The man who tried to kill Hitler

A German officer who failed to assassinate Hitler and paid for the betrayal with his own life.
A German officer who failed to assassinate Hitler and paid for the betrayal with his own life.


Claus Schenk Graf von Stauffenberg was a 36-years old German army officer. At the beginning, he had supported Nazi policies, but as the war progressed, his opposition to the regime grew. He was horrified by German atrocities and the realization that Germany was losing the war. At one point, he was approached by a group of conspirators led by Gen Henning von Tresckow, who wanted to assassinate Adolf Hitler and remove the Nazi Party from power. Stauffenberg joined them and became one of the leading members of the German Resistance movement. They all knew that their actions would be seen as high treason. But they also knew that this was the only way to prove to the world that not all Germans supported the regime.

Operation Valkyrie

In 1944, Stauffenberg became chief of staff for the commander of the German Replacement Army. The post gave him access to Hitler and an opportunity to carry out the assassination. The conspirators plan, known as the Operation Valkyrie, was very risky. Stauffenberg would carry explosives in his briefcase through the security checks, set the bombs and place his briefcase near Hitler during the daily briefing. He would then make an excuse to leave the room. After the explosion, Stauffenberg would dash back to Berlin, where the conspirators would use the Replacement Army to take control over the city.

Assassination attempt

The opportunity to carry out the plan appeared on 20 July 1944. There was a briefing set for 12:30 at The Wolfsschanze, or Wolf's Lair, a heavily guarded complex hidden in a forest in East Prussia. Stauffenberg managed to enter the complex with two small bombs in his briefcase. He had to set them, before placing them in the conference room. While doing that a guard knocked and opened the door, urging him to hurry as the meeting was about to begin. As a result, he was able to set only one of the two bombs.

Stauffenberg went to the conference room, where he placed the briefcase under the conference table, as close as he could to Hitler. No one paid much attention to him or his big black briefcase. Some minutes later he excused himself and left the room. He saw the explosion as he was leaving the complex and he was sure that Hitler was dead. What he didn`t know is that just before the explosion his briefcase had been moved behind a table leg away from Hitler. The bomb was not as powerful as intended and Hitler was leaning over the thick oak table when it went off, which shielded him from the blast. Four died in the explosion and many were injured, but Hitler survived.


After his return to Berlin, Stauffenberg immediately began to motivate his friends to initiate the second phase: the military attack against the Nazi leaders. But just a few hours later it became clear the Fuhrer was still alive and the attempted takeover of Berlin fell apart. Stauffenberg and other leading conspirators were arrested, charged of conspiracy in an impromptu court martial and condemned to death.They were executed by a firing squad before 1:00 am in the morning on 21 July 1944. Hitler used the 20 July plot as an excuse to destroy anyone he feared would oppose him. More than 200 people were condemned and executed.

Missing corpse

The executed officers receive an immediate burial with military honors in the Old St. Matthew`s Cemetery in Berlin. The next day, however, their bodies were exhumed by the SS, stripped of their medals and taken away. Today, there is a remembrance stone at the cemetery with the inscription: "Here the corpses were buried and then moved to an unknown place."

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