Operation Foxley
Operation Foxley was a 1944 plan to assassinate
To carry out an assassination is "to murder by a sudden and/or secret attack, often for political reasons." Alternatively, assassination may be defined as "the act of deliberately killing someone, especially a public figure, usually for hire or for political reasons."An assassination may be...

 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...

, made by the British
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...

 Special Operations Executive
Special Operations Executive
The Special Operations Executive was a World War II organisation of the United Kingdom. It was officially formed by Prime Minister Winston Churchill and Minister of Economic Warfare Hugh Dalton on 22 July 1940, to conduct guerrilla warfare against the Axis powers and to instruct and aid local...

 (SOE). Although detailed preparations were made, no attempt was made to carry out the plan. Historians believe the most likely date for an attempt would have been July 13–14 of 1944, during one of Hitler's visits to 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...


Prior plans

The 1939 novel Rogue Male
Rogue Male (novel)
Rogue Male by Geoffrey Household is a classic thriller novel of the 1930s.-Storyline:The protagonist, an unnamed British sportsman, sets out to see whether he can stalk and prepare to shoot a European dictator...

by Geoffrey Household
Geoffrey Household
Geoffrey Edward West Household was a prolific British novelist who specialized in thrillers. He is best known for his novel Rogue Male .-Personal life:...

 features a description of how a British hunter on vacation in Europe puts an unnamed dictator in his gunsight. The 1941 thriller film Man Hunt
Man Hunt (1941 film)
Man Hunt is a 1941 American thriller film directed by Fritz Lang and starring Walter Pidgeon and Joan Bennett. It is based on the 1939 novel Rogue Male by Geoffrey Household and is set just prior to the Second World War. A Jewish liberal, Lang had fled Germany into exile in the mid 1930s - this was...

directed by Fritz Lang
Fritz Lang
Friedrich Christian Anton "Fritz" Lang was an Austrian-American filmmaker, screenwriter, and occasional film producer and actor. One of the best known émigrés from Germany's school of Expressionism, he was dubbed the "Master of Darkness" by the British Film Institute...

 was based upon Household's novel.

One of the first actual British plans to assassinate Hitler was to bomb the train he travelled in; SOE had extensive experience of derailing trains using explosives. The plan was dropped because Hitler's schedule was too irregular and unpredictable: stations were only informed of his arrival a few minutes beforehand.

Another plan was to put some tasteless but lethal poison in the drinking water supply on Hitler's train. However, this plan was considered too complicated because of the need for an inside man.

Sniper attack plan

Ultimately a sniper
A sniper is a marksman who shoots targets from concealed positions or distances exceeding the capabilities of regular personnel. Snipers typically have specialized training and distinct high-precision rifles....

 attack was considered to be the method most likely to succeed. In summer 1944 a German who had been part of Hitler's personal guard at the Berghof had been taken prisoner
Prisoner of war
A prisoner of war or enemy prisoner of war is a person, whether civilian or combatant, who is held in custody by an enemy power during or immediately after an armed conflict...

 in Normandy
Normandy is a geographical region corresponding to the former Duchy of Normandy. It is in France.The continental territory covers 30,627 km² and forms the preponderant part of Normandy and roughly 5% of the territory of France. It is divided for administrative purposes into two régions:...

. He revealed that at the Berghof, Hitler always took a 20-minute morning walk at around the same time (after 10:00 A.M.). Hitler liked to be left alone during this walk, leaving him unprotected near some woods, where he was out of sight of sentry posts. When Hitler was at the Berghof a Nazi flag, visible from a cafe in the nearby town, was flown.

The basic plan was to assassinate Hitler during his morning exercise, as he walked unprotected to the tea-house in the Berghof compound. The scheme called for the SOE
Special Operations Executive
The Special Operations Executive was a World War II organisation of the United Kingdom. It was officially formed by Prime Minister Winston Churchill and Minister of Economic Warfare Hugh Dalton on 22 July 1940, to conduct guerrilla warfare against the Axis powers and to instruct and aid local...

 to parachute a German-speaking Pole
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...

 and a British sniper into the area surrounding the compound, wearing German army uniforms. The men would infiltrate the Berghof compound before moving to a spot where they were concealed, were within effective rifle range (300 metres or less), and had a good view of the path used by Hitler on his morning walk. Security around Hitler was limited at the Berghof.

A sniper was recruited and briefed and the plan was submitted. The sniper practiced by firing at moving dummy targets with an accurized Kar 98K, the standard 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:...

 rifle, under conditions which simulated the actual assassination. An inside man was also found: vehemently anti-Nazi Heidentaler, the uncle of a captured soldier, Dieser, lived in Salzburg
-Population development:In 1935, the population significantly increased when Salzburg absorbed adjacent municipalities. After World War II, numerous refugees found a new home in the city. New residential space was created for American soldiers of the postwar Occupation, and could be used for...

, 20 kilometres from the Berghof. He, with like-minded shopkeepers, regularly visited a shooting range 16 km from the Berghof.

There had been some resistance to the assassination plan, particularly from the deputy head of SOE's German Directorate, Lt Col Ronald Thornley. However, his superior, Sir Gerald Templer
Gerald Templer
Field Marshal Sir Gerald Walter Robert Templer KG, GCB, GCMG, KBE was a British military commander. He is best known for his defeat of the guerrilla rebels in Malaya between 1952 and 1954...

, and British Prime Minister
Prime Minister of the United Kingdom
The Prime Minister of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland is the Head of Her Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom. The Prime Minister and Cabinet are collectively accountable for their policies and actions to the Sovereign, to Parliament, to their political party and...

 Winston 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...

 supported the plan. The two-man team was to be parachuted in and sheltered with Heidentaler, after which they could make the approach to the killing zone disguised as German mountain troops.

The plan was submitted in November 1944, but was never carried out because controversy remained over whether it was actually a good idea to kill Hitler: he was by then considered to be such a poor strategist that it was believed whoever replaced him would probably lead a better war-effort. Thornley also argued that Germany was almost defeated and, if Hitler were assassinated, he would become a martyr to some Germans, and give rise to speculation that Germany might have won if Hitler had survived. Since the idea was not only to defeat Germany but to destroy Nazism
Nazism, the common short form name of National Socialism was the ideology and practice of the Nazi Party and of Nazi Germany...

 in general, that would have been a highly undesirable development. However, there were strong advocates on both sides, and the plan never became operational simply because no actual decision was reached. In any case, Hitler left the Berghof for the last time on 14 July 1944, never to return, and committed suicide in Berlin on 30 April 1945, a few days before the war in Europe ended.

Television programme

The British Broadcasting Corporation is a British public service broadcaster. Its headquarters is at Broadcasting House in the City of Westminster, London. It is the largest broadcaster in the world, with about 23,000 staff...

 made a docudrama
In film, television programming and staged theatre, docudrama is a documentary-style genre that features dramatized re-enactments of actual historical events. As a neologism, the term is often confused with docufiction....

 about the operation, titled Killing Hitler
Killing Hitler
Killing Hitler is a BBC docudrama that examines the Operation Foxley plot to kill Adolf Hitler.-External links:* by Professor Duncan Anderson at BBC History.....

, written and directed by Jeremy Lovering, which is a combination of re-enactment with regular voice-overs, historical footage, interviews with various witnesses and a present day analysis.

In the BBC docudrama a scenario was devised by the analysts regarding what would have happened if the plan had received the green light and the assassins had succeeded in killing Hitler. The death of Hitler in 1944 might have ended the war and saved as many as 10,000,000 lives, largely through the bombing campaign against German cities being discontinued, the concentration camps being liberated earlier, and an earlier end to the Eastern Front
Eastern Front (World War II)
The Eastern Front of World War II was a theatre of World War II between the European Axis powers and co-belligerent Finland against the Soviet Union, Poland, and some other Allies which encompassed Northern, Southern and Eastern Europe from 22 June 1941 to 9 May 1945...

 fighting against 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....

. Analysts agreed that the assassination plan would most probably fail during the sniper team's approach to the firing position, but considered that if the sniper could reach a viable firing position, there was a fair chance of killing Hitler.

Further reading

  • 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, Jonathan Cape, 2006. ISBN 0-224-07121-1
  • Mark Seaman, Operation Foxley - The British Plan to Kill Hitler, Public Record Office, 1998

External links

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