Audio Archive


Reality and Legacy of the 1944 'Valkyrie' Conspiracy to Kill Hitler

In July 1944 a group of German conspirators tried to kill Hitler and violently seize power in Berlin. The conspiracy's most dynamic figure was Col. Claus von Stauffenberg, who set a bomb to kill Hitler. Although it killed three men and seriously injured others, Hitler survived with only minor burns and bruises. In Germany today the anti-Hitler conspirators are honored as exemplary men of courage, conscience and principle. They are similarly portrayed in a major US motion picture, "Valkyrie," starring Tom Cruise and Kenneth Branagh. But this idealized portrayal is a "politically correct" distortion of reality. The attempt to assassinate Hitler and seize power was doomed to fail, and in fact collapsed very quickly, because it was poorly planned and ineptly organized, because it was based on a brazen lie, and because the conspirators did not understand the sentiment in the German military and among the German people. They also totally misunderstood the attitude of the Allied leaders, who sought not merely to destroy the Hitler regime, but Germany as a nation. By today's standards, von Stauffenberg and the other leading conspirators were "Nazis." They supported the policies and principles of the National Socialist government for at least five years, and only belatedly turned against the Hitler regime.