One of our primary reasons for going to Germany and Poland this time was to see the locations associated with Operation Valkyrie -- the attempted assassination of Adolf Hitler on 20 July 1944. For anyone unfamiliar with this event, watch Valkyrie with Tom Cruise. It's historically accurate with only a few changes made for dramatic effect.
These are the remains of the Lagebaracke, the conference room at Hitler's forward headquarters in Wolfschanze, just outside of Rastenberg (now Gierloz), Poland, where Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg set off the bomb that was intended to kill Hitler. Unfortunately for Stauffenberg, the meeting on 20 July was not held in the main bunker but in a smaller barracks with windows where the ventilation was better. The wooden ceiling and windows absorbed the blast, allowing Hitler to escape with only minor injuries. (The remains of the Lagebaracke were destroyed by the SS, along with every other building on the compound, when Wolfschanze was evacuated in the advance of the Soviet Army.)
The interior of the Lagebaracke after the blast.
Me at the Lagebaracke.
The Bendlerblock in Berlin where Stauffenberg and the rest of the Valkyrie resistance members had their offices. When the attempt to remove Hitler and the SS from power failed, Stauffenberg and the others made their last stand inside this building.
The courtyard of the Bendlerblock. After German troops loyal to Hitler took control of the building, General Friedrich Fromm, who had been aware of Valkyrie but said nothing, hoping to keep open his political options, ordered the immediate execution of Stauffenberg and the other leaders of the resistance (General Olbricht, Colonel Quirnheim, Oberleutnant Haeften, and former General Beck) to conceal his knowledge of the plot. The five men were shot in the courtyard where the black marble strip is located. For those who have watched the movie, the balcony above the doors to the right is where Fromm (played by Tom Wilkinson) watches the executions. Fromm was arrested on 21 July and executed on 19 March 1945 for not doing more to stop the plot.
The statue in the courtyard commemorating those who lost their lives in the 20 July resistance movement.
Plotzensee Prison, where ninety members of the resistance movement were executed for their participation in the 20 July plot.
The execution chamber inside Plotzensee. Members of the 20 July resistance movement were hanged with piano wire on the hooks at the far end of the hall. The piano wire was wrapped around their necks and they were slowly lifted off the ground until they strangled to death. A video was made of their suffering and shown to Hitler for his entertainment.
A close-up of the hooks.
Later in the afternoon on 20 July, Benito Mussolini arrived at Wolfschanze. Hitler greeted the former Italian dictator at the train station.
Me standing at the same location as it looks today.
[Next week: Berlin: The Adlon Hotel, Salon Kitty, and Karlshorst.]