The Table Leg that Changed History (Kind Of) September 29, 2010Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary , trackback
Beachcombing knows that estimates of the number of serious assassination attempts against Hitler vary from ten to twenty. However, the only one of these attacks that actually drew Adolf’s blood was the last, Claus von Stauffenberg’s gutsy solo effort towards the end of the war. In fact, on three different occasions – 11, 15 and 18 July 1944 – Stauffenberg carried his bombed up briefcase into Hitler’s Conference Room in the Wolf’s Lair, but only on the third did he actually decide the conditions were favourable for detonation. Stauffenberg primed the bomb with a pencil detonator in the bathroom, placed the briefcase next to a table leg and then left the room summoned by a prearranged telephone call.
It is always nice to kill obnoxious dictators and get away with it. From outside Stauffenberg heard the explosion and watched with satisfaction as plumes of smoke rose from the Conference Room. He then sensibly headed for a plane, mission accomplished.
But things had not gone according to plan. Though Hitler subsequently needed two hundred splinters removed from his body – he also sent his singed uniform to Eva Braun as a keepsake – he came out essentially intact. Only four of the twenty in the room died and one of these was the stenographer that strikes Beachcombing as being grossly unfair considering the calibre of evil there.
So what saved the Fuhrer from the anger of the German resistance? Well, all the indications are that the abovementioned table leg put paid to von Stauffenberg’s bomb.
Stauffenberg had left the briefcase against this solid table leg with nothing but trousered legs between said briefcase and the leader of the Reich. However, Colonel Heinz Brandt, a one time Olympic gold medal winner – equstrian in case you were wondering – found that the briefcase was getting in his way and, once von Stauffenberg had vanished, he moved it around to the other side of the table leg so that he could get a better look at a map. Doubtless some sets of contours relating to the Russian front.
Seven minutes later the bomb went off. But the heavy table leg effectively shielded Hitler – and peppered him with splinters.
Curiously Brandt was something of a good luck talisman for Hitler as 13 March 1943 he had been tricked into carrying some cognac – actually a bomb – onto Hitler’s personal plane. That bomb didn’t even go off… Hitler brought no luck, however, to Brandt who lost a leg July 18 and died the next day.
If Beachcombing were playing to his normal script he would now get all lyrical about the table leg that changed history. His finger would reach for the shift key and the exclamation mark and he would hover wondering whether or not he should really lay it on.
But by the summer of 1944 it is difficult to see just how Hitler’s death would have changed a damned thing. The Americans and British had, by then, established a convincing if worrying pact with the Soviet Union that would not have fallen apart with the death of Hitler. (Would it? Drbeachcombing AT yahoo DOT com.) They were also ashore in Normandy.
Hitler’s successor would have either come from within the closed circle of his personal nasties – Goebbels, Himmler etc. Or, failing that, from Prussia’s starchy military caste whose record in the First World War against Belgian and French civilians and on the Eastern Front in the Second does not say much in favour of the Wehrmacht’s humanity.
In either case Germany would have been fighting an implacable war against the Soviet Union, a war that they were almost certainly bound to lose. Perhaps it was even a blessing that Brandt moved that bomb for Germany’s defeat arguably came more quickly under half delusional Hitler than it would have come, say, under a smiling Albert Kesselring, one of the most capable men to command in the Second World War.
For Beachcombing the great bonus of the attack are the wonderful photos of a clownish Mussolini being personally shown around the destroyed bunker by Hitler, who interestingly spent the trip muttering about that old whore ‘Providence’.
27 Feb 2011: Ann from Sweden writes in about the attempt on Hitler’s life detailed here with this fabulous picture. Ann reminds Beachcombing that Mussolini did not know of the attack when he arrived – he was coming to talk to Hitler about the war going wrong. What Beachcombing did not know was that Hitler sat Mussolini down to talk in the bombed out room making the claim that destiny was on his side: a brilliant stroke given how depressed Mussolini was. Enjoy this shot of Hitler’s trousers and thanks to Ann!