German Resistance
Overview
 
The German resistance (Widerstand) was the opposition by individuals and groups in Germany
Germany
Germany , officially the Federal Republic of Germany , is a federal parliamentary republic in Europe. The country consists of 16 states while the capital and largest city is Berlin. Germany covers an area of 357,021 km2 and has a largely temperate seasonal climate...

 to Adolf Hitler
Adolf Hitler
Adolf Hitler was an Austrian-born German politician and the leader of the National Socialist German Workers Party , commonly referred to as the Nazi Party). He was Chancellor of Germany from 1933 to 1945, and head of state from 1934 to 1945...

 or the National Socialist regime
Nazi Germany
Nazi Germany , also known as the Third Reich , but officially called German Reich from 1933 to 1943 and Greater German Reich from 26 June 1943 onward, is the name commonly used to refer to the state of Germany from 1933 to 1945, when it was a totalitarian dictatorship ruled by...

 between 1933 and 1945. Some of these engaged in active plans to remove Adolf Hitler from power and overthrow his regime. Their plans culminated in the unsuccessful 20th July plot to assassinate Hitler in 1944.

The term German resistance should not be understood as meaning that there was a united resistance movement in Germany at any time during the Nazi period, analogous to the more coordinated Polish Underground State, French Resistance
French Resistance
The French Resistance is the name used to denote the collection of French resistance movements that fought against the Nazi German occupation of France and against the collaborationist Vichy régime during World War II...

, and Italian Resistance.
Encyclopedia
The German resistance (Widerstand) was the opposition by individuals and groups in Germany
Germany
Germany , officially the Federal Republic of Germany , is a federal parliamentary republic in Europe. The country consists of 16 states while the capital and largest city is Berlin. Germany covers an area of 357,021 km2 and has a largely temperate seasonal climate...

 to Adolf Hitler
Adolf Hitler
Adolf Hitler was an Austrian-born German politician and the leader of the National Socialist German Workers Party , commonly referred to as the Nazi Party). He was Chancellor of Germany from 1933 to 1945, and head of state from 1934 to 1945...

 or the National Socialist regime
Nazi Germany
Nazi Germany , also known as the Third Reich , but officially called German Reich from 1933 to 1943 and Greater German Reich from 26 June 1943 onward, is the name commonly used to refer to the state of Germany from 1933 to 1945, when it was a totalitarian dictatorship ruled by...

 between 1933 and 1945. Some of these engaged in active plans to remove Adolf Hitler from power and overthrow his regime. Their plans culminated in the unsuccessful 20th July plot to assassinate Hitler in 1944.

The term German resistance should not be understood as meaning that there was a united resistance movement in Germany at any time during the Nazi period, analogous to the more coordinated Polish Underground State, French Resistance
French Resistance
The French Resistance is the name used to denote the collection of French resistance movements that fought against the Nazi German occupation of France and against the collaborationist Vichy régime during World War II...

, and Italian Resistance. The German resistance consisted of small and usually isolated groups. They were unable to mobilize political opposition, and their only real strategy was to persuade leaders of the Wehrmacht
Wehrmacht
The Wehrmacht – from , to defend and , the might/power) were the unified armed forces of Nazi Germany from 1935 to 1945. It consisted of the Heer , the Kriegsmarine and the Luftwaffe .-Origin and use of the term:...

 to stage a coup
Coup d'état
A coup d'état state, literally: strike/blow of state)—also known as a coup, putsch, and overthrow—is the sudden, extrajudicial deposition of a government, usually by a small group of the existing state establishment—typically the military—to replace the deposed government with another body; either...

 against the regime: the 1944 assassination attempt against Hitler was intended to trigger such a coup.

Approximately 77,000 German citizens were killed for one or another form of resistance by Special Courts
Sondergerichte
A Sondergericht was a Nazi "special court." After taking power in 1933, the Nazis quickly moved to remove internal opposition to the Nazi regime in Germany. The legal system became one of many tools for this aim and the Nazis gradually supplanted the normal justice system with political courts...

, courts martial, and the civil justice system. Many of these Germans had served in government, the military, or in civil positions, which enabled them to engage in subversion
Subversion
Apache Subversion is a software versioning and a revision control system distributed under a free license. Developers use Subversion to maintain current and historical versions of files such as source code, web pages, and documentation...

 and conspiracy; in addition the Canadian historian Peter Hoffman counts unspecified "tens of thousands" in concentration camps who were either suspected or actually engaged in opposition. By contrast, the German historian Hans Mommsen
Hans Mommsen
Hans Mommsen is a left-wing German historian. He is the twin brother of the late Wolfgang Mommsen.-Biography:He was born in Marburg, the son of the historian Wilhelm Mommsen and great-grandson of the Roman historian Theodor Mommsen. He studied German, history and philosophy at the University of...

 wrote that resistance in Germany was "resistance without the people" and that the number of those Germans engaged in resistance to the Nazi regime were very small. Those involved in the putsch of July 20, 1944, often seen as the epitome of resistance in Germany numbered about 7,000 (out of a total population of 87 million).

The resistance in Germany included German citizens of non-German ethnicity, like the members of Polish minority who formed resistance groups like Olimp
Olimp (organization)
Olimp was a Polish anti-Nazi resistance organization active in Wrocław during World War II.-History:It was formed in 1941 by members of the Polish minority in Germany located in Breslau and Poles from Upper Silesia...

.

Introduction

The German Resistance movement consisted of several disparate political and ideological strands, which represented different classes of German society and were seldom able to work together – indeed for much of the period there was little or no contact between the different strands of resistance.

One strand was the underground networks of the banned Social Democrats
Social Democratic Party of Germany
The Social Democratic Party of Germany is a social-democratic political party in Germany...

 (SPD) and Communists
Communist Party of Germany
The Communist Party of Germany was a major political party in Germany between 1918 and 1933, and a minor party in West Germany in the postwar period until it was banned in 1956...

 (KPD), such as the SPD activist Julius Leber
Julius Leber
Julius Leber was a German politician of the SPD and a member of the German Resistance against the Nazi régime.-Early life:...

, who was an active resistance figure. There was also resistance from the anarcho-syndicalist union, the Freie Arbeiter Union
Free Workers' Union of Germany
The Free Workers' Union of Germany was an anarcho-syndicalist trade union, which existed from the renaming of the Free Association of German Trade Unions on September 15, 1919 to its official disbandment in January 1933 after the Nazis came into power, although many of its members continued to be...

 (FAUD) that distributed anti-Nazi propaganda and assisted people in fleeing the country. Another group, the Red Orchestra (Rote Kapelle), consisted of anti-fascists, German Communists, and an American woman. The individuals in this group began to assist their Jewish friends as early as 1933.

Another strand was resistance based on minorities within the Christian churches, Catholic and Protestant. Their role was mostly symbolic – a few Christian clergy spoke out against the regime, such as the Protestant pastors Dietrich Bonhoeffer
Dietrich Bonhoeffer
Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a German Lutheran pastor, theologian and martyr. He was a participant in the German resistance movement against Nazism and a founding member of the Confessing Church. He was involved in plans by members of the Abwehr to assassinate Adolf Hitler...

 and Martin Niemöller
Martin Niemöller
Friedrich Gustav Emil Martin Niemöller was a German anti-Nazi theologian and Lutheran pastor. He is best known as the author of the poem "First they came…"....

 (the latter after having initially supported Hitler), and the Catholic Bishop Clemens von Galen
Clemens August Graf von Galen
Blessed Clemens August Graf von Galen was a German count, Bishop of Münster, and Cardinal of the Roman Catholic Church....

, and their example inspired some acts of overt resistance, such as that of the White Rose
White Rose
The White Rose was a non-violent/intellectual resistance group in Nazi Germany, consisting of students from the University of Munich and their philosophy professor...

 student group in Munich
Munich
Munich The city's motto is "" . Before 2006, it was "Weltstadt mit Herz" . Its native name, , is derived from the Old High German Munichen, meaning "by the monks' place". The city's name derives from the monks of the Benedictine order who founded the city; hence the monk depicted on the city's coat...

. The Catholic Church opposed the regime only when its own deepest values were challenged, as in opposition to the Nazi T4
Action T4
Action T4 was the name used after World War II for Nazi Germany's eugenics-based "euthanasia" program during which physicians killed thousands of people who were "judged incurably sick, by critical medical examination"...

 "euthanasia" program. The Protestant churches never directly opposed the regime (or lacked the institutional hierarchy to do so creedally), although many Protestant ministers did so. See Confessing Church
Confessing Church
The Confessing Church was a Protestant schismatic church in Nazi Germany that arose in opposition to government-sponsored efforts to nazify the German Protestant church.-Demographics:...

.

A third strand might be called the "unorganized resistance" — individual Germans or small groups of people acting in defiance of government policies or orders, or in ways seen as subversive of the Nazi system. Most notably, these included a significant number of Germans who helped Jews
Jews
The Jews , also known as the Jewish people, are a nation and ethnoreligious group originating in the Israelites or Hebrews of the Ancient Near East. The Jewish ethnicity, nationality, and religion are strongly interrelated, as Judaism is the traditional faith of the Jewish nation...

 survive the Nazi Holocaust by hiding them, obtaining papers for them or in others ways aiding them. More than 300 Germans have been recognised for this. It also included, particularly in the later years of the regime, informal networks of young Germans who evaded serving in the Hitler Youth
Hitler Youth
The Hitler Youth was a paramilitary organization of the Nazi Party. It existed from 1922 to 1945. The HJ was the second oldest paramilitary Nazi group, founded one year after its adult counterpart, the Sturmabteilung...

 and defied the cultural policies of the Nazis in various ways.

Finally, there was the resistance network within the German Army, the Foreign Office and the Abwehr
Abwehr
The Abwehr was a German military intelligence organisation from 1921 to 1944. The term Abwehr was used as a concession to Allied demands that Germany's post-World War I intelligence activities be for "defensive" purposes only...

, the military intelligence organisation. These groups hatched conspiracies against Hitler in 1938 and again in 1939, but for a variety of reasons could not implement their plans. After the German defeat in the Battle of Stalingrad
Battle of Stalingrad
The Battle of Stalingrad was a major battle of World War II in which Nazi Germany and its allies fought the Soviet Union for control of the city of Stalingrad in southwestern Russia. The battle took place between 23 August 1942 and 2 February 1943...

 in 1942, they contacted many army officers who were convinced that Hitler was leading Germany to disaster, although fewer who were willing to engage in overt resistance. Active resisters were drawn largely from the old Prussian aristocracy, since this was the only social class that had not been successfully penetrated by Nazi ideology.

Almost every community in Germany had members taken away to concentration camps. As early as 1935 there were jingles warning:
"Dear Lord God, keep me quiet, so that I don't end up in Dachau." (It almost rhymes in German: Lieber Herr Gott mach mich stumm / Daß ich nicht nach Dachau komm.) http://www.jstor.org/pss/2770938. "Dachau" refers to the Dachau concentration camp. This is a parody of a common German children's prayer, "Lieber Gott mach mich fromm, daß ich in den Himmel komm."

Prewar resistance 1933–39

There was almost no organized resistance to Hitler’s regime in the period between his appointment as chancellor in January 1933 and the crisis over Czechoslovakia
Czechoslovakia
Czechoslovakia or Czecho-Slovakia was a sovereign state in Central Europe which existed from October 1918, when it declared its independence from the Austro-Hungarian Empire, until 1992...

 in 1938. By July 1933 all other political parties and the trade unions had been suppressed, the press and radio brought under state control, and most elements of civil society
Civil society
Civil society is composed of the totality of many voluntary social relationships, civic and social organizations, and institutions that form the basis of a functioning society, as distinct from the force-backed structures of a state , the commercial institutions of the market, and private criminal...

 neutralised. The July 1933 Concordat between Germany and the Holy See
Reichskonkordat
The Reichskonkordat is a treaty that was agreed between the Holy See and Nazi government, that guarantees the rights of the Catholic Church in Germany. It was signed on July 20, 1933 by Secretary of State Eugenio Pacelli and Vice Chancellor Franz von Papen on behalf of Pope Pius XI and President...

 ended any possibility of systematic resistance by the Catholic Church. The largest Protestant church, the German Evangelical Church
Protestant Reich Church
The Protestant Reich Church, officially German Evangelical Church and colloquially Reichskirche, was formed in 1936 to merge the 28 regional churches into a unified state church that espoused a single doctrine compatible with National Socialism...

, was generally pro-Nazi, although a minority tendency resisted this position. The breaking of the power of the SA
Sturmabteilung
The Sturmabteilung functioned as a paramilitary organization of the National Socialist German Workers' Party . It played a key role in Adolf Hitler's rise to power in the 1920s and 1930s...

 in the “Night of the Long Knives
Night of the Long Knives
The Night of the Long Knives , sometimes called "Operation Hummingbird " or in Germany the "Röhm-Putsch," was a purge that took place in Nazi Germany between June 30 and July 2, 1934, when the Nazi regime carried out a series of political murders...

” in July 1934 ended any possibility of a challenge from the “socialist” wing of the Nazi Party, and also brought the army into closer alliance with the regime.

All sources agree that Hitler’s regime was overwhelmingly popular with the German people during this period. The failures of the Weimar Republic
Weimar Republic
The Weimar Republic is the name given by historians to the parliamentary republic established in 1919 in Germany to replace the imperial form of government...

 had discredited democracy
Democracy
Democracy is generally defined as a form of government in which all adult citizens have an equal say in the decisions that affect their lives. Ideally, this includes equal participation in the proposal, development and passage of legislation into law...

 in the eyes of most Germans. Hitler’s apparent success in restoring full employment after the ravages of the Great Depression
Great Depression
The Great Depression was a severe worldwide economic depression in the decade preceding World War II. The timing of the Great Depression varied across nations, but in most countries it started in about 1929 and lasted until the late 1930s or early 1940s...

 (achieved mainly through the reintroduction of conscription
Conscription
Conscription is the compulsory enlistment of people in some sort of national service, most often military service. Conscription dates back to antiquity and continues in some countries to the present day under various names...

, a policy advocating that women stay home and raise children, a crash re-armament program, and the incremental removal of Jews from the workforce as their jobs were tendered to Gentiles), and his bloodless foreign policy successes such as the reoccupation of the Rhineland
Rhineland
Historically, the Rhinelands refers to a loosely-defined region embracing the land on either bank of the River Rhine in central Europe....

 in 1936 and the annexation of Austria
Austria
Austria , officially the Republic of Austria , is a landlocked country of roughly 8.4 million people in Central Europe. It is bordered by the Czech Republic and Germany to the north, Slovakia and Hungary to the east, Slovenia and Italy to the south, and Switzerland and Liechtenstein to the...

 in 1938, brought him almost universal acclaim.

During this period, the SPD and the KPD managed to maintain underground networks, although the legacy of pre-1933 conflicts between the two parties meant that they were unable to co-operate. The Gestapo
Gestapo
The Gestapo was the official secret police of Nazi Germany. Beginning on 20 April 1934, it was under the administration of the SS leader Heinrich Himmler in his position as Chief of German Police...

 frequently infiltrated these networks, and the rate of arrests and executions of SPD and KPD activists was high, but the networks continued to be able recruit new members from the industrial working class, who resented the stringent labour discipline imposed by the regime during its race to rearm. The exiled SPD leadership
Sopade
Sopade was the name of the exile organization of the Social Democratic Party of Germany . It operated in Prague from 1933 to 1938, from 1938 to 1940 in Paris and until 1945 in London....

 in Prague
Prague
Prague is the capital and largest city of the Czech Republic. Situated in the north-west of the country on the Vltava river, the city is home to about 1.3 million people, while its metropolitan area is estimated to have a population of over 2.3 million...

 received and published accurate reports of events inside Germany. But beyond maintaining their existence and fomenting industrial unrest, sometimes resulting in short-lived strikes, these networks were able to achieve little.

There remained, however, a substantial base for opposition to Hitler’s regime. Although the Nazi Party had taken control of the German state, it had not destroyed and rebuilt the state apparatus in the way the Bolshevik
Bolshevik
The Bolsheviks, originally also Bolshevists , derived from bol'shinstvo, "majority") were a faction of the Marxist Russian Social Democratic Labour Party which split apart from the Menshevik faction at the Second Party Congress in 1903....

 regime had done in the Soviet Union
Soviet Union
The Soviet Union , officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , was a constitutionally socialist state that existed in Eurasia between 1922 and 1991....

. Institutions such as the Foreign Office, the intelligence services and, above all, the army, retained some measure of independence, while outwardly submitting to the new regime. The independence of the army was eroded in 1938, when both the War Minister, General Werner von Blomberg
Werner von Blomberg
Werner Eduard Fritz von Blomberg was a German Generalfeldmarschall, Minister of War and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces until January 1938.-Early life:...

, and the Army Chief, General Werner von Fritsch
Werner von Fritsch
Werner Thomas Ludwig Freiherr von Fritsch was a prominent Wehrmacht officer, member of the German High Command, and the second German general to be killed during World War II.-Early life:...

 were removed from office, but an informal network of officers critical of the Nazi regime remained.

In 1936, thanks to an informer, the Gestapo raids devastated Anarcho-syndicalist
Anarcho-syndicalism
Anarcho-syndicalism is a branch of anarchism which focuses on the labour movement. The word syndicalism comes from the French word syndicat which means trade union , from the Latin word syndicus which in turn comes from the Greek word σύνδικος which means caretaker of an issue...

 groups all over Germany, resulting in the arrest of 89 people. Most ended up either imprisoned or murdered by the regime. The groups had been encouraging strikes, printing and distributing anti-Nazi propaganda and recruiting people to fight the Nazi's fascist allies during the Spanish Civil War
Spanish Civil War
The Spanish Civil WarAlso known as The Crusade among Nationalists, the Fourth Carlist War among Carlists, and The Rebellion or Uprising among Republicans. was a major conflict fought in Spain from 17 July 1936 to 1 April 1939...

.

As part of the agreement with the conservative forces by which Hitler became chancellor in 1933, the non-party conservative Konstantin von Neurath
Konstantin von Neurath
Konstantin Freiherr von Neurath was a German diplomat remembered mostly for having served as Foreign minister of Germany between 1932 and 1938...

 remained foreign minister, a position he retained until 1938. During his period in the Foreign Office, with its network of diplomats and access to intelligence, became home to a circle of resistance, under the discreet patronage of the Under-Secretary of State Ernst von Weizsäcker
Ernst von Weizsäcker
Ernst Freiherr von Weizsäcker was a German diplomat and politician. He served as State Secretary at the Foreign Office from 1938 to 1943, and as German Ambassador to the Holy See from 1943 to 1945...

. Prominent in this circle were the ambassador in Rome
Rome
Rome is the capital of Italy and the country's largest and most populated city and comune, with over 2.7 million residents in . The city is located in the central-western portion of the Italian Peninsula, on the Tiber River within the Lazio region of Italy.Rome's history spans two and a half...

 Ulrich von Hassell
Ulrich von Hassell
Ulrich von Hassell was a German diplomat during World War II. A member of the German Resistance against German dictator Adolf Hitler, Hassell was executed in the aftermath of the failed July 20 plot.- Family :...

, the Ambassador in Moscow
Moscow
Moscow is the capital, the most populous city, and the most populous federal subject of Russia. The city is a major political, economic, cultural, scientific, religious, financial, educational, and transportation centre of Russia and the continent...

 Friedrich Graf von der Schulenburg
Friedrich Werner von der Schulenburg
Friedrich-Werner Graf von der Schulenburg was a German diplomat who served as the last German ambassador to the Soviet Union before Operation Barbarossa. He began his diplomatic career before World War I, serving as consul and ambassador in several countries...

, and officials Adam von Trott zu Solz
Adam von Trott zu Solz
Adam von Trott zu Solz was a German lawyer and diplomat who was involved in the conservative opposition to the Nazi regime, and who played a central part in the 20 July Plot...

, Erich Kordt
Erich Kordt
Erich Kordt , was a German diplomat who was involved in the German Resistance to the regime of Adolf Hitler.-Career:...

 and Hans-Bernd von Haeften. This circle survived even when the ardent Nazi Joachim von Ribbentrop
Joachim von Ribbentrop
Ulrich Friedrich Wilhelm Joachim von Ribbentrop was Foreign Minister of Germany from 1938 until 1945. He was later hanged for war crimes after the Nuremberg Trials.-Early life:...

 succeeded Neurath as foreign minister.

The most important centre of opposition to the regime within the state apparatus was in the intelligence services, whose clandestine operations offered an excellent cover for political organisation. The key figure here was Colonel Hans Oster
Hans Oster
Hans Oster was a German Army general, deputy head of the Abwehr under Wilhelm Canaris, and an opponent of Adolf Hitler and Nazism. He was a leading figure of the German resistance from 1938 to 1943.-Early career:...

, head of the Military Intelligence Office from 1938, and a convinced anti-Nazi as early as 1934. He was protected by the Abwehr
Counter-intelligence
Counterintelligence or counter-intelligence refers to efforts made by intelligence organizations to prevent hostile or enemy intelligence organizations from successfully gathering and collecting intelligence against them. National intelligence programs, and, by extension, the overall defenses of...

 chief, Admiral Wilhelm Canaris
Wilhelm Canaris
Wilhelm Franz Canaris was a German admiral, head of the Abwehr, the German military intelligence service, from 1935 to 1944 and member of the German Resistance.- Early life and World War I :...

. Oster organized an extensive clandestine network of potential resisters in the army and the intelligence services. He found an early ally in Hans-Bernd Gisevius, a senior official in the Interior Ministry. Hjalmar Schacht
Hjalmar Schacht
Dr. Hjalmar Horace Greeley Schacht was a German economist, banker, liberal politician, and co-founder of the German Democratic Party. He served as the Currency Commissioner and President of the Reichsbank under the Weimar Republic...

, the governor of the Reichsbank
Reichsbank
The Reichsbank was the central bank of Germany from 1876 until 1945. It was founded on 1 January 1876 . The Reichsbank was a privately owned central bank of Prussia, under close control by the Reich government. Its first president was Hermann von Dechend...

, was also in touch with this opposition.

The problem these groups faced, however, was what form resistance to Hitler could take in the face of the regime’s successive triumphs. They recognised that it was impossible to stage any kind of open political resistance. This was not, as is sometimes stated, because the repressive apparatus of the regime was so all-pervasive that public protest was impossible – as was shown when Catholics protested against the removal of crucifixes from Bavarian schools in 1941, and the regime backed down. Rather it was because of Hitler’s massive support among the German people. While resistance movements in the occupied countries could mobilise patriotic sentiment against the German occupiers, in Germany the resistance risked being seen as unpatriotic, particularly in wartime. Even many army officers and officials who detested Hitler had a deep aversion to being involved in “subversive” or “treasonous” acts against the government.

As early as 1936 Oster and Gisevius came to the view that a regime so totally dominated by one man could only be brought down by eliminating that man – either by assassinating Hitler or by staging an army coup against him. But it was a long time before any significant number of Germans came to accept this view. Many clung to the belief that Hitler could be persuaded to moderate his regime, or that some other more moderate figure could replace him. Others argued that Hitler was not to blame for the regime’s excesses, and that the removal of Heinrich Himmler
Heinrich Himmler
Heinrich Luitpold Himmler was Reichsführer of the SS, a military commander, and a leading member of the Nazi Party. As Chief of the German Police and the Minister of the Interior from 1943, Himmler oversaw all internal and external police and security forces, including the Gestapo...

 and the reduction in the power of the SS
Schutzstaffel
The Schutzstaffel |Sig runes]]) was a major paramilitary organization under Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party. Built upon the Nazi ideology, the SS under Heinrich Himmler's command was responsible for many of the crimes against humanity during World War II...

 was needed. Some oppositionists were devout Christians who disapproved of assassination as a matter of principle. Others, particularly the army officers, felt bound by the personal oath of loyalty they had taken to Hitler in 1934.

The opposition was also hampered by a lack of agreement about their objectives other than the need to remove Hitler from power. Some oppositionists were liberals who opposed the ideology of the Nazi regime in its entirety, and who wished to restore a system of parliamentary democracy
Democracy
Democracy is generally defined as a form of government in which all adult citizens have an equal say in the decisions that affect their lives. Ideally, this includes equal participation in the proposal, development and passage of legislation into law...

. Most of the army officers and many of the civil servants, however, were conservatives and nationalists, and many had initially supported Hitler’s policies – Carl Goerdeler, the Lord Mayor of Leipzig
Leipzig
Leipzig Leipzig has always been a trade city, situated during the time of the Holy Roman Empire at the intersection of the Via Regia and Via Imperii, two important trade routes. At one time, Leipzig was one of the major European centres of learning and culture in fields such as music and publishing...

, was a good example. Some favoured restoring the Hohenzollern dynasty, others favoured an authoritarian, but not Nazi, regime. Some saw no problem with Hitler's anti-Semitism and ultra-nationalism, and opposed only his apparent reckless determination to take Germany into a new world war. In these circumstances the opposition was unable to form a united movement, or to send a coherent message to potential allies outside Germany.

Resistance in the Army 1938–42

Despite the removal of Blomberg and Fritsch, the army retained considerable independence, and senior officers were able to discuss their political views in private fairly freely. In May 1938 the army leadership was made aware of Hitler’s intention of invading Czechoslovakia
Czechoslovakia
Czechoslovakia or Czecho-Slovakia was a sovereign state in Central Europe which existed from October 1918, when it declared its independence from the Austro-Hungarian Empire, until 1992...

, even at the risk of war with Britain
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

, France
France
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

 and/or the Soviet Union
Soviet Union
The Soviet Union , officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , was a constitutionally socialist state that existed in Eurasia between 1922 and 1991....

. The Army Chief of Staff, General Ludwig Beck
Ludwig Beck
Generaloberst Ludwig August Theodor Beck was a German general and Chief of the German General Staff during the early years of the Nazi regime in Germany before World War II....

, regarded this as not only immoral but reckless, since he believed that Germany would lose such a war. Oster and Beck sent emissaries to Paris and London to advise the British and French to resist Hitler’s demands, and thereby strengthen the hand of Hitler’s opponents in the Army. Weizsäcker also sent private messages to London urging resistance. The British and French were extremely doubtful of the ability of the German opposition to overthrow the Nazi regime and ignored these messages. An official of the British Foreign Office wrote on August 28, 1938: "We have had similar visits from other emissaries of the Reichsheer, such as Dr. Goerdeler, but those for whom these emissaries claim to speak have never given us any reasons to suppose that they would be able or willing to take action such as would lead to the overthrow of the regime. The events of June 1934 and February 1938 do not lead one to attach much hope to energetic action by the Army against the regime" The British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain
Neville Chamberlain
Arthur Neville Chamberlain FRS was a British Conservative politician who served as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from May 1937 to May 1940. Chamberlain is best known for his appeasement foreign policy, and in particular for his signing of the Munich Agreement in 1938, conceding the...

 was defended against the charge of responsibility for the failure of Germans to overthrow their Führer in 1938 by the American historian Gerhard Weinberg
Gerhard Weinberg
Gerhard Ludwig Weinberg is a German-born American diplomatic and military historian noted for his studies in the history of World War II. Weinberg currently is the William Rand Kenan, Jr. Professor Emeritus of History at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He has been a member of the...

. Weinberg argued that the three different messengers to London in summer 1938 by from the German opposition, each bearing the same message that if a firm British stand favored Czechoslovakia, a putsch would remove the Nazi regime, and each ignorant of the other messengers' existence suggested a group of people seemingly not well organized.

Writing of the 1938 conspiracy, the German historian Klaus-Jürgen Müller observed that the conspiracy was a loosely organized collection of two different groups. One group comprising the army’s Chief of Staff General Ludwig Beck
Ludwig Beck
Generaloberst Ludwig August Theodor Beck was a German general and Chief of the German General Staff during the early years of the Nazi regime in Germany before World War II....

, the Abwehr
Abwehr
The Abwehr was a German military intelligence organisation from 1921 to 1944. The term Abwehr was used as a concession to Allied demands that Germany's post-World War I intelligence activities be for "defensive" purposes only...

chief, Admiral Wilhelm Canaris
Wilhelm Canaris
Wilhelm Franz Canaris was a German admiral, head of the Abwehr, the German military intelligence service, from 1935 to 1944 and member of the German Resistance.- Early life and World War I :...

, and the Foreign Office's State Secretary, Baron Ernst von Weizsäcker
Ernst von Weizsäcker
Ernst Freiherr von Weizsäcker was a German diplomat and politician. He served as State Secretary at the Foreign Office from 1938 to 1943, and as German Ambassador to the Holy See from 1943 to 1945...

 were the "anti-war" group in the German government, which was determined to avoid a war in 1938 that it felt Germany would lose. This group was not committed to the overthrow of the regime but was loosely allied to another, more radical group, the "anti-Nazi" fraction centered on Colonel Hans Oster
Hans Oster
Hans Oster was a German Army general, deputy head of the Abwehr under Wilhelm Canaris, and an opponent of Adolf Hitler and Nazism. He was a leading figure of the German resistance from 1938 to 1943.-Early career:...

 and Hans Bernd Gisevius
Hans Bernd Gisevius
Hans Bernd Gisevius was a German diplomat and intelligence officer during World War II. A strong opponent of the Nazi regime, he served as a liaison in Zürich between Allen Dulles, station chief for the American OSS and the German Resistance forces in Germany.-Pre World War II:Gisevius was born...

, which wanted to use the crisis as an excuse for executing a putsch to overthrow the Nazi regime. The divergent aims between these two factions produced considerable tensions. The historian Eckart Conze in a 2010 interview stated about the "anti-war" group in 1938:
"An overthrow of Hitler was out of the question. The group wanted to avoid a major war and the potential catastrophic consequences for Germany. Their goal wasn't to get rid of the dictator but, as they saw it, to bring him to his senses."


In August Beck spoke openly at a meeting of army generals in Berlin about his opposition to a war with the western powers over Czechoslovakia. When Hitler was informed of this, he demanded and received Beck’s resignation. Beck was highly respected in the army and his removal shocked the officer corps. His successor as chief of staff, Franz Halder
Franz Halder
Franz Halder was a German General and the head of the Army General Staff from 1938 until September, 1942, when he was dismissed after frequent disagreements with Adolf Hitler.-Early life:...

, remained in touch with him, and was also in touch with Oster. Privately, he said that he considered Hitler “the incarnation of evil.” During September, plans for a move against Hitler were formulated, involving General Erwin von Witzleben
Erwin von Witzleben
Job-Wilhelm Georg Erdmann Erwin von Witzleben was a German army officer and in the Second World War an Army commander and a conspirator in the July 20 Plot.-Early years:...

, the army commander of the Berlin Military Region and thus well-placed to stage a coup.

Oster, Gisevius and Schacht urged Halder and Beck to stage an immediate coup against Hitler, but the army officers argued that they could only mobilize support among the officer corps for such a step if Hitler made overt moves towards war. Halder nevertheless asked Oster to draw up plans for a coup. Weizsäcker and Canaris were made aware of these plans. The conspirators disagreed on what to do about Hitler if there was a successful army coup – eventually most overcame their scruples and agreed that he must be killed if most army officers were to be freed from their oath of loyalty. They agreed Halder would instigate the coup when Hitler committed an overt step towards war. During the planning for the 1938 putsch, Carl Friedrich Goerdeler
Carl Friedrich Goerdeler
Carl Friedrich Goerdeler was a monarchist conservative German politician, executive, economist, civil servant and opponent of the Nazi regime...

 was in contact through the intermediary of General Alexander von Falkenhausen
Alexander von Falkenhausen
Alexander Ernst Alfred Hermann Freiherr von Falkenhausen was a German general. He was the head of the military government of Belgium from 1940–44 during its occupation by Germany in World War II....

 with Chinese intelligence Most German conservatives favoured Germany’s traditional informal alliance with China, and were strongly opposed to the volte-face in Germany’s Far Eastern policies effected in early 1938 by Joachim von Ribbentrop
Joachim von Ribbentrop
Ulrich Friedrich Wilhelm Joachim von Ribbentrop was Foreign Minister of Germany from 1938 until 1945. He was later hanged for war crimes after the Nuremberg Trials.-Early life:...

, who abandoned the alliance with China for an alignment with Japan. As a consequence, agents of Chinese intelligence supported the proposed putsch as a way of restoring the Sino-German alliance.

Remarkably, the army commander, General Walther von Brauchitsch
Walther von Brauchitsch
Heinrich Alfred Hermann Walther von Brauchitsch was a German field marshal and the Oberbefehlshaber des Heeres in the early years of World War II.-Biography:...

, was well aware of the coup preparations. He told Halder he could not condone such an act, but he did not inform Hitler, to whom he was outwardly subservient, of what he knew. This was a striking example of the code of silent solidarity among senior German Army officers, which was to survive and provide a shield for the resistance groups down to, and in many cases beyond, the crisis of July 1944.

On 13 September, the British Prime Minister, Neville Chamberlain
Neville Chamberlain
Arthur Neville Chamberlain FRS was a British Conservative politician who served as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from May 1937 to May 1940. Chamberlain is best known for his appeasement foreign policy, and in particular for his signing of the Munich Agreement in 1938, conceding the...

, announced that he would visit Germany to meet Hitler and defuse the crisis over Czechoslovakia. This threw the conspirators into uncertainty. When, on 20 September, it appeared that the negotiations had broken down and that Chamberlain would resist Hitler’s demands, the coup preparations were revived and finalised. All that was required was the signal from Halder.

On 28 September, however, Chamberlain backed down and agreed to a meeting in Munich
Munich Agreement
The Munich Pact was an agreement permitting the Nazi German annexation of Czechoslovakia's Sudetenland. The Sudetenland were areas along Czech borders, mainly inhabited by ethnic Germans. The agreement was negotiated at a conference held in Munich, Germany, among the major powers of Europe without...

, at which he accepted the dismemberment of Czechoslovakia. This plunged the resistance into demoralisation and division. Halder said he would no longer support a coup. The other conspirators were bitterly critical of Chamberlain, but were powerless to act. This was the nearest approach to a successful conspiracy against Hitler before the 20 July plot of 1944.

As war again grew more likely in mid 1939, the plans for a pre-emptive coup were revived. Oster was still in contact with Halder and Witzleben, although Witzleben had been transferred to Frankfurt am Main, reducing his ability to lead a coup attempt. At a meeting with Goerdeler, Witzleben agreed to form a network of army commanders willing to take part to prevent a war against the western powers. But support in the officer corps for a coup had dropped sharply since 1938. Most officers, particularly those from Prussian landowning backgrounds, were strongly anti-Polish. Just before the invasion of Poland
Poland
Poland , officially the Republic of Poland , is a country in Central Europe bordered by Germany to the west; the Czech Republic and Slovakia to the south; Ukraine, Belarus and Lithuania to the east; and the Baltic Sea and Kaliningrad Oblast, a Russian exclave, to the north...

 in August 1939, General Eduard Wagner
Eduard Wagner
General Eduard Wagner was a German Artillery officer who was the quartermaster-general of the German Army and a member of the resistance to Adolf Hitler....


who was one of the officers involved in the abortive putsch of September 1938 wrote in a letter to his wife: “We believe we will make quick work of the Poles, and in truth, we are delighted at the prospect. That business must be cleared up" (Emphasis in the original) The German historian Andreas Hillgruber
Andreas Hillgruber
Andreas Fritz Hillgruber was a conservative German historian. Hillgruber was influential as a military and diplomatic historian.At his death in 1989, the American historian Francis L...

 commented that in 1939 the rampant anti-Polish feelings in the German Army officer corps served to bind the military together with Hitler in supporting Fall Weiss in a way that Fall Grün
Fall Grün
Fall Grün was a pre-World War II German plan for an aggressive war against Czechoslovakia. The plan was first drafted late in 1937, then revised as the military situation and requirements changed...

 did not.

This nevertheless marked an important turning point. In 1938 the plan had been for the army, led by Halder and if possible Brauchitsch, to depose Hitler. This was now impossible, and a conspiratorial organisation was to be formed in the army and civil service instead.

The opposition again urged Britain and France to stand up to Hitler: Halder met secretly with the British Ambassador Sir Nevile Henderson
Nevile Henderson
Sir Nevile Meyrick Henderson, KCMG , was the third child of Robert and Emma Henderson and was born at Sedgwick Park near Horsham, West Sussex. Ambassador of Great Britain to Germany from 1937 to 1939, he believed that Adolf Hitler could be controlled and pushed toward peace and cooperation with...

 to urge resistance. The plan was again to stage a coup at the moment Hitler moved to declare war. But although Britain and France were now prepared to go to war over Poland, as war approached Halder lost his nerve. Schacht, Gisevius and Canaris developed a plan to confront Brauchitsch and Halder and demand that they depose Hitler and prevent war, but nothing came of this. When Hitler invaded Poland on 1 September, the conspirators were unable to move.

The outbreak of war made the further mobilization of resistance in the army more difficult. Halder continued to vacillate. In late 1939 and early 1940 he opposed Hitler’s plans to attack France, and kept in touch with the opposition through General Carl-Heinrich von Stülpnagel
Carl-Heinrich von Stülpnagel
Carl-Heinrich von Stülpnagel, was a German general and a member of the July 20 Plot to assassinate Adolf Hitler.-Early life:...

, an active oppositionist. Talk of a coup again began to circulate, and for the first time the idea of killing Hitler with a bomb was taken up by the more determined members of the resistance circles, such as Oster and Erich Kordt, who declared himself willing to do the deed. At the army headquarters at Zossen
Zossen
Zossen is a German town in the district of Teltow-Fläming in Brandenburg, south of Berlin, and next to the B96 highway. Zossen consists of several smaller municipalities, which were grouped together in 2003 to form the city.-Geography:...

, south of Berlin, a group of officers called Action Group Zossen was also planning a coup.

When in November 1939 it seemed that Hitler was about to order an immediate attack in the west, the conspirators persuaded General Wilhelm Ritter von Leeb
Wilhelm Ritter von Leeb
Wilhelm Josef Franz Ritter von Leeb was a German Field Marshal during World War II. - Youth :...

, commander of Army Group C on the Belgian border, to support a planned coup if Hitler gave such an order. At the same time Oster warned the Dutch and the Belgians that Hitler was about to attack them – his warnings were not believed. But when Hitler postponed the attack until 1940, the conspiracy again lost momentum, and Halder formed the view that the German people would not accept a coup. Again, the chance was lost.

The failed plots of 1938 and 1939 showed both the strength and weakness of the officer corps as potential leaders of a resistance movement. Its strength was its loyalty and solidarity. As Istvan Deak
István Deák
István Deák is a Hungarian-born American historian, author and academic.Deak was born at Székesfehérvár, Hungary. He was educated at a Catholic gymnasium in Budapest and began his university studies in 1945 at the University of Budapest...

 noted: “Officers, especially of the highest ranks, had been discussing, some as early as 1934… the possibility of deposing or even assassinating Hitler. Yet it seems that not a single one was betrayed by a comrade-in-arms to the Gestapo.” Remarkably, in over two years of plotting, this widespread and loosely structured conspiracy was never detected. One explanation is that at this time Himmler was still preoccupied with the traditional enemies of the Nazis, the SPD and the KPD (and, of course, the Jews), and did not suspect that the real centre of opposition was within the state itself. Another factor was Canaris’s success in shielding the plotters, particularly Oster, from suspicion.

The corresponding weakness of the officer corps was its conception of loyalty to the state and its horror of mutiny. This explains the vacillations of Halder, who could never quite bring himself to take the decisive step. Halder hated Hitler, and believed that the Nazis were leading Germany to catastrophe. He was shocked and disgusted by the behaviour of the SS in occupied Poland, but gave no support to his senior officer there, General Johannes Blaskowitz
Johannes Blaskowitz
Johannes Albrecht Blaskowitz was a German general during World War II. He was also a recipient of the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves and Swords...

, when the latter officially protested to Hitler about the atrocities against the Poles and the Jews. In 1938 and again in 1939, he lost his nerve and could not give the order to strike against Hitler. This was even more true of Brauchitsch, who knew of the conspiracies and assured Halder that he agreed with their objectives, but would not take any action to support them.

The first assassination attempt

The first resolute attempt to remove Hitler during this period was led by Oster from the Abwehr, but no shot was fired. In November 1939, however, Georg Elser
Georg Elser
Johann Georg Elser was a German opponent of Nazism. He is most remembered for his unsuccessful attempt to assassinate Adolf Hitler, but he also wanted to assassinate Hermann Göring and Joseph Goebbels in 1939....

, a carpenter from Württemberg
Württemberg
Württemberg , formerly known as Wirtemberg or Wurtemberg, is an area and a former state in southwestern Germany, including parts of the regions Swabia and Franconia....

, acting completely on his own, developed a plan to assassinate Hitler. Elser had been peripherally involved with the KPD before 1933, but his exact motives for acting as he did remain a mystery. He read in the newspapers that Hitler would be addressing a Nazi Party meeting on 8 November, in the Bürgerbräukeller
Bürgerbräukeller
The Bürgerbräukeller was a large beer hall located in Munich, Germany. It was one of the large beer halls of the Bürgerliches Brauhaus company, and after Bürgerliches merged with Löwenbräu, the hall was transferred to that company. It was located on Rosenheimer Street in the neighborhood of...

, a beer hall in Munich
Munich
Munich The city's motto is "" . Before 2006, it was "Weltstadt mit Herz" . Its native name, , is derived from the Old High German Munichen, meaning "by the monks' place". The city's name derives from the monks of the Benedictine order who founded the city; hence the monk depicted on the city's coat...

 where Hitler had launched the Beer Hall Putsch
Beer Hall Putsch
The Beer Hall Putsch was a failed attempt at revolution that occurred between the evening of 8 November and the early afternoon of 9 November 1923, when Nazi Party leader Adolf Hitler, Generalquartiermeister Erich Ludendorff, and other heads of the Kampfbund unsuccessfully tried to seize power...

 on the same date in 1923. Stealing explosives from his workplace, Elser built a powerful time-bomb. For over a month, he managed to stay inside the Bürgerbräukeller after closing hours each night, during which time he hollowed out the pillar behind the speaker's rostrum to place the bomb inside.

On the night of 7 November, Elser set the timer and left for the Swiss border. Unexpectedly, because of the pressure of wartime business, Hitler made a much shorter speech than usual and left the hall 13 minutes before the bomb went off, killing eight people. Had Hitler still been speaking, the bomb almost certainly would have killed him, with consequences which can only be guessed. Elser was arrested at the border, sent to the Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp, and then in 1945 moved to the Dachau concentration camp. Elser was executed two weeks before the liberation of Dachau KZ. This attempt on Hitler’s life set off a witch-hunt for potential conspirators which intimidated the opposition and made further action more difficult.

Catholic resistance

The outbreak of war served to rally the German people around the Hitler regime, and the sweeping early successes of the German Army – occupying Poland in 1939, Denmark and Norway in April 1940, and swiftly defeating France in May and June 1940, stilled virtually all opposition to the regime. The opposition to Hitler within the Army was left isolated and apparently discredited, since the much-feared war with the western powers had apparently been won by Germany within a year and at little cost. This mood continued well into 1941, although beneath the surface popular discontent at mounting economic hardship was apparent.

Even at the height of Hitler’s popularity, however, one issue unexpectedly provoked powerful and successful resistance to his regime. This was the program of so-called “euthanasia
Euthanasia
Euthanasia refers to the practice of intentionally ending a life in order to relieve pain and suffering....

” – in fact a campaign of mass murder – directed at people with mental illness and/or severe physical disabilities which had begun in 1939 under the code name T4. By 1941 more than 70,000 people had been killed under this program, many by gassing, and their bodies incinerated.

This policy aroused strong opposition across German society, and especially among Catholics. Opposition to the policy sharpened after the German attack on the Soviet Union
Soviet Union
The Soviet Union , officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , was a constitutionally socialist state that existed in Eurasia between 1922 and 1991....

 in June 1941, because the war in the east produced for the first time large-scale German casualties, and the hospitals and asylums began to fill up with maimed and disabled young German soldiers. Rumours began to circulate that these men would also be subject to “euthanasia,” although no such plans existed.

Catholic anger was further fuelled by actions of the Gauleiter
Gauleiter
A Gauleiter was the party leader of a regional branch of the NSDAP or the head of a Gau or of a Reichsgau.-Creation and Early Usage:...

 of Upper Bavaria
Upper Bavaria
Upper Bavaria is one of the seven administrative regions of Bavaria, Germany.- Geography :Upper Bavaria is located in the southern portion of Bavaria, and is centered around the city of Munich. It is subdivided into four regions : Ingolstadt, Munich, Bayerisches Oberland , and Südostoberbayern...

, Adolf Wagner
Adolf Wagner
Adolf Wagner was a German soldier and high-ranking Nazi Party official born in Algrange, Alsace-Lorraine.He served in World War I as an officer in the German Army...

, a militantly anti-Catholic Nazi, who in June 1941 ordered the removal of crucifixes from all schools in his Gau. This attack on Catholicism provoked the first public demonstrations against government policy since the Nazis had come to power, and the mass signing of petitions, including by Catholic soldiers serving at the front. When Hitler heard of this he ordered Wagner to rescind his decree, but the damage had been done – German Catholics had learned that the regime could be successfully opposed. This led to more outspoken protests against the “euthanasia” program.

In July the Bishop of Münster in Westphalia
Westphalia
Westphalia is a region in Germany, centred on the cities of Arnsberg, Bielefeld, Dortmund, Minden and Münster.Westphalia is roughly the region between the rivers Rhine and Weser, located north and south of the Ruhr River. No exact definition of borders can be given, because the name "Westphalia"...

, Clemens August Graf von Galen
Clemens August Graf von Galen
Blessed Clemens August Graf von Galen was a German count, Bishop of Münster, and Cardinal of the Roman Catholic Church....

 (an old aristocratic conservative, like many of the anti-Hitler Army officers), publicly denounced the “euthanasia” program in a sermon, and telegrammed his text to Hitler, calling on “the Führer to defend the people against the Gestapo.” Another Bishop, Franz Bornewasser of Trier
Trier
Trier, historically called in English Treves is a city in Germany on the banks of the Moselle. It is the oldest city in Germany, founded in or before 16 BC....

, also sent protests to Hitler, though not in public. On 3 August von Galen was even more outspoken, broadening his attack to include the Nazi persecution of religious orders and the closing of Catholic institutions. Local Nazis asked for Galen to be arrested, but Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels
Joseph Goebbels
Paul Joseph Goebbels was a German politician and Reich Minister of Propaganda in Nazi Germany from 1933 to 1945. As one of Adolf Hitler's closest associates and most devout followers, he was known for his zealous oratory and anti-Semitism...

 told Hitler that if this happened there would be an open revolt in Westphalia.

By August, the protests had spread to Bavaria. Hitler was jeered by an angry crowd at Hof
Hof, Germany
Hof is a city located on the banks of the Saale in the northeastern corner of the German state of Bavaria, in the Franconia region, at the Czech border and the forested Fichtelgebirge and Frankenwald upland regions....

, near Nuremberg
Nuremberg
Nuremberg[p] is a city in the German state of Bavaria, in the administrative region of Middle Franconia. Situated on the Pegnitz river and the Rhine–Main–Danube Canal, it is located about north of Munich and is Franconia's largest city. The population is 505,664...

 – the only time he was opposed to his face in public during his 12 years of rule. Despite his private fury at the Catholic Church, Hitler knew that he could not afford a confrontation with the Church at a time when Germany was engaged in a life-and-death two-front war. (It needs to be remembered that following the annexations of Austria
Austria
Austria , officially the Republic of Austria , is a landlocked country of roughly 8.4 million people in Central Europe. It is bordered by the Czech Republic and Germany to the north, Slovakia and Hungary to the east, Slovenia and Italy to the south, and Switzerland and Liechtenstein to the...

 and the Sudetenland
Sudetenland
Sudetenland is the German name used in English in the first half of the 20th century for the northern, southwest and western regions of Czechoslovakia inhabited mostly by ethnic Germans, specifically the border areas of Bohemia, Moravia, and those parts of Silesia being within Czechoslovakia.The...

, nearly half of all Germans were Catholic.) On 24 August he ordered the cancellation of the T4 program and issued strict instructions to the Gauleiters that there were to be no further provocations of the churches during the war.

However, the deportation
Deportation
Deportation means the expulsion of a person or group of people from a place or country. Today it often refers to the expulsion of foreign nationals whereas the expulsion of nationals is called banishment, exile, or penal transportation...

 of Polish
Second Polish Republic
The Second Polish Republic, Second Commonwealth of Poland or interwar Poland refers to Poland between the two world wars; a period in Polish history in which Poland was restored as an independent state. Officially known as the Republic of Poland or the Commonwealth of Poland , the Polish state was...

 and Dutch
Dutch people
The Dutch people are an ethnic group native to the Netherlands. They share a common culture and speak the Dutch language. Dutch people and their descendants are found in migrant communities worldwide, notably in Suriname, Chile, Brazil, Canada, Australia, South Africa, New Zealand, and the United...

 priest
Priest
A priest is a person authorized to perform the sacred rites of a religion, especially as a mediatory agent between humans and deities. They also have the authority or power to administer religious rites; in particular, rites of sacrifice to, and propitiation of, a deity or deities...

s by the occupying Nazis by 1942 — after Polish resistance acts and the Dutch Catholic bishops' conference's official condemnation of anti-Semitic persecutions and deportations of Jews by the Nazis — also terrified ethnic German clergy in Germany itself, some of whom would come to share the same fate because of their resistance against the Nazi government in racial and social aspects, among them Fr. Bernhard Lichtenberg
Bernhard Lichtenberg
Blessed Bernhard Lichtenberg was a German Roman Catholic priest and theologian, awarded the title righteous among the Nations....

. Himmler's
Heinrich Himmler
Heinrich Luitpold Himmler was Reichsführer of the SS, a military commander, and a leading member of the Nazi Party. As Chief of the German Police and the Minister of the Interior from 1943, Himmler oversaw all internal and external police and security forces, including the Gestapo...

 1941 Aktion Klostersturm (Operation Attack-the-Monastery) had also helped to spread fear among regime-critical Catholic clergy.

The nadir of resistance: 1940–42

The sweeping success of Hitler’s attack on France in May 1940 made the task of deposing him even more difficult. Most army officers, their fears of a war against the western powers apparently proved groundless, and gratified by Germany’s revenge against France for the defeat of 1918, reconciled themselves to Hitler’s regime, choosing to ignore its darker side. The task of leading the resistance groups for a time fell to civilians, although a hard core of military plotters remained active.

Carl Goerdeler, the former lord mayor of Leipzig, emerged as a key figure. His associates included the diplomat Ulrich von Hassell
Ulrich von Hassell
Ulrich von Hassell was a German diplomat during World War II. A member of the German Resistance against German dictator Adolf Hitler, Hassell was executed in the aftermath of the failed July 20 plot.- Family :...

, the Prussian Finance Minister Johannes Popitz
Johannes Popitz
Johannes Popitz was a Prussian finance minister and a member of the German Resistance against Nazi Germany.- Life :...

, and Helmuth James Graf von Moltke
Helmuth James Graf von Moltke
Helmuth James Graf von Moltke was a German jurist who, as a draftee in the German Abwehr, acted to subvert German human-rights abuses of people in territories occupied by Germany during World War II and subsequently became a founding member of the Kreisau Circle resistance group, whose members...

, heir to a famous name and the leading figure in the Kreisau Circle
Kreisau Circle
The Kreisau Circle was the name the Nazi Gestapo gave to a group of German dissidents centered on the Kreisau estate of Helmuth James Graf von Moltke. The Kreisauer Kreis is celebrated as one of the instances of German opposition to the Nazi regime...

 of Prussian oppositionists, which included other young aristocrats such as Adam von Trott zu Solz
Adam von Trott zu Solz
Adam von Trott zu Solz was a German lawyer and diplomat who was involved in the conservative opposition to the Nazi regime, and who played a central part in the 20 July Plot...

 and Peter Yorck von Wartenburg
Peter Yorck von Wartenburg
Peter Graf Yorck von Wartenburg was a German jurist and a member of the German Resistance against Nazism.-Biography:...

, and later Gottfried Graf von Bismarck-Schönhausen
Gottfried Graf von Bismarck-Schönhausen
Count Gottfried von Bismarck-Schönhausen was a German politician and German Resistance figure.Born in Berlin, he was a grandson of the Chancellor Otto von Bismarck. He was a member of the Nazi Party and in 1933 he was elected to the Reichstag as a Nazi member...

, who was a Nazi member of the Reichstag and a senior officer in the SS. Goerdeler was also in touch with the SPD underground, whose most prominent figure was Julius Leber
Julius Leber
Julius Leber was a German politician of the SPD and a member of the German Resistance against the Nazi régime.-Early life:...

, and with Christian opposition groups, both Catholic and Protestant.

These men saw themselves as the leaders of a post-Hitler government, but they had no clear conception of how to bring this about, except through assassinating Hitler – a step which many of them still opposed on ethical grounds. Their plans could never surmount the fundamental problem of Hitler’s overwhelming popularity among the German people. They preoccupied themselves with philosophical debates and devising grand schemes for postwar Germany. The fact was that for nearly two years after the defeat of France, there was little scope for opposition activity.

In March 1941 Hitler revealed his plans for a “war of annihilation” against the Soviet Union to selected army officers in a speech given in Posen
Poznan
Poznań is a city on the Warta river in west-central Poland, with a population of 556,022 in June 2009. It is among the oldest cities in Poland, and was one of the most important centres in the early Polish state, whose first rulers were buried at Poznań's cathedral. It is sometimes claimed to be...

. In the audience was Colonel Henning von Tresckow
Henning von Tresckow
Generalmajor Herrmann Karl Robert "Henning" von Tresckow was a Major General in the German Wehrmacht who organized German resistance against Adolf Hitler. He attempted to assassinate Hitler in March 1943 and drafted the Valkyrie plan for a coup against the German government...

, who had not been involved in any of the earlier plots but was already a firm opponent of the Nazi regime. He was horrified by Hitler’s plan to unleash a new and even more terrible war in the east. As a nephew of Field Marshal Fedor von Bock
Fedor von Bock
Fedor von Bock was a German Generalfeldmarshall who served in the Wehrmacht during the Second World War. As a leader who lectured his soldiers about the honor of dying for the German Fatherland, he was nicknamed "Der Sterber"...

, he was very well connected. Assigned to the staff of his uncle’s command, Army Group Centre, for the forthcoming Operation Barbarossa
Operation Barbarossa
Operation Barbarossa was the code name for Germany's invasion of the Soviet Union during World War II that began on 22 June 1941. Over 4.5 million troops of the Axis powers invaded the USSR along a front., the largest invasion in the history of warfare...

, Tresckow systematically recruited oppositionists to the group’s staff, making it the new nerve centre of the army resistance.

Little could be done while Hitler’s armies advanced triumphantly into the western regions of the Soviet Union through 1941 and 1942 – even after the setback before Moscow
Moscow
Moscow is the capital, the most populous city, and the most populous federal subject of Russia. The city is a major political, economic, cultural, scientific, religious, financial, educational, and transportation centre of Russia and the continent...

 in December 1941 that led to the dismissal of both Brauchitsch and Bock. In December 1941 the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 entered the war, persuading some more realistic army officers that Germany must ultimately lose the war. But the life-and-death struggle on the eastern front posed new problems for the resistance. Most of its members were conservatives who hated and feared communism
Communism
Communism is a social, political and economic ideology that aims at the establishment of a classless, moneyless, revolutionary and stateless socialist society structured upon common ownership of the means of production...

 and the Soviet Union. How could the Nazi regime be overthrown and the war ended without allowing the Soviets to gain control of Germany or the whole of Europe? This question was made more acute when the Allies adopted their policy of demanding Germany’s “unconditional surrender” at the Casablanca Conference
Casablanca Conference (1943)
The Casablanca Conference was held at the Anfa Hotel in Casablanca, Morocco, then a French protectorate, from January 14 to 24, 1943, to plan the European strategy of the Allies during World War II. Present were Franklin D...

 of January 1943.

During 1942 the tireless Oster nevertheless succeeded in rebuilding an effective resistance network. His most important recruit was General Friedrich Olbricht
Friedrich Olbricht
General Friedrich Olbricht was a German general and one of the plotters involved in the attempt to assassinate Adolf Hitler at the Wolfsschanze in East Prussia on 20 July 1944.-Early life:...

, head of the General Army Office headquartered at the Bendlerblock
Bendlerblock
The Bendlerblock is a building in Berlin, located on the Stauffenbergstraße , south of the Tiergarten. The building was erected between 1911 and 1914 for the Imperial German Navy Offices. During the Weimar Republic it served as the seat of the Reichswehr command and the Ministry of Defence...

 in central Berlin, who controlled an independent system of communications to reserve units all over Germany. Linking this asset to Tresckow’s resistance group in Army Group Centre created what appeared to a viable structure for a new effort at organising a coup. Bock’s dismissal did not weaken Tresckow’s position. In fact he soon enticed Bock’s successor, General Hans von Kluge
Günther von Kluge
Günther Adolf Ferdinand “Hans” von Kluge was a German military leader. He was born in Posen into a Prussian military family. Kluge rose to the rank of Field Marshal in the Wehrmacht. He was also a recipient of the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves and Swords...

, at least part-way to supporting the resistance cause. Tresckow even brought Goerdeler, leader of the civilian resistance, to Army Group Centre to meet Kluge – an extremely dangerous tactic.

Communist resistance

The entry of the Soviet Union into the war had certain consequences for the civilian resistance. During the period of the Nazi-Soviet Pact, the KPD
Communist Party of Germany
The Communist Party of Germany was a major political party in Germany between 1918 and 1933, and a minor party in West Germany in the postwar period until it was banned in 1956...

’s only objective inside Germany was to keep itself in existence: it engaged in no active resistance to the Nazi regime. After June 1941, however, all Communists were expected to throw themselves into resistance work, including sabotage and espionage where this was possible, regardless of risk. A handful of Soviet agents, mostly exiled German Communists, were able to enter Germany to help the scattered underground KPD cells organise and take action. This led to the formation in 1942 of two separate communist groups, usually erroneously lumped together under the name Rote Kapelle (“Red Orchestra”), a codename given to these groups by the Gestapo.

The first “Red Orchestra” was an espionage network based in Berlin and coordinated by Leopold Trepper
Leopold Trepper
Leopold Trepper was an organizer of the Soviet spy ring Rote Kapelle prior to and during World War II....

, a GRU
GRU
GRU or Glavnoye Razvedyvatel'noye Upravleniye is the foreign military intelligence directorate of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation...

 agent sent into Germany in October 1941. This group made reports to the Soviet Union on German troop concentrations, air attacks on Germany, German aircraft production, and German fuel shipments. In France, it worked with the underground French Communist Party
French Communist Party
The French Communist Party is a political party in France which advocates the principles of communism.Although its electoral support has declined in recent decades, the PCF retains a large membership, behind only that of the Union for a Popular Movement , and considerable influence in French...

. Agents of this group even managed to tap the phone lines of the Abwehr in Paris. Trepper was eventually arrested and the group broken up by the spring of 1943.

The second and more important “Red Orchestra” group was entirely separate and was a genuine German resistance group, not controlled by the NKVD
NKVD
The People's Commissariat for Internal Affairs was the public and secret police organization of the Soviet Union that directly executed the rule of power of the Soviets, including political repression, during the era of Joseph Stalin....

 (the Societ intelligence agency and predecessor to the KGB
KGB
The KGB was the commonly used acronym for the . It was the national security agency of the Soviet Union from 1954 until 1991, and was the premier internal security, intelligence, and secret police organization during that time.The State Security Agency of the Republic of Belarus currently uses the...

). This group was led by Harro Schulze-Boysen
Harro Schulze-Boysen
Heinz Harro Max Wilhelm Georg Schulze-Boysen was a German officer, commentator, and German Resistance fighter against German dictator Adolf Hitler's Nazi régime.- Early life :...

, an intelligence officer at the Reich Air Ministry
Reich Air Ministry
thumb|300px|The Ministry of Aviation, December 1938The Ministry of Aviation was a government department during the period of Nazi Germany...

, and Arvid Harnack
Arvid Harnack
Arvid Harnack was a German jurist, economist, and resistance fighter in Nazi Germany.- Early years :...

, an official in the Ministry of Economics, both self-identified communists but not apparently KPD members. The group however contained people of various beliefs and affiliations. It included the theatre producer Adam Kuckhoff
Adam Kuckhoff
Adam Kuckhoff was a German writer, journalist, and resistance fighter in the Third Reich....

, the author Günther Weisenborn, the journalist John Graudenz and the pianist Helmut Roloff
Helmut Roloff
Helmut Roloff was a German pianist and teacher.Roloff was born in Giessen where his father was a university history professor who was a staunch anti-Nazi. Roloff entered the Hochschule für Musik in Berlin in 1935, studying with Richard Rüssler...

. It thus conformed to the general pattern of German resistance groups of being drawn mainly from elite groups.

The main activity of the group was collecting information about Nazi atrocities and distributing leaflets against Hitler rather than espionage. They passed what they had learned to foreign countries, through personal contacts with the U.S. embassy and, via a less direct connection, to the Soviet government. When Soviet agents tried to enlist this group in their service, Schulze-Boysen and Harnack refused, since they wanted to maintain their political independence. The group was betrayed to the Gestapo in August 1942 by Johann Wenzel, a member of the Trepper group who also knew of the Schulze-Boysen group and who informed on them after being arrested. Schulze-Boysen, Harnack and other members of the group were arrested and secretly executed.

Meanwhile, another Communist resistance group was operating in Berlin, led by a Jewish electrician, Herbert Baum
Herbert Baum
Herbert Baum was a Jewish member of the German resistance against National Socialism.Baum was born in Mosina, Province of Posen; his family moved to Berlin when he was young...

, and involving up to a hundred people. Until 1941 the group operated a study circle, but after the German attack on the Soviet Union a core group advanced to active resistance. In May 1942, the group staged an arson attack on an anti-Soviet propaganda display at the Lustgarten
Lustgarten
The Lustgarten is a park on Museum Island in central Berlin, near the site of the former Berliner Stadtschloss of which it was originally a part...

 in central Berlin. The attack was poorly organised and most of the Baum group was arrested. Twenty were sentenced to death, while Baum himself "died in custody." This fiasco ended overt Communist resistance activities, although the KPD underground continued to operate, and emerged from hiding in the last days of the war.

The aeroplane assassination attempt

In late 1942 Tresckow and Olbricht formulated a plan to assassinate Hitler and stage a coup. On 13 March 1943, returning from his easternmost headquarters FHQ Wehrwolf
Wehrwolf
Führerhauptquartier Werwolf was the codename used for one of Adolf Hitler's World War II Eastern Front military headquarters located in a pine forest about north of Vinnytsia in Ukraine that was used between 1942 and 1943...

 near Vinnitsa
Vinnytsia
Vinnytsia is a city located on the banks of the Southern Bug, in central Ukraine. It is the administrative center of Vinnytsia Oblast.-Names:...

 to Wolfschanze in East Prussia, Hitler was scheduled to make a stop-over at the headquarters of Army Group Centre
Army Group Centre
Army Group Centre was the name of two distinct German strategic army groups that fought on the Eastern Front in World War II. The first Army Group Centre was created on 22 June 1941, as one of three German Army formations assigned to the invasion of the Soviet Union...

 at Smolensk
Smolensk
Smolensk is a city and the administrative center of Smolensk Oblast, Russia, located on the Dnieper River. Situated west-southwest of Moscow, this walled city was destroyed several times throughout its long history since it was on the invasion routes of both Napoleon and Hitler. Today, Smolensk...

. For such an occasion, Tresckow had prepared three options:
  1. Major Georg von Boeselager
    Georg von Boeselager
    Georg Freiherr von Boeselager was a German nobleman and an officer of the Wehrmacht, who ultimately reached the rank of Colonel of Cavalry....

    , in command of a cavalry honor guard, could intercept Hitler in a forest and overwhelm the SS bodyguard and the Führer in a fair fight; this course was rejected because of the prospect of a large number of German soldiers fighting each other, and a possible failure regarding the unexpected strength of the escort.
  2. A joint assassination could be carried out during dinner; this idea was abandoned as supporting officers abhorred the idea of shooting the unarmed tyrant.
  3. A bomb could be smuggled on Hitler's plane.


Tresckow asked Lieutenant Colonel Heinz Brandt
Heinz Brandt
Generalmajor Heinz Brandt was a German Wehrmacht staff officer who served during World War II as an aide to Generalleutnant Adolf Heusinger, who was the head of the operations unit of the General Staff...

, on Hitler's staff and usually on the same plane that carried Hitler, to take a parcel with him, supposedly the price of a bet won by Tresckow's friend General Stieff
Helmuth Stieff
Helmuth Stieff was a German general and a member of the OKH during World War II. He took part in attempts by the German resistance to assassinate Hitler, on July 7 and on July 20, 1944....

. It concealed a bomb, disguised in a box for two bottles of Cointreau
Cointreau
Cointreau is a brand of triple sec produced in Saint-Barthélemy-d'Anjou, France. It is drunk as an apéritif and digestif, and is a component of several well-known cocktails. It was originally called "Curaçao Blanco Triple Sec".-Production:...

. Tresckow's aide, Lieutenant Fabian von Schlabrendorff
Fabian von Schlabrendorff
Fabian Ludwig Georg Adolf Kurt von Schlabrendorff , was a German jurist, soldier and member of the resistance against Adolf Hitler....

, set the fuse and handed over the parcel to Brandt who boarded the same plane as Hitler.

Hitler’s Focke-Wulf 200 Condor was expected to explode about 30 minutes later near Minsk
Minsk
- Ecological situation :The ecological situation is monitored by Republican Center of Radioactive and Environmental Control .During 2003–2008 the overall weight of contaminants increased from 186,000 to 247,400 tons. The change of gas as industrial fuel to mazut for financial reasons has worsened...

, close enough to the front to be attributed to Soviet fighters. Olbricht was to use the resulting crisis to mobilise his Reserve Army network to seize power in Berlin, Vienna, Munich and in the German Wehrkreis centres. It was an ambitious but credible plan, and might have worked if Hitler had indeed been killed, although persuading Army units to fight and overcome what could certainly have been fierce resistance from the SS could have been a major obstacle.

But, as with Elser’s bomb in 1939 and all other attempts, luck favoured Hitler again, which was attributed to "Vorsehung" (providence
Divine providence
In Christian theology, divine providence, or simply providence, is God's activity in the world. " Providence" is also used as a title of God exercising His providence, and then the word are usually capitalized...

). The British-made chemical pencil detonator
Pencil detonator
A pencil detonator or time pencil is a time fuze designed to be connected to a detonator or short length of safety fuse. They are about the same size and shape as a pencil, hence the name. They were introduced during World War II.- No. 10 delay switch :...

 on the bomb had been tested many times and was considered reliable. It went off, but the bomb did not. The percussion cap
Percussion cap
The percussion cap, introduced around 1830, was the crucial invention that enabled muzzleloading firearms to fire reliably in any weather.Before this development, firearms used flintlock ignition systems which produced flint-on-steel sparks to ignite a pan of priming powder and thereby fire the...

 apparently became too cold as the parcel was carried in the unheated cargo hold.

Displaying great sangfroid, Schlabrendorff took the next plane to retrieve the package from Colonel Brandt before the content was discovered. The blocks of plastic explosives were later used by Gersdorff and Stauffenberg.

The suicide bombing attempts

A second attempt was made a few days later on 21 March 1943, when Hitler visited an exhibition of captured Soviet weaponry in Berlin's Zeughaus
Zeughaus
The Zeughaus of Berlin is the oldest structure on the Unter den Linden. It was built by the Brandenburg Elector Frederick III between 1695 and 1730 in the baroque style, to be used as an artillery arsenal...

. One of Tresckow’s friends, Colonel Rudolf Christoph Freiherr von Gersdorff
Rudolf Christoph Freiherr von Gersdorff
Rudolf Christoph Freiherr von Gersdorff was a military officer in Germany’s Weimar-period Reichswehr and Nazi-period Wehrmacht. He attempted to assassinate Adolf Hitler by suicide bombing in March 1943; the plan failed but he was undetected. In April 1943 he discovered the mass graves of the...

, was scheduled to explain some exhibits, and volunteered to carry out a suicide bombing using the same bomb that had failed to go off on the plane, concealed on his person. But the only new chemical fuse he could obtain was a ten-minute one. Hitler again left prematurely after hurrying through the exhibition much quicker than the scheduled 30 minutes. Gersdorff had to dash to a bathroom to defuse the bomb to save his life, and more importantly, prevent any suspicion. This second failure temporarily demoralised the plotters at Army Group Centre. Gersdorff reported about the attempt after the war, the footage is often seen on German TV documentaries ("Die Nacht des Widerstands" etc.), including a photo showing Gersdorff and Hitler.

Axel von dem Bussche, member of the elite Infantry Regiment 9, volunteered to kill Hitler with hand grenades in November 1943 during a presentation of new winter uniforms, but the train containing them was destroyed by Allied bombs in Berlin, and the event had to be postponed. A second presentation scheduled for December at the Wolfsschanze
Wolfsschanze
Wolf's Lair is the standard English name for Wolfsschanze, Adolf Hitler's first World War II Eastern Front military headquarters, one of several Führerhauptquartier or FHQs located in various parts of Europe...

 was canceled on short notice as Hitler decided to travel to Berchtesgaden.

In January 1944, Bussche volunteered for another assassination attempt, but then he lost a leg in Russia. On February 11 another young officer, Ewald Heinrich von Kleist tried to assassinate Hitler in the same way von dem Bussche had planned. However Hitler again canceled the event which would have allowed Kleist to approach him.

On 11 March 1944 Eberhard von Breitenbuch
Eberhard von Breitenbuch
Eberhard von Breitenbuch was a German cavalry officer who served in Army Group Centre of the Wehrmacht during World War II with the rank of Rittmeister and took part in the military-based conspiracy against Adolf Hitler that culminated in the July 20 Plot.He was born in Dietzhausen near Suhl,...

 volunteered for an assassination attempt at the Berghof
Berghof (Hitler)
The Berghof was Adolf Hitler's home in the Obersalzberg of the Bavarian Alps near Berchtesgaden, Bavaria, Germany. Other than the Wolfsschanze in East Prussia, Hitler spent more time at the Berghof than anywhere else during World War II. It was also one of the most widely known of Hitler's...

 using a 7.65 mm Browning pistol concealed in his trouser pocket. He was not able to carry out the plan because guards would not allow him into the conference room with the Führer
Führer
Führer , alternatively spelled Fuehrer in both English and German when the umlaut is not available, is a German title meaning leader or guide now most associated with Adolf Hitler, who modelled it on Benito Mussolini's title il Duce, as well as with Georg von Schönerer, whose followers also...

.

The next occasion was a weapons exhibition on July 7 at Schloss Klessheim
Schloss Klessheim
Schloss Klessheim is a Baroque palace situated west of Salzburg in the Austrian commune of Wals-Siezenheim. A former summer residence of the Archbishops of Salzburg, it is now used by Salzburg Casino.-History:...

 near Salzburg, but Helmuth Stieff
Helmuth Stieff
Helmuth Stieff was a German general and a member of the OKH during World War II. He took part in attempts by the German resistance to assassinate Hitler, on July 7 and on July 20, 1944....

 did not trigger the bomb.

Stalingrad and White Rose

At the end of 1942 Germany suffered a series of military defeats, the first at El Alamein
Second Battle of El Alamein
The Second Battle of El Alamein marked a major turning point in the Western Desert Campaign of the Second World War. The battle took place over 20 days from 23 October – 11 November 1942. The First Battle of El Alamein had stalled the Axis advance. Thereafter, Lieutenant-General Bernard Montgomery...

, the second with the successful Allied landings in North Africa (Operation Torch
Operation Torch
Operation Torch was the British-American invasion of French North Africa in World War II during the North African Campaign, started on 8 November 1942....

), and the third the disastrous defeat at Stalingrad
Battle of Stalingrad
The Battle of Stalingrad was a major battle of World War II in which Nazi Germany and its allies fought the Soviet Union for control of the city of Stalingrad in southwestern Russia. The battle took place between 23 August 1942 and 2 February 1943...

, which ended any hope of defeating the Soviet Union. Most experienced senior officers now came to the conclusion that Hitler was leading Germany to defeat, and that the result of this would be the Soviet conquest of Germany – the worst fate imaginable. This gave the military resistance new impetus.

Halder had been dismissed in 1942 and there was now no independent central leadership of the Army. His nominal successors, Field Marshal Wilhelm Keitel
Wilhelm Keitel
Wilhelm Bodewin Gustav Keitel was a German field marshal . As head of the Oberkommando der Wehrmacht and de facto war minister, he was one of Germany's most senior military leaders during World War II...

 and General Alfred Jodl
Alfred Jodl
Alfred Josef Ferdinand Jodl was a German military commander, attaining the position of Chief of the Operations Staff of the Armed Forces High Command during World War II, acting as deputy to Wilhelm Keitel...

, were no more than Hitler’s messengers. Tresckow and Goerdeler tried again to recruit the senior Army field commanders to support a seizure of power. Kluge was by now won over completely. Gersdorff was sent to see Field Marshal Erich von Manstein
Erich von Manstein
Erich von Manstein was a field marshal in World War II. He became one of the most prominent commanders of Germany's World War II armed forces...

, the commander of Army Group South in the Ukraine
Ukraine
Ukraine is a country in Eastern Europe. It has an area of 603,628 km², making it the second largest contiguous country on the European continent, after Russia...

. Manstein agreed that Hitler was leading Germany to defeat, but told Gersdorff that “Prussian field marshals do not mutiny.” Field Marshal Gerd von Rundstedt
Gerd von Rundstedt
Karl Rudolf Gerd von Rundstedt was a Generalfeldmarschall of the German Army during World War II. He held some of the highest field commands in all phases of the war....

, commander in the west, gave a similar answer. The prospect of a united German Army seizing power from Hitler was as far away as ever. Once again, however, neither officer reported that they had been approached in this way.

Nevertheless, the days when the military and civilian plotters could expect to escape detection were ending. After Stalingrad, Himmler would have had to be naïve not to expect that conspiracies against the regime would be hatched in the Army and elsewhere. He already suspected Canaris and his subordinates at the Abwehr. In March 1943 two of them, Oster and Hans von Dohnanyi
Hans von Dohnanyi
Hans von Dohnanyi was a German jurist, rescuer of Jews, and German resistance fighter against the Nazi régime.-Early life:...

, were dismissed on suspicion of opposition activity, although there was yet insufficient evidence to have them arrested. On the civilian front, Dietrich Bonhoeffer
Dietrich Bonhoeffer
Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a German Lutheran pastor, theologian and martyr. He was a participant in the German resistance movement against Nazism and a founding member of the Confessing Church. He was involved in plans by members of the Abwehr to assassinate Adolf Hitler...

 was also arrested at this time, and Goerdeler was under suspicion.

The Gestapo had been led to Dohnanyi following the arrest of Wilhelm Schmidhuber, a smuggler and currency speculator who had helped Dohnanyi with information and with smuggling Jews out of Germany. Under interrogation, Schmidhuber gave the Gestapo details of the Oster-Dohnanyi group in the Abwehr and also Goerdeler and Beck's involvement in opposition activities. The Gestapo reported all this to Himmler, with the observation that Canaris must be protecting Oster and Dohnanyi and the recommendation that he be arrested. Himmler passed the file back with the note "Kindly leave Canaris alone." Either Himmler felt Canaris was too powerful to tackle at this stage, or he wanted him and his oppositional network protected for reasons of his own. Nevertheless, Oster's usefulness to the resistance was now greatly reduced. But the Gestapo did not have information about the full workings of the resistance. Most importantly, they did not know about the resistance networks based on Army Group Centre or the Bendlerblock.

Meanwhile, the disaster at Stalingrad, which cost Germany 400,000 casualties, was sending waves of horror and grief through German society, but causing remarkably little reduction in the people’s faith in Hitler and in Germany’s ultimate victory. This was a source of great frustration to the military and civil service plotters, who virtually all came from the elite and had privileged access to information, giving them a much greater appreciation of the hopelessness of Germany’s situation than was possessed by the German people.

The only visible manifestation of opposition to the regime following Stalingrad was an unexpected and completely spontaneous outbreak of anti-war sentiment among a small number of university students, organised by a group called the White Rose
White Rose
The White Rose was a non-violent/intellectual resistance group in Nazi Germany, consisting of students from the University of Munich and their philosophy professor...

, centered in Munich but with connections in Berlin, Hamburg, Stuttgart and Vienna. In January 1943 they launched a campaign of antiwar handbills and graffiti in and around Ludwig Maximilians University
Ludwig Maximilians University of Munich
The Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich , commonly known as the University of Munich or LMU, is a university in Munich, Germany...

 in Munich. Inevitably, they were soon detected and arrested. The three ringleaders, Hans Scholl
Hans Scholl
Hans Fritz Scholl was a founding member of the White Rose resistance movement in Nazi Germany.-Biography:...

, Sophie Scholl
Sophie Scholl
Sophia Magdalena Scholl was a German student, active within the White Rose non-violent resistance group in Nazi Germany. She was convicted of high treason after having been found distributing anti-war leaflets at the University of Munich with her brother Hans...

 and Christoph Probst
Christoph Probst
Christoph Hermann Probst was a German student of medicine and a member of the White Rose resistance group.-White Rose:...

, were given perfunctory trials and executed, as was Kurt Huber
Kurt Huber
Kurt Huber was a member of the White Rose group, which carried out resistance against Nazi Germany.-Early life:...

, a professor of music and philosophy accused of inspiring their actions, and several others.

This outbreak was surprising and worrying to the Nazi regime, because the universities had been strongholds of Nazi sentiment even before Hitler had come to power. Similarly, it gave heart to the scattered and demoralised resistance groups. But White Rose was not a sign of widespread civilian disaffection from the regime, and had no imitators elsewhere. The underground SPD and KPD were able to maintain their networks, and reported increasing discontent at the course of the war and at the resultant economic hardship, particularly among the industrial workers and among farmers (who suffered from the acute shortage of labour with so many young men away at the front). But there was nothing approaching active hostility to the regime. Most Germans continued to revere Hitler and blamed Himmler or other subordinates for their troubles. And from late 1943 fear of the advancing Soviets and prospects of a military offensive from the Western Powers eclipsed resentment at the regime and if anything hardened the will to resist the advancing allies.

Unorganised resistance

It cannot be disputed that many Germans supported the regime until the end of the war. But beneath the surface of German society there were also currents of resistance, if not always consciously political. The German historian Detlev Peukert
Detlev Peukert
Detlev Peukert was a German historian, noted for his studies of the relationship between what he called the "spirit of science" and the Holocaust and in social history and the Weimar Republic. Peukert taught modern history at the University of Essen and served as director of the Research Institute...

, who pioneered the study of German society during the Nazi era, called this phenomenon "everyday resistance." His research was based partly on the regular reports by the Gestapo and the SD on morale and public opinion, and on the "Reports on Germany" which were produced by the exiled SPD based on information from its underground network in Germany and which were acknowledged to be very well informed.

Peukert and other writers have shown that the most persistent sources of dissatisfaction in Nazi Germany were the state of the economy and anger at the corruption of Nazi Party officials — although these rarely affected the personal popularity of Hitler himself. The Nazi regime is frequently credited with "curing unemployment," but this was done mainly by conscription and rearmament — the civilian economy remained weak throughout the Nazi period. Although prices were fixed by law, wages remained low and there were acute shortages, particularly once the war started. To this after 1942 was added the acute misery caused by Allied air attacks on German cities. The high living and venality of Nazi officials such as Hermann Göring
Hermann Göring
Hermann Wilhelm Göring, was a German politician, military leader, and a leading member of the Nazi Party. He was a veteran of World War I as an ace fighter pilot, and a recipient of the coveted Pour le Mérite, also known as "The Blue Max"...

 aroused increasing anger. The result was "deep dissatisfaction among the population of all parts of the country, caused by failings in the economy, government intrusions into private life, disruption of accepted tradition and custom, and police-state controls."

Opposition based on this widespread dissatisfaction usually took "passive" forms — absenteeism, malingering, spreading rumours, trading on the black market, hoarding, avoiding various forms of state service such as donations to Nazi causes. But sometimes it took more active forms, such as warning people about to be arrested, hiding them or helping them to escape, or turning a blind eye to oppositionist activities. Among the industrial working class, where the underground SPD and KPD networks were always active, there were frequent if short-lived strikes. These were generally tolerated, at least before the outbreak of war, provided the demands of the strikers were purely economic and not political.

Another form of resistance was assisting the persecuted German Jews. By mid 1942 the deportation of German and Austrian Jews to the extermination camps in Poland was well under way. It is argued by some writers that the great majority of Germans were indifferent to the fate of the Jews, and a substantial proportion actively supported the Nazi program of extermination But a minority persisted in trying to help Jews, even in the face of serious risk to themselves and their families. This was easiest in Berlin (where in any case the Jews were progressively concentrated by the regime), and easiest for wealthy and well-connected people, particularly women.

Aristocrats such as Maria von Maltzan
Maria von Maltzan
Maria Helene Françoise Izabel Gräfin von Maltzan, Freiin zu Wartenberg und Penzlin was an aristocratic member of the German Resistance against Adolf Hitler who also saved many Jews.-Biography:...

 and Marie Therese von Hammerstein obtained papers for Jews and helped many to escape from Germany. In Wieblingen in Baden, Elisabeth von Thadden
Elisabeth von Thadden
Elisabeth Adelheid Hildegard von Thadden was a German educator who founded a private school that now bears her name, and an outspoken critic of the Nazi régime...

, a private girls' school principal, disregarded official edicts and continued to enroll Jewish girls at her school until May 1941 when the school was nationalised and she was dismissed (she was executed in 1944, following the Frau Solf Tea Party
Frau Solf Tea Party
The Solf Circle was an informal gathering of German intellectuals involved in the resistance against Nazi Germany. Most members were arrested and executed after attending a tea party held near Heidelberg on September 10, 1943, at the residence of Elisabeth von Thadden...

). A Berlin Protestant Minister, Heinrich Grüber, organised the smuggling of Jews to the Netherlands
Netherlands
The Netherlands is a constituent country of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, located mainly in North-West Europe and with several islands in the Caribbean. Mainland Netherlands borders the North Sea to the north and west, Belgium to the south, and Germany to the east, and shares maritime borders...

. At the Foreign Office, Canaris conspired to send a number of Jews to Switzerland under various pretexts. It is estimated that 2,000 Jews were hidden in Berlin until the end of the war. Martin Gilbert
Martin Gilbert
Sir Martin John Gilbert, CBE, PC is a British historian and Fellow of Merton College, University of Oxford. He is the author of over eighty books, including works on the Holocaust and Jewish history...

 has documented numerous cases of Germans and Austrians, including officials and Army officers, who saved the lives of Jews.
There was only one public manifestation of opposition to the Nazi persecution of the German Jews, the Rosenstrasse protest
Rosenstrasse protest
The Rosenstrasse protest was a nonviolent protest in Rosenstraße in Berlin in February and March 1943, carried out by the non-Jewish wives and relatives of Jewish men who had been arrested for deportation. The protests escalated until the men were released...

 of February 1943, sparked by the arrest and threatened deportation to death camps of 1,800 Jewish men married to non-Jewish women. Before these men could be deported, their wives and other relatives rallied outside the building in Rosenstrasse where the men were held. About 6,000 people, mostly women, rallied in shifts in the winter cold for over a week. Eventually Himmler, worried about the effect on civilian morale, gave in and allowed the arrested men to be released. Some who had already been deported and were on their way to Auschwitz were brought back. There was no retaliation against the protesters, and most of the Jewish men survived the war. This incident was remarkable both for its success and its uniqueness, and again raises the question of what might have happened if more Germans had been willing to protest against the deportations.

Nazism had a powerful appeal to German youth, particularly middle-class youth, and German universities were strongholds of Nazism even before Hitler came to power. The Hitler Youth
Hitler Youth
The Hitler Youth was a paramilitary organization of the Nazi Party. It existed from 1922 to 1945. The HJ was the second oldest paramilitary Nazi group, founded one year after its adult counterpart, the Sturmabteilung...

 sought to mobilise all young Germans behind the regime, and apart from stubborn resistance in some rural Catholic areas, was generally successful in the first period of Nazi rule. After about 1938, however, persistent alienation among some sections of German youth began to appear. This rarely took the form of overt political opposition — the White Rose
White Rose
The White Rose was a non-violent/intellectual resistance group in Nazi Germany, consisting of students from the University of Munich and their philosophy professor...

 group was a striking exception, but was striking mainly for its uniqueness. Much more common was what would now be called "dropping out" — a passive refusal to take part in official youth culture and a search for alternatives. Although none of the unofficial youth groups amounted to a serious threat to the Nazi regime, and although they provided no aid or comfort to those groups within the German elite who were actively plotting against Hitler, they do serve to show that there were currents of opposition at other levels of German society.

Examples were the so-called Edelweisspiraten
Edelweiss Pirates
The Edelweiss Pirates were a loose group of youth culture in Nazi Germany. They emerged in western Germany out of the German Youth Movement of the late 1930s in response to the strict regimentation of the Hitler Youth...

("Edelweiss Pirates"), a loose network of working-class youth groups in a number of cities, who held unauthorised meetings and engaged in street fights with the Hitler Youth; the Meuten
Leipzig Meuten
The Leipzig Meuten, were anti-Nazi gangs of children, teenagers and young adults in Germany. They were similar to the Edelweiss Pirates, but came from more organised socialist or communist traditions. Between 1937 and 1939, die Meuten in Leipzig had an estimated 1500 members....

 group in Leipzig
Leipzig
Leipzig Leipzig has always been a trade city, situated during the time of the Holy Roman Empire at the intersection of the Via Regia and Via Imperii, two important trade routes. At one time, Leipzig was one of the major European centres of learning and culture in fields such as music and publishing...

, a more politicised group with links to the KPD underground, which had more than a thousand members in the late 1930s; and, most notably, the Swingjugend
Swing Kids
The Swing Kids were a group of jazz and swing lovers in Germany in the 1930s, mainly in Hamburg and Berlin. They were composed of 14- to 18-year-old boys and girls in high school, most of them middle- or upper-class students, but some apprentice workers as well...

, middle-class youth who met in secret clubs in Berlin and most other large cities to listen to swing
Swing (genre)
Swing music, also known as swing jazz or simply swing, is a form of jazz music that developed in the early 1930s and became a distinctive style by 1935 in the United States...

, jazz
Jazz
Jazz is a musical style that originated at the beginning of the 20th century in African American communities in the Southern United States. It was born out of a mix of African and European music traditions. From its early development until the present, jazz has incorporated music from 19th and 20th...

 and other music deemed "degenerate" by the Nazi authorities. This movement, which involved distinctive forms of dress and gradually become more consciously political, became so popular that it provoked a crackdown: in 1941 Himmler ordered the arrest of Swing activists and had some sent to concentration camps.

In October 1944, as the American and British armies approached the western borders of Germany, there was a serious outbreak of disorder in the bomb-ravaged city of Cologne
Cologne
Cologne is Germany's fourth-largest city , and is the largest city both in the Germany Federal State of North Rhine-Westphalia and within the Rhine-Ruhr Metropolitan Area, one of the major European metropolitan areas with more than ten million inhabitants.Cologne is located on both sides of the...

, which had been largely evacuated. The Edelweisspiraten linked up with gangs of deserters, escaped prisoners and foreign workers, and the underground KPD network, to engage in looting and sabotage, and the assassination of Gestapo and Nazi Party officials. Explosives were stolen with the objective of blowing up the Gestapo headquarters. Himmler, fearing the resistance would spread to other cities as the Allied armies advanced into Germany, ordered a savage crackdown, and for days gunbattles raged in the ruined streets of Cologne. More than 200 people were arrested and dozens were hanged in public, among them six teenaged Edelweisspiraten, including Bartholomäus Schink.

Relations with Allies

The various groups of German resistance against Nazi government had different attitudes to the Allies. The most visible resistance group of the July 20 plot wasn't interested in dealing with all the Allies, and pressed demands against such Allied countries as Poland and the Soviet Union; some of its members were involved in atrocities against people in these countries. In particular the July 20th plotters demanded in their proposals to occupy Poland and annex its territory, while occupying the rest of East Europe and continuing war with the Soviet Union. The token representative of the July 20 Group, Claus von Stauffenberg, was known for his support towards German colonization of Poland as well as racist remarks regarding Polish Jews

Many postwar German commentators blamed the allies for having isolated the resistance with their demand of unconditional surrender, while ignoring that the resistance offered unrealistic demands towards the Allies. While Anglo-Saxon historians too have criticized the unconditional surrender, most of them agree that it had no real impact on the final outcome of the war.
Prior to the formulation of unconditional surrender by the Allies, the peace demands sent from the German resistance were hardly satisfactory; for example in 1941 a proposal by Goerdeler demanded borders of 1914 with France, Belgium and Poland, as well as acceptance of annexation of Austria and Sudetenland.

While German popular memory and public discourse portrays the resistance as isolated due to demand of unconditional surrender, in reality its isolation was due to unrealistic expectations of what the Allies would accept; while German commentators write that the resistance tried "to save that which remained to be saved", they omit the fact that it included a significant portion of territories conquered by Nazi Germany from its neighbours..
A SHAEF directive prohibited activities aimed at promoting German revolt against the Nazi regime.

The Allied doctrine of unconditional surrender
Unconditional surrender
Unconditional surrender is a surrender without conditions, in which no guarantees are given to the surrendering party. In modern times unconditional surrenders most often include guarantees provided by international law. Announcing that only unconditional surrender is acceptable puts psychological...

 meant that "... those Germans — and particularly those German generals — who might have been ready to throw Hitler over, and were able to do so, were discouraged from making the attempt by their inability to extract from the Allies any sort of assurance that such action would improve the treatment meted out to their country."

On 11 December, OSS
Office of Strategic Services
The Office of Strategic Services was a United States intelligence agency formed during World War II. It was the wartime intelligence agency, and it was a predecessor of the Central Intelligence Agency...

 operative William Donovan
William Joseph Donovan
William Joseph Donovan was a United States soldier, lawyer and intelligence officer, best remembered as the wartime head of the Office of Strategic Services...

 sent U.S. President Roosevelt a telegraph message from Bern, warning him of the consequences that the knowledge of the Morgenthau plan
Morgenthau Plan
The Morgenthau Plan, proposed by United States Secretary of the Treasury Henry Morgenthau, Jr., advocated that the Allied occupation of Germany following World War II include measures to eliminate Germany's ability to wage war.-Overview:...

 had had on German resistance; by showing them that the enemy planned the enslavement of Germany it had welded together ordinary Germans and the regime; the Germans continue to fight because they are convinced that defeat will bring nothing but oppression and exploitation. The message was a translation of a recent article in the Neue Zürcher Zeitung
Neue Zürcher Zeitung
The Neue Zürcher Zeitung is a major German language Swiss daily newspaper based in Zurich.One of the oldest newspapers still published, it originally appeared as Zürcher Zeitung, edited by Salomon Gessner, from January 12, 1780, and was renamed to Neue Zürcher Zeitung in 1821...

.

So far, the Allies have not offered the opposition any serious encouragement. On the contrary, they have again and again welded together the people and the Nazis by statements published, either out of indifference or with a purpose. To take a recent example, the Morgenthau plan gave Dr. Goebbels the best possible chance. He was able to prove to his countrymen, in black and white, that the enemy planned the enslavement of Germany. The conviction that Germany had nothing to expect from defeat but oppression and exploitation still prevails, and that accounts for the fact that the Germans continue to fight. It is not a question of a regime, but of the homeland itself, and to save that, every German is bound to obey the call, whether he be Nazi or member of the opposition.


On 20 July 1945 — the first anniversary of the failed attempt to kill Hitler — no mention whatsoever was made of the event. This was because reminding the German population of the fact that there had been active German resistance to Hitler would undermine the Allied efforts to instill a sense of collective guilt in the German populace. (See also Denazification
Denazification
Denazification was an Allied initiative to rid German and Austrian society, culture, press, economy, judiciary, and politics of any remnants of the National Socialist ideology. It was carried out specifically by removing those involved from positions of influence and by disbanding or rendering...

)

Towards July 20

By mid 1943 the tide of war was turning decisively against Germany. The last great offensive on the eastern front, Operation Citadel
Battle of Kursk
The Battle of Kursk took place when German and Soviet forces confronted each other on the Eastern Front during World War II in the vicinity of the city of Kursk, in the Soviet Union in July and August 1943. It remains both the largest series of armored clashes, including the Battle of Prokhorovka,...

, ended in the defeat at Kursk
Kursk
Kursk is a city and the administrative center of Kursk Oblast, Russia, located at the confluence of the Kur, Tuskar, and Seym Rivers. The area around Kursk was site of a turning point in the Russian-German struggle during World War II and the site of the largest tank battle in history...

, and in July Mussolini
Benito Mussolini
Benito Amilcare Andrea Mussolini was an Italian politician who led the National Fascist Party and is credited with being one of the key figures in the creation of Fascism....

 was overthrown. The Army and civilian plotters became more convinced than ever that Hitler must be assassinated so that a government acceptable to the western Allies could be formed and a separate peace negotiated in time to prevent a Soviet invasion of Germany. This scenario, while more credible than some of the resistance’s earlier plans, was based on a false premise
False premise
A false premise is an incorrect proposition that forms the basis of a logical syllogism. Since the premise is not correct, the conclusion drawn may be in error...

: that the western Allies would be willing to break with Stalin and negotiate a separate peace with a non-Nazi German government. In fact both Churchill
Winston Churchill
Sir Winston Leonard Spencer-Churchill, was a predominantly Conservative British politician and statesman known for his leadership of the United Kingdom during the Second World War. He is widely regarded as one of the greatest wartime leaders of the century and served as Prime Minister twice...

 and Roosevelt
Franklin D. Roosevelt
Franklin Delano Roosevelt , also known by his initials, FDR, was the 32nd President of the United States and a central figure in world events during the mid-20th century, leading the United States during a time of worldwide economic crisis and world war...

 were committed to the “unconditional surrender” formula.

Since the Foreign Office was a stronghold of resistance activists, it was not difficult for the conspirators to reach the Allies via diplomats in neutral countries. Theo Kordt, based in the German Embassy in Bern, and advised by the Foreign Officers resisters Ulrich von Hassell and Adam von Trott zu Solz, communicated with the British via intermediaries such as Willem Visser’t Hooft, secretary-general of the World Council of Churches
World Council of Churches
The World Council of Churches is a worldwide fellowship of 349 global, regional and sub-regional, national and local churches seeking unity, a common witness and Christian service. It is a Christian ecumenical organization that is based in the Ecumenical Centre in Geneva, Switzerland...

, based in Geneva
Geneva
Geneva In the national languages of Switzerland the city is known as Genf , Ginevra and Genevra is the second-most-populous city in Switzerland and is the most populous city of Romandie, the French-speaking part of Switzerland...

. The Kreisau Circle sent Dietrich Bonhoeffer
Dietrich Bonhoeffer
Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a German Lutheran pastor, theologian and martyr. He was a participant in the German resistance movement against Nazism and a founding member of the Confessing Church. He was involved in plans by members of the Abwehr to assassinate Adolf Hitler...

 and Helmut von Moltke to meet George Bell
George Bell (bishop)
George Kennedy Allen Bell was an Anglican theologian, Dean of Canterbury, Bishop of Chichester, member of the House of Lords and a pioneer of the Ecumenical Movement.-Early career:...

, Bishop of Chichester
Bishop of Chichester
The Bishop of Chichester is the Ordinary of the Church of England Diocese of Chichester in the Province of Canterbury. The diocese covers the Counties of East and West Sussex. The see is in the City of Chichester where the seat is located at the Cathedral Church of the Holy Trinity...

, at a church conference in Stockholm
Stockholm
Stockholm is the capital and the largest city of Sweden and constitutes the most populated urban area in Scandinavia. Stockholm is the most populous city in Sweden, with a population of 851,155 in the municipality , 1.37 million in the urban area , and around 2.1 million in the metropolitan area...

. Bell passed their messages and plans on to Foreign Secretary Anthony Eden
Anthony Eden
Robert Anthony Eden, 1st Earl of Avon, KG, MC, PC was a British Conservative politician, who was Prime Minister from 1955 to 1957...

. An American journalist, Louis P. Lochner
Louis P. Lochner
Ludwig Paul "Louis" Lochner was an American political activist, journalist, and author. During World War I, Lochner was a leading figure in the American and international anti-war movement. Later, Lochner served for many years as head the Berlin bureau of the Associated Press. He is best...

, carried coded messages out of Germany and took them to Roosevelt. Other envoys worked through Vatican channels, or via diplomats in Lisbon
Lisbon
Lisbon is the capital city and largest city of Portugal with a population of 545,245 within its administrative limits on a land area of . The urban area of Lisbon extends beyond the administrative city limits with a population of 3 million on an area of , making it the 9th most populous urban...

 – a recognised site for indirect communication between Germany and the Allied countries.

All of these overtures were rejected, and indeed they were usually simply ignored. The western Allies would give the German resistance no assistance or even recognition. There were several reasons for this. First, they did not know or trust the resisters, who seemed to them to be a clique of Prussian reactionaries concerned mainly to save their own skins now that Germany was losing the war. This attitude was encouraged by visceral anti-Germans such as Lord Vansittart, Churchill’s diplomatic adviser, who regarded all Germans as evil. Second, Roosevelt and Churchill were both acutely aware that the Soviet Union was bearing the brunt of the war against Hitler, and were aware of Stalin’s constant suspicions that they were doing deals behind his back. They thus refused any discussions that might be seen as suggesting a willingness to reach a separate peace with Germany. Third, the Allies were determined that in World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

, unlike in World War I
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...

, Germany must be comprehensively defeated in the field if another "stab in the back” myth
Dolchstosslegende
The stab-in-the-back legend is the notion, widely believed in right-wing circles in Germany after 1918, that the German Army did not lose World War I but was instead betrayed by the civilians on the home front, especially the republicans who overthrew the monarchy...

 was not to arise in Germany.

Olbricht now put forward a new strategy for staging a coup against Hitler. The Reserve Army had an operational plan called Operation Valkyrie, which was to be used if the disruption caused by the Allied bombing of German cities caused a breakdown in law and order, or a rising by the millions of slave labourers from occupied countries now being used in German factories. Olbricht suggested that this plan could be used to mobilise the Reserve Army to stage a coup. In the autumn of 1943, Tresckow revised Valkyrie plan and drafted supplemental orders to take control of German cities, disarm the SS and arrest the Nazi leadership after Hitler's assassination. Operation Valkyrie could only be put into effect by General Friedrich Fromm
Friedrich Fromm
Friedrich Fromm was a German army officer. He was also a recipient of the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross.-Early life:Fromm was born in Charlottenburg...

, commander of the Reserve Army, so he must either be won over to the conspiracy or in some way neutralised if the plan was to succeed. Fromm, like many senior officers, knew about the military conspiracies against Hitler but neither supported them nor reported them to the Gestapo.

In August 1943 Tresckow met a young staff officer, Colonel Claus Schenk Graf von Stauffenberg
Claus Schenk Graf von Stauffenberg
Claus Philipp Maria Justinian Schenk Graf von Stauffenberg commonly referred to as Claus Schenk Graf von Stauffenberg was a German army officer and Catholic aristocrat who was one of the leading members of the failed 20 July plot of 1944 to assassinate Adolf Hitler and remove the Nazi Party from...

, for the first time. Badly wounded in North Africa, Stauffenberg was a devout Catholic, a political conservative and a zealous German nationalist with a taste for philosophy. He had at first welcomed the Nazi regime but had become rapidly disillusioned. By 1942 he shared the widespread conviction among Army officers that Germany was being led to disaster and that Hitler must be removed from power. For some time his religious scruples had prevented him from coming to the conclusion that assassination was the correct way to achieve this. After Stalingrad, however, he decided that not assassinating Hitler would be a greater moral evil.

During late 1943 and early 1944 there were a series of attempts to get one of the military conspirators near enough to Hitler for long enough to kill him with a bomb or a revolver. But the task was becoming increasingly difficult. As the war situation deteriorated, Hitler no longer appeared in public and rarely visited Berlin. He spent most of his time at his headquarters in East Prussia, with occasional breaks at his Bavarian mountain retreat in Berchtesgaden
Berchtesgaden
Berchtesgaden is a municipality in the German Bavarian Alps. It is located in the south district of Berchtesgadener Land in Bavaria, near the border with Austria, some 30 km south of Salzburg and 180 km southeast of Munich...

. In both places he was heavily guarded and rarely saw people he did not already know and trust. Himmler and the Gestapo were increasingly suspicious of plots against Hitler, and specifically suspected the officers of the General Staff, which was indeed the place where most of the young officers willing to sacrifice themselves to kill Hitler were located. All these attempts therefore failed, sometimes by a matter of minutes.
Further blows came in January and February 1944 when first Moltke and then Canaris were arrested. By the summer of 1944 the Gestapo was closing in on the conspirators. On 4 July Julius Leber
Julius Leber
Julius Leber was a German politician of the SPD and a member of the German Resistance against the Nazi régime.-Early life:...

, who was trying to establish contact between his own underground SPD network and the KPD’s network in the interests of the “united front,” was arrested after attending a meeting which had been infiltrated by the Gestapo. There was a sense that time was running out, both on the battlefield, where the eastern front was in full retreat and where the Allies had landed in France on 6 June
D-Day
D-Day is a term often used in military parlance to denote the day on which a combat attack or operation is to be initiated. "D-Day" often represents a variable, designating the day upon which some significant event will occur or has occurred; see Military designation of days and hours for similar...

, and in Germany, where the resistance’s room for manoeuvre was rapidly contracting. The belief that this was the last chance for action seized the conspirators. Few now believed that the Allies would agree to a separate peace with a non-Nazi government, even if Hitler was assassinated. Leber in particular had argued that “unconditional surrender” was inevitable and the only question was whether it would be before or after the Soviets invaded Germany.

By this time the core of the conspirators had begun to think of themselves as doomed men, whose actions were more symbolic than real. The purpose of the conspiracy was seen by some of them as saving the honour of themselves, their families, the Army and Germany through a grand, if futile, gesture, rather than altering the course of history. Tresckow said to Stauffenberg through one of his aides, Lieutenant Heinrich Graf von Lehndorff-Steinort
Heinrich Graf von Lehndorff-Steinort
Heinrich Ahasverus Graf von Lehndorff-Steinort was a member of the July 20 Plot against Adolf Hitler.- Biography :...

: “The assassination must be attempted, coûte que coûte [whatever the cost]. Even if it fails, we must take action in Berlin. For the practical purpose no longer matters; what matters now is that the German resistance movement must take the plunge before the eyes of the world and of history. Compared to that, nothing else matters.”

In retrospect it is surprising that these months of plotting by the resistance groups in the Army and the state apparatus, in which dozens of people were involved and of which many more, including very senior Army officers, were aware, apparently totally escaped the attentions of the Gestapo. In fact, as was noted earlier, the Gestapo had known since February 1943 of both the Abwehr resistance group under the patronage of Canaris and of the Goedeler-Beck circle. If all these people had been arrested and interrogated, the Gestapo might well have uncovered the group based in Army Group Centre as well and the July 20 assassination attempt would never have happened. This raises the possibility that Himmler knew about the plot and, for reasons of his own, allowed it to go ahead.

Himmler had had at least one conversation with a known oppositionist when, in August 1943, the Prussian Finance Minister Johannes Popitz came to see him and offered him the support of the opposition if he would make a move to displace Hitler and secure a negotiated end to the war. Nothing came of this meeting, but Popitz was not arrested and Himmler apparently did nothing to track down the resistance network which he knew was operating within the state bureaucracy. It is possible that Himmler, who by late 1943 knew that the war was unwinnable, allowed the July 20 plot to go ahead in the knowledge that if it succeeded he would be Hitler's successor, and could then lead to a peace settlement. Popitz was not alone in seeing in Himmler a potential ally. General von Bock advised Tresckow to seek his support, but there is no evidence that he did so. Gordeler was apparently also in indirect contact with Himmler via a mutual acquaintance Carl Langbehn
Carl Langbehn
Carl Langbehn was a German lawyer and member of the resistance to Nazism.He was born in Padang, Sumatra. During the Weimar Republic he was a members of the German People's Party. In 1933 he joined the Nazi Party, but during the 1930s he began to grow increasingly critical of the regime...

. Canaris's biographer Heinz Höhne
Heinz Höhne
Heinz Höhne was a German journalist and historian who specialized in Nazi and intelligence history....

 suggests that Canaris and Himmler were working together to bring about a change of regime. All of this remains speculation.

Himmler in fact knew more about the real level of opposition to the Nazi regime than did the opposition itself. To the resistance activists it seemed that the German people continued to place their faith in Hitler no matter how dire the military and economic situation had become. But Himmler was receiving regular reports from the SD
Sicherheitsdienst
Sicherheitsdienst , full title Sicherheitsdienst des Reichsführers-SS, or SD, was the intelligence agency of the SS and the Nazi Party in Nazi Germany. The organization was the first Nazi Party intelligence organization to be established and was often considered a "sister organization" with the...

 (Security Service, the intelligence arm of the SS), about the real state of German morale. These were compiled by SS-Gruppenfüher Otto Ohlendorf
Otto Ohlendorf
Otto Ohlendorf was a German SS-Gruppenführer and head of the Inland-SD , a section of the SD. Ohlendorf was the commanding officer of Einsatzgruppe D, which conducted mass murder in Moldova, south Ukraine, the Crimea, and, during 1942, the north Caucasus...

 and were drawn from the SD's wide range of contacts all over Germany. They showed a sharp decline in civilian morale and in the level of support for the Nazi regime, beginning after Stalingrad and accelerating through 1943 as the military setbacks continued, the economic situation deteriorated and the Allied bombing of German cities grew more intense. By the end of 1943 Himmler knew that most Germans no longer believed that war could be won and that many, perhaps a majority, had lost faith in Hitler. But fear of the Gestapo meant that this disillusionment did not translate into political opposition to the regime — even though, as the Rosenstrasse protest
Rosenstrasse protest
The Rosenstrasse protest was a nonviolent protest in Rosenstraße in Berlin in February and March 1943, carried out by the non-Jewish wives and relatives of Jewish men who had been arrested for deportation. The protests escalated until the men were released...

 showed, it was possible even as late as 1943 for courageous opponents of Nazi policies to make public and successful protests.

Nevertheless organised resistance begun to stir during 1944. While the SPD and KPD trade unions had been destroyed in 1933, the Catholic unions had voluntarily dissolved along with the Centre Party
Centre Party (Germany)
The German Centre Party was a Catholic political party in Germany during the Kaiserreich and the Weimar Republic. Formed in 1870, it battled the Kulturkampf which the Prussian government launched to reduce the power of the Catholic Church...

. As a result Catholic unionists had been less zealously repressed than their socialist counterparts, and had maintained an informal network of activists. Their leaders, Jakob Kaiser
Jakob Kaiser
Jakob Kaiser was a German politician and resistance leader during World War II.Jakob Kaiser was born in the Franconian town of Hammelburg. Following in his father’s footsteps, Kaiser began a career as a bookbinder...

 and Max Habermann, judged by the beginning of 1944 that it was time to take action. They organised a network of resistance cells in government offices across Germany, ready to rise and take control of their buildings when the word was given by the military that Hitler was dead.

July 20 Plot

On 1 July Stauffenberg was appointed chief-of-staff to General Fromm at the Reserve Army headquarters on Bendlerstrasse in central Berlin. This position enabled Stauffenberg to attend Hitler’s military conferences, either in East Prussia or at Berchtesgaden, and would thus give him a golden opportunity, perhaps the last that would present itself, to kill Hitler with a bomb or a pistol. Conspirators who had long resisted on moral grounds the idea of killing Hitler now changed their minds – partly because they were hearing reports of the mass murder at Auschwitz of up to 400,000 Hungarian Jews, the culmination of the Nazi Holocaust. Meanwhile new key allies had been gained. These included General Carl-Heinrich von Stülpnagel
Carl-Heinrich von Stülpnagel
Carl-Heinrich von Stülpnagel, was a German general and a member of the July 20 Plot to assassinate Adolf Hitler.-Early life:...

, the German military commander in France, who would take control in Paris when Hitler was killed and, it was hoped, negotiate an immediate armistice with the invading Allied armies. The demands of the plotters regarding armistice with Allies included Germany retaining its 1914 eastern borders, including the Polish territories of Wielkopolska and Poznań
Poznan
Poznań is a city on the Warta river in west-central Poland, with a population of 556,022 in June 2009. It is among the oldest cities in Poland, and was one of the most important centres in the early Polish state, whose first rulers were buried at Poznań's cathedral. It is sometimes claimed to be...

. Other demands included keeping such territorial gains as Austria
Austria
Austria , officially the Republic of Austria , is a landlocked country of roughly 8.4 million people in Central Europe. It is bordered by the Czech Republic and Germany to the north, Slovakia and Hungary to the east, Slovenia and Italy to the south, and Switzerland and Liechtenstein to the...

 and the Sudetenland
Sudetenland
Sudetenland is the German name used in English in the first half of the 20th century for the northern, southwest and western regions of Czechoslovakia inhabited mostly by ethnic Germans, specifically the border areas of Bohemia, Moravia, and those parts of Silesia being within Czechoslovakia.The...

 within the Reich, giving autonomy to Alsace-Lorraine
Alsace-Lorraine
The Imperial Territory of Alsace-Lorraine was a territory created by the German Empire in 1871 after it annexed most of Alsace and the Moselle region of Lorraine following its victory in the Franco-Prussian War. The Alsatian part lay in the Rhine Valley on the west bank of the Rhine River and east...

, and even expansion of the current wartime borders of Germany in the south by annexing Tyrol as far as Bolzano and Merano. Non-territorial demands included such points as refusal of any occupation of Germany by the Allies, as well as refusal to hand over war criminals by demanding the right of "nations to deal with its own criminals". These proposals were only directed to the Western Allies – Stauffenberg wanted Germany only to retreat from western, southern and northern positions, while demanding the right to continue military occupation of German territorial gains in the east.

The plot was now as ready as it would ever be. Twice in early July Stauffenberg attended Hitler's conferences carrying a bomb in his briefcase. But because the conspirators had decided that Himmler, too, must be assassinated if the planned mobilisation of Operation Valkyrie was to have any chance of success, he had held back at the last minute because Himmler was not present – in fact it was unusual for Himmler to attend military conferences. By 15 July, when Stauffenberg again flew to East Prussia, this condition had been dropped. The plan was for Stauffenberg to plant the briefcase with the bomb in Hitler's conference room with a timer running, excuse himself from the meeting, wait for the explosion, then fly back to Berlin and join the other plotters at the Bendlerblock. Operation Valkyrie would be mobilised, the Reserve Army would take control of Germany and the other Nazi leaders would be arrested. Beck would be appointed head of state, Gordeler Chancellor and Witzleben commander-in-chief. The plan was ambitious and depended on a run of very good luck, but it was not totally fanciful.

Again on 15 July the attempt was called off at the last minute, for reasons which are not known because all the participants in the phone conversations which led to the postponement were dead by the end of the year. Stauffenberg, depressed and angry, returned to Berlin. On 18 July rumours reached him that the Gestapo had wind of the conspiracy and that he might be arrested at any time – this was apparently not true, but there was a sense that the net was closing in and that the next opportunity to kill Hitler must be taken because there might not be another. At 10:00 hours on 20 July Stauffenberg flew back to Rastenburg for another Hitler military conference, again with a bomb in his briefcase. It is remarkable in retrospect that despite Hitler’s mania for security, officers attending his conferences were not searched.

At about 12:10 the conference began. Stauffenberg, having previously activated the timer on the bomb, placed his briefcase under the table around which Hitler and more than 20 officers were seated or standing. After ten minutes, he made an excuse and left the room. At 12:40 the bomb went off, demolishing the conference room. Several officers were killed, but not Hitler. Possibly he had been saved because the heavy oak leg of the conference table, behind which Stauffenberg's briefcase had been left, deflected the blast. But Stauffenberg, seeing the building collapse in smoke and flame, assumed Hitler was dead, leapt into a staff car and made a dash for the airfield before the alarm could be raised. By 13:00 he was airborne.

By the time Stauffenberg’s plane reached Berlin at about 15:00, General Erich Fellgiebel
Erich Fellgiebel
Fritz Erich Fellgiebel was a career German Army officer and a "July 20th" conspirator in the plot to assassinate Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler.-Military career:...

, an officer at Rastenburg who was in on the plot, had rung the Bendlerblock and told the plotters that Hitler had survived the explosion. This was a fatal step (literally so for Fellgiebel and many others), because the Berlin plotters immediately lost their nerve, and judged, probably correctly, that the plan to mobilise Operation Valkyrie would have no chance of succeeding once the officers of the Reserve Army knew that Hitler was alive. There was more confusion when Stauffenberg’s plane landed and he phoned from the airport to say that Hitler was dead. The Bendlerblock plotters did not know whom to believe. Finally at 16:00 Olbricht issued the orders for Operation Valkyrie to be mobilised. The vacillating General Fromm, however, phoned Keitel, who assured him that Hitler was alive, and demanded to know Stauffenberg’s whereabouts. This told Fromm that the plot had been traced to his headquarters, and that he was in mortal danger.

At 16:40 Stauffenberg arrived at the Bendlerblock. Fromm now changed sides and attempted to have Stauffenberg arrested, but Olbricht and Stauffenberg restrained him at gunpoint. By this time Himmler had taken charge of the situation and has issued orders countermanding Olbricht's mobilisation of Operation Valkyrie. In many places the coup was going ahead, led by officers who believed that Hitler was dead. The Propaganda Ministry on the Wilhelmstrasse, with Joseph Goebbels
Joseph Goebbels
Paul Joseph Goebbels was a German politician and Reich Minister of Propaganda in Nazi Germany from 1933 to 1945. As one of Adolf Hitler's closest associates and most devout followers, he was known for his zealous oratory and anti-Semitism...

 inside, was surrounded by troops. In Paris Stülpnagel issued orders for the arrest of the SS and SD
Sicherheitsdienst
Sicherheitsdienst , full title Sicherheitsdienst des Reichsführers-SS, or SD, was the intelligence agency of the SS and the Nazi Party in Nazi Germany. The organization was the first Nazi Party intelligence organization to be established and was often considered a "sister organization" with the...

 commanders. In Vienna, Prague and many other places troops occupied Nazi Party offices and arrested Gauleiters and SS officers.

The decisive moment came at 19:00, when Hitler was sufficiently recovered to make phone calls. By phone he personally empowered a loyal officer, Major Otto Remer, to regain control of the situation in Berlin. At 20:00 a furious Witzleben arrived at the Bendlerblock and had a bitter argument with Stauffenberg, who was still insisting that the coup could go ahead. Witzleben left shortly afterwards. At around this time the planned seizure of power in Paris was aborted when Kluge, who had recently been appointed commander-in-chief in the west, learned that Hitler was alive, changed sides with alacrity and had Stülpnagel arrested.
The less resolute members of the conspiracy in Berlin also now began to change sides. Fighting broke out in the Bendlerblock between officers supporting and opposing the coup, and Stauffenberg was wounded. By 23:00 Fromm had regained control, hoping by a show of zealous loyalty to save his own skin. Beck, realising the game was up, shot himself – the first of many suicides in the coming days. Fromm declared that he had convened a court-martial consisting of himself, and had sentenced Olbricht, Stauffenberg and two other officers to death. At 00:10 on 21 July they were shot in the courtyard outside. Others would have been executed as well, but at 00:30 the SS led by Otto Skorzeny
Otto Skorzeny
Otto Skorzeny was an SS-Obersturmbannführer in the German Waffen-SS during World War II. After fighting on the Eastern Front, he was chosen as the field commander to carry out the rescue mission that freed the deposed Italian dictator Benito Mussolini from captivity...

 arrived on the scene and further executions were forbidden. Fromm went off to see Goebbels to claim credit for suppressing the coup. He was immediately arrested.

That was the end of the German resistance. Over the coming weeks Himmler’s Gestapo, driven by a furious Hitler, rounded up nearly everyone who had had the remotest connection with the July 20 plot. The discovery of letters and diaries in the homes and offices of those arrested revealed the plots of 1938, 1939 and 1943, and this led to further rounds of arrests, including that of Halder, who finished the war in a concentration camp. Under Himmler’s new Sippenhaft
Sippenhaft
Sippenhaft or Sippenhaftung was a form of collective punishment practised in Nazi Germany towards the end of the Second World War. It was a legalized practice in which relatives of persons accused of crimes against the state were held to share the responsibility for those crimes and subject to...

 (blood guilt) laws, all the relatives of the principal plotters were also arrested. Many people killed themselves, including Tresckow, Stülpnagel and Kluge.

Very few of the plotters tried to escape, or to deny their guilt when arrested. It was as if they felt that now that honour had been satisfied, there was nothing further to be done. Hassell, who was at home in Bavaria, returned to his office in Berlin and awaited arrest. Others turned themselves in. Some plotters did manage to get away – Gisevius to Switzerland, for example. Others survived by luck or accident. It appears that none of the conspirators implicated anyone else, even under torture. It was well into August before the Gestapo learned of the Kreisau Circle. Goerdeler was not arrested until August 12.

Those who survived interrogation were given perfunctory trials before the People’s Court and its bullying Nazi judge Roland Freisler
Roland Freisler
Roland Freisler was a prominent and notorious Nazi lawyer and judge. He was State Secretary of the Reich Ministry of Justice and President of the People's Court , which was set up outside constitutional authority...

. Eventually some 5,000 people were arrested and about 200 were executed – not all of them connected with the July 20 plot, since the Gestapo used the occasion to settle scores with many other people suspected of opposition sympathies. After February 1945, when Freisler was killed in an air raid, there were no more formal trials, but as late as April, with the war weeks away from its end, Canaris’s diary was found, and many more people were implicated. Executions continued down to the last days of the war.

Historiography

Historiographical debates on the subject on Widerstand have often featured intense arguments about the nature, extent and effectiveness of resistance in the Third Reich. In particular, debate has focused around what to define as Widerstand (resistance).

Within both the Federal Republic of Germany
West Germany
West Germany is the common English, but not official, name for the Federal Republic of Germany or FRG in the period between its creation in May 1949 to German reunification on 3 October 1990....

 and the German Democratic Republic, the memory of Widerstand was harnessed after 1949 as a way of providing legitimacy to the two rival German states. In East Germany, the focus was unabashedly on celebrating the KPD
Communist Party of Germany
The Communist Party of Germany was a major political party in Germany between 1918 and 1933, and a minor party in West Germany in the postwar period until it was banned in 1956...

, which was represented as only the anti-fascist force in Germany; non-Communist resistance was either ignored or slighted. In East Germany, historical work on the subject of widerstand was highly politicized and portrayed members of the KPD resistance as heroes. The general tone of East German work on the subject was well summarized by the introduction to the 1974 book Die deutsche antifaschistische Widerstandsbewegung, which stated: “The German anti-fascist resistance movement, especially the KPD and the forces allied to it, embodied the progressive line of German policy. The most consistent political force of this movement, the KPD, carried out from the first day of the fascist dictatorship, organized and, centrally directed the struggle against imperialism…The expression of the victory of the resolute anti-fascists after the smashing of fascism by the Soviet Union, and the other states of the Anti-Hitler coalition, and the defeat of German imperialism is the existence of the GDR in which the legacy of the best of the German people who gave their lives in the anti-fascist struggle was realized”.

In West Germany, the first works to appear on the subject, such as the books by Hans Rothfels
Hans Rothfels
Hans Rothfels was a nationalist conservative German historian. He supported an idea of authoritarian German state, dominance of Germany over Europe and was hostile to Germany's eastern neighbours...

 and Gerhard Ritter
Gerhard Ritter
Gerhard Georg Bernhard Ritter was a conservative German historian.-Before the Third Reich:...

, were intended both to rebut the "collective guilt" accusations against the German people by showing the existence of the "other Germany", and to prevent another Dolchstoßlegende from emerging by portraying those involved in Widerstand activities in as heroic light as possible. Under the influence of the Cold War
Cold War
The Cold War was the continuing state from roughly 1946 to 1991 of political conflict, military tension, proxy wars, and economic competition between the Communist World—primarily the Soviet Union and its satellite states and allies—and the powers of the Western world, primarily the United States...

, starting in the late 1940s, and continuing throughout the 1950s, historiographical work on the subject in the Federal Republic came to increasing exclude the KPD
Communist Party of Germany
The Communist Party of Germany was a major political party in Germany between 1918 and 1933, and a minor party in West Germany in the postwar period until it was banned in 1956...

, and assigned a minor role to the SPD
Social Democratic Party of Germany
The Social Democratic Party of Germany is a social-democratic political party in Germany...

. In his biography of Goerdeler, Ritter drew a distinction between those Germans working for the defeat of their country, and those Germans working to overthrow the Nazi regime while being loyal to Germany. Thus, in Ritter’s view, Goerdeler was a patriot while those involved in the Rote Kapelle were traitors who deserved to be executed. In general, West German historians in the 1950s came to define Widerstand as only including national-conservatives involved in the July 20 plot, and a "monumentalization" and "heroicization" of Widerstand occurred with those being involved being credited as acting from the highest possible ethical and moral motives. In the 1950s, resistance was depicted as middle-class and Christian with the emphasis on the heroic individual standing alone against tyranny.

Starting in the 1960s, a younger generation of West German historians such as Hans Mommsen
Hans Mommsen
Hans Mommsen is a left-wing German historian. He is the twin brother of the late Wolfgang Mommsen.-Biography:He was born in Marburg, the son of the historian Wilhelm Mommsen and great-grandson of the Roman historian Theodor Mommsen. He studied German, history and philosophy at the University of...

 started to provide a more critical assessment of Widerstand within German elites, and came to decry the "monumentalization" of the 1950s. In two articles published in 1966, Mommsen proved the claim often advanced in the 1950s that the ideas behind "men of July 20" were the inspiration for the 1949 Basic Law of the Federal Republic was false. Mommsen showed that the ideas of national-conservative opponents of the Nazis had their origins in the anti-Weimar right of the 1920s, that the system the national-conservatives wished to build in place of Nazism was not a democracy, and that national-conservatives wished to see a "Greater Germany" ruling over much of Central and Eastern Europe. As part of a critical evaluation of those involved in anti-Nazi work, the German historian Christof Dipper in his 1983 essay "Der Deutsche Widerstand und die Juden" (translated into English as "The German Resistance and the Jews") argued that the majority of the anti-Nazi national-conservatives were anti-Semitic. Dipper wrote that for the majority of the national-conservatives "the bureaucratic, pseudo-legal deprivation of the Jews practiced until 1938 was still considered acceptable" Though Dipper noted no-one in the Widerstand movement supported the Holocaust
The Holocaust
The Holocaust , also known as the Shoah , was the genocide of approximately six million European Jews and millions of others during World War II, a programme of systematic state-sponsored murder by Nazi...

, he also commented that the national-conservatives did not intend to restore civil rights to the Jews after the overthrow of Hitler Dipper went on to argue that based on such views held by opponents of the regime that for a "a large part of the German people...believed that a "Jewish Question" existed and had to be solved...". In response to Dipper's charges, the Canadian historian Peter Hoffmann in his 2004 essay "The German Resistance and the Holocaust" sought to disapprove Dipper's thesis. Hoffmann argued that the majority of those involved in the July 20th putsch attempt were motivated in large part to moral objections to the Shoah. In particular, Hoffmann used the example of Claus von Stauffenberg
Claus Schenk Graf von Stauffenberg
Claus Philipp Maria Justinian Schenk Graf von Stauffenberg commonly referred to as Claus Schenk Graf von Stauffenberg was a German army officer and Catholic aristocrat who was one of the leading members of the failed 20 July plot of 1944 to assassinate Adolf Hitler and remove the Nazi Party from...

's moral outrage to witnessing the massacre of Russian Jews in 1942, and of Carl Friedrich Goerdeler
Carl Friedrich Goerdeler
Carl Friedrich Goerdeler was a monarchist conservative German politician, executive, economist, civil servant and opponent of the Nazi regime...

's advice in 1938–39 to his contact with British intelligence, the industrialist A.P. Young that the British government should take a tough line with the Nazi regime in regards to its anti-Semitism.. The Israeli historian Danny Orbach in his 2010 book Valkyrie: Hahitnagdut Hagermanit Lehitler defended the German resistance fighers, particularly Goerdeler, against the charge that they were anti-Semitic by noting Goerdeler's strong support for Zionism, the importance of the Holocaust in the motives of the National-Conservative resistance, as well as attempts of other German resistance fighters to save persecuted Jews.. In a recent article, Orbach also argued that Dipper's accusations of antiseminitsm are based on a misreading, if not distortion, of the primary sources, above all Goerdeler's memoranda on the Jewish Question.
Increasingly, West German historians started in the 1960s and 1970s to examine Widerstand outside of elites, and by focusing on resistance by ordinary people to challenge the popular notion that had been "resistance without the people". An example of the changing trend in historical research was a series of local studies of varying degrees of quality on working-class resistance movements associated with the SPD and the KPD published in the 1970s, which shed much light on these previously little known movements. As the historical genre of Alltagsgeschichte
Alltagsgeschichte
Alltagsgeschichte is a form of microhistory that was particularly prevalent amongst German historians during the 1980s. It was founded by historians Alf Luedtke and Hans Medick....

(history of everyday life) started to enjoy increasing popularity as a research topic in the 1970s–80s, historians became more preoccupied with that they considered to be "everyday" resistance by individuals acting outside of any sort of organization". The so-called "Bavaria Project" of the 1970s, an effort made by the Institute of Contemporary History
Institut für Zeitgeschichte
The Institut für Zeitgeschichte in Munich was conceived in 1947 under the name Deutsches Institut für Geschichte der nationalsozialistischen Zeit...

 to comprehensively document "everyday life" in Bavaria
Bavaria
Bavaria, formally the Free State of Bavaria is a state of Germany, located in the southeast of Germany. With an area of , it is the largest state by area, forming almost 20% of the total land area of Germany...

 during the Third Reich did much to spur research into this area. The first director of the "Bavaria Project", Peter Hüttenberger defined Widerstand as "every form of rebellion against at least potentially total rule within the context of asymmetrical relations of rule". For Hüttenberger, "symmetrical" rule occurs when there is a "bargain" struck between the different interests of the rulers and ruled which leads more or less to a "balance"; "asymmetrical rule" occurs when there is no "bargain" and the state seeks total Herrschaft (domination) over the ruled. For this reason, Hüttenberger discounted the East German claim that the KPD had been engaging in anti-Nazi resistance during the Weimar Republic. Hüttenberger argued that democracy is a form of "symmetrical" rule, and therefore merely being an opposition party under a democracy does not qualify as resistance.

Seen within this perspective as defined by Hüttenberger, any effort made to resist the claim of total Herrschaft, no matter how minor was a form of Widerstand. Thus, the six volumes which comprised the "Bavaria Project" edited by the project's second director, Martin Broszat
Martin Broszat
Martin Broszat was a German historian specializing in modern German social history whose work has been described by The Encyclopedia of Historians as indispensable for any serious study of the Third Reich. Broszat was born in Leipzig, Germany and studied history at the University of Leipzig and...

 depicted actions such as refusal to give the Nazi salute or regularly attending church as a type of resistance. Moreover, the emphasis upon resistance in "everyday life" in the "Bavaria Project" portrayed Widerstand not as a total contrast between black and white, but rather in shades of grey, noting that people who often refused to behave as the Nazi regime wanted in one area often conformed in other areas; as an example the Bavarian peasants who did business with Jewish cattle dealers in the 1930s despite the efforts of the Nazi regime to stop these transactions otherwise often expressed approval of the anti-Semitic laws. Rather than defining resistance as a matter of intention, Broszat and his associates came to define Widerstand as a matter of Wirkung (effect) as a means of blocking the Nazi regime's total claim to control all aspects of German life, regardless of whatever the intentions were political or not.

Realizing that not every action that blocked the Nazi regime's total claims should be considered a form of Widerstand, Broszat devised the controversial concept of Resistenz (immunity). By Resistenz, Broszat meant that certain sections of German society were reasonably able to maintain their pre-1933 value system without seeking to fundamentally challenge the Nazi regime. The Resistenz concept was often criticized by other historians for seeking to change the focus from "behavior" and intentions towards the Nazi regime towards the "effect" on one's actions on the regime. One of Broszat's leading critics, the Swiss historian Walter Hofer commented that in his view: "The concept of Resistenz leads to a levelling down of fundamental resistance against the system on the one hand and actions criticizing more or less accidental, superficial manifestations on the other: the tyrannicide appears on the same plane as the illegal cattle-slaughterer". Moreover, Hofter noted that the things that Broszat labeled Resistenz had no effect within the grander scheme of things on the ability of the Nazi regime to accomplish its objectives within Germany. Another of Broszat's critics, the German historian Klaus-Jürgen Müller argued that the term Widerstand should apply only to those having a "will to overcome the system" and that Broszat's Resistenz concept did too much to muddy the waters between by speaking of societal "immunity" to the regime. A more sympathetic appraisal of the Resistenz concept came from the historians Manfred Messerschmidt and Heinz Boberach who argued that Widerstand should be defined from the viewpoint of the Nazi state, and any activity that was contrary to the regime's wishes such as listerning to jazz
Jazz
Jazz is a musical style that originated at the beginning of the 20th century in African American communities in the Southern United States. It was born out of a mix of African and European music traditions. From its early development until the present, jazz has incorporated music from 19th and 20th...

 music should be considered as a form of Widerstand. Hans Mommsen
Hans Mommsen
Hans Mommsen is a left-wing German historian. He is the twin brother of the late Wolfgang Mommsen.-Biography:He was born in Marburg, the son of the historian Wilhelm Mommsen and great-grandson of the Roman historian Theodor Mommsen. He studied German, history and philosophy at the University of...

 wrote about the Resistenz concept that:
"This raises, of course, the issue of how to distinguish between resistance that intended to overthrow the system, and active Resistenz (though judged from the angle of convictions of the individual, this constiutes an artifical separation). Those who risked their lives to hide Jewish fellow citizens and acquire forged exit permits for them, those who tried to help Russian prisoners-of-war, those who, at their workplaces, fought for the rights of workers and refused to be indoctrinated by the German Labour Front, those who protested against the treatment of the Jewish population or publicly denounced the euthanasia programme, those who refused to obey criminal orders, those who as a powerless protest against Nazi war policies daubed slogans on walls at night-time, those who protected the persecuted and shared their ration cards with them-in a wider sense they all belonged to the resistance".


Another viewpoint advanced in the debate was that of Mommsen, who cautioned against the use of overtly rigid terminology, and spoke of a wide type of "resistance practice" (Widerstandspraxis), by which he meant that there were different types and forms of resistance, and that resistance should be considered a "process", in which individuals came to increasing reject the Nazi system in its entirety. As an example of resistance as a "process", Mommsen used the example of Carl Friedrich Goerdeler
Carl Friedrich Goerdeler
Carl Friedrich Goerdeler was a monarchist conservative German politician, executive, economist, civil servant and opponent of the Nazi regime...

, who initially supported the Nazis, became increasing disillusioned over Nazi economic policies while serving as Price Commissioner in the mid-1930s, and by the late 1930s was committed to Hitler's overthrow. Mommsen described national-conservative resistance as "a resistance of servants of the state", who, over time, came to gradually abandoned their former support of the regime, and instead steadily came to accept that the only way of bringing about fundamental change was to seek the regime’s destruction. In regards to the idea of "resistance as a process", several historians have worked out typologies. The German historian Detlev Peukert
Detlev Peukert
Detlev Peukert was a German historian, noted for his studies of the relationship between what he called the "spirit of science" and the Holocaust and in social history and the Weimar Republic. Peukert taught modern history at the University of Essen and served as director of the Research Institute...

 created a typology running from "nonconformity" (mostly done in private and not including total rejection of the Nazi system), "refusal of co-operation" (Verweigerung), "protest", and finally, "resistance" (those committed to the overthrow of the regime). The Austrian historian Gerhard Botz argued for a typology starting with "deviant behavior" (minor acts of non-conformity), "social protest", and "political resistance".

The British historian Sir Ian Kershaw
Ian Kershaw
Sir Ian Kershaw is a British historian of 20th-century Germany whose work has chiefly focused on the period of the Third Reich...

 has argued that there are two approaches to the Widerstand question, one of which he calls the fundamentalist (dealing with those committed to overthrowing the Nazi regime) and the societal (dealing with forms of dissent in "everyday life"). In Kershaw's viewpoint, the Resistenz concept works well in an Alltagsgeschichte
Alltagsgeschichte
Alltagsgeschichte is a form of microhistory that was particularly prevalent amongst German historians during the 1980s. It was founded by historians Alf Luedtke and Hans Medick....

approach, but works less well in the field of high politics, and moreover by focusing only on the "effect" of one's actions, fails to consider the crucial element of the "intention" behind one's actions. Kershaw has argued that the term Widerstand should be used only for those working for the total overthrow of the Nazi system, and those engaging in behavior which was counter to the regime's wishes without seeking to overthrow the regime should be included under the terms opposition and dissent, depending upon their motives and actions. Kershaw has used the Edelweiss Pirates
Edelweiss Pirates
The Edelweiss Pirates were a loose group of youth culture in Nazi Germany. They emerged in western Germany out of the German Youth Movement of the late 1930s in response to the strict regimentation of the Hitler Youth...

 as an example of whose behavior initially fell under dissent, and who advanced from there to opposition and finally to resistance. Similarly, the American historian Claudia Koonz
Claudia Koonz
Claudia Ann Koonz is an American feminist historian of Nazi Germany. Her principal area of interest is the experience of women during the Nazi era.-Career overview:...

 in her 1992 article "Ethical Dilemmas and Nazi Eugenics”, argued that those who protested against the Action T4
Action T4
Action T4 was the name used after World War II for Nazi Germany's eugenics-based "euthanasia" program during which physicians killed thousands of people who were "judged incurably sick, by critical medical examination"...

 program, usually for religious reasons while remaining silent about the Holocaust
The Holocaust
The Holocaust , also known as the Shoah , was the genocide of approximately six million European Jews and millions of others during World War II, a programme of systematic state-sponsored murder by Nazi...

 cannot be considered as part of any resistance to the Nazis, and these protests can only be considered as a form of dissent. In Kershaw's opinion, there were three bands ranging from dissent to opposition to resistance. In Kershaw's view, there was much dissent and opposition within German society, but outside of the working-class, very little resistance. Through Kershaw has argued that the Resistenz concept has much merit, overall he concluded that the Nazi regime had a broad basis of support and consensus, and it is correct to speak of "resistance without the people".

"You Did Not Bear The Shame,
You Resisted,
Sacrificing Your Life
For Freedom, Justice and Honor."

-From the German Resistance Memorial, Berlin

See also

  • List of members of the 20 July plot
  • Helmuth Hübener: The story of the youngest opponent of the Third Reich
    Helmuth Hübener
    Helmuth Guddat Kunkel Hübener was the youngest opponent of the Third Reich to be sentenced to death by the Volksgerichtshof and executed.-Life:...

  • Friedrich Olbricht
    Friedrich Olbricht
    General Friedrich Olbricht was a German general and one of the plotters involved in the attempt to assassinate Adolf Hitler at the Wolfsschanze in East Prussia on 20 July 1944.-Early life:...

  • Kurt Nehrling
    Kurt Nehrling
    Kurt Nehrling was a German Social Democratic politician and member of the German resistance against Hitler. Nehrling was responsible for supplying information to the Soviet Union and was most famously known for hiding banned books...

  • Friedrich Kellner
    Friedrich Kellner
    August Friedrich Kellner was a mid-level official in Germany who worked as a justice inspector in Mainz and Laubach. During the First World War, Kellner was an infantryman in a Hessian regiment...

  • Rudolf Christoph Freiherr von Gersdorff
    Rudolf Christoph Freiherr von Gersdorff
    Rudolf Christoph Freiherr von Gersdorff was a military officer in Germany’s Weimar-period Reichswehr and Nazi-period Wehrmacht. He attempted to assassinate Adolf Hitler by suicide bombing in March 1943; the plan failed but he was undetected. In April 1943 he discovered the mass graves of the...

  • Friedrich Schlotterbeck
    Friedrich Schlotterbeck
    Friedrich Schlotterbeck was a German author who wrote prose fiction, plays, and radio plays, and was a local leader of the German Resistance during World War II.- Biography :...

  • Oskar Schindler
    Oskar Schindler
    Oskar Schindler was an ethnic German industrialist born in Moravia. He is credited with saving over 1,100 Jews during the Holocaust by employing them in his enamelware and ammunitions factories, which were located in what is now Poland and the Czech Republic respectively.He is the subject of the...

  • Werner Dankwort
    Werner Dankwort
    Dr. Carl Werner Dankwort born in Gumbinnen, Germany, was a German diplomat who served a major role in bringing Germany into the League of Nations in 1926 prior to representing the German contingent in the Organization for European Economic Cooperation, the post-World War II effort known as the...


Further reading

General
  • Harold C. Deutsch "Symposium: New Perspectives on the German Resistance against National Socialism" pages 322–399 from Central European History, Volume 14, 1981.
  • Fest, Joachim
    Joachim Fest
    Joachim Clemens Fest was a German historian, journalist, critic and editor, best known for his writings and public commentary on Nazi Germany, including an important biography of Adolf Hitler and books about Albert Speer and the German Resistance...

     Plotting Hitler’s Death: The German Resistance to Hitler 1933–1945, London: Weidenfeld & Nicholson, 1996, ISBN 0297817744.
  • Peter Hoffmann, The History of the German Resistance 1933–1945, McGill-Queen's University Press, 1996 ISBN 0773515313.
  • Martyn Housden, Resistance and Conformity in the Third Reich, London ; New York : Routledge, 1997, ISBN 0415121337.
  • Ian Kershaw
    Ian Kershaw
    Sir Ian Kershaw is a British historian of 20th-century Germany whose work has chiefly focused on the period of the Third Reich...

     The Nazi Dictatorship Problems and Perspectives of Interpretation, London: Arnold Press, 2000, ISBN 0340 76928 1
    • Hitler 1889–1936: Hubris (W.W.Norton, 1998) and Hitler 1936–1945: Nemesis (W.W.Norton, 2000)
  • Klemens von Klemperer, German Resistance Against Hitler:The Search for Allies Abroad 1938–1945, Oxford : Clarendon Press, 1992, ISBN 0-19-821940-7
  • Richard Lamb, The Ghosts of Peace, 1935–45 Michael Russell Publishing, 1987, ISBN 0859551407.
  • David Clay Large (editor) Contending with Hitler Varieties of German Resistance in the Third Reich, Cambridge : Cambridge University Press, 1991, ISBN 0521466687.
  • Annedore Leber, The Conscience in Revolt : Portraits of the German Resistance 1933–1945 collected and edited by Annedore Leber in cooperation with Willy Brandt
    Willy Brandt
    Willy Brandt, born Herbert Ernst Karl Frahm , was a German politician, Mayor of West Berlin 1957–1966, Chancellor of West Germany 1969–1974, and leader of the Social Democratic Party of Germany 1964–1987....

     and Karl Dietrich Bracher
    Karl Dietrich Bracher
    Karl Dietrich Bracher is a German political scientist and historian of the Weimar Republic and Nazi Germany. Born in Stuttgart, Bracher was awarded a Ph.D. in the Classics by the University of Tübingen in 1948 and subsequently studied at Harvard University from 1949 to 1950...

    , Mainz : Hase & Koehler, 1994 ISBN 3-7758-1314-4.
  • Hans Mommsen
    Hans Mommsen
    Hans Mommsen is a left-wing German historian. He is the twin brother of the late Wolfgang Mommsen.-Biography:He was born in Marburg, the son of the historian Wilhelm Mommsen and great-grandson of the Roman historian Theodor Mommsen. He studied German, history and philosophy at the University of...

    , translated by Angus McGeoch Alternatives to Hitler: German Resistance Under the Third Reich Princeton : Princeton University Press, 2003, ISBN 0-691-11693-8.
  • Roger Moorhouse
    Roger Moorhouse
    Roger Moorhouse is a British historian and author. Born in Stockport, Cheshire, he was raised in Hertfordshire and attended Berkhamsted School. Inspired to return to education by the East European Revolutions of 1989, Moorhouse enrolled in the School of Slavonic and East European Studies of the...

    , Killing Hitler : The Plots, The Assassins, And The Dictator Who Cheated Death , New York : Bantam Books, 2006 ISBN 0-224-07121-1.
  • Hans Rothfels
    Hans Rothfels
    Hans Rothfels was a nationalist conservative German historian. He supported an idea of authoritarian German state, dominance of Germany over Europe and was hostile to Germany's eastern neighbours...

     The German Opposition to Hitler: An Assessment Longwood Pr Ltd: London 1948, 1961, 1963, 1970 ISBN 0-85496-119-4.
  • Michael C. Thomsett The German Opposition To Hitler : the Resistance, the Underground, and Assassination Plots, 1938–1945 Jefferson, N.C. ; London : McFarland, 1997, ISBN 0786403721.


Themes
  • Francis L. Carsten, German Workers and the Nazis, Aldershot, Hants, England : Scolar Press, 1995, ISBN 0859679985.
  • Christoph Dippler "The German Resistance and the Jews" pages 51–93 from Yad Vashem Studies, Volume 16, 1984.
  • Peter Hoffmann "The German Resistance and the Holocaust" pages 105–126 from Confront! Resistance in Nazi Germany edited by John J. Michalczyk, New York: Peter Lang Publishers, 2004, ISBN 0820463175
  • Ian Kershaw
    Ian Kershaw
    Sir Ian Kershaw is a British historian of 20th-century Germany whose work has chiefly focused on the period of the Third Reich...

     Popular Opinion And Political Dissent In The Third Reich, Bavaria 1933–45, Oxford : Clarendon Press, 1983, ISBN 0198219229
  • Tim Kirk, Nazism and the Working Class in Austria: Industrial Unrest and Political Dissent in the National Community, Cambridge ; New York : Cambridge University Press, 1996, ISBN 0521475015.
  • Claudia Koonz
    Claudia Koonz
    Claudia Ann Koonz is an American feminist historian of Nazi Germany. Her principal area of interest is the experience of women during the Nazi era.-Career overview:...

     "Ethical Dilemmas and Nazi Eugenics: Single-Issue Dissent in Religious Contexts" pages S8–S31 from Journal of Modern History, Volume 64, 1992.
  • Manvell, Roger
    Roger Manvell
    Roger Arnold Manvell was the first director of the British Film Academy , author of many books on films and film-making, and authored and co-authored many books on Nazi Germany, including biographies of Adolf Hitler, Rudolf Hess, Heinrich Himmler, Joseph Goebbels and Hermann Göring...

     The Canaris Conspiracy: The Secret Resistance to Hitler in the German Army, New York: McKay, 1969,
  • Alan Merson Communist Resistance in Nazi Germany, London : Lawrence and Wishart, 1985, ISBN 0391033662.
  • Klaus-Jürgen Müller “The German Military Opposition before the Second World War” pages 61–75 from The Fascist Challenge and the Policy of Appeasement edited by Wolfgang Mommsen
    Wolfgang Mommsen
    Wolfgang Justin Mommsen was a German historian. He was the twin brother of Hans Mommsen.-Biography:He was born in Marburg, the son of the historian Wilhelm Mommsen. He was educated at the University of Marburg, University of Cologne and University of Leeds between 1951–1959...

     & Lothar Kettenacker, George Allen & Unwin: London, United Kingdom, 1983, ISBN 0049400681.
  • Klaus-Jürgen Müller "The Structure and Nature of the National Conservative Opposition in Germany up to 1940" pages 133–178 from Aspects of the Third Reich edited by H.W. Koch, Macmillan: London, United Kingdom, 1985 ISBN 0-333-35272-6.
  • Timothy Mason
    Timothy Mason
    Timothy Wright Mason was a British Marxist historian of Nazi Germany.-Life and work:He was born in Birkenhead, the child of school-teachers and was educated at Birkenhead School and Oxford University. He taught at Oxford from 1971–1984 and was twice married. He helped to found the...

     "The Workers' Opposition in Nazi Germany" pages 120–137 from History Workshop Journal, Volume 11, 1981.
  • Jeremy Noakes "The Oldenburg Crucifix Struggle of November 1936 A Case Study in Opposition in the Third Reich" pages 210–233 from The Shaping of the Nazi State edited by Peter Stachura, London : Croom Helm ; New York : Barnes & Noble, 1978, ISBN 0856644714 1978.
  • Detlev Peukert
    Detlev Peukert
    Detlev Peukert was a German historian, noted for his studies of the relationship between what he called the "spirit of science" and the Holocaust and in social history and the Weimar Republic. Peukert taught modern history at the University of Essen and served as director of the Research Institute...

     Inside Nazi Germany : Conformity, Opposition and Racism in Everyday Life London : Batsford, 1987 ISBN 0-7134-5217-X.


Biographies
  • Fred Breinersdorfer
    Fred Breinersdorfer
    Fred Breinersdorfer is a prominent German screenwriter, producer and film director.- Work :Fred Breinersdorfer studied law and worked as a lawyer before he debuted as an author of crime fiction in 1980, writing detective novels published by Rowohlt...

     (Editor), Sophie Scholl — Die letzten Tage, 2005.
  • Ulrich von Hassell, The Von Hassell Diaries 1938–1944 the Story of the Forces Against Hitler Inside Germany Doubleday, 1947, ISBN 0-404-16944-9. Reprint Greenwood Press, 1971, ISBN 0-8371-3228-2.
  • Donald Goddard, The Last Days of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Harper and Roe,1976, ISBN 0-06-011564-5
  • Gerhard Ritter
    Gerhard Ritter
    Gerhard Georg Bernhard Ritter was a conservative German historian.-Before the Third Reich:...

    , The German Resistance : Carl Goerdeler's Struggle Against Tyranny, translated by R.T. Clark, Freeport, N.Y. : Books for Libraries Press, 1970.
  • Gregor Schöllgen, A Conservative Against Hitler: Ulrich von Hassell, Diplomat in Imperial Germany, the Weimar Republic, and the Third Reich, 1881–1944 New York : St. Martin's Press, 1991, ISBN 0-312-05784-9.
  • Helena P. Page, General Friedrich Olbricht: Ein Mann des 20. Julis, 1993, ISBN 3416025148

External links

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