The best books on plots to kill Hitler

Brian Walters Author Of Treason: Claus von Stauffenberg and the Plot to Kill Hitler
By Brian Walters

Who am I?

I’ve lived with the example of Claus von Stauffenberg and other members of the German resistance for most of my adult life. Their clarity of purpose – when most around them clamoured in support of the Führer and his regime – is a recurring source of inspiration. This impelled me into ever deeper research into the topic, including accessing archives in several countries and using my legal training to weigh evidence. Today we face different challenges, but we can draw strength from the courage of these men and women. They failed, and many died, but there is life in a struggle for a just cause.

I wrote...

Treason: Claus von Stauffenberg and the Plot to Kill Hitler

By Brian Walters,

Book cover of Treason: Claus von Stauffenberg and the Plot to Kill Hitler

What is my book about?

When he placed his briefcase bomb in Hitler’s Wolf’s Lair conference, Claus von Stauffenberg was 36 years old, married, with four children. His wife was pregnant with their fifth. He was a decorated war hero, maimed, and one of the most brilliant staff officers of the German army. He set out to rid his country of Hitler, and bring the Second World War to an end. What led him to this point? 

Treason recounts the page-turning story of Germans prepared to give their all to free their country from the Nazis. Many of these men and women paid with their lives for their principled stand. The text is complemented by hundreds of photos and hundreds of biographical glossaries.

Coming January 2022.

The books I picked & why

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The History of the German Resistance, 1933-1945

By Peter Hoffmann,

Book cover of The History of the German Resistance, 1933-1945

Why this book?

Peter Hoffmann’s father was involved in the resistance. For more than fifty years Professor Hoffmann has documented the history of the Germans who struggled against Nazism. He interviewed each eyewitness who was available and has compiled authoritative studies on the subject.

His unprecedented access and diligent pursuit of detail cannot be replicated, as all the key players have since died. Dense with detail, the book will appeal to scholars rather than the general reader, but it is the last word on the subject.

The Secret War Against Hitler

By Fabian von Schlabrendorff, Andrew Chandler,

Book cover of The Secret War Against Hitler

Why this book?

On 13 March 1943, Schlabrendorff – a German officer in Russia – smuggled a bomb onto Hitler’s aircraft. Inexplicably, the bomb failed to explode. After the July plot, Schlabrendorff was tortured and then brought before the Nazi ‘People’s Court’ – but an Allied air raid killed the judge, and miraculously Schlabrendorff survived the war. He wrote one of the earliest accounts of the German opposition to Hitler. His important role makes this an essential account of the German resistance.

Soldier in the Downfall: A Wehrmacht Cavalryman in Russia, Normandy, and the Plot to Kill Hitler

By Baron Rudolf-Christoph von Gersdorff, Anthony Pearsall (translator),

Book cover of Soldier in the Downfall: A Wehrmacht Cavalryman in Russia, Normandy, and the Plot to Kill Hitler

Why this book?

On 21 March 1943 Gersdorff, a German colonel, showed Hitler around a display of captured weapons in Berlin. He set off the timer for a bomb secreted in his capacious army pocket, but Hitler suddenly left the building: Gersdorff was unable to follow, and had to race to a toilet cubicle to tear the fuse from his bomb. Gersdorff was a committed opponent of the Nazis, and his account traces the highs and lows of the German opposition.

The Von Hassell Diaries

By Ulrich von Hassell,

Book cover of The Von Hassell Diaries

Why this book?

After his dismissal as German ambassador to Italy in 1938, Ulrich von Hassell kept a detailed diary, which he hid by burying it in his garden. He met frequently with resistance figures, including Stauffenberg. Designated foreign minister if the July plot succeeded, the Nazis placed him on trial. Despite the Nazis’ attempt to humiliate him by refusing to let him wear a belt or tie, and allowing him only a rumpled suit, Hassell cut a stylish figure with his pocket-handkerchief and his poised bearing. At one point, he calmly told the foaming judge: ‘Herr President, I have not lived sixty-two years to be told by you that I am a liar.’ He was hanged.

His diary is an essential primary source on the German opposition to Hitler.

The Power of Solitude: My Life in the German Resistance

By Marion Yorck von Wartenburg,

Book cover of The Power of Solitude: My Life in the German Resistance

Why this book?

Marion Yorck von Wartenburg, along with her husband Peter (a relative of Claus von Stauffenberg), were leading figures in the group of opponents to Hitler known as ‘the Kreisau circle’. The group usually met in the Yorcks’ home.

After the failure of the July plot, Peter was executed. Marion was held in solitary confinement for 3 months, but survived the war. She later became a judge. Her first-hand account provides an important perspective on the German resistance.

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