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"What if the Staufenberg Plot Had Succeeded?" Topic

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27 May 2022 7:20 p.m. PST
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Comments or corrections?

Deucey Supporting Member of TMP04 Jun 2021 3:15 p.m. PST

I don't know the answer. I'm just curious what everyone thinks!

Personal logo Herkybird Supporting Member of TMP04 Jun 2021 3:49 p.m. PST

My take would be that Goring or Goebbels would have assumed power, and then tried to make peace with the Western powers, who would have refused to treat. So no real difference in my opinion.

Blutarski04 Jun 2021 4:33 p.m. PST

I think Himmler might perhaps have posed a problem. He always struck me as a power hungry person who might well have viewed Hitler's assassination as an opportunity to seize control of the nation.


John the OFM04 Jun 2021 5:12 p.m. PST

No change. All that Staufenburg accomplished was to justify himself as a "good German".
It was a fantasy to assume that the West would treat with Germany if Hitler were gone. He may as well have died of syphilis, gout or an air raid. Any potential successor was just as bad and possibly a bit more competent.
The only one who contemplated the West possibly considering a negotiated peace was Stalin.

robert piepenbrink Supporting Member of TMP04 Jun 2021 5:14 p.m. PST

Not much. The German bargaining position was too weak by then. If anti-Nazi Germans had taken power in late 1942 or 1943, I think the Allies would have been tempted to negotiate, and rightly so. The Big Three could perhaps have saved millions of lives and untold destruction in return for accepting Germany's 1938 borders and letting some of the small fry escape justice. But you notice the German military didn't make a serious effort to get rid of Hitler in 1943, even though they could see the war was lost. They waited much too long. By July 1944, the war was only going to end with unconditional surrender.

Mind you "not much" might have saved a million lives, but the peace would have looked much the same, with perhaps another "stabbed in the back" legend circulating in Germany.

Tortorella Supporting Member of TMP04 Jun 2021 6:37 p.m. PST

Power struggle and lots of executions. Slightly more competent Nazis do a slightly better job running their war, Allies still clobber them.

Thresher0104 Jun 2021 6:55 p.m. PST

The war might have ended a bit earlier, especially if Doenitz, or others were able to seize power.

No Ardennes offensive, which without that, might have permitted the Germans to actually hold out longer, on the defensive.

A virtual civil war inside Germany though, with lots of killing between those that are/were pro-Hitler, and those that could see the writing on the wall and wanted the war to end before the country was completely destroyed.

Musketballs04 Jun 2021 11:42 p.m. PST

One interesting thing to consider – German soldiers swore an oath of loyalty to Hitler personally, rather than loyalty to the country, people or constitution. Nor did the oath have an article transferring loyalty to a successor.

So if Hitler dies, exactly who would the German military be oathbound to serve?

Decebalus05 Jun 2021 3:27 a.m. PST

The design of the first government declaration included an end of the persecution of the jews. For me, that would have made a big difference.

robert piepenbrink Supporting Member of TMP05 Jun 2021 6:40 a.m. PST

I note that we are using different definitions of "succeeeded." I was assuming a coup had succeeded when the plotters had seized power, but several of us seem to be defining success as the death of Hitler.

deephorse05 Jun 2021 7:29 a.m. PST

There is no success without the death of Hitler. As proven by the events themselves. Some key people lacked the courage to continue the coup once they knew that he was still alive.

robert piepenbrink Supporting Member of TMP05 Jun 2021 8:35 a.m. PST

Yes, of course, deephorse. But the death of Hitler was only necessary, not sufficient. I would not regard the ascension of Goering, Himmler, Goebbels or "just as bad" or "slightly more competent" Nazis as a von Staufenberg success, and I don't think he or his fellow plotters would have, either. But when asked about the consequences of a von Staufenberg plot success, at least four of us have so defined it.

Tortorella Supporting Member of TMP05 Jun 2021 10:46 a.m. PST

Great point Robert. My bad. what was the plan after Hitler was killed? If I ever knew, I have forgotten.

Oberlindes Sol LIC Supporting Member of TMP05 Jun 2021 12:31 p.m. PST

At the Casblance conference in January 1943, Roosevelt and Churchill announced that they would only accept the unconditional surrender of Germany and Japan. By time of Valkyrie -- 18 months later, and over a month after D-Day -- there was not going to be any negotiating with Germany.

It is possible that a successful assassination would have led to Himmler surrendering to the western powers and thus avoiding Soviet occupation.

That scenario would likely have led to the Red Army trying to occupy as much territory as fast as possible in the summer of 1944, rather than the spring of 1945.

robert piepenbrink Supporting Member of TMP05 Jun 2021 2:33 p.m. PST

If the plotters had been successful, Himmler would have been negotiating with the worms. The plan was a mixed military/conservative civilian government--i.e. no Nazis, and Germany to get peace in borders large enough to include virtually all ethnic Germans. But I agree no hope of even the 1938 borders. Would the post-Nazi Chancellor--possibly Karl Goerdler?--then have surrendered? Maybe. But it's by no means clear FDR would have tried to avoid a Soviet occupation or the loss of Germany's eastern territories. This is not yet the Cold War, and FDR doesn't really seem to have had any problem with leftist totalitarians.

So I'll stick with the original assessment: they were a good year too late. In early to mid-1943, "unconditional surrender" or no, a German peace offer would have been very tempting. By July 1944, most of the death and destruction resulting from holding out for unconditional surrender would have been German--as in fact was the case.

John the OFM06 Jun 2021 11:49 a.m. PST

Goebels in charge? Doubtful.
Would Himmler let Goering take over?
Would Goering let Himmler take over?

Nine pound round06 Jun 2021 1:36 p.m. PST

There was a lot of talk in WWI about "we will fight Germany to a knockout," in Lloyd George's phrase, but as soon as the Germans expressed a willingness to evacuate the territories they had occupied, the Allies came to the table. They insisted she disarm, and imposed conditions that probably would have permitted the post WWII settlement if the Russians had still been in the war, but they agreed to settle the issue around a table. Realistically, I think by the summer of 1944, the Allies would've accepted an offer to negotiate if it had been made by a post-Nazi government. Would they have agreed to the 1939 or even the 1938 borders? I very much doubt it. I suspect they would ultimately have wound up with a settlement that brought some degree of occupation, as it did after WWI, and possibly partition, but I think the Germans would've given in. The Army knew the war was lost; the question was whether they were going destroy the country and the nation trying to get a better settlement.

Hitler fought on because he had no choice: the Allies wanted him dead, and he had already painted himself into a corner, anyway. He insisted on prolonging the war, because every day that Germany fought on, he lived; only his end would free the survivors to negotiate. If they could have bought a way out of the last year of the war, they would have done it, cost what it might have, because they did not have Hitler's existential motivation, or his utter disregard for the lives of others.

JMcCarroll06 Jun 2021 5:07 p.m. PST

By then the Soviets would not of accepted anything but unconditional surrender.

Nine pound round06 Jun 2021 6:25 p.m. PST

I don't know that I agree with that. Stalin had spent most of the 1930s building the "Popular Front" against fascism, and one morning, announced that he had done a deal with Hitler instead- and he survived that. His career was absolutely filled with the most sudden and unlikely changes of position on domestic and foreign political matters. Soviet and German diplomats talked in, IIRC, 1943 about the possibility of a separate peace, so under the right conditions, it wasn't inconceivable. Stalin was heavily dependent on Allied support for Lend-Lease, so my guess is that if the Germans had asked for an armistice, and signaled a willingness to accept armistice conditions similar to those of 1918, the Allies would have accepted, and Stalin would have done what the others did. They were losing probably a thousand lives a day; no democratic leader would insist on pushing the issue to complete defeat with Hitler dead and a successor government trying to make peace. It was only Hitler's intransigence that forced the Allies to continue fighting until the German army was completely destroyed.

Barin107 Jun 2021 5:02 a.m. PST

Well, there was such nice thing as "Operation Sunrise",and it showed that West was ready to negotiate with Germans, and Russians didn't. Ok. it was later in the war, but still some high ranking military going for future Nurenberg were offered a salvation for making American war easier….

Frederick Supporting Member of TMP07 Jun 2021 5:51 a.m. PST

In the unlikely event it succeeded and the new regime, say, withdrew back to the 1939 (or maybe 1940) frontiers, stopped persceuting the Jews and agreed to negotiate that might have been enough for some sort of a deal

Nine pound round07 Jun 2021 6:33 a.m. PST

The 1918 armistice basically disarmed Germany, and surrendered both her wartime gains in the west and her ability to maintain an army in the field in exchange for an agreement to negotiate. The German Army returned to Germany and (mostly) demobilized, while Allied troops occupied substantial amounts of German territory. In effect, the Germans traded all these things off against a continuation of the war. It wasn't "unconditional surrender," but it was the best set of terms the country could get when it wasn't headed by a nihilistic dictator.

Unlike Hitler, I think the generals were reasonable men who didn't believe the only acceptable alternative to total victory was complete destruction. I think they would've felt themselves very lucky by the summer of 1944 if they could get even 1918-type terms. But having no illusions about what lay ahead, I suspect they would have felt negotiation was preferable to what was clearly coming.

Deucey Supporting Member of TMP07 Jun 2021 3:15 p.m. PST

I like Nine Pound Round's answer.

Bill N08 Jun 2021 4:06 p.m. PST

My take on this is a little different.

The coup leader's goal was to prevent Germany's destruction. By this they did not mean simply avoiding the physical destruction that occurred in late 1944 and early 1945. They meant preserving Germany as a viable independent nation going forward.

A 1945 solution would not have been acceptable to them. Even a 1918 solution might have been a stretch in the immediate aftermath of the coup. At the time of the plot Germany still held Denmark and Norway, most of France, a third of Italy, a chunk of the Balkans and substantial territories in the east. Even if the German leaders were not planning on insisting on maintaining some of Hitler's acquisitions, there would have been strong domestic pressure for them to attempt to do so. Otherwise it would have been Stab in the back round 2. So the war would continue for a time.

This assumes the coup leaders would have been able to maintain control, which is also doubtful.

Nine pound round09 Jun 2021 6:07 a.m. PST

Well, you take the best deal you can get. And while they may have assembled a coalition around the banner of "make peace and keep Germany whole," they had all lived through the first war. They all knew that there had been voices in the Allied camp at the time who had advocated for breaking Germany up. They all knew that the atrocities in the occupied territories in 1939-1944 had gone far beyond those in WWI. They also knew the disparity in force between Germany and the Allies, and they also knew that the struggle was hopeless. They were never going to secure better terms by making the Allies contest every foot of Germany, but they might still have managed a better settlement than they ultimately got.

The German generals made a lot of postwar claims that weren't perfectly true, when it helped their case with the Allies of their own public. The claim that they would've secured Germany's frontiers and avoided partition seems to me like a pretty dubious claim in the face of overwhelming Allied power.

Blutarski10 Jun 2021 8:13 a.m. PST

9pr wrote -
"The 1918 armistice basically disarmed Germany, and surrendered both her wartime gains in the west and her ability to maintain an army in the field in exchange for an agreement to negotiate. The German Army returned to Germany and (mostly) demobilized, while Allied troops occupied substantial amounts of German territory."

Then came Versailles – a travesty which ensured the outbreak of an even worse war a mere twenty years later, exactly as Foch had gloomily predicted.


Nine pound round10 Jun 2021 9:53 a.m. PST

Yes and no- as George Orwell once said in one of his essays, "what would have happened if Germany had won?" The Treaty of Brest-Litovsk provides a pretty clear answer to that question: Germany was aiming for the kind of gains that would justify sacrifice on such a scale. They could've probably negotiated a reasonable peace in 1917, had the been willing to evacuate Belgium and France. As it was, they weren't willing to give up their gains to negotiate until the summer and fall of 1918.

There's a degree of comparability between the two, but generally speaking, I would say 1944 was the worse of the two situations; in 1918, the Red Army was not a factor, while in 1944 it was a tremendous concern, not just as a military force, but for the revolutionary potential it implied.

The fascinating question is, could the German generals have eked out a better deal than they got at the table? Maybe. For one thing, Germany might have been partitioned on the traditional state lines, rather than into Allied zones, which might have preserved some elements of the German prewar social order that were otherwise lost or transformed (and not necessarily in ways that pleased soldiers or nationalists). It might have prevented (or at least mitigated) the massive wholesale transfers of minority German populations out of East Prussia and other territories that were returned to neighboring nations in the actual settlement. It would've prevented all of the carnage and destruction that followed from invasion of Germany. These things happened at least in part because the Allies conquered Germany: a settlement of almost any kind short of what actually happened would have mitigated or prevented them. So yes, while the generals might not have liked the thought of Germany split up into (say) Austria, Brandenburg, Bavaria, Saxony and the Rhineland, isn't that a better outcome – from their point of view -than the actual outcome?

Nine pound round10 Jun 2021 11:39 a.m. PST

One other interesting point that illustrates how different the dynamics of a negotiated peace would have been is the issue of war crimes trials. Had the Germans sued for peace, my bet is that they would have happened – but they would have been exclusively national affairs, with Germans trying Germans.


Well, remember, in 1918, there was strong support in the Allied nations for war crimes trials- "hang the Kaiser," in the phrase, and by the standard set subsequently at Nuremberg, there would certainly have been grounds for bringing the prosecutors of an aggressive war to trial, as much as for individual perpetrators of atrocities (and the Allies had some of them in mind, too). But nothing ever happened. Why?

This is one of the things that demonstrate the difference between a conquered-drag-them-through-the-streets victory and a state suing for peace. The allies might have been able to compel the Germans to hand some of the perpetrators over for trial, but there would have been a trade off in 1919 or 1920. In 1945, there was none: they simply did what they wanted (and some of the perps got very short shrift indeed).

I don't think that the Allies necessarily wanted to fight for the privilege of doing that, but I believe the Germans had to know that a negotiated peace was the best way to avoid it. Whatever else the German generals may have been- another topic for another day, and my opinion of them is not high- they were realists, and it was Hitler, and not they, who insisted on the bitter end.

Blutarski10 Jun 2021 2:45 p.m. PST

Hi 9pr,
IMO, none of the questions you raise have any easy answers. Any conclusions or judgments drawn about the events in question depend a very great deal upon one's interpretation of events. Given that my conclusions about the backgrounds and causations of the two World Wars … or what might alternatively be seen as a single four decade long worldwide conflict punctuated by a short interlude of "peace" for the sake of appearances … , are rather at odds with the official story lines, TMP is definitely not the venue to host a discourse on such matters.

(Speaking from prior experience)


Nine pound round10 Jun 2021 4:03 p.m. PST

To say nothing of counterfactuals……🧐

Blutarski11 Jun 2021 6:41 a.m. PST

The challenge of making sense of history rests in the need to navigate a path through all the lies, omissions, misrepresentations, obfuscations, propaganda and "officially authorized histories".

Not an easy task by any means.


Nine pound round11 Jun 2021 9:08 a.m. PST

Very true. It is particularly difficult in the case of the Second World War, because one of the very few enduring successes of the Nazi regime was the creation and perpetuation of misleading myths. Many of those are still with us, and continue to influence our interpretation of historic events.

Personal logo deadhead Supporting Member of TMP11 Jun 2021 12:17 p.m. PST

Poor old Stauffenberg (two Fs by the way), AKA Tom Cruise just brilliant in the role, I think the evidence is that he was genuinely anti Nazi. Like Rommel, he was lucky to serve in North Africa, rather than Russia, where their principles would really have been put to the test.

But unlike Rommel, who was just motivated by a conviction that the war was lost, von Stauffenberg felt the Nazi regime was evil from day one. He still served it gallantly. Had he been a suicide bomber (which his faith did not allow) history would have changed, maybe.

I laughed at the scene in Valkyrie where von St is wounded in a gun battle in that corridor. Up till then I had been spellbound in the cinema. I thought that was really Hollywood nonsense.

Then I went home and read up on it…..exactly as they showed the whole thing.

But I agree that 1944 was leaving it a bit late. How many million Jews, other minorities, Russian POWs, were already so cruelly persecuted and then exterminated?

Bill N11 Jun 2021 1:36 p.m. PST

Well, you take the best deal you can get.

Would they be smart enough to recognize it was the best deal they could get when it was being offered?

Within about a month of the failed coup Bagration and the Lvov offensives come to an end, the Anglo-American forces break out of Normandy and together with the French liberate Paris. Operation Dragoon is launched. Florence was liberated. The Jassy-Kishniev offensive began and Romania defected. This was all accomplished without the disruption a successful coup would have caused. By the end of September western allies were in eastern France, had moved through Belgium and were into the Netherlands, and in Italy had begun punching through the Gothic Line. The coup leaders would have had a very narrow window where even 1918 peace was a possibility.

Personal logo Old Contemptible Supporting Member of TMP30 May 2022 10:13 p.m. PST

The Nazi leadership was to be arrested and most likely executed.

The new leadership was spelled out in the Operation Valkyrie plan.

Head of State: Colonel-General Ludwig Beck

Chancellor: Carl Goerdeler

Vice Chancellor: Wilhelm Leuschner

The rest of the new cabinet:

State Secretary: Ulrich-Wilhelm Graf von Schwerin; Foreign Minister: Ulrich von Hassell; Minister of the Interior: Julius Leber; State Secretary: Lieutenant Fritz-Dietlof von der Schulenburg; Chief of Police: General-Major Henning von Tresckow; Minister of Finance: Johannes Popitz; President of Reich Court: General-Major Hans Oster; Minister of War: Erich Hoepner; State Secretary of War: General Friedrich Olbricht; Minister of Propaganda: Carlo Mierendorff; Commander in Chief of Wehrmacht: Field Marshal Erwin von Witzleben; Minister of Justice: Josef Wirmer.

Personal logo 4th Cuirassier Supporting Member of TMP31 May 2022 5:47 a.m. PST

Had any plot succeeded to the extent that the Nazi regime was removed, obviously the allies would have negotiated. The January 1943 insistence on unconditional surrender was predicated, implicitly if not explicitly, on its being the Nazi regime that surrendered. Its earlier removal would have changed everything. For argument's sake, suppose the German post-Nazi regime had been Communist. Would Stalin still have insisted on fighting on? Of course not. As others have pointed out, though, July 1944 was too late – the Stauffenberg plotters had nothing to offer the allies that the allies weren't about to take anyway.

I don't buy the idea that less of Germany might have been occupied by the USSR further to a negotiated earlier surrender. The occupation zones of 1945 and after weren't defined by what you'd hitherto managed to conquer – if they were, why was there a French zone? The zones were agreed earlier – Yalta IIRC – and the Russians were always going to get what they got, no matter how far east the western allies pushed. Whether Stalin would have likewise respected the western allies' zones had he managed to advance further, I am not sure.

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