The July 20 Plot was a failed coup d'ťtat which involved an attempt to assassinate Adolf Hitler. It was initiated on July 20, 1944, by officers of the Wehrmacht. The leader of the plot was Oberst Claus von Stauffenberg. Others who participated in the plot include General Ludwig Beck, Carl Goerdeler, Alfred Delp and scores of others including Field Marshal Erwin von Witzleben. Field Marshal Erwin Rommel and GŁnther von Kluge may have been involved in the plot and in any event were forced to commit suicide because of it.
The plan required Stauffenberg to place a time bomb near the seat of Hitler at the Wolfsschanze (Wolf's Lair) headquarters in Rastenburg, East Prussia, and then immediately travel to Berlin to command the troops of the uprising. A new government had already been formed, with Beck as Head of State (although most of the plotters hoped for a restoration of the Hohenzollerns at some point in the future), and Goerdeler as Chancellor. The military plans for the coup were known as Operation Valkyrie which was ostensibly a plan for allowing the military recovery of Berlin assuming a takeover by slave laborers. This cover allowed coup plotters to plan troop deployments before the actual coup.
However, due to unexpected circumstances, Hitler survived the bombing: because the day was unusually hot, the meeting at which Hitler was to have been killed took place above ground rather than in a bunker. Moreover, Stauffenberg could arm only one of the two bombs and didn't place the unarmed one in the briefcase. Furthermore, Stauffenberg could not place the briefcase with the bomb next to Hitler and Hitler was shielded from the blast by the conference table. Although four people were killed and almost all present were injured, Hitler was injured only lightly. Stauffenberg only learned of the failure later in Berlin.
Assuming Hitler was dead, Stauffenberg and Haeften flew to Berlin to meet up with their fellow conspirators in the Bendler-Block. Due to a misunderstanding, General Friedrich Olbricht did not launch Operation Valkyrie directly after the attempted assassination. Thus, the coup could only be set in motion four hours later, when Stauffenberg arrived.
In the course of the uprising, conspirators failed to win control over radio stations, therefore the news that Hitler had survived could not be suppressed. Reserve army troops in Berlin, which had carried out Stauffenberg's orders at the beginning, would soon refuse to continue doing so, causing the coup to collapse.
The plot ringleaders, Oberst Claus von Stauffenberg, General Friedrich Olbricht, Oberst Albrecht Mertz von Quirnheim and Leutnant Werner von Haeften were caught in the late evening and shot by firing squad in the courtyard of the Bendler-Block (War Ministry), although many including Hitler believed that the quick trials and executions were intended to quickly silence the coup plotters so that they would not implicate others. Hitler went on to purge and execute more than 4,000 known opponents of his regime, some of whom were slowly strangled with piano wire.
In modern Germany the resistance fighters are honoured. See:
- BBC report about the 60th anniversary (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/3908431.stm)
- BBC video about the 60th anniversary (http://news.bbc.co.uk/media/video/40403000/rm/_40403987_schroder07_badwai20_vi.ram)