Ulrich von Hassell was born in Anklam, Germany, on 12th November, 1881. He had a typical upbringing of a young Prussian noble. His father retired from the Royal Hanoverian Army and retired with the rank of colonel. Hassell attended the famous Prinz-Heinrich-Gymnasium in Berlin and earned his Abitur in 1899. (1)
After studying law he entered the Foreign Office in 1908 and three years later he married the daughter of Alfred von Tirpitz, Hassell was Consul-General in Barcelona (1921-26), Ambassador in Copenhagen (1926-30) and Ambassador in Belgrade (1930-32) before becoming ambassador to Rome. (2)
In 1932 Hassell was appointed Ambassador to Rome. In his new post he opposed both the Rome-Berlin Axis and the Anti-Comintern Pact. This upset Italy's foreign minister, Count Galeazzo Ciano, who thought Hassell "unpleasant and treacherous" a surviving relic from "that world of Junkers who cannot forget 1914." (3)
Ciano complained to Joachim von Ribbentrop about Hassell and he was recalled to Berlin on 17th February 1938. Hassell was not sacked and instead was placed on a reserve list of diplomats. Hassell, who had joined the Nazi Party in 1933, was allowed to travel freely in Europe. At first he supported the policies of Adolf Hitler, but gradually he "started to have severe misgivings about Hitler." (4)
In September 1938 he wrote in his diary: "Hitler's speeches are all demagogic and spiced with attacks on the entire upper class. The closing speech at the Party rally was of the same sort, delivered in ranting tones. The mounting hatred against the upper class has been inflamed by the warnings from the generals (except Keitel) against war. Hitler is fired up against them and calls them cowardly. At the same time there is a growing aversion to all independent people... During the past weeks I have asked myself repeatedly whether it is right to serve such an immoral system. However, 'on the outside', the slight chance of successful opposition would be even smaller." (5)
Hassell was a strong opponent of appeasement and had several meetings with Neville Henderson, the British ambassador to Germany. Hassell urged Henderson to tell Neville Chamberlain that this policy would not work. "I see the errors of British policy first, in the treaties of guarantee which were bound to make Germany nervous without actually protecting the states in the East; second that Britain - following a poor precedent - failed to announce with utmost gravity at Munich that it would take military action in case the agreement was violated. All this of course does not excuse Hitler's policies... The historic responsibility falls on Hitler." (6)
In September, 1938, Hassell had a meeting with Johannes Popitz, the Minister of Finance. Popitz also disapproved of Hitler's hostility towards the upper classes: "Popitz was extremely bitter: he was of the opinion that the Nazis will proceed with increasing fury against the 'upper strata' as Hitler calls it. The danger of this tendency is enormous since Hitler has started including senior officers ('the cowardly mutinous generals') in those he rejects. Every decent person is seized by physical nausea, as the acting Minister of Finance Popitz expressed it, when he hears speeches like Hitler's recent vulgar tirade in the Sports Palace." (7)
Hjalmar Schacht, the former Minister of Economics and the President of the Reichsbank, was opposed to excessive expenditures on armaments. Hassell met him at a dinner party on 6th October, 1938: "After dinner, unfortunately in the midst of a rather large circle, he (Schacht) dominated a superficial and very witty conversation by making biting attacks on the regime in which, after all, he still holds a responsible position. In his private discussion with me his political remarks were obscure and contradictory." (8)
On 13th October Hassell attended the seventy-fifth birthday party of Hugo Bruckmann. Hitler also turned up and Frau Bruckmann said that she was pleased that the signing of the Munich Agreement had prevented a war. Hitler growled a half-hearted yes. When she expressed certain doubts about the readiness of the German people to entertain another war Hitler replied that only the ten thousand in the upper strata had any doubts, the people were solidly behind him. Hassell wrote in his diary: "Does he really believe that? If so, somebody has been telling him the most awful lies... Hitler also mentioned his abiding conviction that Britain and France, mindful of their weaknesses, would never have marched. If they had done so we would have won, mainly because our air power is twice the strength of theirs combined, even including the Russians!" (9)
Ernst vom Rath was murdered by Herschel Grynszpan, a young Jewish refugee in Paris on 9th November, 1938. At a meeting of Nazi Party leaders that evening, Joseph Goebbels suggested that there should be "spontaneous" anti-Jewish riots. (10) Reinhard Heydrich sent urgent guidelines to all police headquarters suggesting how they could start these disturbances. He ordered the destruction of all Jewish places of worship in Germany. Heydrich also gave instructions that the police should not interfere with demonstrations and surrounding buildings must not be damaged when burning synagogues. (11)
Heinrich Mueller, head of the Secret Political Police, sent out an order to all regional and local commanders of the state police: "(i) Operations against Jews, in particular against their synagogues will commence very soon throughout Germany. There must be no interference. However, arrangements should be made, in consultation with the General Police, to prevent looting and other excesses. (ii) Any vital archival material that might be in the synagogues must be secured by the fastest possible means. (iii) Preparations must be made for the arrest of from 20,000 to 30,000 Jews within the Reich. In particular, affluent Jews are to be selected. Further directives will be forthcoming during the course of the night. (iv) Should Jews be found in the possession of weapons during the impending operations the most severe measures must be taken. SS Verfuegungstruppen and general SS may be called in for the overall operations. The State Police must under all circumstances maintain control of the operations by taking appropriate measures." (12)
A large number of young people took part in what became known as Kristallnacht (Crystal Night). (13) Joseph Goebbels wrote an article for the Völkischer Beobachter where he claimed that Kristallnacht was a spontaneous outbreak of feeling: "The outbreak of fury by the people on the night of November 9-10 shows the patience of the German people has now been exhausted. It was neither organized nor prepared but it broke out spontaneously." (14) However, Erich Dressler, who had taken part in the riots, was disappointed by the lack of passion displayed that night: "One thing seriously perturbed me. All these measures had to be ordered from above. There was no sign of healthy indignation or rage amongst the average Germans. It is undoubtedly a commendable German virtue to keep one's feelings under control and not just to hit out as one pleases; but where the guilt of the Jews for this cowardly murder was obvious and proved, the people might well have shown a little more spirit." (15)
On 11th November, 1938, Reinhard Heydrich reported to Hermann Göring, details of the night of terror: "74 Jews killed or seriously injured, 20,000 arrested, 815 shops and 171 homes destroyed, 191 synagogues set on fire; total damage costing 25 million marks, of which over 5 million was for broken glass." (16) It was decided that the "Jews would have to pay for the damage they had provoked. A fine of 1 billion marks was levied for the slaying of Vom Rath, and 6 million marks paid by insurance companies for broken windows was to be given to the state coffers." (17)
Hassell was appalled by the events of Kristallnacht and the reactions of the major foreign powers: He wrote in his diary: "I am writing under the crushing emotions evoked by the vile persecution of the Jews after the murder of vom Rath. Not since the World War have we lost so much credit in the world, and that shortly after the greatest foreign policy successes. But my chief concern is not with the effects abroad, not with what kind of foreign political reaction we may expect - at least not for the moment. The debility and amnesia of the so-called great democracies is moreover too monstrous. Proof is the signing of the Franco-German Anti-War Agreement at the same time as the furious indignation worldwide against Germany, and the British ministerial visit to Paris. I am most deeply troubled about the effect on our national life which is dominated ever more inexorably by a system capable of such things... There is probably nothing more distasteful in public life than to have to acknowledge that foreigners are justified in criticizing one's own people. As a matter of fact they make a clear distinction between the people and the perpetrators of acts as these. It is futile to deny, however, that the basest instincts have been aroused, and the effect, especially among the young, must have been bad." (18)
Hassell was appalled by the invasion of Czechoslovakia: "To the utter astonishment of the world, which looks on aghast, brilliantly executed in all its aspects, this is the first instance of manifest depravity, exceeding all limits, including those of decency. The violation of all decent standards now proven among other things by the theft of the gold reserves. A violation of every acknowledged pledge and every healthy national policy. The whole business was conducted in defiance of the dictates of good faith... Britain shows the strongest reaction and apparently wants to build up a strong defensive front against us. But since there is no real determination to resist anywhere - and Hitler is counting on this - nothing will happen for the moment." (19)
Hassell blamed Adolf Hitler, Joachim von Ribbentrop, Neville Chamberlain, Édouard Daladier and Władysław Sikorski for the outbreak of the Second World War. gave the orders for the invasion. "Hitler and Ribbentrop, having decided to attack Poland knowingly took the risk of war with the Western Powers, deluding themselves to varying degrees up to the very last with the belief that the West would remain neutral after all. The Poles for their part, with Polish conceit and Slav aimlessness, confident of British and French support, had missed every remaining chance of avoiding war. The government in London, which with its policy of guarantees and flirting with the Soviets under the effects of 15 March pursued a shallow but at least unaggressive war policy, and whose ambassador did everything to keep the peace, gave up the struggle in the very last days and adopted a devil-may-care attitude. France went through the same stages, only with much more hesitation." (20)
By October, 1939, Hassell was receiving information about atrocities being committed by German invading forces. "The principal sentiments are: the conviction that the war cannot be won militarily; a realization of the highly dangerous economic situation; the feeling of being led by criminal adventurers; and the disgrace that has sullied the name of Germany through its conduct of the war in Poland, namely the brutal use of air power and the shocking bestialities of the SS, especially towards the Jews. The cruelties of the Poles against the German minority are also factual, but somehow more excusable psychologically. When people use their revolvers to shoot down a group of Jews herded into a synagogue, one is filled with shame." (21)
In November 1939, Hassell was appointed to the board of the Central European Economic Council. This enabled Hassell to travel around Europe to speak to political leaders and foreign diplomats. In February 1940, Hassell went to Switzerland to have a meeting with James Lonsdale-Bryans, who claimed he was representing Neville Chamberlain and Edward Wood, Lord Halifax, the British foreign secretary in proposed talks. He claimed that like his close associates, Hugh Grosvenor, 2nd Duke of Westminster and Arthur Nall-Cain, 2nd Baron Brocket, the government wanted peace-talks, but this was being prevented by Robert Vansittart in the Foreign Office. (22)
Lord Halifax later claimed that Lord Brocket had set up a meeting with Lonsdale-Bryans at the Foreign Office on 8th January 1940. According to his own record of the interview, Halifax emphasized that his own name must be kept completely out of the matter. If it ever came to the public notice, he would deny having said anything except that the Allies could not be satisfied with a patched-up peace. However, he did say "it can do no harm and may do a lot of good". (23) It was agreed that Lonsdale-Bryans would meet Hassell and carry a written message from him back to London. (24)
Halifax agreed to the mission if that his name was not mentioned, and he instructed Sir Percy Loraine, the British ambassador in Rome, to assist Lonsdale-Bryans. However, he made it clear that he was not on "an official mission". This of course a common strategy employed by governments as if things go wrong, they can always say it had nothing to do with them. Negotiations with the enemy is always a sensitive matter during a war. (25)
The meeting took place on 22nd February. The following day Hassell gave Lonsdale-Bryans a document in his own handwriting that contained "the principles of free international economic co-operation; there should also be a recognition by all European states in common of the principles of Christian ethics; justice and law as fundamental elements of public life; universal social welfare; control of the executive power of the State by the people and the liberty of thought, conscience and intellectually activity. "All serious people in Germany considered it as of the utmost importance to stop this mad war as soon as possible... Europe does not mean for us a chess-board of political or military action or a base of power." (26)
Sir Alexander Cadogan, Permanent Under-Secretary for Foreign Affairs, suggested they were interested in these negotiations and he was told the Foreign Office would facilitate his return to Switzerland to see Hassell and "leave no frayed ends". (27) After a meeting on 14th April, Hassell wrote in his diary: "Mr Bryans reported that he had given my notes to Halifax who, allegedly without mentioning my name, had shown them to Chamberlain... Halifax told Mr Bryans that he is most grateful for the communication, values it highly and is in complete agreement with the principles laid down... In addition, he admits freely that they are slow, extremely unintelligent and also difficult to move." (28) Richard Overy claims that the British regarded the Hassell group "as differing from Hitler only in method rather than aim." (29)
Hassell's main anti-Nazi links were with Johannes Popitz and Carl Goerdeler. These men all held right-wing views but believed that Hitler wanted the "destruction of the upper-classes" and the "transformation of the churches into meaningless sects." Hassell believed that fascism was "completely soulless, its intrinsic creed being power, we shall get a godless nature, a dehumanized, cultureless Germany and perhaps Europe, brutal and without conscience. Hassell wrote in his diary: "The worst is, perhaps, the frightful devastation wrought on German character, which often enough has shown a tendency to servility." (30)
Hassell wrote in his diary, after the successful invasion of France, that the German upper-classes had mixed feeling feelings about Hitler: "Among the upper strata in Berlin I found some indulging in unrestrained triumph, accompanied by plans for dividing up the world in great style. Others were in the deepest despair because we now have to expect the unrestrained tyranny of the Party for years to come, linked to the notion of giving up public life and devoting oneself to study. Among the populace in general there is, to be sure, joy over the victories which they think will bring peace nearer, but at the same time there is an astonishing apathy. The demoralization of the Germans has never before shown up so clearly." (31)
Hassell was initially very impressed with Goerdeler: "I find it a relief, though, to speak with a man prepared to act rather than grumble. Of course, his hands are tied just like ours, and he is desperate about the losses we have suffered in the Army since February 1938. Nevertheless he believes there are elements of resistance already resurgent throughout the country, though scattered and lacking organization. He sees the development of the Third Reich both home and abroad, morally and economically, in the darkest light." (32) However, in a meeting in June 1941, he commented: "During the conversation it became apparent that Goerdeler is often handicapped by quite outmoded conceptions." (33) On another occasion he said "he is too sanguine, always sees things as he wishes to see them, and in many ways is a true reactionary". (34)
Hassell and Goerdeler were both monarchists: "Hassell was a conservative, even a reactionary, and his political principles and social vision were out of step with the world of modern politics, both democratic and totalitarian... For Hassell the monarchy was one of the safeguards of a realistic, conservative social outlook; a form of corporate state, 'an organic state' as he called it, derived from the Hegelian tradition of state theory, was in his view a safer path to a sound society than the parliamentary path. He was a firm opponent of Communism in all its guises and disliked the brand of populist socialism that he identified with Hitler." (35)
Another important figure in the Popitz-Goerdeler group was Colonel-General Ludwig Beck, Hassell wrote: "This evening I dined alone with Beck. A most cultured, attractive and intelligent man. Unfortunately he has a very low opinion of the Army leaders. For that reason he could see no place where we could gain a foothold although he is firmly convicted of the vicious character of the policies of the Third Reich. (36) On another occasion he commented: "The principal difficulty with Beck is that he is very theoretical. As Popitz says, a man of tactics but little will power, whereas Goerdeler has much will power but no tactics... Nevertheless all three are capital men." (37)
Hjalmar Schacht was another member of the group. In August, 1934, Hitler had appointed Schacht as his minister of economics. Deeply influenced by the economic ideas of John Maynard Keynes and the way Franklin D. Roosevelt had brought in his New Deal, Schacht encouraged Hitler to introduce a programme of public works, including the building of the Autobahnen. However, Hitler and Schacht fell out over how to run the economy and in November 1937 he resigned as Minister of Economics but remained President of the Reichsbank. (38)
Hassell met Schacht on 3rd September, 1941, to discuss tactics. Schacht believed it was important to remove Germany's Foreign Minister, Joachim von Ribbentrop, from power. Hassell found it difficult to trust Schacht who never fully committed to the task of overthrowing Hitler: "Schacht sees things very clearly, but his judgement is affected by his boundless personal ambition and his unreliable character. I believe that if Hitler knew how to handle him properly, Schacht would even now place himself at his disposal, unless he has given up the ship for lost." (39)
Hassell also met with Adam von Trott, a leading figure in the Kreisau Circle, a Christian Socialist group who opposed Hitler, that had been formed by Peter Graf Yorck von Wartenburg and Helmuth von Moltke. A. J. Ryder has pointed out that the Kreisau Circle "brought together a fascinating collection of gifted men from the most diverse backgrounds: noblemen, officers, lawyers, socialists, trade unionists, churchmen." (40) Joachim Fest argues that the "strong religious leanings" of this group, together with its ability to attract "devoted but undogmatic socialists," but has been described as its "most striking characteristic." (41)
Trott explained how the group was trying to build a broad coalition but totally disagreed with Hassell and his colleagues about certain issues. For example, the group were opposed to the idea of the reintroduction of the monarchy. Although the monarchy would win the support of some sections of the German population but "not confidence abroad." He explained that members of the outlawed Social Democratic Party "would never go along with us on the monarchy and would wait for the next group." One thing they did agree on was that Martin Niemöller would make a good Chancellor after the war. (42)
On 8th April, 1941, Hassell was told by Hans Oster at the home of Ludwig Beck, about orders given to German commanders to carry out collective reprisals against civilians in the Soviet Union. He wrote in his diary: "It makes one's hair stand on end to learn about measures to be taken in Russia, and about the systematic transformation of military law concerning the conquered population into uncontrolled despotism - indeed a caricature of all law. This kind of thing turns the German into a type of being which had existed only in enemy propaganda." (43)
Hassell also received information about these atrocities from German soldiers returning from the Eastern Front: "A young officer now in Munich received an order to shoot 350 civilians, allegedly partisans, among them women and children, who had been herded together in a large barn. He hesitated at first, but was then warned that the penalty for disobedience was death. He begged for ten minutes' time to think it over, and finally carried out the order with machine-gun fire, finishing off the survivors with a machine-pistol. He is so shaken by this episode that, although only slightly wounded, he is determined not to go back to the front." (44)
In April 1942 he was warned by Ernst Weizsäcker, State Secretary in the Foreign Ministry, that he was under investigation by the Gestapo. "He carefully closed the windows and doors, and announced with some emphasis that he had a very serious matter to discuss with me. He brusquely waved aside my joking rejoinder. For the time being he had to ask me to spare him the embarrassment of my presence. When I started to remonstrate he interrupted me harshly. He then proceeded to heap reproaches on me as he paced excitedly up and down. I had been unbelievably indiscreet,... This was all known in certain places (the Gestapo), and they claimed even to have documents. He must demand, more emphatically, that I correct this behaviour. I had no idea, he said, how people were after me (the Gestapo). every step I took was observed. I should certainly burn everything I had in the way of notes which covered conversations in which one or other had said this or that." (45)
On 8th January, 1943, a group of conspirators, including, Ulrich von Hassell, Helmuth von Moltke, Fritz-Dietlof von der Schulenburg, Johannes Popitz, Eugen Gerstenmaier, Adam von Trott, Ludwig Beck and Carl Goerdeler met at the home of Peter Graf Yorck von Wartenburg. Hassell was uneasy with the utopianism of the of the Kreisau Circle, but believed that the "different resistance groups should not waste their strength nursing differences when they were in such extreme danger". Wartenburg, Moltke and Hassell were all concerned by the suggestion that Goerdeler should become Chancellor if Hitler was overthrown as they feared that he could become a Alexander Kerensky type leader. (46)
Moltke and Goerdeler clashed over several different issues. According to Theodore S. Hamerow: "Goerdeler was the opposite of Moltke in temperament and outlook. Moltke, preoccupied with the moral dilemmas of power, could not deal with the practical problems of seizing and exercising it. He was overwhelmed by his own intellectuality. Goerdeler, by contrast, seemed to believe that most spiritual quandaries could be resolved through administrative expertise and managerial skill. He suffered from too much practicality. He objected to the policies more than the principles of National Socialism, to the methods more than the goals. He agreed in general that the Jews were an alien element in German national life, an element that should be isolated and removed. But there is no need for brutality or persecution. Would it not be better to try and solve the Jewish question by moderate, reasonable means?" (47)
Some historians have defended Goerdeler from claims that he was an ultra-conservative: "Goerdeler has frequently been accused of being a reactionary. To some extent this results from the vehemence with which differing points of view were often argued between the various political tendencies in the opposition. In Goerdeler's case the accusation is unjustified. Admittedly he, like Popitz, wished to avoid the pitfalls of mass democracy; he was concerned to form an elite... and some stable form of authority. This he wished to achieve, however, through liberalism and decentralization; his stable authority should be so constructed that it guaranteed rather than suppressed freedom." (48)
The conspirators eventually agreed who would be members of the government. Head of State: Colonel-General Ludwig Beck, Chancellor: Carl Goerdeler; Vice Chancellor: Wilhelm Leuschner; State Secretary: Peter Graf Yorck von Wartenburg; State Secretary: Ulrich-Wilhelm Graf von Schwerin; Foreign Minister: Ulrich von Hassell; Minister of the Interior: Julius Leber; State Secretary: Lieutenant Fritz-Dietlof von der Schulenburg; Chief of Police: General-Major Henning von Tresckow; Minister of Finance: Johannes Popitz; President of Reich Court: General-Major Hans Oster; Minister of War: Erich Hoepner; State Secretary of War: General Friedrich Olbricht; Minister of Propaganda: Carlo Mierendorff; Commander in Chief of Wehrmacht: Field Marshal Erwin von Witzleben; Minister of Justice: Josef Wirmer. (49)
Ulrich von Hassell and Johannes Popitz believed that he could exploit the differences inside the Nazi leadership and bring about a split by persuading Heinrich Himmler to lead a coup against Adolf Hitler. In August 1943, Popitz had a meeting with two senior figures in the resistance: General Friedrich Olbricht and General-Major Henning von Tresckow. They gave their approval to the strategy. So also did Colonel-General Ludwig Beck, who "believed a putsch carried out by generals was bound to fail" and he was only willing to participate "on the condition" that the putsch had the support of Himmler." (50)
Carl Langbehn, Himmler's lawyer, was also a member of the resistance. Hassell had discussions with Langbehn and he described him as an "intelligent man but rather restricted by his good personal relationship with Himmler." (51) Langbehn approached Himmler and managed to persuade him to meet Popitz. On 26th August, Popitz had an interview with Himmler in the Reich Ministry of the Interior. "Apparently Popitz began by flattering Himmler's vanity as the guardian of National Socialist values under attack by Party corruption and misdirection of the war effort. The war was no longer winnable, he went on, and if they carried it on as formerly they were heading for defeat or stalemate at best." (52)
According to Peter Hoffmann: "Adroitly he suggested that Himmler assume the role of guardian of the true Holy Grail of Nazism; someone was required to re-establish order, both at home and abroad, after all the corruption and the unhappy conduct of the war by a single overloaded man. The war could no longer be won, he said, but it would only be lost if it continued to be conducted on these lines." Popitz pointed out that because of their fear of communism, Winston Churchill and Franklin D. Roosevelt were still willing to negotiate, but not with Hitler or Joachim von Ribbentrop. (53)
Popitz and Himmler agreed to further talks but these never took place because in September 1943 Langbehn was arrested by the Gestapo. It seems that they had intercepted an Allied message that had been sent to Langbehn. It was shown to Himmler and he had to choice but to act, though he contrived to avoid ordering a trial. Popitz retained his freedom but now his fellow conspirators tended to keep their distance as it was feared that he was being closely observed by the authorities. (54) It seems that Hitler was also highly suspicious of Popitz. Joseph Goebbels wrote in his diary: "Hitler is absolutely convinced that Popitz is our enemy. He is already having him watched so as to have incriminating material about him ready; the moment Popitz gives himself away, he will close in on him." (55)
Hassell was very worried by these developments. He received news that two senior figures in the Gestapo, Heinrich Müller and Walter Schellenberg, were involved in the interrogation. Hassell was worried that if Langbehn was tortured he might mention that he was a member of the German Resistance. He was afraid for his wife and children as Langbehn's wife and secretary were also arrested. "The Gestapo have locked up Langbehn, his wife, secretary and Puppi Sarre (a close friend)... Now Langbehn will disappear from circulation, the man who helped so many victims of the Gestapo, quite apart from the political consequences." (56)
In October 1943, Lieutenant-Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg, joined Operation Valkyrie. While serving in Africa, Stauffenberg was wounded in the face, in both hands, and in the knee by fire from a low-flying Allied plane. According to one source: "He feared that he might lose his eyesight completely, but he kept one eye and lost his right hand, half the left hand, and part of his leg." After he recovered it was decided that it would be impossible to serve on the front line and in October, 1943, he was appointed as Chief of Staff in the General Army Office. (57)
The group was pleased by the arrival of Stauffenberg who brought new dynamism to the attempt to remove Hitler. Stauffenberg volunteered to be the man who would assassinate Hitler: "With the help of men on whom he could rely at the Führer's headquarters, in Berlin and in the German Army in the west, Stauffenberg hoped to push the reluctant Army leaders into action once Hitler had been killed. To make sure that this essential preliminary should not be lacking, Stauffenberg allotted the task of assassination to himself despite the handicap of his injuries. Stauffenberg's energy had put new life into the conspiracy, but the leading role he was playing also roused jealousies." (58)
Claus von Stauffenberg now decided to carry out the assassination himself. But before he took action he wanted to make sure he agreed with the type of government that would come into being. Conservatives such as Johannes Popitz and Carl Goerdeler and wanted Field Marshal Erwin von Witzleben to become the new Chancellor. However, socialists in the group, such as Julius Leber and Wilhelm Leuschner, argued this would therefore become a military dictatorship. At a meeting on 15th May 1944, they had a strong disagreement over the future of a post-Hitler Germany. (59)
Stauffenberg was highly critical of the conservatives led by Carl Goerdeler and was much closer to the socialist wing of the conspiracy around Julius Leber. Goerdeler later recalled: "Stauffenberg revealed himself as a cranky, obstinate fellow who wanted to play politics. I had many a row with him, but greatly esteemed him. He wanted to steer a dubious political course with the left-wing Socialists and the Communists, and gave me a bad time with his overwhelming egotism." (60)
On 20th July, 1944, Claus von Stauffenberg and Werner von Haeften left Berlin to meet with Hitler at the Wolf' Lair. After a two-hour flight from Berlin, they landed at Rastenburg at 10.15. Stauffenberg had a briefing with Field Marshal Wilhelm Keitel, Chief of Armed Forces High Commandat, at 11.30, with the meeting with Hitler due to take place at 12.30. As soon as the meeting was over, Stauffenberg, met up with Haeften, who was carrying the two bombs in his briefcase. They then went into the toilet to set the time-fuses in the bombs. They only had time to prepare one bomb when they were interrupted by a junior officer who told them that the meeting with Hitler was about to start. Stauffenberg then made the fatal decision to place one of the bombs in his briefcase. "Had the second device, even without the charge being set, been placed in Stauffenberg's bag alone with the first, it would have been detonated by the explosion, more than doubling the effect. Almost certainly, in such an event, no one would have survived." (61)
When he entered the wooden briefing hut, twenty-four senior officers were in assembled around a huge map table on two heavy oak supports. Stauffenberg had to elbow his way forward a little in order to get near enough to the table and he had to place the briefcase so that it was in no one's way. Despite all his efforts, however, he could only get to the right-hand corner of the table. After a few minutes, Stauffenberg excused himself, saying that he had to take a telephone call from Berlin. There was continual coming and going during the briefing conferences and this did not raise any suspicions. (62)
Stauffenberg and Haeften went straight to a building about 200 hundred yards away consisting of bunkers and reinforced huts. Shortly afterwards, according to eyewitnesses: "A deafening crack shattered the midday quiet, and a bluish-yellow flame rocketed skyward... and a dark plume of smoke rose and hung in the air over the wreckage of the briefing barracks. Shards of glass, wood, and fiberboard swirled about, and scorched pieces of paper and insulation rained down." (63)
General Friedrich Fromm arrested Lieutenant-Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg, Colonel-General Ludwig Beck, Colonel-General Erich Hoepner, General Friedrich Olbricht, Colonel Albrecht Metz von Quirnheim and Lieutenant Werner von Haeften. Fromm decided that he would hold an immediate court-martial. Stauffenberg spoke out, claiming in a few clipped sentences sole responsibility for everything and stating that the others had acted purely as soldiers and his subordinates. (64)
All the conspirators were found guilty and sentenced to death. Hoepner, an old friend, was spared to stand further trial. Beck requested the right to commit suicide. According to the testimony of Hoepner, Beck was given back his own pistol and he shot himself in the temple, but only managed to give himself a slight head wound. "In a state of extreme stress, Beck asked for another gun, and an attendant staff officer offered him a Mauser. But the second shot also failed to kill him, and a sergeant then gave Beck the coup de grâce. He was given Beck's leather overcoat as a reward." (65)
The condemned men were taken to the courtyard. Drivers of vehicles parked in the courtyard were instructed to position them so that their headlight would illuminate the scene. General Olbricht was shot first and then it was Stauffenberg's turn. He shouted "Long live holy Germany." The salvo rang out but Haeften had thrown himself in front of Stauffenberg and was shot first. Only the next salvo killed Stauffenberg and was shot first. Only the next salvo killed Stauffenberg. Quirnheim was the last man shot. It was 12.30 a.m. (66)
Heinrich Himmler gave order for the arrest of Hassell the day after the failure of the July Plot. Other members of the group were also taken into custody. This included Admiral Wilhelm Canaris, Field Marshal Erwin von Witzleben, General-Major Hans Oster, General-Major Helmuth Stieff, Helmuth von Moltke, Peter von Wartenburg, Fabian Schlabrendorff, Johannes Popitz and Hjalmar Schacht. Others such as General-Major Henning von Tresckow committed suicide rather than be arrested and tortured. (67)
Although there is no evidence that Hassell knew anything about the July Plot he appeared in court before Judge Roland Freisler with Josef Wirmer, Wilhelm Leuschner and Paul Lejeune-Jung, on 2nd September, 1944. According to Peter Hoffmann, the author of Hassell's behaviour in The History of German Resistance (1977): "seemed to be the prosecutor rather than the accused when before the court". (68) Theodore S. Hamerow added that Hassell "stood in the dock, steadfast and composed, courageously facing the charges of treason... still calm during the legal proceedings, still dignified, more the accuser than the accused." (69)
Ulrich von Hassell was convicted of high treason and executed on 8th September, 1944. In the previous six years he had kept a diary. The first diaries up to 1941 were taken successfully to Switzerland, but the others were buried in a Ridgeway's Pure China Tea box and buried in a wood outside Munich. The final entries were tucked into a photo album when the Gestapo came to search on 28th July 1944, but were not found. Richard Overy has argued: "This was not a private concern; clearly Hassell wanted this diary to be a record of Germany's disgrace, 'a bequest' to the future if the worst happened to him." (70)
In 1947, The Other Germany: Diaries 1938-1944 was published. As Louis L. Snyder has pointed out: "The diaries... are a main source of information about the Resistance movement. Published posthumously, they give an extraordinary picture of the daily activities and dangers of those who served in the attempt to remove Hitler... He traveled widely in Europe. Supposed to report on economic activities, he kept in touch with those who had been sympathetic to the Resistance." (71)
The role played by the Spanish conflict as regards Italy's relations with France and England could be similar to that of the Abyssinian conflict, bringing out clearly the actual, opposing interests of the powers and thus preventing Italy from being drawn into the net of the Western powers and used for their machinations. The struggle for dominant political influence in Spain lays bare the natural opposition between Italy and France; at the same time the position of Italy as a power in the western Mediterranean comes into competition with that of Britain. All the more clearly will Italy recognize the advisability of confronting the Western powers shoulder to shoulder with Germany.
Hitler's speeches are all demagogic and spiced with attacks on the entire upper class. The closing speech at the Party rally was of the same sort, delivered in ranting tones. The mounting hatred against the upper class has been inflamed by the warnings from the generals (except Keitel) against war. Hitler is fired up against them and calls them "cowardly". At the same time there is a growing aversion to all independent people. Whoever does not grovel is regarded as haughty. One of Ribbentrop's adjutants told Frau Schoningh recently that I am very full of my own importance. Therein lies the explanation of my own situation. Heydrich told Plessen in Rome that the Party considered me haughty. Ribbentrop cannot abide me either. During the past weeks I have asked myself repeatedly whether it is right to serve such an immoral system. However, "on the outside", the slight chance of successful opposition would be even smaller.
I am writing under the crushing emotions evoked by the vile persecution of the Jews after the murder of vom Rath. Not since the World War have we lost so much credit in the world, and that shortly after the greatest foreign policy successes. But my chief concern is not with the effects abroad, not with what kind of foreign political reaction we may expect - at least not for the moment. The debility and amnesia of the so-called great democracies is moreover too monstrous. Proof is the signing of the Franco-German Anti-War Agreement at the same time as the furious indignation worldwide against Germany, and the British ministerial visit to Paris. I am most deeply troubled about the effect on our national life which is dominated ever more inexorably by a system capable of such things.
Goebbels has seldom won so little credence for any assertion (although there are people among us who swallowed it) as when he said that a spontaneous outburst of anger amongst the people had caused the outrages and that they were stopped after a few hours. At the same time he laid himself open to the convincing reply that if such things can happen unhindered, the authority of the state must be in a bad way. As a matter of fact there is no doubt that we are dealing with an officially organized anti-Jewish riot which broke out at the same hour of the night all over Germany! Truly a disgrace!
As early as Wednesday 9th, a neighbouring mayor expressed his sorrow to Pastor Weber that he had orders to take action against a respectable Jew. He then added that on the 10th all the synagogues in Germany would be burning. They were shameless enough to mobilize school classes. Leyen says that in a Swabian village the Catholic teacher gave in, but the Evangelical teacher refused to let the boys go.
There is probably nothing more distasteful in public life than to have to acknowledge that foreigners are justified in criticizing one's own people. As a matter of fact they make a clear distinction between the people and the perpetrators of acts as these. It is futile to deny, however, that the basest instincts have been aroused, and the effect, especially among the young, must have been bad.
The effect of Hess's flight ... was indescribable, but immeasurably increased by the stupidity of the official communique, which could clearly be traced to Hitler's personal explosions of wrath. The first one especially, which implied that for months, even for years, he had presented to the people a half or even entirely insane 'Deputy' as heir-apparent of the Fuehrer.. . .
The background of Hess's flight is not yet clear. The official explanations are, to say the least, incomplete. Hess's sporting and technical performance alone showed that he could not be called crazy.
He carefully closed the windows and doors, and announced with some emphasis that he had a very serious matter to discuss with me. He brusquely waved aside my joking rejoinder. For the time being he had to ask me to spare him the embarrassment of my presence. When I started to remonstrate he interrupted me harshly. He then proceeded to heap reproaches on me as he paced excitedly up and down. I had been unbelievably indiscreet, quite unheard-of; as a matter of fact, "with all due deference", so had my wife. This was all known in certain places (the Gestapo), and they claimed even to have documents. He mist demand, more emphatically, that I correct this behaviour. I had no idea, he said, how people were after me (the Gestapo). every step I took was observed. I should certainly burn everything I had in the way of notes which covered conversations in which one or other had said this or that.