What if Georg Elser had succeeded?

1beerhall

Georg Elser was a struggling German carpenter and communist who was vehemently opposed to Nazism. He anticipated that Hitler’s regime would lead his country on the path toward war and financial ruin, and in late-1938, he resolved to do something about it. Knowing that Hitler would speak at Munich’s Bürgerbräukeller brewery the following year on the anniversary of the Beer Hall Putsch, Elser spent several months building a bomb with a 144-hour timer.

While he worked at night in the Bürgerbräukeller, Elser built his “infernal machine” during the day. He purchased extra parts, including sound insulation, from local hardware stores and became friends with the local master woodworker, Brög, who allowed him use of his workshop.

NSDAP-Versammlung im Bürgerbräukeller, München

On the nights of 1–2 November 1939, Elser installed the explosives in the pillar. On 4–5 November, being Saturday and Sunday dance nights, he had to buy a ticket and wait in the gallery until after 1 a.m. before he could install the twin-clock mechanism that would trigger the detonator. To celebrate the completion of his work, Elser recalled later, “I left by the back road and went to the Isartorplatz where at the kiosk I drank two cups of coffee.”

On 6 November, Elser left Munich for Stuttgart to stay overnight with his sister, Maria Hirth, and her husband. Leaving them his tool boxes and baggage, he returned to Munich the next day for a final check. Arriving at the Bürgerbräukeller at 10 p.m., he waited for an opportunity to open the bomb chamber and satisfy himself the clock mechanism was correctly set. The next morning he departed Munich by train for Friedrichshafen via Ulm. After a shave at a hairdresser, he took the 6:30 p.m. steamer to Konstanz.

The high-ranking Nazis who accompanied Adolf Hitler to the anniversary of the Beer Hall Putsch on 8 November 1939 were Joseph Goebbels, Reinhard Heydrich, Rudolf Hess, Robert Ley, Alfred Rosenberg, Julius Streicher, August Frank, Hermann Esser and Heinrich Himmler. Hitler was welcomed to the platform by Christian Weber.

_82089004_hitlerbeerhall

Unknown to Elser, Hitler had initially cancelled his speech at the Bürgerbräukeller to devote his attention to planning the imminent war with France, but changed his mind and attended after all. As fog was forecast, possibly preventing him from flying back to Berlin the next morning, Hitler decided to return to Berlin the same night by his private train. With the departure from Munich’s main station set for 9:30 p.m., the start time of the reunion was brought forward half an hour to 8 p.m. and Hitler cut his speech from the normal two hours to one-hour duration.

Hitler ended his address to the 3000-strong audience of the party faithful at 9:07 p.m., 13 minutes before Elser’s bomb exploded at 9:20 p.m. By that time, Hitler and his entourage had left the Bürgerbräukeller. The bomb brought down part of the ceiling and roof and caused the gallery and an external wall to collapse, leaving a mountain of rubble. About 120 people were still in the hall at the time. Seven were killed. Another sixty-three were injured, sixteen seriously, with one dying later.

_82083901_hitlerassassination

Hitler did not learn of the attempt on his life until later that night on a stop in Nuremberg. When told of the bombing by Joseph Goebbels, Hitler responded, “A man has to be lucky.” A little later Hitler had a different spin, saying, “Now I am completely at peace! My leaving the Bürgerbräu earlier than usual is proof to me that Providence wants me to reach my goal.”

The next day, the Nazi Party official paper, the Voelkischer Beobachter, squarely placed the blame on British secret agents, even implicating Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain himself. This work of propaganda was an attempt to stir up hatred for the British and whip the German people into a frenzy for war. But the inner-Nazi Party members knew better—they knew the assassination attempt was most probably the work of a German anti-Nazi military conspiracy.

In Munich on 9 November, the annual guard of honour for the sixteen “blood martyrs” of the NSDAP who died in the Beer Hall Putsch of 1923 was held at the Feldherrnhalle as usual. Two days later, at the same location, an official ceremony for the victims of the Bürgerbräukeller bombing took place. Hitler returned from Berlin to stand before seven flag-draped coffins as Rudolf Hess addressed the SA guard, the onlookers and the listeners to Grossdeutsche Rundfunk (Greater German Radio). In his half-hour oration, Hess was not short on hyperbole:

At this time the German people take their sad leave of the victims of a gruesome crime, a crime almost unparalleled in history … The perpetrators of this crime have succeeded in teaching the German people to hate … this enormous crime, this war which was forced upon us, will turn out in favor of the Führer, in favor of Germany—in favor of Germany and the entire world.

After “Der gute Kamerad” was played, Hitler placed a wreath of chrysanthemums on each coffin, then stepped back to lift his arm in the Nazi salute. The very slow playing of “Deutschland über alles” ended the solemn ceremony.

München, Adolf Hitler vor Feldherrenhalle

But Himmler wanted more than talk—he wanted the British agents themselves. So on November 9, SS soldiers in Holland kidnapped, with Schellenberg’s help, two British agents, Payne Best and R.H. Stevens, stuffing them into a Buick and driving them across the border into Germany. Himmler now proudly announced to the German public that he had captured the British conspirators. The man who actually planted the bomb at their behest was declared to be Georg Elser, a German communist who made his living as a carpenter.

https://dirkdeklein.net/2016/11/08/the-venlo-incident/

Elser never faced a trial for the bombing of the Bürgerbräukeller. After his year of torment at Berlin Gestapo Headquarters, he was kept in special custody in Sachsenhausen concentration camp between early 1941 and early 1945. At Sachsenhausen, Elser was held in isolation in a T-shaped building reserved for protected prisoners. Accommodated in three cells joined together, each 9.35 m2, there was space for his two full-time guards and a work space to make furniture and other things, including several zithers.

Elser’s apparent preferential treatment, which included extra rations and daily visits to the camp barber for a shave, aroused interest amongst other prisoners, including British SIS officer Payne Best. He wrote later that Elser was also allowed regular visits to the camp brothel.Martin Niemöller was also a special inmate in the Sachsenhausen “bunker” and believed the rumours that Elser was an SS man and an agent of Hitler and Himmler.In early 1945, Elser was transferred to the bunker at Dachau concentration camp.

1024px-Dachau_Bunker

On 9 April 1945, four weeks before the end of the war in Europe, Georg Elser was shot dead and his fully dressed body immediately burned in the crematorium of Dachau Concentration Camp. He was 42 years old

If he had succeeded he would have wiped out not only Hitler but the whole Nazi leadership. So many lives would have been saved.

Donation

I am passionate about my site and I know a you all like reading my blogs. I have been doing this at no cost and will continue to do so. All I ask is for a voluntary donation of $2 ,however if you are not in a position to do so I can fully understand, maybe next time then. Thanks To donate click on the credit/debit card icon of the card you will use. If you want to donate more then $2 just add a higher number in the box left from the paypal link. Many thanks

$2.00

 

The Venlo Incident

backus_1930s_2

I always considered myself to be a bit of WWII buff, but it was only until I started this website I realized how little I actually knew about World War 2.This case is a good example.

Venlo is a town in the province of Limburg in the Netherlands, in the south east of the country.Bordering to Germany in the east and Belgium in the west and south. The same province I was born and grew up in(albeit in the southern part) and yet I had never heard of ‘the Venlo incident’ an event that happened tomorrow 77 years ago.

limburg

The Venlo Incident was a covert German Sicherheitsdienst (SD-Security Service) operation, in the course of which two British Secret Intelligence Service (SIS) agents were abducted on the outskirts of the town of Venlo, the Netherlands, on 9 November 1939.The incident was later used by the German Nazi government to link Britain to Georg Elser’s failed assassination attempt on German Chancellor Adolf Hitler at the Bürgerbräukeller in Munich, Germany, on 8 November 1939 and to help justify Germany’s invasion of the Netherlands, while a neutral country, on 10 May 1940.

rotterdam_laurenskerk_na_bombardement_van_mei_1940

In early September 1939 a meeting was arranged between Fischer and the British SIS agent Captain Sigismund Payne Best. Best was an experienced British Army intelligence officer who worked under the cover of a businessman residing in The Hague with his Dutch wife.

captain_sigismund_payne_best_with_monocle_1939

Subsequent meetings included Major Richard Henry Stevens, a less-experienced intelligence operative working covertly for the British SIS as the Passport Control Officer in The Hague, Netherlands.

major_richard_henry_stevens_1939

To assist Best and Stevens in passing through Dutch mobilised zones near the border with Germany, a young Dutch officer, Lieutenant Dirk Klop, was recruited by Chief of the Dutch Military Intelligence, Major General van Oorschot. Klop was permitted by van Oorschot to sit in on covert meetings but not take part due to the neutrality of the Netherlands.

luitenant_dirk_klop_venlo-incident_1939

Fischer brought to the early meetings participants posing as German officers who supported a plot against Hitler and were interested in establishing Allied peace terms should Hitler be deposed. When Fischer’s success in setting up the meetings with the British agents became known, Sturmbannführer (major) Walter Schellenberg of the Foreign Intelligence (Counter-Espionage) section of the Sicherheitsdienst began coming to the meetings.

Walter Schellenberg

Masquerading as a “Hauptmann (captain) Schämmel”, Schellenberg was at the time a trusted operative of Heinrich Himmler and was in close contact with Reinhard Heydrich during the Venlo operation.

At the last meeting between the British SIS agents and the German SD officers on Wednesday 8 November, Schellenberg promised to bring a general to the meeting on the following day. Instead the Germans brought the talks to an abrupt end with the kidnapping of Best and Stevens.

For different Germans, the covert meetings might have meant different things. Dutch historian, Bob de Graaf wrote:

graaff

“Hitler, who was kept informed, might have hoped that sooner or later Dutch neutrality would be compromised. Himmler, continually on the outlook for a peace settlement with Britain, might have had hopes that the contacts with MI6 would lead to a compromise, whereafter the Soviet Union, in Himmler’s mind Germany’s real enemy, could be faced with confidence. To Schellenberg the game meant gathering information about British intelligence activities in Germany. By studying the files he had become especially interested in a so-called ‘observer corps’ the British were running against the German Luftwaffe. What Schellenberg expected from the meetings were names, as many names as possible of agents working for MI6. To Heydrich, who liked intelligence games for the sake of it, the Spiel with Best and Stevens might have meant anything. But in the light of his continuous efforts to get at Canaris’ throat, he might have hoped for revelations about a connection between British officials and a German opposition, which was rooted in Wehrmacht circles”

Early on 9 November 1939, Schellenberg received orders from Heinrich Himmler to abduct the British SIS agents, Best and Stevens. German SS-Sonderkommandos (SS Special Units) under the operations command of SD man Alfred Naujocks, carried out the orders.

alfred_naujocks

Best was at the wheel of his car when he drove into the car park at the Cafe Backus for the meeting planned for 4 pm with Schellenberg. Stevens was sitting beside him while Lieutenant Klop and Jan Lemmens (Best’s Dutch driver) were sitting in the back seat. Before Best had time to get out of the car, Naujock’s SD men arrived.

lincoln_zephyr

In a brief shootout, Klop was mortally wounded. After being handcuffed and stood against a wall, Best and Stevens, together with Jan Lemmens were bundled into the SD car. Klop was put into Best’s car and both cars were driven off over the border into Germany.

Best recalls a full body search was performed on him when they reached Düsseldorf en route to Berlin. At Düsseldorf one of the men who had taken part in the kidnapping told Best the reason for the action was to catch some Germans plotting against the Führer who were responsible for the attempt on his life the night before.

Lieutenant Dirk Klop was admitted to the Protestant Hospital in Düsseldorf. A doctor on duty recalled years later Klop was unconscious when admitted and died the same day from a gun wound to the head.

A different account (with conflicting details) of the Venlo Incident is told by Günter Peis in The Man Who Started The War, and by Walter Schellenberg in his memoirs. For instance, Best did not know that Schellenberg, still posing as Major Schämmel, was waiting at Cafe Backus at the time of the kidnapping by Naujocks and twelve SD men. When one SD man mistook him as Best, Schellenberg narrowly escaped being shot.

1948-02-20_reconstruction_venlo_incident_of_1939-11-09

(Picture above is a 1948 Reconstruction of the Venlo_Incident)

Prior to the assassination attempt at the Bürgerbräukeller in Munich on 8 November, Naujocks and his squad had been sent to Düsseldorf to support Schellenberg. Even before his private train had returned from Munich to Berlin,

hitlers-train-amerika

Hitler ordered the British SIS officers in the Netherlands be brought to Berlin for questioning. Himmler issued the order to Schellenberg early in the morning on 9 November.

Though Georg Elser, a suspect being interrogated in Munich by the Gestapo, insisted he had acted alone, Hitler recognized the propaganda value of the assassination attempt as a means to incite German public resentment against Great Britain.

On 21 November Hitler declared he had incontrovertible proof that the British Secret Service was behind the Munich bombing and that two British agents had been arrested near the Dutch border.The next day German newspapers carried the story. On the front page of Deutsche Allgemeine Zeitung there were pictures of the conspirators named as, Georg Elser, ‘Kaptain Stevens’ and ‘Mr Best’.

Years later Walter Schellenberg recalled in his memoirs:

“He (Hitler) began to issue detailed directives on the handling of the case to Himmler, Heydrich, and me and gave releases to the press. To my dismay, he became increasingly convinced that the attempt on his life had been the work of the British Intelligence, and that Best and Stevens, working together with Otto Strasser, were the real organizers of this crime.

otto_strasser

Meanwhile a carpenter by the name of Elser had been arrested while trying to escape over the Swiss border. The circumstantial evidence against him was very strong, and finally he confessed. He had built an explosive mechanism into one of the wooden pillars of the Beer Cellar. It consisted of an ingeniously worked alarm clock which could run for three days and set off the explosive charge at any given time during that period. Elser stated that he had first undertaken the scheme entirely on his own initiative, but that later on two other persons had helped him and had promised to provide him with a refuge abroad afterward. He insisted, however, that the identity of neither of them was known to him. . . I thought it possible that the “Black Front” organization of Otto Strasser might have something to do with the matter and that the British Secret Service might also be involved. But to connect Best and Stevens with the Beer Cellar attempt on Hitler’s life seemed to me quite ridiculous. Nevertheless, that was exactly what was in Hitler’s mind. He announced to the press that Elser and the officers of the British Secret Service would be tried together. In high places there was talk of a great public trial, to be staged with the full orchestra of the propaganda machine, for the benefit of the German people. I tried to think of the best way to prevent this lunacy.”

The Nazi press reported that the Gestapo had tricked the British Secret Service into carrying on radio contact for 21 days after Best and Stevens were abducted using the radio transmitter given to them. Himmler is accredited to quipping, ‘After a while it became boring to converse with such arrogant and foolish people’.

The British Foreign Office believed Himmler was involved in the secret Anglo-German contact of autumn 1939, and that the discussions, involving Prime Minister, Neville Chamberlain, and the Foreign Secretary, Lord Halifax, were bona fide peace negotiations.

The damage inflicted on Britain’s espionage network in Europe caused new Prime Minister, Winston Churchill to start his own spy and sabotage agency, the Special Operations Executive (SOE) in 1940.

The Venlo Incident exposed the fact that the Chamberlain government was still seeking to do a deal with Germany while exhorting the nation to a supreme war effort.

Hitler used the Venlo Incident to claim The Netherlands had violated its own neutrality. The presence of the Dutch agent Klop, whose signature on his personal papers was gratefully misused by the Germans, provided sufficient ‘proof of cooperation between British and Dutch secret services, and justify an invasion of The Netherlands by Germany in May, 1940.

Alfred Naujocks was awarded the Iron Cross by Hitler the day after the kidnapping.Walter Schellenberg gave evidence against other Nazis at the Nuremberg Trials.He died in 1952 aged 42.

After interrogation at the Gestapo Prinz-Albrecht-Strasse headquarters in Berlin, Best and Stevens were sent to the Sachsenhausen concentration camp. Both were held in isolation in the T shaped building reserved for protected prisoners of the Gestapo.

While at Sachsenhausen Best claimed he corresponded via secret letters with another protected prisoner Georg Elser.

In January 1941 Stevens was moved from Sachsenhausen to the bunker at Dachau concentration camp where he remained until evacuated with Best and other protected prisoners in April, 1945.

In February, 1945, Best was transferred briefly to Buchenwald concentration camp and then to the ‘bunker’ at Dachau concentration camp on 9 April 1945. Coincidentally on the same day Georg Elser was killed at Dachau.

On 24 April 1945, Best and Stevens left Dachau with 140 other protected ‘high-profile’ prisoners in a convoy bound for South Tyrol. At the lakeside Prags Wildbad Hotel near Niederdorf, South Tyrol, they were liberated by the advancing US Army on 4 May 1945.

p1010793