A moment of silence today for the men of 20 July.

I could add dozens more pictures, but I’d be here all morning and your eyes would cross. They were German patriots — soldiers, not angels, but patriots nonetheless — and they all died.

It’s easy to complain about feeling powerless to do anything, but imagine knowing that you have the power to do something, if you’re just willing to risk your life.

It’s a scary world we live in, but then, there was 1944.


15 thoughts on “History

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention History « Sixteen Tons -- Topsy.com

  2. The motivation for most of them seems to have been a position that the war was unwinnable, in some cases going back to a point long before war had been declared (but, being soldiers and not politicians, they had no vote). Beck’s stated opinions make it clear he simply didn’t believe Germany had the resources to wage war or build empire, and would only invite the outcome that in fact occurred. No humanitarianism or pacifism there, but sometimes simple objectivity and sanity are good substitutes for those.

    • Indeed, many of these officers thought the war too early, and impossible to win, or even reach a settlement other than the ruin of their country, especially with Hitler in power. They knew that to sue for peace was not possible with him in power.

      These men tried, too late, to save their country from total destruction. They knew the industrial capacity and progress made in allied arms and the nearly inexhaustible resources in manpower held by the allies mean not only defeat, but Germany’s destruction.

      The lesson learned for the rest of us is actually very simple, these men had little chance of success because the time to stop Hitler was 1933, not 1944. Preventing this type of leadership from taking over is critical at the start, not after the leader has taken the reigns of power, then it is too late.

  3. I had read something along those lines. We will never know. Of course even Erwin Rommel wanted to stop everything and save whatever could be saved. He had an «automobile accident» and died before he could do anything.
    Albert Speer did not destroy all that Adolph had ordered destroyed, he too hoped that something could be salvaged.
    Not being able to win does not exclude trying, as we say “de sauver les meubles”.

    • It seems that Rommel’s “auto accident” was genuine enough, actually a matter of being strafed while in the auto, but that he was visited later, while still convalescing, by someone who offered him the alternatives of suicide or allowing his family to bear the consequences of association with the 20 July conspiracy.


      It’s entirely possible he never knew much about the Officers’ Plot but having been approached even obliquely was enough for his military rivals to implicate him.

      “Sauver les meubles” is a perfect expression for the conditions.

  4. I’m reminded of Stephen Fry’s novel, Making History, where an alternate history is created in which Hitler had never been born. The outcome is that an even more ruthless leader emerges, the Nazis win the war and become the ruling party of Europe…

    History often raises the “what if” question.

    • My engineer friend recommended that book to me and I’ve never been able to get into it, engaging as the idea sounds. I suspect I just don’t have much tolerance for fiction written as thought experiments.

      Sort of a variation on the idea “it steam-engines when it comes steam-engine time,” but nonetheless, individuals do change history sometimes.

      • It’s not a great book, but I liked the what-if factor and how things turned out to be the total opposite of what had been expected. I guess because we often think the grass might have been greener, but there are so many other factors at play it’s just too simple to think that by changing or removing the obvious “bad” one that we would end up better off.

  5. I often wonder how things would have been different if at the end of the first war, the Allies had not insisted on such punitive action against Germany. Would people such as those involve in the action of 20 July 1944 been able to act in the early 1930s to stop Hilter and his kind?

  6. Apt juxtaposition of comments (azahar and IsStillHere). Events on the international scale are so complex it’s hard to say what creates the direction that eventually becomes a disaster. or a triumph for that matter.

    Still, I think some changes are the work of individuals. There were people other than T. E. Lawrence liaising with the Arab tribes, for instance, during WWI in the Near Eastern theater, doing similar things to thwart the Turks. But he was the one who, for personal reasons, caught the imaginations of the tribes — then showed up for the Versailles conference, as a British officer, in Arab dress and lobbied for concessions to the tribes. I think we’d have a different Middle East now in a number of ways.

  7. I wouldn’t say no humanitarian at all. They most likely cared about the fate of the Jews, but it took the back seat to Germany national interest. Speaking about morality, what they viewed as moral is probably very different from ours. To them, sacrificing the interest of German majorities for the sake of Jewish minorities would be immoral. In Stauffenberg’s words during the beginning of the war, removing Hitler had to wait until they won the war, which was actually very naive. I’d argue, though, at this point, Stauffenberg didn’t know the extent of the regime’s crime.

      • Most people probably tried to avoid knowing. Even if they found out, it could be easily dismissed as a hoax since it was so unbelievable. Apparently, Moltke once estimated only 1 out of 10 German knew about Auschwitz. He knew because he was naturally curious. Even so, it was a very vague knowledge in 1942. It was a dangerous knowledge nobody wanted to find out, I guess. Those who knew either gave up their humanity or their life. To me, 20 July plot was a quest for human dignity. How could they call themselves human if they didn’t do anything after knowing what had been done in their name? That’s why, we have these holocaust deniers.

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