Claus von Stauffenberg was born into a wealthy aristocratic family in Jettingen, Bavaria. He was well educated and intelligent, however he was more interested in the army than academics, enlisting in the 17th Cavalry Regiment in Bamberg in 1926. In 1930 he was commissioned as a second lieutenant. He studied modern weaponry at the Kriegsakademie before his unit, the German 1st Light Division, was sent to the Sudetenland after Adolf Hitler's
success in the Munich Agreement. Though Claus supported the nationalistic elements of Nazism
, he was not a supporter of the ideology as a whole, especially the systematic oppression of the Jews, and never became a member of the party. As well, he opposed the invasion of Prague and the method of the annexation of the Sudetenland.
He was a practicing Catholic throughout his whole life. He married his wife Nina Friien von Lerchenfield in September of 1933. Together they had five children, all of whom survived the war.
At the outbreak of the war in 1939, Stauffenberg participated in the attack on Poland
, which he supported, as it was a deeply-held belief among the German aristocracy that the Eastern regions, taken from Germany
after the First World War, should be brought back under German control. He had previously been asked by family members to join the resistance against Hitler, but only began to seriously consider it after Poland. However, he chose not to participate in the movement so early in the war. In 1940, he was an officer in the 6th Panzer Division that fought in the Battle of France
. For his participation he received the Iron Cross, First Class. In 1941, Stauffenberg began again to consider joining the resistance, as he was greatly opposed to the executions non-Germans and Jews that were occurring at an alarming rate, as well as the military deficiency precipitated by the greater control of the military that Hitler seized around this time. He was finally convinced to join with other resistance factions within the Wehrmacht in 1942.
In 1943 Stauffenberg was promoted to Obersleutnant and sent to Africa
to join with the 10th Panzer Division who were waging the Tunisia Campaign. In April of 1943 he was severely wounded by strafing, losing his left eye, right hand and two fingers on his left hand. He received the Wound Badge in Gold and the German Cross in Gold.
After his rehabilitation he was fully committed to the resistance effort, drawing up plans for the assassination of Hitler and assisting in the creation of detailed plans for how the resistance members could wrest control from the other high-level Nazi party members after the assassination. In 1944, when the Allies landed in France on D-Day, Stauffenberg was fully aware that the war was lost. He had drawn up demands for the surrender of Germany which included territorial claims and requests as well as refusing to allow Germany to be occupied by the Allies after the war.
Between September of 1943 and July of 1944, Stauffenberg was the major impetus for the creation and implementation of the attempt to assassinate Hitler that occurred on July 20th 1944. After several abortive attempts throughout this time period, Stauffenberg decided to make the effort himself even though he had seriously begun to doubt the possibility of success. He had hoped to assassinate Hitler along with Heinrich Himmler
and Hermann Goring
, but was unable to obtain a meeting with all three men. He decided to move forward with the plot anyways, and on July 20th he entered the Wolfsschanze carrying a briefcase that contained two bombs. He was unable to arm the second one due to his missing hand and fingers, and so entered the briefing room with only one in the case, which he placed under the table. He excused himself from the room and the bomb went off shortly after. Though he thought no one could have survived the blast, only four people died in the explosion and none of them was Hitler, who escaped with minor injuries. Stauffenberg returned to Berlin
and attempted to encourage his confederates to implement the second plan, which involved instigating a military coup against the Nazi leaders. However, Joseph Goebbels
announced that Hitler had survived the blast and, later in the day, Hitler himself appeared on the radio, alerting the conspirators to the failure of their plan. They were tracked to their offices and, after a brief skirmish during which Stauffenberg was injured, overpowered.
Stauffenberg and his co-conspirators were tried in an impromptu court marshal and sentenced to death. They were executed by makeshift firing squad. Though Stauffenberg was intended to be shot third, one of his confederates, Lieutenant Werner von Haeften, stepped forward and took the bullets intended for Stauffenberg. Stauffenberg died fourth on July 21st, 1944.
In Other Media
There have been several portrayals of Claus von Stauffenberg in film in both Germany and America. They are as follows: The Desert Fox: the Story of Rommel
(1951) portrayed by Eduard Franz. Der 20. Juli
(1955) portrayed by Wolfgang Preiss. Es geschach am 20. Juli
(1955) portrayed by Bernhard Wicki. The Night of the Generals
(1967) portrayed by Gerard Buhr. Stauffenberg 13 Bilder uber einen Tater
(1989), a documentary. Stauffenberg - Verschworung gegen Hitler
(1990). The Restless Conscience
(1991). Die Stunde der Offiziere
(2004), portrayed by Harald Schrott. Valkyrie
(2008), portrayed by Tom Cruise.
He has also made several appearances on television. These are as follows: Operation Walkure
(1971) portrayed by Joachim Hansen. War and Rememberance
(1988), portrayed by Sky Dumont. The Plot to Kill Hitler
(1990), portrayed by Brad Davis. Stauffenberg
(2004), portrayed by Sebastian Koch. Stauffenberg
(2005), a documentary.