Sunday, May 4, 2008
DEATH OF A FORGOTTEN HERO: Philipp Freiherr von Boeselager
Do not stand idly by the blood of your neighbor Vayikra (Leviticus) 19:16
Philipp Freiherr von Boeselager died on Thursday, you probably never heard of him. But he exemplifies that line in the Bible. When Boeselager was a 25-year-old lieutenant in the German Army, he was part of Operation Walküre, which was a plan to assassinate Hitler, and retake Germany from the Nazis. Boeselager's was not a member of the Nazi party he was a soldier serving his country. His opinion turned against the Nazi government in June 1942, after he received news that five Roma people had been shot in cold blood, solely because of their ethnicity. Why did he risk is life to try to assassinate Hitler? His answer was, “It was no longer about saving the country, but about stopping the crimes,”
Read more about the life of this hero below:
Philipp von Boeselager, Who Attempted an Assassination of Hitler, Dies at 90 By WILLIAM GRIMES
Philipp Freiherr von Boeselager, believed to be the last surviving member of the inner circle of German Army officers who attempted to assassinate Adolf Hitler with a briefcase bomb on July 20, 1944, died on Thursday. He was 90 and lived in Altenahr, in the Rhineland-Palatinate.
His death was announced by the German Defense Ministry, which gave no other details.
Mr. von Boeselager, disturbed by the Nazi campaign of extermination against the Jews and by German atrocities that he witnessed as a lieutenant on the Eastern Front, joined an anti-Hitler conspiracy in 1942 and later took part in the plot being organized by Col. Claus Schenk Graf von Stauffenberg, who, as chief of staff to Gen. Friedrich Fromm of Reserve Army Headquarters, routinely attended meetings at which Hitler was present.
Mr. von Boeselager, assigned to an explosives research team, was able to acquire top-grade English explosives. On July 20, Colonel von Stauffenberg carried a briefcase stuffed with plastic explosives and a timed detonator into a conference being held in the Wolf’s Lair, Hitler’s headquarters in East Prussia, and placed it under a table being used by Hitler and more than 20 officers.
After making an excuse, Colonel von Stauffenberg left the room. In his absence, Col. Heinz Brandt, trying to get a better look at a map on the table, moved the briefcase, blunting the impact of the explosion. It demolished the conference room and mortally wounded three officers (Colonel Brandt among them) and a stenographer, but Hitler escaped with minor injuries.
Had the assassination succeeded, Mr. von Boeselager was supposed to lead 1,200 men back to Berlin and take part in a general uprising against the Nazi regime, code-named Operation Valkyrie. The bomb plot is the subject of the unreleased film “Valkyrie,” in which Tom Cruise plays Colonel von Stauffenberg. Mr. von Boeselager described his role in the wartime resistance in a recent interview with The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung.
Most of the approximately 200 conspirators, including Colonel von Stauffenberg, were rounded up and executed, while others committed suicide. No one revealed Mr. von Boeselager’s role in the plot, which is described in detail by the historian Peter Hoffmann in “The History of the German Resistance, 1933-1945.” As a result, he did not need to use the cyanide capsule he kept on hand. Fearing exposure, he kept the cyanide for the rest of the war.
Mr. von Boeselager was born into a Roman Catholic family in Burg Heimerzheim, near Bonn. After graduating from Aloysius College, a Jesuit secondary school in Bad Godesberg, he intended to study law and enter the foreign service, but not wishing to join the Nazi Party he instead enlisted in the army, as did his brother Georg, who also took part in the July 20 plot.
Mr. von Boeselager was first approached in 1942 to shoot both Hitler and Heinrich Himmler at close range. “It was no longer about saving the country, but about stopping the crimes,” he told the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung in a recent interview.
On March 13, 1943, with a Walther PP pistol in hand, Mr. von Boeselager prepared to assassinate both men, who were scheduled to hold a strategy session with Field Marshal Günther von Kluge, Mr. von Boeselager’s commanding officer and also a conspirator. When Himmler decided not to attend, Mr. von Kluge called off the mission.
In 1944, it was Mr. von Boeselager’s brother Georg who gave him the signal to move forward. “One day, my brother called and said, ‘They want explosives,’ ” he told Reuters in a 2004 interview. “I knew exactly what for.”
When he stepped off an airplane to deliver the explosives to Gen. Hellmuth Stieff at Army High Command, however, the plan nearly came unraveled.
“Getting out of the plane, I was limping, because I had been injured in the leg.” he said in the interview. “Several young soldiers came up to me, offering to carry my suitcase. But I refused. I thought they would notice at once that the suitcase was far too heavy.” As for the failure of the assassination attempt, Mr. von Boeselager said, “Stauffenberg was the wrong man for this, but no one else had the guts.”
After the war, Mr. von Boeselager studied law and economics and served as an adviser in creating the Bundeswehr, the armed forces of West Germany. He founded several charities and welfare organizations, and often spoke at schools about German resistance to the Third Reich and the importance of taking an active part in politics. In 1948 he married Rosa Maria Gräfin von Westphalen zu Fürstenberg. The couple had four children, Albrecht, Georg, Maria-Felicitas Schenk von Stauffenberg and Monica Adelmann von Adelmannsfelden.
Two weeks before his death, Mr. von Boeselager took part in a documentary, “The Valkyrie Legacy,” to be shown on the History Channel in spring 2009.
Mr. von Boeselager said that the decision to call off the 1943 plot had continued to haunt him. “I always see Hitler from here to the fireplace in front of me and think, ‘What would have happened if you had shot him?’ ” he told a reporter, indicating with his hands a distance of about two feet.