Ein Anderer Hitler by Hermann Giesler: Valkyrie! part two
Valkyrie! The Last Plot against Hitler
Part Two – The Story
Translation with commentary by Carolyn Yeager and Wilhelm Mann
from Hermann Giesler’s memoir, Ein Anderer Hitler, Druffel Verlag, Leoni am Starnberger, 6th edition, 1982.
Copyright 2009 Carolyn Yeager
After a period of time reading the “Kaltenbrunner Reports” in Martin Bormann’s office at Wolf’s Lair, Hermann Giesler was personally briefed by Hitler’s own SS briefers, a Brigadefuehrer and a security service captain (Rattenhuber and Hoegl).
The account they give to Giesler is surprising only in the revelation of the “double phone system” that was discovered at Headquarters, using parallel or bridge switching that allowed a third party to listen in. But this was a bombshell! The Chief of Communications at Headquarters was General Erich Fellgiebel, who was one of the conspirators. It was this that turned high treason (plotting against the regime) into the even worse Landesverrat (passing state secrets to a foreign power).
Giesler recounts what the investigators told him in his usual careful, detailed way.
For background and clarification of “the story”as given to Giesler by the SS investigators, we offer the following:
There is some disagreement or uncertainty whether Colonel Heinz Brandt, who was killed in the explosion, was a member of the conspiracy. He was a senior staff member of army operations, the right-hand man of General Adolf Heusinger, who was injured in the blast. Heusinger was likely aware that something was going on, and as his right-hand man, Brandt might have known also. At least, that is the opinion of Rattenhuber and Hoegl, who say that Stauffenberg blew up one of his co-plotters “without consideration.” Peter Hoffman, however, in his supposedly exhaustive book on the subject (The History of the German Resistance) does not mention Brandt as a member of the conspiracy.
When Stauffenberg arrived for the Lage on July 20th, he first reported to Field Marshal Keitel, and also met General Fellgiebel. Stauffenberg was also presented to Hitler and they shook hands. Either before or after that, Stauffenberg pretended he wanted to change his shirt and went to the washroom, accompanied by his aide, Col. Werner von Haeften. There they packed one of the two bombs Haeften had been carrying into Stauffenberg’s briefcase, in which he also had his papers for the Lage. Stauffenberg used a pair of specially twisted pliers and the three remaining fingers on his left hand to squeeze the acid capsule and activate the timer.
In the meantime, a sergeant named Vogel was sent to urge Stauffenberg back to the Lage, and also tell him there was a telephone call for him from Fellgiebel. Vogel remained standing outside the open door of the washroom. Nervous about arousing suspicion, Stauffenberg didn’t put the second bomb into his briefcase, but left it with Haeften. Vogel later testified that he saw Stauffenberg and Haeften taking something out of brown paper wrapping.
When Stauffenberg returned to the Lage with his briefcase, he requested from General Rudolf Schmundt, one of Hitler’s adjutants, a place closer to Hitler. Laying his briefcase on the end of the table, he leaned on the top to release the bomb trigger. He then received the fake phone call from Haeften, calling him out of the meeting.
Hoffman confirms that neither Stauffenberg nor anyone needed an excuse to leave the meeting. All participants were free to leave and come back at any time, as all were prone to receiving phone calls during the meeting. Such a level of trust and freedom prevailing at Headquarters could explain to some extent how this conspiracy was able to develop and grow over such a long period of time.
There are different versions of whether Stauffenberg placed his briefcase on the floor before he left to take his phone call (doubtful, but that’s what Hoffman says) or whether it was General Schmundt who put it on the floor after Stauffenberg left. However, it was definitely moved there, and either the above-mentioned Col. Brandt or General Schmundt shoved it further under the table, against the table leg. This is the action that undoubtedly saved Hitler’s life, as he was now somewhat protected from the force of the explosion. It’s intriguing to consider that both of these men were killed by what that briefcase contained.
When Stauffenberg reached the phone, there was no longer anyone at the other end of the line. He left and went outside where he and Haeften watched the Lage building from a little ways away.
Now we let Hermann Giesler tell “The Story” from his book, Ein Anderer Hitler:
For Brutus is an honorable man;
So are they all, all honorable men.
The chief of the security detachment, SS Brigadeführer [Generalmajor] Rattenhuber and Kriminalrat Hoegl, SS Captain at SD [Sicherheitsdienst (Security Service)] visited with me. Rattenhuber said Hitler sent them to inform me about matters connected with July 20th and the investigation after the assassination.
What they tell me is strictly confidential.
Hoegl said that it might be better if we go outside. We walked up and down along the way between Bormann’s wood hut and the casino barrack.
The two men were very different: Rattenhuber in uniform, tall and strong; Hoegl in civilian clothes, small, sturdy, serious, and with attentive eyes.
Rattenhuber narrates: “First the assassination – well, Stauffenberg waited for the explosion standing by the car within the Sperrkreis (security zone) II.
When the explosive detonated, Stauffenberg drove immediately to the airfield with his adjutant. On the way, they threw a packet of explosives off the forest road into the bushes – strangely enough, they didn’t add it into the briefcase. The explosive and the igniter came from the English, and they surely knew of the planned assassination – the gentlemen had contact with each other for quite awhile. Stauffenberg was taken by surprise when the time for the map room meeting (‘Lage’) was moved forward and he did not find the time to stuff additional explosives into the briefcase – otherwise everybody would have had it!”
Rattenhuber thought they were disrupted with their preparations. “I am sure of that. They went all out without any concern – Stauffenberg blew his co-plotter Colonel [Heinz] Brandt1 into the air.
“Col. (Werner von) Haeften took Stauffenberg out of the meeting with a faked call – it was carefully planned. Stauffenberg laid the briefcase, with the igniter facing him, on top of the ‘Lage’ maps on the meeting table, then stood up, leaning on his briefcase and pressing down the igniter. A light bow towards the Fuehrer, excusing himself, indicating a telephone call, and then disappears.
“The meeting continues. A village is named as a battle location – exactly where the briefcase sits. General Schmundt puts the briefcase on the floor; then it is pushed to the table base.”
“That’s known to me,” I said.
“Well, now it gets interesting. Both are now out of Sperrkreis towards their car. Beside the car stands Fellgiebel – you know him? – the General and Chief of Communications. They all look with suspense towards the meeting barrack.”
“How do you know about it?” I interrupted.
“Lt Colonel Sander stood at their side – he was present. Now it happens, and Stauffenberg with Haeften drive to the airport. They were convinced that they blew the Führer and everyone at the ‘Lage’ into the air. One had to have that impression: they are all gone!
“You can imagine what was now going on here: security escort detachment, physicians, medics, officers, adjutants, OT workers from bunker construction sites, all confused. Seeing that, Fellgiebel enters Sperrkreis I and observes all the emergency activities.
“When he then noticed that Hitler was alive and only lightly injured, helped by Field Marshal Keitel to exit the destroyed Lage barrack, he indeed steps toward the Führer and congratulates him for his escape. He – God knows – said, ‘That happens when you set up headquarters so close behind the front line.’ He stood to attention – Hosen in denselben (a military expression meaning trousers in his high boots) – pistol on his belt,” Rattenhuber said.
Hoegl continued: “The investigations revealed that, within the clique, it was specifically Fellgiebel who pleaded that the so-called “initial ignition” for the revolt could only be trigged by Hitler’s assassination – successful, naturally. Once that no longer functioned, Fellgiebel must have known that his participation in the whole affair could not be hidden, without doubt he was done. Why did he not draw his pistol and shoot? Nobody could have hindered him because none of us could have that figured out. But for a real deed, they were cowards, and ready only for treachery.”
“Yes,” I interrupted, “all that is already known to me from reading the interrogation reports. The Führer, however, gave me hints that there was much more beside the Fellgiebel affair and communication system, not only knowledge of and participation in the assassination and the Valkyrie putsch. He told me it was too disgusting for him to talk about it. You should tell me.”
“We’ll do it, only wait. Well, still a little dazed from the explosion, the Führer asked, ‘What is Fellgiebel doing here?’ On this, he based his first suspicion. But, initially, it is pretty hard to believe that such a contemptible infamy is at all possible – for us they were ‘sacred cows’.”
“Not for me anymore,” Rattenhuber responded, “since Seydlitz2 with his committee works for the Russians against the German front.”
“Well, well,” Hoegl said. “Anyway, at first, suspicion flew around in all directions until it was definite that a military clique planned the assassination which Stauffenberg then carried out. As part of this clique, Fellgiebel had the task to paralyze the whole communication system. He was successful with the major wire lines, but for one reason or another, or because of ignorance, some lines were not disconnected. That’s how Dr. Goebbels and Major Remer could telephone the Führer, and the Berlin putsch collapsed. Strange it is, however, that Fellgiebel never tried to warn the clique in the Bendlerstrasse that as far as Hitler was concerned the plot failed. They tried to continue the putsch, which ended in ‘blue air.’” (For a more detailed account of these events, see “At the Bendlerblock on July 20th, 1944” following this article.)
“Yeah,” said Rattenhuber, “maybe Fellgiebel tried to camouflage himself by staying in the background, like the ‘Herr’ General (Friedrich) Thiele, his deputy and successor, did during the following days. All in all, the plot from ‘above’ was doomed to fail because they didn’t count the decent officers and soldiers who did not take part, kept their oath and stood by their oath-bearer ( their Commandant). They did not have even one company at their disposal, and not one of the entire clique had the courage to draw his pistol against the Führer. At first, we only knew that Fellgiebel belonged to the inner circle of the conspirators and that he insisted at the clique’s meetings on getting rid of the Führer as a requirement for success with the Valkyrie putsch. We arrested him.
“But then something very strange happened. A sergeant with the communication unit at the Führer headquarters reported an unusual double switchboard: parallel or bridge switching. Messages, reports, operative directives and strategic details by ‘officers-only telephone’ could be listened in by a third party by turning on that switching!
“This sergeant was an expert and knew the communication stuff. He became attentive, but strongly suspicious only after Fellgiebel was arrested. It emerged that by some kind of coupling, a direct connection from the Führer headquarters to Switzerland was established; through a switchboard in or around Berlin, messages and reports could be listened in on!
“Those treacherous reports went to Switzerland via wire,” Hoegl added, “and not wireless – that’s absolutely certain now. We believe that the Swiss secret service stood at the other end of the wire – some of them must have had connections with Soviet spy groups – and they radioed-in codes to the enemy. That went on for years!
“We knew all the time of Soviet wireless centers in the ‘neutral’ Switzerland which were fed by various spy groups – they were exactly located by directing sound waves. They could only operate there with the knowledge and tolerance of a certain group of responsible members of the Swiss secret service who, knowingly or not, were in the service of the Soviets. Schellenberg already negotiated and tried to disrupt that spy business in Switzerland."
Walter Schellenberg was an SS officer in the SD who, as a Master Spy, was able to travel freely. Schellenberg moved up in the SS ranks under Heinrich Himmler and eventually replaced Abwehr Chief Admiral Wm. Canaris as head of the new combined Secret Service in 1944. He was arrested by the British in Denmark in June 1945, while attempting to surrender to the Allies.
“And what did you do now?” I asked.
“At first, nothing,” Rattenhuber said. “We did not upset the whole thing right away. The Führer said that Fellgiebel was not alone – he might have known about it. Hitler gave orders for secrecy and constant control of the switchboard; that paid off quite a bit, and a lot of things happened afterwards.
“Well, now we will start with case number two. Fellgiebel was arrested at the time only for his participation in the plot and knowledge of the assassination.We still didn’t have any information about how the communication system worked to constantly betray the fighting front, even though we suspected it for a long time. On the suggestion of Field Marshal Keitel, General (Fritz) Thiele, Fellgiebel’s deputy, succeeds him. As the new chief entrusted with communications, he was sworn in with the oath of allegiance and reported to the Fuehrer.
“In the meantime, the report of the sergeant from the communication unit came in. Secretly, the observation begins and it did not take long before it is certain: the Herr General ‘played the flute’ with that macabre chapel. He knows of the secret switchboard – the technicians call it parallel switching.
By macabre chapel, Giesler is referring to The Red Chapel (Rote Kapelle), the German cryptonym for a European-wide Soviet espionage network that transmitted information via radio directly to the Soviets. It was headed by a Polish communist Jew, Léopold Trepper, and was first discovered in Brussels in 1941. In Germany, the leaders were Harro Schulze-Boysen, a desk officer at the Reich ministry of aviation, Dr. Arvid Hanack of the ministry of economics, and Rudolf von Scheiliha, head of the foreign office information department. All three of these men had access to sensitive and/or secret information. Abwehr Chief Admiral Canaris and others estimated that the Rote Kapelle in Germany cost the lives of 200,000 German men. By the end of 1942, the leaders had been apprehended and the network shut down, or so it was thought.
“Because one (Fellgiebel) is drawing in the other (Thiele), his membership in the conspirator clique is now obvious. And now it comes apart further at Communications: Fellgiebel’s Chief of Staff, a Colonel Hahn, and the chief of the communication department for (Gen. Erich) Fromm’s Reserve Army, a Colonel Hassel – they are all being arrested. With Thiele we did it, Hoegl and I, with all the politeness and respect to which a general is entitled.”
Something awkward happened then to the general. Rattenhuber mentioned it, but it does not belong in my script.
“Now, professor, you wonder why that is so revolting to the Führer and why he did not want to talk to you about it. That treason against the fighting front took more out of him than the assassination. Recently, he told us that for some time he expected to be shot by one of that reactionary gang, but he never could believe that an officer would commit such a devious act, betraying the fighting soldiers who daily put their life at risk for Germany!
“How could they play their game for so long?” I asked. “Why didn’t someone get wise to their deceit? Since 1939, the Chief hinted about treason in talks with me. After the capitulation of France, he told me that he now knows for sure that treason was rooted at a high military level, some details of which he already knew about in Winniza. I still remember his exact words: ‘Should I extend my distrust to the members of the ‘Lage’ or are the traitors located at the seams?’ Certainly he was at that time already considering the communication center.”
Rattenhuber answered, “That’s exactly what depresses us so much because we felt we were responsible for not only the Führer’s security.
But even so, limits were set for us. Up to July the 20th, everybody could approach the Führer with a weapon, well, even with bulky explosives like Stauffenberg did with his briefcase – one only needed to be known or carrying a pass for the Sperrkreis I. Just the thought that an officer, or even a general, could commit treason or assassinate the Führer was, until now– how do you call it – a sacrilege! For all of us, that’s the big shock.”
“What’s going to happen now?”
“For the time being, big silence. One cannot imagine what would happen if the front and the homeland knew about it. Only the Führer will decide who will have knowledge of that treason-mess.
The report from the investigators over, Giesler continues with interesting observations about post-assassination changes at the sensitive Communications center, and his own reflections on the legacy of the enormous treason.
A lot of moving took place at Communications now. Before the assassination, Fellgiebel started to replace officers – the ones he did not trust, good soldiers who kept their oath and would not have participated in the infamy the clique wanted to start, exactly like many at the Bendlerstrasse, and also Communications, who stopped it in time. Otherwise, the Valkyrie confusion would have extended further.
Naturally, caution was now demanded. Guderian proposed a new communication chief; he reported today to the Fuehrer. Towards evening, after the talk with Rattenhuber and Hoegl, I met Colonel General [Heinz] Guderian at the teahouse as I did several times already during the week, and to my surprise, General [Albert] Praun. Guderian – I liked him very much for his lively manner and soldier-like aura – was obviously under great tension. We carried on with a short, polite talk; I sensed that his thoughts were with far-away military problems.
I had a longer discussion afterwards with General Praun, who was the brother of my co-worker, Dr.Theo Praun. I thought a lot of Theo; he was the head of the law department at my office “General Building Counselor, Munich”; then a leader within the OT group Russia North and Balticum, a job which Dr. Todt entrusted to me at the end of 1942. In January 1944, Dr. Praun, together with the front leader Baerkessel, was murdered by partisans when they visited an OT unit in the 16th Army region. The murder has been “gloriously” reported on the Russian radio. At the funeral service of my co-workers, I met General Praun. At that time, he was the commander of a division and before that he became, because of his technical expertise, Guderian’s communication officer during the French campaign.
Now, on Guderian’s suggestion, the Führer installed him as the new Chief of Communications. During our conversation I asked General Praun about his impressions. He answered hesitantly and acted rather withdrawn. Cautiously, I addressed my questions to find out how much the Führer had informed him about the treason affair. General Praun said the talk was a short one; the Fuehrer pointed very briefly to the serious disruption at Communications and asked him to put it back in order again.
I had the impression that the first veil had already fallen over the macabre treason affair. General Praun tried hard to trace the rumors about the treason whenever they trickled through. I know he talked with Kriminalrat Hoegl, who referred him to Kaltenbrunner’s investigating group. He might have asked around some more, but any additional information about Fellgiebel, Thiele, Hahn and Hassel has been withheld.
Strange – but for me very understandable – was the behavior of Kriminalrat Hoegl who referred Praun to Kaltenbrunner, who gave him the reasonable advice to have Fellgiebel questioned by staff officers, and finally of Gestapo Müller, who refused Praun any information on Fellgiebel, Thiele, Hahn and Hassel. I was not surprised that the raid-like checking of the parallel connection showed no results; it was removed long before.
But the treason was there, it was permanent and of an unbelievable scope. When German soldiers overran Russian battle stations, they found there their own operation and attacking plans! Most of the responsible and carefully planned strategic and tactical German operations, advancing with fighting and sacrificing spirit, were beaten back by the enemy’s counter actions made possible by that treason. The all-important moment for a successful attack–surprise – was never gained.
Judged by this big treason affair at headquarters, the Red Chapel plot appears trivial, even though Admiral Canaris from the German Abwehr testified at the state war court (Reichskriegsgericht) – at that time still a confidant – that the treason of the Red Chapel cost at least a quarter million victims!
But what did that alarming, yet wretched treason mean compared to the incomprehensible plot at a high military level and right at headquarters, only in part revealed by the assassination?! It fluctuates between high treason and Landesverrat. Hate, craving for admiration, lack of character and a stick-in-the-mud reactionary attitude were the reasons for an unbelievable conspiracy with the enemy, an enemy whose goal it was to destroy Germany. Naturally, the traitors interpreted their action as necessary and in the interest of a higher humanity. They didn’t offer themselves as a sacrificing gift, but instead the German soldier who paid for it with his life.
Therefore, it could not be a revolution from the top; there was no necessity for it, there was nothing there, no substance, no program that could claim to be taken seriously, no sparkling thought or serious plans of how to proceed if the putsch succeeded. There was just no personality there. Civil war and hate would have followed the successful assassination and putsch – for generations. Nothing would have changed the relentless enemy.
Terrible things happened; much might simmer away; a lot can be buried. A lot, however, one will not forget – the treason, above all. One can try to belittle it as unimportant, to cover it up, or even to glorify it – it won’t help, because treason cries throughout the centuries.
1) Not to be confused with Dr. Karl Brandt, Hitler’s personal physician/surgeon and loyal party member, who was hanged by the Allies at Nuremberg.
2) Walther von Seydlitz was one of the German Stalingrad generals to turn against his country while in Soviet captivity.