Claus, Graf Schenk von Stauffenberg's Role in World War II

Learn about von Stauffenberg, a leader of the 1944 attempt to overthrow Adolf Hitler.

  • Grades: 9–12

Claus, Graf Schenk von Stauffenberg, b. Nov. 15, 1907, d. July 20, 1944, was a leader of the 1944 attempt to overthrow Adolf Hitler. A German army officer, he served in Poland, France, and Russia and was severely wounded in the North African campaign of World War II. After his recovery he was assigned to Berlin, where he became a key figure in organizing Operation Valkyrie, which called for the mobilization of reserve army units to seize control after the planned assassination of Hitler. On July 20, 1944, Stauffenberg attended a meeting at Hitler's headquarters at Rastenburg and left a bomb in a briefcase under the meeting table. The bomb exploded, and Stauffenberg returned to Berlin, believing he had succeeded. Operation Valkyrie had barely been launched when the countermanding orders were issued. Hitler had survived. Stauffenberg and several other conspirators were shot the same night. Some 200 others —including Karl Friedrich Goerdeler, who was to have been the new chancellor —were arrested, tortured, and executed. Another 5,000 were sent to concentration camps, where most died.


Bibliography: Hamerow, Theodore S., On the Road to the Wolf's Lair: German Resistance to Hitler (1999); Hoffman, Peter, Stauffenberg: A Family History, 1905 –1944 (1995).


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