David Irving


Do You Recognize My Voice ?

“We got back to the Wolf’s Lair yesterday,” wrote Martin Bormann on July 15, 1944. “With its twenty-two-foot-thick bunkers it is now really a fortress of the most modern kind.”  As Hitler’s Condor touched down at Rastenburg airfield, fifteen minutes’ drive away, thousands of Todt Organization laborers were still working on the strengthening of the F¸hrer’s headquarters. The old site used for “Barbarossa” was now barely recognizable :  the mammoth concrete bunkers rearing up out of the trees had been expertly camouflaged against enemy reconnaissance ;  there was grass on the flat roofs, and both natural and artificial trees. It was an idyllic setting. “How beautiful it is out here,” one of Hitler’s stenographers noted in his diary. “The whole site is resplendent with luscious greenery. The woods breathe a magnificent tranquillity. The wooden hutments, including ours, have meantime been heavily bricked-in to afford protection against bomb-splinters. We all feel well at ease here. It’s become a second home to us.”

As Hitler’s bunker proper was still incomplete, he moved into the former guest bunker in the heart of a top security zone compound which had been wired-off in the southwest corner of Zone I since September 1943. The noon war conferences were accordingly transferred to one of the gray-painted wood and brick hutments some forty yards west of this temporary home ;  at one end of the but a forty-foot-long conference room had been created by simply knocking down two partition walls. The room thus had windows on three sides—it was light and airy and filled with the fragrances of the surrounding woods.

This peaceful setting belied the grimness of the dark crisis into which Germany was descending. For the first time Keitel and Fromm—commander of the Replacement Army—had plunged into discussions with Bormann and the Party chiefs on command relationships in the likely event that the Reich itself became a battleground. The trickle of refugees from the east had become a flood. At long last Hitler had bowed to pressure to implement the doctrine of total war. Some of this pressure came from Speer, but most came from Goebbels and Bormann. On about July 15 Hitler instructed Bormann’s three-man “cabinet” to summon the principal ministers to find ways of stepping up the Reich’s defense effort still further. On July 18, Goebbels sent Hitler a long letter protesting the continued underexploitation of the Reich’s vast manpower resources. “At this moment, with East Prussia preparing to defend her soil as best she can, every mail delivery here in Berlin brings fresh invitations from every corner of the Reich to official receptions, to parties, to games, or to displays that today do more harm than good.”  Red tape was choking the Wehrmacht and civil service. Goebbels scorned the ability of any three-man committee to undo the damage that the failure to implement total war had done to public feeling, and he reminded Hitler that in October 1926 he had not suggested using a “committee” to capture “Red Berlin” for the Nazi party. “My suggestion is this :  give absolute power to one man you can trust for every problem requiring a rapid solution.... Every time I see you, I look into your eyes and face to see what your health is like. When you came to Berlin by plane for the state funeral of General Hube—risking death from American fighter or bomber aircraft—I was shaking with fear, I confess. I dare not think what might have happened. You alone, mein F¸hrer, are our guarantee of victory.”

This was unquestionably true. No man possessed the affection of and authority over the German people that Hitler did, even at this gloomy pass in their fortunes. If he succumbed now, nothing would halt the Soviet avalanche—least of all his querulous generals. The Red Army would stand astride the Rhine within a month. Yet the Germans waited for Hitler’s ultimate appeal, an appeal he seemed ashamed to issue. Goebbels besought him :  “By calling all England to arms after Dunkirk did Churchill thereby condemn her to die ?  And Stalin—when he proclaimed during our advance on Moscow ‘Better to die on your feet than live on your knees !’—did he imperil the whole USSR ?  On the contrary !”  Joseph Goebbels, propaganda minister and veteran of the Party struggle since its earliest days, reminded Hitler he had always stood at his side in his hour of need.

“Our return was very timely,” wrote Martin Bormann on July 15. “Suprisingly, this war has shown with increasing clarity that it is the F¸hrer and his Party faithfuls who are inspired by a savage determination to keep fighting and resisting, rather than the military—among whom passion and intensity ought to have increased with their rank. The F¸hrer has had to come here in person to stiffen the often shamefully weak-kneed attitude of the officers and hence their troops.”  The optimism of the “Party faithfuls” was certainly limitless. Himmler, who visited Hitler that day, was soon writing to Kaltenbrunner :  “How are we going to rule and pacify Russia when we reconquer large parts of her, as we certainly shall in the next years ?”  Jodl shared Bormann’s criticisms of the army generals’ defeatism. The German civilian public was showing far greater courage, though it had far worse to suffer. In East Prussia everybody from university professors to fifteen-year-olds had rallied to Gauleiter Koch’s call to build defenses and fortifications. A dispiriting torrent of disorganized army units and refugee columns was making for the Reich frontiers, and Hitler had to issue stern orders before the rot became an outright rout. He ordered a new defensive line rapidly built along the entire eastern front, following the rivers San and Vistula to the Warsaw bridgehead, and then the Narev and a line forward of the Reich frontier to the Baltic ;  but it was touch-and-go whether there would be either the manpower to build it or the troops to man it before the Russian avalanche swept westward into Germany.

Fifteen new “grenadier divisions” ordered by Hitler were being raised in the Reich. The army had issued the first order over General Stiefl’s signature on July 8, but Hitler wanted more urgency, and a week later, on July 15, he summoned to the Wolf’s Lair both General Fromm and his Chief of Staff—the colonel with the now familiar yellow briefcase. Most midday war conferences here were interminably long and the humid air was heavy with recriminations, as Hitler saw no way of checking the present trend until the autumn at least, when Germany might well regain fighter and U-boat supremacy. But this conference lasted only half an hour, from 1:10 to 1:40 P.M., as a special session on the reconstitution of the shattered eastern front followed until 2:20 P.M. Hitler cold-heartedly laid down that the refugee families were to be stopped east of the new line and the able-bodied members diverted to the fortification works. Nothing else could stop the Bolshevik hordes. “Things are pretty grim here,” wrote Martin Bormann three days later. “The Russians are at Augustov near the East Prussian frontier, and if their armored units press on any farther, we’ve got nothing to stop them with for the time being. . . . The new divisions which are being formed still lack the necessary antitank weapons ! ... We have plenty of worries, and it’s a good thing that the F¸hrer is here.”  On July 19, Hitler ordered two East Prussian divisions raised from the province’s elderly home guard. In this connection Fromm’s Chief of Staff was detailed to report to Hitler the next day.

In France the Allies were mercilessly bombing and strafing the Germans containing the beachhead. For the first time napalm bombs were being used, and flamethrowing tanks of immense range were incinerating the inmates of the stubborn pillbox bunkers. Late on July 17, Field Marshal Kluge telephoned with the shattering news that Rommel’s car had been strafed by an Allied plane ;  the driver had crashed into a ditch and Rommel’s skull had been split ;  he would be in the hospital for many months.(1)  The next day two thousand bombers hit the stronghold built by Rommel at Caen. Over two thousand French civilians were found dead in the ruins by British troops when they advanced on the nineteenth.

Hitler’s world was thus beginning to crash. In Italy the German Fourteenth Army pulled out of Leghorn (Livorno). In Denmark Communist resistance cells were waging overt partisan warfare, and they aggravated the crisis by calling a general strike. Reich Commissioner Werner Best had ignored Hitler’s instructions to deal with the terrorists sub rosa, as formal trial and execution just created martyrs ;  to Best and Ribbentrop the F¸hrer grumbled, “You gentlemen always want to be smarter than I am !”  When Best interjected, “May I say something ?”  Hitler replied, “I don’t want to hear it. Get out !”

In Hungary too there were still ominous rumblings of distant thunder :  a pro-German prime minister, General D–me SztÛjay, had replaced K·llay in March, but Horthy and his advisers had maintained their clamor for Hitler to withdraw the German troops from Hungary. Horthy had still not kept his part of the Klessheim bargain—the total expulsion of the Jews from Hungary ;  moreover, after July 8 he refused to deport any more Jews, and a few days later he announced his intention of replacing SztÛjay by a military regime. Ribbentrop telegraphed Hitler’s furious reply to Budapest on July 17, after Hitler had consulted with Himmler again on the Hungarian Jews :  “The F¸hrer expects the Hungarian government to take action against the Budapest Jews forthwith and without further delay.”  Otherwise he would withdraw his approval of certain exceptions from the expulsion order—artists, musicians, and notably forty-six members of the Manfred-Weiss industrial family, who had leased their important factory in Hungary to the Hermann G–ring works in May in return for exit visas. But now Himmler’s ghastly secret was coming out, for two Slovak Jews had escaped from Auschwitz extermination camp, and their horrifying revelations were published in two reputable Swiss newspapers early in July. Horthy refused to deport the Jews from Budapest ;  instead, he announced that a general would bring Hitler a letter on July 21.

The reasons for Hitler’s discontent were therefore manifold. His irritation was such that on July 18 he dismissed one of his adjutants, SS Colonel Fritz Darges, transferring him to the eastern front because of a minor incident in the conference hut.(2)  He lunched in his bunker that day virtually alone, as always now, sharing the vegetarian repast with his secretary Fr”ulein Christa Schroeder. He was ill at ease, and he exclaimed, “Nothing must happen to me now, because there is nobody else who could take over !”  He had premonitions of trouble ;  two days later he admitted to Mussolini that he had first experienced them during the flight to the Wolfs Lair on the fourteenth. At lunch with Fr”ulein Schroeder he commented uneasily, “There is something in the air.”

There were several abscesses of opposition, but they were hard to identify and lance. Perhaps Hitler had learned through Himmler’s agents of the current wave of rumors about an imminent attempt on his life. (On July 29 he was to say, “I admit I long expected an assassination attempt.”)  But from which quarter ?  He was cool toward the Prussian Junkers and the nobility, but they had served Germany well in the past. The field marshals or generals ?  Some, like General Fellgiebel, Chief of Signals, were conspicuous by their hostile remarks, but as Jodl was to note on the twenty-fourth :  “The F¸hrer always good-naturedly overlooked them and held a protecting hand over them.”  More likely assassins were the civilians—like ex-Mayor Carl Goerdeler of Leipzig, for whom the Gestapo had just asked Himmler to authorize an arrest warrant. Alternatively, the enemy might launch a paratroop attack right here, on the Wolfs Lair itself ;  Himmler discussed this very possibility with Hitler on the fifteenth. An entire battalion was concealed in the woods with tanks and both assault and antiaircraft guns ;  the very enticing green lawns of the Security Zones were in fact deadly minefields—but the possibility of enemy paratroop attack always remained.

Rommel’s Army Group B now considered that the enemy had landed forty divisions in France and that about as many more were still available in Britain. By late on July 18 the enemy breakthrough east of Caen called for urgent remedial action. Three thousand Allied fighters and fighter-bombers were roaming the battlefield and supply roads as far as the Seine. Saturation bombing had taken a heavy toll of German tanks and men. Kluge telephoned early on July 19 to demand that the 116th Panzer Division be withdrawn from the Fifteenth Army and thrown into the breach. Hitler authorized this immediately, thus accepting for the first time that the Fifteenth Army was waiting for an invasion of the Pas de Calais that might never come. After a long talk that night with Schmundt and Keitel, he instructed Field Marshal Kluge to take permanent command of Rommel’s army group as well, “as no other suitable person can be found.”  Kluge telephoned Keitel at noon :  “Without doubt we’ve got a crisis here on our hands.”  He said he was planning to address his senior commanders immediately behind the battlefront the next morning, July 20. “Good luck,” said Keitel. “Take care of yourself !”  Hitler trusted Kluge implicitly.

These were Hitler’s principal worries that day, therefore :  the threat to East Prussia and Silesia ;  the possible loss of France ;  the proclamation of total war designed to mobilize Germany’s untapped resources ;  the seemingly unavoidable defection of Hungary. Nor were Germany’s relations with Italy satisfactory :  they were burdened by the continued internment of a million Italian troops and the annexation of the northern provinces. For political reasons Hitler had conceded to Mussolini the right to raise four new divisions of troops loyal to fascism. The first two, equipped with the best German weaponry, were at this very moment being inspected by Mussolini and Marshal Graziani in Germany, but on July 19, Hitler tentatively decided to disband all four divisions. On consideration, he felt that no good could come of them and that their German training personnel and equipment were badly needed for the new German divisions. He sent Bodenschatz to air this suggestion with Graziani :  perhaps the Italian troops could be used for the antiaircraft defenses of key German factories instead. Mussolini himself was due to arrive at the Wolfs Lair after lunch on July 20. Bodenschatz reported to Hitler that morning that Graziani had not taken to the idea at all. Hitler replied, “Come and join the war conference with me.”

The conference had been brought forward thirty minutes, to 12:30 P.M., because of the Duce’s visit. Schaub arrived about 12:25 P.M. to tell him that the officers were assembled. As Hitler walked the forty yards to the gray conference hut, he saw Warlimont and various other officers waiting outside ;  the others were already in the oppressively hot conference room. General Heusinger, standing to his right, began briefing him on the eastern front. Shortly afterward, Keitel arrived, accompanied by General Buhle—who was an armaments expert—an adjutant, and Fromm’s Chief of Staff, the colonel with the black eyepatch and yellow briefcase. “Mein F¸hrer,” Keitel announced, “this is Colonel Count Schenk von Stauffenberg, who is to brief you on the new divisions.”  He stepped back a pace to the left of Hitler, his customary position. Hitler shook the colonel’s mutilated hand, then resumed his seat on a wicker stool, his back to the door, facing the open windows. Once he asked Buhle for a detail and the general suggested that Stauffenberg might reply ;  but to his evident chagrin the colonel had stepped outside. There were now twenty-four men in the room. From the other side of the heavy trestle table, the Luftwaffe Chief of Staff, General Korten, was just referring to an air reconnaissance report, and Hitler leaned across the maps, propping himself on his right elbow ;  there was a bunch of pencils in his right hand and in his left a magnifying glass with which to read the fine print.

For Hitler, this was the dividing instant of time between an old world and a new one. At that instant a blinding sheet of dazzling yellow flame engulfed him as two pounds of explosives detonated less than six feet away. His back was half turned to the blast, but his impression was that it came from just to the right of Colonel Heinz Brandt, Heusinger’s chief assistant, who was waiting to lay out fresh situation maps. “The swine are bombing us !” thought Hitler as the blast wave caught him. He heard a distinct double-crack—probably the initial blast, and then the noise of his own eardrums bursting. Dense, opaque smoke filled the room. He found himself lying near the left doorjamb ;  he was covered with lathes and timbers from the ceiling, he could feel his hair and clothes on fire, and his right elbow was hurting savagely. As the choking fumes parted, his smarting eyes made out disheveled figures groping in the wreckage, and faces contorted by screams of pain which he could not hear. Perhaps an enemy paratroop attack had begun !  If he tried to get out of the windows, he might blunder straight into their guns. He painfully extricated himself and stumbled into the corridor, beating out the flames on his ragged black trousers. He felt blood trickling down his legs and out of his ears. With his plaster-caked hair standing on end, he felt he must look like “a baboon”;  but he was alive.

Supported by Keitel, who like a doused poodle had just shaken his towering frame free of debris, he limped out of the hut’s middle exit as charred documents spiraled down from the sky and guards converged on him. Horribly maimed men were being carried out of the wrecked conference room and laid on the grass as Otto G¸nsche, his bodyguard, led the F¸hrer back to his bunker. “Somebody must have thrown a hand grenade into the room,” exclaimed Hitler ;  but the sentries had seen nobody. While a manservant ran for Dr. Morell, Hitler sat down unsteadily and took his own pulse—pleased at his self-composure. Then he thrust his injured arm inside his tunic, Napoleon-style, to ease the pain. His secretaries came in, and he grinned at them. “Well, ladies, things turned out well again !”  Then he withdrew to his bedroom, walking taller and more cheerfully than he had for some time. Morell and the surgeon Hasselbach removed the shredded trousers, revealing that the skin on the lower third of both thighs had been badly torn by the explosions ;  altogether they removed over a hundred splinters of the fragmented oaken trestle from his legs. His face had been cut in a score of places by flying splinters, and his forehead was scarred by a falling roof timber. He began to mutter that this incident would give him the long-wanted opportunity of dealing with his critics, and the prospect evidently pleased him.

“It was the work of a coward !” he exclaimed, his mind still grappling with the identity of the perpetrator. “Probably one of the Todt Organization workmen installed a bomb.”  He sent guards out to search for the hidden fuse cable and for possible additional bombs. He instructed his press chief to telephone Dr. Goebbels, and he sent his Luftwaffe adjutant, Colonel von Below, bloodstained and deafened, to the telephone exchange a hundred yards away to summon G–ring—who had stayed away that day as he could not abide Mussolini—and Himmler. He ordered absolute secrecy about the incident. Below returned after having removed all the jacks from the telephone switchboard and forbidden the telephonists to go near them. But presently Hitler learned that the blast wave had evidently originated above floor level. Moreover, only a handful of officers had known that the war conference would be brought forward because of Mussolini’s visit. And that yellow flame could only be from an English explosive. Whatever the truth, Himmler and the Gestapo investigators summoned with Kaltenbrunner from Berlin would find it out.

At about 1:15 P.M. he reemerged into the warm sunshine, wearing a fresh uniform over bandages covering all injuries but those to his head. To General Fellgiebel, the signals chief, whom he espied strolling deliberately up and down outside the security zone’s perimeter fence, Hitler must have appeared unscathed. He sent for Colonel Ludolf Sander, his own headquarters signals chief, and asked for arrangements to be made for him to broadcast to the German people as soon as possible ;  but it would take several hours for the sound truck to arrive from K–nigsberg. Now Hitler learned of the carnage the explosion had caused. Those who had been on his right hand had suffered the worst :  Colonel Heinz Brandt had lost a foot, the stenographer Heinrich Berger had lost both legs, Korten had been impaled by a jagged table fragment, Schmundt had ghastly leg injuries and an eye gouged out ;  nobody had escaped the burns and blast entirely. Stenographer Berger’s colleague had been able to talk with him—Berger hoped he would survive but committed his wife and children to his friend’s care if he should not. Hitler appointed Berger to a high civil-service grade forthwith, so that the widow could draw a pension—a provident gesture, for Berger died in agony that afternoon.

Hitler drew fresh energy from his narrow escape from death. Had he believed in God, he would have credited the Almighty with this miracle. His private secretary, Christa Schroeder, vividly recalled those hours, under later interrogation :

I did not expect that July 20, 1944, to be called in for lunch with him after the assassination attempt. But nonetheless I was sent for to join him. I was astounded to see how fresh he looked, and how spritely he stepped toward me. He described to me how his servants had reacted to the news :  [Heinz] Linge was indignant, Arndt had begun to cry. Then he said, verbatim, “Believe me, this is the turning point for Germany. From now on things will look up again. I’m glad the Schweinehunde have unmasked themselves !”

I told him he couldn’t possibly meet the Duce now. “On the contrary !” he retorted, “I must—what would the world press say if I did not !”

“Duce, I have just had the most enormous stroke of good fortune,” Hitler said in greeting to the Italian dictator as he emerged from his train at 2:30 P.M. He had brought his entire staff to the local railroad station—Himmler, Keitel, G–ring, Ribbentrop, and Bormann were all there. Security Zone I was packed with SS officers and armored vehicles which had crawled out of the woods. The F¸hrer and the Duce drove to the shattered conference but and inspected the gaping hole in the floor and the buckled floors of the adjacent rooms, where the blast wave had come up through the floor cavity. It was now that Martin Bormann brought to Hitler the corporal who had tended the telephone outside the conference room. This man had seen an officer leave in a hurry just before the explosion, a colonel with one arm ;  in fact he had left his briefcase, cap, and belt in the hut. The army officers had angrily rejected the corporal’s implied libel on the worthy Colonel von Stauffenberg, but Bormann had taken him seriously. Stauffenberg certainly was nowhere to be found. Perhaps he had flown to Russia ?

Suspicion against him hardened during the afternoon. The Gestapo investigators found shreds of the yellow leather briefcase embedded in the wreckage. Stauffenberg had bluffed his way past the cordons and left Rastenburg airfield at 1:13 P.M., ostensibly for Berlin’s Rangsdorf airfield ;  but he had not arrived there. Moreover, shortly before four o’clock his chief, General Fromm, telephoned Keitel from Berlin and said that rumors were flying around the capital and ought he declare a state of emergency ?  “The F¸hrer is alive. There is no cause whatever for that. Is Stauffenberg in Berlin ?” Keitel rasped. Fromm, taken aback, replied, “No, I thought he was at F¸hrer Headquarters.”  Keitel promised to keep him up-to-date. Almost at once the Wolfs Lair began monitoring the most extraordinary orders emanating from Fromm’s Bendlerstrasse office to the territorial army commands (Wehrkreise), proclaiming a state of emergency by the code word “Valkyrie.”  By telephone too the commands were being instructed that Field Marshal Erwin von Witzleben, Rundstedt’s predecessor, was now Supreme Commander of the Wehrmacht and that he had appointed General Erich Hoepner commander of home forces.(3)  These were names from the past indeed.

The emergence from obscurity of these forgotten, forcibly retired, or cashiered army officers could only mean that an army putsch was being attempted in Berlin. Hitler forthwith accepted Himmler’s proposal that the Gestapo be given powers to arrest army officers. Since Fromm was prima facie one of the conspirators, Hitler neatly legalized the move by appointing Himmler his successor, thus giving the SS leader control over all army units in the Reich ;  a secretary typed the decree, Hitler signed it, and with this and Hitler’s specific directive to restore order, Himmler and Kaltenbrunner took off by plane for Berlin at once. Himmler’s mission was a delicate one. He felt he had been chosen not as the army’s arch rival, that is, as Reichsf¸hrer SS, but “as the F¸hrer’s loyal thane, as a soldier, as a National Socialist, and as a Germanic German,” as he put it ;  but would the army see it that way ?  Hitler had ordered him on no account to allow his Waffen SS to come into direct confrontation with the army ;  that would be the first step toward the ultimate tragedy of civil war.

Keitel’s energetic countermeasures crushed the putsch in the provinces before it even began. At 4:15 P.M. his dramatic message went out to the Wehrkreise :  “Most Immediate ! ... The F¸hrer is alive !  Safe and sound !  Reichsf¸hrer SS new commander of Replacement Army, only his orders valid. Do not obey orders issued by General Fromm, Field Marshal von Witzleben, or General (ret.) Hoepner !  Maintain contact with local Gauleiter and police commander !”  Shortly afterward, General Helmuth Stieff telephoned Keitel on the orders of the army Quartermaster General, Eduard Wagner, at Zossen. Fromm’s office was proclaiming that the army had taken power ;  at 4 P.M., said Stieff, Stauffenberg, and General Ludwig Beck—the army Chief of Staff Hitler had dismissed in 1938—had phoned Wagner from Berlin.(4)  Beck was claiming to have “taken over”;  Witzleben, the “new Supreme Commander,” was said to be on his way to Zossen at that moment.

Toward five o’clock this was confirmed beyond doubt. A long telegram signed by Witzleben (and countersigned by Stauffenberg) was monitored, being transmitted to the Wehrkreis commands. It exploited the overwhelming loyalty of these officers to Hitler by suggesting that not they but Party malcontents were behind the putsch. The telegram was timed 4:45 P.M.:

I. Internal unrest. An unscrupulous clique of combat-shy Party leaders has exploited the situation to stab the hard-pressed armies in the back and seize power for their own selfish purposes.
II. In this hour of supreme danger the Reich government has declared martial law to preserve law and order, and appointed me Supreme Commander of the Wehrmacht with absolute executive authority.

Long, detailed instructions for the incorporation of the Waffen SS, the “elimination” of the Gestapo, and the ruthless breaking of any opposition followed. Accordingly, a warning was radioed by Hitler’s HQ to Himmler’s aircraft to divert to a Berlin airfield heavily guarded by reliable SS troops. Field Marshal Model, commanding Army Group Center, telephoned :  he had received from Bendlerstrasse an order commencing “The F¸hrer Adolf Hitler is dead”—but he had refused to obey it. Hitler sent for his press chief and ordered a succinct communiquÈ broadcast to the people. It would announce :  “A bomb attack was made on the F¸hrer today.... Apart from minor burns and bruises the F¸hrer was uninjured. He resumed work immediately afterward and—as planned—received the Duce for a lengthy discussion.”

The Italian visitors had been treated almost like embarrassments by their hosts. Hitler had subjected Mussolini to the usual impressive statistics of Speer’s forthcoming production of tanks, guns, and ammunition, and had secretly confided that fighter-aircraft output would soon reach 5,000 per month compared with the 3,400 turned out by the Allies. The V-1 was a triumph, and soon there would be a V-2. He was resolved to “raze London to the ground”—and “after August, September, or October” the new secret U-boats would also enter service.

At five o’clock tea was served in the headquarters mess. Hitler began to brood ;  Ribbentrop began to blame the generals for Germany’s plight ;  the generals blamed Ribbentrop and D–nitz, and somebody tactlessly referred to the R–hm purge of June 1934.

After a while Julius Schaub was called to the telephone. Hitler’s personal adjutant, Alwin-Broder Albrecht, was calling from the Reich Chancellery :  strange events were afoot in Berlin. A detachment of the Guards Battalion had just tried to occupy the Chancellery. Streetcars were rattling through the government quarter without halting. The whole area was being cordoned off by troops. Simultaneously, Joseph Goebbels telephoned on his private line from Berlin. The Party “commissar” attached to the Guards Battalion had just revealed to him that its commander, Major Otto Ernst Remer, had been instructed to occupy the government quarter. “Has the army gone mad ?” the propaganda minister asked Hitler. At six o’clock the dissidents began issuing a new telegram to the Wehrkreise, this time signed by “General Fromm.”(5)  The commanders were being instructed to “secure” all radio and communications stations and arrest all ministers and leading Party and police officials. The concentration camps were to be occupied (but no prisoners were to be released as yet).

Hitler began to fear he was losing control of events in Berlin. He telephoned Goebbels to find out when the radio communiquÈ announcing his survival would be broadcast. Goebbels replied that he was sitting on it until he had composed a fitting commentary to go with it. Hitler exploded in anger. “I didn’t ask you for a commentary. I just want the news broadcast as fast as possible !”  At 6:28 P.M. the radio service was interrupted with the startling news flash. This dealt the first body-blow to the putsch, for a live Hitler’s word was still law.

The awkward tea party with Mussolini continued until about seven o’clock. Then the doors were opened and he was ushered out into the light drizzle. “The Duce’s cloak !” ordered Hitler. Then they parted, never to meet again. Almost immediately, Goebbels was on the telephone again, this time with a highly suspicious Major Remer at his side—unable to discern whether his own army superiors or the wily propaganda minister was attempting to overthrow Hitler. Hitler was heard shouting into the telephone, demanding to know why Himmler had not yet arrived in Berlin. But with his ears deafened, the F¸hrer could hardly hear the answers, so he asked to speak to Remer himself. “Major Remer, can you hear—do you recognize my voice ?”  Remer had spent forty-five minutes with him some months before, collecting the Oak Leaf cluster for bravery ;  once heard, Hitler’s voice was unforgettable. “Major Remer,” continued Hitler, “they tried to kill me, but I’m alive. Major Remer, I’m speaking to you as your Supreme Commander. Only my orders are to be obeyed. You are to restore order in Berlin for me. Use whatever force you consider necessary. Shoot anybody who tries to disobey my orders.”  This was the second, deadliest blow to the plot—for it enabled Hitler to use the army itself to put down the conspiracy.

Hours of suspense passed at the Wolfs Lair, while Keitel and Bormann telephoned and cabled orders to every command, canceling the plotters’ moves. The injuries began to tell on Hitler’s physique. He slumped into a chair, morosely consuming quantities of colored pastilles from a dish in front of him. “I am beginning to doubt that the German people is worthy of my genius,” he exclaimed—a sullen outburst that provoked a clamor of loyal protestations. D–nitz reminded him of the navy’s achievements. G–ring could not match this, so he picked a quarrel with Ribbentrop, who retorted, “I am still the foreign minister, and my name is von Ribbentrop !”  G–ring brandished his marshal’s baton at him. Hitler named General Guderian to succeed the ostensibly “sick” Zeitzler as Chief of the General Staff, and he assigned the youthful General Walther Wenck—a tough Chief of Staff from an eastern front army group—to take the injured General Heusinger’s place. Martin Bormann meanwhile purveyed what scanty information he could to the Gauleiters, using his modern teleprinter linkup.(6) “The reactionary criminal vermin evidently staged the attack on the F¸hrer and his loyal officers in conjunction with the National Committee ‘Free Germany’ in Moscow (General von Seydlitz and Count [Haubold von] Einsiedel). Should the attack succeed, the generals’ clique comprising Fromm, [Friedrich] Olbricht, and Hoepner would take over power and make peace with Moscow ;  that this so-called peace would cost the German people their lives is obvious. That the attempt has misfired means the salvation of Germany, because now the hopes reposed in these traitorous generals have been smashed for good.”  And at 9:40 P.M. Bormann warned the Gauleiters :  “A General Beck wants to take over the government. The one-time Field Marshal von Witzleben is posing as the F¸hrer’s successor. Of course no National Socialist Gauleiter will allow himself to be taken in by, or accept orders from, these criminals, who are just miniature worms in format.”

Dining with his secretaries in his bunker that evening, Hitler voiced his anger at the assassins. “What cowards !  If they had drawn a gun on me, I might still respect them. But they didn’t dare risk their own lives.”  He snorted :  “The idiots cannot even imagine the chaos there would be if the reins slipped out of my grasp. I’m going to make an example of them that will make anybody else think twice about betraying the German people.... These criminals !  They don’t realize that our enemies are planning to destroy Germany so thoroughly that she can never rise again.”  At the 10 P.M. war conference, Hitler began by expressing his regrets to the two duty stenographers over the death of their colleague. As a reaction to the murder attempt, he ordered a particularly violent V-1 attack on London during the night—to show that he was less inclined to compromise than ever.

The radio sound-truck from K–nigsberg had now arrived. Hitler’s entire staff assembled in the teahouse at 11:30 P.M.—General Jodl with a white bandage around his head, Keitel with bandaged hands, others with sticking plasters ;  many men were missing. In a voice trembling with anger and emotion, Hitler recorded a fiery speech to the nation “So that you can hear my voice . . .”:

A minuscule clique of ambitious, unscrupulous officers of criminal stupidity has been plotting to get rid of me and to liquidate virtually the entire German Wehrmacht command staff at the same time. The bomb was placed by Colonel Count von Stauffenberg and exploded six feet away to my right. Several of my dear colleagues were gravely injured, one has died. I myself am completely uninjured apart from a few minor scratches, bruises, and burns. I regard this as a fresh confirmation of the mission given me by Providence to continue toward my goal....

The speech was broadcast ninety minutes later. By that time Hitler had heard from a general who had escaped from the Bendlerstrasse building that Stauffenberg and Olbricht had locked Fromm in an office after he had refused to believe that Hitler was dead ;  Stauffenberg had sworn to the assembled staff officers that he “had seen the F¸hrer’s corpse being carried past on a stretcher.”(7)  Many idealists were eventually propelled to the hangman’s noose by this easy lie, but Stauffenberg had nothing more to lose. Already the arrest-list was swelling :  General Fellgiebel’s very presence, uninvited, at the Wolfs Lair had compromised him ;  Keitel sent for him at midnight and arrested him. Hitler was mystified that the army’s Chief of Signals had failed to gun him down when their eyes had met that very afternoon, as Hitler strolled with Schaub outside his bunker. “There he was, ambling up and down like a lamb, as though he’d had nothing to do with this conspiracy !”  In Vienna and Prague the dissidents’ orders had been largely carried out. In Paris the military governor had actually put the Gestapo and SS chiefs under lock and key, until Hitler’s broadcast revealed the hollowness of Stauffenberg’s claim. The position of Field Marshal von Kluge was ambiguous, for in an instant of black comedy the loyal General Hermann Reinecke, attempting to telephone General Fromm that evening, had found the doomed General Beck on the line, and Beck had imagined he had reached Kluge in France (“Kluge, is that you?”). Witzleben telephoned Keitel from his hideout during the night ;  the OKW chief kept him talking long enough to find out where he was, and then ordered his arrest too. A telegram from Fromm in the small hours spelled out the end of the putsch :

Attempted putsch by irresponsible generals has been bloodily put down. All the ringleaders shot.... I have resumed control, after having been temporarily held under armed arrest.

Undeceived, Hitler ordered General Fromm’s arrest as well. At 3:40 A.M. Martin Bormann circulated the triumphant teleprinter message to the Gauleiters :  “The traitors’ action can be regarded as at an end.”  Dizzy with euphoria, Hitler retired to bed.

Hitler saw the day’s events as a temporary aberration, the product of a wayward clique of disgruntled army officers—a kind of blood poisoning which the army would get out of its own system. The perpetrators had been “shot by the army’s own battalions,” the press announced in special editions the next day—an infelicitous choice of words which caused many ordinary Germans to ask just how large the “minuscule clique” of traitors was ?  The F¸hrer pushed the occurrence itself out of his mind, after emotionally sending the torn gray uniform jacket and black trousers to Eva Braun as a memento (they still exist). Himmler would no doubt see that the guilty did not escape unpunished.

Remarkably, the Allies had failed to exploit the hiatus in High Command operations ;  but the situation in France was already grave enough, and the bulging Normandy beachhead might burst into the rest of France at any moment. From Field Marshal Kluge’s forward headquarters at La Roche-Guyon—Rommel’s old HQ—a special courier arrived in the Wolf’s Lair with two top-secret letters. The first was a letter from Kluge dated July 21 ;  it endorsed the second—a strong recommendation by Rommel, written on July 15, that Hitler end the war. Rommel complained vigorously that although he had lost 97,000 men since June 6, he had been sent only 6,000 replacements ;  225 tanks had been lost, but only 17 replaced. His infantry divisions lacked artillery, armor-piercing weapons, and above all bazookas. Given the enemy’s harrowing air supremacy, their breakthrough into France was inevitable. “Our troops are fighting heroically all along the line, but the unequal battle is nearing its end. In my view you should draw the necessary conclusions. I feel bound as the army group’s Commander in Chief to say this quite bluntly.”  Kluge’s letter made its point in the words, “Unfortunately the field marshal’s view is right.”  Nonetheless he had concluded a speech to his generals south of Caen the day before thus :  “We must stand fast, and if there should be no way to turn the tide in our favor, then we must die honorably on the field of battle !”

Hitherto Hitler had worshiped Gunther Hans von Kluge :  physically and mentally alert, with an erudite high forehead, he was known through the army as “kluge Hans”—clever Hans. But evidently he and Rommel still did not appreciate, said Hitler a few days later, that this was Germany’s fight for her destiny—“a struggle which cannot be discharged or disposed of by negotiation, by ‘clever’ politics, or by tactical sleight-of-hand.”  Obviously it was a temptation for Kluge to withdraw his hard-pressed armies from Normandy to some more distant line of defense, though such a line would certainly be far longer ;  but Hitler told Jodl on July 31 :  “If we lose France, we lose the basis of our U-boat campaign.”  Moreover, France was Germany’s last source of tungsten—indispensable for high-grade steel manufacture and electronic equipment. It was pointless for his generals to calculate how they might better employ the Normandy divisions elsewhere in the west. Most were immobilized by lack of transportation ;  of the rest only a few would ever reach whatever new line the generals might propose to defend. Thus Kluge and his generals—Rommel, of course, was still hospitalized—must stand fast where they were until G–ring had recovered at least partial air supremacy for the Luftwaffe in the west.

Nonetheless, Hitler also prepared for the worst. On July 23, spurred perhaps by these two letters, he ordered the West Wall fortifications which had been built in 1938 and 1939 to be readied for the defense of Germany. Two days later the Allied offensive began in Normandy. The British thrust toward Falaise was halted by a countermove of the First SS Panzer Corps, but late on the thirtieth the Americans managed to punch a dangerous hole through the line at the coastal town of Avranches. Hitler and Jodl now began secret deliberations envisaging the total loss of France, while resolved to insist that Kluge must defend the Normandy line to the utmost. The upshot was that Hitler instructed the OKW to prepare the Somme-Marne-SaÙne-Jura line for immediate occupation in the event of a collapse. (Hitler had ordered Rundstedt to reconnoiter this line ten months before.)(8)  Hitler displayed the ability to reach hard decisions :  if need be he would sacrifice the entire Balkans to recover enough military strength to defend Germany’s last conquests elsewhere. Meanwhile he must inflict months of delay on the Allies ;  strong garrisons commanded by officers of proven courage and resourcefulness must be sacrificed to defend the main French ports and deprive the enemy of their use ;  the French railways must be destroyed down to the last freight car and track tie. On no account was any hint of these “horrific” strategic decisions to reach the army group headquarters in France, for who knew how many traitors still lurked there, waiting to pass the word to the enemy ?  After all, the military commander of France, General Carl-Heinrich von St¸lpnagel, had made common cause with the putschists of July 20. “Let’s be quite clear on one score,” Hitler expounded to Jodl. “The tide in France cannot turn until we manage—even just for a short time—to regain air superiority.”  Meanwhile the French population watched and waited in the wings :  now they began to rejoice at each enemy battle victory.

Hitler’s ambition to regain the strategic initiative in the autumn was not pure fantasy. He had asked G–ring to amass a great secret reserve of fighter aircraft, and he hoped some day to throw two thousand fighters into the struggle for France. Six new Mark XXI submarines had been delivered in July, and 144 were to have been built by the end of 1944. This was why the coming battles in the west must not go against Germany. Hitler himself would fly west to take command as he had in 1940—but his damaged eardrums made it impossible for him to fly anywhere for many days to come :  the constant roaring and the pressure differences might provoke an inner-ear infection. “Obviously, if all the dams burst, I would do anything and wouldn’t care—I’d go as gunner in a single-engined plane to get there as fast as possible.... Normally, I should have gone to bed for ten or fourteen days, but every day I’ve had to work at least eight hours not even counting the hours of reading of dispatches.... Apart from that the miracle is that the shock got rid of my nerve complaint almost entirely. My left leg still trembles somewhat if conferences go on too long, but previously this leg used to shake in bed. With this shock, that’s vanished almost completely—not that I would recommend this kind of remedy.”

The assassin’s bomb had affected Hitler more than he liked to admit. On July 21 he suffered violent ear pains, and his right ear began to bleed. His eyes constantly flicked to the right (nystagmus);  alone in his bunker, he kept thinking he was falling over to the right. That evening he went for a short walk in the twilight and twice found himself wandering off the path. There was a constant taste of blood in his mouth. An army ear-nose-and-throat expert, Dr. Erwin Giesing, was fetched ;  Hitler confessed that he could not sleep despite Morell’s Phanodorm tablets, and Giesing noticed that his voice was unnaturally loud and that he was lip-reading replies. The next day Giesing cauterized a large rupture to Hitler’s right eardrum, and on July 23, Professor Carl von Eicken—a specialist who had operated on Hitler’s vocal cords in 1935—came to find out why the ear was still bleeding despite the hemostatic pills and injections being administered by Morell. Hitler joked :  “Perhaps I’m just a natural bleeder !”  The next day he asked Giesing to cauterize the ear again regardless of the pain. “I stopped feeling pain long ago,” he observed. “Besides, pain exists to make a man of you.”

He visited the army hospital at Rastenburg and talked with Schmundt and the other adjutants injured in the blast. “There are you,” he remarked to Admiral Heinz Assmann, “seriously injured—yet you were not the one that was marked down for assassination. These gentlemen were after me and only me :  yet I escaped entirely. Four times in this war my enemies have tried to take my life, and now the Almighty has stayed their hands once again. This can have only one historical interpretation, that Providence has elected me to lead the German people.”  Thus he had redoubled his resolve to lead them on, “not to final defeat but to victory.”  Two of the hospital beds were empty :  Gunther Korten, Chief of Air Staff, had died of his injuries on July 22 ;  and Colonel Brandt—promoted to General to benefit his widow—had succumbed the same day. Korten would get a state funeral, but not Brandt :  Scherff, Hitler’s court historian, had shared his ward and reported that in his delirium the colonel had complained at Stauffenberg’s callousness in placing the bomb at his feet when he, Brandt, was one of the conspirators himself ;  Brandt had even incriminated Heusinger, but the latter swore on oath that the colonel was lying and thus survived.

Each day revealed fresh names of conspirators. Himmler, who had decided to arrest even those who had only the most marginal association with the conspiracy, was appalled to find the eventual list totaling over six thousand. Zeitzler’s adjutant was arrested and contritely confessed. Virtually every section head of the army General Staff except Reinhard Gehlen (Foreign Armies East) and Rudolf Gercke (transport) was involved. The implication of Colonels Hansen and Roenne, the Intelligence chiefs in the west, seemed to throw light on many otherwise inexplicable failures ;  so did the sudden suicide of General Eduard Wagner, the army’s quartermaster general, and the disappearance of General Lindemann, the director of artillery. Hitler became convinced that General Fellgiebel’s signals organization had instantly flashed his secrets to the enemy and was still doing so, as the accuracy of the British-controlled Soldatensender Calais transmitter showed. “Fellgiebel must confess,” he raged, “if he has to be skinned alive !”  Even Arthur Nebe, the Gestapo department chief—who had been a guard of honor on Heydrich’s bier in 1942—had vanished without trace, as had Carl Goerdeler, twice appointed mayor of Leipzig and then provided with an abundant pension by the F¸hrer. Goerdeler’s papers were located in a hotel safe ;  they revealed that Goerdeler had been chosen to succeed Hitler, and they listed additional conspirators ;  these were arrested, and fresh chain reactions were established by their interrogation. On July 23, Admiral Canaris was picked up by the Gestapo, but since both Keitel and Himmler intervened on his behalf, his early imprisonment was more comfortable than that of his fellow conspirators. Franz Halder and Hjalmar Schacht, prewar governor of the Reichsbank, were also pulled in, as their opposition to Hitler was well documented.

Meanwhile Bormann began showing Hitler the lengthy interrogation reports compiled by Kaltenbrunner’s staff. Kaltenbrunner clearly did not intend to spare the F¸hrer’s feelings. “I could not bear to watch this man running amok,” one conspirator (General Stieff) had blurted out ;  “smashing his own great works by his obstinacy :  we are defending Kirkenes and Crete, but we shall be losing K–nigsberg and Cracow in the process !”  A physical revulsion took hold of Hitler as he realized the true scope of the plot ;  over half the traitors were army officers, but there were also trade-union officials, lawyers, civil servants, academics, and clergy. Even Count Wolf Heinrich von Helldorf, the pre-1933 brownshirt rowdy and Jew-baiter whom Hitler had made police president of Berlin, now confessed to being one of Stauffenberg’s minions—not because he opposed National Socialism, but because he despised its plebeian aura and its creation of a nonaristocratic elite. None of the prisoners had much clue as to what system they were proposing in Hitler’s place. The army generals, he reasoned, had failed to appreciate his political imperatives, and the politicians had criticized his generalship. They questioned his orders for the rigid defense of the Demyansk pocket, the Donets bend, the Dnieper line, the Nikopol bridgehead, the Crimea, the Narva line, the Vitebsk salient, and the Cherkassy pocket ;  one after another these positions had been lost until by July 1944 the core of the German army was destroyed. They blamed him for these military reverses ;  but there was a class element too, for he was the son of an Austrian customs official to whom the officer corps felt bound by neither blood nor brotherhood.

Gradually, the Gestapo investigators reconstructed the assassination attempt. The yellow briefcase was pieced together from its fragments. An English timefuse had been used to detonate the explosive, evidently from Abwehr stocks. A second package of explosive was found where Stauffenberg’s adjutant had jettisoned it from their car as they sped back to the airfield ;  had it also been used, their plot might have succeeded. Stauffenberg had also carried the assassination implements to the Berghof on July 11 and to Rastenburg four days later, but he had used neither those weapons then nor the second explosive charge on the twentieth. The riddles would remain unanswered, for General Fromm had invited Beck to put a bullet in his brains, and he had rushed Stauffenberg and his adjutant in front of a firing squad before the Gestapo could get at them. “He wanted to silence Beck before he unmasked him as his accomplice,” Hitler aggressively declared.

Count von Helldorf’s full confession was handed to Hitler as he was once again being treated by Dr. Giesing. Helldorf had blamed General Olbricht, who had advised him that Hitler’s vaunted secret weapons were a myth and that even the A-4 rocket would not enter service before 1945. “Who would have thought Helldorf was such a rat ?” asked Hitler. “That he was irresponsible was obvious enough from his gambling debts. How often I had to settle them for him—four or five times, and never less than one hundred thousand marks !  A gambler like that was bound to fall into the hands of enemy agents, and the British secret service no doubt settled even bigger debts on his behalf. I’m sorry for his wife and pleasant children,” he added, laying the report aside. “But I must clean out this Augean stable with an iron broom, and there can be no mercy. If I don’t wipe out these traitors now, there may be more Schweinereien later, and the poor German soldier in the trenches has to pay for their stupidity with his life. How thankful I am to Remer [the Berlin garrison commander].... A few more fine, clear-thinking officers like him and I wouldn’t have to worry about the future. But this yellow gang sends me an even yellower Stauffenberg from Berlin—if he’d at least had the courage to stay there with his briefcase !  But no !  It was a pity to waste even one bullet on him. I keep asking myself what they were all after. To stop the war and start peace talks with the enemy—with these Tom Thumbs as the government ?  Because this gang had neither the guts nor the gumption to fight on. As though Stalin or Churchill or Roosevelt would have been bothered one instant by our sudden desire for peace !  In eight days the Russians would have been in Berlin and it would have been all over for Germany—for good.”

Hitler’s escape had once more brought the entire German population together ;  for many weeks their fury against the plotters was said to be intense. It was reported that army generals in Berlin had to conceal their uniforms beneath raincoats to escape the people’s indignation. Goebbels opened a fund to enable people and troops alike to express their feelings. “I just heard the frightful news,” a Viennese widow wrote to Hitler on the evening of July 20. “Hatred—a deep, indelible hatred—fills me against these wretched creatures !  Did nothing happen to you, really ?  Mein F¸hrer—you are all that is left to me in this world. I had a child, but he died in action in Russia at Mayevka. He had passed his examinations and had a place waiting at technical college. I had been saving up for this, but now he’ll never return, my darling child !  Take my money, out of joy that nothing befell the F¸hrer.”  A lock of hair and a picture of the boy accompanied the letter.

Goebbels himself arrived at the Wolfs Lair on July 22 and asked that semidictatorial powers be given him.(9)  Goebbels was deeply moved by Hitler’s appearance. “He was just coming out of his little headquarters bunker, not weary, but relaxed, not bowed, but with his head slightly sunk—a picture to melt the sternest heart. At that moment I wished the entire German people could have seen him ;  nobody in Germany would ever have doubted again.”  Two days earlier, he and Speer had vigorously informed an audience of government officials that despite total war and the efforts of Gauleiter Sauckel, manpower was still being criminally wasted :  500,000 women were working as domestics. While Speer had 6,000,000 armaments workers, another 3,200,000 men were being soaked up by office work in government and industry. A preliminary conference with Bormann, Speer, and Goebbels preceded the full session on July 23 with Hitler, G–ring, and Himmler. Goebbels promised to procure half a million more men immediately for the war effort. Hitler ordered G–ring to appoint the propaganda minister “Reich Commissar for Total War Mobilization” and announced—despite the misgivings of his doctors—that he would speak to the Gauleiters in one week’s time.

The plot’s side effects on government opinion in wavering countries like Turkey, Finland, Romania, and Bulgaria must have been grave, but the psychological damage to Hitler was also vast. Though he claimed the contrary, he now trusted nobody. Robert Ley’s broadcast blaming “blue-blooded swine” for plotting Hitler’s death brought Field Marshal von Richthofen in full-dress regalia to the Wolfs Lair formally protesting this slur on his fellow aristocrats who had unquestioningly obeyed their oaths of allegiance ;  Hitler pointed to his adjutants von Below, von Puttkamer, and Erik von Amsberg, as proof that he valued men only for their accomplishments. However, he himself would soon be heard mimicking an aristocratic general (General von Schlieben of Cherbourg) justifying a decision to choose dishonorable captivity to the hero’s death he had demanded of his troops :  “After all, what harm can possibly come to us ?  We’ll be taken prisoner and get decent treatment—particularly we who are of noble families. We won’t get put together with those frightful plebs.”  And although Hitler himself signed an order forbidding any intemperate criticism of the officer corps, the generals, and the nobility at large, in private he regretfully speculated that Stalin had been right to purge his regular officer corps in 1937, and that in 1934 he would have done better to opt for the SA against the Reichswehr. Every officer who now came to his headquarters was frisked for hidden weapons before being allowed into his presence. His food was tasted and tested for poison, and his medicines were purchased only from approved SS clinics in Berlin. Hitler trusted nobody ;  he even ordered the still-uniformed and bemedaled corpses of Stauffenberg and the others allegedly shot in Berlin to be exhumed, lest the army had deceived him about their execution.

Treachery and treason became the only explanation he could find for his defeats. While the Sixth Army, fighting in the Carpathians, had more than enough bazookas, the Seventh and Fifteenth armies in France had barely any. “Who issues these weapons ?” asked Hitler angrily. Keitel shrugged his shoulders. That was the quartermaster general, Wagner.”  “Aha !” Hitler said triumphantly. “The swine !  He did well to shoot himself, otherwise I would have hanged him. In the open countryside of the Ukraine we have bazookas in abundance. And in the hedgerows of Normandy where our troops can only ward off the enemy’s superabundance of tanks with such bazookas, we have none !  He did it on purpose—it was treason !”  He exclaimed, “These criminals won’t go before a courtmartial, because their accomplices will preside and spin the trials out. They will be thrown out of the Wehrmacht and tried by the People’s Court. Nor will they die honorably before the firing squad, but like common criminals in the hangman’s noose.... And above all, they’ll get no time to make long speeches. Freisler will see to that—he’s our Vishinsky !”(10)

G–ring did what he could to restore Hitler’s trust in the Wehrmacht. On July 22 a staff stenographer noted in his diary :  “Before today’s noon war conference, the Reichsmarschall delivered a short speech to the F¸hrer proposing that as an outward token of gratitude for his miraculous escape the entire Wehrmacht should adopt the Hitler salute forthwith. The F¸hrer signed the decree, whereupon there was a spontaneous ovation from everybody present.”  But all the raised hands in Germany could not erase the cancer of suspicion from Hitler’s mind, and each fresh report from Kaltenbrunner started fresh tumors malignantly festering. By the end of July 1944 two names had cropped up that Hitler had never expected to see among his enemies :  Field Marshals Kluge and Rommel. The allegation was so awesome that two weeks passed before Hitler could decide how to act on it.

1 Rommel had been earmarked for a British assassination operation a few days later anyway. There are papers in secret British files on this.

2 The deeper reason was that Fritz Darges had broken off his relationship with Eva Braun’s sister Gred ;  she had then married Himmler’s liaison officer, Hermann Fegelein, on June 3.

3 The conspirators had not realized that a special network fed all orders issued to the Wehrkreise to the F¸hrer’s headquarters automatically as well. This slip was crucial to the crushing of the putsch.

4 Stauffenberg did not reach the war ministry in Bendlerstrasse until about 4:30 P.M., as he had cautiously landed elsewhere than at Rangsdorf airfield, only to find neither car, driver, nor gasoline waiting there for the drive into the city ;  this evidently cost him ninety minutes’ delay.

5 Fromm had not in fact signed the order.

6 This was another circuit the plotters had failed to immobilize. They had duly “secured” the Berlin radio building, but nobody had instructed this army detail as to what to do then—let alone interrupt the programs broadcast. These were the officers who criticized Hitler’s generalship. “They should have gone to school with us Nazis,” Hitler scoffed to Schaub. “Then they would have learned how to do it !”

7 “Keitel is lying,” Stauffenberg assured Olbricht and Hoepner. He had seen an explosion like the impact of a 150-millimeter shell and doctors running over. “Hardly anybody can have survived !”—This emerged from the trials and interrogations.

8 A rare foresight by Hitler.

9 As he had in his letter of July 18.

10 Roland Freisler was president of the Nazi People’s Court ;  Andrei Vishinsky presided over the notorious Moscow Purge Trials.


p. 657   On the implementation of total war, see Lammers’s letter to Keitel, July 17, 1944, and subsequent correspondence (T175/71/7972 et seq.).  Only the French text of Goebbels’s letter survives in British files, AL/1904/4 ;  the original may be in France.

p. 659   The infantry general Edgar R–hricht mentions Stieff’s order of July 8, 1944, in his March 1946 study “Himmler’s Struggle for Military Power” (in IfZ files).  Significantly, when Stauffenberg returned from Hitler’s HQ on July 11 or 15, 1944, and exclaimed that the whole HQ ought to be blown sky high, Colonel Georg Hansen—Canaris’s successor and a fellow-conspirator—“attributed this exclamation to Stauffenberg’s very powerful irritation that the fifteen new divisions being raised were to be subordinated to the Reichsf¸hrer SS [Himmler]” (Gestapo interrogation of Hansen, July 29, 1944, T84/19/0257).

p. 661   See the verbatim interrogation of Fr”ulein Schroeder at Berchtesgaden, May 22, 1945.

p. 661   See the brief record of Hitler’s speech to Nazi indoctrination officers on July 29, 1944 (T78/80/0603 et seq.);  Jodl’s speech of July 24 (T77/1432), and Himmler’s speech of August 3, 1944, about Fellgiebel’s defeatist utterances.

p. 661   These first withdrawals from the idle Fifteenth Army are referred to in the diaries of the OKW, Kluge’s staff, and the naval staff July 20, 1944, and their strategic importance is underlined in Jodl’s diary.

pp. 662-63   Percy Schramm wrote several annexes to the OKW war diary on the July 20, 1944, bomb incident, based on Warlimont’s verbal information ;  they were not published, but are on T77/1432/0620 et seq.  I also used the diary of one staff stenographer, the version in Schmundt’s official diary, and above all Peter Hoffmann’s excellent study in VfZ, 1964, pages 254 et seq., and his full-length book, Widerstand, Staatsstreich, Attentat (Munich, 1969), Chap. XI.  In addition I assembled a voluminous collection of statements and interrogations of the officers in the hut, largely from secret British files.

p. 663   Hitler related his personal impressions on several occasions :  on August 15, 1944 to the envoy Siegfried Kasche (whose record is in his papers, AA Serial 1770, pages 405808 et seq.);  to the staff stenographer Ludwig Krieger ;  to his ENT-specialist Erwin Giesing ;  and to the Gauleiters on August 4.  The wife of Food Minister Herbert Backe wrote in a diary on August 7, 1944 :  “Herbert came straight from the F¸hrer conference.  At lunch he was only three places away from the F¸hrer.  Gauleiter Giesler [of Munich] asked the F¸hrer.  ‘What did you feel at the moment of the blast?’  The F¸hrer said, ‘I thought I had heard three detonations and suspected hand grenades had been tossed in from outside.  The generals jumped out of the windows.  But I thought I would then be running right into the killers’ arms.  I went out through the door, putting out the flames in my hair. . . .’ ”

p. 663   On Hitler’s injuries I used manuscripts or testimony of Morell, his wife, Hasselbach, Brandt, and Giesing.

p. 665   Keitel’s alacrity is evident from the documents.  The Berlin conspirators had begun issuing their “Valkyrie” signals a few minutes before 4 P.M.—misusing Fromm’s signature and making reference in them to Witzleben and Hoepner.  Just fifteen minutes later Keitel was already issuing the first teletypes from Hitler’s HQ overriding these spurious signals.  By 4:05 P.M. the OKH General Staff already had evidence that Stauffenberg had failed, for staff at Zossen monitored a telephone conversation between Hermann Fegelein (Himmler’s liaison officer at Hitler’s HQ) and SS General Hans J¸ttner on the explosion’s failure—it had been “similar to Munich [in November 1939], but F¸hrer safe and well.”

pp. 665-66   Himmler emphasized the delicacy of his role in speeches on July 21 and 26, 1944 (T175/93/3904 and 4146).  See also Keitel’s memoirs, page 222.

p. 666   Eduard Wagner’s role is an enigma.  He wrote on July 21 to Zeitzler :  “I swear to you on my word of honor that I had nothing to do with the events of July 20,” and enclosed a full account of the events at Zossen as he remembered them (IfZ file, ED-95).

p. 666   A complete sequence of the key July 20, 1944, telegrams was captured by British Intelligence in the files of the Nazi party office in Schleswig-Holstein.  This particular one omitted the first sentence :  “The F¸hrer Adolf Hitler is dead.”  But it is included in the later versions—e.g., in naval staff war diary, 8:05 P.M.;  and Kluge’s Paris staff received by teletype at 8:10 P.M. an assurance that the 6:28 P.M. radio broadcast (page 666) was a lie and that the F¸hrer was dead and that all steps were to be taken as swiftly as possible.

p. 667   I used Schaub’s unpublished manuscript, and a private letter by the adjutant Albrecht dated July 22, 1944.

p. 668   See the report by Dr. Hans Hagen on his visit to Goebbels (T84/19/0022 et seq.).  The propaganda minister had a direct telephone line to Hitler, unknown to the plotters (OCMH interrogation of General Wilhelm Arnold, OKH signals chief, August 25, 1945).

p. 668   The interpreter present, Eugen Dollmann, gives a spirited account of Hitler’s conversation with Mussolini, G–ring, and Ribbentrop in a prison-cell conversation monitored by the British on July 22, 1945 (CSDIC/CMF/X194).

p. 669   The engineer General Werner Kennes—Fromm’s armaments expert—had slipped out of the Bendlerstrasse building at midnight.  Generals Hoepner and von Th¸ngen were also witnesses to Stauffenberg’s bland assurance that he had seen Hitler’s corpse ;  so was another—anonymous—officer, of whose testimony before the People’s Court only the sound recording survives.

p. 671   Rommel’s “Observations on the Situation,” dated July 15, 1944, are in Army Group B’s war diary annexes (T311/3/2241 et seq.);  Kluge forwarded the document with a letter to Hitler dated July 21 (ibid.).  They are mentioned in his war diary, but the annexes referred to are missing.  Professor H.A. Jacobsen and other historians have uncritically quoted from the erroneous text given (from memory) by General Hans Speidel in Invasion 1944.  Note that Rommel’s letter was not addressed to Hitler.

p. 672   The quote is from Hitler’s talk with Jodl on July 31, 1944 (Heiber).

p. 673   Eicken’s treatment notes on Hitler survive (NA special microfilm, ML-125 and 131).  He was also interrogated by the British.

p. 673   At Christmas 1944 Himmler told Admiral von Puttkamer :  “If only we’d known the scale right from the start, we’d have proceeded quite differently ;  then we’d have differentiated more—we wouldn’t have hanged people just because they had heard talk of something.”

p. 674   Helmuth Maurer—Canaris’s pianist neighbor, who wrote a long unpublished manuscript on the Abwehr chief—had been with him on the afternoon of July 20, 1944 About 3 P.M. Stauffenberg telephoned that the F¸hrer was dead.  Canaris knew his phone was tapped and responded, “Was it the Russians ?”  Maurer says that the admiral’s nerves went to pieces over the next three days until his arrest.  According to the SS investigator Horst Kopkow (under British CSDIC interrogation), Canaris pressed Schellenberg to know whether that “petty staff officer” Hansen hadn’t been jotting down pettifogging notes again.  Only Canaris’s most recent diary was immediately found, and that was not incriminating.

p. 675   Reinicke described the Berliners’ indignation under OCMH interrogation in July 1945.  The diary of the Catholic Field Marshal von Weichs mirrors the fury of the unimplicated officers.  “21 July.  Putsch.  Frightful situation—this internal unrest too.  Success would have produced chaos.  Madness to think a rapid peace can be achieved by such means.  A stab in the back like 1918, but worse as it comes from a quarter from which one might have expected the opposite.  Horrifying, the names that participated in this revolt.  How will the army sit this terrible upheaval out, now that its officers and generals will forfeit every shred of confidence in them ?  How will our allies take this blow ?”  And on 22 July :  “. . . because even if the assassination had worked, the putsch would still have collapsed, as not one soldier would have accepted orders from these leaders.”

p. 675   A bulky collection of letters to Hitler after the plot is in Goebbels’s files (BA, R55DC/145).

p. 677   Rommel had warned Hitler of the bazooka shortage at his mid-March 1944 conference ;  the Seventh Army needed 5,190 but had only 644 ;  the Fifteenth Army needed 6,228 but had only 781 (war diary, Army Group B, quartermaster, annexes).  Wagner in fact shared responsibility for distribution with Kluge’s quartermaster, Colonel Eberhard Finkh—who was one of the conspirators and was sentenced to death on August 30, 1944.  According to the naval staff diary, August 9, the OKW noted :  “Despite adequate supplies of ammunition, weapons, and equipment at home Commander in Chief West keeps reporting shortages of specific types, particularly armor-piercing ammunition and bazookas.”

Historians dissatisfied with Schramm’s summary treatment of the war’s theaters in the OKW war diary will find excellent daily reports on Hitler’s war conferences as submitted to the naval staff by the attending admiral (usually Voss) from August 1944 to January 1945 (PG/32122b) ;  and from December 1944 to April 7, 1945 (PG/31742).