Valkyrie and the July 20th Plotters.


I’m into the cinema, and generally hype myself up about upcoming films that look interesting – I’d be considered within the Bond films “core market” for example, generally seeing all of the Bond movies when they come out no matter what the reviews say. One film I’ve been looking forward to for over a year – it got delayed by the WGA strike – is Valkyrie.

Valkyrie details the plot to kill Hitler – known as the July 20th plot, after the date of the attempt –  by leading figures in the German Army during WW2 . It’s directed by Bryan Singer of Usual Suspects fame and has Tom Cruise playing Claus Schenk Von Stauffenberg, the colonel who planted a bomb a bit too close to the table leg when trying to knock off the Fuhrer.

I’m quite looking forward to it as German history – specifically the Nazis – is a part of history I’m very interested in. Not only is it gripping to read about how, why, and what racially obsessed psychopaths did to most of Europe on a basic level of human interest its also key I think for Socialists in reading and properly understanding how fascism comes about, what it does when it gets there, and its justifications for doing so relating to its base of support.

I have considered doing History as a degree, but you know, Genetics student obsessed with the Nazis, might raise a few eyebrows…

To return to Valkyrie, I don’t know how well this film is going to do – one of the reviewers said he thought it was good, but questioned what market there was for a historical thriller about the Nazis in relation to a 21st century audience, many of whom have never heard of Auschwitz.

But if it does become a blockbuster – which despite the subject material, Tom Cruise’s pulling power might do for them –  it would put a relatively obscure and unknown detail of WW2 into peoples consciousness. And unfortunately, if the trailers and taglines (Some Men Saw Evil and Dared to Stop It) are an accurate depiction of what tack the film is going to take, then its a gross romanticism of the July Plotters.

If you tell people not to glorify folk who tried to blow up Hitler, your first response might be a bit of a taken aback one – surely people who tried to kill Hitler deserve respect and admiration, especially in a police state which had destroyed literally all other opposition? And why is it relevant to be concerned about something which happened over 60 years ago?

I’d argue that it’s relevant to know about what happened with a fascist regime 60 years ago in order to understand where and how a fascist regime in the 21st century would come from, and how it would operate. And the fact is that the July 20th plotters do not deserve an image of heroic fighters for democracy, opponents of war or even opponents of racism.

The plotters themselves worked with members of the German Army who had committed horiffic atrocities on the Eastern Front. One of the masterminds of the July 20th plot, Major General Henning Von Tresckow had an SS Brigadefuhrer for an ally – Arthur Nebe.  Nebe commanded an “Einszatzgruppen” on the Eastern Front. These were “task forces” who were practically created to fight Nazi racial war.  Over 1 million Jews were murdered by Einszatzgruppen firing squads throughout WWII.


Von Tresckow.

Nebe was head of Einszatzgruppen B, which was responsible for over 45,000 deaths. This was no secret to Tresckow. He recieved reports of the atrocities Einzsatzgruppen B – just like every other Einszatzgruppen – was involved in.


Tresckow himself was no angel either – he personally signed an order in July 1944 to deport orphaned children from the Eastern front to Germany for slave labour!

And Nebe was not the only SS butcher who worked with the July plotters. Tresckow worked alongside SS Brigadefuhrer Kurt Knoblauch to organise cooperation between anti-Hitler forces in the regular army and the SS. This included SS Cavalry forces who had previously drowned 14,000 Jews in marshes. 

 Hitlers would be assassin Von Stauffenberg was little better. Talking about the Poles under Nazi occupation he said,  “The population here are unbelievable rabble; a great many Jews and mixed folk. A folk that only feels good under the knout. The thousands of prisoners will be used well in our agriculture”

Stauffenberg also defended the Night of the Long Knives, describing it as like a lance pricking a boil. Ironically one of the protests made by the anti-Nazi German military resistance was the lawlessness Hitler’s regime unleashed. Here Stauffenberg didn’t seem to be to bothered that Hitler had made himself the (retrospective) “judge, jury and executioner”  of those killed on the Night of the Long knives.

This was because most of those killed were “revolutionary” Nazis like Rohm, and Strasser who had agitated for continuing the Nazi revolution to unseat German conservative industrialists and replace Germany’s economy with a (very confused and racist) form of “socialism”. The BNP and NF today talk about being economically “socialist”, and Norman Tebitt ex-cabinet Tory accused the BNP of being more left than right on that basis.

The Night of the Long Knives shows how fascism differs reality from words, and where its true class background and loyalties lie.

Stauffenberg also wrote to his cousin about a plot to kill Hitler, saying that “One does not do such a thing during a war, especially not during a war against the Bolshevists”. Evidently Stauffenberg changed his mind, but the point to take is that Staufenberg had no problem with the “war against the Bolshevists”, despite its racist, genocidal and imperialist consequences.

These kind of politics could be found throughout all the anti-Nazi German military “resistance” – a genuine opposition to the Holocaust, indiscriminate and counterproductive brutality towards the slavs, and Nazi excesses. But there was no principled opposition to dismembering and ethnically cleansing Poland, non-genocidal antisemtism,  invading the USSR or removing all the democratic rights and freedoms of workers and their organisations present in Weimar Germany.

Those kind of politics make sense from a class perspective – spending millions to exterminate Jews, Gypsies, when your losing a war on all fronts and alienating potential Slav allies against “Bolshevism” are totally irrational if your at the top of German society, trying to carve out an Empire for yourself.  

But the point is Fascism isn’t rational, and isn’t just an extremely brutal form of Capitalist rule. It’s like a mad dog, release it and it might rip apart your enemies – Communists, Social Democrats, Poles, – but don’t expect it to play fetch the next minute.

Michael Parenti described Fascism as being the most extreme form of Capitalist rule once you strip it of all its ideological crap; but its ideological crap is as much a part of Fascism, and as important to its leadership, as its base in the real world of its social base in corporations, small businesses and the military.

German Conservatives like Stauffenberg either supported or were neutral towards the Nazis when they came to power. They welcomed the destruction of the Socialist movement and establishing Germany as a major Imperialist power again. It was only when they started to lose the war, and Nazi insanity went beyond they could tolerate that they tried to tell the dog to sit, and found themselves consumed by the dog they had unleashed.

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4 Responses to “Valkyrie and the July 20th Plotters.”

  1. Sebastian von Stauffenberg Says:

    Andy, your point seems to be: There existed no “good Germans”. Maybe in line with Roger Friedman, who rates ´Valkyrie´as nazi apologia. Because all Germans = Nazi = evil. Your line of argumentation is partly correct (e.g. Nebe, why don´t you mention Wagner ), partly wrong. Lets take Stauffenberg. He started 1933 as the conservative caricature you describe( = von Papen ). But by 1938 he started to change and by 1941 he was different. He had seen to much. Letters during the war were censored. You had by system to give them some nazi stuff to read.So don´t take letters at face value. The group to whom Claus belonged tried since March 1942 five times to kill Hitler, before Claus tried it in 1944 himself. Read e.g. about Axel von dem Bussche in Wikipedia to find out, why he tried to kill Hitler in November 1943.

  2. Andy Bowden Says:

    Hi Sebastian,

    My argument couldn’t be further from there being no ‘good germans’. I would uphold your average German voter or member of the CP/SPD as being more anti-Nazi than most of the allies who were happy to see a dictator who would crack down on the left.

    My argument is that those who tried to kill Hitler – of the July 20th group – did so because they thought he had gone too far, to madness, not that they wanted democracy or opposition to German Imperialism.

    Claus may have genuinely have despised the Nazis but it did not change the positition his class had towards Hitler and the Nazis; they thought they were hiring him.

    The only real and consistent opposition to Nazism was the German working class, not the generals, not the colonels and not the SA or SS.

  3. Liza Says:

    This is very hot information. I think I’ll share it on Facebook.

  4. Theodore Lopez Says:

    I recommend to you Jonah Goldburg’s highly interesting book “Liberal Fascism” which makes the case that Fascism is merely a highly nationalistic form of Socialism (not capitalism). that elevates race, nation, and volk so as to transcend class divisions. It replaces racial struggle for class struggle. E.g. look at China’s “socialism with chinese characterisitcs” as a contemporary model. The Nazis were hardly right-wingers in that they loathed Bourgoise society. Rather they were a left wing movement that destroyed and REPLACED socialism as the main leftist force in Germany and in so doing secured neutrality from the German Right. Itprobably helped that the means by which the Nazis sought to remake German society (rearmarment, revanchism, stability, and I’ll venture anti-semitism) dovetailled nicely with Rightist ends. Though obviously the idea of a remade society is itself anthema to conservatives.

    As for the July 20th plotters it seems to me that you fault them for holding perfectly common position at the time. The annexatin of Grman speaking regions of central Europe were in an era dominated by Ethno-nationalist politics was a fairly legitimate goal. For a modern example of this kind of thinking look at the legitimate goal of the Palestinian NAtion to achieve a territorial and ethnic Palestinian state. Certainly war against France was as popular in 1939 in Germany as war against Germany was in France in the years before 1914 (to avenge the loss of Alsace-Lorraine). The night of the Long Knives must surely be remembered as the killing of one set murderous thugs by another.

    Surely a great preponderance of evidence shows that von Tresckow and von Stauffenberg were decent men. And though some question might be raised about their motives I think it irrelevent. If a man runs into a burning building to try and save a stack of money but instead happens to find a child do we think him less praiseworthy? ALso one must take into account the limited room for maneuver the conspirators must have had. Surely the very point of a conspiracy is to do something secretly. Vocal fullthroated opposition to Hitler was a one way ticket to Dachau making any further resistence impossible.

    You say we ought not lionize the July 20th plotters because they were conservative, had the wrong politics, and acted too slowly and out of selfinterest. I say we oughtn’t demonize these men because they gave their lives in a noble cause- the struggle against Nazism.

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