German Resistance to Hitler
© 1988 Peter Hoffman
Peter Hoffman’s research into the German resistance culminated in a 900-page History of the German Resistance 1933-1945, but this work – simply titled German Resistance to Hitler — is a much smaller overview. In it, Hoffman briefly reviews the major sources of resistance (the Wehrmacht, the Church, and citizen-protesters in the form of students and communists) and addresses why their work never saw fruit. In short: protesters like the social-democrats and communists were disorganized, more interested in fighting among themselves; the Church’s resistance amounted to condemnatory speeches and safeguarding lives; and those in the Army seemed to be cursed with bad luck in their operations.
Hoffman writes that virtually all of these factions shared two great weaknesses: first, they had to resolve within themselves the moral dilemma that came from resisting or undermining their own people, in a state of war surrounded by hostile powers. This was especially difficult for members of the military, whose mission was the defense of the country, who were bound by not only oaths but loyalty to their fellow soldiers. Two, Allied support for the German resistance was nonexistent, and once the war reached a point of no return in the Nazi invasion of Denmark and Norway, the terms of unconditional surrender were discouraging to patriotic if dissident Germans who had no wish to see Germany dismembered further at a peace conference. It was only after the disaster of Stalingrad – which some in the army viewed as criminal negligence — that desperation overrode caution.
Those who have no knowledge of the resistance whatsoever will find Hoffman an attractive author, as he combines a basic overview of the Nazi seizure of power and the war along with resistance to the same. I am definitely interested in reading Hoffman’s more expansive History of the resistance, as even in these few pages he offers some new insights. I thought Valkyrie mostly failed because someone kicked the explosive briefcase further under the table, muffling some of its force, but Hoffman recounts how von Stauffenburg was summoned into the board room before he and a cohort were finished priming the explosives. Only half of the charges were ready, and between that, the misposition under the table, and the architecture of the room itself (not as confined as Stauffenburg had planned for) a strike that would have killed everyone in the room was reduced to one which only gave Hitler ringing ears and a few scratches.
They Thought They Were Free: The Germans, 1933-1945
An Honorable Defeat: A History of German Resistance to Hitler
Church of Spies: The Pope’s Secret War Against Hitler