The Horrifying Deaths Of The ‘Valkyrie’ Conspirators

“The most terrible thing is knowing that it cannot succeed and that we must still do it for our country and our children.” —Berthold von Stauffenberg, July 20 conspirator

In A Nutshell

Just like in the Tom Cruise movie Valkyrie, the July 20 plot failed when the bomb didn’t kill Hitler. As the members of the coup were rounded up, Hitler ordered some of the conspirators shot and others killed by hanging with piano wire. The worst execution was reserved for the brother of one of the conspirators. Just before death, Berthold von Stauffenberg was resuscitated and then hung again, over and over. To top it all off, Hitler ordered the other hangings and the torture-execution to be filmed so he could watch at his convenience.

The Whole Bushel

While on the surface it seems that all of Germany was behind Hitler, there were significant portions of the population fighting against him. However, his security details (first the Storm Troopers and then the SS) were very efficient in crushing any sort of dissent. Of course, that didn’t stop everyone, and Hitler was the target of dozens of assassination plots against his life. Obviously, none were successful, but a few came close. None is more famous than the failed July 20 plot.

The plotters hoped to successfully behead the Nazi regime by arresting or killing the top leadership of Germany during World War II. To free up German soldiers from their oath to Hitler, the plot required Hitler be killed. They planned to do this with a bomb in the infamous Wolf’s Lair, during one of Hitler’s military planning sessions. Through luck and an ill-conceived explosive device, Hitler survived the blast and was able to maintain his position in power while successfully tracking down and killing every member of July 20 Plot. The ringleaders were shot as Claus von Stauffenberg (Tom Cruise’s character) famously shouted, “Long live our sacred Germany!” just before the bullets ripped into his chest.

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What’s not talked about are hundreds of others who were also rounded up—some for the crime of just being related to the conspirators. Alexander von Stauffenberg, Claus’s brother who was fighting in Greece and had nothing to do with the conspiracy, was sent to Dachau and was able to live long enough to be liberated by the Allies. Claus’s other brother Berthold was not so lucky. Berthold had actually taken part in the conspiracy, and he and hundreds of prisoners were sentenced to death by hanging. Berthold’s hanging was especially cruel.

Under Hitler’s orders, they were hung by nooses made from piano wire to ensure that they slowly strangled to death. But right before he would have died, Berthold was revived and then executed again, only to be revived and strangled again, at least a third and fourth time. And to really cap it off, all the executions were filmed so that Hitler could watch the torture-executions at his own pleasure.

Show Me The Proof

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