Any alliance whose purpose is not the intention to wage war is senseless and useless.
For peace, freedom and democracy; never again fascism; millions of dead remind us.
~ Memorial inscription at Hitler’s birthplace
Battles of El Alamein, Stalingrad, Kursk
As I stated in my previous essay on Hitler and the Early War Years (1939-42), the Nazis disastrous campaign to invade Russia (“Operation Barbarossa” – June-Dec. 1941), where millions of German soldiers were killed, not by Stalin’s military per se, but mostly by the brutally cold Russian winter which arrived early that year. Hitler’s failed Russian Campaign was the point in the view of most World War II historians marking the beginning of the end for Hitler and his evil Third Reich. In the Middle East in late 1942, General Erwin Rommel’s Panzer divisions would be defeated in the deserts of Egypt in the Second Battle of El Alamein, thus spoiling Hitler’s plans to take control of the Suez Canal and the Middle East.
Hitler’s megalomania always made him arrogant to a pathological degree regarding his self-described military genius. He based this self-appraisal on his earlier victories in Poland, Norway, Belgium, and particularly in France in June 1940, therefore Hitler was always skeptical of the military strategy advice from his Reichwehr Generals and thus began to increasingly interfere in military and strategic formation causing destructive consequences for his Nazi legions. In December 1942 and January 1943, Hitler’s stubborn refusal to permit the withdrawal of Reich forces from Russia after certain defeat in the Battle of Stalingrad (23 August 1942–2 February 1943), basically amounted to the virtual decimation of his 6th Army. The Battle of Kursk (5 July 1943–23 August 1943) was another spectacular military defeat by Hitler and his incompetent military decisions which witnessed the total collapse of Nazi forces on the Eastern front. At this point it became increasingly self-evident to Hitler’s High Command that the Führer’s military judgement was unpredictable, as Germany’s military and commercial situation progressively weakened in conjunction with the health of the omnipotent Hitler.
After the fall of Sicily with the invasion by the Allied Power in 1943, on 25 July Mussolini and his mistress were assassinated and hanged upside down by Italian partisans before their bodies were unceremoniously cast into the gutter. Hitler’s Reich forces were in perpetual retreat back to Germany throughout 1943 and 1944, as the relentless Soviet Union armies always pushed Hitler’s armies into retreating positions along the Eastern Front. Also, despite Hitler’s battle entrenchments which caused thousands of Allied causalities, Operation Overlord saw General Dwight Eisenhower’s Allied forces land on the beaches of Normandy in northern France on June 6, 1944; as a consequence of these momentous military disasters for the Reich army, a majority of Nazi Generals resolved that defeat was inescapable and that Hitler’s poor military strategies would needlessly prolong the war with the end result of Germany being completely destroyed. Something had to be done!
Assassination Plots – Operation Valkyrie
Therefore between 1939 and 1945, high ranking Nazi commanders actively plotted Hitler’s assassination, nevertheless despite these overwhelming privations and pressures, Hitler was undeterred in his delusion of the genius of his military abilities, he assured himself that his Will to Power would secure Germany’s ultimate Triumph of the Will. Hitler would recall his soldier days in World War I when on several pivotal occasions he escaped certain death. He wrote of these epiphany experiences in his memoir Mein Kampf, and together with these failed assassination attempts, viewed them in cosmic terms affirming that he was indeed a Man of Destiny or what Nietzsche called Übermensch (Superman).
One of the most famous plots against Hitler life was Operation Valkyrie on 20 July 1944, where Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg (played by Tom Cruise in the 2008 movie Valkyrie), planted a bomb in a room at Hitler’s headquarters called the Wolf’s Lair at Rastenburg. Stauffenberg, a man of honor, had suffered horrible injuries from previous battles including losing the use of his an arm, most of his fingers, and even losing an eye in an explosion, yet he came to see Hitler as an insane madman who unless stopped would bring utter destruction to Germany and the German people – “It’s time now for something to be done. He who has the courage to act must know that he will probably go down in German history as a traitor,” Stauffenberg would say. “But if he fails to act, he will be a traitor before his own conscience.”
As in a dozen plots before failed to kill Hitler, it appeared that Providence or Destiny allowed Hitler to narrowly escape death in Operation Valkyrie because just before the bomb was detonated, staff officer Heinz Brand moved the briefcase bomb left by Stauffenberg behind a leg of the a thick wooden conference table. The table absorbed most of the explosion and open windows aided in deflecting the incendiary devise away from Hitler. Even though the bomb was only inches from his body which killed or seriously maimed many other people in the room, Hitler would escape with only superficial injuries. In savage revenge typical of Hitler, the Führer ordered severe reprisals of all suspected conspirators, torturing and killing nearly 5,000 people!
Left – 2008 Movie Poster Valkyrie portraying plot to kill Hitler called Operation Valkyrie. Right -Hitler with Mussolini viewing the damage from the coup attempt on his life which Hitler said, “Destiny” saved him.
Hitler’s Defeat and Death
According to the legendary historian Ian Kershaw, as Stalin’s Soviet forces entered Berlin looking to kill or capture Adolf Hitler, they suffered tremendous casualties as they engaged the Nazis in pitched battle – street-by-street; building-by-building. When Hitler was notified on 30 April 1945 that the Russians were very close to the Reich Chancellery, Hitler shot himself and Eva Braun, his new bride from the day before, took a cyanide pill. The bodies of Hitler and Braun were unceremoniously burned with petrol in bombed-out garden behind the Reich Chancellery. On May 2nd Berlin surrendered. The corpses of Braun and Hitler were completely burned to ashes when the Red Army found them, and only a lower jaw with dental work could be identified as Hitler’s remains. Upon his death Hitler appointed Grand Admiral Karl Donitz as head of state and Joseph Goebbels as Chancellor.
Hitler: Birth of a Nobody, Death of a Tragedy
Adolf Hitler would be the perfect patient for Sigmund Freud’s couch for he possessed such hatred of himself which through Psychological Projection he transferred or displaced outwardly in rage and revenge to others, and against society who rejected him, that in order to survive he lived in a perpetual, psychotic, drug-induced delusional state virtually all of his adult life. Hitler was also obsessed with the musical works of German composer Richard Wagner, whom along with the German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche (both anti-Semitic and fascist), were his favorite nationalist heroes.
Hitler lived vicariously through the works of Wagner and during his teenager years living in Vienna, Austria, as a starving artist, Hitler was profoundly inspired by Wagner’s music dramas with their pagan, legendary stories of struggles and triumphs over existential enemies. In 1905, at age 16, Hitler was so profoundly moved after watching a performance of Wagner’s opera Rienzi, that he declared that he would one day likewise have a great undertaking of guiding the German people to freedom and triumph, similar to the libretto of the opera’s narrative, according to an article in the HistoryPlace.com.
40 years later, as Hitler hid in his Führerbunker, the Allied Powers were encircling Berlin, he knows that the end was near – that his exalted 1,000-year Reich would end in only 12 short years (1933-1945). Perhaps Hitler viewed his epic failure as Führer of the German People and Reich in Wagnerian terms? Hitler’s final days are ironically reminiscent of Hitler’s favorite opera – Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen, the final part of this opera, entitled Götterdämmerung, or “Twilight of the gods.” It is the story of a magic Ring granting its possessor the power to rule the world. The hero, Siegfried, is betrayed by his former allies and friends, he loses the Ring and dies upon a funeral pyre while the stronghold of Valhalla burns and the kingdom of the gods is destroyed.
In 1920, at the start of Hitler’s rise to power, the German people often mocked him and his Nazi group strutting around Munich in militaristic garb shouting ovations in response to Hitler’s raging rhetoric of hatred and malediction against the Jews. The German society’s mockery of Hitler (and all past and future tyrants) is reminiscent of a prescient observation by Thomas Carlyle, the eminent Scottish essayist and sometime philosopher, who once was scolded at a dinner party for endlessly chattering about books: “Ideas, Mr. Carlyle, ideas, nothing but ideas!” To which he replied, “There once was a man called Rousseau who wrote a book containing nothing but ideas. The second edition was bound in the skins of those who laughed at the first.” In this grotesque anecdote, Carlyle is speaking of the writings of the philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau, which inspired the guillotines of the French Revolution, a genocidal Revolution Hitler would imitate in Nazi Germany and almost succeeded in using to destroy Europe.
For the Love of Immolation: Like his hero Siegfried, Hitler and his beloved Germany would burn. This fundamentally was the Grand Finale in Wagner’s Twilight of the gods that Hitler would impose upon himself, his new wife, Eva Braun, his People and his Reich… all would burn as Hitler’s hero, Siegfried burned in Götterdämmerung’s immolation scene or what Wagner composed as Siegfried’s Trauermasch (Funeral march). The utter destruction Hitler unleashes upon the world would be of biblical dimensions.
After the fall of Berlin on May 2, 1945, the war in Europe was over. Immediately there was a tremendous, universal sign of relief as the Jews and others who had been besieged by Nazis, had ironically outlived the tyrant Hitler. One Jewish woman who endured the Final Solution reflected: “During the five terrible war years, we could not indulge in simple pleasures that life offers to normal people. All our efforts were directed towards fighting the enemy and surviving. Now, for the first time since September 1, 1939, we could unwind and be normal again – to walk the streets without the fear of hearing the hated “Halt!” without the fear of being rounded up by the Germans and pushed into military trucks. No more “Achtung, Achtung!” coming down from the street loud-speakers. No more ghettos, no more starvation, typhus, gas chambers, Einsatzgruppen [killing squads]. The intense fear and persecution were over.”
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