Commemoration of Stauffenberg and the German Resistance
The four men were First Lieutenant Werner von Haeften, Colonel Albrecht Ritter Mertz von Quirnheim, General Friedrich Olbricht, and Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg. Two other masterminds behind the plot, Major General Henning von Tresckow and General Ludwig Beck, committed suicide shortly after the coup failed.
When the July 20th anniversary of the attempt to kill Adolf Hitler in East Prussia approaches, Germany prepares for the annual commemoration ceremony. A German government official makes a speech, referencing the event and the resistance in general. The ceremony takes place every year at the Memorial to German Resistance in Berlin, known as the Bendlerblock in German. During Stauffenberg's time as a soldier, the Memorial was the army headquarters of the Third Reich. When he set the bomb at the East Prussian headquarters known as the Wolf's Lair, he went against a vow he had taken as a soldier. Stauffenberg knew that the result of this betrayal would, if they failed, almost certainly result in a death sentence for himself and his accomplices.
Stauffenberg Before the Plot (from Wikipedia)
Claus Schenk von Stauffenberg was born on November 15, 1907, in southern Germany. The member of an aristocratic family (indicated by the "von" in his name), Stauffenberg held the title of Count. He joined the German military in 1926, and married Nina von Lerchenfeld in September of 1933. They had five children, the fifth of which was born after Stauffenberg's death.
Evidence of Stauffenberg's disillusionment with the Nazi regime dates back to the mid-1930s. Stauffenberg was, originally, enthusiastic about Hitler's promises to Germany, though he was never a member of the Nazi party. Like every other German soldier, he took an oath pledging his loyalty to Hitler and to Germany. Stauffenberg, along with several other soldiers, began to feel that Hitler was dragging Germany down into disaster, and was disturbed highly by reports of Nazi atrocities on the Eastern Front.
A quote of Stauffenberg's on display at the Checkpoint Charlie Museum in Berlin sums up his sentiments toward Hitler, "No one is obliged to observe his oath of service towards a person who has broken the oath a thousand times over."
Today Claus von Stauffenberg serves as one of the symbols of the German resistance to Hitler, one of many Germans who had the courage to go against an evil regime. References and Further Reading For an excellent biography of Stauffenberg and his brothers, see Peter Hoffmann's Stauffenberg: A Family History, 1905-1944. To learn about the July 20 plot, Joachim Fest's Plotting Hitler's Death is an excellent narrative of the events. Within Ian Kershaw's Hitler biography, Hitler: 1936-1945, Nemesis (pages 681-683), is a moving account of what happened in the final moments of Stauffenberg's life and the lives of the officers who died with him. The Memorial to German Resistance's website also has biographies of the resisters, as well as information about resistance-related research and commemorations.
Claus von Stauffenberg's Entry into the Resistance (from Wikipedia)
By mid-1943 the tide of war was turning decisively against Germany. The Army plotters and their civilian allies became convinced that Hitler must be assassinated so that a government acceptable to the western Allies could be formed and a separate peace negotiated in time to prevent a Soviet invasion of Germany. In August 1943 Tresckow met a young staff officer, Lieutenant Colonel Count Claus von Stauffenberg, for the first time. Badly wounded in North Africa, Stauffenberg was a political conservative, a zealous German nationalist, and a Catholic with a taste for philosophy.
From the beginning of 1942 he shared the widespread conviction among Army officers that Germany was being led to disaster and that Hitler must be removed from power. For some time his religious scruples had prevented him from coming to the conclusion that assassination was the correct way to achieve this. After the Battle of Stalingrad in December 1942, however, he came to the conclusion that not assassinating Hitler would be a greater moral evil. He brought a new tone of decisiveness to the ranks of the resistance movement. When Tresckow was assigned to the Eastern Front, Stauffenberg took the responsibility for planning and executing Hitler's assassination.