Great Satan’s Girlfriend reminded me of something that I had spaced off. Today is the anniversary of Count Claus Schenk von Stauffenberg’s attempted assassination of Adolph Hitler. The history of the operation has sort of a Keystone Kops feel about it – nothing went really right for them, and Hitler survived. Here let’s let Courtney tell the story:
Valkyrie is an ancient viking superstition. When brave Norsemen fell in battle (often raiding parties) these hotties with their mammoth shields would appear on winged horses and tote off the fallen to heathen heaven – Valhalla.
Despite oathbreaking, defacing images of gods and wickedness in general – all would be forgiven by success in combat – especially if the offender died a heroic saga inspiring death.
Claus Schenk was a real European blue blood aristocrat. Awarded nobility back in the Holy Roman Empire days ( funny though – HRE was a triple no go – it was neither Holy, Roman or an Empire) the family became von Staffenberg.
In WWII time Deutschland, Valkyrie was code for the Nazi party to maintain control of the Reich in the event of a catastrophic disaster that killed or incapacitated the leadership.
By summertime 1944, 3rd Reich was facing the horrible modern era manifestation of von Gneisenau and von Scharnhorst’s ultimate nightmare – the multi front war.
Allies had captured Rome and were grinding their way up the bloody Eyetye boot of Italy, Allies were fixing to bust out of the Normandy bocage and unleash Great Satan’s panzer General Patton.And the largest defeat in modern history – the destruction of Armee Gruppe Centre saw the annihilation of 20 irreplacable German divisions in a massive Soviet blitz that drove Germany out of Russia and vaulted the Red Army right outside Warsaw.
Despite Allied claims that only unconditional surrender would satiate the Allied and Russian thirst for righteous payback, a clique of Wehrmacht officers plotted a coup d’tat’ against 3rd Reich in an effort to spare Germany ultimate defeat and dismemberment using the contingency plan of ‘Valkyrie’.
Germany’s armed forces had to swear a ‘holy oath’ – not to the state or nation or a constitution – but to der fuhrer personally. In order for the plot to work – der fuhrer had to be killed. Valkyrie also planned trying the wartime leaders of 3rd Reich for war and humanitarian crimes, working out reparations with the allies and bringing Germany back into the family of nations.
Claus Schenk von Stauffenberg was a panzer officer that had fought in Poland, France, Russia and with the famous ‘Afrika Korps’.
Suffering debilitating wounds from combat – losing an eye, a hand and three fingers, Claus and his co conspirators – facing the truth of the regime they so valiantly served – tried in their own way to rectify their sins – singular and collective.
Valkyrie energized the evil leaders of 3rd Reich, anyone connected with the cats of the coup were ruthlessly hunted down, tormented and slain.
And so, the plot failed, and the war went on, as described in the link, until Götterdamerung, the next April.
But it could arguably have worked and it was the last gasp of the old ‘Good Germany’ not to mention the old Prussian Jünkers, who at the last tried to do the only sensible thing. While he was actually not involved was Feldmarschall Rommel, who had built a very good reputation (even amongst his opponents) in the African campaign, was force to commit suicide because of it.
I mention it here because it also killed one of the best Lutheran theologians of the twentieth century, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who was implicated as well. He was hanged on 9 April 1945, at Flossenbürg concentration camp. He was not hanged in the normal, reasonably merciful way, that we think of. He was taken, naked, into the courtyard of the fortress, it took him about six hours to die. Reports of the exact way the execution was carried out vary.
Two weeks later the US 90th and 97th Infantry divisions liberated the camp.
The last message we know of him was passed to asked an English prisoner Payne Best to remember him to Bishop George Bell of Chichester if he should ever reach his home: “This is the end—for me the beginning of life.”
The Deutsche Evangelische Kirche in Sydenham, London, at which he preached between 1933 and 1935, was destroyed by bombing in 1944. A replacement church was built in 1958 and named Dietrich-Bonhoeffer-Kirche in his honor.
And he is remembered as both a theologian and a martyr by United Methodist Church, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and several church members of the Anglican Communion including the Episcopal Church (USA).