Research Notes

KILL THE FUHRER

 

 

COLONEL-GENERAL LUDWIG BECK (1880–1944) was Chief of the German General Staff during the early years of the Nazi regime. As one of the leaders of the German Resistance he was positioned to become provisional Head of State had the 20 July, 1944 plot to kill Hitler succeeded. When it failed, Beck shot himself.

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DIETRICH BONHOEFFER (1906–1945) was a German Lutheran pastor, theologian and member of the WW11 German Resistance for which he martyred himself. Already under Gestapo arrest as a suspected enemy of the state, his involvement in the attempted assassination of Hitler on July 20, 1944, secured his execution by hanging in April 1945, only23 days before Germany’s surrender.

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ADMIRAL WILHELM CANARIS (1887–1945) was head of German Military Intelligence (the Abwehr) from 1935 to 1944. As a member of the German Resistance, he was involved in the July 20, 1944 failed attempt to assassinate Hitler. He was tried as a traitor and tortured, and suffered the final humiliation of being walked naked to his execution just days before Germany’s surrender.

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GRAND ADMIRAL KARL DOENITZ (1891–1980) As the Commander of the famed U-Boat ‘wolf pack’ in WW11, Doenitz was made Commander-in-Chief of the German navy in 1943. At Hitler’s death he was named his successor and became the last President of the Third Reich. After the war, he was condemned to ten years in Spandau Prison for war crimes.

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HANS VON DOHNANYI (1902–1945) was a German lawyer. As a member of the German Resistance working within the ranks of the Abwehr, he was sentenced to death for his part in the failed 1944 attempt to assassinate Hitler. Already gravely ill, he was tortured and nursed back to health in order to be hanged with piano wire.

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GENERAL ERICH FELLGIEBEL (1886–1944) was a German Army officer who, during the failed July, 1944 attempt to assassinate Hitler, was responsible for cutting telecommunications from Hitler’s headquarters at Wolf’s Lair to help facilitate the coup. He was executed in September, 1944.

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JUDGE ROLAND FREISLER (1893–1945) was a prominent and notorious Nazi judge who presided over the People’s Court and in a series of mock trials, condemned the July 20, 1944 conspirators to death. He died in an air raid midway through trying the case of Fabian Von Schalbrendorff. Freisler lay crushed to death under a fallen beam, still clutching Schalbrendorff’s file in his hand.

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GENERAL FRIEDRICH FROMM (1888–1945) was Commander-in-Chief of the German Reserve Army. Aware of his subordinates plan to assassinate Hitler, he turned a blind eye, but at the plot’s failure, immediately executed the several of the leading conspirators for fear of being implicated. These actions did not save him. He was stripped of his military position and honours, charged with ‘cowardice before the enemy’ and executed by firing squad.

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HANS BERND GISEVIUS (1904 – 1974) was a German diplomat and intelligence officer during World War II. He served as a liaison in Zurich for the German Resistance and the Americans, holding talks with the Vatican on their behalf for which he was questioned and tortured by the Gestapo, but released. After the July 20, 1944 failed assassination attempt, in which he was involved, he fled to Switzerland to survive and became a key witness for the prosecution at the Nuremberg Trials.

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DR. CARL GOERDELER (1884–1945) was a conservative German politician, executive, economist, Mayor of Leipzig and opponent of the Nazi regime. Had the July, 1944 plot to assassinate Hitler succeeded, Goerdeler would have served as the Chancellor of the new government. For his participation in the conspiracy, he was executed by hanging. While awaiting his death sentence, Goerdeler wrote a farewell letter, which ended with: “I ask the world to accept our martyrdom as penance for the German people.”

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SENIOR LIEUTENANT (OBERLEUTNANT) WERNER VON HAEFTEN (1908–1944) As Count von Stauffenberg’s Adjutant, Haeften took part in the failed July, 1944 attempt to assassinate Hitler. Along with Stauffenberg and fellow conspirators, General Friedrich Olbricht and Colonel Albrecht Mertz von Quirnheim, Haeften was immediately executed by firing squad. In one last gesture of courage and loyalty, Haeften stood in the path of the bullets meant for Stauffenberg.

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ULRICH VON HASSELL (1881– 1944) was a German diplomat and member of the WW11 German Resistance. He used his position in the executive committee of the Central European Economic Congress to discuss, with Allied officials, what might happen after a possible coup d’état in Germany. After the failed assassination attempt of July 20, 1944, he was tried and executed on the same day.

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SS GENERAL REINHARD HEYDRICH (1904–1942) also known as The Hangman and The Butcher of Prague. was chief of the Reich Main Security Office (including the SD, Gestapo and Kripo) and Deputy Reich-Protector of Bohemia and Moravia. Suspected of being of Jewish blood himself, he was mainly responsible for creating the formula for the Final Solution and was shot in Prague in 1942 by a British-trained Czech Resistance agent. It took him a week to die of his injuries.

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FIELD MARSHAL WILHELM KEITEL (1882–1946) In High Command of the Armed Forces and de facto war minister, he was one of Germany’s most senior military leaders during WW11. He played an important role in foiling the July, 1944 plot to assassinate Hitler and then sat on the Army “Court of Honour” to hand over to the notorious People’s Court, many of the officers who were involved. At the Nuremberg Trials he was tried and sentenced to death as a war criminal. The Allies denied his request to be shot. Instead, he was executed by hanging. Due to the drop of the hanging not being long enough to break his neck immediately, Keitel died of strangulation 24 minutes after he was dropped down the hatch.

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FIELD MARSHAL GUENTHER VON KLUGE (1882–1944) was an officer of the German Wehrmacht and Commander of the German forces in the West. A vacillating supporter of the German Resistance, he was recalled to Berlin for a meeting with Hitler after the failed coup of July 20, 1944. Thinking that Hitler would punish him as a conspirator, he committed suicide by taking cyanide.

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MAJOR GENERAL ERWIN VON LAHOUSEN (1897–1955) was a high-ranking Abwehr official during WW11, as well as a member of the German Resistance. As a key player in the failed July 20, 1944 plot to assassinate Hitler, he was one of the very few who escaped execution, surviving to testify against the ranking members of the Nazi Regime at the Nuremberg Trials.

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FIELD MARSHAL ERICH VON MANSTEIN (1887–1973) was one of the most prominent commanders of Germany’s Wehrmacht and one of its best military strategists. Although he did not take part in the attempt to kill Hitler in July 1944, he was contacted by the Resistance in regard to it. While von Manstein did agree that change was necessary, he refused to join them as he still considered himself bound by duty: “Prussian Field Marshals do not mutiny.”

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COUNT HELMUTH JAMES VON MOLTKE (1907–1945) was a German lawyer who, as a draftee in the German Abwehr and founding member of the Kreisau Circle resistance group, opposed Nazi Germany. He was executed for treason. Before being hanged, he wrote to his sons: “Since National Socialism came to power, I have striven to make its consequences milder for its victims and to prepare the way for a change. In that, my conscience drove me – and in the end, that is a man’s duty.”

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DR JOSEF MUELLER (1898-1979) was a lawyer recruited to the German resistance. A Catholic, Mueller liaised with the Pope to enlist his help against the Nazi Regime. His efforts failed and he was arrested by the Gestapo in 1943. Although he was imprisoned in Buchenwald and Dachau concentration camps and experienced two years of starvation and the terror of being led to the gallows twice, he survived to be liberated by the Allies in April, 1945.

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COLONEL-GENERAL FRIEDRICH OLBRICHT (1888–1944) was one of the major players in the failed July, 1944 attempt to assassinate Hitler and was partly responsible for drafting Operation Valkyrie. Along with Count von Stauffenberg, Olbricht was arrested and summarily executed by firing squad at the order of Colonel-General Friedrich Fromm,who was trying to protect himself from being exposed as a silent conspirator.

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MAJOR GENERAL HANS OSTER (1887 –1945) As a German Army officer and Deputy Head of the Abwehr under Admiral Wilhelm Canaris, Oster was a leading figure in the WW11 German resistance. Along with Canaris and Dietrich Bonhoeffer, he was tortured and executed as a traitor, having the added humiliation of being ordered to walk naked to the gallows just two weeks before Allied liberation.

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FIELD MARSHAL FRIENDRICH PAULUS (1890 –1957) commanded the Sixth Army’s assault on Stalingrad during Operation Blue in 1942. Fearing that Paulus was about to surrender, Hitler promoted him to Field Marshal with the expectation that he commit suicide instead. Paulus chose to surrender to the Russians Jan 31, 1943.

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COLONEL ALBRECHT MERTZ VON QUIRNHEIM (1905–1944) was a German officer and member of the German resistance who was involved in the failed July1944 attempt to assassinate Hitler. Quirnheim, Staluffenberg and General Friedrich Olbricht drew up Operation Valkyrie, and along with First Lieutenant, Werner von Haeften, were all summarily tried by Colonel General Fromm and shot on July 21, 1944.

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FIELD MARSHAL ERWIN ROMMEL (1891–1944), popularly known as the Desert Fox, distinguished himself as the Commander of the 7th Panzer Division and for his leadership in the North African campaign. Alleged to have been involved in the failed July, 1944 plot to assassinate Hitler, Rommel committed suicide by taking a cyanide capsule.

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FIELD MARSHAL GERD VON RUNDSTEDT (1875-1953) As a member of the German Wehrmacht, he held some of the highest field commands in all phases of WW11. Although Rundstedt was in command of the German forces on the western front throughout the Battle of the Bulge, (also known as the Runstedt Offensive), he was opposed to that offensive from its inception, and essentially washed his hands of it. He was relieved of command for the last time in March 1945, after telling Keitel once again that Hitler should make peace with the Allies, rather than continue to fight a hopeless war.

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LIEUTENANT FABIAN VON SCHLABRENDORFF (1907–1980) was a German lawyer, soldier of the Wehrmacht and member of the resistance who was heavily involved in the failed attempt to assassinate Hitler on July 20, 1944. As Adjutant to Colonel Henning von Tresckow, he acted as secret liaison between Tresckow in Russia and the German Resistance in Berlin. Because Judge Freisler died midway through his trial at the People’s Court, Schlabrendorff was one of the very few conspirators to survive. Although he was sent to Dachau Concentration Camp and tortured, he was liberated by the Allies in 1945.

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DR HJALMAR SCHACHT (1877 –1970) Originally, as an economist and banker who supported Nazism, Hitler appointed him President of the Reichsbank and Minister of Economics. As such, Schacht helped implement Hitler’s policies of redevelopment, reindustrialization and rearmament. He was forced out of the government by disagreements with Hitler and other prominent Nazis by 1936 and became a fringe member of the German Resistance. He was imprisoned as a result of the failed attempt to assassinate Hitler in July 1944. After the war, he was tried at Nuremberg but acquitted.

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SS BRIGADIER GENERAL (BRIGADEFUHRER) WALTHUR SCHELLENBERG (1910 –1952) was head of foreign intelligence following the abolition of the Abwehr in 1944. He was a good friend of Admiral Canaris who he replaced in the role after having been given the difficult task of arresting him for treason. Schellenberg was infamous for his “office fortress” desk, which had two automatic guns built into it that could be fired at the touch of a button. Near the end of the War, Schellenberg persuaded Himmler to try negotiating with the Western Allies. At the Nuremberg Trials, Schellenberg testified against other Nazis. In the 1949 Ministries Trial he was sentenced to six years imprisonment. One year after his release, he died of cancer in Turin.

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COUNT CLAUS VON STAUFFENBERG (1907–1944) was a Wehrmacht officer and aristocrat who having lost an eye and hand while fighting for the Third Reich, became one of the leading players in the German Resistance and its failed attempt to assassinate Hitler on July 20, 1944. As the man responsible for placing the bomb at the Fuhrer’s feet, he was shot without a trial as a traitor for having drafted and participated in Operation Valkyrie. His immediate burial with military honours was ordered, but the next day the SS exhumed his body, stripped it of medals and cremated it so as to leave him no memorial.

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GENERAL HELMUTH STIEFF (1901–1944) was Chief of the organization section of the Abwehr and a member of the German Resistance. Hitler did not conceal his personal dislike of him, calling him a “poisonous little dwarf.” Stieff volunteered to be the ‘trigger man’ for the July 1944 assassination attempt, but reneged at the last moment. Nevertheless, he was arrested by the Gestapo on July 21 and brutally tortured. On August 8, he was tried and executed.

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MAJOR GENERAL HENNING VON TRESCKOW (1901–1944) was a member of the German Wehrmacht who, stationed in Russia, organized German resistance against Hitler. As one of the prime movers of Operation Valkyrie and its failed attempt to assassinate Hitler on July 20, 1944, he committed suicide by holding a grenade under his chin. The Nazis exhumed his body from his family grave and took it to the crematorium of Sachsenhausen concentration camp to remove all trace of his life.

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FIELD MARSHAL ERWIN VON WITZLEBEN (1881-1944) was, for a time, the Commander of Germany’s Western Forces and a conspirator in the failed July 20, 1944 plot to kill Hitler. Had it been successful, Witzleben was to take over supreme command of the whole Wehrmacht as the highest ranking German soldier. He was sentenced to death and hanged on a meat hook, with his execution filmed for Hitler’s viewing.

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GOLDEN BOY: THE ALBERT SPEER STORY


 

MARTIN BORMANN (1900 –1945) Head of the Nazi Party Chancellery and private secretary to Adolf Hitler. He gained Hitler’s trust and derived immense power within the Third Reich by controlling access to the Führer and by regulating the orbits of those closest to him. On 1 May, 1945, after Hitler’s suicide, Bormann left the Berlin bunker with SS doctor Ludwig Stumpfegger and Hitler Youth leader Artur Axmann as part of a group attempting to break out of the Soviet encirclement. He was never seen again.

Read more in Golden Boy: The Albert Speer Story by Paula Astridge

DR JOSEPH GOEBBELS (1897 –1945) was Reich Minister of Propaganda in Nazi Germany from 1933 to 1945. As one of Hitler’s closest associates and most devout followers, he was known for his zealous oratory and anti-Semitism. He played a hand in the Kristallnacht attack on the German Jews, which historians consider to be the beginning of the Final Solution, and the prelude to the genocide of the Holocaust. After Hitler’s suicide, he committed suicide with his wife, Magda, after having killed his children with cyanide capsules wrapped in chocolate.

Read more in Golden Boy: The Albert Speer Story by Paula Astridge

GRAND ADMIRAL KARL DOENITZ (1891–1980) As the Commander of the famed U-Boat ‘wolf pack’ in WW11, Doenitz was made Commander-in-Chief of the German navy in 1943. At Hitler’s death he was named his successor and became the last President of the Third Reich. It was a position that no-one wanted any longer and for the rest of his life Doenitz never forgave Albert Speer for having advocated him for the position. After the war, Doenitz was condemned to ten years in Spandau Prison for war crimes.

Read more in Golden Boy: The Albert Speer Story by Paula Astridge

SS REICHSFUHRER HEINRICH HIMMLER (1900 – 1945) was a leading member of the Nazi Party. As Chief of the German Police and later the Minister of the Interior, Himmler oversaw all police and security forces, including the Gestapo. He rose to become one of the most powerful men in Nazi Germany as well as one of the persons most directly responsible for the Holocaust. As overseer of the concentration camps, Himmler coordinated the killing of some six million Jews, between 200,000 and 500,000 Roma, many prisoners of war, and possibly another three to four million Poles, communists, homosexuals, people with physical and mental disabilities, Jehovah’s Witnesses and members of the Confessing Church. Shortly before the end of the war, he offered to surrender both Germany and himself to the Western Allies if he were spared prosecution. After being arrested by British forces, he committed suicide with a cyanide capsule before he could be questioned.

Read more in Golden Boy: The Albert Speer Story by Paula Astridge

FIELD MARSHAL FRIEDRICH PAULUS (1890 –1957) commanded the Sixth Army’s assault on Stalingrad during Operation Blue in 1942. Fearing that Paulus was about to surrender, Hitler promoted him to Field Marshal with the expectation that he commit suicide instead. Paulus chose to surrender to the Russians Jan 31, 1943.

Read more in Golden Boy: The Albert Speer Story by Paula Astridge

ALBERT SPEER (1905–1981) was Hitler’s chief architect and Minister of Armaments and War Production for the Third Reich. As “the Nazi who said sorry”, he accepted responsibility, at the Nuremberg trials and in his memoirs, for the crimes of the Nazi regime. His level of involvement with Hitler and the persecution of the Jews, along with his knowledge of the Holocaust remain matters of dispute.

Read more in Golden Boy: The Albert Speer Story by Paula Astridge

 


IN THE WAY OF THE REICH

 

ALBERT GOERING (1895–1966) was the younger brother of Hermann Goering – Reich Marshal of Nazi Germany. As a German businessman, Albert used both his influential position as Export Director for Skoda Industries and the clout his family name carried to help Jews and dissidents survive in Germany during World War II in direct defiance of his older brother and the Third Reich. At the end of the war, however, he was arrested by right of his name and unfairly imprisoned as a war criminal. He died in poverty.

Read more in In the Way of the Reich by Paula Astridge

HERMANN GOERING (1893–1946) was an ace fighter pilot during WW1 and leading member of the Nazi Party in WW11. In 1935 he was appointed Commander-in-Chief of the German Luftwaffe. He was promoted to the rank of Reich Marshal and in 1941 Hitler named him as his successor. By 1942, with the German war effort stumbling on both fronts, Goering’s standing with Hitler was greatly reduced and Goering largely withdrew from the military and political scene to live, as an eccentric, in the lap of luxury. After the war, Goering was convicted of war crimes and crimes against humanity at the Nuremberg Trials. He was sentenced to death by hanging, but committed suicide by cyanide ingestion the night before he was due to be hanged.

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CAPTAIN WILM HOSENFELD (1895 –1952) Originally a teacher, he joined the Wehrmacht in WW11. He helped to hide and rescue many Poles and Jews in Nazi-occupied Poland, and is most remembered for helping Polish-Jewish pianist and composer ,Władysław Szpilman, to survive, hidden, in the ruins of Warsaw during the last months of 1944. Hosenfeld was taken prisoner by the Russians at the end of the war and condemned to twenty years hard labour for having belonged to the German military unit which they believed was largely responsible for the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. Despite the fact that many people who had benefitted from Hosenfeld’s help, petitioned on his behalf, the Russians were never to release him and he died of heart failure while still in captivity. In June 2009 he was posthumously recognized as a Righteous among the Nations by Yad Vashem.

Read more in In the Way of the Reich by Paula Astridge

COLONEL-GENERAL ERNST UDET (1896–1941) As the second-highest scoring German flying ace of World War I at the age of 22, he pursued a postwar career with the famed Flying Circus and in Hollywood movies. At the onset of WW11, he joined the Nazi Party and was placed in command of the Reich Air Ministry’s development wing. However, he could not cope with the bureaucracy and the intense pressure of Hitler’s demands led to his addiction to alcohol. Despite this, in 1939, he became Luftwaffe Director-General of Equipment. Internal conflicts and lack of raw materials for supply had him falter at his job and after the Luftwaffe’s defeat in the Battle of Britain, Reich Marshal Hermann Goering tried to deflect Hitler’s ire by blaming it on Udet. Hitler’s attack on the Soviet Union drove Udet to commit suicide on November 17, 1941. He shot himself in the head while on the phone with his girlfriend. He scrawled a suicide note in red ink that read: “Reich Marshal, you are responsible for my death.”

Read more in In the Way of the Reich by Paula Astridge

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