Birthday: November 15, 1907
Died At Age: 36
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Also Known As: Claus Philipp Maria Schenk Graf von Stauffenberg
Born Country: Germany
Born in: Jettingen-Scheppach, Germany
Famous as: Military Leader
Height: 6'3" (190 cm), 6'3" Males
Spouse/Ex-: Nina Schenk Gräfin von Stauffenberg (m. 1933)
father: Alfred Schenk Graf von Stauffenberg
mother: Countess of Uxkiill-Gyllenband
siblings: Alexander Schenk Graf von Stauffenberg, Berthold Schenk Graf von Stauffenberg, Konrad Maria Schenk Graf von Stauffenberg
children: Berthold Maria Schenk Graf von Stauffenberg, Franz-Ludwig Schenk Graf von Stauffenberg, Heimeran Schenk Graf von Stauffenberg, Konstanze von Schulthess, Valerie Schenk Gräfin von Stauffenberg
Died on: July 21, 1944
place of death: Berlin
Cause of Death: Execution
education: Prussian Military Academy
awards: German Cross in Gold
Who was Claus von Stauffenberg?
Claus Philipp Maria Schenk Graf von Stauffenberg was a German military officer who served in the German military during World War II. He was one of the foremost figures in the failed 20 July plot of 1944 to assassinate Adolf Hitler and overthrow the Nazi Party. He inherited the hereditary noble titles "Graf" or count and “Schenk” or cupbearer from his father. Stauffenberg was part of the invasion of Poland as well as the Soviet Union. He was also involved in the Tunisian Campaign. When he was young, he was a member of a scout association, named Neupfadfinder. After receiving appropriate education, he enlisted in his family's traditional regiment, the Bamberger Reiter- und Kavallerieregiment 17 in Bamberg. In the ensuing years, he rose through the ranks to become a colonel and was decorated multiple times. While he never joined the Nazi Party, he held similar views on racist and nationalistic aspects. However, he gradually developed a disdain for both Hitler and the Nazi Party. He was the driving force of the German Resistance movement within the Wehrmacht. Following his arrest after the failed assassination, Stauffenberg was placed in front of a firing squad.
Childhood & Early Life
Born on November 15, 1907, in the Stauffenberg castle of Jettingen, Stauffenberg was the third of four sons of Alfred Klemens Philipp Friedrich Justinian, the last Oberhofmarschall of the Kingdom of Württemberg and Caroline Schenk Gräfin von Stauffenberg (née Gräfin von Üxküll-Gyllenband), the daughter of Alfred Richard August Graf von Üxküll-Gyllenband and Valerie Gräfin von Hohenthal.
He had a twin brother named Konrad Maria. His other two brothers, Berthold and Alexander, were twins as well.
He grew up with a strong aristocratic code of honour in a Catholic household. He remained a practising Catholic for the rest of his life. As a student of literature, he was deeply influenced by Romantic poetry. All these factors combined to give him a powerful moral imperative.
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Early Military Career
Stauffenberg received a carefully planned education. His initial love was literature, but he ultimately joined the military in 1926 and chose to serve with the family’s traditional regiment, the Bamberger Reiter- und Kavallerieregiment 17 in Bamberg.
In 1930, he was promoted to the post of leutnant (second lieutenant) and subsequently attended the Kriegsakademie in Berlin-Moabit, pursuing a degree in modern weapons. However, his main interest remained the use of horses. His regiment was assigned to the German 1st Light Division under General Erich Hoepner. The unit was posted in Sudetenland after its annexation to the Reich as per the Munich Agreement.
Although he never sought membership in the Nazi Party, he harboured similar views on racist and nationalistic aspects. He backed Adolf Hitler during the German presidential election in 1932. Due to his Catholic faith, he dithered between his disdain for Hitler’s policies and admiration for what he thought to be Hitler's military acumen.
After the Night of the Long Knives and Kristallnacht, he realised that Hitler did not want to pursue justice. The incessant and systematic abuse of Jews and suppression of religion were offensive to his Catholic sensibilities.
Service During the Second World War
At the advent of World War II, Stauffenberg and his regiment joined the forces that invaded Poland in 1939. He agreed with several policies of the Nazi regime concerning Poland, including the use of Poles as slave workers to attain German prosperity and total colonization and exploitation of Poland by Germany.
His unit later became part of the 6th Panzer Division, and he was appointed an officer on its general staff in the Battle of France, for which he received the Iron Cross First Class.
Stauffenberg served in the organizational department of Oberkommando des Heeres ("Army High Command"; OKH) during the period known as the Phoney War (1939-40).
His uncle, Nikolaus Graf von Üxküll-Gyllenband, was the first person to ask him to be part of the resistance movement against Hitler, but he seriously thought of doing so following the Invasion of Poland. However, during the Phoney War, he was not involved in any coup.
In 1943, he was made Oberstleutnant and sent to Tunisia, where he served under General Erwin Rommel. On April 7, 1943, he was driving a vehicle as part of a column when Kittyhawk (P-40) fighter bombers of the Desert Air Force attacked. Losing his left eye, right hand, and two fingers on the left hand, Stauffenberg stayed the next three months in a hospital in Munich.
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After his recovery, he became fully involved in the resistance. While serving as a staff officer at the headquarters of the Ersatzheer in Berlin, he worked closely with General Friedrich Olbricht, a devout member of the resistance. He also met Henning von Tresckow, who later would not return to Germany after the operation’s failure and killed himself in 1944.
Operation Valkyrie was originally developed as an emergency continuity of government operations plan that was to be carried out by the Territorial Reserve Army of Germany if the civil order of the country broke down.
Stauffenberg, von Tresckow, and Olbricht modified it with the plans of implementing it to take command of German cities, disarm the Schutzstaffel, and apprehend the Nazi leadership once Hitler's assassination had been successfully executed in the 20 July plot. Hitler's death would have nullified German soldiers’ oath of loyalty (Reichswehreid) to him.
The Attempted Assassination of Adolf Hitler
Stauffenberg wanted writer Hans Georg Schmidt von Altenstadt to replace Hitler. He was the central figure in the plot. Empowered by his determination, organisational skills, and forceful personality, he convinced the conspirators that killing Hitler was the only logical solution.
Like any other responsible German commander, he knew the war was lost the moment the Allied forces made a successful landing in France in June 1944 and was well aware of the fact that only an immediate armistice could prevent further humiliation and destruction of Germany and its people.
After fellow conspirator Hellmuth Stieff failed to kill Hitler on July 7, 1944, on a uniforms display at Klessheim castle near Salzburg, Stauffenberg decided to do it himself. He wanted to take out Hitler, Hermann Göring, and Heinrich Himmler together. When he was unsuccessful in doing so, he went ahead with the plan on 20 July.
Stauffenberg got into the briefing room of Wolfsschanze with a briefcase filled with two small bombs. He managed to arm only one bomb and planted it under the conference table before leaving.
When the explosion ripped through the bunker, Stauffenberg was convinced that he had completed his mission. Four people died in the explosion, but Hitler escaped with minor injuries as he was behind the heavy, solid-oak conference table leg at the time of the explosion.
Stauffenberg urged his co-conspirators to begin the second phase: the military coup against the Nazi leaders. However, they soon learned from a radio announcement made by Joseph Goebbels that Hitler was still alive.
Following a brief exchange of bullets, during which Stauffenberg was shot in the shoulder, he and his associates were arrested. They were executed by a firing squad on 21 July 1944 in the courtyard of the Bendlerblock, Berlin.
Family & Personal Life
On September 26, 1933, Stauffenberg exchanged wedding vows with Elisabeth Magdalena "Nina" Schenk Gräfin von Stauffenberg in Bamberg. Their five children were Berthold, Heimeran, Franz-Ludwig, Valerie, and Konstanze.
Nina gave birth to their youngest in Frankfurt on the Oder after her husband’s execution. The older four children were not informed about what their father had done. They spent the remainder of the war in a foster home and had to adopt new surnames as “Stauffenberg” came to be regarded as a taboo.