On July 20, 1944, Adolf Hitler survived an assassination attempt. What happened?

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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By the mid 1940s, many German officers had come to believed that the path of the German nation was not going to yield anything beneficial.  These officers placed the blame for this condition on Hitler's shoulders.  They believed Germany was being led to greater disaster, more loss, and that the only way to stop this descent was to remove Hitler from power.  Even though it was evident at this point that the tide was turning against the Germans, it was very difficult and nearly inconceivable to remove Hitler from office.  The power of the SS was one in which the internal system of control had been firmly established.  Hitler was able to use his police force, the Gestapo, and means of collecting information to punish anyone who spoke out against him.  At the same time, he took his own precautionary measures that insulated him to such a degree and made it difficult to make him susceptible to assassination.  It is in this context in which the July 20 plot of 1944 takes place.

Several specific conspirators are seen to have played roles in the July 20 plot against the Fuhrer.  Claus von Stauffenberg, Henning von Tresckow, and Fedor von Bock were three of the most significant conspirators who played vital roles in the July 20 setting to remove Hitler.  Their options were limited.  It was believed that shooting at Hitler would not work because he wore a bullet proof vest.  Poisoning his food was precluded as Hitler used a taster to sample food before he ate it.  The third option was to use bomb Hitler's private offices. Given the intense Allied aerial bombing of Germany, it was seen as plausible. However, organizing it from within still proved to be a fundamental challenge. von Tresckow and Stauffenberg had  staged previous attempts leading up to the 1944 plan which had failed.  They were convinced that the summer of 1944 was "now or never," in terms of embracing the urgency of the moment.  Given how the Gestapo was the only aspect of the Nazi apparatus of power that was functioning with efficiency, it had becomes clear that the conspirators were not going to survive.  Thus, their actions took on a more symbolic nature to them, perhaps moving them to a point where success or death trying were the only alternatives.  Even the participation of Erwin Rommel was not enough to stave off the feeling that their own deaths were inevitable.

The July 20 attempt followed a series of other attempts in the month of July. Each previous attempt succeeded in injuring people near Hitler or the participants themselves.  Believing that time was not in his favor, von Stauffenberg believed that he had to be the agent of action.  At a military meeting in Hitler's private command post, "the Wolf's Lair," as opposed to a smaller conference room, Stauffenberg carried a bomb inside his brief case. Stauffenberg placed one brick of explosives into his briefcase, holding on to another brick.  He felt that one would be sufficient given the small dimensions of the room and the proximity with which he planned on placing the briefcase to Hitler, himself.  Stauffenberg excused himself from the meeting for a moment to privately detonate the bomb, and then placed the briefcase near Hitler.  Receiving a telephone call that enabled Stauffenberg to leave, the briefcase was adjacent to Hitler, only to be moved inadvertently by another officer.  The result of the move was that the force of the blast killed others and not Hitler, who suffered some hearing loss and a pair of singed trousers.  

The hope behind Hitler's assassination on July 20 was that it would provide the necessary initiation for a revolt amongst the armed forces.  Once it was evident that Hitler was not killed, the momentum was lost and the conspirators all faced death, either by military tribunal or by their own hand.

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rachellopez | Student, Grade 12 | (Level 1) Valedictorian

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According to BBC, a bomb went off at his headquarters, known as the wolf's lair, in Rastenberg, East Prussia. A senior officer named Colonel Claus Schenk von Stauffenberg was blamed for the bomb. Hitler had minor burns and a concussion. but no major harm was done. Von Stauffenburg was arrested and shot the same day while the other suspects went to trial and then were hanged. The German people were grateful he was not severely injured and could continue his work as their leader.

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eli468's profile pic

eli468 | Student, Undergraduate | (Level 1) Valedictorian

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The plot against Hitler's assassination on July 20, 1944 was called Operation Valkyrie. This was essentially bombs that would be used on any German cities or on forced laborers from occupied countries working in German factories who would break the law. Members from the Reserve Army changed the plan to use it against Hitler as well as to try and assassinate Hermann Goering and Heinrich Himmler. They were hoping the troops in Berlin could," seize key government buildings, telephone and signal centers and radio stations. Hitler's death was required to free German soldiers from their oath of loyalty to him." They wanted to gain control over the government so they could end the war by making peace with the Allies.

A man named Stauffenberg brought the bomb to the conference Hitler was at and he placed it onto the floor and left. It only injured Hitler, but killed four other men. 

Due to the failed assassination attempt the chief of staff, Heinz Guderian, stated that any officer who didn't fully support Nazi's must resign. Most of the members of the group who planned the assassination were executed or committed suicide and hundreds of officers were expelled for not fulling supporting Hitler's policies.

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parama9000 | Student, Grade 11 | (Level 1) Valedictorian

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Another theory wad that Hitler left the building minutes earlier before the bomb was set off, and so the assassination fails.

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