Operation Valkyrie is the title most associated with the attempted assassination of Hitler in July 1944. Ironically Operation Valkyrie was a plan approved by Hitler, which was to be put into operation if there was a breakdown in communication between Hitler and the High Command in Nazi Germany as a result of Allied bombing or an uprising. The conspirators involved in the July Bomb Plot planned to use Operation Valkyrie – which effectively passed command of Germany over to the Reserve (Home) Army – to remove the power of the SS, Gestapo and SD – three major bastions of Hitler’s power base.
The Reserve (Home) Army was under the command of General Fromm – one of the conspirators. He was to take over Germany if there was a breakdown of law and order. The death of Hitler would have been sufficient to introduce Valkyrie as quite clearly there would have been no communication between Hitler and Berlin. Aside from Hitler, only the commander of the Home Army could put Operation Valkyrie into effect. This was General Fromm.
The assassination of Hitler also served the purpose of freeing German army officers of their oath of loyalty to him.
After his bomb had exploded at the Wolf’s Lair in Eastern Prussia, Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg flew back to Berlin to help initiate Operation Valkyrie. The Home Army was meant to take over key points in Berlin and effectively neutralise the Gestapo and SS/SD. From Berlin, this authority was meant to spread throughout Germany and it was the task of Stauffenberg to inform units of the Home Army of what had happened once he had returned to Berlin. The Home Army was meant to be in control of all vital points and posts with them answerable only to Fromm.
However, for a fateful two hours after Stauffenberg arrived back in Berlin, no one would do anything, including Fromm, as there had been no official confirmation that Hitler had been killed. At 19.00 Hitler addressed the people of Nazi Germany on state radio thus confirming that he was alive.
When it became clear that the plot had failed, Fromm ordered the arrest of Stauffenberg and three others – General Olbricht, Colonel Mertz and Lieutenant Werner von Haeften who had accompanied Stauffenberg to the Wolf’s Lair. After a brief court martial all four were shot by firing squad.
The failure of Operation Valkyrie led to many being arrested and tried for treason. The trials, overseen by Nazi zealot Roland Freisler, were a farce and the guilty verdicts were never in doubt. Many were executed while the rest were sent to concentration camps.