Merkel hails example of failed Hitler assassins
If the plot had succeeded, Germany would have been spared a year’s area bombing by allied aircraft and would have retained much of its architectural heritage. Central Europe would also probably have avoided decades of oppression under Soviet occupation.
Merkel said the courage and sacrifice of the conspirator should serve as an example today.
“They put humanity over their own lives,” she told a crowd where Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg and his fellow conspirators were executed. She was speaking at Bendlerblock (pictured), the central Berlin building where the dissidents both planned the coup and were executed.
The building now houses the German Resistance Memorial Centre, which is dedicated to those who opposed the Nazis.
Von Stauffenberg tried to kill Hitler with a briefcase bomb on July 20, 1944, during a meeting at his Wolf’s Lair headquarters in former East Prussia. Four people died but Hitler survived with minor injuries because an aide moved the briefcase next to a heavy table leg, deflecting much of the blast.
The meeting was due to be held in an underground, concrete bunker but was moved upstairs because of the hot weather, reducing the impact of the blast.
The Stauffenberg plot was turned into a Hollywood film in 2008 with Tom Cruise playing the assassin.
Stauffenberg, an aristocratic officer who became disillusioned with the Nazis, joined a loose group of around 200 officers who planned to take over after killing Hitler.
The coup crumbled when Hitler announced his survival with only a perforated eardrum and the plotters were executed within hours.
Nearly 5,000 people were slaughtered in the purge of the military that followed.
The relatively small group of conspirators were initially seen by most Germans as traitors and largely forgotten until a 21st-century survey showed Germans now agreed that honouring those who resisted was “important for German political culture”.
Merkel praised those who hid their Jewish neighbours, the Jews who fought back in the Warsaw Ghetto in 1943, the Poles who staged the doomed 1944 Warsaw Uprising and other partisans elsewhere.
“Von Stauffenberg is a symbol of the resistance, but his story is not the only story of the resistance,” she said.
Amid rising numbers of hate crimes in Germany, Merkel said the civic courage shown by those who resisted the Nazis should act as an inspiration.
“Instead of looking away or being silent, we need to be engaged,” the outgoing chancellor said.
Europeans needed to speak out and act against nationalism and populism.
“We need to think multilaterally, not unilaterally; global, not national; open not isolationist; together, not alone,” she added. “Those are the tasks of today.”
Germany was facing defeat by 1944. Picture credit: Wikimedia