This Day In History: Adolf Hitler Survives Assassination Attempt
This day in history, November 8, 1939, Adolf Hitler narrowly escaped an assassination attempt after a bomb exploded only 12 minutes after he finished his speech on the 16th anniversary of Hitler’s Beer Hall Putsch.
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As a part of a ritual, Hitler celebrated the anniversary of his 1923 attempted coupe where he regaled his followers with his vision for the future. On this day, he had been addressing the Old Guard party members, those disciples and soldiers who had been loyal to Hitler and his fascist party since the earliest days of its inception.
Just 12 minutes after Hitler had left the hall, along with important Nazi leaders who had accompanied him, a bomb exploded, which had been secreted in a pillar behind the speaker’s platform. Seven people were killed and 63 were wounded.
The following day, the Nazi Party official paper, the Voelkischer Beobachter, placed the blame on British secret agents and even Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain.
This work of propaganda was an attempt to stir up hatred for the British and whip the German people into a frenzy for war. But the inner-Nazi Party members knew that the assassination attempt was most probably the work of a German anti-Nazi military
In a scheme to shift the blame and get closer to the actual conspirators, the Gestapo chief, sent Walter Schellenberg to Holland to make contact with British intelligence agents.
The pretext of the meeting was to secure assurances from the British that in the event of an anti-Nazi coup, the British would support the new regime. The British agents were eager to gain whatever inside information they could about the rumored anti-Hitler movement within the German military.
Schellenberg, posing as “Major Schaemmel,” was after whatever information British intelligence may have had on such a conspiracy within the German military ranks. Himmler wanted more and wanted the British agents themselves.
On November 9, SS soldiers in Holland kidnapped, with Schellenberg’s help, two British agents, Payne Best and R.H. Stevens, stuffing them into a Buick and driving them across the border into Germany. Himmler then proudly announced to the German public that he had captured the British conspirators.
The man who had really planted the bomb was German communist, Georg Elser.
All three “official” conspirators spent the war in Sachsenhausen concentration camp (Elser was murdered by the Gestapo on April 16, 1945-so he could never tell his story). Hitler dared not risk a public trial, as there were just too many holes in the “official” story.