Germany yesterday paid tribute to Claus von Stauffenberg and others who sought to assassinate Adolf Hitler 75 years ago, a plot that was recognised only belatedly but which a resurgent far-right is now seeking to expropriate.
In the attempt on July 20, 1944, Stauffenberg and other high-ranking conspirators within the Nazi regime sought to kill Hitler at his Wolf’s Lair headquarters.
The plot was to seize control of the regime and make peace with Western allies to end World War II. But Hitler survived the bombing and Stauffenberg and other key figures in Operation Valkyrie were executed the same night.
Chancellor Angela Merkel underlined the importance of remembering this anniversary, at a time when far-right forces are once again gaining ground with their nationalist line.
“This day is a reminder to us, not only of those who acted on July 20, but also of everyone who stood up against Nazi rule,” she said in her weekly podcast.
“We are likewise obliged today to oppose all tendencies that seek to destroy democracy. That includes right-wing extremism.”
Stauffenberg and his Operation Valkyrie was brought to the big screen in 2008 when Tom Cruise played the former count as a hero who led an act of resistance against Hitler and his deadly regime.
But at home, the verdict on Stauffenberg is more mixed, with some critics branding him a committed Nazi who only changed sides when it was clear that Hitler was going to lose the war.
In fact, hundreds of resistance fighters who were executed over their involvement in the plot were also only given due recognition in 2009, when their murders were finally branded an injustice by the court, said Johannes Tuchel, who heads the German Resistance Memorial, in a commentary for TAZ daily.
With the lingering ambiguity on Stauffenberg’s legacy, far-right forces, including the AfD party, have claimed to be the inheritors of the heroic act.
Kurt Salterberg, a soldier at Wolf’s Lair when the attempt took place, agrees.
“The youth of today must not be led astray by political demagogues, and must show civil courage. That’s why remembrance of the conspirators is important.
“Stauffenberg was seen then as a traitor, but today I know that he sacrificed his life for Germany and a better world.”