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An exercise in WWII History
"VALKYRIE" | A Bryan Singer - Tom Cruise Movie
A Hollywood version and mise-en-scene of the events of July 20th - 21st, 1944
< Picture: The original Unternehmen Walküre activation order no. 4996 (SEE MOVIE)
The real german name for this military operation was “Unternehmen Walküre”, to be activated on July 20th, 1944, 18:00 hours, after Hitler’s death.
“In the winter of 1940-41 immediately before the invasion of the Soviet Union in June 1941, Hitler established his new headquarters near Rastenburg. During the following years, extensive bunker systems were built, which were sealed off from the rest of the world by restricted areas. The extensive forests of East Prussia, the moors of the surrounding countryside, and the location of the headquarters beyond the range of Allied bombers appeared to offer the greatest possible measure of protection”.
Well, the WWII was no joke or a romantic journey as we may think. Was a bloody war, a total-war, full of many complicated operations, many dead and injured and the Holocaust; the destruction of a Culture along of countless millions of civilian tragedies.
Germany, with its war machine was no much to a single country or army and only the cooperation of almost all civilized and western oriented countries, in a single great orchestra, could defeated in a very narrow contest.
In the summer of 1944 the Wehrmacht and the Nazi war machine were a still formidable force to reckon with, with a structured command and control + advanced telecom. They ware technologically advanced then the Allied forces, which had the logistic and quantity advantage that ultimately won the day and the war only after another ten (10) bloody month later (Europe).
To do a coup in such a complicated environment as the Third Reich was, (like the one the conspirators tried and almost archived…), in the close supervised and watched labyrinths of power, against a quasi-totally obeyed leader, to whom you swears a personal allegiances, with an all powerful security apparatus (Gestapo, SS, SD, etc.), was no easy task and special skills and motivation were needed.
Was a monumental task, with a fairly chance to fail, not until the supreme leader and the ten-fifteen close associates totally were eliminated. A sine-qua-non condition, where totally means totally death and eliminated/out of the scene.
So was the task of count von Stauffenberg & Co. by all means was a very complicated military operation, never ever achieved on previous occasions, in time of war. But sometimes even trying to kill a tyrant, despot and the leader of a so-much criminal system (Hitler), it's a main history event by all means.
The war was raging on two fronts, but Germany could win on each one, but not on both of them. The situation was still fluid.
“Under the leadership of the Infantry General Friedrich Olbricht, the center of the military resistance was formed in the Bendlerblock. It was here that Olbricht developed the "Valkyrie" operation plan into a plan for a coup d'état against Hitler. In October 1943 Colonel Stauffenberg was transferred to the General Army Office as Chief of Staff. His position gave him direct access to situation briefings in Hitler's headquarters, the "Wolf's Lair." On July 20, 1944 he set the fuse of a bomb there and returned to Berlin.”
The coup authors, the conspirators, had a triple task before them: kill Hitler, annihilate the powerful National-Socialism party machine in power and neutralize the omnipresent SS Nazi armed component (motorized infantry and many Panzer-grenadiers divisions) operating within the regular german army structure, the Wehrmacht.
Operation Valkyrie (Unternehmen Walküre) was an operational plan developed for the Reserve Army of the German Army. The plan was approved by German dictator Adolf Hitler, who intended it to be used in the event that disruption caused by the Allied bombing of German cities caused a breakdown in law and order, or a rising by the millions of forced laborers from occupied countries working in German factories. Henning von Tresckow and Claus Schenk Graf von Stauffenberg recognized the weaknesses of the plan regarding a plot. From 1943 on, they altered the plan in order to capture leaders of SS, SD, Gestapo and NSDAP.
In the event of a successful coup the war will be shortened, maybe and armistice signed with the Western powers, a stalemate archived on the Eastern front (with the added 50 divisions from the West) and at least five millions soldiers and civilians saved. The drama of the Cold War could be avoided.
The 1944 August Coup against Hitler was a very, but very complicated tale, even by the German standard, so almost impossible task for a Hollywood team of actors and directors to make it in a movie.
The coup, von Stauffenberg and his co-conspirators were no ordinary people and the events were no ordinary news. It shook the fundaments of the Third Reich and Hitler was never the same offer the explosion.
“The bomb went off, but Hitler survived. When news of Hitler's survival spread, the conspirators were unable to take control of Germany. Following the arrest of the conspirators in the Bendlerblock, General Olbricht, Graf von Stauffenberg, Werner von Haeften and Albrecht Ritter Mertz von Quirnheim, all members of the uprising, were executed that same night in the courtyard of the building, by firing squad. A fifth plotter, Generaloberst Ludwig Beck, was offered the option of shooting himself. After failing two times, he was shot by a sergeant.”
When I say the movie is good entertainment, I ask myself at the same time if viewing courageous people dying, putting their lives on line (and of their friends and families), is really entertainment? Is “The Schindler List” entertainment or an artistic documental?
This said, the screen writers, actors and director’s task was not easy or mundane, or they did not tried to construct a historic documental; but the movie is fine, well done, with paid respect to details, crisp and dynamic. It will be a new movie-reference for a long time, as we have other modern WWII movies (and not the romantic 50-60's era Hollywood productions)
It is good to know that movies can still be made about brave people, in extraordinary events. At one point in time a lot of German army (Wehrmacht Heer) officers, General Staff along with prominent civil personalities that were directly or indirectly involved.
Not being a "The Schindler List" class movie, it is entertaining as a direct fresh view into the inside machinery of a relatively unknown military operation (only a couple of movie were made before this one), when real people died by the end of Hitler's reprisals; more than 4,700 officers and civilians were arrested and summarily prosecuted in People's Courts (all controlled by Hitler and its cronies), in many horrific circumstances: the Nazi knew all the tricks in the book of death, learned from centuries or Western Europe bloody history and Spanish Inquisition manuals.
Putting away some Hollywood licenses of the young director Brian Singer, trying to mix actors from Germany, U.S. and Britain, in a cacophony of different English accents (this is not the sleek Das-Boot by Wolfgang Petersen, 1981), brand new German army and Nazi uniforms, showing only a very narrow angle of this very-essential criminal system that was the III-rd Reich, the movie stands as a better version of the romantic 50-60-70 era Hollywood WWII genre. Even if we feel sympathy for the conspirators, we cannot forget the 50 million+ tragedies this war and regime imposed on almost all the planet.
I think that the director and the screen writers lacked somehow the good consulting services of a firsthand WWII high ranking German officer, with respect to authenticity, as was the case in the Das Boot (Hans-Joachim Krug, former Ex-O of U-219) and so many Holocaust survivors in The Schindler List.
A wide spectrum of talented actors offered a fine performance. Please see Kenneth Branagh (in the movie as major-general von Tresckow) on "Conspiracy" (an HBO movie).
The movie it’s an important financial investment. It’s a nice and fine exercise on a tremendous complicated events and circumstances, with out of ordinary class people.
The heroes of the movie are all real as well as the places, names, buildings, offices, events, props and the midnight execution of the four main coup leaders. Today a bronze statue marks the execution place in Bendlerblock. The street renamed Count von StauffebergStrasse.
We will never know what they (the rebellions officers and civilians) really felt in their deep hearts in the last moments alive: maybe the same as the millions who died in front of a riffle from an Ensatzgruppen soldier, in Russia or Poland, at the end of a rope of a gallows or in the crematories of so many Eastern Europe concentration and extermination camps.
This film reveals that real heroes are present between us, during all time of civilized world, for thousands of years, to serve, protect and to try to keep a straight path in this complex society with complicated human affairs.
IMPORTANT NOTE: THIS MOVIE IS ABOUT “A FEW GOOD GERMANS, BRAVE AND HEROIC, WITH WHOM YOU MAY FEEL SYMPATHY. THEY DIED FOR THE NOBLEST CAUSE. BUT MAKE NO ILLUSIONS. THERE ARE ONLY A FEW AND ALONE! THE MAJORITY WERE BRUTAL AND CRIMINAL.
WWII was and will still be an endless source of quality stories that can be applied to our contemporary life, struggles and wars.
I consider the movie a “must-see”, a tool to instruct the new generations on how difficult was fighting the evil and a murderous regime as the Nazi. Just consider a today’s war with a rogue political and religious regime with access and aspirations to WMD, atomic or chemical/biological weapons.
“The German Defense Ministry tends to restrict access to the Bendlerblock due to its historical significance and lingering sensitivities about Germany's role in World War II. Filming permission was granted to a movie studio in 2003, but the Ministry of Defense was displeased with the result. Nevertheless, in September 2007, after officials met with director Bryan Singer and his staff, the Ministry hesitated to grant permission for scenes of the Tom Cruise movie Valkyrie, about the July 20 Plot, to be filmed there, due to Tom Cruise's status as a Scientology member. The permission was eventually granted, and shooting for the movie (entirely shot in and around Berlin) continued at the location.”
Claus Philipp Maria Schenk Graf von Stauffenberg was born 15 November 1907 – 21 July 1944) was a German army officer and Catholic aristocrat who was one of the leading officers of the failed July 20 plot of 1944 to kill German dictator Adolf Hitler and remove the Nazi Party from power in World War II Germany. He was one of the central figures of the German Resistance movement. In 1943, Stauffenberg was promoted to lieutenant-colonel on a general staff (Oberstleutnant i. G. (im Generalstab)), and was sent to Africa to join the 10th Panzer Division as its First Officer in the General Staff (Ia). There, while he was scouting out a new command area, his vehicle was strafed on 7 April 1943 by British fighter-bombers and he was severely wounded. He spent three months in hospital in Munich, where he was treated by Ferdinand Sauerbruch. Stauffenberg lost his left eye, his right hand, and the fourth and fifth fingers of his left hand. He jokingly remarked to friends never to have really known what to do with so many fingers when he still had all of them. For his injuries, Stauffenberg was awarded the Wound Badge in Gold on 14 April 1943 and for his courage the German Cross in Gold on 8 May 1943.
Picture: The original Unternehmen Walküre activation order no. 4996
Courtesy Resistance Museum, Berlin | Deutscher Widerstand Memorial
References: Deutscher Widerstand Museum Memorial | Official movie site: http://www.valkyrie.unitedartists.com
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