Hit and Missed

The details of Hitler's attempted assassination at the Wolf's Lair read like a spy thriller (and indeed, Valkyrie [2008], the movie starring Tom Cruise based on these events, is just that). In 1944, the would-be assassin, Claus Schenk von Stauffenberg, an officer of aristocratic bearing, had come to see the war as unwinnable. He and other like-minded officers believed that if Germany had any hope of avoiding total annihilation, Hitler had to be stopped. On July 20, 1944, von Stauffenberg was dispatched to the Wolf Lair's to brief the Fuehrer and other top Nazi leaders on troop levels in the Eastern Front. He arrived at the meeting with a time bomb stashed in his briefcase. Just before the meeting started, he placed the briefcase near Hitler, activated the bomb, and left the room. The resulting explosion killed four people, but not the target. One of the generals had moved the briefcase just before it exploded, unwittingly saving the Fuehrer's life. Von Stauffenberg flew back to Berlin believing the assassination attempt had succeeded. Once Hitler recovered from his minor injuries, he ordered von Stauffenberg's arrest; the officer was executed by firing squad later that night. In the ensuing witch hunt, some 5,000 people were executed.

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