On the 21st of July 1944, numerous figures involved or suspected of involvement with the 20th July plot against Adolf Hitler were executed. Claus von Stauffenberg, a Colonel in the German Army, would plan with other military leaders to assassinate Hitler at his ‘Wolf’s Lair’ in Poland. In the wake of the Führer’s death, they intended to impose ‘Operation Valkyrie’, a seizure of control over the German armed forces and an effort to obtain peace with the Western Allies.

Stauffenberg intended to plant two bombs, which would detonate during a military conference, under a desk concealed in a briefcase. He was able to prime only one of the two. The conference had been moved from an underground bunker into an overground room, windows flung open due to the hot weather that day. Furthermore, the briefcase in which the bomb was hidden would be moved away from Hitler’s place at the table. It has been suggested that the absence of any one of these three factors would have certainly resulted in Hitler’s death under the circumstances. Stauffenberg’s single bomb detonated, killing four and wounding Hitler. Seeing the explosion, Stauffenberg made his way back to Berlin, assuming he had been successful, to impose Operation Valkyrie. He and many others would be arrested in the next few hours.


The failure of the assassination attempt would lead to several immediate executions, including that of Stauffenberg and his key co-conspirators, and to the subsequent killings of up to 5,000 people suspected of involvement in plots against the National Socialist dictatorship. The assassination plot is the basis for Bryan Singer’s 2008 film ‘Valkyrie’, starring Tom Cruise as Stauffenberg. The Bendlerblock in Berlin, Headquarters of the German Army within which the assassination was planned, is currently the location of the German Resistance Museum.

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