Plot to Kill Hitler (1990)
Director: Lawrence Schiller.
Starring: Brad Davis (Count Claus von Stauffenberg), Madolyn Smith Osborne (Countess Nina von Stauffenberg), Ian Richardson (Gen. Beck), Kenneth Colley (Field Marshal Wilhelm Keitel), Michael Byrne (Gen. Olbricht), Helmut Lohner (Gen. Fromm), Jonathan Hyde (Prof. Joseph Goebbels), Rupert Graves (Axel von dem Bussche), Jack Hedley, John McEnery, Heather Chasen, Helmut Griem (Field Marshal Erwin Rommel), Mike Gwilym (Adolf Hitler), Vernon Dobtcheff (Fellgiebel), Christoph Eichhorn (Stieff).
A historical recreation of the 1944 attempt by several German High Command Officers to assassinate Adolf Hitler.
Spoiler Warning: below is a summary of the entire film.
As the end of World War II drew near, Hitler’s Germany was not only waging a war on separate fronts but from within the Third Reich. This story is based on an actual event.
July 20, 1944. Berlin. Goebbels speaks to a large group of soldiers. He says: "Divine providence has given us a sure sign that the Fuhrer’s mission will be fulfilled. It is now your duty to deliver the final decisive blows against the cowards who committed this contemptible crime against our party, our Germany, our Fuhrer. Heil Hitler!"
Soldiers jump out of the back of a truck. Their orders are to arrest the traitors! In the building Claus Stauffenberg gets a call from Walter saying: "We’re overrun." "It’s all over, Claus . We are done." says Friedrich Olbricht. Claus says that they don’t want to miss the circus of the trial. Another man says that they must live for the sake of history. They must live to tell the facts.
The soldiers reach Stauffenberg and he is shot in the left soldier. An officer tells his men not to shoot him again for this is Stauffenberg. "He’s the one!"
Flashback.. Tunisia, April 1943. Fifteen months earlier. Stauffenberg comes to speak with Marshal Rommel. Rommel tells him to come into what’s left of his headquarters. Stauffenberg has been reassigned to Berlin. He is apparently being groomed for higher things. Rommel tells Stauffenberg that this is a war they cannot win. He asks Stauffenberg of his opinion of Hitler and the younger man says: "Mad, I’m afraid."
Returning from the meeting with Rommel artillery shells explode in the streets. Stauffenberg is hit. The doctor tells his wife Nina that he has sustained several extremely debilitating and disfiguring injuries. She goes into the room to sit by her husband’s side. He asks about his eyes and she tells him that one is lost and the other will heal.
Nina brings Claus home. He has lost his right arm, has a bandaged left hand and an eyepiece over his left eye. His three children rush into the room to welcome him home. They sit down for a meal. His wife has to cut up his food for him. At night his wife hears him crying over the frustration with his physical limitations.
Stauffenberg goes to see General Beck who retired as chief of staff in 1938. Stauffenberg asks him why did he quite when he had the ear of Hitler and was a voice of reason? Beck says: "Reason died when Hitler crossed the border into Czechoslovakia." He firmly believes that Hitler must be killed before the Allies invade the continent and force Germany into an unconditional surrender.
The radio tells the news of the resignation of Mussolini. And in Sicily, armored Wehrmacht divisions continue to repel the northward advance by British and American invaders. Stauffenberg laughs and says" "We will repel the Allies all the way to Berlin."
At night the family has to run to a bomb shelter because of Allied bombardments. Stauffenberg tells his wife that he has asked for reassignment. He must return to duty. He takes the job of administering to the reserve army.
Stauffenberg meets with Gen. Olbricht. He says his new job will be boring stuff after his having been with the 10th Panzer Division. Stauffenberg says: "An allied invasion is inevitable." This upsets the General and he says: "I would suggest that you keep any questionable opinions to yourself." They are all answerable to General Fromm. Olbricht mentions that Stauffenberg knows Gen. Beck, but Stauffenberg denies knowing the man. He says he has only seen the man once or twice and for very brief periods of time.
All in civilian clothes, Beck, Stauffenberg and Olbricht meet in a bread line. From there they start walking. Beck says the Resistance in the army is very much alive. And they have six field commanders in with them. Beck asks Stauffenberg if he knows about operation Walkure. He does. That’s the plan for a reserve army mobilization to defend Berlin. Beck tells him: "Use it!" and then leaves.
Stauffenberg tells Fromm that he wants to reinstate operation Walkure because it may be needed in the case of an uprising in Berlin. Fromm indicates his doubts about how things are going and Stauffenberg tells him that the war is no longer winnable. "Bravo!" says Fromm. He agrees that they are "doomed". Stauffenberg tells the conspirators that Fromm bought the idea, but he cannot be trusted.
Hitler’s Mountain Headquarters. An astrologer tells Hitler that the stars declare their ultimate victory. Stauffenberg is one of the officers sitting at a dinner table with Hitler. An aide comes to whisper something to Hitler and the man goes into a rage saying that this is incompetent and unacceptable! He tells Stauffenberg, who is about to light a cigarette, that it is a dirty habit, especially at meal times. But he has praise for Stauffenberg’s work on operation Walkure and tells him he will report directly to him (Hitler). But only Gen. Fromm will have the authority to issue the Walkure Alert.
After visiting at home with his family, Stauffenberg tells his wife that he will be taking an apartment in central Berlin. It is also clear that Nina knows that her husband is trying to do something about the worsening situation for Germany, but does not know exactly what.
Stauffenberg tells Beck that he plans not only to kill Hitler but to plan the takeover of the government afterwards. Then they will arrest Gobbels, Himmler and Goring. They may have to kill them too. Afterwards they will liberate the concentration camps and ask for peace with the West, if they are still interested.
Nina and the children attend the circus, but their visit is cut short by an Allied air raid. German propaganda claims that they shot down 60 American aircraft. Nina comes to her husband’s apartment, which makes him very upset. He makes her promise to never come to the apartment again. She wants to know what’s going on here, but he tells her that it is not her place to know even though he suspects she already does know. In the discussion he lets slip that the plan is to kill Hitler. Nina suspected it, but did not know for sure. She is a bit stunned.
Stauffenberg speaks with a volunteer suicide bomber, named Axel, who says he is willing to kill himself to take out Hitler. The man doesn’t want to do it, but will do it if so ordered. Stauffenberg says that he cannot do that. Axel worries if God will forgive him. Stauffenberg hopes that He will forgive all of them in this war. Axel is also guilt-ridden because he had to participate in the mass killing of Ukranian civilians. The Stauffenbergs have Axel over for dinner.
In a field somewhere in France Rommel meets with Stauffenberg. Stauffenberg tells the man that he (Rommel) is the only one who can prevent civil war in Germany after the government has been overthrown. Rommel is in, but he says he does not want Hitler killed because it would just make a martyr out of him.
Fromm speaks with Stauffenberg and tells him that he did not give him permission to fly to France. Stauffenberg says: "I was summoned to conference by Field Marshal Rommel." Fromm says he knows that Stauffenberg is conducting unofficial business under the guise of official business in order to commit treason. Fromm wants the man’s word of honor that he will be protected – that he will be spared from the clean-out. Stauffenberg gives the general his word.
Nina has a dispute with her mother. She is concerned with what her husband is doing, but her mother just keeps insisting that it is a wife’s duty to give her devotion to her husband. Mother is convinced that Germany will win, even though Nina tells her that the war is lost. Stauffenberg goes home to be with his family even if only for a day. While at home he gets a call saying that the Allies have landed on the coast of France.
The conspirators meet. Now the Allies will not negotiate for peace, even with a new government. Perhaps the plot to kill Hitler should be called off? Stauffenberg says absolutely not. The world must know that not every German agreed with Hitler’s terrible schemes. And now Stauffenberg says he will carry the bomb himself. He is the perfect candidate because he has direct access to the target.
July 20. Stauffenberg will go to a conference at Wolf’s Lair with Hitler and others. Stauffenberg picks up the bomb. Once the delayed fuse is set off he will have ten minutes. Everyone inside the concrete bunker will be obliterated..
Before returning to Berlin, Stauffenberg tells his wife to stay home and stay close to the radio. Something is going to happen. Nina says she’s scared. Claus says he’s scared too.
Stauffenberg takes a flight to go to the Wolf’s Lair. He has the bomb in his briefcase. Meanwhile, Hitler tells his staff that he has new trousers on for he will meet with Mussolini this afternoon.
At the Wolf’s Lair Stauffenberg asks conspirator Colonel Fellgiebel if he knows what he is to do? After the explosion he confirms Hitler is dead, he will telephone Olbricht in Berlin with the code and then cut off all telephone, telegraph and radio communications.
There has been a change in plans. The Fuhrer needs to be free to greet Mussolini this afternoon so the meeting will be 30 minutes earlier than planned. And the conference will be switched from the bunker to the map room because of the heat. Stauffenberg says he needs a private room to change his shirt because of his handicaps. Von Freyend shows him to a private room.
In the room, Stauffenberg uses a pair of pliers to break the capsule that will release the acid that will eat it way to the fuse. He then goes into the conference room. Stauffenberg informs a man at the front desk that he is expecting an urgent call from Berlin and to come and get him as soon as the call comes in.
It is reported that the 13th Army will soon be cut off they the Russians. Hitler becomes angry saying that he has had enough of this defeatist mentality. The general forces will fight their way through and relieve them. (Stauffenberg puts his brief case under the table.)
Stauffenberg leaves the meeting. Von Freyend bumps the brief case and to get it out of his way he puts it behind a thick supporting beam for the huge conference table. The bomb goes off. Stauffenberg gets in the car and the driver takes off. Stauffenberg insists that the guards at the gate let him through because his business is urgent. He also easily gets through the next checkpoint.
Hitler survives. And now he learns that a bomb was brought in by Col. von Stauffenberg. Brandt, Schmundt, Korten and the stenographer were killed instantly in the explosion. Several others are gravely wounded. Hitler believes that Providence has spared him to complete his mission.
Colonel Fellgiebel calls Olbricht to tell him that the Fuhrer has survived, but the call is garbled and Olbricht can’t be sure Hitler is dead. Olbricht wants to confirm that Hitler is dead before proceeding, but Beck says they must put operation Walkure into effect.
Stauffenberg arrives at Ragsdorf airport. Olbricht calls Stauffenberg to say that the message was garbled so they did not put operation Walkure into effect. Stauffenberg is furious and he insists that the operation be started immediately. Olbricth answers yes. He then goes to Fromm to have him authorize the operation. But Fromm calls for confirmation from Keitel. Keitel says that Hitler has only been slightly hurt.
Stauffenberg arrives. Fromm tells him that the assassination attempt failed. Hitler is alive. He suggests that Stauffenberg shoot himself immediately. He puts the other conspirators under arrest. But Stauffenberg and the others grab Fromm and tell him that now they are in power and it is he who is under arrest.
Over the radio the message is read that Hitler is dead. The Home Guard has assumed control of the government. Hitler calls Goebbels that the Home Guard will come to arrest him. And the Home Guard soon takes over Goebbels’ building. Major Remer and his men come in to tell Goebbels he is under arrest. But Goebbels tells the Major that Hitler is very much alive. He just spoke to him on the telephone. Goebbels calls Hitler so Remer can talk with him.
On the phone Hitler tells Remer he is promoted to colonel and he will secure the capital and restore order immediately. Goebbels then broadcasts from Berlin over the radio. He says that Hitler himself will speak to the people later tonight.
Remer arrives and takes Stauffenberg’s building. Stauffenberg runs, but is shot in the shoulder and arrested. Fromm arrives to arrest Stauffenberg, Beck and Olbricht. Thee will all be shot in the courtyard. Remer says his orders are just to arrest them. Fromm says the order just arrived. Stauffenberg tells Remer that Fromm is lying. But Rember carries out Fromm’s orders. (Fromm has a soldier shoot Beck who sits with his pistol in his hand thinking about killing himself.).
In the courtyard four officers are executed by firing squad: Stauffenberg, Olbricht, Col. von Quirnheim and Lt. Von Haeften. Fromm tells Stauffenberg that it is better for him now. Just before he is killed, Stauffenberg yells out: "Long live our sacred Germany!"
At home Nina learns from Hitler’s radio broadcast of the death of her husband.
In the eight weeks following the ill-fated coup, over seven thousand people were arrested and put to trial. Five thousand were executed including General Fromm. Field-Marshal Rommel committed suicide. Adolf Hitler would die by his own hand nine months and ten days later.
Countess Nina von Stauffenberg was imprisoned by the Gestapo. She was reunited with her children after the war. In honor of the man who died attempting to rid the world of Adolf Hitler, streets in Berlin and other German cities now carry the name Stauffenberg.
Good telling of the story of the plot to kill Hitler. It's not as good as Valkyrie (2008), but it's still good. After awhile the British decided that they didn't want Hitler killed because he was such a terrible general that it was better to leave him in so he could do more damage to the Germans. But the conspirators wanted the world to know that not all Germans just went along with the mad, fascist mass killer. And Stauffenberg almost killed Hitler. If they hadn't moved the meeting place from the bunker to an open meeting hall, Hitler would probably have died that fateful day. And then perhaps the coup would have succeeded. But that's an example of the role chance can play in history.
Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.
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