying Adolf Hitler was lucky is an understatement. There are 42 known assassination attempts on Hitler’s life. These attempts ranged from bombs, firearms, and poison. (You can see a list of the attempts here.) As we know, Hitler survived every single one of them, and committed suicide in his bunker in April 1945.
Only one of these attempts was even remotely close. This is that story.
Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg grew up a strong Roman Catholic in Germany. Born in 1907 in his family’s castle, Stauffenberg was known as a very intelligent child growing up. Joining his family’s traditional regiment, he became a cadet at age nineteen.
Stauffenberg lost his left eye, right hand, and two fingers on his left after an Allied attack on April 7, 1943 in North Africa.
Approved by Hitler, Operation Valkyrie was the plan in case of Allied bombing or uprising. Stauffenberg had altered the plan so Stauffenberg, with other anti-Nazis, would take control of the government and surrender to the Allies. Before the war, everyone in the German military were sworn to oath to Hitler, not Germany. Being said, the only way to break that oath was Hitler’s death.
Despite some believing Hitler should be put on trial and not assassinated, early in 1942, Stauffenberg was already planning to assassinate Hitler. In March 1943, a conspiratorial group formed and they planted a bomb on Hitler’s plane. Unfortunately, the bomb failed to explode. This group tried another 4 times, and each time, something went wrong. Since there had many assassination attempts in the thirties, Hitler would frequently change his schedule last-minute.
The group agreed they should kill Hitler, Heinrich Himmler (who ran the concentration camps) and Hermann Göring concurrently. Bomb in briefcase, on July 11, 1944 Stauffenberg planned the assassination, however Himmler was not present. On July 15, Stauffenberg had a bomb in hand but Hitler left right before the plan was put into action.
On July 20, 1944; Stauffenberg was the closest anyone had ever been to assassinating Hitler. At the last minute, the meeting room was moved from inside the underground Wolf’s Lair to a nearby barrack. Whether this affected the bombs was discussed in an episode of Mythbusters. (Since the pressure of the bomb would have had no where to go in the underground, concrete Wolf’s Lair, Hitler more than likely would have been killed. However, since it was aboveground, the pressure had “somewhere to go”. )
As the conference began, Stauffenberg made an excuse to go the washroom and mangled the end of a pencil detonator to set the bomb off. Although he had planned to set two off, he only had the chance to set one off. Placing the bomb back in his briefcase, Stauffenberg went into the meeting room and carefully placed the briefcase next to Hitler. At a designated time, Stauffenberg received a phone call and quickly left the building. Colonel Heinz Brandt unknowingly moved the briefcase away from Hitler. Brandt lost one of his legs in the explosion and died the following day.
Besides Brandt, three others died subsequently, but Hitler was barely touched. Assuming Hitler was dead, Stauffenberg scurried into his staff car, passed three check points, and headed for Berlin.
A general in the plot had phoned the Benderblock (headquarters of the resistance plotters) stating Hitler was not dead. However, Stauffenberg phoned saying Hitler was dead. The Benderblock, of course, had no idea what to believe. The July 20 plot was the last of 15 known attempts on Hitler’s life by Germans.
Why the bomb failed
There are a few reasons why the bomb failed. (if you have any questions or want in-depth information, leave a comment and I’ll do my best to reply)
1. The move from the underground, concrete Wolf’s Lair to the outside opened barrack
2. The briefcase moved right before the bomb
3. Only one bomb, instead of two, was used
|Stauffenberg played by Tom Cruise,
Sadly, the next day, Stauffenberg was third in line to be executed by firing squad. Before being shot, Stauffenberg’s last words were, “Long live sacred Germany!” Stauffenberg’s wife, Nina, and their five children survived the war.
Stauffenberg has been featured in many films and documentaries, including a 2008 feature film with Tom Cruise. This film is pretty historically accurate, and I would definitely recommend it for teenagers and up.
The Military Channel’s show Unsolved History had a 2005 episode called “Killing Hitler” which went over the three reasons why Hitler survived the bomb.
Valkyrie: The Plot to Kill Hitler (part 1)
Valkyrie trailer (2008)
42 Ways To Kill Hitler
“You did not bear the shame. You resisted, sacrificing your life for freedom, justice, and honor.”
-German Resistance Memorial in Berlin, the end of the 2008 film Valkyrie