The plan to assassinate Hitler | Untold History #15

Back to World War II, its stories just never end. Hitler needs no introduction, we read about him all the time, unlike Mao, Stalin and Leopold II. During the war except Germans and its allies everyone wished for Hitler to die, imagine how the world would be if Hitler didn’t exist, or was killed early in war. Kill the leader and the pawns fall, simple enough, with the secret intelligence that existed since the first World War, I always wondered why they never plotted an assassination, turns out they did. It’s not that they failed to assassinate him, after all the drugs that kept Hitler “sane” would make him an easy target, it was actually that British intelligence (SOE) thought that it was better to keep him alive, for rather debatable reasons.

Operation Foxley was a plan to assassinate Hitler in 1944, created by the British Special Operations Executive (SOE). The plan preparations were made, however, the plan was never attempted. The first assassination plan for Hitler was to bomb the special train “Amerika” (in 1943, renamed “Brandenburg”) in which he traveled, the SOE had extensive experience in derailing trains using explosives. However, the plan was abandoned, because Hitler’s travel schedule was very unpredictable.

Hitler’s personal train “Amerika.”
Image source: Medium

The second plan was to put some tasteless, but lethal, poison on the drinking water supply on Hitler’s train. However, the plan was considered complicated, because It needed an inside man. Ultimately, a sniper attack was considered to be the method most likely to succeed. In Summer 1944, a German who had been part of Hitler’s personal guard at the Berghof had been taken prisoner in Normandy. He revealed that at the Berghof, Hitler always took a 20-minute morning walk at around the same time (after 10:00 AM). Hitler liked to be left alone during this walk, leaving him unprotected near some woods, where he was out of sight of sentry posts. The basic plan was to assassinate Hitler during his morning exercise, as he walked unprotected to the Teehaus on the Mooslahnerkopf Hill from the Berghof residence.

Transcript describing the plan to assassinate using a sniper.
Image source: National Archives UK

A sniper was recruited and briefed and the plan was submitted. The sniper practiced by firing at moving dummy targets with an accurized Kar 98k, the standard rifle of the Wehrmacht, under conditions which simulated the actual assassination. An inside man was also found: vehemently anti-Nazi Heidentaler, the uncle of a captured soldier, Dieser, lived in Salzburg, 20 kilometres from the Berghof. He, with like-minded shopkeepers, regularly visited a shooting range 16 km from the Berghof. There had been some resistance to the assassination plan, particularly from the deputy head of SOE’s German Directorate, Lt Col Ronald Thornley. However, his superior, Sir Gerald Templer, and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill supported the plan. The two-man team was to be parachuted in and sheltered with Heidentaler, after which they could make the approach to the killing zone disguised as German mountain troops.

Now after all this training the plan was still never executed. The reason was a debate started weather it really was a good idea to kill Hitler because he was a really bad military strategist. He had a habit of micro-managing everything and doing things even after strong objections from his generals. For example, he believed that the D-Day landings would be at Calais, because we tried to give that impression and it was only 40 miles across the English Channel at that point. His generals said it was a ploy, and the invasion would come much farther south, in Normandy, where the channel is 140 miles wide. So, Hitler let his generals prepare for invasion through Normandy, but held several Panzer Divisions in reserve a short way from Calais. Those tanks would have made a big difference on D-Day, but they travelled so slow that there was no way to get them from Calais to Normandy before D-Day was long over and it was over and the Allied Forces (Britain, France, Canada, US) won, which was a huge turning point in the war.

It was believed that if Hitler was killed then certainly someone better would replace him making it harder for the Allied Forces. Col. Ronald Thornley was one of the many in opposition of the assassination plan, he argued that Germany was almost defeated and, if Hitler was assassinated, he would become a martyr to some Germans, and give rise to speculation that Germany might have won if Hitler had survived. Since the idea was not only to defeat Germany but to destroy Nazism (although US hired Nazis to build NASA) in general, that would have been a highly undesirable development. However, there were strong advocates on both sides, and the plan never became operational simply because no actual decision was reached. The death of Hitler in 1944 (in ’44 the plan was thought out) might have ended the war and saved as many as 10,000,000 lives, largely through the bombing campaign against German cities being discontinued, the concentration camps being liberated earlier, and an earlier end to the Eastern Front fighting against the Soviet Union. Analysts agreed that the assassination plan would most probably fail during the sniper team’s approach to the firing position, but considered that if the sniper could reach a viable firing position, there was a fair chance of killing Hitler.

The backup plan.

Bibliography

  • https://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/operation-foxley
  • https://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/education/resources/hitler-assassination-plan/
  • https://althistory.fandom.com/wiki/Operation_Foxley
  • https://military.wikia.org/wiki/Operation_Foxley
  • https://www.quora.com/Was-Hitler-any-good-as-a-military-strategist
  • http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/worldwars/wwtwo/killing_hitler_01.shtml

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