Authors: Hellmut G. Haasis
The Story of the Man Who Almost
Assassinated the FÃ¼hrer
Copyright Â© 2001, 2013 by Hellmut G. Haasis
Originally published in Germany in 2001
English language translation copyright Â© 2011 by William Odom
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Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Haasis, Hellmut G., 1942
[Hitler jag' ich in die Luft. English]
Bombing Hitler : the story of the man who almost assassinated the fÃ¼hrer / Hellmut
G. Haasis ; translated by William Odom.
Â Â Â p. cm.
Translation of: Den Hitler jag' ich in die Luft.
ISBN 978-1-61608-741-8 (hardcover : alk. paper) 1. Elser, Johann Georg, 19031945. 2. Hitler, Adolf, 1889-1945-Assassination attempt, 1939 (November 8) 3. Anti-Nazi movement-Germany-Biography. 4. Germany-History-1933-1945. I. Title.
Printed in the United States of America
This translation is dedicated to the indomitable spirit of Georg Elser
|I.||Hitler Speaks Under a Ticking Time Bomb|
|II.||The Assassin Is Foiled at the Border|
|IV.||Searching the Rubble|
|V.||Reaction to the Attack|
|VI.||The Evidence Mounts|
|VII.||From KÃµnigsbronn to Berlin|
|VIII.||Confession and Interrogation|
|IX.||Cult of Death: The Official Ceremony of November 11|
|X.||The Search for the Instigators|
|XII.||Elser's Youth and Working Years in KÃµnigsbronn|
|XIII.||A Freer Life at Lake Constance|
|XIV.||Back to KÃµnigsbronn|
|XV.||Assassination: The Decision|
|XVII.||Night Work in the BÃ¼rgerbrÃ¡ukeller|
|XVIII.||In the Concentration Camp at Sachsenhausen|
|XIX.||The End in Dachau|
|XX.||The Long Road to Recognition|
done for several years, the “Old Soldiers”
gathered on November 8, 1939, in the BÃ¼rgerbrÃ¤ukellerbeer hall in Munich, arriving around six in the evening. At least once a year, these otherwise powerless participants in the Beer Hall Putsch of 1923 could seize an opportunity to bask in glory. In earlier years, the brown shirts of the SA had dominated the hall; now it was the field gray of soldiers, about fifteen hundred of them. Since September 1, 1939, Germany had been at war. Most of those participating in the traditional celebration had been drafted into the military, but they were on leave that evening. On the podium at the front of the hall, a band was playing march music. The pub tables were filled with beer mugs. The only thing distinguishing this gathering from one of the many beer festivals held here was the presence of red Nazi flags.
For weeks, foreign printed materialsâEnglish and French leafletsâhad been fluttering down over Germany, delivered by balloons or thrown from airplanes. Reading them was considered dangerous, and the Gestapo had school classes gather up the leaflets and turn them in. In October 1939, a flyer from England was distributed that stated:
Herr Hitler rejected all offers of peace until he crushed Poland as he destroyed Czechoslovakia. It will be impossible to accept any conditions for peace which approve acts of aggression. The proposals made by the Chancellor of the German Reich in his speech are extremely unclear and indefinite.
The leaflet went on: “Experience has shown that there is no relying on the promises of the current German government.” Therefore Germany would have to deliver “convincing proof of its commitment to peace” or Britain would have to fulfill its obligationâmeaning war against Nazi Germany. The last line of the leaflet was, “The choice is up to Germany!”
gathered in the BÃ¼rgerbrÃ¤ukeller had already made their choice back in 1923: war against democracy and the rest of Europe. And Nazi society was far removed from any concerns about peace. As Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels noted in his diary on November 5, 1939: “Politically, all is absolutely calm. But this is probably the calm before the storm. It's even hard to find material for propaganda purposes.”
In a meeting with Hitler shortly afterward, however, the mission was made clear to Goebbels: “He [Hitler] is of the opinion that England needs to receive a knockout punch. And this is true. Eng-land's power is just a lingering mythâit's no longer a reality. All the more reason it must be destroyed. Until it is, there can be no peace and quiet in the world.” After Hitler had achieved his first goal of revising the Versailles Treaty of 1919, he started fantasizing about a more comprehensive objective. According to Goebbels, “Perhaps the FÃ¼hrer will succeedâand sooner than all of us thoughtâin undoing the Peace of Westphalia. Historically, that would be the crowning achievement of his life.” This would mean undoing the Reformation, and repartitioning Europe under the hegemony of a far-reaching German Reichâtruly delusional speculations.
On November 7, Goebbels noted the murky mood of the regime: “There are the wildest rumors going around all over the country about what will happen next.” Rumors played a fundamental role in public opinion in Nazi society, which was so manipulated that nobody knew any longer what was and was not propaganda. Even Goebbels trusted less and less in the reports of the SD
â”security service,” the intelligence arm of the SS).
The following day, Goebbels flew to Munich with Hitler. On board, while Hitler dictated the speech that he would give there to his secretary, Goebbels was reading the screenplay of the anti-Semitic propaganda film
(Jew SÃ¼ss) by Veit Harlan.
After stopping by his Munich apartment, Hitler went to a cafÃ©, then proceeded to the BÃ¼rgerbrÃ¤ukeller, arriving at precisely 8:00 p.m. Normally, he would have arrived at 8:30, the historically accurate time.
It was at exactly this time on November 8, 1923, that Hitler and his heavily armed rebels had stormed the meeting of the Bavarian cabinet at the BÃ¼rgerbrÃ¤ukeller. Like a hero in a Western, he had charged into the hall and up onto the podium with his pistol drawn, firing into the air and proclaiming the “national revolution.” Every year since 1933, at exactly the same time and in the same place, in what amounted to a Party religious service, he reaffirmed this “brown revolution” with a two-hour speech. That evening, however, the Party faithful would have to make do with a speech only half as long without receiving an official clarification of the reason for the change.
Because of the impending French campaign, Hitler wanted to get back to Berlin right away; however, the weather conditions were uncertain and his personal pilot, Hans Baur, thought there would be fog. In all likelihood, Hitler would not have been able to fly out the next morning. The railway administration saw only one possibility for working Hitler's private train into the scheduleâby leaving at 9:31 that same evening. Hitler would have to get to the station with his entourage on time. Forced to adapt to the schedule change, he revised his speech to take only an hour.
When Hitler arrives with his entourage, the
(Blood Flag) is paraded in before him; this was the flag from the 1923 Putsch, supposedly spattered with the blood of those shot by police during the confrontation. This piece of cloth enjoyed cult status, and every new Party flag had to be brought into contact with this “holy banner” so that it too could acquire such sacred character.
Filing in behind Hitler are the Party dignitaries. The only high-level officials missing are Goring and Himmler; however, Goebbels, Heydrich, Hess, Ley, Rosenberg, Streicher, Frank, and Esser are present. Christian Weber, a National Socialist city councilman in Munich, who as one of those who marched in 1923 always appears with the top brass, introduces Hitler in a provincial
style: halting, awkward, inarticulate, and inadvertently humorousâto be expected when combining a sense of mission and an ordinary beer festival.
“My FÃ¼hrer, today we have once again fallen in for roll call”âin reality they are all sitting there with their beer steinsâ”to the day or to the deeds of the memory of November eighth and ninth, 1923.” Weber starts floundering. He has chosen to speak extemporaneously and starts rambling: “Today everything becomes unnecessary. You see, my FÃ¼hrer, that our hearts speak.” He tries to save himself with repetition, speaking again about the “roll call,” stating that Hitler has “rushed here” and thanking him “from the bottom of [his] heart.” Six times, waves of
roar through the hall. They all rise to their feet, shouting
three more times. Then Weber tries to take charge, shouting
but in an instant the crowd takes over and yells
three times in a row. The attempt at coordinating the response is spoiled.
Now the speaker's platform in front of the center pillarâthe load-bearing pillar for the entire hallâis free for Hitler to take over. He lowers his gaze to the text he has brought with him, which has been previously distributed to selected journalists and will be printed in its entirety in the
In reality, however, Hitler frequently does not stick to the words of the text; so the only authentic record of the speech is the recording at the German Radio Archives.
At first Hitler speaks haltingly, frequently pausing in odd places. There is a method in this: He doesn't want to stir up the crowd until later because he knows that once the applause starts there will be no holding it back. In a subdued voice, he informs his well-trained audience that now is not the time to applaud. From the start, he primarily employs devices of a simple speaking style: redundancy, repetition, and empty rhetoric.
The very first sentence comes off as overblown and pompous, and the speech continues in this vein: He, Hitler, wants to celebrate “the remembrance of a day which was of great importance for us.” That would actually be sufficient, but since Hitler is so inspired by the throng, he gratuitously adds more: “Which was of importance for us, for the movement, and therefore for all the people.” In this way, he can play for time and maximize the effect.