Claus Philipp Maria Justinian Schenk Graf von Stauffenberg ( Jettingen , Bavaria , 15 of November of 1907 – Berlin , Germany , 21 of July of 1944 ) was a military German , Colonel of Staff ( Oberst im Generalstab ) of the Wehrmacht and Chief of the Army Reserve of Berlin during the Third Reich .
He is known for planning and being a central figure in a failed attempt on Hitler, historically referred to as the ” July 20 plot ” of 1944 , the most important of Hitler’s assassination attempts . After the failure of the coup was sentenced and shot by high treason on the part of one of the own involved, concretely General Fromm . He is considered a hero of the German resistance.
Born November 15, 1907 in his uncle’s castle, Count Berthold von Stauffenberg, in Jettingen ( Bavaria , Germany ), was the youngest son of the marriage composed of Count Alfred Schenk von Stauffenberg and Countess Caroline von Üxküll-Gyllenband .
His older brothers were the Berthold and Alexander twins , and he himself was the twin of another, Konrad Maria, who died the day after he was born. The von Stauffenberg are an old aristocratic family, Catholic and Swabian , that owned and still owns several castles in the south of Germany ; Among others, one in Albstadt-Lautlingen ( Baden-Württemberg , Germany ), now a museum, where Claus and his brothers spent their holidays.
The von Stauffenberg family entered history in 1260, through the noble Werner Schenk von Neuenzell . Claus, like all the von Stauffenberg who live today, was of the Stauffenberg-Amerdingen branch. Among the ancestors of Claus by his mother was the Count August Neidhardt von Gneisenau , the hero of the Prussian army , whose surname was one of the largest warships in Germany during World War I , the armored cruiser SMS Gneisenau and later In World War II , the battleship DKM Gneisenau .
Claus von Stauffenberg was a very handsome gentleman, of tall stature for his generation (1.85 m) and with an undeniable gift of people, which made him very popular among his companions. Albert Speer , who dealt with Stauffenberg in 1944 as a liaison for the headquarters of the Reserve Headquarters, describes him as extremely kind and an almost mystical figure because of his lordship and appearance.
Educated in Stuttgart , very fond of literature, the young aristocrat, in spite of his precarious health, joined the German army, then called Reichswehr , in 1926, at the age of 18. He belonged with his brothers to the narrower circle of the poet Stefan George and his elitist group Opposition conservatrice ; in December 1933 he was part of the honor guard at his funeral, in Locarno ( Switzerland ).
Although he did not initially oppose the rise of the Nazis to power in March 1933, his attitude changed in 1938 , after the so-called Night of Broken Glass , to see how members of the SS carried out all kinds of crimes and humiliations To Jews . In fact, his sister-in-law, the famous aviator Melitta Gräfin Schenk von Stauffenberg was of Jewish descent and was about to be interned in a concentration camp . Claus was friendly with Jewish intellectuals and apparently both he and his family were against Nazi anti-Semitic policies.
The 26 of September of 1933 he married Baroness Nina Schenk Gräfin von Stauffenberg in Bamberg , with whom he had five children: Berthold, Heimeran, Franz-Ludwig, Valerie and Konstanze, the least of which would be born after the death of von Stauffenberg. His widow was interned at Ravensbruck and his sons sent to Bad Sachsa. He survived and died near Bamberg the 2 of April of 2006 , at the age of 92 years. 1 His daughter Konstanze von Schulthess-Rechberg wrote his biography: Nina Schenk Graefin von Stauffenberg .
Already integrated in a unit of cavalry of the Reichswehr in Bamberg in 1926, in 1937 reached to the eleven years of race the degree of captain in the Wehrmacht , degree that normally would only have obtained to the 16 years of service.
By that time, his maternal uncle, Count Nikolaus Graf von Üxküll-Gyllenband , had participated in a resistance movement of Prussian military against the regime of Adolf Hitler .
The cavalry regiment of von Stauffenberg was integrated into the 6th Panzer Division and took part in the occupation of the Sudetenland , today Czech Republic , and in the campaigns of Poland in 1939 ( Invasion of Poland, 1939 ) and France ( Battle of France ) In 1940 . On May 31, 1940, he was awarded the First Class Iron Cross .
Stauffenberg’s attitude ranged from a lukewarm initial stance against Nazism to later adopting the most radical stance against the Hitler regime.
From June 1941 he participated in the war against the Soviet Union ( Operation Barbarossa ) and was appalled by the systematic killings by the SD ( Sicherheitsdienst or Security Service) German, the infamous death squads of the SS in the rear , Especially against the Jews .
As a result he came to the conviction that he was obliged to enter into active resistance against the Nazi regime. Already before the German defeat at the Battle of Stalingrad (December 1942 / January 1943) Stauffenberg doubted Hitler’s powers as supreme commander and foresaw German defeat; But Stauffenberg hoped he would win the war and then plot against the Nazi regime. The result of the Battle of Stalingrad convinced Stauffenberg that Germany was heading for defeat.
At that time, the allies led by Winston Churchill agreed not to negotiate peace with Hitler or any member of the Nazi leadership, thus leaving the way open for a conspiracy, which began to materialize in 1944.
In January 1943 he was promoted to lieutenant colonel and transferred to the campaign of North Africa , being an officer of a special unit of tanks of the general Rommel dedicated to the recognition of the land and the observation of the enemy’s strength, position and movements; Was assigned to the 10th Panzer Division . During a reconnaissance raid at the Battle of Kasserine Pass in Tunisia , on February 7, 1943 near Gafsa , his vehicle was caught and attacked by a British aircraft, leaving him severely injured when receiving the impact of shrapnel; Lost the left eye, the right hand and the pinky and ring fingers of the left hand. He was transferred to Munich , where he was rescued by the famous surgeon Ernst Ferdinand Sauerbruch .
Hitler’s ideology and practice of the systematic extermination of certain minorities, especially that of the Jews, made him a bitter enemy of Hitler , whom he considered a monster. At the end of 1942 , the tremendous defeat at the Battle of Stalingrad sealed the fate of Germany on the eastern front and panic and discouragement spread in the ranks. Someone asked Stauffenberg what to do with Hitler. He answered, “Kill him!” 2
As a professional soldier, he also knew by June 1941 that Hitler’s military strategies as commander-in-chief in the Soviet Union had to end catastrophically. Thought was shared by other Prussian military. Without sufficient means and troops, Hitler decided to maintain a front of thousands of kilometers in the Soviet Union from the Black Sea in the South to the Baltic Sea in the North, even against the opinion of his generals, who recommended him to concentrate his troops Especially in the conquest of Moscow , where Stalin would be forced to fight against the then superior German troops. In addition Hitler thought to finish its campaign like style blitz , similar to the campaign of France , before the beginning of the winter of 1941 and did not have its troops equipped with the clothes and the material suitable for the extreme temperatures of a Russian winter. Hitler’s strategy would allow the Soviets to attack with superior forces where it suited them best. The first and most well-known consequence was the battle of Stalingrad in the southern front in late 1942, a bloody disaster for the Germans.
In September 1943 , after recovering from his very serious injuries, with the help of his friend and also conspirator General Lieutenant Henning von Tresckow , he returned to active service in Berlin under the command of General Friedrich Olbricht in the OKW ( General Staff ) located in the Bendlerblock of the Bendlerstrasse (today Stauffenbergstrasse ) of Berlin . Olbricht was a member of the resistance committee that was outlining a plan to kill Hitler . On 1 July 1944 von Stauffenberg was assigned to the General Staff Headquarters of General Fromm , in charge of the reserve of the German army , also located on the Bendlerstrasse (now Stauffenbergstrasse ) in Berlin . This direct door to Hitler, opened under the auspices of Fromm, was the opportunity to carry out its tasks.
Von Stauffenberg, now appointed colonel iG (= im / of the General Staff ) at the age of 36, under the new post of Ersatzheer (= reserves) of the German army , had direct access to meetings of the planning committee of operations Which Hitler himself led. This fact enabled him to meet regularly with the Führer.
Olbricht’s plan was to adapt the so-called ” Valkyrie Plan ” for the purposes of the resistance and had interwoven between 200 and 500 involved in different high strata of German society, German military and even the intelligence and counter-espionage section led By the Admiral Wilhelm Canaris , in addition to an important civil collaboration in charge of Goerdeler, mayor of Silesia.
The Valkyrie Plan had initially been devised by SS Reinhard Heydrich to maintain control of the Reich in the hands of Adolf Hitler , should the security and stability of the regime be compromised by an uprising or anarchism; Paradoxically, Friedrich Olbricht wanted to use this same plan to overthrow the National Socialist regime as his organization annulled the SS .
At the same time, particularly among members of the Prussian aristocracy, most of whom were practicing Lutherans, there had been secret circles such as the Solf Circle and the Kreisau Circle ; In the latter they considered that Hitler was leading to Germany to moral and material ruin, reason why it had to be stopped, but not killed. This circle was the civil part of the conspiracy and was led by Count Helmuth James von Moltke , Peter Yorck von Wartenburg , Adam von Trott zu Solz , Hans Bernd von Haeften , Fabian von Schlabrendorff , Leipzig Conservative Mayor Carl Goerdeler and Brother Of Claus, Berthold von Stauffenberg , among others. The network was extensive, and therefore the information was leaked to the Gestapo who began to investigate to the German general over and over.
The military part was headed at the beginning, from 1942, by colonel Henning von Tresckow and from 1 of September of 1943 by Claus von Stauffenberg. He had the support of retired Marshal Erwin von Witzleben , General Ludwig Beck, and the active support of General Olbricht. General Fromm had not explicitly given his unconditional support to the movement, but had participated in the making of a new government listing and knew in detail the activities of Claus von Stauffenberg. Fromm’s attitude towards the conspirators was very ambivalent from the beginning to the end.
The plan was to eliminate Hitler in the attack and to stop Josef Goebbels , Hermann Göring and Heinrich Himmler . Then in Berlin , Fromm had to neutralize the SS with the reserve army and von Stauffenberg win and organize the active support of the German army throughout Europe . In France , General Stülpnagel was to neutralize the gauleiter and SD and cut communications with Berlin .
The commander Szokoll and Colonel Heinrich Cordé should neutralize the buildings of the Gestapo ( secret police ) and police in Vienna . Later a provisional government would be installed that would try to sign the peace with the allies and to put an end to the war.
It seems that a minority of those involved were close to the monarchist restoration plan in Germany with the return of the Hohenzollern house . The future form of the German state was left open.
In total there were about 200 direct and 300 indirectly involved.
At present von Stauffenberg is considered as a hero of the anti-Nazi resistance during World War II . What many historians are debating is whether the decision to carry out the assassination was due to Hitler’s strategic mistakes in warfare or to von Stauffenberg’s repulsion upon learning of the crimes and racial cleansing carried out by Hitler and The SS . Apparently, both were reasons that united with the influence of his uncle Berthold and his family environment triggered the decisive intervention of Claus von Stauffenberg. In short, almost everyone agrees that the plan was the result of an attempt to stop the war.
Previous attempts to July 20, 1944
After several attempts of frustrated attacks from March of 1943 , devised first by the general lieutenant Tresckow and from the first of September of 1943 by von Stauffenberg, this one in December of 1943 offered to execute personally a suicide attack due to its possibility To approach Hitler. His conspirators convinced him not to act for the necessity of his presence in Berlin after Hitler ‘s death and for his alleged physical inability to activate the bomb. That condition is invalid which would help Thursday 20 of July of 1944 to reach the pump to the table Hitler .
But many months earlier, in March 1943 the General Lieutenant Tresckow and Lieutenant Schlabrendorff managed to put a barometric bomb on the plane Hitler . The pump did not explode due to freezing. Two weeks later von Gersdorff attempted to kill Hitler with a bomb in Berlin at an exhibition of arms taken from the Soviets. In November of 1943, already organized by von Stauffenberg, the young captain Axel von dem Bussche made a first frustrated attempt of suicidal attack in the Wolfsschanze . Von Stauffenberg envisaged a second attempt by Axel von dem Bussche for February 1944 , but on January 29 of that year Axel von dem Bussche was seriously injured. The Lieutenant Ewald von Kleist (not to be confused with Paul Ludwig Ewald von Kleist, 1881-1954, German field marshal during World War II) tried to implement the plan of Axel von dem Bussche on February 11, 1944, but neither came close to Hitler . The Captain Von Breitenbuch wanted to kill Hitler in May 1944 with his pistol in the refuge of Hitler in the Alps called Eagle ‘s Nest near Berchtesgaden , but the SS did not let that day pass assistants to the meeting room. Stauffenberg at the suggestion of Tresckow attempted in late June, a rapprochement with Armaments Minister Albert Speer ; But did not have the expected response, nevertheless it was still considered in a future government with the annotation: – “if possible”.
On July 1, 1944, von Stauffenberg, as a member of the Army Staff, he was given a new mission which enabled him to attend meetings with Hitler almost every week. When General Stieff repented to detonate a bomb against Hitler in the palace of Klessheim near Salzburg , 7 of July of 1944, von Stauffenberg and von Tresckow decided that it was the first one of them to put the bomb and not to delegate the task in nobody plus.
Due to his essential presence in Berlin to organize the uprising of the army after Hitler ‘s death , von Stauffenberg had to survive the attack and present himself as soon as possible in the ” Bendlerblock “, today in the Stauffenbergstrasse, Berlin . From then on von Stauffenberg always had the briefcase with the pump with him in the meetings that maintained in several occasions with Hitler.
But he never found an occasion when Hitler , Himmler and Göring were together. His intention was to kill the three simultaneously, thus avoiding the possibility of a legitimate continuation of the Nazi regime.
The first attempt was on July 11, but it was not carried out until he expected at least Himmler to be present, which did not happen.
On July 15, 1944 he decided to eliminate Hitler in any way the next time he was introduced. On that occasion he had the opportunity, but Tresckow again insisted that the entire Nazi dome was also a serious drawback, since both Himmler and Göring were rarely invited to these military meetings, Stauffenberg did not commit the attack that day despite To participate in a meeting with the entire Hitler OKW which included General Friedrich Fromm.
Tresckow, Olbricht and Quirnheim finally yielded and it was decided that the next attempt was made with or without the presence of the aforementioned characters, the primary requirement was the mere presence of Hitler.
Thursday, July 20, 1944
Von Stauffenberg carried a briefcase, with a special English plastic explosive of one kilogram that was activated by an absolutely silent chemical detonator ignited by break. Von Haeften was carrying another identical bomb. Hitler advanced the meeting 30 minutes, since about one and a half should receive the Duce Mussolini .
Before entering the meeting room, von Stauffenberg, with the excuse of changing his shirt, went with von Haeften to a room nearby to activate the two pumps as quickly as possible. With great difficulty because of his single hand, plus the left and with only three fingers, he broke the glass capsule of the chemical detonator of his bomb with a special pliers designed for his three fingers and activated the first explosive in his briefcase. He did not have time to activate the second explosive, in possession of von Haeften, due to the entry of an impertinent noncommissioned officer into the room where he was supposedly just changing his shirt, urging him to re-enter the meeting immediately. Von Haeften took the second unactivated bomb in his briefcase to a nearby anti-aircraft bunker. The chemical device would detonate the first bomb in the von Stauffenberg briefcase in about ten minutes.
The site of the attack was initially planned in Hitler’s underground bunker , but members of the Todt Organization were working there , so it was decided to hold the meeting in the shed on the surface of Albert Speer , a mainly wooden house, which counted With several large windows and a large and heavy oak table.
Twenty-three people attended the meeting, in addition to Hitler and von Stauffenberg. The atmosphere was hot, so we ordered to open the windows. The meeting begins.
Von Stauffenberg arrives with some delay, excuses himself with a gesture and stands as close to Hitler as possible, supposedly waiting his turn to expose the situation on the Eastern Front . Hitler occupies the central part of the table looking outwards, von Stauffenberg is situated on his right, just a meter and a half from Hitler .
After a few minutes von Stauffenberg places the briefcase with the bomb under the table very close to where Hitler is , and retires discreetly pretexting an urgent phone call from Berlin . It has only three minutes before it explodes.
After leaving von Stauffenberg’s room, one of the assistants accidentally bangs the briefcase with his foot and pulls it aside, placing it next to one of the thick legs of the table on the far side of Hitler . The meeting continues.
Two and a half minutes later, at 12.40, the device explodes. Hitler , who was crouched on a map of the Russian front placed on the thick table, suddenly sees that it rises and strikes him in the face. The explosion is violent and leaves four dead and others injured. As the windows of the room were open, the force of the explosion dispersed. Specialists in explosives say that if the meeting had taken place in the basement, whose walls would have retained the shock wave, everyone present would have died; And if von Stauffenberg had put the second bomb that von Haeften carried in his briefcase, even without manipulating, no one in the hut would have survived.
Von Stauffenberg and von Haeften witnessed the explosion from afar, and believed, with no chance of proving the results, that neither Hitler nor anyone could have survived. They hurried to the airfield, and von Haeften got rid of the second bomb by throwing it out of the car window. They got cold-blooded to pass the guard posts and were taken with their plane to Berlin . General conspirator Fellgiebel in the Wolfsschanze communicated the word “Walkiria” to Berlin as a sign that the attack had succeeded, for others involved in Berlin to make the decisions agreed to take over the state.
Hitler survived to receive the explosion indirectly, since he had been protected by the thick paw and solid table of the oak table, which fell into splinters that were stuck in one leg, suffering only slight bruises on his arm and left side Of his face. Later collateral consequences would affect your health later.
It was thought at first that the place had been bombed, but there was no information of enemy planes flying over the area; With the passing of the minutes, the idea of an attack was taking form and the absence of von Stauffenberg raised suspicions. At the edge of the road to the airfield was found the briefcase with the second bomb, which was recognized as the same as the one carrying the explosion.
Von Stauffenberg, in full flight to Berlin , took for granted the death of Hitler without suspecting what really happened. Arriving at the Bendlerstrasse , around 4.30 pm, he realized that the plan of seizure had not just begun. The reserve army had not left the barracks.
Meanwhile , Martin Bormann is the first to explain exactly what happened and informs Hitler that the secretary of the guard had seen von Stauffenberg leave after the explosion and hurriedly leave the place leaving his cap.
In this way von Stauffenberg became the main suspect of Himmler and of Kaltenbrunner , that was already approaching from Berlin .
Failure of the coup and death of von Stauffenberg
Once von Stauffenberg arrived, those involved were mobilized to effect the coup . At around 6 pm things did not seem to go wrong for the conspirators, when General Fromm , commander-in-chief of the Replacement Command, who knew the plan and had the mission to demobilize the SS , telephoned Rastenburg and talked to the Marshal of Wilhelm Keitel and the latter (who was not involved in the conspiracy) assured him that Hitler was alive, as well as asking him about the whereabouts of Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg. Fromm , coldly, from this moment assumed the role of loyal follower of Hitler and refused to continue with the coup. Von Stauffenberg and other officers questioned him and then arrested him by taking him to a file storage.
Meanwhile , Goebbels had Major Remer , who was to detain him in his office, listen to Hitler’s voice on the telephone, who ordered him to demobilize the reservists and telephonically gave him the rank of colonel . Later General Guderian came with his tanks and took Berlin . The blow finally broke down.
About 23.00, Fromm was released from his arrest and immediately detained the surprised von Stauffenberg and the other conspirators without first giving ineffective resistance. Fromm summarily condemned to death by Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg, the Lieutenant Werner von Haeften , to General Olbricht and Colonel Albrecht Mertz von Quirnheim , the ringleaders of the operation. The General Beck, Fromm gave him the opportunity to kill herself.
Fromm told Himmler shortly by telephone that he had the ringleaders and hung up. He then took the four convicts to the parking lot and ordered them to be executed by firing squad a few minutes after midnight on July 20. He did so before the SS arrived , summarily and without a court. This decision was taken by Fromm so that the conspirators did not declare against him unveiling him and thus be able to be saved.
First they shot General Olbricht. As a second it was his turn to von Stauffenberg, but when they were about to shoot, Lieutenant von Haeften threw himself in front of von Stauffenberg receiving the bullets aimed at its top. The last words shouted by von Stauffenberg seconds before he died as a third were: “Long live the Holy Germany” (” Le le das das heilige Deutschland! “). Mertz von Quirnheim died last.
For instructions Fromm , von Stauffenberg and others executed were buried honorably with all medals fusilamento shortly after in a nearby cemetery. Hitler , thirsty for revenge, later discovered the implication of Fromm and had him executed in March 1945 . He also unearthed the bodies of von Stauffenberg and the other conspirators, ordering them to remove the medals and incinerate the remains at the Sachsenhausen concentration camp . The Bendler Block was registered and from a safe from Fromm a list of the conspirators was found, with the papers they would assume in the provisional government. The guilty hunt began that night.
Others involved, as Berthold von Stauffenberg , the elder brother of Claus and central figure in the plot, they were sentenced by a special court called Volksgerichtshof by the judge Freisler and executed on October of August of 1944 in the prison of Plötzensee by slow strangulation with rope Of piano; Together with Berthold von Stauffenberg were executed eight others involved; also he stopped to General von Kluge , to Albrecht Haushofer , Admiral Canaris and other military relevance. The hangings were filmed and photographed to be presented to Hitler , but he refused to see the recording, which still exists and is considered unacceptable to be divulged, because of the horrors that are exhibited there.
His former superior in Africa, Field Marshal Rommel , who knew of the plot but did not participate, was forced to commit suicide. In the two weeks following 20 July 1944 about 200 people directly involved were killed. More than 5648 people were executed the following months by the SS .
In the same list found in General Fromm ‘s safe deposit box in his Bendler Block office , Speer’s name was found , with a handwritten indication next to his name: “If it were possible?” This simple note saved Speer .
All attempts of attacks against Hitler , on the 20 of July of 1944 was the one who came closest to achieving their goal.
At 15:00 hours on the same day, Hitler received Mussolini at the scene of the attack; The fact that he was unharmed was a divine demonstration that he had to follow the path he had set out. However, shortly after the attack, Hitler began to suffer from a certain deafness in his right ear and increase the involuntary tremors in his right hand.
During the next 10 months of the war, until the unconditional surrender of Germany, the same number of people died as during the 50 months of the Second World War .
Not only the family of Claus von Stauffenberg, his wife and children, but all members of the von Stauffenberg clan were arrested by the SS and locked up in different prisons and concentration camps. Their summary execution was ordered, however, being at the end of the siege of Berlin in May 1945 , the SS did not execute the order and some of the von Stauffenberg surrendered to a British command in the north of Italy .
Berthold von Stauffenberg, the eldest son, came to the position of Major General in 1994 , after 38 years of service in the German federal army . In 2007, he stated with respect to his father:
I was 10 years old when I lost my father, so I knew him very little. My mother was pregnant with her fifth child at the time of her arrest by the Gestapo. She admired my father very much.
I went to an orphanage, until June 1945, and then I was reunited with my mother in the Ravensburg jail.
My father did something very brave and positive … because not all Germans were Nazis. 3Berthold von Stauffenberg
Initially, ie after World War II and in line with Nazi propaganda, the action of Claus von Stauffenberg was considered an act of treason by the majority of the German population, but with the passage of time and with the attempted attack Placed in its context in History, has been given a category of hero in the struggle for the liberation of the criminal Nazi regime. Nowadays, it has been named after the “Bendlerstrasse” in Berlin. In 1964 a stamp was issued in its memory  , and in 2007 another, together with Helmuth James von Moltke  . He has been the subject of several other posthumous honors  .
Stauffenberg in film and television
- 1955: Der 20. Juli, played by Wolfgang Preiss .
- 1955: Es geschah am 20. Juli de Georg Wilhelm Pabst .
- 1967: The Night of the Generals played by Gérard Buhr
- 1971: Operation Walküre, played by Joachim Hansen
- 1988: War and Remembrance , played by Sky Dumont
- 1989: Stauffenberg. 13 Bilder über einen Täter , documentary
- 1990: Stauffenberg – Verschwörung gegen Hitler
- 1990: The Plot to Kill Hitler , played by Brad Davis
- 2004: Die Stunde der Offiziere, played by Harald Schrott . TV movie.
- 2004: Stauffenberg, played by Sebastian Koch .
- 2008: Valkyrie , played by Tom Cruise
- Highlander-The Valkyrie.
- Back to top↑ Horstmann , Harry (2008). Operation Walküre 20. Juli 1944 (in German) . ISBN 978-3-8370-6295-3 .
- Back to top↑ Joachim Fest; Hitler ; Berlin 2002; German edition, page 953
- Back to top↑ I do not like Cruise in the role of my father El Mercurio, August 26, 2007.