Already at the time of Bussche's assassination attempt, the
responsibility for the assassination had been transferred from Army
Group Centre to Olbricht's GAO. As a result of a routine
military transfer in late spring 1943, Tresckow was no longer at Army
Group Centre and his staff likewise gradually scattered to new
assignments. Of the three military resistance cells that had
worked together in the hope of bringing down the Nazi regime in 1942,
only one remained by July 1943 – Olbricht's GAO. But Olbricht
had been burdened with more official responsibilities and he could not
manage all the details of the assassination and coup planning on his
own. He needed a "reliable" – anti-Nazi –
assistant. He consulted with Beck and Tresckow and other
conspirators and eventually settled on a young Lieutenant Colonel of
the General Staff, with whom his staff had worked well in the past,
Claus Graf Schenk von Stauffenberg.
Stauffenberg was known as a good organizer. He had served in
subordinate staff positions his entire career, and was never decorated.
Although briefly with a Panzer division in France as Second
General Staff Officer (Logistics), he did not particularly distinguish
himself here and was transferred to a job in Berlin in the middle of
the campaign. He served in the Organisation Department of the
General Staff in Berlin for more than two and a half years before being
given the job of Second – later First – General
Staff Officer of a division with Rommel's Africa Corps. Here
he was severely wounded, losing an eye, a hand and three fingers on the
remaining hand. Up until this point, Stauffenberg's attitude
toward the regime had varied from enthusiastic (at the time of Hitler's
assumption of power and his victory over France) to hate-filled.
By the time Stauffenberg was lying in a hospital recovering
from his wounds, he had convinced himself that Hitler was leading
Germany to utter destruction and that he had to be stopped at all
costs, but, until he walked into Olbricht's office in August 1943, he
did not even know there was a military conspiracy.
When informed about the conspiracy headed by Beck, Stauffenberg readily
agreed to join and threw himself into his new job with great energy and
will-power. His position at GAO was deputy to General
Olbricht, and he had exactly the same function and position inside the
conspiracy – not as some biographers of Stauffenberg would
make one believe, the other way around. At no time did Stauffenberg
question that Olbricht was his senior in both military and resistance
matters. Nor did Stauffenberg attempt to usurp Olbricht, Beck
or Tresckow's roles as leaders of the military resistance.
But Stauffenberg did take an informally leading role in the conspiracy
because Olbricht had delegated it to him. Olbricht's official
duties required his presence at meetings, conferences, briefings and
inspections all over the Reich. Olbricht could no longer
devote enough time to coup planning – that was now
There is no doubt that Stauffenberg attacked these duties with
invigorating élan and energy. He had to.
He had already wasted a lot of time. Up until his
fateful meeting with Olbricht in August 1943, Stauffenberg had said
a lot about
how Hitler ought to be shot (by someone else) or argued that the
command structure ought to be altered (by the Field Marshals), but he
anything. On the contrary, he had continued to believe in
Hitler's ability to win the war and supported Hitler as long as he
thought he might still win the war.
Like any new convert, however, once Stauffenberg changed sides and
committed himself to the conspiracy, he was particularly zealous.
Almost equally important, Stauffenberg had not experienced
the failures, set-backs and disappointments that the others had
endured. And since at the time of Stauffenberg's arrival at
GAO Plan "Valkyrie" had just been updated, Stauffenberg's primary
assignment as Deputy Chief of Staff of the Military Conspiracy against
Hitler was to organise the dictator's assassination.
Despite Stauffenberg's undoubted persuasive powers and dedication, none
of the various assassination plans he originated between October 1943
and July 1944 came to fruition. By July 1944, the situation
on the front had deteriorated so dramatically and the mounting
atrocities throughout the occupied territories were so unbearable that
the military resistance was driven to the last extreme. None
of the leading members of the conspiracy – least of all Beck
or Olbricht - doubted that the war was lost – with or without
Hitler. Most recognised that the Allies would insist on
Unconditional Surrender even from a post-Hitler government.
But the Gestapo was closing in on the conspiracy. Key
sympathizers, men who knew far too much about what the military was
planning – James Graf Moltke, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Julius
Leber and Wilhelm Leuschner – had been arrested.
The leaders of the military resistance decided that the chances of
success were no longer irrelevant. The German Resistance had
to act soon - if only to demonstrate to the world that it existed.
When on July 1, 1944, Stauffenberg (with the full complicity and
approval of Olbricht) moved into the position of Chief of Staff to the
C-in-C of the home army, Stauffenberg abruptly gained personal access
to Hitler. He at once decided to carry out the assassination
himself. On 11 July 1944, Stauffenberg was ordered to report
to Hitler's HQ on very short notice. The conspirators had
time to alert only a few of the key conspirators, and it was agreed
that – given the inadequacy of the preparations -
Stauffenberg would only make the assassination attempt if Himmler and
Göring, Hitler's most likely replacements, could be killed at
the same time. However, when Stauffenberg got to Hitler's HQ
and realised that neither Himmler or Göring would be present
at the briefing, he put a call through to Olbricht. Either –
as the Gestapo reported based on their investigation – to
report to Olbricht the absence of Hitler's deputies or – as
many historians describe it – to ask for Olbricht's
permission to carry out the assassination any way. Olbricht
allegedly said ‘no.' In any case, Stauffenberg
returned to Berlin without having attempted the assassination.
In consequence, a variety of preparatory actions had to be
It is important to note this sequence of events because in much of the
literature an identical description of events often appears under the
date 15 July 1944. However, in the aftermath of this aborted
assassination attempt Stauffenberg, Olbricht and Beck jointly decided
that there would be no repeat of the events of 11 July 1944.
Instead, it was agreed that the next assassination attempt against
Hitler would be made regardless
of whether Himmler and/or Göring were present.
As soon as Stauffenberg knew the date of his next trip to Hitler's HQ,
15 July 1944, comprehensive preparatory measures were undertaken and a
long list of conspirators and partial conspirators alerted of upcoming
events. Furthermore, because the army units needed for
"Valkyrie" were stationed farther away than the SS units loyal to
Hitler, it was decided that the "reliable" army units should be given a
head-start. The best way to effect this was to issue the
lowest level of preparedness for "Valkyrie" – Alarm Level One
– for the Berlin Military District roughly two hours before
possible time for an assassination attempt.
To do this, Olbricht had to issue the "Valkyrie" orders illegally,
since he was not authorized to issue them at all.
Furthermore, since the issuance of orders is a highly visible
act involving hundreds of troops and cannot be kept secret, it was
clear that in the event the assassination failed, suspicion would fall
immediately on Olbricht – no one else. Such a risky
course of action could only be justified if everyone agreed in advance
that there would be no conditions, no uncertainties:
set off the bomb on 15 July 1944.
Stauffenberg flew to Hitler's HQ on July 15, arriving at 11
am. At 13.10 the daily briefing began but it was cut short to
enable a second briefing, at which Stauffenberg was required to make a
presentation, to be held immediately afterwards. The second
briefing lasted until 14.20. As Stauffenberg explained the
situation to his brother and co-conspirator Berthold Graf Stauffenberg,
he had "absolutely no opportunity to attempt the assassination."
In the meantime, however, as agreed by the conspirators, the "Valkyrie"
Orders, Alarm Level One, had been issued for the Berlin Military
District. Alarm Level One required the designated units go on
alert and await further orders. When Stauffenberg got out of
his second briefing in the Wolfschanze without having had a chance to
carry out the assassination attempt, he at once called Olbricht to
report. This conversation was witnessed at both ends: by
Stauffenberg's escort at Wolfschanze
Oberleutnant Giesberg, and in Berlin by General Hoepner, who was with
Olbricht when he received the call. Both men survived 20 July 1944 long
enough to be interrogated by the Gestapo. Both confirm that
the conversation took place, and Hoepner further stated that the
content of the call was only that Stauffenberg had been unable to take
In the literature about 15 July 1944, however, another telephone call
is often described. People, who were no where near the two
men involved in the conversation, claim that Stauffenberg called
Olbricht before going into the first briefing to report that Himmler
and Göring were again absent and ask if he should still go
ahead with the assassination. It is unclear why he should do
so when it had been agreed in advance that he would act "regardless"
– unless one wishes to imply that Stauffenberg lost his
nerve. To make the account even less logical, it is then
claimed that - although the "Valkyrie" orders had already gone out
illegally and Olbricht had thereby already exposed himself - Olbricht
suddenly changed his mind and advised against taking action.
Adding a final absurdity to the whole story, Stauffenberg is
then supposed to have asked his own adjutant for advice and on the
recommendation of a subaltern (but against the advice of his superior)
decided to do what he had promised to do before leaving Berlin.
This version of events is not sustainable either logically or
based on the evidence and testimony of witnesses. It can be
explained, however, by survivors who were not witnesses confusing the
happenings of 11 July with those of the 15th. (For a more detailed
rebuttal to these allegations please refer to either of my full-length
biographies of Olbricht.)
Undisputed is the fact that Olbricht was informed at roughly 14.20 that
the assassination had not taken place. At the time Olbricht received
this call "Valkyrie" Alarm Level One had already been in effect for
three and a half hours. Olbricht had to instantly find a way to call
off "Valkyrie," prevent discovery of the coup, and if possible save
"Valkyrie" for use at a later date. He immediately set off on an
"inspection tour" of the various "Valkyrie" units.
Olbricht visited each of the "Valkyrie" units, inspected their state of
readiness, and gave short addresses at each unit, explaining the
(official) purposes of "Valkyrie." While he seemed to get away with
passing off the alarm as an exercise and the Gestapo later expressed
amazement that the entire deception functioned so flawlessly, the
results of the pre-mature issuance of the "Valkyrie" orders were
overwhelmingly negative. The bottom line was that Olbricht was not
authorized to issue "Valkyrie" – not even as an exercise.
Olbricht's immediate superior, the C-in-C of the Home Army was furious,
and Olbricht was subjected to a severe dressing-down. Worse: the
"Valkyrie" Alarm on 15 July 1944 attracted the attention of both
Keitel, the Chief of Armed Forces High Command (Oberkommando der Wehrmacht
and the Commander of the SS, Heinrich Himmler. These two men,
fanatically loyal to Hitler, wanted to know exactly what was going on.
It was clear to all conspirators that Stauffenberg had to act the next
chance he got "regardless" – and equally obvious that next
time there could be no issuance of the "Valkyrie" orders until it was 100%
Hitler was dead.