Killing Hitler

It has curiously been "Nazi week" here at Castle Adolpho. Simone had been watching Band of Brothers this past weekend which we followed with Defiance, Valkyrie, a little bit of Fox News and now this interesting film from the BBC entitled Killing Hitler.

Kept secret for over fifty years by the British Government, Operation Foxley was a covert military undertaking whose planning stages began in the summer of 1944. It was created as a feasible plan to assassinate Adolf Hitler and expedite an end to the war.

Various methods were introduced; poison, bomb, sniper, face-to-face killing (quite obviously suicidal by its nature) and even derailment of Hitler's special train which he took from Berlin to the Berghof, the Fuhrer's retreat in the Bavarian Alps.

Killing Hitler- through dramatizations, archival footage and panel talks by historians and military experts- recreates this fascinating slice of little known history.

The most intriguing aspect of the operation was in the tactical divisions it caused within England's Secret Service community. The Secret Intelligence Service (SIS) and the Secret Operations Executive (SOE) were at odds as to the effectiveness of such an endeavor. The SIS argued (quite convincingly) that Hitler was doing such a bang up job of running the Wehrmacht into the ground that to interrupt his inept command might actually prolong the war.

The SOE countered that assassinating the Nazi figurehead would bring an immediate halt to the conflict. This belief was bolstered by intelligence data citing that many high ranking officers in the Wahrmacht preferred a capitulation to the Western Allies for a negotiated peace instead of facing the vengeful hordes of the Russians to the east. Colonel von Stauffenberg's attempt to kill Hitler via briefcase bomb and the coup of Army officers trying to usurp control of the Reich on July 20th made that abundantly clear. There was dissention in the ranks. Crush the snake's head, the SOE suggested, and the body would cease to be dangerous.

While it is hindsight and armchair generalship, it is difficult to imagine why Foxley was not attempted. The cost was low (a sniping action was finally settled upon) and the upside immense. It could be argued that Himmler or Goebbels or Goering would have taken up the cause, no matter how bleak, but their influence did not hold much weight with the German army or its generals and the lack of respect for each of them was mounting by the fall of 1944. Himmler was still feared, but the SS could not have put up a serious fight without a willing Wehrmacht. Goering had become a joke and Goebbels' popularity was rapidly waning as the country's inevitable defeat became more obvious to all Germans.

Also, it could be argued that the killing of Adolf Hitler in August of '44 might have prevented the severe number of lives lost in the Hurtgen Forest, the Battle of the Bulge (entirely Hitler's plan), the Battle for Berlin and the untold thousands of Jews who perished in the Nazi death camps in the war's final eight months.

All of this speculation relies, of course, on the success of Foxley. A highly unlikely prospect. While well planned, the efficacy of sneaking two operatives into the deepest regions of Bavaria through numerous checkpoints and patrols (with dogs) to set up a sniping position along the outlying paths of the Berghof remains wishful at best. Hitler continually broke with routine and his morning constitutional could have been interrupted or delayed for a myriad of reasons. Frustrating, but true.

For all its thoroughness and meticulous planning, Operation Foxley still heavily depended on that most unpredictable and often deadly factor of warfare... a bit of luck.


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