The German View: Why it is a blessing that Stauffenberg failed on July 20, 1944

July 20, 1944 is one of Germany’s fateful days: the assassination attempt carried out by Stauffenberg and his allies fails.

And that is just good.

Although Germany was already almost hopelessly weakened militarily, it was still undefeated. The belief in the miracle weapons was there with many, parts of the people prepared for total war.

If Hitler had been killed, unconditional surrender would not have been an option for the assassins. For the state structure that would then have emerged – or even several – would have stood under the shadow of a stab-in-the-back legend even more than the Weimar Republic: Undefeated in the field, but then surrendered to the Allies without need. This state would not have been stable and free, and whether Stauffenberg and his closest conspirators would have played any role at all in the long term is more than questionable.

Either way: even if Stauffenberg was at least later no longer a convinced Nazi and felt committed to Hitler only because of his oath, he was also not what we call a convinced democrat today:

We profess ourselves in spirit and in deed to the great traditions of our people, which created the occidental humanity through the fusion of Hellenic and Christian origins in Germanic being. We want a New Order which makes all Germans bearers of the state and guarantees them law and justice, but we despise the lie of equality and demand the recognition of the naturally given ranks. We want a people which, rooted in the soil of its homeland, remains close to the natural powers, which finds happiness and satisfaction in its work in the given circles of life and in free pride overcomes the lower instincts of envy and jealousy.

So it would have been much more likely that a “Third Reich Light” would have been formed: without the persecution of the Jews and other excesses, more capitalistic, but not really democratic, with the old structures in the decisive places. A left-wing opposition could not have developed, as the SPD and KPD had been crushed. Such a state would have made its separate peace with the Western Allies and then possibly continued to fight with them against the Soviet Union. In the best case, after the fall of Hitler, a very conservative democracy with a strong leader and possibly even a system of estates would have emerged. I don’t want to speculate more at this point, just a hint: if you are interested in the topic and alternative history, Ditfurth’s book “Der 21. Juli” is recommended.

Nevertheless, it is a blessing that the assassination took place. After all, it showed that not all Germans in responsible positions were loyal to Hitler.

Thus, July 20, 1944 – like Elser’s try – was an important prerequisite for West German democracy to emerge in this form and become so stable.

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