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Operation Valkyrie

The Wolfsschanze after the bomb

Operation Valkyrie (German: Operation Walküre) was a German World War II emergency continuity of government operations plan issued to the Territorial Reserve Army of Germany to execute and implement in case of a general breakdown in civil order of the nation. Failure of the government to maintain control of civil affairs might have been caused by the Allied bombing of German cities, or uprising of the millions of foreign forced laborers working in German factories.

German Army (Heer) officers General Friedrich Olbricht, Major General Henning von Tresckow, and Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg modified the plan with the intention of using it to take control of German cities, disarm the SS, and arrest the Nazi leadership once Hitler had been assassinated in the July 20 Plot. Hitler's death (as opposed to his arrest) was required to free German soldiers from their oath of loyalty to him (Reichswehreid). After lengthy preparation, the plot was activated in 1944, but failed.


  • Planning 1
  • Implementation 2
  • Initial order to the Wehrkreise 3
  • Popular culture 4
  • See also 5
  • References 6
    • Bibliography 6.1
      • English 6.1.1
      • German 6.1.2
    • Notes 6.2
  • External links 7


The original plan, designed to deal with internal disturbances in emergency situations, was designed by General Friedrich Olbricht's staff in his capacity as head of General Army Office and was approved by Hitler.[1] The idea of using the Reserve Army in the German homeland for a coup existed before, but the refusal of Colonel-General Friedrich Fromm, Chief of the Reserve Army and the only person who could initiate Operation Valkyrie besides Hitler, to cooperate, was a serious obstacle to the conspirators. Nevertheless, after the lessons of a failed assassination attempt on March 13, 1943, Olbricht felt that the original coup plan was inadequate and that the Reserve Army should be used in the coup even without Fromm's cooperation.

The original Valkyrie order only dealt with strategy to ensure combat readiness of units among scattered elements of the Reserve Army. Olbricht added a second part, 'Valkyrie II' which provided for the swift mustering of units into battle groups ready for action. In August and September 1943, General Henning von Tresckow found Olbricht's revision inadequate, thus greatly expanded the Valkyrie plan and drafted new supplementary orders. A secret declaration began with the words: "The Führer Adolf Hitler is dead! A treacherous group of party leaders has attempted to exploit the situation by attacking our embattled soldiers from the rear to seize power for themselves." Detailed instructions were written for occupation of government ministries in Berlin, Himmler's headquarters in East Prussia, radio stations, telephone exchanges, other Nazi infrastructure through military districts, and concentration camps.[1] (Previously, it was believed that Colonel Claus Schenk von Stauffenberg was mainly responsible for the Valkyrie plan, but documents recovered by the Soviet Union after the war and released in 2007 suggest that a detailed plan was developed by Tresckow in autumn 1943.)[2] All documents were handled by Tresckow's wife, Erika, and by Margarete von Oven, his secretary. Both women wore gloves to leave no fingerprints.[3]

In essence, the plan was to trick the Reserve Army into the seizure and removal of the civilian government of wartime Germany under the false pretense that the SS had attempted a coup d'État and assassinated Hitler. The key requirement was that the rank-and-file soldiers and junior officers who were supposed to execute this plan would be motivated to do so based upon their false belief that it was the Nazi civilian leadership who had behaved with disloyalty and treason against the state, and were therefore required to be removed. The conspirators counted on the soldiers to obey their orders as long as they came from the legitimate channel — namely, the Reserve Army High Command in the emergency situation following Hitler's death. Apart from Hitler, only General Friedrich Fromm, commander of the Reserve Army, could activate Operation Valkyrie. Therefore, Fromm had to either be won over to the conspiracy, or in some way neutralized for the plan to succeed. Fromm, like many senior officers, largely knew about the military conspiracies against Hitler, but neither supported them nor reported them to the Gestapo.


The key role in its actual implementation was played by Colonel Friedrich Olbricht, his chief of staff Colonel Albrecht Mertz von Quirnheim, Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg, and his adjutant Lieutenant Werner von Haeften. Shortly after midnight, the condemned men were led to a mound of earth back-lit by idling vehicles where each was executed by firing squad in the courtyard of Bendlerstrasse headquarters.[4]

Initial order to the Wehrkreise

Popular culture

The failed plot has been represented in historical dramatic films. Jackboot Mutiny (Austria, 1955), Anatole Litvak's The Night of the Generals (Britain, 1967), Lawrence Schiller's The Plot to Kill Hitler (U.S., 1990), the German television production Stauffenberg and Bryan Singer's full-length movie Valkyrie (U.S., 2008) have addressed the plot. In the Soviet Union, it was depicted in the third part of the film series Liberation. It was also depicted in an episode of Highlander: The Series, titled "The Valkyrie".

A spoof on Operation Valkyrie under optimum conditions (with the setting relocated to Italy) is depicted in the Jerry Lewis war comedy Which Way to the Front?.

Operation Valkyrie is mentioned in the video game Medal of Honor: Frontline and in the comicbook I Am Legion and manga Petshop of Horrors.

Operation Valkyrie is the name of a Mythbusters episode that examined the effect of an explosive in enclosed and open-space rooms in an attempt to determine if the last-minute change of meeting venue permitted Hitler to survive. In all circumstances there was a chance of survival.

The event is referenced in the UK television sitcom Red Dwarf. The character Lister inadvertently foils the plot by stealing von Stauffenberg's briefcase in the episode "Timeslides".

See also




  • Philipp von Boeselager, "Valkyrie: The Plot to Kill Hitler, trans. Steven Rendall, Phoenix (Weidenfeld and Nicolson),2009 (ISBN 978-0-7538-2566-2)
  • Joachim Fest, Plotting Hitler's Death: The German Resistance to Hitler, 1933–1945, 1996 (ISBN 0-8050-5648-3)
  • Hans Bernd Gisevius, Valkyrie: An Insider's Account of the Plot to Kill Hitler, 2009 reprint of one volume abridgement of two volume text, To the Bitter End, 1947. Foreword by Allen Welsh Dulles, introduction by Peter Hoffmann. Translated by Richard and Clara Winston; Da Capo Press, Cambridge, MA ISBN 978-0-306-81771-7\
  • Nigel Jones, Countdown to Valkyrie: The July Plot to Assassinate Hitler. Frontline, 2009


  • Helena Page, General Friedrich Olbricht: Ein Mann des 20. Julis, 1993, Bouvier Verlag, Bonn ISBN 3-416-02514-8
  • Dr. phil. Gerd R. Ueberschär: Auf dem Weg zum 20. Juli 1944, Motive und Entwicklung der Militäropposition gegen Hitler.,[2]
  • Bernd Rüthers: Spiegelbild einer Verschwörung – Zwei Abschiedsbriefe zum 20. Juli 1944. Juristenzeitung 14/2005, pp. 689–698
  • Hans-Adolf Jacobsen (Hrsg.): Spiegelbild einer Verschwörung. Die Opposition gegen Hitler und der Staatsstreich vom 20. Juli 1944 in der SD-Berichterstattung. Geheime Dokumente aus dem ehemaligen Reichssicherheitshauptamt. 2 Vol., Stuttgart 1984
  • Peter Hoffmann: Widerstand, Staatsstreich, Attentat. Der Kampf der Opposition gegen Hitler. Munich 1985 Montserrat (reissue)


  1. ^ a b Joachim Fest, Plotting Hitler's Death: The German Resistance to Hitler, 1933–1945, 1996, p219
  2. ^ Peter Hoffmann, "Oberst i. G. Henning von Tresckow und die Staatsstreichpläne im Jahr 1943
  3. ^ Joachim Fest, Plotting Hitler's Death: The German Resistance to Hitler, 1933–1945, 1996, p220
  4. ^ Rupert Butler, The Gestapo: A History of Hitler's Secret Police 1933-45. London: Amber Books Ltd. 2004. pg. 149.

External links

  • German Resistance to Hitler – Valkyrie Conspiracy – German Conspiracy against the German government culminating in the Coup Attempt of 20 July 1944
  • The Conference Room at the "Wolf's Lair" after the Assassination Attempt (July 20, 1944) from German History in Documents and Images a project of the German Historical Institute
  • Telex Message by the Conspiratorial Stauffenberg Group to the holders of executive Power (July 20, 1944) from German History in Documents and Images a project of the German Historical Institute
  • The assassination attempt from July 20, 1944, and the operation "Valkyrie" (German)
  • Consequences (German)
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