Contributor: C. Peter Chen
Review Date: 15 Jan 2014
Full Title: Valkyrie: The Story of the Plot to Kill Hitler, by Its Last Member
Full Credits: Author Philip Freiherr Von Boeselager, co-author Florence Fehrenbach, co-author Jerome Fehrenbach, and translator Steven Rendall
Philipp von Boeselager, a cavalry junior officer in the German Army during WW2, never worshipped Adolf Hitler like many of his colleagues, choosing to serve his country rather than the dictator. Serving directly under GŁnther von Kluge as his personal aide, he would come in contact with some like-minded officers, some of whom would later become involved in Operation Valkyrie, which plotted, but failed, to assassinate Adolf Hitler. The failed assassination attempt triggered a wide purge, but Boeselager, who was but a very low level functionary in the operation (procured the explosives used by Claus von Stauffenberg and readied a cavalry regiment to secure a district in Berlin if called upon), was not implicated. His war-time memoir, titled Valkyrie in the English translation, was rather poorly titled by the publisher as the book was much more about spirit of those who opposed the Nazi ideology than the July Plot itself. Nor was the tag line correct, for that Ewald-Heinrich von Kleist-Schmenzin, who passed away in 2013, outlived Boeselager by 5 years. Nevertheless, the book was still a gem in that it, in blunt and unadorned language, told of the moral struggle that existed in the mind of many German officers during the era, whether it was the murder of Jews ordered by superiors or the planned murder of Hitler as plotted by the conspirators. While it provided little new history in regards to Operation Valkyrie itself, it shed light on the mindset of the officers who viewed Hitler with suspicion and how they balanced their duty to obey the chain of command and their patriotism toward Germany. Boeselager's relationship with his brother, both as family and as fellow officer, was especially moving.
In addition to the printed copy, I had also checked out the audio book edition of this book. Not having paid attention to the cover when I saw it at the library, I was pleasantly surprised to find the voice of my favorite reader Michael Prichard. As usual, he did a great job with this reading. Perhaps not his best, I still enjoyed his clear reading and appropriate voice acting.
Boeselager's Valkyrie offered little in terms of the history of the July Plot, but when read as a supplement to other titles about the assassination attempt, it provided valuable insight of a young officer who shared similar sentiments as the main players.
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General Douglas MacArthur at Leyte, 17 Oct 1944