Operation Valkyrie was the name of a secret emergency plan established by Hitler in case of any civil order breakdown that might be caused by the Allied bombing, or by the uprising of the foreign forced labourers working in all German factories. The plan would deliver control to the Territorial Reserve Army, giving the Nazi leaders and the SS time to escape.
A brilliant plan
The plot to kill Hitler needed to use this plan to take control from the SS because only the death of the Fuhrer would release their oath of loyalty till death, sworn by every SS member. Simply arresting Hitler would incur the wrath of the entire SS. Hitler had to be assassinated.
It was a brilliant plan, established by General Olbricht and Major General von Tresckow of the German Army, along with Claus von Stauffenberg, who assigned the role of assassinating Hitler to himself to lessen the chances of anything going wrong.
The original plan was to also kill Himmler and Göring. When all three were to be at a meeting in the Wolf’s Lair on 20 July 1944, where Stauffenberg was to deliver an update on the status of the German Army, the plan was to be put into action.
To the Wolf’s Lair
The location was close to Rastenburg in East Prussia, which is today the Polish town of Ketrzyn, about 350 miles east of Berlin.
At 11 a.m. Stauffenberg and his two co-conspirators, Major General Helmuth Stieff and First Lieutenant Werner von Haeften, arrived at the command headquarters of the Nazi regime. All the most powerful military figures would be at the meeting. It seemed a perfect opportunity.
Stauffenberg was carrying a briefcase that contained two packs of explosives. At 11:30am, he excused himself with the pretext of visiting the bathroom and left the room, where he went next door to arm the explosives, helped by Haeften. They must have been in a hurry, as only one of the packs of explosives was armed and put back in the briefcase. He returned to the meeting room.
At 12:37 p.m. Keitel introduced Stauffenberg to Hitler and Stauffenberg placed the briefcase casually just under the map table, right next to Hitler. Three minutes later, Stauffenberg excused himself from the meeting again to make a vital phone call. The bomb was due to explode in three minutes.
Two minutes before the detonation the briefcase was moved by Colonel Heinz Brand to the opposite end of the table, and at 12:42pm, a loud explosion shattered the room, blowing out the walls and roof, and setting fire to the debris which crashed down on those inside.
Paper floated through the air, along with wood, splinters, and a massive cloud of smoke. One of the men was hurled through the window, others through the door. Chaos reigned while Stauffenberg jumped into a truck and raced towards a plane which was waiting to whisk him back to Berlin for the take-over.
It was initially unknown if Hitler had survived the bomb or not. Salterberg, one of the SS Guards on duty outside recalled, ‘Everyone was shouting: “Where’s the Führer?” And then Hitler got out of the building, supported by two men.’
Hitler suffered damage to one arm, but he was still alive. The SS took immediate action on the perpetrators of the plot and their families. Stauffenberg was executed along with Olbricht and von Haeften later that night in the Courtyard of the War Ministry. It was reported that Stauffenberg died shouting ‘Long live free Germany!’