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March 13th 1943 bomb plot against Hitler


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Since we have the Ostfront on our minds of late I thought I'd offer this question. The March 13th 1943 bomb plot in which a time bomb was smuggled onto Hitler's plane while he was visiting Army Group Center headquarters had a very good chance of succeeding. Unfortunately the fuse failed. I've wondered though was there really a chance of regime change at the time? There might have been a power struggle between Himmler and Goering but some Nazi would remain in power, though possibly they would have been more likely to make a peace. Perhaps some high ranking Heer officers would have made a move, though who can say? How prevalent was the mood the war was lost in March 1943 before Kursk and Tunisia?

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How prevalent was the mood the war was lost in March 1943 before Kursk and Tunisia?

As a guess I would say that that early on most of them may have felt that some kind of negotiated settlement that was not total defeat might still be possible if Hitler were removed. But in the months following Kursk their mood darkened month by month. I think one high ranking German officer wrote after the war that, "After Stalingrad it was not possible to win the war. After Kursk it was not possible to avoid losing it."

Michael

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As a guess I would say that that early on most of them may have felt that some kind of negotiated settlement that was not total defeat might still be possible if Hitler were removed.

Michael

Which the allied Casablanca declaration a month prior for unconditional surrender rendered a non starter. Whether that stance would have held had the Germans seriously considered negotiation and Hitler being dead is another question.

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Personally, I don't think the Nazi party would have stayed together long without Hitler at the top. Too many rivals with big egos. In addition to everything else, Hitler was a master at playing one sycophantic underling off against another so that none of them ever developed enough of a power base to challenge him. But with the man at the top gone, I suspect Goering, Himmler, et. al. would have been at each others' throats within weeks. Maybe Nazi infighting would have given the Military the opportunity to step in and restore stability; hard to say.

Despite the Casablanca Declaration, I do suspect that if Hitler were assassinated and the Nazis thrown out of power by the Army, at least the U.S. and Britain might have been willing to agree something less than unconditional surrender, in fact if not in name. The Soviets probably would have felt differently but after a certain point they could be forced to the negotiating table if the U.S. and Britain were both going another way. Even after Stalingrad, I don't think the Soviets wanted to be left in a fight with Germany by themselves. Maybe after Kursk the Soviets would have been more likely to fight on solis, but I don't think before.

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The war was over for Germany when winter hit in 1941 !!!! and the Germans had not at this point taken Russia - the Germans basically stalled, went on the defensive, and lost when on the offensive and Russia simply had to build up their forces with no threat of defeat and then use their forces when they felt like they were ready to push Germany out of Russia at their leisure and then go into Germany. The icing on the cake was when Germany declared war on the United States in 1941 this meant that they were doomed. Furthermore, more than likely unconditional surrender at this point was the only outcome anyone at war with Germany considered especially since WW1 accomplished nothing regarding the concept that Germany would live in peace with the rest of the world.

The above in fact is my opinion and surprisingly I have actually been completely incorrect in previous opinions regarding life's important observations including but not limited to my concept of CMBN tactics.

Another reason the US and others would not have gotten out of the war and allowed Russia and the Germans to duke it out was because they would not have wanted Russia and present day Poland and German to be Communist under the Russian flag which may have during WWII times included Italy and or Norway, the low countries ???

What the allies should have done was communicate secretly with the Germans and allow the Germans and the Soviets to fight it out and for us to not go into Italy or Normandy when we did but rather allow the Germans to hopefully pummel the Russians and we should have not helped out the Russians at all with supplies and shipping but rather hopefully help the Germans to either defeat or severely decimate the Communists. Then we should have entered the war at the last second so to speak stab the Germans in the back so to speak and then occupy Germany and divide up Russia between the French, English, and the US the only tricky part would have been if the Germans would have invented the Atomic Bomb or devised other wonder weapons en masse before we could annihilate them.

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The Neo Nazis always like to say that Germany was only defeated due to treasonous Germans but I've always been amazed at how much loyalty the Wehrmacht gave Hitler. Sure the Nazis were always on the look out for conspiracies but certainly by Autumn '44 you'd think others besides the Valkyrie plotters would have done a better job at getting rid of Hitler even though unconditional surrender was the only real choice by that time. Even a surrender in summer/fall '44 would have saved at least a million German lives (not to mention at least as many Allies) . Didn't the Allies question Wehrmacht leaders right after the war and ask them why they kept on fighting even though there was no hope in anything but unconditional surrender? What were the responses?

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My own opinion is that it would have required some serious battlefield reverse (such as the failure of Overlord) for the Western Allies to contemplate any settlement with Germany short of unconditional surrender. The possibility of Germany defeating the USSR—and at the time it did not appear that that could be ruled out—and then turning west again was too dreadful to contemplate. WW I and its aftermath had taught them that the German militarists needed to be completely humiliated, no ifs, buts, or maybes. Similarly, the possibility that Eastern Europe and Germany might be completely overrun by the Soviets by themselves was not a comforting thought to Western leaders even if less ominous at the moment than a German victory. No, it was a determined necessity that Western armies must be on German soil, as much of it as possible, at the end of hostilities.

Michael

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Eh. The U.S. de facto accepted less than unconditional surrender from Japan. So it wouldn't surprise me if they would have accepted something less than unconditional surrender from Germany.

Mind you, it probably would have had to of been something pretty close -- something they could call "unconditional surrender" in front of the cameras.

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Eh. The U.S. de facto accepted less than unconditional surrender from Japan. So it wouldn't surprise me if they would have accepted something less than unconditional surrender from Germany.

Mind you, it probably would have had to of been something pretty close -- something they could call "unconditional surrender" in front of the cameras.

Well, what exceptions do you think they would have been willing to make? There were powerful voices in the Allied camp that were calling for more punitive actions than the official line (cf. the "Morganthau Plan"). I am not immediately recalling any equivalent call for more lenient measures, though they might have existed, I suppose. Do you know of any?

Michael

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The war was over for Germany when winter hit in 1941 !!!! and the Germans had not at this point taken Russia - the Germans basically stalled, went on the defensive, and lost when on the offensive and Russia simply had to build up their forces with no threat of defeat and then use their forces when they felt like they were ready to push Germany out of Russia at their leisure and then go into Germany.

Well, by around Dec 1941, it must have been clear to everyone with access to relatively complete information outside of Germany, that Germany was out of good options -- they had large armies in the field and lots of captured territory, but their railroads had already been falling apart for years and access to critical resources such as oil was only going to get more and more restricted. By early 1942, no realistic Axis plan (including Japan's) envisioned anything more than holding the Allies off until they negociated. The Germans had one more throw at the oil fields in Russia --a wild and flailing grab in the summer of 1942 -- and the Japanese tried for a similar last-minute decisive battle at Midway in the same time frame. In fact, you could probably isolate the critical moment as the destruction of the German thrust at Tikvin in late November. This prevented the isolation of Leningrad and kept the Finns relatively quiet. So in a sense the War in the Pacific started just after the Germans started losing. Of course the war in the Pacific was entirely separate in many ways anyway and it had its own very odd logic.

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Eh. The U.S. de facto accepted less than unconditional surrender from Japan. So it wouldn't surprise me if they would have accepted something less than unconditional surrender from Germany.

Mind you, it probably would have had to of been something pretty close -- something they could call "unconditional surrender" in front of the cameras.

Japan still had lots of barginning chips when the time came to surrender -- for example big armies in China and Indochina. It's not too surprising that they got some minor concessions (such as -- and this might be the only one -- keeping the Emperor). Japan was still occupied and totally controlled by the US for a time.

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Well, what exceptions do you think they would have been willing to make? There were powerful voices in the Allied camp that were calling for more punitive actions than the official line (cf. the "Morganthau Plan"). I am not immediately recalling any equivalent call for more lenient measures, though they might have existed, I suppose. Do you know of any?

Michael

I don't think any existed, given the actual circumstances, but here are a couple of possibilities for discussion. If the July '44 bomb plot suceeds, the Army (Rommel?) takes over and offers surrender, territorial concessions, disarmanent, de-Nazification, trial of war criminals by the Allies, reparations, free elections and occupation so long as Germany is not divided and there there is a Western Allied presence through out the country. This time, unlike WW I the Allies can stay in Germany to make sure it behaves which the Germans would welcome to protect them from the USSR. Stalin, wouldn't like it, maybe not Roosevelt either but I think Churchill would be interested.

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Japan still had lots of barginning chips when the time came to surrender -- for example big armies in China and Indochina.

And one of those armies was already getting steamrolled by the Soviets, offering about as much resistance as wheat does to the scythe. If the war hadn't ended in early August, the other Japanese armies on the Asian mainland would have suffered the same fate (assuming they didn't succumb to to the British and/or Chinese forces first), Stalin would have loved the excuse to move further South and grab more land in Asia. As it was, the Red Army kept moving forward for several days after the surrender was announced.

Sorry, don't see the Japanese armies in continental Asia as much of a factor. Now, I'm sure the Soviet armies that were already entering the Korean peninsula were a factor in the U.S. strategic thinking, and the further fact that the Red Army would be ready to invade Hokkaido possibly before the end of the Fall 1945 probably played a strong role in the U.S. desire to get surrender terms agreed to quickly. But by Mid-1945, the Japanese armies in Asia were a non-factor.

I think it's very difficult to say what might have been accepted as armistice terms from a new German government that had just overthrown the Nazis... as others have intimated, a lot probably would have depended upon exactly who comprised the new German government. Truth is, while the U.S. & U.K. were relatively sypatico (not always, but mostly), the alliance with the U.S.S.R. was always more on the terms of "The enemy of my enemy is my friend." Hitler was the raison d'etre that kept this alliance together and without that anchor, I think it's very hard to predict what might have happened. Maybe the Allied triumvirate stays together and rejects any offer short of unconditional surrender (or something very close to it), but maybe not. We'll never know.

EDIT to add: Since I see the June '44 bomb plot was mentioned above, my above comments apply to the OP's query regarding the failed attempt in Spring '43. By 7/20/1944, the Soviets have completely destroyed Army Group Center and are well into Eastern Poland; at this point, the Red Army is headed for Berlin with or without the Western Allies' help and they're not going to stop no matter who is leading the German state.

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EDIT to add: Since I see the June '44 bomb plot was mentioned above, my above comments apply to the OP's query regarding the failed attempt in Spring '43. By 7/20/1944, the Soviets have completely destroyed Army Group Center and are well into Eastern Poland; at this point, the Red Army is headed for Berlin with or without the Western Allies' help and they're not going to stop no matter who is leading the German state.

As you say this is all highly speculative but I imagine that in late Summer '44 a new German goverment could surrender but still make sure the Western Allies got to Berlin first. But even if not, they could have stopped the retailiatory murder pillage and rape of eastern Gemany. I indicated above ending the war in late summer '44 would have saved a million German lives but thinking it over it probably would have been closer to 2 million. Still it seems the German high command did a rather poor job of long range strategic planning throughout the war. I recently read Manstein took his "retirement" gift from Hitler and bought an estate in East Prussia.

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Well, by around Dec 1941, it must have been clear to everyone with access to relatively complete information outside of Germany, that Germany was out of good options...

But there wasn't complete information anywhere. In the summer of 1942 there was considerable anxiety in the West (particularly in the UK) that the USSR might be defeated and the German steamroller would proceed all the way to the Persian Gulf. This was not helped by the extremely sketchy information coming out of the USSR all through the war, but especially before 1945.

Michael

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Sorry, don't see the Japanese armies in continental Asia as much of a factor.

I agree. By 1945 those armies were getting a whole lot of nowhere. What's worse from the Japanese point of view is that it was not going to be possible to bring more than a small fraction of them home to defend the main islands. The reason being that most of their merchant fleet and navy was resting quietly on the bottom of the ocean. Make no mistake, an Allied invasion of the home islands would have been no picnic, but the outcome was more or less foreordained. One way or another, Imperial Japan was going down.

Michael

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Well, I think that had Hitler been blown sky high then there would of been a power struggle in his lew. However I belive it unlikely that the Nazi party would of retained power. After all we know there was a considerable movement amongst the armed forces and subsidiary government that would of had to be over come first.

As for the allies reaction, well I think a conditional peace may of been an attractive proposition. The USA had its hands full in the pacific, and also understood that in the vacuum of Nazi Germany, the USSR would probably fill the gap. Why not forgoe sending thousands of troops to their deaths when convincing victory could be attained without further conflict? Provided a return to pre invasion of poland boundaries I think most could of accepted that, perhaps with further reparations. By 43 the USSR was starting to get scary, why not nip it in the bud?

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I don't think Battlefront will mind me mentioning there is a boardgame by GMT games in final development called Churchill. It's a 3 player political game where one plays Churchill, Stalin and Roosevelt who must cooperate to defeat the Axis but win the game by getting the most out of the post war settlement. I'm curious if a successful July '44 bomb plot is one of the options.

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I agree. By 1945 those armies were getting a whole lot of nowhere. What's worse from the Japanese point of view is that it was not going to be possible to bring more than a small fraction of them home to defend the main islands. The reason being that most of their merchant fleet and navy was resting quietly on the bottom of the ocean. Make no mistake, an Allied invasion of the home islands would have been no picnic, but the outcome was more or less foreordained. One way or another, Imperial Japan was going down.

Michael

All of those armies and the Soviets had to be handled in the final negotiations, so while they might have been militarily unimportant, dealing with them and keeping out the Soviets were things that potentially gave the

Japanese a lot more leverage than the Germans had in May 1945. For that matter, didn't the German army in Italy sign a separate cease-fire? I guess so. A complete surrender actually:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/End_of_World_War_II_in_Europe

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The unconditional surrender announcement was largely a sop to Stalin to show western resolve, when they had to tell him there wouldn't be a second front in 1943, beyond Africa and the Med. The Russians were open to negotiated separate peace possibilities well after that point. In case everyone forgot, Russia made a separate peace in WW I despite acres of pronouncements that the Allies were inseparable and all the rest. And Wilson scared the heck out of the French and British by threatening separate peace if the Germans agreed to his terms while rejecting theirs - they were saved largely by German lack of realism, still demanding way too much to peel him away from the rest of the Allies, or force the French and British to give them Wilson's terms.

How wars actually end is quite messy, in other words, and a lot of diplomacy and maneuvering continues. It was largely the fanaticism and past behavior of the Nazi regime that ruled out negotiating with them - the fanaticism made all the terms they would ever agree to impossible, and the past behavior meant nobody would believe a word they said, anyway. But that part would indeed have changed had the army been in power and all the Nazis out.

There still would have been a serious realism issue, however. Plenty of the higher army types dreamed that they could get the western allies to side with them against the Russians if they could just get rid of the Nazis. They thought they would be viewed by the west as moderates and gentlemen and fellow capitalists and Christians, when in fact the west viewed them as beastly jackbooted warmongering murderers. The west didn't draw a bright line between what was horrible about Nazism and what was horrible about Prussian militarism - they were a piece to them. Churchill might be a bit nuanced about it, but he still considered Prussian militarism, not just Nazi ideology, something that had to be completely crushed and eradicated, not something to be friends with to save one last year of effort.

The point is, the terms the Allies would have offered to a military government of Germany in 1943 would have been very close to complete surrender, especially in the political sense. Any attempt to hold power in the aftermath of that peace would have been a non-starter. If they only wanted to save Germany the death and destruction of further war, division, and all that, sure they could have secured it, de facto. But "all we want is to retain national independence and say, the western third of Poland" would have been a complete non-starter. And the opening bid of the generals would have been considerably higher than that...

It sure wouldn't have been worse, we can safely say. Lots of the wild purposeless murdering of the later years of the Nazi regime could have been avoided, and probably millions of deaths - even if it took another year of pounding to convince the generals it was hopeless.

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Artofwar,

Stalin didn't see the war as lost for Germany in winter of 1941. The Military Channel, I believe, presented evidence Stalin was putting out peace feelers (via Sweden and Turkey ISTR) into spring or summer of 1942. That was after showing an interview with Stalin's personal telegrapher that Stalin nearly fled Moscow twice in winter of 1941, getting a grip on himself at the last minute and putting the full weight of himself, the Party and the State into defending the Russian capital. We now know, too, where Stalin planned to decamp, taking all key players with him. His highly classified until 1990 deep underground bunker at Samara, Russia, near Kuibyshev.

Regards,

John Kettler

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Considering the unwillingness of the German population to accept the fact that the whole country actively supported or silently accepted the Nazi regime, its crimes and the war of aggression even after a total defeat, I think would've been catastrophe if the war had ended before the final blow. It was absolutely neccessary to fight it to the bitter end. The fertile soil generated after the end of WWI is the best argument why it was of paramount importance to totally defeat and occupy Germany.

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Considering the unwillingness of the German population to accept the fact that the whole country actively supported or silently accepted the Nazi regime, its crimes and the war of aggression even after a total defeat, I think would've been catastrophe if the war had ended before the final blow. It was absolutely neccessary to fight it to the bitter end. The fertile soil generated after the end of WWI is the best argument why it was of paramount importance to totally defeat and occupy Germany.

That is very likely true, but whether it is or not, it is what the Allied leaders believed and why they would have been extremely reluctant to accept anything short of unconditional surrender and full occupation of the country. The world simply could not afford another major war with Germany.

Michael

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