Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Eyewitness Account of Hitler Assassination Attempt Surfaces at Auction

by Stephen J. Gertz

An important eyewitness account of the July 20, 1944 Hitler assassination attempt signed by General Adolf Heusinger, who stood next to Hitler in the Wolf's Lair  when the Operation Valkyrie bomb exploded, came to auction on Tuesday, January 31, 2012.

Offered by Nate D. Sanders Auctions and dated November 1945, the six-page typed document  contains Heusinger's account of the assassination attempt on Hitler, including his hand-rendered diagram of the room and the seating arrangement of Hitler and his staff, as well as the list of who was in the room.

The lengthy typed document, in German, is entitled "The Progression of Events of 20 July 1944" and translates in part:

"The daily review of current happenings took place…at 12:30 in the afternoon in the headquarters of the Fuehrer in Rastenburg. All people indicated on the attached sketch/diagram took part. I, myself represented the then-ill chief of the army, Colonel-General Zeitzler…Hitler entered the room coming from his bunker…First I addressed the situation on the Eastern Front…maps were spread on the tables…Field Marshal Keitel entered the room with Colonel Graf Stauffenberg…Hitler briefly turned around when Stauffenberg made his presence known…The meeting continued…

"Hitler, however, interrupted, saying he only wanted to hear Stauffenberg at the end of the discussion of the Eastern Front…I went on with my speech. Stauffenberg…walked over to Colonel Brandt: 'I have to go make a phone call and I'm leaving my briefcase here until then.'  With these words he left the room, went straight to his car and drove to the exit of the headquarters. There he was said to have waited until the explosion occurred to fly back to Berlin.

Brandt, who was uncomfortable with the briefcase between his feet, pushed it with his foot a little farther underneath the table…About ten minutes later I was reporting on the situation near Duenaburg when Hitler leaned over the table next to me…Right at that moment, at around 12:50 the explosion occurred under the table…I found myself after a few seconds lying on my back, to my right, Colonel Brandt, to my left, Hitler, both lying on their backs as well.

"I heard a loud scream, probably from Keitel: 'The Fuehrer!' And I saw how the big map that was in flames was about to fall on top of me, probably because of the draft coming through the window. I pushed it away with my right arm and crawled backwards toward the door out of the room while the uninjured tended to those who were badly injured. When I reached the outside I sat myself on a patch of grass together with Colonel-General Korten and General-Major Scherff. I realized that I could barely hear, was bleeding on the head and the legs, burned my right underarm and that my uniform was completely torn apart. 

"After a few moments Hitler came out of the building supported by Keitel and his servant Lingen, who must have been near the room, and probably Fegelein, the leader of the Waffen SS, and walked to his bunker fifty paces away. His right pant leg was completely torn as well. All other wounded were immediately sent to the sick bay. I myself was arrested on the eve of 23 July 1944 in the sick bay by the Gestapo due to [involvement] in the assassination attempt and taken to the Gestapo prison in Berlin where I was detained for ten weeks.

1. The floor of the room was made out of wood and not concrete. Some of the bomb's effect must have been absorbed by the floor. 
2. The windows flew out right away, which allowed some of the pressure to disperse. 
3. The thick oak table blocked the upward force of the bomb. 
4. Between Colonel Brandt and myself supposedly was a big column from the table. It probably absorbed some of the force of the bomb in Hitler's direction. The Composition of the Bomb is unknown to me. The detonator must have been an English chemical time fuse as it has been frequently dropped behind our front for reasons of sabotage and was picked up by our defense department. [signed] Heusinger".

A notation in pencil on the first page reads, "for Captain GRUENDL". Accompanied by full translation.

The bidding closed at 5:30PM Pacific. As of 8:52PM Pacific the last bid was $2,853. A bargain, it seems to me.

Images courtesy of Nate D. Sanders Auctions, with our thanks.

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