Warfare History Network
Just bad timing?
For Nazi Party Führer (Leader) and German Reich Chancellor Adolf Hitler, July 20th, 1944 dawned as a routine working day at his principal wartime military headquarters, the Wolfsschanze (Fort Wolf) in the East Prussian forest of Rastenburg, some three hundred air miles from Berlin, in what is today Poland. He was to have his daily military situation conference at 1 pm.
That summer the news delivered to him at those sessions was always bad, as both the Western Allied armies and those of the Soviet Union were pressing in relentlessly on the long-secure borders of the “Thousand Year” Nazi Third Reich created by Hitler in 1933, barely 11 years earlier.
Would Mussolini’s Train be on Time?
The Führer’s Axis Pact partner-in-arms—former Duce (Leader) of Fascist Italy Benito Mussolini—was expected for a meeting with Hitler. His pending visit—the last the two dictators would ever have—meant that the German officers’ briefing of the Führer would be convened at 12:30 instead of at 1:00, in order to complete business in case of an early arrival of the Duce’s train at the nearby Gorlitz railway platform.
Other than this, there was no reason to expect anything out of the ordinary—let alone that Hitler himself would be almost killed that day by a time-bomb explosion engineered by his own officers!
On the Run, but Still Lethal
The importance of the failed anti-Hitler bomb plot of July 20, 1944 can hardly be overestimated. As former Wehrmachtsoldier and Towson University history professor Armin Mruck wrote, “Most of the American G.I.s who died in World War II died after July 20, 1944. Most of the material destruction in Europe occurred after July 20, 1944. While the German armies in the East were retreating, they were still capable of rendering the Soviet Army effective resistance. As a matter of fact, German troops were still in control of much of Europe.”
Had the plot succeeded and Hitler been either killed or removed, or the Nazis overthrown without his death, history might have been very different. The war possibly would have ended with no enemy troops on German soil, the Russians contained in Eastern Europe alone and many thousands more Jews, political internees and Allied prisoners-of-war liberated from various Nazi camps strewn across the length and breadth of occupied Europe.