Five Facts to Know About Operation Valkyrie

Updated on February 3, 2019
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College graduate, freelance writer, cooking aficionado. Political junkie by day and screenwriter by night.

On July 20, 1944, German Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg attempted to change the course of history by placing a case filled with explosives close to Adolf Hitler in his military headquarters known as the Wolf's Lair. It was the start of a coup that became known as Operation Valkyrie. The bomb seriously injured Hitler but failed to kill him, extending the war another year. Stauffenberg ended up becoming a martyr.

5. Not a Rushed Plan

Many believe Operation Valkyrie was in response to the outcome of the Normandy invasion and how it showed that the war was hopeless for the Germans. The bombing did happen to occur only a month after D-Day.

Stauffenberg allegedly hatched the plan in 1942 and began laying the groundwork for it. This all happened before the Reich's military suffered any defeats that would doom them, such as Stalingrad. The SS began hearing whispers of the plan near the end of 1943 and began rounding up conspirators and making arrests. One man arrested was Admiral Wihelm Canaris, who happened to be the head of the Reich's spy network.

4. The Dismantling of the SS

This was the only part that anyone attempted to implement after the bombing of the Wolf's Lair. The six main conspirators knew they would need to eliminate the top Nazi section of the armed services, which was strongly devoted to Hitler, to start a new government and attempt to make peace with the world. This meant Stauffenberg and his group must take down Hitler's organization of personal bodyguards, which was as big as 800,000. The only force strong enough to take them down is the Home Army.

The Home Army was the force stationed throughout Germany that was stationed to keep the peace at home, while the much larger and stronger army was occupying foreign lands. The Home Army was often strengthened by 1,200 veterans of the Eastern Front under the leadership of Phillip von Boselaeger. They would have been a serious threat to the SS.

3. Foiled Attempts

While Operation Valkyrie is the only attempt most people have a familiarity with when it comes to World War II and Hitler, there have been multiple attempts on Hitler's life by his own military. In 1941, German Maj. General Henning von Treskow had planned to arrest Hitler while he was visiting them in the Soviet Union. It was thwarted just by the presence of the SS.

In 1943, Treskow made his second attempt. This time, Treskow loaded an explosive parcel onto Hitler's plane. The fuses were defective and failed to kill Hitler. A week later, Treskow was more focused on killing the Nazi leader. On March 21, he sent Colonel Freierr von Gersdorff as a suicide bomber to kill the dictator as he visited an art gallery. Hitler managed to escape before Gersdorff could set the bombs off.

2. Friedrich Fromm Attempts to Save Himself

Many people assume that most people executed was because of Hitler's fury over the attempted coup. However, von Stauffenberg was actually done in by his own conspirators. Fromm was chosen by Stauffenberg to be in charge of arresting the SS, after becoming head of the army. However, when Fromm found out Hitler survived, he ordered the execution of his fellow conspirators, in an attempt to save himself. While it resulted in Stauffenberg being executed the same day, it did not save Fromm.

Hitler ended up not charging Himmler with treason but instead with cowardice, for not doing enough to stop von Stauffenberg. He ended up being put to death by a firing squad on March 19, 1945.

1. Not Such a Big Loss

While it seemed like a massive failure, historians believe that it wouldn't have been so good for Germany. A large myth that led to the rise of Hitler, was that they lost WW1 because of Jews. So von Stauffenberg to literally initiate the coup would have completely validated Nazi conspiracy theories and led to an even stronger equivalent to the Reich later down the road.

The Allies rejected every peace offering that was not complete surrender, something the new German government would not accept. It would have left Germany and much of Europe falling under Soviet powers, and possibly changing the history of the Soviet Union.

© 2019 Lawrence


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