Shortly after 6 o’clock on the warm, sunny summer morning of July 20, 1944, Colonel Stauffenberg, accompanied by his adjutant, Lieutenant Werner von Haeften, drove out past the bombed-out buildings of Berlin to the airport at Rangsdorf. In his bulging briefcase were papers concerning the new Volksgrenadier divisions on which at 1 P.M. he was to report to Hitler at the “Wolf’s Lair” at Rastenburg in East Prussia. In between the papers, wrapped in a shirt, was a time bomb.
It was identical to the one which Tresckow and Schlabrendorff had planted in the Fuehrer’s airplane the year before and which had failed to explode. Of English make, as we have seen, it was set off by breaking a glass capsule, whose acid then ate away a small wire, which released the firing pin against the percussion cap. The thickness of the wire governed the time required to set off the explosion. On this morning the bomb was fitted with the thinnest possible wire. It would dissolve in a bare ten minutes.
At the airport Stauffenberg met General Stieff, who had produced the bomb the night before. There they found a plane waiting, the personal craft of General Eduard Wagner, the First Quartermaster General of the Army and a ringleader in the plot, who had arranged to put it at their disposal for this all-important flight. By 7 o’clock the plane was off, landing at Rastenburg shortly after 10 A.M. Haeften instructed the pilot to be ready to take off for the return trip at any time after twelve noon.
From the airfield a staff car drove the party to the Wolfsschanze headquarters, set in a gloomy, damp, heavily wooded area of East Prussia. It was not an easy place to get into or, as Stauffenberg undoubtedly noted, out of. It was built in three rings, each protected by mine fields, pillboxes and an electrified barbed-wire fence, and was patrolled day and night by fanatical S.S. troops. To get into the heavily guarded inner compound, where Hitler lived and worked, even the highest general had to have a special pass, good for one visit, and pass the personal inspection of S.S. Oberfuehrer Rattenhuber, Himmler’s chief of security and commander of the S.S. guard, or of one of his deputies. However, since Hitler himself had ordered Stauffenberg to report, he and Haeften, though they were stopped and their passes examined, had little trouble in getting through the three check points. After breakfast with Captain von Moellendorff, adjutant to the camp commander, Stauffenberg sought out General Fritz Fellgiebel, Chief of Signals at OKW.
Fellgiebel was one of the key men in the plot. Stauffenberg made sure that the General was ready to flash the news of the bombing to the conspirators in Berlin so that action there could begin immediately. Fellgiebel was then to isolate the Fuehrer headquarters by shutting off all telephone, telegraph and radio communications. No one was in such a perfect position to do this as the head of the OKW communications network, and the plotters counted themselves lucky to have won him over. He was indispensable to the success of the entire conspiracy.
After calling on General Buhle, the Army’s representative at OKW, to discuss the affairs of the Replacement Army, Stauffenberg walked over to Keitel’s quarters, hung up his cap and belt in the anteroom and entered the office of the Chief of OKW. There he learned that he would have to act with more dispatch than he had planned. It was now a little after 12 noon, and Keitel informed him that because Mussolini would be arriving by train at 2:30 P.M. the Fuehrer’s first daily conference had been put forward from 1 P.M. to 12:30. The colonel, Keitel advised, must make his report brief. Hitler wanted the meeting over early.
Before the bomb could go off? Stauffenberg must have wondered if once again, and on what was perhaps his last try, fate was robbing him of success. Apparently he had hoped too that this time the conference with Hitler would be held in the Fuehrer’s underground bunker, where the blast from the bomb would be several times more effective than in one of the surface buildings. But Keitel told him the meeting would be in the Lagebaracke—the conference barracks.* This was far from being the flimsy wooden hut so often described. During the previous winter Hitler had had the original wooden structure reinforced with concrete walls eighteen inches thick to give protection against incendiary and splinter aerial bombs that might fall nearby. These heavy walls would add force to Stauffenberg’s bomb.
He must soon set it to working. He had briefed Keitel on what he proposed to report to Hitler and toward the end had noticed the OKW Chief glancing impatiently at his watch. A few minutes before 12:30 Keitel said they must leave for the conference immediately or they would be late. They emerged from his quarters, but before they had taken more than a few steps Stauffenberg remarked that he had left his cap and belt in the anteroom and quickly turned to go back for them before Keitel could suggest that his adjutant, a Lieutenant von John, who was walking alongside, should retrieve them for him.
In the anteroom Stauffenberg swiftly opened his briefcase, seized the tongs with the only three fingers he had, and broke the capsule. In just ten minutes, unless there was another mechanical failure, the bomb would explode.
Keitel, as much a bully with his subordinates as he was a toady with his superiors, was aggravated at the delay and turned back to the building to shout to Stauffenberg to get a move on. They were late, he yelled. Stauffenberg apologized for the delay. Keitel no doubt realized that it took a man as maimed as the colonel a little extra time to put on his belt. As they walked over to Hitler’s hut Stauffenberg seemed to be in a genial mood and Keitel’s petty annoyance—he had no trace of suspicion as yet—was dissipated.
Nevertheless, as Keitel had feared, they were late. The conference had already begun. As Keitel and Stauffenberg entered the building the latter paused for a moment in the entrance hall to tell the sergeant major in charge of the telephone board that he expected an urgent call from his office in Berlin, that it would contain information he needed to bring his report up to the minute (this was for Keitel’s ear), and that he was to be summoned immediately when the call came. This too, though it must have seemed most unusual—even a field marshal would scarcely dare to leave the Nazi warlord’s presence until he had been dismissed or until the conference was over and the Supreme Commander had left first—did not arouse Keitel’s suspicions.
The two men entered the conference room. About four minutes had ticked by since Stauffenberg reached into his briefcase with his tongs and broke the capsule. Six minutes to go. The room was relatively small, some thirty by fifteen feet, and it had ten windows, all of which were wide open to catch the breezes on this hot, sultry day. So many open windows would certainly reduce the effect of any bomb blast. In the middle of the room was an oblong table, eighteen by five feet, made of thick oak planks. It was a peculiarly constructed table in that it stood not on legs but on two large heavy supports, or socles, placed near the ends and extending to nearly the width of the table. This interesting construction was not without its effect on subsequent history.
When Stauffenberg entered the room, Hitler was seated at the center of the long side of the table, his back to the door. On his immediate right were General Heusinger, Chief of Operations and Deputy Chief of Staff of the Army, General Korten, Air Force Chief of Staff, and Colonel HeinzBrandt, Heusinger’s chief of staff. Keitel took his place immediately to the left of the Fuehrer and next to him was General Jodl. There were eighteen other officers of the three services and the S.S. standing around the table, but Goering and Himmler were not among them. Only Hitler, playing with his magnifying glass—which he now needed to read the fine print on the maps spread before him—and two stenographers were seated.
Heusinger was in the midst of a lugubrious report on the latest breakthrough on the central Russian front and on the perilous position, as a consequence, of the German armies not only there but on the northern and southern fronts as well. Keitel broke in to announce the presence of Colonel von Stauffenberg and its purpose. Hitler glanced up at the one-armed colonel with a patch over one eye, greeted him curtly, and announced that before hearing his report he wanted to have done with Heusinger’s.
Stauffenberg thereupon took his place at the table between Korten and Brandt, a few feet to the right of Hitler. He put his briefcase on the floor, shoving it under the table so that it leaned against the inside of the stout oaken support. It was about six feet distant from the Fuehrer’s legs. The time was now 12:37. Five minutes to go. Heusinger continued to talk, pointing constantly to the situation map spread on the table. Hitler and the officers kept bending over to study it.
No one seems to have noticed Stauffenberg stealing away. Except perhaps Colonel Brandt. This officer became so absorbed in what his General was saying that he leaned over the table the better to see the map, discovered that Stauffenberg’s bulging briefcase was in his way, tried to shove it aside with his foot and finally reached down with one hand and lifted it to the far side of the heavy table support, which now stood between the bomb and Hitler.* This seemingly insignificant gesture probably saved the Fuehrer’s life; it cost Brandt his. There was an inexplicable fate involved here. Colonel Brandt, it will be remembered, was the innocent officer whom Tresckow had induced to carry a couple of “bottles of brandy” back on Hitler’s plane from Smolensk to Rastenburg on the evening of March 13, 1943, and he had done so without the faintest suspicion that they were in reality a bomb—the very make of bomb which he had now unostentatiously moved farther away under the table from the warlord. Its chemical had by this time almost completed the eating away of the wire that held back the firing pin.
Keitel, who was responsible for the summoning of Stauffenberg, glanced down the table to where the colonel was supposed to be standing. Heusinger was coming to the end of his gloomy report and the OKW Chief wanted to indicate to Stauffenberg that he should make ready to report next. Perhaps he would need some aid in getting his papers out of his briefcase. But the young colonel, he saw to his extreme annoyance, was not there. Recalling what Stauffenberg had told the telephone operator on coming in, Keitel slipped out of the room to retrieve this curiously behaving young officer.
Stauffenberg was not at the telephone. The sergeant at the board said he had hurriedly left the building. Nonplused, Keitel turned back to the conference room. Heusinger was concluding, at last, his report on the day’s catastrophic situation. “The Russian,” he was saying, “is driving with strong forces west of the Duna toward the north. His spearheads are already southwest of Dunaburg. If our army group around Lake Peipus is not immediately withdrawn, a catastrophe …”27
It was a sentence that was never finished.
At that precise moment, 12:42 P.M., the bomb went off.
Stauffenberg saw what followed. He was standing with General Fellgiebel before the latter’s office in Bunker 88 a couple of hundred yards away, glancing anxiously first at his wrist watch as the seconds ticked off and then at the conference barracks. He saw it go up with a roar in smoke and flame, as if, he said later, it had been hit directly by a 155-mm. shell. Bodies came hurtling out of the windows, debris flew into the air. There was not the slightest doubt in Stauffenberg’s excited mind that every single person in the conference room was dead or dying. He bade a hasty farewell to Fellgiebel, who was now to telephone the conspirators in Berlin that the attempt had succeeded and then cut off communications until the plotters in the capital had taken over the city and proclaimed the new government.†
Stauffenberg’s next task was to get out of the Rastenburg headquarters camp alive and quickly. The guards at the check points had seen or heard the explosion at the Fuehrer’s conference hall and immediately closed all exits. At the first barrier, a few yards from Fellgiebel’s bunker, Stauffenberg’s car was halted. He leaped out and demanded to speak with the duty officer in the guardroom. In the latter’s presence he telephoned someone—whom is not known—spoke briefly, hung up and turned to the officer, saying, “Herr Lieutenant, I am allowed to pass.”
This was pure bluff, but it worked, and apparently, after the lieutenant had dutifully noted in his log: “12:44. Col. Stauffenberg passed through,” word was sent along to the next check point to let the car through. At the third and final barrier, it was more difficult. Here an alarm had already been received, the rail had been lowered and the guard doubled, and no one was to be permitted to enter or leave. Stauffenberg and his aide, Lieutenant Haeften, found their car blocked by a very stubborn sergeant major named Kolbe. Again Stauffenberg demanded the use of the telephone and rang up Captain von Moellendorff, adjutant to the camp commander. He complained that “because of the explosion,” the guard would not let him through. “I’m in a hurry. General Fromm is waiting for me at the airfield.” This also was bluff. Fromm was in Berlin, as Stauffenberg well knew.
Hanging up, the colonel turned to the sergeant. “You heard, Sergeant, I’m allowed through.” But the sergeant was not to be bluffed. He himself rang through to Moellendorff for confirmation. The captain gave it.28
The car then raced to the airport while Lieutenant Haeften hurriedly dismantled a second bomb that he had brought along in his briefcase, tossing out the parts on the side of the road, where they were later found by the Gestapo. The airfield commandant had not yet received any alarm. The pilot had his engines warming up when the two men drove onto the field. Within a minute or two the plane took off.
It was now shortly after 1 P.M. The next three hours must have seemed the longest in Stauffenberg’s life. There was nothing he could do as the slow Heinkel plane headed west over the sandy, flat German plain but to hope that Fellgiebel had been able to get through to Berlin with the all-important signal, that his fellow plotters in the capital had swung immediately into action in taking over the city and sending out the prepared messages to the military commanders in Germany and in the West, and that his plane would not be forced down by alerted Luftwaffe fighters or by prowling Russian craft, which were increasingly active over East Prussia. His own plane had no long-distance radio which might have enabled him to tune in on Berlin and hear the first thrilling broadcasts which he expected the conspirators would be making before he landed. Nor, for this lack, could he himself communicate with his confederates in the capital and give the signal that General Fellgiebel might not have been able to flash.
His plane droned on through the early summer afternoon. It landed at Rangsdorf at 3:45 P.M. and Stauffenberg, in high spirits, raced to the nearest telephone at the airfield to put through a call to General Olbricht to learn exactly what had been accomplished in the fateful three hours on which all depended. To his utter consternation he found that nothing had been accomplished. Word about the explosion had come through by telephone from Fellgiebel shortly after 1 o’clock but the connection was bad and it was not quite clear to the conspirators whether Hitler had been killed or not. Therefore nothing had been done. The Valkyrie orders had been taken from Olbricht’s safe but not sent out. Everyone in the Bendlerstrasse had been standing idly by waiting for Stauffenberg’s return. General Beck and Field Marshal von Witzleben, who as the new head of state and Commander in Chief of the Wehrmacht, respectively, were supposed to have started issuing immediately the already-prepared proclamations and commands and to have gone on the air at once to broadcast the dawn of a new day in Germany, had not yet showed up.
Hitler, contrary to Stauffenberg’s firm belief, which he imparted to Olbricht on the telephone from Rangsdorf, had not been killed. Colonel Brandt’s almost unconscious act of shoving the briefcase to the far side of the stout oaken table support had saved his life. He had been badly shaken but not severely injured. His hair had been singed, his legs burned, his right arm bruised and temporarily paralyzed, his eardrums punctured and his back lacerated by a falling beam. He was, as one eyewitness later recalled, hardly recognizable as he emerged from the wrecked and burning building on the arm of Keitel, his face blackened, his hair smoking and his trousers in shreds. Keitel, miraculously, was uninjured. But most of those who had been at the end of the table where the bomb had exploded were either dead, dying or badly wounded.*
In the first excitement there were several guesses as to the origin of the explosion. Hitler thought at first it might have been caused by a sneak attack of an enemy fighter-bomber. Jodl, nursing a blood-spattered head—the chandelier, among other objects, had fallen on him—was convinced that some of the building laborers had planted a time bomb under the floor of the building. The deep hole which Stauffenberg’s bomb had blown in the floor seemed to confirm this. It was some time before the colonel became suspected. Himmler, who came running to the scene on hearing the explosion, was completely puzzled and his first act was to telephone—a minute or two before Fellgiebel shut down communications—Artur Nebe, the head of the criminal police in Berlin, to dispatch by plane a squad of detectives to carry out the investigation.
In the confusion and shock no one at first remembered that Stauffenberg had slipped out of the conference room shortly before the explosion. It was at first believed that he must have been in the building and was one of those severely hurt who had been rushed to the hospital. Hitler, not yet suspicious of him, asked that the hospital be checked.
Some two hours after the bomb went off the clues began to come in. The sergeant who operated the telephone board at the Lagebaracke reported that “the one-eyed colonel,” who had informed him he was expecting a long-distance call from Berlin, had come out of the conference room and, without waiting for it, had left the building in a great hurry. Some of the participants at the conference recalled that Stauffenberg had left his briefcase under the table. The guardhouses at the check points revealed that Stauffenberg and his aide had passed through immediately after the explosion.
Hitler’s suspicions were now kindled. A call to the airfield at Rastenburg supplied the interesting information that Stauffenberg had taken off from there in great haste shortly after 1 P.M., giving as his destination the airport at Rangsdorf. Himmler immediately ordered that he be arrested on landing there, but his order never got through to Berlin because of Fellgiebel’s courageous action in closing down communications. Up to this minute no one at headquarters seems to have suspected that anything untoward might be happening in Berlin. All now believed that Stauffenberg had acted alone. It would not be difficult to apprehend him unless, as some suspected, he had landed behind the Russian lines. Hitler, who, under the circumstances, seems to have behaved calmly enough, had something else on his mind. He had to greet Mussolini, who was due to arrive at 4 P.M., his train having been delayed.
There is something weird and grotesque about this last meeting of the two fascist dictators on the afternoon of July 20, 1944, as they surveyed the ruins of the conference hall and tried to fool themselves into thinking that the Axis which they had forged, and which was to have dominated the continent of Europe, was not also in shambles. The once proud and strutting Duce was now no more than a Gauleiter of Lombardy, rescued from imprisonment by Nazi thugs, and propped up by Hitler and the S.S. Yet the Fuehrer’s friendship and esteem for the fallen Italian tyrant had never faltered and he greeted him with as much warmth as his physical condition permitted, showed him through the still smoking debris of the Lagebaracke where his life had almost been snuffed out a few hours before, and predicted that their joint cause would soon, despite all the setbacks, triumph.
Dr. Schmidt, who was present as interpreter, has recalled the scene.29
Mussolini was absolutely horrified. He could not understand how such a thing could happen at Headquarters….
“I was standing here by this table [Hitler recounted]; the bomb went off just in front of my feet … It is obvious that nothing is going to happen to me; undoubtedly it is my fate to continue on my way and bring my task to completion … What happened here today is the climax! Having now escaped death … I am more than ever convinced that the great cause which I serve will be brought through its present perils and that everything can be brought to a good end.”
Mussolini, carried away as so often before by Hitler’s words, says Schmidt, agreed.
“Our position is bad [he said], one might almost say desperate, but what has happened here today gives me new courage. After [this] miracle it is inconceivable that our cause should meet with misfortune.”
The two dictators, with their entourages, then went to tea, and there now ensued—it was about 5 P.M.—a ludicrous scene that gives a revealing, if not surprising, picture of the shabby, tattered Nazi chiefs at the moment of one of the supreme crises in the Third Reich. By this time the communications system of Rastenburg had been restored by the direct order of Hitler and the first reports from Berlin had begun to come in indicating that a military revolt had broken out there and perhaps one on the Western front. Mutual recriminations, long suppressed, broke out between the Fuehrer’s captains, their shouting echoing through the rafters though at first Hitler himself sat silent and brooding while Mussolini blushed with embarrassment.
Admiral Doenitz, who had rushed by air to Rastenburg at the news of the attentat and arrived after the tea party had begun, lashed out at the treachery of the Army. Goering, on behalf of the Air Force, supported him. Then Doenitz lit on Goering for the disastrous failures of the Luftwaffe, and the fat Reich Marshal, after defending himself, attacked his pet hate, Ribbentrop, for the bankruptcy of Germany’s foreign policy, at one point threatening to smack the arrogant Foreign Minister with his marshal’s baton. “You dirty little champagne salesman! Shut your damned mouth!” Goering cried, but this was impossible for Ribbentrop, who demanded a little respect, even from the Reich Marshal. “I am still the Foreign Minister,” he shouted, “and my name is von Ribbentrop!”*
Then someone brought up the subject of an earlier “revolt” against the Nazi regime, the Roehm “plot” of June 30, 1934. Mention of this aroused Hitler—who had been sitting morosely sucking brightly colored medicinal pills supplied by his quack physician, Dr. Theodor Morell—to a fine fury. Eyewitnesses say he leaped from his chair, foam on his lips, and screamed and raged. What he had done with Roehm and his treasonable followers was nothing, he shouted, to what he would do to the traitors of this day. He would uproot them all and destroy them. “I’ll put their wives and children into concentration camps,” he raved, “and show them no mercy!” In this case, as in so many similar ones, he was as good as his word.
Partly because of exhaustion but also because the telephone from Berlin began to bring further details of a military uprising, Hitler broke off his mad monologue, but his temper did not subside. He saw Mussolini off to his train—it was their final parting—and returned to his quarters. When told at about 6 o’clock that the putsch had not yet been squelched, he grabbed the telephone and shrieked orders to the S.S. in Berlin to shoot everyone who was the least suspect. “Where’s Himmler? Why is he not there!” he yelled, forgetful that only an hour before, as his party sat down to tea, he had ordered the S.S. chief to fly to Berlin and ruthlessly put down the rebellion, and that his master policeman could not possibly have arrived as yet.30
The long and carefully prepared rebellion in Berlin had, as Stauffenberg learned to his dismay when he landed at Rangsdorf at 3:45 P.M., got off to a slow start. Three precious, vital hours, during which the Fuehrer headquarters had been shut off from the outside world, had been lost.
Stauffenberg, for the life of him, could not understand why, nor can a historian trying to reconstitute the events of this fateful day. The weather was hot and sultry, and perhaps this had a certain effect. Though the chief conspirators had known that Stauffenberg had left for Rastenburg that morning “heavily laden,” as General Hoepner was informed, to attend the 1 P.M. Fuehrer conference, only a few of them, and these mostly junior officers, began to drift leisurely into the headquarters of the Replacement Army—and of the plot—in the Bendlerstrasse toward noon. On Stauffenberg’s last previous attempt to get Hitler, on July 15, it will be recalled, General Olbricht had ordered the troops of the Berlin garrison to start marching two hours before the bomb was timed to go off. But on July 20, perhaps mindful of the risk he had run, he did not issue similar orders. Unit commanders in Berlin and in the training centers in nearby Doeberitz, Jueterbog, Krampnitz and Wuensdorf had been tipped the night before that they would most probably be receiving the Valkyrie orders on the twentieth. But Olbricht decided to wait until definite word had come from Fellgiebel at Rastenburg before again setting his troops in motion. General Hoepner, with the uniform which Hitler had forbade him to wear in his suitcase, arrived at the Bendlerstrasse at thirty minutes past noon—at the very moment Stauffenberg was breaking the capsule of his bomb—and he and Olbricht went out for lunch, where they toasted the success of their enterprise with a half bottle of wine.
They had not been back in Olbricht’s office very long when General Fritz Thiele, chief signals officer of OKH, burst in. He had just been on the telephone to Fellgiebel, he said excitedly, and though the line was bad and Fellgiebel was very guarded in what he said, it seemed that the explosion had taken place but that Hitler had not been killed. In that case Thiele concluded that the Valkyrie orders should not be issued. Olbricht and Hoepner agreed.
So between approximately 1:15 P.M. and 3:45, when Stauffenberg set down at Rangsdorf and hurried to the telephone, nothing was done. No troops were assembled, no orders were sent out to the military commands in other cities and, perhaps strangest of all, no one thought of seizing the radio broadcasting headquarters or the telephone and telegraph exchanges. The two chief military leaders, Beck and Witzleben, had not yet appeared.
The arrival of Stauffenberg finally moved the conspirators to action. On the telephone from Rangsdorf he urged General Olbricht not to wait until he had reached the Bendlerstrasse—the trip in from the airfield would take forty-five minutes—but to start Valkyrie going at once. The plotters finally had someone to give orders—without such, a German officer seemed lost, even a rebellious one, even on this crucial day—and they began to act. Colonel Mertz von Quirnheim, Olbricht’s chief of staff and a close friend of Stauffenberg, fetched the Valkyrie orders and began to dispatch them by teleprinter and telephone. The first one alerted the troops in and around Berlin, and a second one, signed by Witzleben as “Commander in Chief of the Wehrmacht” and countersigned by Count von Stauffenberg—they had been drawn up months before—announced that the Fuehrer was dead and that Witzleben was “transferring executive power” to the Army district commanders at home and to the commanders in chief of the fighting armies at the front. Field Marshal von Witzleben had not yet arrived at the Bendlerstrasse. He had got as far as Zossen, twenty miles southeast of Berlin, where he was conferring with the First Quartermaster General, Wagner. He was sent for, as was General Beck. The two senior generals in the plot were acting in the most leisurely manner on this fateful day.
With the orders going out, some of them signed by General Fromm, though without his knowledge, Olbricht went to the office of the commander of the Replacement Army, told him that Fellgiebel had reported that Hitler had been assassinated and urged him to take charge of Valkyrie and assure the internal security of the State. Fromm’s orders, the conspirators realized, would be obeyed automatically. He was very important to them at this moment. But Fromm, like Kluge, was a genius at straddling; he was not the man to jump until he saw where he was landing. He wanted definite proof that Hitler was dead before deciding what to do.
At this point Olbricht made another one of the disastrous mistakes committed by the plotters that day. He was sure from what Stauffenberg had told him on the telephone from Rangsdorf that the Fuehrer was dead. He also knew that Fellgiebel had succeeded in blocking the telephone lines to Rastenburg all afternoon. Boldly he picked up the telephone and asked for a “blitz” telephone connection with Keitel. To his utter surprise—communications, as we have seen, had now been reopened, but Olbricht did not know this—Keitel was almost instantly on the line.
FROMM: What has happened at General Headquarters? Wild rumors are afloat in Berlin.
KEITEL: What should be the matter? Everything is as usual here.
FROMM: I have just received a report that the Fuehrer has been assassinated.
KEITEL: That’s all nonsense. It is true there has been an attempt, but fortunately it has failed. The Fuehrer is alive and only slightly injured. Where, by the way, is your Chief of Staff, Colonel Count Stauffenberg?
FROMM: Stauffenberg has not yet returned to us.31
From that moment on Fromm was lost to the conspiracy, with consequences which would soon prove catastrophic. Olbricht, momentarily stunned, slipped out of the office without a word. At this moment General Beck arrived, attired in a dark civilian suit—perhaps this was a gesture toward playing down the military nature of the revolt—to take charge. But the man really in charge, as everyone soon realized, was Colonel von Stauffenberg, who, hatless and out of breath, bounded up the stairs of the old War Ministry at 4:30 P.M. He reported briefly on the explosion, which he emphasized he had seen himself from a couple of hundred yards away. When Olbricht interjected that Keitel himself had just been on the phone and sworn that Hitler was only slightly wounded, Stauffenberg answered that Keitel was playing for time by lying. At the very least, he contended, Hitler must have been severely wounded. In any case, he added, there was only one thing they could now do: use every minute to overthrow the Nazi regime. Beck agreed. It did not make too much difference to him, he said, whether the despot was alive or dead. They must go ahead and destroy his evil rule.
The trouble was that after the fateful delay and in the present confusion they did not, for all their planning, know how to go ahead. Not even when General Thiele brought word that the news of Hitler’s survival was shortly to be broadcast over the German national radio network does it seem to have occurred to the conspirators that the first thing they had to do, and at once, was to seize the broadcasting central, block the Nazis from getting their word out, and begin flooding the air with their own proclamations of a new government. If troops were not yet at hand to accomplish this, the Berlin police could have done it. Count von Helldorf, the chief of police and deep in the conspiracy, had been waiting impatiently since midday to swing into action with his sizable and already alerted forces. But no call had come and finally at 4 o’clock he had driven over to the Bendlerstrasse to see what had happened. He was told by Olbricht that his police would be under the orders of the Army. But as yet there was no rebel army—only bewildered officers milling about at headquarters without any soldiers to command.
Instead of seeing to this at once Stauffenberg put in an urgent telephone call to his cousin, Lieutenant Colonel Caesar von Hofacker, at General von Stuelpnagel’s headquarters in Paris, urging the conspirators to get busy there. This was of the utmost importance, to be sure, since the plot hadbeen better organized in France and was supported by more important Army officers than in any other place save Berlin. Actually Stuelpnagel was to show more energy than his fellow generals at the center of the revolt. Before dark he had arrested and locked up all 1,200 S.S. and S.D. officers and men in Paris, including their redoubtable commander, S.S. Major General Karl Oberg. Had similar energy and similar direction of energy been shown in Berlin that afternoon, history might have taken a different turn.
Having alerted Paris, Stauffenberg next turned his attention to the stubborn Fromm, whose chief of staff he was, and whose refusal to go along with the rebels after he had learned from Keitel that Hitler was alive was seriously jeopardizing the success of the plot. Beck had no stomach to quarrel with Fromm so early in the game and excused himself from joining Stauffenberg and Olbricht, who went to see him. Olbricht told Fromm that Stauffenberg could confirm Hitler’s death.
“That is impossible,” Fromm snapped. “Keitel has assured me to the contrary.”
“Keitel is lying, as usual,” Stauffenberg put in. “I myself saw Hitler’s body being carried out.”
This word from his chief of staff and an eyewitness gave Fromm food for thought and for a moment he said nothing. But when Olbricht, trying to take advantage of his indecision, remarked that, at any rate, the code word for Valkyrie had already been sent out, Fromm sprang to his feet and shouted, “This is rank insubordination! Who issued the order?” When told that Colonel Mertz von Quirnheim had, he summoned this officer and told him he was under arrest.
Stauffenberg made one last effort to win his chief over. “General,” he said, “I myself set off the bomb at Hitler’s conference. The explosion was as if a fifteen-millimeter shell had hit. No one in that room can still be alive.”
But Fromm was too ingenious a trimmer to be bluffed. “Count Stauffenberg,” he answered, “the attempt has failed. You must shoot yourself at once.” Stauffenberg coolly declined. In a moment Fromm, a beefy, red-faced man, was proclaiming the arrest of all three of his visitors, Stauffenberg, Olbricht and Mertz.
“You deceive yourself,” Olbricht answered. “It is we who are now going to arrest you.”
An untimely scuffle among the brother officers ensued in which Fromm, according to one version, struck the one-armed Stauffenberg in the face. The General was quickly subdued and put under arrest in the room of his adjutant, where Major Ludwig von Leonrod was assigned to guard him.* The rebels took the precaution of cutting the telephone wires in the room.
Stauffenberg returned to his office to find that Oberfuehrer Piffraeder, an S.S. ruffian who had distinguished himself recently by superintending the exhuming and destroying of 221,000 bodies of Jews murdered by the Einsatzgruppen in the Baltic regions before the advancing Russians got to them, had come to arrest him. Piffraeder and his two S.D. plain-clothes men were locked up in an adjacent empty office. Then General von Kortzfleisch, who had over-all command of the troops in the Berlin-Brandenburg district (Wehrkreis III), arrived to demand what was up. This strictly Nazi General insisted on seeing Fromm but was taken to Olbricht, with whom he refused to speak. Beck then received him, and when Kortzfleisch proved adamant he too was locked up. General von Thuengen, as planned, was appointed to replace him.
Piffraeder’s appearance reminded Stauffenberg that the conspirators had forgotten to place a guard around the building. So a detachment from the Guard Battalion Grossdeutschland, which was supposed to be on guard duty but wasn’t, was posted at the entrance. By a little after 5 P.M., then, the rebels were at least in control of their own headquarters, but that was all of Berlin they were in control of. What had happened to the Army troops that were supposed to occupy the capital and secure it for the new anti-Nazi government?
A little after 4 P.M., when the conspirators had finally come to life following Stauffenberg’s return, General von Hase, the Berlin commandant, telephoned the commander of the crack Guard Battalion Grossdeutschland at Doeberitz and instructed him to alert his unit and himself to report at once to the Kommandantur on the Unter den Linden. The battalion commander, recently appointed, was Major Otto Remer, who was to play a key role this day, though not the one the plotters had counted on. They had investigated him, since his battalion had been allotted an all-important task, and satisfied themselves that he was a nonpolitical officer who would obey the orders of his immediate superiors. Of his bravery there could be no doubt. He had been wounded eight times and had recently received from the hand of Hitler himself the Knight’s Cross with Oak Leaves—a rare distinction.
Remer alerted his battalion, as instructed, and sped into the city to receive his specific orders from Hase. The General told him of Hitler’s assassination and of an attempted S.S. putsch and instructed him to seal off the ministries in the Wilhelmstrasse and the S.S. Security Main Office in the nearby Anhalt Station quarter. By 5:30 P.M. Remer, acting with dispatch, had done so and reported back to Unter den Linden for further orders.
And now another minor character nudged himself into the drama and helped Remer to become the nemesis of the conspiracy. A Lieutenant Dr. Hans Hagen, a highly excitable and self-important young man, had been posted as National Socialist guidance officer to Remer’s guard battalion. He also worked for Dr. Goebbels at the Propaganda Ministry and at the moment was actually stationed at Bayreuth where he had been sent by the Minister to work on a book which Martin Bormann, Hitler’s secretary, wanted written—a “History of National Socialist Culture.” His presence in Berlin was quite fortuitous. He had come to deliver a memorial address in tribute to an obscure writer who had fallen at the front and he sought to take advantage of his visit by also delivering a lecture that afternoon to his battalion—though it was a hot and sultry day—on “National Socialist Guidance Questions.” He had a passion for public speaking.
On his way to Doeberitz the excitable lieutenant was sure he saw Field Marshal von Brauchitsch in a passing Army car attired in full uniform, and it immediately occurred to him that the old generals must be up to something treasonable. Brauchitsch, who had been booted out of his command long before by Hitler, was not in Berlin that day, in uniform or out, but Hagen swore he had seen him. He spoke of his suspicions to Remer, with whom he happened to be talking when the major received his orders to occupy the Wilhelmstrasse. The orders kindled his suspicions and he persuaded Remer to give him a motorcycle and sidecar, in which he promptly raced to the Propaganda Ministry to alert Goebbels.
The Minister had just received his first telephone call from Hitler, who told him of the attempt on his life and instructed him to get on the air as soon as possible and announce that it had failed. This seems to have been the first news the usually alert Propaganda Minister had of what had occurred at Rastenburg. Hagen soon brought him up to date on what was about to happen in Berlin. Goebbels was at first skeptical—he regarded Hagen as somewhat of a nuisance—and, according to one version, was on the point of throwing his visitor out when the lieutenant suggested he go to the window and see for himself. What he saw was more convincing than Hagen’s hysterical words. Army troops were taking up posts around the ministry. Goebbels, who though a stupid man was extremely quickwitted, told Hagen to send Remer to him at once. This Hagen did, and thereupon passed out of history.
Thus while the conspirators in the Bendlerstrasse were getting in touch with generals all over Europe and giving no thought to such a junior officer as Remer, indispensable as his job was, Goebbels was getting in touch with the man who, however low in rank, mattered most at this particular moment.
The contact was inevitable, for in the meantime Remer had been ordered to arrest the Propaganda Minister. Thus the major had an order to nab Goebbels and also a message from Goebbels inviting him to see him. Remer entered the Propaganda Ministry with twenty men, whom he instructed to fetch him if he did not return from the Minister’s office within a few minutes. With drawn pistols he and his adjutant then went into the office to arrest the most important Nazi official in Berlin on that day.
Among the talents which had enabled Joseph Goebbels to rise to his eminence in the Third Reich was a genius for fast talking in tight situations—and this was the tightest and most precarious of his stormy life. He reminded the young major of his oath of allegiance to the Commander in Chief. Remer retorted crisply that Hitler was dead. Goebbels said that the Fuehrer was very much alive—he had just talked with him on the telephone. He would prove it. Whereupon he picked up the phone and put in an urgent call to the Commander in Chief at Rastenburg. Once more the failure of the conspirators to seize the Berlin telephone exchange or at least cut its wires compounded disaster.* Within the matter of a minute or two Hitler was on the line. Goebbels quickly handed his telephone to Remer. Did the major recognize his voice? asked the warlord. Who in Germany could fail to recognize that husky voice, since it had been heard on the radio hundreds of times? Moreover, Remer had heard it directly a few weeks before when he received his decoration from the Fuehrer. The major, it is said, snapped to attention. Hitler commanded him to crush the uprising and obey only the commands of Goebbels, Himmler, who he said had just been named the commander of the Replacement Army and who was en route by plane to Berlin, and General Reinecke, who happened to be in the capital and had been ordered to take over the command of all troops in the city. The Fuehrer also promoted the major forthwith to colonel.
This was enough for Remer. He had received orders from on high and he proceeded with an energy which was lacking in the Bendlerstrasse to carry them out. He withdrew his battalion from the Wilhelmstrasse, occupied the Kommandantur in the Unter den Linden, sent out patrols to halt any other troops that might be marching on the city and himself set out to find where the headquarters of the conspiracy was so that he could arrest the ringleaders.
Why the rebelling generals and colonels entrusted such a key role to Remer in the first place, why they did not replace him at the last moment with an officer who was heart and soul behind the conspiracy, why at least they did not send a dependable officer along with the guard battalion to see that Remer obeyed orders—these are among the many riddles of July 20. But then, why was not Goebbels, the most important and the most dangerous Nazi official present in Berlin, arrested at once? A couple of Count von Helldorf’s policemen could have done this in two minutes, for the Propaganda Ministry was completely unguarded. But why then did the plotters not seize the Gestapo headquarters in the Prinz Albrechtstrasse and not only suppress the secret police but liberate a number of their fellow conspirators, including Leber, who were incarcerated there? The Gestapo headquarters were virtually unguarded, as was the central office of the R.S.H.A., the nerve center of the S.D. and S.S., which, one would have thought, would be among the first places to be occupied. It is impossible to answer these questions.
Remer’s quick turnabout did not become known in the Bendlerstrasse headquarters for some time. Apparently very little of what was happening in Berlin became known there until too late. And it is difficult even today to find out, for the eyewitness reports are filled with bewildering contradictions. Where were the tanks, where were the troops from the outlying stations?
A brief announcement broadcast shortly after 6:30 P.M. over the Deutschlandsender, a radio station with such a powerful transmitter that it could be heard all over Europe, announcing that there had been an attempt to kill Hitler but that it had failed, came as a severe blow to the harried men in the Bendlerstrasse, but it was a warning that the detachment of troops which was supposed to have occupied the Rundfunkhaus had failed to do so. Goebbels had been able to telephone the text of the announcement to broadcasting headquarters while he was waiting for Remer. At a quarter to seven Stauffenberg sent out a signal by teleprinter to the Army commanders, saying that the radio announcement was false and that Hitler was dead. But the damage to the putschists was almost irreparable. The commanding generals in Prague and Vienna, who had already proceeded to arrest the S.S. and Nazi Party leaders, began to backtrack. Then at 8:20 P.M. Keitel managed to get out by Army teleprinter to all Army commands a message from Fuehrer headquarters announcing that Himmler had been appointed chief of the Replacement Army and that “only orders from him and myself are to be obeyed.” Keitel added, “Any orders issued by Fromm, Witzleben or Hoepner are invalid.” The Deutschlandsender’s announcement that Hitler was alive and Keitel’s crisp order that only his commands and not those of the conspirators were to be obeyed had, as we shall see, a decisive effect upon Field Marshal von Kluge, who off in France was on the point of throwing in his lot with the conspirators.*
Even the tanks, on which the rebel officers had counted so much, failed to arrive. It might have been thought that Hoepner, an outstanding panzer general, would have seen to the tanks, but he did not get around to it. The commandant of the panzer school at Krampnitz, which was to supply the tanks, Colonel Wolfgang Glaesemer, had been ordered by the conspirators to start his vehicles rolling into the city and himself to report to the Bendlerstrasse for further instructions. But the tank colonel wanted no part in any military putsch against the Nazis, and Olbricht, after pleading with him in vain, had to lock him up too in the building. Glaesemer, however, was able to whisper to his adjutant, who was not arrested, instructions to inform the headquarters of the Inspectorate of Panzer Troops in Berlin, which had jurisdiction over the tank formations, of what had happened and to see to it that only the inspectorate’s commands were obeyed.
Thus it happened that the badly needed tanks, though some of them reached the heart of the city at the Victory Column in the Tiergarten, were denied the rebels. Colonel Glaesemer escaped from his confinement by a ruse, telling his guards that he had decided to accept Olbricht’s orders and would himself take command of the tanks, whereupon he slipped out of the building, The tanks were soon withdrawn from the city.
The panzer colonel was not the only officer to slip away from the haphazard and gentlemanly confinement imposed on those who would not join the conspiracy—a circumstance which contributed to the swift end of the revolt.
Field Marshal von Witzleben, when he finally arrived in full uniform and waving his baton shortly before 8 P.M. to take over his duties as the new Commander in Chief of the Wehrmacht, seems to have realized at once that the putsch had failed. He stormed at Beck and Stauffenberg for having bungled the whole affair. At his trial he told the court that it was obvious to him that the attempt had misfired when he learned that not even the broadcasting headquarters had been occupied. But he himself had done nothing to help at a time when his authority as a field marshal might have rallied more of the troop commanders in Berlin and abroad. Forty-five minutes after he had entered the Bendlerstrasse building he stamped out of it—and out of the conspiracy, now that it seemed certain to fail—drove his Mercedes back to Zossen, where he had whiled away the seven hours that were decisive that day, told Quartermaster General Wagner that the revolt had failed, and drove on to his country estate thirty miles beyond, where he was arrested the next day by a fellow General named Linnertz.
The curtain now went up on the last act.
Shortly after 9 P.M. the frustrated conspirators were struck dumb at hearing the Deutschlandsender announce that the Fuehrer would broadcast to the German people later in the evening. A few minutes afterward it was learned that General von Hase, the Berlin commandant, who had started Major—now Colonel—Remer on his fateful errand, had been arrested and that the Nazi General, Reinecke, backed by the S.S., had taken over command of all troops in Berlin and was preparing to storm the Bendlerstrasse.
The S.S. had at last rallied, thanks mostly to Otto Skorzeny, the tough S.S. leader who had shown his prowess in rescuing Mussolini from captivity. Unaware that anything was up that day Skorzeny had boarded the night express for Vienna at 6 P.M., but had been hauled off the train when it stopped at the suburb of Lichterfelde, at the urging of S.S. General Schellenberg, the Number Two man in the S.D. Skorzeny found the unguarded S.D. headquarters in a most hysterical state, but being the coldblooded man he was, and a good organizer to boot, he quickly rounded up his armed bands and went to work. It was he who first persuaded the tank school formations to remain loyal to Hitler.
The energetic counteraction at Rastenburg, the quick thinking of Goebbels in winning over Remer and in utilizing the radio, the revival of the S.S. in Berlin and the unbelievable confusion and inaction of the rebels in the Bendlerstrasse caused a good many Army officers who had been on the point of throwing in their lot with the conspirators, or had even done so, to think better of it. One of these was General Otto Herfurth, chief of staff to the arrested Kortzfleisch, who at first had co-operated with the Bendlerstrasse in trying to round up the troops, and then, when he saw how things were going, changed sides, ringing up Hitler’s headquarters around 9:30 P.M. to say that he was putting down the military putsch.*
General Fromm, whose refusal to join the revolt had put it in jeopardy from the beginning and who, as a result, had been arrested, now bestirred himself. About 8 P.M., after four hours of confinement in his adjutant’s office, he had asked to be allowed to retire to his private quarters on the floor below. He had given his word of honor as an officer that he would make no attempt to escape or to establish contact with the outside. General Hoepner had consented and moreover, since Fromm had complained that he was not only hungry but thirsty, had sent him sandwiches and a bottle of wine. A little earlier three generals of Fromm’s staff had arrived, had refused to join the rebellion, and had demanded to be taken to their chief. Inexplicably, they were taken to him in his private quarters, though put under arrest. They had no sooner arrived than Fromm told them of a little-used rear exit through which they could escape. Breaking his word to Hoepner, he ordered the generals to organize help, storm the building, liberate him and put down the revolt. The generals slipped out unnoticed.
But already a group of junior officers on Olbricht’s staff, who at first had either gone along with the rebels or stuck around in the Bendlerstrasse to see how the revolt would go, had begun to sense that it was failing. They had begun to realize too, as one of them later said, that they would all be hanged as traitors if the revolt failed and they had not turned against it in time. One of them, Lieutenant Colonel Franz Herber, a former police officer and a convinced Nazi, had fetched some Tommy guns and ammunition from the arsenal of Spandau, and these were secreted on the second floor. About 10:30, these officers called upon Olbricht and demanded to know exactly what he and his friends were trying to accomplish. The General told them, and without arguing they withdrew.
Twenty minutes later they returned—six or eight of them, led by Herber and Lieutenant Colonel Bodo von der Heyde—brandishing their weapons and demanded further explanations from Olbricht. Stauffenberg looked in to see what all the noise was about and was seized. When he tried to escape, bolting out the door and down the corridor, he was shot in the arm—the only one he had. The counterrebels began shooting wildly, though apparently not hitting anyone except Stauffenberg. They then roved through the wing which had been the headquarters of the plot, rounding up the conspirators. Beck, Hoepner, Olbricht, Stauffenberg, Haeften and Mertz were herded into Fromm’s vacated office, where Fromm himself shortly appeared, brandishing a revolver.
“Well, gentlemen,” he said, “I am now going to treat you as you treated me.” But he didn’t.
“Lay down your weapons,” he commanded, and informed his former captors that they were under arrest.
“You wouldn’t make that demand of me, your old commanding officer,” Beck said quietly, reaching for his revolver. “I will draw the consequences from this unhappy situation myself.”
“Well, keep it pointed at yourself,” Fromm warned.
The curious lack of will to act of this brilliant, civilized former General Staff Chief had finally brought his downfall at the supreme test of his life. It remained with him to the very end.
“At this moment it is the old days that I recall …” he began to say, but Fromm cut him short.
“We don’t want to hear that stuff now. I ask you to stop talking and do something.”
Beck did. He pulled the trigger, but the bullet merely scratched his head. He slumped into his chair, bleeding a little.
“Help the old gentleman,” Fromm commanded two young officers, but when they tried to take the weapon Beck objected, asking for another chance. Fromm nodded his consent.
Then he turned to the rest of the plotters. “And you gentlemen, if you have any letters to write I’ll give you a few more minutes.” Olbricht and Hoepner asked for stationery and sat down to pen brief notes of farewell to their wives. Stauffenberg, Mertz, Haeften and the others stood there silently. Fromm marched out of the room.
He had quickly made up his mind to eliminate these men and not only to cover up the traces—for though he had refused to engage actively in the plot, he had known of it for months, sheltering the assassins and not reporting their plans—but to curry favor with Hitler as the man who put down the revolt. In the world of the Nazi gangsters it was much too late for this, but Fromm did not realize it.
He returned in five minutes to announce that “in the name of the Fuehrer” he had called a session of a “court-martial” (there is no evidence that he had) and that it had pronounced death sentences on four officers: “Colonel of the General Staff Mertz, General Olbricht, this colonel whose name I no longer know [Stauffenberg], and this lieutenant [Haeften].”
The two generals, Olbricht and Hoepner, were still scratching their letters to their wives. General Beck lay sprawled in his chair, his face smeared with blood from the bullet scratch. The four officers “condemned” to death stood like ramrods, silent.
“Well, gentlemen,” Fromm said to Olbricht and Hoepner, “are you ready? I must ask you to hurry so as not to make it too difficult for the others.”
Hoepner finished his letter and laid it on the table. Olbricht asked for an envelope, put his letter in it and sealed it. Beck, now beginning to come to, asked for another pistol. Stauffenberg, the sleeve of his wounded good arm soaked in blood, and his three “condemned” companions were led out. Fromm told Hoepner to follow him.
In the courtyard below in the dim rays of the blackout-hooded headlights of an Army car the four officers were quickly dispatched by a firing squad. Eyewitnesses say there was much tumult and shouting, mostly by the guards, who were in a hurry because of the danger of a bombing attack—British planes had been over Berlin almost every night that summer. Stauffenberg died crying, “Long live our sacred Germany!”32
In the meantime Fromm had given General Hoepner a certain choice. Three weeks later, in the shadow of the gallows, Hoepner told of it to the People’s Court.
“Well, Hoepner [Fromm said], this business really hurts me. We used to be good friends and comrades, you know. You’ve got yourself mixed up in this thing and must take the consequences. Do you want to go the same way as Beck? Otherwise I shall have to arrest you now.”
Hoepner answered that he did “not feel so guilty” and that he thought he could “justify” himself.
“I understand that,” Fromm answered, shaking his hand. Hoepner was carted off to the military prison at Moabit.
As he was being taken away he heard Beck’s tired voice through the door in the next room: “If it doesn’t work this time, then please help me.” There was the sound of a pistol shot. Beck’s second attempt to kill himself failed. Fromm poked his head in the door and once more told an officer, “Help the old gentleman.” This unknown officer declined to give the coup de grâce, leaving that to a sergeant, who dragged Beck, unconscious from the second wound, outside the room and finished him off with a shot in the neck.33
It was now sometime after midnight. The revolt, the only serious one ever made against Hitler in the eleven and a half years of the Third Reich, had been snuffed out in eleven and a half hours. Skorzeny arrived at the Bendlerstrasse with a band of armed S.S. men, forbade any more executions—as a policeman he knew enough not to kill those who could be tortured into giving much valuable evidence of the extent of the plot—handcuffed the rest of the plotters, sent them off to the Gestapo prison on the Prinz Albrechtstrasse and put detectives to work collecting incriminating papers which the conspirators had not had time to destroy. Himmler, who had reached Berlin a little earlier and set up temporary headquarters in Goebbels’ ministry, now protected by part of Remer’s guard battalion, telephoned Hitler and reported that the revolt had been crushed. In East Prussia a radio van was racing from Koenigsberg to Rastenburg so that the Fuehrer could make his long-heralded broadcast which the Deutschlandsender had been promising every few minutes since 9 P.M.
Just before 1 A.M. Adolf Hitler’s hoarse voice burst upon the summer night’s air.
My German comrades!
If I speak to you today it is first in order that you should hear my voice and should know that I am unhurt and well, and secondly, that you should know of a crime unparalleled in German history.
A very small clique of ambitious, irresponsible and, at the same time, senseless and stupid officers had concocted a plot to eliminate me and, with me, the staff of the High Command of the Wehrmacht.
The bomb planted by Colonel Count Stauffenberg exploded two meters to the right of me. It seriously wounded a number of my true and loyal collaborators, one of whom has died. I myself am entirely unhurt, aside from some very minor scratches, bruises and burns. I regard this as a confirmation of the task imposed upon me by Providence …
The circle of these usurpers is very small and has nothing in common with the spirit of the German Wehrmacht and, above all, none with the German people. It is a gang of criminal elements which will be destroyed without mercy.
I therefore give orders now that no military authority … is to obey orders from this crew of usurpers. I also order that it is everyone’s duty to arrest, or, if they resist, to shoot at sight, anyone issuing or handling such orders …
This time we shall settle accounts with them in the manner to which we National Socialists are accustomed.