July 20, 2021


The Motives of the Men Who Sought Hitler's Life (Christianity & Crisis Magazine on July 20, 2021, Providence)

"The Motives of the Men Who Sought Hitler's Life," by W. Von Eckardt
May 13, 1946

"Deo--Patriae--Humanitati," for God, country, and humanity, was the motto of the Germans who attempted to overthrow the regime which made their country the most hated nation in the world. The integrity and motives of the conspirators of the July 20th attempt to do away with Hitler are still doubted by many. The fact that the same group made any number of previous attempts since the first serious one was foiled by Mr. Chamberlain's fatal arrival in Munich on September 29, 1938, does not seem to clear it of the suspicion of having acted only in order to avoid total defeat. Defeatism was, of course, the motive of a few hard-boiled, calculating generals, who had refused for years to participate, playing both sides of the fence, and who were executed only for their last minute consent to support the putsch if it should succeed. The men, however, who had for years tried to move the army into action against the regime were motivated by even more than earnest patriotism. Throughout the utterances and convictions of all the real conspirators one finds a sincere spiritual premise, which seems sadly lacking in most of the victorious "anti-fascist" forces today.

Their basic conviction seems to me perfectly expressed in a passage of Peter Yorck von Wartenburg's testimony before the Nazi tribunal. We found the minutes of the People's Court trials of eight of the principal participants of the July 20th putsch when we came to Berlin. The trial was presided over by the notorious, sardonic Nazi "judge" Roland Freisler, who met his fate in an air-raid on Berlin early in 1945. Yorck von Wartenburg was one of the defendants charged with the attempted assassination of the F├╝hrer and conspiracy against the State.

Yorck von Wartenburg: "Mr. President, I have already stated during my interrogation, that the national-socialist ideology developed thus, that I..."

The President, Dr. Freisler: (interrupting) "...could not agree! To say it in concrete terms, you declared: In the Jewish question you disagreed with the extermination of Jews, you disagreed with the national-socialist conception of justice."

Yorck von Wartenburg: "The decisive factor, which connects all these questions are the totalitarian demands of the State towards the citizen, which force him to cast aside his religious and moral obligations to God."

It was the struggle against the totalitarian demands of the State which united the German opposition from the political left to the right. This strong anti-totalitarian feeling, based on a simple return to Christian ethics, dominated the thoughts and the, obviously rare, writings of all participants of the attempted putsch, in which almost all efforts of the German opposition culminated. Time and again we find this conscious return to Christian morality on which all was to be based, and which has nothing in common with church-politics, dogma, or ultramontane separatism.

Hellmuth von Moltke writes to his wife in his last letter, which was smuggled out of prison, that the Nazis could not prove his or his friends' active participation (he was, of course, most active). "But one thought remained: How can Christianity be an anker of salvation in times of chaos? This lone thought demands five heads tomorrow, and later those of Steltzer and Haubach."

Posted by at July 20, 2021 12:00 AM