Killing Hitler: The Countless Plots To Overthrow The German Fuhrer

Published March 11, 2016
Updated December 6, 2017
Hitler At The Eiffel Tower

Image Source: YouTube

The next plot took shape while Hitler was planning the invasion of France. The generals, convinced this would be Germany’s doom, updated their old plan and got ready to move.

One of the plotters, serving Chief of Staff Halder, insisted on waiting for the outcome of one last meeting with Hitler, where the staff’s objections would be formally presented. At the meeting, Hitler flew into one of his trademark rages, ranting about how he knew all about the generals’ disloyalty and promised to crush what he called “the spirit of Zossen” (where the general staff was headquartered).

It’s likely Hitler was just blowing off steam, but Halder took this to mean the plot had been exposed. Plans were shelved again and Hitler won a victory over France.

Nothing much could be done until the German armies were bogged down outside of Moscow in 1941. There, the commander of the Moscow military district, Henning von Tresckow, took charge of the plot and worked it up into a full-scale plan codenamed Operation Valkyrie.

The plotters made foreign contacts with British and American intelligence and prepared for a military occupation of Berlin. Most importantly, the plotters’ resolve had hardened – this time, Hitler would have to die.

On March 13, 1943, shortly after the surrender at Stalingrad and just before the disaster at Kursk, Hitler arrived in Smolensk for consultations. Plotter Helmuth Stieff gave one of Hitler’s aides a case of brandy for the plane trip back. Inside the case were two dummy bottles, prepared by British intelligence, that were filled with explosives and a 30-minute timer.

Two hours after takeoff, Hitler’s plane landed safely in Berlin. Another plotter hurried out to switch the parcel with a real case of brandy and figure out what went wrong. The bombs were duds; both of them.

One week after the failed bomb plot, Hitler was scheduled to speak at an exhibition of war trophies in Berlin. A German colonel got there first with a bomb in his pocket. His plan was to set the bomb’s 10-minute timer and stand next to Hitler until it went off.

At the last moment, the colonel was told Hitler would only be staying for around eight minutes. That was cutting it too close: The would-be bomber disabled the device and gave up.

A few months later, in November 1943, Hitler was scheduled to have a look at some winter uniforms the Wehrmacht had ordered. One of the uniform models, a Wehrmacht colonel who had once witnessed mass shootings in the east, brought a grenade with him.

His plan was simple: He would slip the grenade into his pocket and tackle Hitler. Unfortunately, an Allied bombing raid destroyed the train carrying the uniforms and the show was canceled.

The big plot finally came off in the summer of 1944. That July 20, Colonel and Count Claus Schenk von Stauffenberg planted a British-made suitcase bomb under the huge oaken table in Hitler’s situation room. The bomb went off, and blew up the High Command.

Hitler survived, though quite a few others died right next to him. The problem seems to have been that the bomb was planted on the wrong side of a thick wooden table leg, which shielded Hitler from most of the force. The bomb wasn’t designed with any shrapnel, so everybody who wasn’t killed by the blast force alone was more-or-less okay.

Richard Stockton
Richard Stockton is a freelance science and technology writer from Sacramento, California.