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11 The Attempted Coup of July 20, 1944

The conspirators made use of the secret “Valkyrie” plans, which had been developed in the Army High Command to put down uprisings by forced laborers and domestic unrest. With the aid of these commands, they hoped to gain control of the military districts after Hitler’s assassination and prevent counteractions.

Friedrich Olbricht and Albrecht Ritter Mertz von Quirnheim initiated Operation “Valkyrie” at around 4 p.m. on July 20, 1944. After landing in Berlin, Stauffenberg tried desperately to gain support for the coup from other officers, along with Mertz and Olbricht.

In Berlin and the surrounding area, the first military units began marching on the government quarter on the orders of the Berlin city commandant Paul von Hase. Soon, however, National Socialist officers grew suspicious. Operation “Valkyrie” could not be carried out as planned in Berlin. Moreover, most of the military district command offices received the conspirators’ orders with some delay, at the same time as opposing commands from the “Führer Headquarters.” Because the conspirators did not gain access to radio stations, they could not appeal to the civilian population.

In Paris, they managed to disempower the Gestapo and SS for several hours. Telexes arriving from the “Führer Headquarters” in East Prussia at the same time as the “Valkyrie” orders confused conditions. In the early hours of the evening, the situation also turned for the worse in Vienna, Prague, and Kassel, where some of the “Valkyrie” orders had been followed.

Late in the evening of July 20, 1944, the conspirators realized that the coup had failed. Shortly before midnight, Colonel General Friedrich Fromm gave orders to shoot the conspirators dead.