Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Germany Remembers Hitler Coup Plotters

Associated Press

Germany Remembers Hitler Coup Plotters

Associated Press Writer
Wed Jul 20, 2:20 PM ET

BERLIN - German political and military leaders commemorated the unsuccessful attempt to kill Adolf Hitler 61 years ago, laying wreaths Wednesday at the former Nazi military headquarters where the plotters were executed.

Military chief of staff Gen. Wolfgang Schneiderhan and the supreme court president, Hans-Juergen Papier, laid wreaths at the Bendlerblock building, now the Defense Ministry, where the plotters were executed after their plan to kill Hitler with a briefcase bomb failed on July 20, 1944.

The executed plotters included Col. Claus Graf Schenk von Stauffenberg and other high-ranking soldiers from the German aristocracy. Two generals were given the chance to take their own lives and one did.

A separate ceremony was held to honor the more than 2,500 Nazi resisters executed between 1933 and 1945 at Ploetzensee, on the outskirts of Berlin. German Justice Minister Brigitte Zypries praised their efforts.

"The men and women who participated deserve great credit for deciding in favor of law and justice," Zypries said.

At the Ploetzensee prison, the Nazis hanged some of the July 20 plotters on meat hooks.

The day's significance took root only slowly in Germany, where many initially viewed the July 20 plotters as traitors.

The briefcase bomb placed by Stauffenberg at the Fuehrer's lair in East Prussia, now in Poland, killed five people, but Hitler survived.

Stauffenberg, who left the building before the explosion and watched from outside, was convinced of the mission's success and raced back to Berlin's army headquarters to help manage the transfer of power. As word spread that Hitler was alive, the coup crumbled.

The coup attempt has gained additional meaning as Germany — reunited for nearly 14 years — seeks and receives deeper acceptance from other nations as a "normal" democracy and a European power.

Last year's 60th anniversary of the failed generated a swell of public interest for months in advance, driven by a feature film on Stauffenberg, books and television documentaries.