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Carl Goerdeler : Nazi Germany

Carl Goerdeler : Nazi Germany

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Carl Goerdeler, the son of a Prussian district judge, was born in Schneidemuell on 31st July 1884. After studying law he became a local civil servant.

In 1930 Goerdeler became mayor of Leipzig. He also became price commissioner in the government of Heinrich Brüning and remained in office when Adolf Hitler came to power in 1933. Goerdeler resigned in 1934 after disagreement with Hitler over his policies.

Goerdeler publically opposed German rearmament and the Nuremberg Laws. As mayor of Leipzig he refused to pull down the statue of the Jewish composer Felix Mendelssohn or to fly the swastika flag over the city hall.

Goerdeler resigned as mayor of Leipzig in 1937 and spent the next two years travelling around Europe as overseas representative of the Bosche company. In 1938 he met Winston Churchill and other important political figures in Britain and France. Goerdeler provided information about Nazi Germany and encouraged governments not to make too many concessions to Hitler. He was appalled by the Munich Agreement which he saw as "out-and-out capitulation" and claimed that it would lead to a war in Europe.

During the Second World War Goerdeler advocated a negotiated peace with the Allies. However, he was deeply disappointed when his political contacts in Britain told him that the war would only come to an end if Germany unconditionally surrendered.

By 1940 Goerdeler had become convinced that only the German armed forces could overthrow Hitler. He made contact with Ludwig Beck but they were unable to find enough senior military leaders to take part in a coup.

In 1944 Goerdeler became involved in the July Plot and he agreed to become chancellor after Hitler's assassination. On 18th July, 1944, Goerdeler was warned that the Gestapo had discovered that he was involved in a conspiracy to kill Hitler. He went into hiding but was arrested the following month on 12th August. Carl Goerdeler was interrogated and tortured for five months before being executed on 2nd February, 1945.

Dr. George Bell, Bishop of Chichester, had lectured in Sweden during May and June, 1942, under the auspices of the Ministry of Information. On his return the Bishop asked to see me, which he did on June 30th. He told me that two anti-Nazi German Protestant clergymen had come to Sweden to meet him. The Bishop left a memorandum with me reporting in detail what the German clerics proposed. This showed that the group they represented intended to overthrow the existing rulers, who were to be replaced by anti-Nazi members of the army and administration, former trade union leaders and churchmen. The Allies were invited to announce that, once Hitler was overthrown, they were prepared to negotiate with another Government. The names of General Ludwig Beck, Chief of Staff until 1938, Herr Karl Goerdeler, Mayor of Leipzig, and other notable figures were given as deeply involved in the movement.

Carl Goerdeler

Carl Goerdeler, the son of a Prussian district judge, was born in Schneidemuell on July 31,1884. After studying law he became a local civil servant.

In 1930 Goerdeler became mayor of Leipzig. He also became price commissioner in the government of Heinrich Brüning and remained in office when Adolf Hitler came to power in 1933. Goerdeler resigned in 1934 after disagreement with Hitler over his policies.

Goerdeler publically opposed German rearmament and the Nuremberg Laws. As mayor of Leipzig, he refused to pull down the statue of the Jewish composer Felix Mendelssohn or to fly the swastika flag over the city hall.

Goerdeler resigned as mayor of Leipzig in 1937 and spent the next two years travelling around Europe as overseas representative of the Bosche company. In 1938, he met Winston Churchill and other important political figures in Britain and France. Goerdeler provided information about Nazi Germany and encouraged governments not to make too many concessions to Hitler. He was appalled by the Munich Agreement which he saw as "out-and-out capitulation" and claimed that it would lead to a war in Europe.

During the Second World War, Goerdeler advocated a negotiated peace with the Allies. However, he was deeply disappointed when his political contacts in Britain told him that the war would only come to an end if Germany unconditionally surrendered.

By 1940, Goerdeler had become convinced that only the German armed forces could overthrow Hitler. He made contact with Ludwig Beck but they were unable to find enough senior military leaders to take part in a coup.

In 1944, Goerdeler became involved in the July Plot and he agreed to become chancellor after Hitler's assassination. On July 18, 1944, Goerdeler was warned that the Gestapo had discovered that he was involved in a conspiracy to kill Hitler. He went into hiding but was arrested the following month on August 12. Carl Goerdeler was interrogated and tortured for five months before being executed on February 2, 1945.

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Incredible Photos of Operation Valkyrie and the Plot to Assassinate Hitler

Operation Valkyrie was a Nazi emergency continuity of government plan in case of a general breakdown of command. This plan could have been implemented in the instance of Allied bombings or forced labor uprisings.

General Friedrich Olbricht, Major General Henning von Tresckow, and Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg wanted to implement this plan to take control of Germany, disarm the SS, and arrest all Nazi leadership if the July 20, 1944, plot succeeded.

This plot was the attempted assassination of Hitler in the &ldquoWolf&rsquos Lair&rdquo in East Prussia. A bomb was secretly placed in a conference room inside a briefcase. When the bomb exploded, more than 20 people were injured and three officers were killed.

More than 7,000 people were arrested and 4,980 people were executed by the Gestapo.

&ldquoThe whole world will vilify us now, but I am still totally convinced that we did the right thing. Hitler is the archenemy not only of Germany but of the world. When, in few hours&rsquo time, I go before God to account for what I have done and left undone, I know I will be able to justify what I did in the struggle against Hitler. None of us can bewail his own death those who consented to join our circle put on the robe of Nessus. A human being&rsquos moral integrity begins when he is prepared to sacrifice his life for his convictions.&rdquo &ndash Henning von Tresckow

At Rastenburg on 15 July 1944. Stauffenberg at left, Hitler center, Keitel on right. The person shaking hands with Hitler is General Karl Bodenschatz, who was seriously wounded five days later by Stauffenberg&rsquos bomb. Wikipedia Soldiers and Waffen SS at the Bendlerblock. Wikipedia Claus von Stauffenberg, Chief-conspirator in Operation Valkyrie. Wikipedia Henning von Tresckow in 1944. Wikipedia Friedrich Olbricht was a German general during World War II and one of the plotters involved in the 20 July Plot, an attempt to assassinate Adolf Hitler in 1944. Wikipedia Hans Oster was a general in the Wehrmacht of Nazi Germany who was also a leading figure in the German resistance from 1938 to 1943. In April 1945 he was hanged at Flossenburg concentration camp for treason. Wikipedia General Ludwig Beck became a major leader within the conspiracy against Hitler, and would have been regent (Reichsverweser) had the 20 July plot succeeded, but when the plot failed, Beck was arrested and executed. Wikipedia Erwin von Witzleben was A leading conspirator in the 20 July plot, he was designated to become Commander-in-Chief of the Wehrmacht in a post-Nazi regime had the plot succeeded. Wikipedia Carl Friedrich Goerdeler was a monarchist conservative German politician, executive, economist, civil servant and opponent of the Nazi regime. Had the 20 July plot to assassinate Hitler of 1944 succeeded, Goerdeler would have served as the Chancellor of the new government. Wikipedia Henning von Tresckow was an officer in the German Army who helped organize German resistance against Adolf Hitler. He was described by the Gestapo as the &ldquoprime mover&rdquo and the &ldquoevil spirit&rdquo behind the plot of 20 July 1944 to assassinate Hitler. Wikipedia Werner von Haeften was an Oberleutnant in the Wehrmacht, who took part in the military-based conspiracy against Adolf Hitler known as the 20 July plot. Wikipedia Floor plan showing distribution of casualties. Wikipedia The bomb had gone off with a deafening roar. The windows were blown out, the roof buckled and part of it collapsed. warefarehistorynetwork The Wolfsschanze after the bomb. Wikipedia Photograph of Hitler&rsquos pants after the failed Operation Valkyrie. Pinterest Hitler visits Admiral Karl-Jesko von Puttkamer in the hospital. Wikipedia Ludwig Beck, one time chief of the Army General Staff. After his resignation in 1938, Beck became the center of the military resistance to Hitler. He was executed in 1944 for his role in the July 1944 attempt to kill Hitler. Germany, date uncertain. USHMM The funeral of General Günther Korten at the Tannenberg Memorial. Wikipedia Carl Goerdeler, former mayor of Leipzig and a leader of the July 1944 conspiracy to kill Hitler, stands trial before the People&rsquos Court in Berlin. He was condemned and executed at Ploetzensee prison on February 2, 1945. Berlin, Germany, 1944. USHMM Carl Heinrich Langbehn, an attorney who was slated for a possible cabinet seat had the July 1944 attempt on Hitler&rsquos life succeeded, on trial before the People&rsquos Court in Berlin. Langbehn was executed in the Ploetzensee prison on October 12, 1944. USHMM Roland Freisler (center), president of the Volk Court (People&rsquos Court), gives the Nazi salute at the trial of conspirators in the July 1944 plot to kill Hitler. Under Freisler&rsquos leadership, the court condemned thousands of Germans to death. Berlin, Germany, 1944. USHMM Participants in the July 1944 plot to assassinate Hitler and members of the &ldquoKreisau Circle&rdquo resistance group on trial before the People&rsquos Court. Pictured are Dr. Franz Reisert, Dr. Theodor Haubach, Graf von Moltke, Theodor Steltzer, and Dr. Eugen Gerstenmeier. Library of Congress Participants in the July 1944 plot to assassinate Hitler stand trial before the People&rsquos Court of Berlin. Berlin, Germany, August-September 1944. Library of Congress Entrance to the Ploetzensee prison. At Ploetzensee, the Nazis executed hundreds of Germans for opposition to Hitler, including many of the participants in the July 20, 1944, plot to kill Hitler. Berlin, Germany, postwar. YIVO Institute for Jewish Research

Carl Goerdeler

Carl Goerdeler, former mayor of Leipzig and a leader of the July 1944 conspiracy to kill Hitler, stands trial before the People's Court in Berlin. He was condemned and executed at Ploetzensee prison on February 2, 1945. Berlin, Germany, 1944.

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February 2nd, 2011 Headsman

On this date in 1945, Carl Friedrich Goerdeler, godfather of the anti-Hitler resistance that had bid unsuccessfully for his assassination, was hanged at Plotzensee Prison. With him went fellow regime foes, Johannes Popitz and Father Alfred Delp.

The monarchist pol Goerdeler enjoys pride of place as one of the first German elites to opposite Hitler, though that opposition was not quite so early as the very beginning. Goerdeler was a creature of the pre-Nazi establishment, and shared many of perspectives that prepared that world to accommodate national socialism: Goerdeler bitterly opposed the Versailles Treaty, wanted to take a bite out of Polish territory, and had the customary strictly-within-legal-bounds anti-Semitism of his class. Even lying under sentence of death late in 1944, having denounced the Holocaust to his Gestapo interrogators, his “Thoughts of a Condemned Man” reflected,

We should not attempt to minimize what has been happening, but we should also emphasize the great guilt of the Jews, who had invaded our public life in ways that lacked all customary restraint.

A German patriot, then, committed to a “a purified Germany with a government of decent people” a humanist Liberal from a bygone age, who had no weapons to fight a terror state.

As Mayor of Leipzig, he openly opposed the Third Reich’s excesses and pushed to moderate its policy.* In 1937 he copped a principled resignation and started cultivating contacts abroad, warning of Hitler’s aggression — also managing to impress his foreign interlocutors with his incapacity to affect events himself. His many memoranda urging Hitler to moderate this or that outrage went for naught.

The resistance circle around Goerdeler, which drew in his fellow-sufferer Popitz,** would be marked throughout the war years by that incapacity — a monument to high-minded failure, eternally short of the last ounce of will or that one key resource.

Goerdeler’s name adorned the ministry of many a fanciful post-Hitler government, but he himself, according to his friend and fellow-conspirator Gerhard Ritter, “preferred to begin with a debate rather than a power stroke”.

To be sure, the man looked in vain for some decisive form of aid: within the Reich, the sympathetic Wehrmacht brass couldn’t quite see their way to something as radical as breaking their loyalty oaths without, he got no terms short of unconditional surrender from the Allies.

But even come the summer of 1944 when all was well past lost, Goerdeler entertained delusions of persuading Hitler to give up power voluntarily, and opposed Stauffenberg‘s assassination gambit.

Indecision would be no defense when he was hailed before bloodthirsty judge Roland Freisler for treason.

Goerdeler and Popitz, both viewed as influential with Germany’s Western enemies, were kept alive for months after the judicial purges commenced: Himmler‘s hope for a back channel deal. Our man had many hours in this Gethsemane for that essential contemplation of the 20th century.

In sleepless nights I have asked myself whether a God exists who shares in the personal fate of men. It is becoming hard to believe it. For this God must for years now have allowed rivers of blood and suffering, mountains of horror and despair for mankind … He must have let millions of decent men die and suffer without moving a finger.

-Carl Goerdeler (Source)

We do not know what account Goerdeler gave of himself to the afterlife even the account he left of himself for our terrestrial posterity is disputable.

“I ask the world to accept our martyrdom as penance for the German people,” he wrote in prison. Is it enough to accept for Goerdeler himself? His actions, intrepid by the standards of most countrymen, were fatally unequal to the heroism demanded of his circumstance. By any measure, his is a very human tragedy.

Carl Goerdeler’s brother Fritz shared the same fate a few weeks later. Other family members were imprisoned at Dachau Carl’s son, Reinhard Goerdeler, became an accountant after the war and is the “G” in the big four firm KPMG.

* Including Berlin’s heretically expansionary economic policy. Goerdeler hated Keynes his prescription for the capitalist crisis of the 1930s was falling wages, low deficits, a mighty Reichsmark, and free trade. (The April 1938 Foreign Affairs published a Goerdeler essay entitled “Do Government Price Controls Work?” Answer: no.)

It would be too much to say that Berlin’s profligacy outraged him as much as the fact that it was being squandered on dishonorable war, but said profligacy was definitely on the bill of attainder.

** Father Delp, the other man hanged this date, was involved in the resistance but even Freisler’s court decided he wasn’t in on the July 20 plot.

The German Resistance: Carl Goerdeler’s Struggle Against Tyranny

Carl Goerdeler was for a long time more than anyone else at the centre of the conspiracy against tyranny he was in immediate personal contact with almost all of the groups and parties—and not only as a tirelessly active director and recruiting officer for the movement, but at the same time as its most productive mind when it came to working out comprehensive and mature plans dealing with both foreign and domestic problems. The German Resistance movement in its entirety can be surveyed very clearly from the vantage point of his biography. And conversely his biography is of historical significance only in the framework of this general setting. His work can be correctly estimated only when it is constantly compared with that of his colleagues. The history of the German resistance movement has hitherto been written predominantly in the form of a justification and defence against its critics, accusers, and apostates. Not infrequently it has acquired something of the flavour of a gallery of heroes or even of the lives of saints.

We are here attempting something else namely, to attain, by a critical and sober study, a grasp of the historical truth, and beyond this to search our own hearts with a new understanding. For this purpose it was indispensable to depict the German Resistance movement against the background of international politics, so far as relevant sources are now available. Likewise, the development of the movement’s ideals of freedom and plans for reform had to be traced back into the time of the Weimar Republic. And finally, its development and the political attitude of its leaders needed to be appreciated in terms of the internal and external history of Hitler’s Reich.

Plotters and their Motivations

The key conspirators in the July 20 plot can be divided between civilians and active military (mostly army) officers. Almost all of the conspirators shared a conservative, nationalist perspective and an aristocratic background.

The civilians were mainly individuals who had refused to participate in the Nazi regime. Carl Friedrich Goerdeler, for example, had been the Nazi mayor of Leipzig, but resigned his position in opposition to Nazi policy. Ludwig Beck, another important civilian, was a former general who had resigned in opposition to Hitler’s aggressive war plans in 1938.

The most important military conspirators were General Friedrich Olbricht, Major General Henning von Tresckow, and Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg, along with Claus-Heinrich Stülpnagel, the German military commander in France.

The motivations of the conspirators were likely varied and remain contested to this day. Some were already members of the “Kreisau Circle” of conservative opponents to Hitler. Others, like Goerdeler, objected to Nazi anti-Jewish policy as well as the general mismanagement of the war leading Germany to ruin. Tresckow, too, appeared to be deeply dismayed by the Nazi’s antisemitic policies and privately described Kristallnacht as an act of barbarism.

Yet motivations varied widely and should not be viewed solely in the context of the Holocaust. For many of the conspirators, the attempted assassination had a more pragmatic objective: to rescue Germany from catastrophic defeat brought about by Hitler’s increasingly irrational management of the war. Indeed, a number of the conspirators were themselves implicated in both war crimes and the Holocaust. Stülpnagel had closely cooperated with the Einsatzgruppen in their mass murder of Jews when he commanded the 17th Army in the German-occupied Soviet Union. The Quartermaster of the Army, Eduard Wagner, who supplied the escape aircraft, had coordinated Einsatzgruppen cooperation with the army and created the plans to starve Soviet prisoners of war (POWs), resulting in millions of deaths. Arthur Nebe had commanded Einsatzgruppe B in the Soviet Union, responsible for the murder of over 45,000 Jews.

The Allies' attitude towards a Beck-Goerdeler government at the end of 1943

Post by Juan G. C. » 28 Oct 2020, 13:06

I want to discuss what would have been the attitude of the Allies towards a new german government after a coup d'etat against the Nazi regime at the end of 1943. And in this conection I want to draw the attention of the forum to this 1999 article, which I think is very relevant: . ngland.pdf

I will try to resume it. The article deals with the contacts of Carl Goerdeler with the British government through the brothers Jacob and Marcus Wallenberg, in the light of documents from the Stockholm Enskilda Bank.

Goerdeler had been in Stockholm during May 1943 where he asked his friend Jacob Wallenberg to help him contact the British government in the name of the german opposition. He explained him the opposition's plans and aims. Jacob Wallenberg wrote to his brother Marcus, who was then in England, and asked him to present these questions to Churchill.

Marcus Wallenberg was not able to speak with Churchill, but he spoke with Desmond Morton, his personal assistant, who was an acquaitance. Before his return to Sweden on 19 June he wrote a memorandum on this conversation, which is reproduced in the article, but which I can not help to reproduce here, for the interest It does have:

D.M. explained that the views of W.C. on the pursuit of war could not be regarded as relentless or described as “to the bitter end”. The war objectives were clear. Nazi Germany had to be crushed and this time one would not stop at the border but occupy Germany. However, DM wished to point out that W.C. had always made prudent statements regarding Germany, never equating the Nazis with the German people in public or in any other way. Unfortunately, neither Eden nor Roosevelt had been as restrained. Stalin, on the other hand, had made a very clear distinction between Hitler’s Germany and Germans in general and even gone as far as describing German soldiers as Hitlerites in the latest Russian bulletins. To W.C., the goal was to uproot the Nazi gangster rule that had led the world into this war and brought destruction, oppression and lawlessness over large parts of Europe and rocked the whole world. As long as the Nazi system prevailed and as long as there was a chance that it would be restored there was no future security in the relations between nations and thus no basis for the reconstruction of the world and for the economic and social security of the nations. It was therefore not possible to adopt an attitude towards questions from German revolutionary candidates about the Allies’ reaction to a Germany cleansed from Hitler and his gang by a movement led by generals, public officials, industrialists and unionists. One would have to “wait and see”. Through its achievements within various areas, the revolutionary movement would have to show the world that it had dissociated itself from violence and lawlessness as forcible means and from Nazism as religion and school, in the spirit of which German youth was being brought up. To think that the Allies would grant any blessing or approval of any kind of anti-Hitler or anti-Nazi movement in advance was impossible. It was equally impossible to expect any commitment from the Allies to eliminate the condition regarding “unconditional surrender”, if the revolution were successful. In this connection, D.M. drifted on to the interrogations with the captured German generals, who practically all were anti-Nazis, albeit of varying intensity and colour. However, they were faithful to the code of honour of the German army, which apparently meant dissociation from any participation in attempts at removing the present regime.

On the other hand, some of the more intense antagonists of the Nazis provided information about horrible atrocities committed by the SS troops against the Russian population, atrocities which had filled them with loathing and disgust, not to say shame of being Germans. Reportedly, the SS would draft its personnel through a methodical sorting out of sick elements. A provocateur from the SS would tell perverted, sadistic and cruel stories to a group of young people, while their facial expressions were carefully studied. Some of them displayed disgust or aversion, while others remained indifferent some faces showed interest, with gleaming eyes and even a happy smile on the lips. The latter ones were selected. It was from their ranks that the dreaded SS, police troops, the devils of the concentration camps as well as the tormentors and butchers of the occupied areas were recruited. A system using such an organisation endangers not only its own country, but also civilization and peace. Young people who have been educated under such a regime also represent a danger. What course will the new masters of Germany take with respect to the extermination of these dangerous elements? Undoubtedly, continued D.M., the best thing for Germany, the Allies and the future of the world would be if the Germans themselves put their house in order, calling those guilty to account. The position of the Allies depended to a great extent upon the way in which the purge would be handled and also upon which principles the new German constitution and ecclesiastic work would be founded. The Allies were completely aware about the inconvenience and risks involved, if foreign nations would call the guilty Germans to account. It would of course be hard to say if a revolution could prove - within a period of three or six months depending upon how quickly and how thoroughly a restructuring could be carried out - that a democratic regime, a sound judicial system, school reforms as well as freedom of religion and speech had been introduced. It would furthermore be difficult to say, if this had created the necessary conditions for the belligerents to reach a settlement without demanding that Germany accept “unconditional surrender”. D.M knew that WC would be prepared to support such a line of action, provided the new German regime inspired him with confidence. Labour and the Vansittartism were opposed.

D.M. believed that public opinion in both the UK and the U.S. would soon swing in favour of a settlement, if the Germans declared their will to peace, readiness to evacuate the occupied territories, suspend the submarine warfare, introduce local and civilian internal administration in the occupied territories, support an international peace organisation, disarm except for a defense system and to adopt a defensive attitude during the war, while carrying out internal reform work. Most certainly, a contributing factor to this was leading persons’ attitude towards Russia, the intentions and policy of which were observed with great, but concealed, distrust. In reply to my final question, whether D.M. considered a peace agreement without “unconditional surrender” impossible, he answered categorically no. W.C. did not wish to prolong the war unnecessarily, for the sake of war. The most important thing was to exterminate Nazism and to create guarantees for a lasting peace in the future. In reply to my question, D.M. also declared emphatically that all bombing of revolting places would be stopped, if they only were provided with proper and credible information about the situation. D.M. said that he did not need to consult W.C. further as regards these points. They were for certain.

He was aware of the importance of trying to spare mankind from further suffering. I explained that one could hardly expect that the German generals, being patriots, would help to remove the Hitler regime on the basis of such vague pronouncements. Considering how risky a venture this was, both for themselves and for Germany it might lead to civil war or, if they were successful, to a possible acceptance of “unconditional surrender” as a condition. In reply, D.M. said that stronger pronouncements could probably not be obtained under any circumstances. He admitted, however, that a revolt in Germany, regardless of outcome, was in the interests of the Allies in consequence, he could imagine that he himself should go to Sthlm for a meeting with the relevant German person and repeat to that person what he had just told me. D.M. wished to emphasise that he was not in a position to enter into any negotiations. It would just be an informative conversation about the attitude of the top leaders towards the questions at issue.

During our conversation, it became clear that similar inquiries had been made by German generals in 1941. In D.M.’s opinion, the fact that several people, including some rather important people, entertained revolutionary plans against a regime with Gestapo and the world’s best police force, without being disclosed, was a striking proof of the gravity of the purpose and the skill of the leaders. D.M. was going to consider the issue. Possibly, I was to revert to him before my return trip. When I tried to get in contact I was not received. I was going home on a Saturday. The pretext was writing a memo for WC before “catch a train from Liverpool Street Station at 12.45.”

On 12 August Jacob Wallenberg spoke with Goerdeler in Berlin, reported on the reaction in London and was informed by Goerdeler about the plans for a coup. After his return to Sweden, Marcus Wallenberg tried to contact Desmond Morton again, saying that he had new information if he was interested. Morton thanked him for the letter, Marcus wrote to him again on 6 September and on 25 Septiembre was informed by Victor Ballet, British envoy to Sweden, that Desmond Morton had received his letter, but without more information.

Then on 29 September Marcus received a letter from another acquaitance, Charles Hambro, head of the Special Operations Executive (SOE) and husband of Marcus' former wife. The letter had five pages, the first and the last of a personal nature, but the three middle pages said the following:

Later, in a letter dates 19 October Hambro told Marcus Wallenberg: "I also thought you might like to know that the other information and guidance which I gave you in connection with your enquiries was approved by more important people than I before I passed it to you. It was not the production of my own sweet imagination."

I post this because I previously thought that the Allies would have demanded unconditional surrender also from a new german government, but here there is evidence that at least the British were open to droping the "unconditional surrender" condition. It seems that Hambro contacted Wallenberg on Churchill's orders. I apologize for such a long post, but I find this most interesting.

Guenther von Kluge

Scholars agree that the failure of the anti-Hitler conspirators to enlist the active support of a single field marshal with an army at his disposal severely impaired their goal to overthrow the Nazi regime. Senior officers like Guderian, Rundstedt, Manstein, Halder, and Brauchitsch, might have tipped the scales in the conspirators' favor, but they refused. Kluge, on the other hand, appeared to hold out more promise.

After his schooling at the Military Academy, Kluge served on the General Staff from 1910 to 1918. During the inter-war period, he rose quickly through the ranks to colonel in 1930, major-general in 1933 and lieutenant-general the following year. After 1936, Kluge was given command of an army corps. His interest in mobile warfare soon won Hitler's esteem and assured Kluge's continued ascendance.

Kluge disliked Hitler's gangsterlike Nazi entourage and was appalled at the persecution of the Jews. He was among those many officers of the General Staff who feared Hitler's warmongering would lead Germany to disaster. But like others, Kluge soon succumbed to Hitler's spell as the Teflon fuehrer won one spectacular victory after another. When it came to Poland, Kluge had for years bitterly resented the Versailles Treaty's compensation of West Prussia to Poland and believed Germany was entitled to reclaim its eastern territories.

In the September 1939 campaign against Poland, Kluge proved to be an outstanding strategist on the battlefield, racing ahead with his army to reach the Vistula before Britain and France had even declared war. In this first of adventures he exhibited "a flair for innovation" and won Hitler's admiration. (Lamb, 396). Yet Kluge noted with horror the slaughter of Jews which was being perpertrated by Reinhard Heydrich's security forces that followed on the heels of the Wehrmacht.

Having heard in early October the shocking news that Hitler intended to wage war against the West at the earliest opportunity, Kluge pondered whether to join the conspirators in their second bid for a coup attempt. But he quickly rejected their appeal on account of Hitler's immense popularity at that stage with the German people and troops. The October 1939 coup attempt was aborted by Army Chief of Staff General Franz Halder who believed Hitler was on to something when the latter threatened to "destroy the spirit of Zossen" (the headquarters of the General Staff).

During the campaign against France and the Low Countries, Kluge again distinguished himself in the field of battle for his bold and innovative use of the panzer divisions. He developed a close professional and personal relationship with General Erwin Rommel who served under him and contributed immensely to his victories. On July 19, 1940, Hitler awarded Kluge the field marshal's baton and selected him to help in the invasion of Russia. He was assigned to Army Group Center commanded by Field Marshal Feodor von Bock.

Like so many other senior officers in his theater of operations, Kluge failed to dissuade Hitler from diverting the bulk of Army Group Center's panzer forces northward and southward towards Leningrad and the eastern Ukraine. Like Bock, he was shocked that Hitler expected Army Group Center to conquer Moscow with a seriously depleted panzer force. As half-frozen exhausted German infantry forces ground to a halt before Moscow, Hitler angrily rejected Kluge's pleas to authorize a limited retreat to allow the Wehrmacht to recuperate. Hitler's lack of compassion for the troops and his inability to understand that Moscow could not be taken under such conditions, caused Kluge to develop serious doubts about Hitler's sanity.

In June 1942, Kluge's commanding officer, Bock, was temporarily stricken with illness. Hitler therefore appointed Kluge to suucceed him as Commander-in-Chief of Army Group Center. At Army Group Center headquarters in Smolensk, Kluge developed a close friendship with his Chief of Staff Colonel Henning von Tresckow - an officer of outstanding professional ability who by that time had become the leader of the conspiracy and had recruited many officers into the plot.

Tresckow wasted no time convincing his senior ranking officer that they were dealing with a maddened tyrant who had committed unspeakable evils against humanity and who's war would lead to the total destruction of Germany. The aristocratic circle of young officers on Tresckow's staff, outraged by the brutality of Hitler's war of genocide in Russia, had been won over long before. The Army Group Center conspirators persuaded Kluge that Germany's only hope of survival was Hitler's physical elimination. Tresckow even arranged for Germany's most influential anti-nazi politician Dr. Carl Goerdeler to be secretly flown to Smolensk to help enlist Kluge. But Kluge had a serious character flaw vis a vis the conspirators - the inability to stick to his guns.

Kluge agreed to Tresckow's plan to lure Hitler into visiting Army Group Center headquarters in Smolensk where the conspirators planned to kill him. But when he discovered that the scenario involved shooting the fuehrer as he lunched with the officers, Kluge forbid it claiming that it would be shameful for German officers to dispose of Hitler in this manner. By contrast, when Tresckow approached his young fellow anti-nazi staff officers with the same suggestion, thirty-five of them immediately volunteered to form the shooting party. But because Kluge had vetoed the measure, the Army Group Center conspirators missed the best chance they had of killing Hitler when he visited their headquarters on March 13, 1943. It was not the last time Kluge would fail the plotters.

On June 29, 1944, Hitler fired Field Marshal Gerd von Rundstedt as Commander-in-Chief West and appointed Kluge in his place. Kluge now had under his command all the German armies in France and was therefore in a position to give the conspirators the pivotal support they needed to start a coup. But ever the waiverer, and ever susceptible to Hitler's hypnotic influence, after spending a few days at Hitler's Berchtesgaden retreat, he returned to France convinced that the fuehrer alone could save Germany and that Rommel and Rundstedt were overly pessimistic.

As soon as Kluge arrived at Rommel's headquarters at La Roche-Guyon, an angry row erupted with Rommel demanding that Kluge visit the western front himself. Upon his return, Kluge was again won back into the conspirator's camp and on July 12 agreed with Rommel that the war was lost and that Hitler must sue for peace or be overthrown. On July 16, military governor for Paris and co-conspirator General Karl Heinrich von Stuelpnagel informed Rommel and Kluge that Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg, who had just been elevated into Hitler's inner circle, would assassinate Hitler within days and a Beck-Goerdeler government would be formed to negotiate peace. Kluge in his typical manner promised to help only if they succeeded in killing Hitler. Rommel, however, promised to cooperate regardless of whether his commanding officer, Kluge, went along with the plot.

Tragically for the conspirators, Rommel was seriously wounded the next day, leaving them to depend on Kluge for support. On July 19, Kluge visited Stuelpnagel in Paris and was told that the asssassination and coup would take place the next day. Kluge promised to honor Rommel's commitment. According to General Blumentritt, another conspirator close to Stuelpnagel, when Kluge heard the news of the explosion at Rastenberg, he stated: "If the Fuhrer is dead, we ought to get in touch with the other side at once." (Lamb, 407).

Despite the failure of the July 20th coup in Berlin, Stuelpnagel did his part and had the entire Gestapo and SS contingent in Paris arrested by Wehrmacht units. When Kluge learnt of Hitler's survival, it was futile to expect any support from his quarter. But Stuelpnagel and his aide Colonel Caesar von Hofacker (also Stauffenberg's cousin) were not prepared to give up, and they drove to Kluge's headquarters. Hofacker implored Kluge that he had all the armies in France at his disposal and could lead a mass uprising. At the very least he could surrender all German forces under his command to the Allies and thereby save thousands of German lives, and help the Anglo-Saxon powers reach Berlin before the Russians get there. But the Commander-in-Chief remained silent. When Stuelpnagel persisted, Kluge threatened him with arrest.

As the Normandy front unraveled, Kluge desperately tried to convince Hitler to withdraw the western armies back to the Rhine and hold the line there, but Hitler refused to yield an inch of territory. On August 15, as British and American armies cut deep into the forces of Army Group West, Kluge decided after all to contemplate surrender and left his headquarters all day. But at fuehrer headquarters, an American radio transmission was intercepted asking for Kluge's whereabouts.

Hitler immediately suspected Kluge of attempting to negotiate an armistice and called it the worst day of his life. Dr. Udo Esche, Kluge's son-in-law (who provided the cyanide capsule with which the field marshal later commited suicide) told Allied interrogators that Kluge had contemplated surrender and "went to the front line but was unable to get in touch with the Allied commanders."

George Pfann, secretary to General Patton, later revealed that Patton had also vanished the same day and that the American general had tried to make contact with a German emissary who had not appeared at the appointed place. Montgomery's Chief of Intelligence also confirmed that Kluge was reported missing and that he warned his general that they might receive a message from Kluge at any moment. (ibid.).

When asked by fuehrer headquarters about his being out of touch for an entire day, Kluge replied that his radio car had been damaged by enemy fire. A suspicious and livid Hitler rebuffed Kluge's story and sacked him immediately, replacing him with a fanatical Nazi - Field Marshal Walter Model. Kluge then decided to return to Germany. While driving through Valmy he committed suicide, certain that he had somehow been implicated in the July 20th plot.

Carl Goerdeler and the Conservative Opposition to Hitler

Carl Goerdeler is best remembered for his opposition to Hitler and his involvement in plots to overthrow the Nazi regime. Goerdeler was one of the main instigators of conservative opposition to the Nazi’s during the war. Prior to the war he had served as a senior government official in the Weimar Republic and in several positions, most notably as Price Commissioner, in the Nazi Regime.

Goerdeler’s early career was one of a well thought of and highly efficient economist and administrator. He served as a Civil Servant before fighting on the Eastern Front during the First World War. Following the war he joined the DNVP, a highly conservative party that opposed the Treaty of Versailles and had many links to the pre-war regime. He was elected as Mayor of Konisberg and later of Leipzig. His success in these roles led him, in 1931, to be appointed Reich Price Commissioner. This role involved ensuring that the deflationary policies of the then chancellor, Bruning.

Goerdeler was very good at his job. Upon the fall of Bruning’s government, he was touted as a potential replacement as Chancellor. He also turned down the opportunity to serve on the Cabinet formed by von Papen.

Goerdeler continued in his role as Mayor of Leipzig following the assumption of power by the Nazi Party. His frequent messages to Hitler clearly worked in his favour. In 1934 he was reappointed as Reich Price Commissioner, an important role in the overall organisation of the Third Reich’s economic policies.

Goerdeler’s first signs of opposition to Hitler and the regime related to the treatment of the Jews. He disliked the Nuremburg laws and did not like having to enforce them as Mayor of Leipzig. He also began to clash with the leadership in relation to economic issues. He wanted expenditure to be on foodstuffs, rather than rearmament, for example. However, he still worked closely with the Nazi leadership, penning memoranda for the likes of Goering and Hitler to consider. However his vision for the economy was at odds with Hitler and Goering’s desire for rearmament and his ideas were dismissed.

Goerdeler left office as a result of arguments about a statue. He did not want a statue of Mendelssohn to be moved. The party hierarchy did, as Mendelssohn had Jewish ancestry. As a result of this argument, he declined to resume office as Mayor of Leipzig when his term came to an end in 1937.

After leaving his positions as Mayor of Leipzig and Reich Price Commissioner, Goerdler took up a position as overseas Sales developer for Bosch. This position allowed / required him to travel widely and coincided with his opposition to the regime firming up.

Goerdler regularly met with other opponents of the regime and transmitted these ideas to contacts outside of Germany. He gave the British the impression that there was an organised opposition movement and urged for Hitler’s Foreign Policy to be opposed by Britain, France and the United States. Within Germany he increased his contacts with potential opponents of the regime. In particular he attempted to persuade leading military officials to consider joining a putsch against Hitler. This tied him closely with Ludwig Beck and led them to begin coordinating their opposition.

Hitler’s Foreign Policy moves brought the opponents closer together. Goerdler, Beck and other conservative opponents of Hitler became increasingly alarmed by actions planned against Sudetenland and Czechoslovakia. Whilst they were quite different in their overall aims, they had in common the belief that Hitler was now out of control and in need of replacing, or removing permanently.

A group of officers made plans at this time to implement a putsch. They assumed that Hitler would invade Czechoslovakia. They also assumed that the British and French would declare war as a result. Finally, they believed that a quick and successful putsch would not be opposed by many of the conscripts within the army. The plan appeared to be straightforward. Goerdler spoke to British officials of the plans for a putsch. However he made lots of demands of the British. They included territorial demands – which appeared to contradict the groups opposition to Czechoslovakia being invaded, asked for loans and offered free trade in return.

The 1938 Putsch plan hit a snag though. The British opted for appeasement. They allowed Hitler to take the Sudetenland. The Munich Agreement dealt a decisive blow to the plans for a popular uprising against Hitler. Far from it, the Munich Agreement made it harder to envisage popular support for a regime changing Putsch.

Goerdler continued to look for ways to undermine Hitler and to prevent a war. Inadvertedtly, he almost succeeded. He was fed false information by Abwehr agents who themselves opposed the idea of a war breaking out. This information was believed by the British and led to Chamberlain making a clear statement about the consequences of any German agression on her Western Front.

Following the invasion of Poland and into the period known as the Phoney War, Goerdler continued to press the Generals to undertake a putsch. He was rebuked. He also continued to use his connections with the Nazi leadership to press for a cautious approach and changes of policy. This was noted by Hitler himself who was increasingly irritated by conservative attempts to intervene. However at that stage, Hitler still needed the conservatives and the plotting of a putsch was not known.

1940-42 saw Goerdler expand his network of opponents to the regime. He drew up plans for a Post regime Germany. He also protested about the treatment of the Jews in the City of Leipzig, where he had been mayor. His resistance activities gathered pace following the halt of the advance into the Soviet Union. The Battle of Stalingrad saw moods change and more people were willing to contemplate action against the regime.

In 1943 the opposition group gained new members. Field Marshall Kluge expressed his support and von Stauffenberg joined the group. Now Goerdler and his fellow conspirators met and plotted regularly. They drew up a replacement cabinet to form a government in the event of a successful putsch. They debated the return of the monarchy. They discussed a variety of plans for assassinating Hitler and forcing regime change. Goerdler boasted on one occasion that the putsch would be ready for September, 1943.

As it was the group were not in a position to attempt a putsch by September 1943. It was not until the summer of 1944, following the D Day landings, that they were realistically in a position to undertake a putsch. The Putsch itself was largely organised by Stauffenberg the new Germany however, was the blueprint of Goerdler and Beck.

The idea of this putsch was delayed several times. On 20th July, 1944, it was finally put into action. The July Bomb plot failed.


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