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20 July Plot Succeeds in Killing Hitler

RyanF

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One thing we don't talk enough about in alternate history is World War II generally and Nazi Germany more specifically. We also don't seem to yet have a thread on this specific issue so given today's date (with apologies to everyone points east of the Caspian Sea) what if Claus von Stauffenberg had succeeded in killing Hitler with a bomb in the conference room of the Wolf's Lair in 1944?

Or, to put a specific spin on it... just how bad could things get?

In the immediate aftermath, are we looking at the outbreak of civil war in Germany and the occupied territories between the Wehrmacht and the SS? Not just across Germany but at the fronts themselves. Would the soldiers on the Eastern Front be so keen to start arresting members of the SS when the Red Army is at the door?

In the medium term, would the Allies even do business with any post-assassination government? Even aside from being bogged down in a civil war, the conspirators had some rather lofty goals regarding territorial claims. In France, for example, plenty of generals were involved in the plot, do they attempt to evacuate back to Germany?

In the long term, presuming (and a big presumption at that) they are able to negotiate something other than the OTL occupation, what does this mean for any post-War Germany? A lot of the leading figures in the plot were complicit in war crimes, and all weren't exactly fond of the liberal democracy of the Weimar Republic.
 

History Learner

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I've always thought the chance for Civil War to be very over-stated; should it get that dangerous, Guderian would just have the Panzertruppen training cadres roll into Berlin and solve the issue quickly. If the junta plays its cards correctly, they can possibly still pull off a compromise peace, although it would require a serious comedown from their existing demands.
 

Death's Companion

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The boring answer does seem to be the plotters get rolled up rapidly and replaced by a military government. Not sure who the sides would be in a civil war. Nobody wanted Himmler, Gobbles was more popular and well the Army is right there with all the guns and most SS units were under army command and Himmler was not particularly good at warry stuff.

I imagine mass chaos for a few days and whoever controls Berlin gets in touch with OKW.


If Rommel avoided his wounding things might get interesting as apparently everyone including Hitler was aware he wanted to force the government to make peace and even his various rivals in the West allegedly agreed in principle or did not oppose him. He had apparently warned Hitler personally that a new government might be needed to end the war.

If he does start making moves he might actually get traction as the Nazi bigwigs and Generals as a rule by this point knew the war was lost and some may see the value of a figurehead.


So you might see the plotters crushed but then the more loosely affiliated ones grabbed together to put a pleasing face on attempts to offer a truce to the Western allies which would be rejected. War probably ends months earlier with less Nero decree shenanigans.
 
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MAC161

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If Rommel avoided his wounding things might get interesting as apparently everyone including Hitler was aware he wanted to force the government to make peace and even his various rivals in the West allegedly agreed in principle or did not oppose him. He had apparently warned Hitler personally that a new government might be needed to end the war.

If he does start making moves he might actually get traction as the Nazi bigwigs and Generals as a rule by this point knew the war was lost and some may see the value of a figurehead.
This duology (pretty much a wargame in novel form, as I see it) deals with one version of such a POD; Rommel is still wounded, but events go in a very different direction for the "Desert Fox" following a (somewhat) more successful July 20 plot.
 

Death's Companion

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This duology (pretty much a wargame in novel form, as I see it) deals with one version of such a POD; Rommel is still wounded, but events go in a very different direction for the "Desert Fox" following a (somewhat) more successful July 20 plot.
I'm aware of the books but don't think they're much value to the thread given how insanely unlikely a peace treaty with the Soviets was or for that matter a post Hitler German government choosing them as the ones to make peace with rather than the Western allies.
 

MAC161

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I'm aware of the books but don't think they're much value to the thread given how insanely unlikely a peace treaty with the Soviets was or for that matter a post Hitler German government choosing them as the ones to make peace with rather than the Western allies.
Very true; that was perhaps the most glaring issue with it for me, apart from the semi-fawning way the authors portrayed Rommel and Patton.
 

Von Callay

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I've always gotten the impression that very little would actually change. The plotters were always unlikely to actually gain control of the government even if Hitler died, and more importantly, the Allies would never have accepted any of their deals and would have viewed it as just regime infighting.
I guess that's a structural problem with this kind of plot? By the time you're willing to kill your own leadership because of how badly the war is going, things are probably going so badly the enemy isn't interested in anything other than your surrender.

Though, to consider further, that doesn't mean the scenario isn't interesting. Just because its unlikely that the generals get what they want and Germany still gets rolled up by the Allies, the fact they did turn on him and try for a negotiated peace could have all kinds of implications going forwards, and on the popular political legacy of Hitler and the Nazis.
 
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Creekmench

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I guess that's a structural problem with this kind of plot? By the time you're willing to kill your own leadership because of how badly the war is going, things are probably going so badly the enemy isn't interested in anything other than your surrender.

Though, to consider further, that doesn't mean the scenario isn't interesting. Just because its unlikely that the generals don't get what they want and Germany still gets rolled up by the Allies, the fact they did turn on him and try for a negotiated peace could have all kinds of implications going forwards, and on the popular political legacy of Hitler and the Nazis.
Stab in the Back pt II, Hitler would've stalemated the allies if the traitors wouldn't have killed him.
 

RyanF

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Though, to consider further, that doesn't mean the scenario isn't interesting. Just because its unlikely that the generals get what they want and Germany still gets rolled up by the Allies, the fact they did turn on him and try for a negotiated peace could have all kinds of implications going forwards, and on the popular political legacy of Hitler and the Nazis.
Yeah this is why the scenario still interests me avoiding the "wallies join with muh beautiful and progressive prussian junkers to take on the bolsheviks" wish-fulfilment it normally devolves into when posited.

If the immediate effects are as @Death's Companion suggests (war ends a few months earlier with less scorched earth fun) then there's massive changes already. No Battle of Berlin? Heck, no Battle of the Bulge even?

The occupation zones and final borders are still not determined by July 1944 with Yalta and Potsdam still to come. What about all the personalities that might survive - Rommel in the dock at Nuremberg?

Does this speed up the transition to a civilian government? Increase the possibility of a unified, neutral Germany?

Stab in the Back pt II, Hitler would've stalemated the allies if the traitors wouldn't have killed him.
...and yeah, there's this for any expellees and ex-Nazis to rally around in the 1950s. The post-World War II German republic might wind up just as precarious as the Weimar Republic.
 

Time Enough

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Does this speed up the transition to a civilian government? Increase the possibility of a unified, neutral Germany?
I could see the Soviets and Allies pushing for a demilitarised civilian Germany if they can get there way.
...and yeah, there's this for any expellees and ex-Nazis to rally around in the 1950s. The post-World War II German republic might wind up just as precarious as the Weimar Republic.
I could see it leading to the Allies and Soviets just rolling tanks into Berlin, as a ‘Third Times the Charm’ style tactic.
 

History Learner

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I'm aware of the books but don't think they're much value to the thread given how insanely unlikely a peace treaty with the Soviets was or for that matter a post Hitler German government choosing them as the ones to make peace with rather than the Western allies.
It's actually not that unlikely; Hitler had even considered floating a peace deal in August of 1941 before the Kiev and early Operation Typhoon victories, and informal contacts were extended into late 1944. You can read more about it here:

Stalin and the Prospects of a Separate Peace in World War II
The Spectre of a Separate Peace in the East: Russo-German 'Peace Feelers', 1942-44

Besides the linked articles, A World At Arms by Gerhard L. Weinberg (1994) and Hitler's War by Heinz Magenheimer (1998) support it. I don't have access to Magenheimer, but I do have Weinberg and I'll quote from that.

Page 609:
Until access to Soviet archives enables scholars to see more clearly into these murky episodes, this author will remain convinced that it was the shock of German military revival so soon after the great Soviet victory at Stalingrad which reinforced Stalin's inclinations during 1943 to contemplate the possibility of either a separate peace with Hitler's Germany or with some alternative German government. With the road to Berlin so obviously a difficult one, the temptation to sound possible alternatives was enormous. Surely by now the Germans must realize that their hopes of defeating the Soviet Union were illusory. The German government had had sense enough in 1939 to work out an accommodation with the Soviet Union on terms both sides had found advantageous; the same people were still in charge in Berlin. In the winter of 1940-41 they had refused to reply to the Soviet proposals for Russia to join the Tripartite Pact, but instead had insisted on attacking her; perhaps in the interim they had learned better in the hard school of war. As for the Soviet Union, she had demonstrated conclusively that she could defend herself, but this defense had been immensely costly.

A new agreement with Germany would provide a breathing space for reconstruction and recovery, would remove German occupation without either further Red Army casualties or economic destruction, and would leave the Soviet Union dominant in all of Eastern Europe, especially in Poland where a Soviet puppet government would replace the pre-war regime. It may have been known to the Soviet government that there were elements in the German government and military apparatus who wanted an agreement with Moscow, and it was certainly known that Japan was very strongly in favor of a German-Soviet peace.
Page 610:
On the Soviet side, the position appears to have been that Germany must evacuate all the occupied territory, certainly to the 1941 border, possibly later on, after the Soviet victory in July 1943, back to the 1914 border (thus turning over central Poland to the Soviet Union). German Foreign Minister von Ribbentrop appears to have been at least slightly interested in some compromise peace; he saw himself as the architect of the 1939 pact with the Soviet Union and had always given priority to the war against Great Britain. Joseph Goebbels, the Minister of Propaganda, favored negotiations with Stalin and so advised Hitler, almost certainly much more strongly than von Ribbentrop. Hitler, however, was unwilling to have any negotiations with the Soviet Union. Some of the sources make a great deal out of his suspicions about a key intermediary in Stockholm being Jewish, but Hitler's explanations to Goebbels and Oshima go to the core of the issue: he wanted to keep territory, especially the Ukraine, which he was certain Stalin would not give up; and on this point, if no other, his assessment of the Soviet Union was certainly correct. While Stalin might have been willing to negotiate about territory to the west of the 1941 border of the country, he was certainly not about to leave the Germans in occupation of portions of it, least of all the rich agricultural and industrial areas of the Ukraine. The latter would, if necessary, be retaken in battle, and in the fall of 1943 and the winter of 1943-44 that is exactly what the Red Army did.
 

Redolegna

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It's actually not that unlikely; Hitler had even considered floating a peace deal in August of 1941 before the Kiev and early Operation Typhoon victories, and informal contacts were extended into late 1944. You can read more about it here:

Stalin and the Prospects of a Separate Peace in World War II
The Spectre of a Separate Peace in the East: Russo-German 'Peace Feelers', 1942-44

Besides the linked articles, A World At Arms by Gerhard L. Weinberg (1994) and Hitler's War by Heinz Magenheimer (1998) support it. I don't have access to Magenheimer, but I do have Weinberg and I'll quote from that.

Page 609:

Page 610:
Would that be Hannsjoachim W. Koch who wrote that article you're linking to?
 

Gary Oswald

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The sources you cite are about a possible peace deal in 1943 and argue that it was only d-day that cemented Stalin on full alliance with the UK and the USA and before that he was willing to consider a separate peace due in part to frustration over the lack of a second front.

Which is interesting but isn't really relevant for a discussion of a post d-day coup.
 

Charles EP M.

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It's probably as @Death's Companion says, it all depends on who can seize Berlin fastest and go "yeah I'm in charge", to which everyone else goes along with because they're up Shit Creek in France and the USSR and want someone to tell them what to do. The plotters are going to be really screwed when their big aim is "get a peace deal with the Western Allies only" at a time when the Allies all want to march to Germany and then demand surrender.

The worst outcome would be if the plotters kill Hitler but then other Nazis knock them out first, and you get different orders from a different man but it still boils down to "let Germany burn and give guns to children". The civilian population still suffers, the war still goes on for mostly the same amount of time, you still get a similar-ish Cold War setup, and you get (as @Creekmench points out) the neo-Nazi myth of If Only The Fuhrer Had Lived.

One thought: what if nobody is able to decisively take Berlin to say "I am definitely in charge", or at least it takes a bit of time to do it, and so there's nobody at the top and the various commanders at the various fronts (and various officials across Germany) all know it, giving them a period of autonomy? Not to mention if the average German soldier finds out, and what they might find out about it and when.
 

Skinny87

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It's been quite some time since I looked at the sources in any detail, but I think one of the biggest things I took away from the July Plot was that you had the issue that while the inner core of plotters were completely loyal to going through with Valkyrie and the consequences, they had very little power to utilise. It was the outer ring of plotters like Fromm who had the most ability to positively influence the coup attempt by deploying the Reserve Army in and around Berlin.

The forces belonging to the Reserve Army were the only troops that the Valkyrie plotters had available, and the only forces that could ensure the arrest and isolation of key officials and officers, and prevent the SS from immediately taking over. But Fromm was such a vaccillating man who went with the last thing someone told him that only complete and utter certainty of Hitler's death could have forced his hand and let the Reserve Army roll out. So when he calls Keitel and finds out Hitler is injured but alive, that's the fatal blow to the whole thing.

There are a lot of issues with the Tom Cruise film, but the last part where he's desperately manning the phones and racing around trying to get people to mobilise before the SS and Wehrmacht realise what happening seems quite realistic, and therefore all the more heartbreaking as a result

As a result, unless you either have Fromm become completely convinced (or a gun held to his head or something) or definitive proof that Hitler is now in small pieces, the coup can't really succeed.

However, I reckon there's a Worst of Both Worlds timeline where Fromm sort of half-hearts it and orders the Reserve Army deployed almost at the last minute, leading to actual fighting across Berlin and maybe some senior commanders joining the plotters. I could see the aftermath being far more bloody and chaotic, with the People's Courts getting far more bodies in front of them, and much higher ranking ones. Could cause even more problems for the Reich in the last few months of the war and maybe accelerate the downfall even faster?
 

Death's Companion

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It's actually not that unlikely; Hitler had even considered floating a peace deal in August of 1941 before the Kiev and early Operation Typhoon victories, and informal contacts were extended into late 1944. You can read more about it here:

Stalin and the Prospects of a Separate Peace in World War II
The Spectre of a Separate Peace in the East: Russo-German 'Peace Feelers', 1942-44

Besides the linked articles, A World At Arms by Gerhard L. Weinberg (1994) and Hitler's War by Heinz Magenheimer (1998) support it. I don't have access to Magenheimer, but I do have Weinberg and I'll quote from that.

Page 609:

Page 610:
Its incredibly unlikely because the July plot was in July 1944 by which point the Western Allies have a firm lodgment in Normandy and are starting to build up steam, the Soviets are smashing Army Group Centre and are preparing for major drives in Southern Europe. The war is clearly lost for Germany and within a couple of weeks it will be fighting on German soil.

For the Wallies in particular by the time they learn of the coup and any peace feelers reaching them will be engaging in Operation Cobra and even if the Germans are not handicapped by Hitler ordering a counteroffensive its still highly likely that they take massive losses and the Allies sweep through a good chunk of France in the next few weeks.

The Germans recovered a lot in the next few months allowing them to starve off defeat for a time but July-August 1944 was a time when both major fronts of the European war were in complete collapse and the Allies most certain of a quick victory. Absolutely the worst time to approach them about a seperate peace deal as it will just confirm to them that Germany is done and one more push will see them in Berlin.


Furthermore even though most of the upper ranks of the party and the Whermarcht knew that winning the war was no longer possible they had an incredibly optimistic view of how easily they could get off after starting the war, they'd want to keep the conquered territories and suffer no real consequences. As reality closed in they'd probably offer more and more terms and maybe at some point they'd reach something short of unconditional surrender the Allies might be tempted by but that's absolute best case and an incredible longshot.


Somehow they have to turn the war situation around enough that the Allies decide that they're going to repeat the mistakes of the first world war and not go for the killing blow but not do well enough that they reconsider them being totally doomed and needing to grovel on their knees for a stay of execution. If they were capable of that sort of needle threading they'd probably have not started a war against 80% of the world.
 
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