Claus von Stauffenberg
|Born||15 Nov 1907|
|Died||21 Jul 1944|
Contributor: C. Peter Chen
ww2dbaseClaus Philipp Maria Graf Schenk von Stauffenberg was born in Jettingen in the Kingdom of Bavaria as the third of three sons in an aristocratic family. His father Alfred Graf Schenk von Stauffenberg was a general in the Kingdom of Württemberg and his ancestors include famous Prussian figures such as August von Gneisenau. In 1926 he joined the 17th Cavalry Regiment despite his inclination for literature and the arts. When Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party rose to power, he was at first drawn to the nationalistic pride in rebuilding the devastated post-WW1 Germany, but he very quickly discovered the twisted ideals of the anti-Semitic regime, especially after Kristallnacht in Nov 1938. He remained in the Germany Army despite of his disgust in the new government, leading his unit in the Sixth Panzer Division in the occupation of Sudetenland and in the campaigns in Poland, France, and Russia. He was awarded the Iron Cross First Class on 31 May 1940 at the end of the campaign in France. On 1 Jan 1943, he was promoted to lieutenant colonel and was soon transferred to North Africa. There, while he was scouting out a new command area, his vehicle was strafed by British aircraft and was severely wounded, losing his left eye, his right hand, and the fourth and fifth fingers of his left hand. He returned to Germany as a respected hero who had sacrificed for his nation. Although more than qualified for a retirement from the Army, he insisted that despite the result of his injuries he was capable to fulfill a staff position. The Army did not protest this decision due to the urgent need for manpower because of the war. Stauffenberg, of course, was thinking more along the lines of staying in the Army and wait for opportunities to overthrow the Nazi regime.
ww2dbaseStauffenberg initially joined the resistance movement around the time of campaign in Poland, at which time he was given the opportunity to meet Major General Henning von Tresckow and Fabian von Schlabrendorff, principle resistance leaders. After returning to Germany because of injury, he was posted to the Reserve Army under the command of General Friedrich Olbricht who was also a member of the resistance. Stauffenberg soon took a leadership role in the design of Operation Walkuere (Valkyrie), a plan with no definitive launch date centered around using the Reserve Army to seize key offices and figures in Berlin when the opportunity comes. The operation plan was distributed to officers of the Reserve Army as a plan personally approved by Hitler to regain control of Berlin in the case of an internal power struggle within the Nazi Party. Little did the dictator know the resistance was planning on using this plan against him.
ww2dbaseWith his position in the Reserve Army also became with regular contact with Hitler in meetings and strategic discussions. On 20 Jul 1944, after aborted assassination attempts on 11 and 15 Jul, a third opportunity presented itself at Wolfsschanze (Wolf's Lair) at Rastenburg, East Prussia. A brief case containing a time bomb exploded under a table which Hitler used during this meeting, and Stauffenberg hurried left Wolfsschanze convinced that there was no chance that Hitler would have escaped death. In Berlin Olbricht delayed the start of Operation Walkuere due to miscommunication and uncertainty, which might have ultimately doomed the entire plot to take control of Berlin. Minister of Propaganda Joseph Goebbels was able to seize upon this weakness and broadcasted a message aimed at men of the Reserve Army that the launch of Operation Walkuere was a part of a coup d'etat and ordered not to follow their orders. The men of the Reserve Army turned their guns against the resistance and besieged many of the July Plot conspirators at Bendlerstrasse, the General Office of the Army. He was captured after being wounded in the shoulder, and then executed on the spot by General Friedrich Fromm whose connections with members of the resistance led him to silence as many leads back to himself as possible. Rumor went that Stauffenberg's last words were "Es lebe unser heiliges Deutschland", or, "Long live our sacred Germany."
ww2dbaseMany members of the Stauffenberg family fell victim to the reprisal that came after the failed July Plot. Heinrich Himmler enacted the ancient Teutonic punishment of Sippenhaft which placed the blame on Stauffenberg's betrayal to Hitler on the entire family. "When a man was outlawed", said Himmler in Aug 1944, "it was said this man is a traitor, his blood is bad, it contains treason, it will be exterminated."
ww2dbaseBecause of the leadership role Stauffenberg played in the July Plot, he is celebrated today as a national hero who symbolizes the resistance of the Nazi regime. The street where Bendlerblock is located is now known as Stauffenbergstraße.
ww2dbaseSources: the Fall of Berlin, Wikipedia.
Last Major Revision: Jan 2006
Claus von Stauffenberg Timeline
|15 Nov 1907||Claus von Stauffenberg was born.|
|1 Jan 1943||Claus von Stauffenberg was promoted to lieutenant colonel.|
|7 Apr 1943||Claus von Stauffenberg was seriously injured when his car was strafed by Allied aircraft in North Africa.|
|22 Jun 1944||Claus von Stauffenberg met with representatives from the German communists in eastern Berlin, Germany, not knowing one of them was a Gestapo spy.|
|11 Jul 1944||Claus von Stauffenberg was summoned to see Adolf Hitler in Berchtesgaden, Germany regarding the situation of the Home Army.|
|14 Jul 1944||Claus von Stauffenberg was summoned to see Adolf Hitler in Rastenburg, East Prussia, Germany on the following day.|
|15 Jul 1944||Claus von Stauffenberg aborted an assassination attempt on Adolf Hitler when Hitler departed a conference earlier than expected.|
|16 Jul 1944||Claus von Stauffenberg hosted a party at his home at Wannsee, Berlin, Germany, which was attended by several anti-Hitler conspirators.|
|21 Jul 1944||Claus von Stauffenberg was executed in Berlin, Germany.|
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James Forrestal, Secretary of the Navy, 23 Feb 1945