Rudolf-Christoph Freiherr von Gersdorff, Generalmajor a. D.
Date of Birth: 27 March 1905
Place of Birth: Lueben, Silesia
Von Gersdorff joined the Army as an officer candidate in 1924 and was commissioned as a second lieutenant of cavalry two years later after training in the Infantry School, Ohrdruf, and the Cavalry School, Hannover,
When World War II broke out, von Gersdorff, by now a captain of cavalry, was serving an assignment as assistant intelligence officer on the staff of the 14th Army. After participating in the Polish Campaign, he was transferred as intelligence officer to the XII Corps in position at Saarbruecken. On 20 April 1940 he was awarded General Staff Corps Status and a month later was transferred as operations officer to the 86th Division, with which division he took part in the 1940 offensive in France,
Promoted major on 1 June 1940, lieutenant colonel in March 1942, colonel in July 1943 and Generalmajor in March 1945, von Gersdorff!s further employment during the war included assignments as intelligence officer of Army Group Center, in Russia, from April 1941 - September 1943, as chief of staff, LXXXII Corps, on the Channel coast, from Feb - July 1944 and as chief of staff, Seventh Army, in Normandy, Belgium and during the retreat through Germany from July 1944 - May 1945.
On 9 May 1945 the General, was taken prisoner at Ellboge, near Karlsbad, Czechoslovakia.
One of the essential conditions for the success of the conspiracy of 20 July 1944 was the maintenance of absolute secrecy. Even those persons who played an active role in the development of the conspiracy were not informed of all its details. Naturally, too, very few written notes were made which an exhaustive, documented report could be prepared. For that reason, I will set down my own experiences in detail, while giving only general treatment to information derived from others.
When, in 1933, National Socialism came to power by legal methods, the army was presented with a fait accompli. The training and structure of the Reichswehr had intentionally been kept non-political by its creators. The only general who played a political role, von Schleicher, was defeated by parliamentary methods in his attempt to gain power. The rest of the generals held themselves aloof from politics, adopting the same neutral attitude with which formerly, under the Weimar regime, they had carried out their military duties, untouched and unmoved by party hatreds and partiality. The younger members of the officer corps either adopted this same attitude or allowed themselves to be driven through patriotic feeling, which was skillfully directed by propaganda into a more or less enthusiastic acceptance of National Socialism.
However, the experiences during the first years after the seizure of power, especially during the purge of 30 June 1934 could only bring disillusionment to many. Those who
were already skeptical of Nazism or were inwardly opposed to its principles were now driven into the opposition, while many others began for the first time to think for themselves, Without, however, fully recognizing the extent of the menace. Tie Nazis objectives and above all their methods of attaining them were at this time so outwardly obscure that the mass, of the officer corps could not conceive of the true nature of tie movement, especially of its criminal aspects. Only the most farsighted persons, who were able to gain partial insight into the intentions and ideas of those in high party circles, could predict the disaster which Hitler and his Movement were t bring to Germany and to the whole world.
Three officers recognized the danger and sought to exercise some influence on the subsequent course of events. They were Generaloberst Freiherr von Hammerstein, former chief of the Army High Command; Generaloberst Beck, at that time chief of the General Staff; and Generaloberst Freiherr von Friitsch, commander in chief of the Army. The first two, especially, had already decided to place themselves in active opposition to Hitler and his regime. Thus the little group around Hammerstein and Beck became the first cell of opposition, gradually developing into the conspiracy of 20 July 1944.
At that time, however, the movement failed to gain
greater influence. Hitler1s successes in the political, economic, and social spheres tended to overshadow the negative, aspects of the Nazi program. Various events, the murder of
generals von Schleicher and von Bredow, the deposing of von Fritsch, and the departure of Beck, were of significance only as they influenced a gradual increase in the number of those who joined the opposition. But the time was not ripe for the act of liberation; the important personalities of the
Wehrmacht were not sufficiently concerned with politics, the majority of the officer corps lacked orientation.
In the period from 1938 to 1940 the storm of events overshadowed all other thoughts and efforts, and any active opposition at that time would have been considered by the mass of the German people to be stupidity and high treason. Apparent successes in the political and economic fields destroyed the healthy instincts and sound judgment of the people and prepared the way to the criminal objectives of the Nazi leaders. We must not forget here the great effect of propaganda, which had never before in world history been .implied with such skill and force.
It is true that again and again some individuals tried to interfere with developments. For instance, there was the action of Generaloberst Blaskowitz in Poland, But such heroism was swallowed up by the rapid course of events, especially as the Nazis employed skilful propaganda either :o cover up such news or to reduce it to insignificance - many victorious military leadership, which appeared to the world to have risen to the peak of fame, had actually fallen to the lowest depths of its century-long history, recause of their political naivete and instinctive trustfulness, the military leaders had let power slip gradually from their hands. When Nazism dropped its mask, the Army was at grips with its military enemy and, driven by a desire to defend the Fatherland, became the witless tool of a criminal leadership.
Reasoning. The shattering fact that the top political leadership was criminal in character was recognized at first only by a very few wise and farseeing men. But it is true that those men were immediately ready to accept the full consequences of their realization.
To the soldiers in the field, the final impetus, at least in part, was given by an abhorrence of the objectives and methods of the Russian campaign, when for the first time the Nazi leaders felt themselves strong, enough to put their cards on the table and to show their true colors. The orders to shoot rather than to capture Russian commissars and the partial suspension of jurisdiction in offenses against the Russian civilian population made a mockery of humanity and exposed the utter brutality of the Nazi mind. The orders aroused a storm of indignation at all higher headquarters. While attempts to alter these policies were at first unsuccessful, it was felt that their effects could be mitigated by changing the form of the orders or by preventing their transmittal. In 1944' the stubborn efforts of the military were successful in having the order to shoot commissars rescinded.
When, during the early part of the Russian campaign, the objectives and methods of the SS were gradually made known to the military commanders, the last scruples against betraying their country's leadership were overcome. The military commanders had jurisdiction over SS units only in cases where tactical interests appeared to be endangered, While far-reaching advantage was taken of this, the Army had absolutely no influence over acts which occurred behind the military zone, where most of the crimes took place. There regained only one way to bring these crimes to an end and to free Germany and the world: that was the removal of Hitler and his regime.
It is true that Stalingrad had a great psychological effect on many persona, but it did not have the decisive effect on the participants in conspiracy of 20 July that has generally been assumed. Their decision resulted from a knowledge of the cruel methods used in Russia, the persecution of the Jews, the atrocities in the concentration camps, and other criminal acts fostered by Nazi power politics. The soldiers at the front knew less than anyone about this. That is why the conspiracy originated only with members of the higher commands; It is also why so many persons now say that they knew practically nothing of the crimes. Anyone with an advanced knowledge of the situation could see that the ideas which led to these monstrous methods could only have sprung from the diseased brain of Hitler. While his followers offered variations in sethod, the origin of all crimes was to be found in Hitler himself. The Fuehrer1s personal power, which was raised to mystical heights by his apparent successes and by propaganda, was great enough that his significance as an individual was easily recognized. All deliberations on the part of the conspirators led to the final conclusion that Hitler must die.
Although it was clear to all that this man deserved death a thousand times, it was not easy for a G-erraan officer to reach a decision. A century of tradition and training hsd exerted too strong an effect, and this fact was skillfully exoloited to the last by the Nazi leadership. Covered by the nantle of patriotism, military spirit, and pride of power, the Nazis hitched their wagon to the Army and Its officer corns.
The conspirators fully realized that the existance and unity of the German Army must not be jeopardized by the Planned coup d'etat* A Russian break-through on the Eastern JVont would bring chaos to the heart of Europe; Germany would be overrun by millions of Slavs andAsiatics. The Western Powers could not appreciate this menace at the time. Cnly a sudden powerful stroke and careful leadership by the higher Army headquarters could prevent a violent eruption within the Wehrmacht.
2. Beginning of the Conspiracy. I feel certain that similar iceas arose and similar conclusions were arrived at in the above-mentioned Beck group. In civilian circles lit was chiefly Oberbuergermeister Goerdeler of Leipzig and trie Prussian minister, Popitz, who saw things clearly and decided to reverse their course. One of the most active cells in the conspiracy was to be found in the staff of Army Sroup Center on the Eastern Front, in which I was G2 from 1941 to 1943. It is here that we meet von Tresckow, at that time a colonel in the General Staff and S3 of the Army Group. A man of dominating personality, he handled with great energy both discussion and action. At first von Tresckow confided his views only to the assistant operations officer, Colonel (GSC) Schultze-Buettger (murdered after 20 July), the intelligence officer, Colonel von Kleist, and his special missions staff officer, 1st Lieutenant (Reserve) von ScWLabrendorff. Then he turned to me in early 1942, as near as I remember, with his first request to prepare the explosive and fuse for the actual attempt.
For reasons of security, Tresckow gave me no indication of the scope of the conspiracy or of the extent to which preparations would be made. While I can only speak generally of the subject, I assume that in the year 1942 the following main centers of the conspiracy were already in existance:
a. Army Group Center (led by Colonel von Tresckow);
b. Army High Command (led by Colonel Stieff);
c. Replacement Army and civilian circles (led by Generaloberst Beck).
The connection between Beck and Tresckow resulted from the fact that Schultze-Buettger had for many years been Beck1s adjutant. Prom Beck, connecting threads ran to the civilian group headed by Goerdeler and Popitz. Tresckow took advantage of official communications to maintain his contact with the Army High Command. At the same time, there was already in existance the germ of an organization to deal with the reforming of the government and with the realisation of specific military aims. I do not know whether discussions were opened at that time with the Western Powers. All of this planning was only outlined to us fry Tresckow, who continually proved himself to be the most active and fanatical fighter. I believe today that Tresckow, at this initial stage in the conspiracy (by which time he had already made up his mind on definite action), desired to present Germany and the Wehrmacht with a fait accompli through the removal of Hitler, Goering, and Himmler. In view of what he knew to be the attitude of nearly all the Army leaders, Tresckow probably assumed that after the death of Hitler the course of events could be so directed that the other objectives could be reached.
At any event, we — the circle around Tresckow —- had already made up our minds in 1942 to kill Hitler and if possible to remove Goering and Himmler &t the same time. At other places different plans were being considered, as, for example, the proposal to kidnap Hitler and then to force a change in the top military and political leadership. However, it was always clear to Tresckow that such a half-way measure would only lead to civil war, and that only the shock of the death of the "mystic Fuehrer* to the entire German people would make it possible for the coup d'etat to proceed according to plan.
Immense difficulties appeared in considering plans for the attempt:
1. How would it be possible to come into contact with Hitler?
2, What weapons or methods could be used in order to make certain the attainment of the desired, end?
It was clear from the beginning that the attempt had to be made in such a manner as to assure absolute certainty of success, since an unsuccessful attempt would destroy the entire enterprise. And it was axiomatic that the attempt must be carried out as soon as possible, since time only brought a further deterioration in the political aud economic position of Germany. Moreover, with the passing of each day there was an ever increasing danger that the conspiracy might be discovered.
Many ideas were developed and discarded. One plan was to have a reliable unit imprison Hitler during his visit to the headquarters of Army Group Center in Smolensk and then to eliminate him. For this purpose there was a suitable unit at hand in the newly established Cavalry Regiment "Center" and a suitable leader in its commander, Major Preiherr von Boeselager (later killed on the Eastern Front). An assassination by pistol was ruled out because there was no assurance that Hitler would be hit; besides, it was generally believed that Hitler always wore a bulletproof vest. Tresckow finally decided on a bombing attempt. Requesting me to prepare the explosive and fuses, he set up the following requirements:
1. An explosive about the size of a book or bundle of documents, with sufficient force to destroy a small house and its occupants;
2. A time fuse which would function with absolute certainty but without any audible ticking.
As G2 of the army group, I had under me a counter-intelligence unit (commanded by Colonel Herrlitz, later a prisoner of the Americans), Section II of which (commanded by Colonel Hetzel) was responsible for such equipment. In their storeroom, which was managed by a Lieutenant Buchholz, I looked over all available types of explosives and fuses-I decided on English plastic explosive, an English magnetic mine, and an English chemical fuse. These devices had been dropped by enemy aircraft over Germany for use in sabotage by agents and foreign workers, and had been systematically collected by us. None of the available German devices were suitable, being either too large or too conspicuous. I took the English apparatus with me, with the statement that I wanted to show it to the commander in chief.
Tresckow made many tests with these devices. The power of the explosive seemed quite satisfactory, although naturally it was impossible to make tests with living beings. The fuse was especially suitable because of its rod form and its simple operation (crushing of a foil capsule). There were fuses with a time delay of 10, 30, 120, and 360 minutes. Experiments showed that the surrounding air temperature affected the time delay; at less than room temperature the time delay could be increased by as much as 100 per cent.
I have gone into detail here because an assassination attempt made by me on 15 March 1943, giving every promise of success, failed because the time delay was too great, and because the attempt of 20 July 1944 was carried out with the same apparatus and yielded such disappointing results, Tresckow required more and more material for his research and it was not easy to think up new explanations to satisfy the officers of the counterintelligence unit. I was fully aware of the danger in which I, above all others, would be
placed in case the assassination attempt failed. Once he had convinced himself of their effectiveness, Tresckow manufactured several bombs.
The first assassination attempt was carried out by Tresckow on the occasion of Hitler's visit to the Army Group headquarters in Smolensk. Tresckow personally brought Hitler from the airfield and had planned to place a bomb in the side pocket of the automobile, next to the place Hitler was to occupy. But it was not possible to plant the bomb in advance since, although Hitler himself traveled by train, he always had his personal car and driver sent on ahead. He never sat In anyone else's automobile. Even though, to avoid attention, Hitler had only a few S3 men present, the attempt failed because of their ceaseless vigilance. It proved impossible for Tresckow to approach the car unwatched.
Several subsequent attempts were undertaken but most of them were disrupted in their early stages. At that time, Tresckow was trying either to carry out the assassination personally or to have it carried out in the Fuehrer1s headquarters on the occasion of the so-called wsituation conference. During a report on Army Group Center, either Tresckow or one of us was to ignite the bomb in a brief case or in the pocket of a garment. The advantage here was that with good fortune Goering or Himmler, or both, might also be caught by the explosion. The disadvantage was that several others who could not be warned would also be endangered. However, Tresckow, who always carried the affair forward with the greatest energy, felt that the death of a few innocent persons would be justified by the fact that Germany and the world would be freed of the greatest criminals in history. Through his acquaintanceship with Hitler's chief adjutant, General Schmundt, who also headed the Army Personnel Office in the winter of 1942-1943, Tresckow succeeded in getting certain trusted people into important staff positions without Schmundt1s learning anything about the enterprise. Thus, for example, Colonel (GSC) Schultze-Buettger was placed as G3 on the staff of Army Group South. A trusted member of the conspiracy, 1st Lieutenant Stahlberg, was already available there as Field Marshal von Manstein's assistant staff officer. On the occasion of one of Hitler's visits to Army Group South, Schultze-Buettger attempted to carry through the assassination attempt but was unsuccessful. I have no knowledge of why the attempt failed. But I would, like to emphasize again how extremely difficult it was to approach Hitler and to strike the blow without the danger of premature discovery.
Army Group Center had prepared in the armory in Berlin an exhibition of captured Russian arias and equipment, war pictures, models, etc, and a few days prior to 15 March 1943 General Schmundt gave put the information that Hitler would personally open the exhibition on the occasion of Heroe's Memorial Day. Since Goering and Himmler, as commanders of their respective organizations, were always present at this celebration, this was an opportunity which might never repeat itself. Upon Tresokowfs request, I declared myself ready to make the assassination attempt, inasmuch as my own staff division had organized the exhibit, it was not difficult to have myself sent to Berlin. Field Marshal von Kluge sent Field Marshal Model as his representative.
In the last hour two new problems arose. First, Field Marshal von Kluge, who at that time was not yet a party to the plot, wanted his wife to take part in the ceremony, and, second, at the moment the only available fuse had a time delay of less than ten minutes. The former problem was solved when Tresckow talked the Field Marshal out of his intention. The latter was solved by arranging for 1st Lieutenant von Schlabrendorff to be sent after me in a special airplane and to give me the required material in the Hotel Eden on the night before the ceremony. Together with Field Marshal Model, I was flown to Berlin where I learned from General Schmundt that, after Hitler's address in the glass-roofed court of the arsenal, he would spend about half an hour going through the exhibit (accompanied by Goering, Himmler, Doenitz, and several aides) and would then carry out the traditional review of the guard honor battalion.
Schmundt informed me in the strictest confidence that the official time of the ceremony had just been changed by several hours. In giving me this information, Schmundt had no idea that he was contributing to the possible success of an assassination attempt. This incident was indicative of the security measures that were necessary to protect the head of the state.
After investigating the layout of the arsenal, I concluded that the actual attempt could only be made during the time that Hitler's party was going through the exhibition. Construction work in preparation for the ceremony was still in progress in the glass-roofed courtyard. The speaker1 s rostrum stood off by itself, making it impossible to plant a bomb there secretly. Moreover, in that position there would have been little opportunity to set off the fuse. That the tour through the exhibit would last at least twenty minutes was a fact of decisive importance, since in the unheated rooms of the arsenal the temperature was only a few degrees above zero and I was therefore forced to calculate on the basis of a fuse time of 15-20 minutes. I was also mindful of the great height of the rooms, which meant that the explosion would not be appreciably confined and that consequently its effect would be reduced.
Tresokow had asked me to use any favorable opportunity which promised absolute success. Since all elements involved in the conspiracy were to be forewarned once it was determined that the actual assassination would take place, I was to inform Schlabrendorff of the state of affairs on the evening preceding the attempt* I told him that I intended to set off a bomb in each of my coat pockets during the time that Hitler passed through the exhibit, but stressed that I was dependent upon the above-mentioned conditions to assure my success,
I was never able to learn whether or not this warning was passed on. As Hitler, together with Goering, Himmler, Doenitz, von Bock, and three or four aides, entered the room, General Schmundt came up and told me that there were no more than eight minutes available for the tour of the exhibition. The possibility of assassination was gone, since even at normal room temperature the fuse would have required ten minutes to set off the bomb. This last-minute change of schedule, indicative of the extreme precautions that Hitler took, was responsible for saving his life once again. Tresckow, who had been waiting by a radio in Smolensk, knew that it had been impossible to carry out the plan.
Before flying to Berlin, I had asked Tresckow to tell me whether the coup d'etat could be successfully carried out once Hitler had been assassinated. Since I did not expect to survive, I wanted to know if my act would be justified in the eyes of history. At that time Tresckow told me that an organization already existed and would go into action immediately; that arrangements had already been made with the Western Powers; and that the enterprise was the only chance to save Germany from complete destruction. Other than this, I knew only that Tresckow was in close contact with various branch chiefs in the Army High Command (including 0-eneral Heusinger, Operations Branch; Colonel Stieff, Organization Branch; and General Fellgiebel, Chief Signal Officer).
During the course of 1943 the existing organization was gradually and cautiously placed upon a broader basis. In the summer of 1943 Tresckow was successful in gaining the complete support of Field Marshal von Kluge. But it was only after difficult inner struggles and long conversations with all of us that the Field Marshal finally reached his decision. After pledging himself wholeheartedly to the cause, von Kluge held discussions with Beck, Haider, Hoeppner, von Witzleben, and others. He received numerous letters from Goerdeler and Popitz begging him to take action, to overthrow the regime, and to assume leadership himself. At that time Field Marshal von Kluge was among those considered for the new head of state.
Since a meeting of two field marshals who were both commanding troops at the front was likely to arouse suspicions in the mistrustful leaders, von Kluge sent me in the summer of 1943 to consult the commander of Army Group South, Field Marshal von Manstein, in order to coordinate their ideas. Concealing my real mission by a discussion of proposals for changes in top-level organization, I was to ascertain von Manetein's attitude with regard to the proposed coup d'etat. Manstein was then being considered for the future chief of the general staff Field Marshal von Kluge had authorized me, in case I saw fit, to explain the entire conspiracy and to present letters from Goerdeler and Popitz which contained political and economic information. In long conversations with von Manstein, I determined that he held the same views as von Kluge. However, he refused to commit himself prematurely since the foreign press had labeled him as a "dangerous man*, striving for power. In addition, he refused to enter into any political action and raised doubts about the conduct of the Army in the event of a coup d'etat. For those reasons, I refrained from confiding in him all the details of the plot. If a coup d'etat were effected, however, we were assured that von Manstein would be completely at our disposal.
During the fall and winter, Tresckow took a long leave of absence in Berlin and Potsdam before returning to the Eastern Front, where he assumed command of a regiment and later became chief of staff of the Second Army. In the meantime Lieutenant Colonel (GSC) Count Stauffenberg had joined the conspiracy. After being severely wounded, he was employed on the staff of the commander of the Replacement Training Army. Count Stauffenberg was an eminently qualified general staff officer, an outspoken individual, and a devout Catholic, who, on the basis of his moral and religious convictions and his ardent patriotism, had decided on vigorous action. In Tresckow, Count Stauffenberg found a man whose ideas coincided with his own. Although a desire for personal glory was alien to them, these two men were called upon to play an important role in the struggle for a better Germany. Both men now began to work out the military, and in part, the political preparations for what they hoped would lay ahead. Working day and night, orders for all headquarters of the field and home armies were prepared, handbills and proclamations for the troops and the civilian population were drafted, and the exact timing of all the operations was decided. All preparations were made, in consultation with Field Marshal von Witzleben, Generals Beck and Hoeppner, and the civilian group.
For some time Tresckow had been in contact with the Wehrraacht Counterintelligence Office, whose head, Admiral Canaris, was deeply involved in the conspiracy. Here one of our trusted men, General Oster, had been employed for some time as branch chief. Moreover, the heads of Sections I and II (Procurement of Information and Sabotage), Colonels Hansen and Baron von Freitag-Lorlnghoven, were also cooperating now in the organization of the plot. At that time Baron von Freitag-Loringhoven procured explosives and fuses of the same type that I had provided in Smolensk; and it was with these that the assassination attempt of 20 July 1944 was carried out.
During the winter of 1943-1944 the plot was organized approximately as follows [This information was gathered by combining what I knew then with what I learned later. (Author)]:
Field Marshal von Witzleben
Generaloberst Halder (?)
Colonel (GSC) von Tresckow
Colonel (GSC) Count von Stauffenberg
Wehrniacht Counterintelligence Office
Admiral Canaris Colonel (GSC) Hansen
Colonel (GrSO) Baron von Freitag-Loringhoven
Army High Command (GSC) Baron von Freitag-Loringhoven
Army High Command and Eastern Front
General Zeitzler (chief of the General Staff) (?)
Major (GSC) Smend
General Heusinger (Operations Branch)
General Wagner (Chief Supply and Administration Officer)
General Stieff (Organization Branch)
Major (GSC) Klamroth (Organization Branch)
Colonel (QSC) Preiherr Roenne (Foreign Armies Branch)
General Fellgiebel (Signal. Communications)
Field Marshal von Kluge (Commander in Chief West)
Colonel (GSC) Fink (Supply and Administration)
Field Marshal Rommel (Army Group B)
General Seidel (Army Group B)
General von Stuelpnagel (Military Government, Prance)
General von Falkenhausen (Military Government, Belgium)
Replacement Training Army
Colonel (GSC) Count von Stauffenberg
Colonel (GSC) Merz von Quirnheim
(There were also reliable officers in various corps headruarters. Colonel Kodre, for example, was with the XVII Corps headquarters in Vienna).
Headquarters In the Field
There were reliable officers in nearly all of the important army and army group staffs.
Count Helldorf (Police President)
SS Obergruppenfuehrer Nebe (Reich Criminal Office)
General von Haase (Commandant of Berlin)
Oberbuergermeister Goerdeler Prussian Minister Popitz,
Ambassador von Hassel (Foreign Office) (Others in political and economic circles).
The above list lays no claim to completeness. But it shows that the organization embraced the competent people in almost the whole of the military command structure and that it also had a large civilian base, In view of this fact, we can hardly be charged with lack of preparation. In my personal view the reproach is unjustified if only because of the participation of men like Beck, Tresckow, and Stauffenberg.
Reliable eye-witness reports on the actual assassination attempt of 20 July 1944 are available. I myself was at the Western Front as a corps commander but, in accordance with a discussion with Tresckow, I held myself ready for call.
In my own opinion the coup d'etat failed only because the most important step, the assassination of Hitler, was unsuccessful. The assassin, Count Stauffenberg, flew to Berlin with the impression that Jfltler was dead. And while the plans were carried out by persons who also believed Hitler was dead, all those who knew differently failed to act. Therefore, measures v/hich were decisive for the success of the coup d'etat were not carried out. The best example was the fact that the communication system was never taken over, since General Pellgiebel and his chief of staff, Colonel Halm, had seen for themselves that the assassination attempt had failed. Only for this reason did the radio remain completely in the hands of the Nazi government. Even telephone communication between Berlin and Hitler1s headquarters continued without difficulty. The various outlying headquarters (as, for example, at corps level) supposedly took their orders from Stauffenberg but, thinking that the decisive attempt would not be carried out, were uncertain and adopted a waiting attitude. Moreover, there was almost no forewarning, since Stauffenberg1 s decision to make the attempt had been sudden/ Time and again other assassination attempts had gone wrong or had been postponed to a more suitable occasion. On the other hand there was little time to lose because of the imminent Allied invasion. It became necessary to prove to the Western Powers, before a break-through, that there were men in Germany who condemned the Nazi system and were willing to act in accordance with their convictions* Hence, it was understandable that Stauffenberg seized the sudden opportunity for personal contact with Hitler and attempted the assassination. Who knew when such a chance might occur again? Because of his haste, however, it had been imoossible to warn, according to prior agreement, those conspirators who were also to take part in the 11 situation conference11 on 20 July.
In the last analysis, the weak explosive effect of the bomb, which even a good engineer could probably not have predicted, was the reason for the failure of the whole enterprise. After the unsuccessful attempt of 20 July, there were no further opportunities to overthrow the regime. Almost all of the conspirators were sentenced to death or committed suicide. The survivors, I believe, can be counted on the fingers of one hand. They owe their lives to stringent security measures and to the silence of the spiritual leader of the whole conspiracy, General von Tresckow. After the collapse of his life's goal, Tresckow sought and found a soldier's death on the field of battle.
In closing, it must be said that the conspiracy of 20 July was the only active effort to overthrow the National Socialist government and to remove the chief criminals. It should be emphasized that this only attempt was planned and executed by members of the officer corps and that the dominant role was played by the General Staff, the nobility, and the large landowners.