Kurt Huber , a professor of philosophy and musicology, Alexander Schmorell , and Willi Graf had to stand trial later and were sentenced to death as well, whereas many others were sentenced to prison terms. German View all editions and formats.
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The most important centre of opposition to the regime within the state apparatus was in the intelligence services, whose clandestine operations offered an excellent cover for political organisation. The key figure here was Colonel Hans Oster , head of the Military Intelligence Office from , and an anti-Nazi from as early as Hjalmar Schacht , the governor of the Reichsbank , was also in touch with this opposition.
The problem these groups faced, however, was what form resistance to Hitler could take in the face of the regime's successive triumphs. They recognised that it was impossible to stage any kind of open political resistance. This was not, as is sometimes stated, because the repressive apparatus of the regime was so all-pervasive that public protest was impossible — as was shown when Catholics protested against the removal of crucifixes from Oldenburg schools in , and the regime backed down.
Rather it was because of Hitler's massive support among the German people. While resistance movements in the occupied countries could mobilise patriotic sentiment against the German occupiers, in Germany the resistance risked being seen as unpatriotic, particularly in wartime. Even many army officers and officials who detested Hitler had a deep aversion to being involved in "subversive" or "treasonous" acts against the government.
As early as , Oster and Gisevius came to the view that a regime so totally dominated by one man could only be brought down by eliminating that man — either by assassinating Hitler or by staging an army coup against him.
However, it was a long time before any significant number of Germans came to accept this view. Many clung to the belief that Hitler could be persuaded to moderate his regime, or that some other more moderate figure could replace him. Others argued that Hitler was not to blame for the regime's excesses, and that the removal of Heinrich Himmler and reduction in the power of the SS was needed. Some oppositionists were devout Christians who disapproved of assassination as a matter of principle.
Others, particularly the army officers, felt bound by the personal oath of loyalty they had taken to Hitler in The opposition was also hampered by a lack of agreement about their objectives other than the need to remove Hitler from power.
Some oppositionists were liberals who opposed the ideology of the Nazi regime in its entirety, and who wished to restore a system of parliamentary democracy.
Most of the army officers and many of the civil servants, however, were conservatives and nationalists, and many had initially supported Hitler's policies — Carl Goerdeler , the Lord Mayor of Leipzig , was a good example. Some favored restoring the Hohenzollern dynasty , while others favored an authoritarian, but not Nazi, regime.
Some saw no problem with Hitler's anti-Semitism and ultra-nationalism, and opposed only his apparent reckless determination to take Germany into a new world war. Because of their many differences, the opposition was unable to form a united movement, or to send a coherent message to potential allies outside Germany.
Though neither the Catholic nor Protestant churches as institutions were prepared to openly oppose the Nazi State, it was from the clergy that the first major component of the German Resistance to the policies of the Third Reich emerged, and the churches as institutions provided the earliest and most enduring centres of systematic opposition to Nazi policies.
From the outset of Nazi rule in , issues emerged which brought the churches into conflict with the regime. In fact those reservations gradually came to form a coherent, systematic critique of many of the teachings of National Socialism. Hamerow, could indirectly "articulate political dissent in the guise of pastoral stricture".
They usually spoke out not against the established system, but "only against specific policies that it had mistakenly adopted and that it should therefore properly correct". Their resistance was directed not only against intrusions by the government into church governance and to arrests of clergy and expropriation of church property, but also to matters like Nazi euthanasia and eugenics and to the fundamentals of human rights and justice as the foundation of a political system.
For figures like the Jesuit Provincial of Bavaria, Augustin Rösch , the Catholic trade unionists Jakob Kaiser and Bernhard Letterhaus and the July Plot leader Claus von Stauffenberg , "religious motives and the determination to resist would seem to have developed hand in hand".
In the words of Kershaw, the churches "engaged in a bitter war of attrition with the regime, receiving the demonstrative backing of millions of churchgoers. Applause for Church leaders whenever they appeared in public, swollen attendances at events such as Corpus Christi Day processions, and packed church services were outward signs of the struggle of While the Church ultimately failed to protect its youth organisations and schools, it did have some successes in mobilizing public opinion to alter government policies.
In the s and s, the main Christian opposition to Nazism had come from the Catholic Church. Vice Chancellor Franz von Papen , the leader of the Catholic right-wing, meanwhile negotiated a Reich concordat with the Holy See, which prohibited clergy from participating in politics. Most Catholic opposition to the regime came from the Catholic left-wing in the Christian trade unions, such as by the union leaders Jakob Kaiser and Blessed Nikolaus Gross.
Hoffmann writes that, from the beginning: Over the years until the outbreak of war Catholic resistance stiffened until finally its most eminent spokesman was the Pope himself with his encyclial Mit brennender Sorge In general terms, therefore, the churches were the only major organisations to offer comparatively early and open resistance: In the year following Hitler's "seizure of power", old political players looked for means to overthrow the new government.
Hitler decided to strike at his chief political opponents in the Night of the Long Knives. The purge lasted two days over 30 June and 1 July High-profile Catholic resistors were targeted - Klausener and Jung were murdered.
The offices of President and Chancellor were combined, and Hitler ordered the Army to swear an oath directly to him. Hitler declared his "revolution" complete. Cardinal Michael von Faulhaber gained an early reputation as a critic of the Nazis. He was part of the five-member commission that prepared the Mit brennender Sorge anti-Nazi encyclical of March , and sought to block the Nazi closure of Catholic schools and arrests of church officials. While Hitler did not feel powerful enough to arrest senior clergy before the end of the war, an estimated one third of German priests faced some form of reprisal from the Nazi Government and German priests were sent to the dedicated Priest Barracks of Dachau Concentration Camp alone.
Arrested in , he died en route to Dachau Concentration Camp in She organized aid circles for Jews, assisted many to escape.
Even at the height of Hitler's popularity, one issue unexpectedly provoked powerful and successful resistance to his regime. By , more than 70, people had been killed under this programme, many by gassing, and their bodies incinerated. This policy aroused strong opposition across German society, and especially among Catholics.
Opposition to the policy sharpened after the German attack on the Soviet Union in June , because the war in the east produced for the first time large-scale German casualties, and the hospitals and asylums began to fill up with maimed and disabled young German soldiers. Catholic anger was further fuelled by actions of the Gauleiter of Upper Bavaria , Adolf Wagner , a militantly anti-Catholic Nazi, who in June ordered the removal of crucifixes from all schools in his Gau.
This attack on Catholicism provoked the first public demonstrations against government policy since the Nazis had come to power, and the mass signing of petitions, including by Catholic soldiers serving at the front. When Hitler heard of this he ordered Wagner to rescind his decree, but the damage had been done — German Catholics had learned that the regime could be successfully opposed.
On 3 August, von Galen was even more outspoken, broadening his attack to include the Nazi persecution of religious orders and the closing of Catholic institutions. Local Nazis asked for Galen to be arrested, but Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels told Hitler that if this happened there would be an open revolt in Westphalia. Galen's sermons went further than defending the church, he spoke of a moral danger to Germany from the regime's violations of basic human rights: By August, the protests had spread to Bavaria.
Hitler was jeered by an angry crowd at Hof , near Nuremberg — the only time he was opposed to his face in public during his 12 years of rule.
It needs to be remembered that following the annexations of Austria and the Sudetenland , nearly half of all Germans were Catholic. On 24 August he ordered the cancellation of the T4 programme and issued strict instructions to the Gauleiters that there were to be no further provocations of the churches during the war.
Although remaining publicly neutral, Pius advised the British in of the readiness of certain German generals to overthrow Hitler if they could be assured of an honourable peace, offered assistance to the German resistance in the event of a coup and warned the Allies of the planned German invasion of the Low Countries in He stated his "profound grief" at the murder of the deformed, the insane, and those suffering from hereditary disease The Encyclical was followed, on 26 September , by an open condemnation by the German Bishops which, from every German pulpit, denounced the killing of "innocent and defenceless mentally handicapped, incurably infirm and fatally wounded, innocent hostages, and disarmed prisoners of war and criminal offenders, people of a foreign race or descent".
However, the deportation of Polish and Dutch priests by the occupying Nazis by — after Polish resistance acts and the Dutch Catholic bishops' conference's official condemnation of anti-Semitic persecutions and deportations of Jews by the Nazis — also terrified ethnic German clergy in Germany itself, some of whom would come to share the same fate because of their resistance against the Nazi government in racial and social aspects, among them Fr.
Himmler's Aktion Klostersturm Operation Attack-the-Monastery had also helped to spread fear among regime-critical Catholic clergy. Following the Nazi takeover, Hitler attempted the subjugation of the Protestant churches under a single Reich Church. He divided the Lutheran Church Germany's main Protestant denomination and instigated a brutal persecution of Jehovah's Witnesses , who refused military service and allegiance to Hitlerism. The movement grew into the Confessing Church , from which some clergymen opposed the Nazi regime.
We see our nation threatened with mortal danger; the danger lies in a new religion. The Church has been ordered by its Master to see that Christ is honoured by our nation in a manner befitting the Judge of the world.
The Church knows that it will be called to account if the German nation turns its back on Christ without being forewarned". In May , the Confessing Church sent Hitler a memorandum courteously objecting to the "anti-Christian" tendencies of his regime, condemning anti-Semitism and asking for an end to interference in church affairs.
Hundreds of pastors were arrested; Dr Weissler, a signatory to the memorandum, was killed at Sachsenhausen concentration camp and the funds of the church were confiscated and collections forbidden. The Confessing Church was banned on 1 July Niemöller was arrested by the Gestapo , and sent to the concentration camps. He remained mainly at Dachau until the fall of the regime. Theological universities were closed, and other pastors and theologians arrested. Dietrich Bonhoeffer , another leading spokesman for the Confessing Church, was from the outset a critic of the Hitler regime's racism and became active in the German Resistance — calling for Christians to speak out against Nazi atrocities.
Arrested in , he was implicated in the July Plot to assassinate Hitler and executed. Despite the removal of Blomberg and Fritsch, the army retained considerable independence, and senior officers were able to discuss their political views in private fairly freely. The Army Chief of Staff, General Ludwig Beck , regarded this as not only immoral but reckless, since he believed that Germany would lose such a war.
Oster and Beck sent emissaries to Paris and London to advise the British and French to resist Hitler's demands, and thereby strengthen the hand of Hitler's opponents in the Army. Weizsäcker also sent private messages to London urging resistance. The British and French were extremely doubtful of the ability of the German opposition to overthrow the Nazi regime and ignored these messages. An official of the British Foreign Office wrote on August 28, Goerdeler, but those for whom these emissaries claim to speak have never given us any reasons to suppose that they would be able or willing to take action such as would lead to the overthrow of the regime.
The events of June and February do not lead one to attach much hope to energetic action by the Army against the regime"  Because of the failure of Germans to overthrow their Führer in , the British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain was convinced that the resistance comprised a group of people seemingly not well organized.
This group was not committed to the overthrow of the regime but was loosely allied to another, more radical group, the "anti-Nazi" fraction centered on Colonel Hans Oster and Hans Bernd Gisevius , which wanted to use the crisis as an excuse for executing a putsch to overthrow the Nazi regime. The group wanted to avoid a major war and the potential catastrophic consequences for Germany. Their goal wasn't to get rid of the dictator but, as they saw it, to bring him to his senses.
In August, Beck spoke openly at a meeting of army generals in Berlin about his opposition to a war with the western powers over Czechoslovakia. When Hitler was informed of this, he demanded and received Beck's resignation. Beck was highly respected in the army and his removal shocked the officer corps. His successor as chief of staff, Franz Halder , remained in touch with him, and was also in touch with Oster. Privately, he said that he considered Hitler "the incarnation of evil".
Oster, Gisevius, and Schacht urged Halder and Beck to stage an immediate coup against Hitler, but the army officers argued that they could only mobilize support among the officer corps for such a step if Hitler made overt moves towards war. Halder nevertheless asked Oster to draw up plans for a coup. Weizsäcker and Canaris were made aware of these plans. The conspirators disagreed on what to do about Hitler if there was a successful army coup — eventually most overcame their scruples and agreed that he must be killed so that army officers would be free from their oath of loyalty.
They agreed Halder would instigate the coup when Hitler committed an overt step towards war. During the planning for the putsch , Carl Friedrich Goerdeler was in contact through the intermediary of General Alexander von Falkenhausen with Chinese intelligence  Most German conservatives favoured Germany's traditional informal alliance with China, and were strongly opposed to the about-face in Germany's Far Eastern policies effected in early by Joachim von Ribbentrop , who abandoned the alliance with China for an alignment with Japan.
Remarkably, the army commander, General Walther von Brauchitsch , was well aware of the coup preparations. He told Halder he could not condone such an act, but he did not inform Hitler, to whom he was outwardly subservient, of what he knew. This threw the conspirators into uncertainty. When, on 20 September, it appeared that the negotiations had broken down and that Chamberlain would resist Hitler's demands, the coup preparations were revived and finalised.
All that was required was the signal from Halder. On 28 September, however, Chamberlain backed down and agreed to a meeting in Munich , at which he accepted the dismemberment of Czechoslovakia. This plunged the resistance into demoralisation and division. Halder said he would no longer support a coup.
The other conspirators were bitterly critical of Chamberlain, but were powerless to act. This was the nearest approach to a successful conspiracy against Hitler before the plot of 20 July As war again grew more likely in mid, the plans for a pre-emptive coup were revived.
Oster was still in contact with Halder and Witzleben, although Witzleben had been transferred to Frankfurt am Main , reducing his ability to lead a coup attempt. At a meeting with Goerdeler, Witzleben agreed to form a network of army commanders willing to take part to prevent a war against the western powers.
But support in the officer corps for a coup had dropped sharply since Most officers, particularly those from Prussian landowning backgrounds , were strongly anti-Polish.
Just before the invasion of Poland in August , General Eduard Wagner who was one of the officers involved in the abortive putsch of September , wrote in a letter to his wife: That business must be cleared up" Emphasis in the original  The German historian Andreas Hillgruber commented that in the rampant anti-Polish feelings in the German Army officer corps served to bind the military together with Hitler in supporting Fall Weiss in a way that Fall Grün did not.
This nevertheless marked an important turning point. In , the plan had been for the army, led by Halder and if possible Brauchitsch, to depose Hitler. This was now impossible, and a conspiratorial organisation was to be formed in the army and civil service instead.
The opposition again urged Britain and France to stand up to Hitler: The plan was again to stage a coup at the moment Hitler moved to declare war.
However, although Britain and France were now prepared to go to war over Poland, as war approached, Halder lost his nerve. Schacht, Gisevius and Canaris developed a plan to confront Brauchitsch and Halder and demand that they depose Hitler and prevent war, but nothing came of this. When Hitler invaded Poland on 1 September, the conspirators were unable to act. The outbreak of war made the further mobilization of resistance in the army more difficult.
Halder continued to vacillate. In late and early he opposed Hitler's plans to attack France, and kept in touch with the opposition through General Carl-Heinrich von Stülpnagel , an active oppositionist. Talk of a coup again began to circulate, and for the first time the idea of killing Hitler with a bomb was taken up by the more determined members of the resistance circles, such as Oster and Erich Kordt, who declared himself willing to do the deed.
At the army headquarters at Zossen , south of Berlin, a group of officers called Action Group Zossen was also planning a coup. When in November it seemed that Hitler was about to order an immediate attack in the west, the conspirators persuaded General Wilhelm Ritter von Leeb , commander of Army Group C on the Belgian border, to support a planned coup if Hitler gave such an order. At the same time Oster warned the Dutch and the Belgians that Hitler was about to attack them — his warnings were not believed.
But when Hitler postponed the attack until , the conspiracy again lost momentum, and Halder formed the view that the German people would not accept a coup. Again, the chance was lost. With Poland overrun but France and the Low Countries yet to be attacked, the German Resistance sought the Pope's assistance in preparations for a coup to oust Hitler.
The Vatican considered Müller to be a representative of Colonel-General von Beck and agreed to offer the machinery for mediation. The British agreed to negotiate, provided the Vatican could vouch for the opposition's representative.
Pius, communicating with Britain's Francis d'Arcy Osborne , channelled communications back and forth in secrecy. If this could be assured, then they were willing to move to replace Hitler. The British government had doubts as to the capacity of the conspirators. On 7 February, the Pope updated Osbourne that the opposition wanted to replace the Nazi regime with a democratic federation, but hoped to retain Austria and the Sudetenland.
The British government was non-committal, and said that while the federal model was of interest, the promises and sources of the opposition were too vague. Nevertheless, the resistance were encouraged by the talks, and Muller told his contact that a coup would occur in February.
Pius appeared to continue to hope for a coup in Germany into March Following the Fall of France, peace overtures continued to emanate from the Vatican as well as Sweden and the United States, to which Churchill responded resolutely that Germany would first have to free its conquered territories. Hitler's swift victories over France and the Low Countries deflated the will of the German military to resist Hitler. Muller was arrested during the Nazis first raid on Military Intelligence in He spent the rest of the war in concentration camps, ending up at Dachau.
The failed plots of and showed both the strength and weakness of the officer corps as potential leaders of a resistance movement. Its strength was its loyalty and solidarity. As Istvan Deak noted: Yet it seems that not a single one was betrayed by a comrade-in-arms to the Gestapo.
One explanation is that at this time Himmler was still preoccupied with the traditional enemies of the Nazis, the SPD and the KPD and, of course, the Jews , and did not suspect that the real centre of opposition was within the state itself. The corresponding weakness of the officer corps was its conception of loyalty to the state and its aversion to mutiny. This explains the vacillations of Halder, who could never quite bring himself to take the decisive step.
Halder hated Hitler, and believed that the Nazis were leading Germany to catastrophe. He was shocked and disgusted by the behaviour of the SS in occupied Poland, but gave no support to his senior officer there, General Johannes Blaskowitz , when the latter officially protested to Hitler about the atrocities against the Poles and the Jews.
In and again in , he lost his nerve and could not give the order to strike against Hitler. This was even more true of Brauchitsch, who knew of the conspiracies and assured Halder that he agreed with their objectives, but would not take any action to support them. The outbreak of war served to rally the German people around the Hitler regime, and the sweeping early successes of the German Army — occupying Poland in , Denmark and Norway in April , and swiftly defeating France in May and June , stilled virtually all opposition to the regime.
The opposition to Hitler within the Army was left isolated and apparently discredited, since the much-feared war with the western powers had apparently been won by Germany within a year and at little cost. This mood continued well into , although beneath the surface popular discontent at mounting economic hardship was apparent.
In November , Georg Elser , a carpenter from Württemberg , developed a plan to assassinate Hitler completely on his own. Elser had been peripherally involved with the KPD before , but his exact motives for acting as he did remain a mystery. He read in the newspapers that Hitler would be addressing a Nazi Party meeting on 8 November, in the Bürgerbräukeller , a beer hall in Munich where Hitler had launched the Beer Hall Putsch on the same date in Stealing explosives from his workplace, he built a powerful time bomb, and for over a month managed to stay inside the Bürgerbräukeller after hours each night, during which time he hollowed out the pillar behind the speaker's rostrum to place the bomb inside.
On the night of 7 November , Elser set the timer and left for the Swiss border. Unexpectedly, because of the pressure of wartime business, Hitler made a much shorter speech than usual and left the hall 13 minutes before the bomb went off, killing seven people. Sixty-three people were injured, sixteen more were seriously injured with one dying later. Had Hitler still been speaking, the bomb almost certainly would have killed him.
This event set off a hunt for potential conspirators which intimidated the opposition and made further action more difficult.
Elser was arrested at the border, sent to the Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp, and then in moved to the Dachau concentration camp ; he was executed two weeks before the liberation of Dachau KZ. The sweeping success of Hitler's attack on France in May made the task of deposing him even more difficult.
Most army officers, their fears of a war against the western powers apparently proven groundless, and gratified by Germany's revenge against France for the defeat of , reconciled themselves to Hitler's regime, choosing to ignore its darker side. The task of leading the resistance groups for a time fell to civilians, although a hard core of military plotters remained active. Carl Goerdeler, the former lord mayor of Leipzig, emerged as a key figure.
Goerdeler was also in touch with the SPD underground, whose most prominent figure was Julius Leber , and with Christian opposition groups, both Catholic and Protestant. These men saw themselves as the leaders of a post-Hitler government, but they had no clear conception of how to bring this about, except through assassinating Hitler — a step which many of them still opposed on ethical grounds.
Their plans could never surmount the fundamental problem of Hitler's overwhelming popularity among the German people. They preoccupied themselves with philosophical debates and devising grand schemes for postwar Germany. The fact was that for nearly two years after the defeat of France, there was little scope for opposition activity. In March , Hitler revealed his plans for a "war of annihilation" against the Soviet Union to selected army officers in a speech given in Posen.
In the audience was Colonel Henning von Tresckow , who had not been involved in any of the earlier plots but was already a firm opponent of the Nazi regime. He was horrified by Hitler's plan to unleash a new and even more terrible war in the east. As a nephew of Field Marshal Fedor von Bock , he was very well connected.
Assigned to the staff of his uncle's command, Army Group Centre, for the forthcoming Operation Barbarossa , Tresckow systematically recruited oppositionists to the group's staff, making it the new nerve centre of the army resistance. American journalist Howard K. Smith wrote in that of the three groups in opposition to Hitler, the military was more important than the churches and the Communists. In December , the United States entered the war, persuading some more realistic army officers that Germany must ultimately lose the war.
But the life-and-death struggle on the eastern front posed new problems for the resistance. Most of its members were conservatives who hated and feared communism and the Soviet Union. How could the Nazi regime be overthrown and the war ended without allowing the Soviets to gain control of Germany or the whole of Europe? This question was made more acute when the Allies adopted their policy of demanding Germany's "unconditional surrender" at the Casablanca Conference of January During , the tireless Oster nevertheless succeeded in rebuilding an effective resistance network.
His most important recruit was General Friedrich Olbricht , head of the General Army Office headquartered at the Bendlerblock in central Berlin, who controlled an independent system of communications to reserve units all over Germany. Linking this asset to Tresckow's resistance group in Army Group Centre created what appeared to a viable structure for a new effort at organising a coup. Bock's dismissal did not weaken Tresckow's position. In fact he soon enticed Bock's successor, General Hans von Kluge , at least part-way to supporting the resistance cause.
Tresckow even brought Goerdeler, leader of the civilian resistance, to Army Group Centre to meet Kluge — an extremely dangerous tactic. The entry of the Soviet Union into the war had certain consequences for the civilian resistance. After June , however, all Communists were expected to throw themselves into resistance work, including sabotage and espionage where this was possible, regardless of risk. A handful of Soviet agents, mostly exiled German Communists, were able to enter Germany to help the scattered underground KPD cells organise and take action.
This led to the formation in of two separate communist groups, usually erroneously lumped together under the name Rote Kapelle "Red Orchestra" , a codename given to these groups by the Gestapo. This group made reports to the Soviet Union on German troop concentrations, air attacks on Germany, German aircraft production, and German fuel shipments.
In France, it worked with the underground French Communist Party. Agents of this group even managed to tap the phone lines of the Abwehr in Paris. Trepper was eventually arrested and the group broken up by the spring of The second and more important "Red Orchestra" group was entirely separate and was a genuine German resistance group, not controlled by the NKVD the Soviet intelligence agency and predecessor to the KGB.
The group however contained people of various beliefs and affiliations. It thus conformed to the general pattern of German resistance groups of being drawn mainly from elite groups. The main activity of the group was collecting information about Nazi atrocities and distributing leaflets against Hitler rather than espionage.
They passed what they had learned to foreign countries, through personal contacts with the U. When Soviet agents tried to enlist this group in their service, Schulze-Boysen and Harnack refused, since they wanted to maintain their political independence.
The group was betrayed to the Gestapo in August by Johann Wenzel , a member of the Trepper group who also knew of the Schulze-Boysen group and who informed on them after being arrested. Schulze-Boysen, Harnack and other members of the group were arrested and secretly executed.
Meanwhile, another Communist resistance group was operating in Berlin, led by a Jewish electrician, Herbert Baum , and involving up to a hundred people. Until , the group operated a study circle, but after the German attack on the Soviet Union a core group advanced to active resistance. In May , the group staged an arson attack on an anti-Soviet propaganda display at the Lustgarten in central Berlin.
The attack was poorly organised and most of the Baum group was arrested. Twenty were sentenced to death, while Baum himself "died in custody". This fiasco ended overt Communist resistance activities, although the KPD underground continued to operate, and re-emerged from hiding in the last days of the war.
In late , von Tresckow and Olbricht formulated a plan to assassinate Hitler and stage a coup. For such an occasion, von Tresckow had prepared three options: Von Tresckow asked Lieutenant Colonel Heinz Brandt , on Hitler's staff and usually on the same plane that carried Hitler, to take a parcel with him, supposedly the prize of a bet won by Tresckow's friend General Stieff. It concealed a bomb, disguised in a box for two bottles of Cointreau.
Von Tresckow's aide, Lieutenant Fabian von Schlabrendorff , set the fuse and handed over the parcel to Brandt who boarded the same plane as Hitler. Hitler's Focke-Wulf Fw Condor was expected to explode about 30 minutes later near Minsk , close enough to the front to be attributed to Soviet fighters.
Olbricht was to use the resulting crisis to mobilise his Reserve Army network to seize power in Berlin, Vienna, Munich and in the German Wehrkreis centres. It was an ambitious but credible plan, and might have worked if Hitler had indeed been killed, although persuading Army units to fight and overcome what could certainly have been fierce resistance from the SS could have been a major obstacle.
However, as with Elser's bomb in and all other attempts, luck favoured Hitler again, which was attributed to "Vorsehung" providence. The British-made chemical pencil detonator on the bomb had been tested many times and was considered reliable. It went off, but the bomb did not. The percussion cap apparently became too cold as the parcel was carried in the unheated cargo hold.
Displaying great sangfroid , Schlabrendorff took the next plane to retrieve the package from Colonel Brandt before the content was discovered. The blocks of plastic explosives were later used by Gersdorff and Stauffenberg. A second attempt was made a few days later on 21 March , when Hitler visited an exhibition of captured Soviet weaponry in Berlin's Zeughaus. One of Tresckow's friends, Colonel Rudolf Christoph Freiherr von Gersdorff , was scheduled to explain some exhibits, and volunteered to carry out a suicide bombing using the same bomb that had failed to go off on the plane, concealed on his person.
However, the only new chemical fuse he could obtain was a ten-minute one. Hitler again left prematurely after hurrying through the exhibition much quicker than the scheduled 30 minutes. Gersdorff had to dash to a bathroom to defuse the bomb to save his life, and more importantly, prevent any suspicion.
Gersdorff reported about the attempt after the war; the footage is often seen on German TV documentaries "Die Nacht des Widerstands" etc.
Axel von dem Bussche , member of the elite Infantry Regiment 9 , volunteered to kill Hitler with hand grenades in November during a presentation of new winter uniforms, but the train containing them was destroyed by Allied bombs in Berlin, and the event had to be postponed.
A second presentation scheduled for December at the Wolfsschanze was canceled on short notice as Hitler decided to travel to Berchtesgaden. In January , Bussche volunteered for another assassination attempt, but then he lost a leg in Russia.
On February 11, another young officer, Ewald-Heinrich von Kleist tried to assassinate Hitler in the same way von dem Bussche had planned.
However Hitler again canceled the event which would have allowed Kleist to approach him. On 11 March , Eberhard von Breitenbuch volunteered for an assassination attempt at the Berghof using a 7.
He was not able to carry out the plan because guards would not allow him into the conference room with the Führer. The next occasion was a weapons exhibition on July 7 at Schloss Klessheim near Salzburg, but Helmuth Stieff did not trigger the bomb. At the end of , Germany suffered a series of military defeats, the first at El Alamein , the second with the successful Allied landings in North Africa Operation Torch , and the third the disastrous defeat at Stalingrad , which ended any hope of defeating the Soviet Union.
Most experienced senior officers now came to the conclusion that Hitler was leading Germany to defeat, and that the result of this would be the Soviet conquest of Germany — the worst fate imaginable. This gave the military resistance new impetus.
Halder had been dismissed in and there was now no independent central leadership of the Army. Tresckow and Goerdeler tried again to recruit the senior Army field commanders to support a seizure of power.
Kluge was by now won over completely. The prospect of a united German Army seizing power from Hitler was as far away as ever. Once again, however, neither officer reported that they had been approached in this way.
Nevertheless, the days when the military and civilian plotters could expect to escape detection were ending. He already suspected Canaris and his subordinates at the Abwehr.
On the civilian front, Dietrich Bonhoeffer was also arrested at this time, and Goerdeler was under suspicion. Under interrogation, Schmidhuber gave the Gestapo details of the Oster-Dohnanyi group in the Abwehr and about Goerdeler and Beck's involvement in opposition activities. The Gestapo reported all this to Himmler, with the observation that Canaris must be protecting Oster and Dohnanyi and the recommendation that he be arrested.
Himmler passed the file back with the note "Kindly leave Canaris alone. Nevertheless, Oster's usefulness to the resistance was now greatly reduced. However, the Gestapo did not have information about the full workings of the resistance.
Most importantly, they did not know about the resistance networks based on Army Group Centre or the Bendlerblock. Meanwhile, the disaster at Stalingrad, which cost Germany , casualties, was sending waves of horror and grief through German society, but causing remarkably little reduction in the people's faith in Hitler and in Germany's ultimate victory.
This was a source of great frustration to the military and civil service plotters, who virtually all came from the elite and had privileged access to information, giving them a much greater appreciation of the hopelessness of Germany's situation than was possessed by the German people.
The only visible manifestation of opposition to the regime following Stalingrad was the spontaneous action of few university students who denounced the war and the persecution and mass murder of Jews in the east. They were organised in the White Rose group, which was centered in Munich but had connections in Berlin, Hamburg, Stuttgart and Vienna. In January , they launched an anti-Nazi campaign of handbills and graffiti in and around Ludwig Maximilians University in Munich. They were detected and some arrested.
They were guillotined that same day at Stadelheim Prison. Kurt Huber , a professor of philosophy and musicology, Alexander Schmorell , and Willi Graf had to stand trial later and were sentenced to death as well, whereas many others were sentenced to prison terms.
The last member to be executed was Hans Conrad Leipelt on 29 January This outbreak was surprising and worrying to the Nazi regime, because the universities had been strongholds of Nazi sentiment even before Hitler had come to power. Similarly, it gave heart to the scattered and demoralised resistance groups.
But White Rose was not a sign of widespread civilian disaffection from the regime, and had no imitators elsewhere, although their sixth leaflet, re-titled "The Manifesto of the Students of Munich", was dropped by Allied planes in July , and became widely known in World War II Germany. The underground SPD and KPD were able to maintain their networks, and reported increasing discontent at the course of the war and at the resultant economic hardship, particularly among the industrial workers and among farmers who suffered from the acute shortage of labour with so many young men away at the front.
However, there was nothing approaching active hostility to the regime. Most Germans continued to revere Hitler and blamed Himmler or other subordinates for their troubles. From late , fear of the advancing Soviets and prospects of a military offensive from the Western Powers eclipsed resentment at the regime and if anything hardened the will to resist the advancing allies.
Across the twentieth century public protest comprised a primary form of civilian opposition within totalitarian regimes.
Potentially influential popular protests required not only public expression but the collection of a crowd of persons speaking with one voice. In addition, only protests which caused the regime to take notice and respond to are included here. Improvised protests also occurred if rarely in Nazi Germany , and represent a form of resistance not wholly researched, Sybil Milton wrote already in Hitler recognized the power of collective action, advocated non-compliance toward unworthy authority e.
The regime rationalized appeasement of public protests as temporary measures to maintain the appearance of German unity and reduce the risk of alienating the public through blatant Gestapo repression. An early defeat of state institutions and Nazi officials by mass, popular protest culminated with Hitler's release and reinstatement to church office of Protestant bishops Hans Meiser and Theophil Wurm in October Unrest had festered between regional Protestants and the state since early and came to a boil in mid-September when the regional party daily accused Meiser of treason, and shameful betrayal of Hitler and the state.
By the time Hitler intervened, pastors were increasingly involving parishioners in the church struggle. Their agitation was amplifying distrust of the state as protest was worsening and spreading rapidly. Alarm among local officials was escalating. Some six thousand gathered in support of Meiser while only a few dutifully showed up at a meeting of the region's party leader, Julius Streicher.
Mass open protests, the form of agitation and bandwagon building the Nazis employed so successfully, were now working against them. This early contest points to enduring characteristics of regime responses to open, collective protests. It would prefer dealing with mass dissent immediately and decisively—not uncommonly retracting the cause of protest with local and policy-specific concessions. Open dissent, left unchecked, tended to spread and worsen.
Church leaders had improvised a counter-demonstration strong enough to neutralize the party's rally just as the Nazi Party had faced down socialist and communist demonstrators while coming to power. Hitler recognized that workers, through repeated strikes, might force approval of their demands and he made concessions to workers in order to preempt unrest; yet the rare but forceful public protests the regime faced were by women and Catholics, primarily.
Some of the earliest work on resistance examined the Catholic record, including most spectacularly local and regional protests against decrees removing crucifixes from schools, part of the regime's effort to secularize public life. Popular, public, improvised protests against decrees replacing crucifixes with the Führer's picture, in incidents from to , from north to south and east to west in Germany, forced state and party leaders to back away and leave crucifixes in traditional places.
Prominent incidents of crucifix removal decrees, followed by protests and official retreat, occurred in Oldenburg Lower Saxony in , Frankenholz Saarland and Frauenberg East Prussia in , and in Bavaria in Women, with traditional sway over children and their spiritual welfare, played a leading part.
German history of the early twentieth century held examples of the power of public mobilization, including the Kapp military Putsch in , some civilian Germans realized the specific potential of public protest from within the dictatorship.
After the Oldenburg crucifix struggle , police reported that Catholic activists told each other they coulddefeat future anti-Catholic actions of the state as long as they posed a united front. Catholic Bishop Clemens von Galen may well have been among them. He had raised his voice in the struggle, circulating a pastoral letter. Some argue that the regime, once at war, no longer heeded popular opinion and, some agencies and authorities did radicalize use of terror for domestic control in the final phase of war.
Hitler and the regime's response to collective street protest, however, did not harden. It is certain, however, that Galen intended to have an impact from the pulpit and that the highest Nazi officials decided against punishing him out of concern for public morale.
Another indication that civilians realized the potential of public protest within a regime so concerned about morale and unity, is from Margarete Sommers of the Catholic Welfare Office in the Berlin Diocese. Following the Rosenstrasse Protest of late winter One said that if she had first calculated whether a protest could have succeeded, she would have stayed home.
Even intermarried Jews who had been sent to Auschwitz work camps were returned. Another potential indication that German civilians realized the power of public protest was in Dortmund-Hörde in April According to an SD Report from July 8 of , in the early afternoon of April 12, , an army captain arrested a Flak soldier in Dortmund- Hörde because of an insolent salute.
The townsfolk looking on took his side. A crowd formed of three to four hundred comprised essentially of women. The recentness of the weeklong protest on Rosenstrasse strengthens this possibility.
On Rosenstrasse the chant had been coined as the rallying cry of wives for their incarcerated husbands. Here on behalf of one man it made little sense. Rosenstrasse was the only open, collective protest for Jews during the Third Reich , and in the estimation of historians over the decades, it rescued some 2, intermarried Jews. Intermarried German Jews and their children were the only Jews to escape the fate Reich authorities had selected for them,  and by the end of the war 98 percent of German Jews who survived without being deported or going into hiding were intermarried.
Wolf Gruner argues that events at Rosenstrasse ran according to Gestapo plans. On October 11, , some three hundred women protested on Adolf Hitler Square in the western German Ruhr Valley city of Witten against the official decision to withhold their food ration cards unless they evacuated their homes. Under increasing Allied bombardments, officials had struggled to establish an orderly program for evacuation.
Yet by late many thousands of persons, including hundreds from Witten, had returned from evacuation sites. The Witten protesters had the power of millions of likeminded Germans behind it, and venerable traditions of family life. Within four months Hitler ordered all Nazi Party Regional Leaders Gauleiter not to withhold the ration cards of evacuees who returned home without permission.
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