Twilight of the Valkyries: A 20 July Plot TL

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Europe, 1944:

The Second World War is getting closer and closer to its end.

Across Eastern Europe, after years of bitter fighting, the Red Army continues to smash the retreating Wehrmacht as they approach Poland and the borders of Germany itself. Army Group Center, once a formidable force, melts away under the crushing blows of Operation Bagration. In the West, the invasion of the Allies in Normandy continues to smash through the German defenses after a month of furious battles, and it is only a matter of time for the entire front to face virtual collapse. In Italy, Kesselring and his men continue to block a potential allied thrust into Southern Germany while Mussolini lives the final days of his regime, but they will not resist forever. And across the skies, the situation is equally hopeless as allied bombing burns whole cities to the ground while the mortally wounded Luftwaffe attempts a desperate resistance.

For Germany, the war is lost.

While on different levels, most of the Army and the Nazi elite recognize the despair of the situation, and even if some continue to hold out in hope of the Wunderwaffen to save Germany from ruin, others believe an alternate method is possible. Those men, an oath of loyalty aside, believe the time is now, or never. The mission they chose: to kill Adolf Hitler and bring down the Nazi regime to achieve a negotiated peace. Misguided, naïve, perhaps even blind to reality in some levels, the conspirators are nonetheless desperate enough to risk everything on a last roll of the dice, many of them emboldened and inspired by the courage of a young Colonel: war hero and Reserve Army Chief of Staff Claus von Stauffenberg.

Their plans for a coup, drawn from the eventuality on an uprising of some sort by foreign workers or other disruptive elements, are codenamed Operation Valkyrie. After a number of close calls, mistakes and miraculous instances of survival by the Führer, it seems the last opportunity has arrived before the coup falls apart, as the Gestapo seems to have picked the trail and arrests are getting too close to the main group. On the morning of July 20th, 1944, von Stauffenberg arrives on the Wolf’s Lair at Rastenburg for a meeting with Hitler and several other generals, determined to see the assassination plot through.

In the timeline we know, Stauffenberg failed to kill Hitler and Operation Valkyrie (a flawed plan at best) crashed down in flames once his survival was known. But what if...?
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Hello there! Lumine here, returning after a long term absence (and having only a very brief period of posting last year). So far my only venture on timelines has been one on a different outcome to the War of the Liberatores after Caesar’s death, which saw a few chapters completed but stalled since the end of last year was an emotionally exhausting time for me. Chances are I’ll retake In Defence of the Republic one of these days, but this scenario sprung to my mind a few days ago and somehow I haven’t stopped researching and writing on it, so I decided to take another stab at TL writing.

I’ve always considered Operation Valkyrie and the 20th July Plot quite fascinating as an historical event, and particularly as a counterfactual exercise. Having read through most of the threads I could find on the issue I found some very interesting ideas on the subject, inspiring me do to research of my own and find a story I wanted to explore. I really wish to avoid the cliche of Stauffenberg and company seizing power with no explanation only to magically make peace with the Western Allies, and thus I've explored a number of possible scenarios and alternate ways July 20th could have developed had Hitler died as a result of the Stauffenberg bomb.

Having read several threads from this forum on the subject I have found many potentially interesting ideas, and owing to that I decided to put some focus on the areas in which most of the discussion on earlier threads was focused (Hitler’s succession, how feasible Valkyrie was, the role people like Guderian might have had, and so forth). Not having the sort of encyclopedic knowledge one would need in order to consider all the outcomes July 20th may end up bringing, I’m forced to make assumptions and to interpret events and characters at times, and therefore it is more than likely that mistakes will be made. Since I’m relatively new to timeline-writing I would humbly ask for a bit of leniency, but I truly hope I can pull this through!
Part I: The Führer is dead:


Stauffenberg (left), Hitler (centre) and Keitel (right) in the Wolf's Lair, five days before the assassination

July 20th, 1944
The Wolf’s Lair, East Prussia
12:03 to 12:42 PM

Amongst the many members of the conspiracy to assassinate Hitler only two of the more high ranking ones were constantly present at the Wolf’s Lair: General Helmuth Stieff, who had backed away from going through with the plot several times before, and more crucially, General Erich Fellgiebel, the man in charge of army communications within the Wolf’s Lair. Having been resisting Hitler from within the army as far as 1938[1], and after spending the 15th in agony as Stauffenberg and the Bendlerstrasse (name given to the Reserve Army HQ, since it's based on the Bendlerblock in Berlin) plotters dithered and wasted an opportunity to kill the Führer, Fellgiebel could only hope that the Colonel would get it right this time. Nervous at not having seen Stauffenberg over a good part of the morning, the General’s instinct was to have a call placed, but ultimately he put his nerves under control and decided against it. If Stauffenberg was going to get caught, there was hardly anything he could do to save him, and interrupting him would probably have a negative outcome. Unwittingly, Fellgiebel had just ensured Stauffenberg and his aide Werner von Haeften would not be disturbed as they were preparing the explosives that were to be used in the attempt later that day [2].

By 12:30 Colonel Von Stauffenberg and General Walter Buhle reach the conference room on a rush, knowing they are late to the meeting. While Buhle is unfazed as he believes the Colonel’s delay is understandable given the handicaps of his wounds, Stauffenberg is fully aware that only through sheer luck he managed to set everything up before having to leave the room. With the clock ticking, both pieces of plastic explosive had been prepared at the last possible moment and put into the Colonel’s briefcase, ensuring that the blast would be as powerful as it possibly could [3]. Inside the room, General Heusinger – temporary Chief of the General Staff following Kurt Zeitzler’s breakdown – was already giving an exposition on the general state of frontlines, but paused for a moment as Stauffenberg was introduced to the Führer by Field Marshal Keitel. Hitler looks over to the young Colonel, and then shakes his hand.

As the conference goes on for a few minutes, von Stauffenberg finally decides it’s time to leave the room as he sets up the briefcase as close as possible to Hitler. While the fuse is set to last up to thirty minutes, the heat in the room makes it likely – as explained back in Berlin by Colonel von Quirnheim and others – that it could last as little as ten minutes. He makes a signal to von Freyend (Keitel’s adjutant) that he needs to make a phone call, and the young officer leads him out of the room. Almost forgetting to take his hat and his belt [4], Stauffenberg begins to walk rapidly towards a nearby building, where General Fellgiebel and Lt. Haeften wait nearby a car.

Just as Stauffenberg has left the room Heusinger is touching the subject of the defence of East Prussia (which brings the Colonel to the meeting), and to Hitler’s disappointment the officer is not there to answer a question regarding new divisions for the area. His absence is noted as the Führer’s annoyance grows due to the avalanche of bad news from virtually all fronts. Colonel Brandt, one of the officers at the meeting, notices Stauffenberg’s briefcase and pushes it slightly forwards. As Heusinger points towards the Normandy front in the map, Hitler moves forward in order to look more closely. At about 12:42, as Stauffenberg and Fellgiebel have just saluted each other and while Hitler oversees the mounting ruin of the Third Reich in the map at the table, the explosives finally detonate.

On the way to the Airfield:
12:42 to 13:15 PM

The loud explosion startles Stauffenberg, Fellgiebel and Haeften, neither of them expecting the blast so soon. Some of the officers nearby are unsurprised, one commenting on how usual it is for animals to step on the perimeter landmines [5]. Stauffenberg excuses himself on going straight for lunch with the camp’s commander, then steps with Haeften on the car obtained by Fellgiebel and orders the driver to move on. As they leave the area smoke is starting to come out of the main building as soldiers and officers rush to the scene. Stauffenberg hears screams of horror. Having passed the first checkpoint easily, the others pose a challenge as the alarm has been raised across Rastenburg. Calling a fellow officer back at the compound to obtain clearance, Stauffenberg finally makes it through the final checkpoint and into the airfield, where a He 111 provided by the conspirators awaits. At 13:15 PM, and barely believing their luck, Stauffenberg and Haeften begin their flight towards Berlin [6].

Back at the Wolf’s Lair:
12:42 to 14:00 PM

The first men to rush towards the burning room are one of the Führer’s aides, Schaub, and his valet, Linge, both scared at not seeing anyone emerge from the rubble. Entering the wreckage they look in horror at the grim display, bloodied and burnt corpses across the room, many of them barely recognizable. Seeing a familiar figure at one of the extremes, Schaub moves and then tends to an agonizing Field Marshal Keitel – who’ll perish in a matter of minutes – while Linge looks towards a nearby body. It doesn’t take long for Linge to recognize the man he’s served for years, just as von Hasselbach – nearest doctor around - and a cohort of SS troops enter as well. Hasselbach kneels besides the body and checks for vital signs as Linge and Schaub begin to tear up, which is followed by the famous statement: “Der Führer… der Führer ist tot.” It is thus recorded that, at 12:43 PM of July 20th, 1944, Adolf Hitler was dead. But it did not stop there. Twenty three people were present at the meeting by the time the bomb went off, and the impact was large enough to kill the entire group either instantly or within a few minutes, Field Marshal Keitel and Otto Gunsche being the last to perish [7].

Main Casualties of the Stauffenberg Bomb (Hitler aside):

Field Marshal Wilhelm Keitel, Chief of the OKW
General Alfred Jodl, Keitel’s Chief of Staff
General Adolf Heusinger, interim Chief of the General Staff
General Rudolf Schmundt, Chief of the Army Staff Office
General Walther Buhle, Chief of Army Staff at OKW
General Walter Warlimont, Deputy Chief of Staff at OKW

General Gunther Körten, Chief of Staff of the Luftwaffe
Lt. General Hermann Fegelein, SS Liason Officer
Vice Admiral Hans Erich Voss, Kriesgmarine Liason Officer

In addition to these officers, the explosion also killed several officers serving as adjuntants to the Wehrmacht branches or to some high ranking officers present at the meeting, such as Air General Karl Bodenschatz, Colonels Nicholaus von Below, Heinrich Borgmann and Heinz Brandt, Rear Admiral Karl Jesko von Puttmaker, Captain Heinz Assman, Majors Ernst von Freyend, Herbert Büchs and Walter Scherff. Additionally killed were diplomat Franz von Sonnleithner, bodyguard Otto Günsche and three stenographers/staff officers: Berger, Buchholz and Waizenegger. While the aides and adjutants were fairly irrelevant in the grand scheme of things, it was the Wehrmacht’s structure that Hitler had created that had suffered a crippling blow, losing not only its commander in chief in the Führer, but the Heads of the OKW (Keitel and Jodl), the Chief of the General Staff (Heusinger), Jodl’s Deputy (Warlimont), and key staff and operation officers (Buhle, Schmundt and Warlimont), leaving a gaping hole in terms of leadership of the army.

As the men in the Wolf’s Lair tried to make sense of the situation and placed the compound into as much of a lockdown as possible, chaos spreads quickly [8]. As the SS goes searching for Brigadier General Rattenhuber (head of security) and Lt. Colonel Struve (camp commander), the bodies are quickly taken out in fear of more explosives. Fellgiebel, recognizing this is his best chance to try and manipulate communications, orders his staff to enforce a black-out, particularly not taking most calls from Berlin. Having personally seen Hitler’s body, at around 13:10 Fellgiebel successfully calls Lt. General Thiele (his chief of Staff in Berlin) to inform him of the deaths of Hitler, Keitel and Jodl, ordering him to relay the info to General Olbricht as soon as possible. The General also contacts Colonel Hahn, fellow conspirator and subordinate at the nearby Mauerwald OKH HQ, and orders him to disconnect a couple of stations nearby, further complicating communications and leaving the Wolf’s Lair as isolated from those not involved in the conspiracy as his authority allows (with the SS having a channel out of his authority) [9]

It does not take long for Martin Bormann (and Rattenhuber) to arrive at the scene, forced to come to terms almost immediately with the demise of the Führer in an assassination attempt. A horrified Bormann ponders on his mind the implications and potential culprits, knowing full well that despite Goering having a decree naming him Führer he has little to no prestige or influence left at that point [10], which makes a succession process an uneasy prospect. Even scarier for him is the knowledge without Hitler or Keitel his main sources of power are gone [11]. Tasking the shell-shocked Rattenhuber with an immediate investigation on the attack, Bormann resolves to move as fast as possible, having Himmler, Doenitz, Goering and Goebbels if possible notified of the assassination and summoned to Rastenburg. It is around this time that events being to happen in Berlin.

Notes for Part I:

[1] Fellgiebel, of course, was involved in the aborted 1938 coup planned by Beck, Halder and others in case war was to break out over Czechslovaquia, with him tasked to cut communications through Germany.
[2] I toyed with several very minor POD’s, and I settled on this one because of its simplicity. Fellgiebel does not leave a call for Stauffenberg as he is preparing the bombs (I assume this call had no real purpose and thus it’s entirely possible Fellgiebel decides against it).
[3] In OTL, Fellgiebel’s call forced an aide to interrupt Stauffenberg, ensuring a single explosive was used. Here, they have two, ensuring any blast will be lethal.
[4] A simple detail, which in OTL made the driver suspicious of the Colonel. Here, probably more confident due to being able to set both explosives, Stauffenberg does take his hat and belt.
[5] OTL, although this one was a surprise to read about.
[6] It took a lot of courage and luck for Stauffenberg to get through, but with even greater confusion and considering the situation I think he would have managed to get the airfield here as well.
[7] Despite all disadvantages, had both pieces of expolsive been used everyone in the room would have died. Most of them instantly, and some, like Keitel, taking a few more minutes to die.
[8] Plainly speaking, everybody at the Wolf’s Lair was caught with their pants down in the OTL attempt, and it was the slightly wounded Nicholas von Below who took decisive action first, arranging for several orders that were crucial in retrospect because of their early timing. But of course, ITTL von Below and most of the senior officers are dead. I do not know who else of high rank was there at the moment of the explosion (Himmler and Goering are in East Prussia, but not in Rastenburg), and neither Stieff nor Fellgiebel have the rank to give orders around, so Bormann and Rattenhuber will have to do.
[9] All of this minus relaying Hitler’s death instead of his survival is OTL. Fellgiebel did as much as he could, but the expectatives placed from Berlin were always too high related to his actual powers. Still, this is a key detail, because here he can inform the plotters early enough that Hitler is indeed dead, an overlooked factor in the almost suicidal delays for Valkyrie.
[10] On one side, Goering does have a decree. On the other, not only he is despised by the public, the military and the party alike, his own Luftwaffe subordinates and party rivals try to get him removed from power basically every month, with Hitler being the one individual preventing his absolute fall.
[11] Obviously, Bormann took most of his power from having full access to Hitler and from his handling of his schedule, but he had a “back-up”; his alliance with Keitel, Hans Heinrich Lammers, and at times Heinrich Müller as well, allowing him to influence the military, Gestapo and the bureaucracy. Here, not only has a despaired Bormann lost his patron, he has lost his link to the military leadership than can give orders (Keitel), meaning that all he has left is his bureaucratic lieutenants at the Party and Reich Chancellery and possibly Müller. As to whether that will last…
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Seems well researched. So Goring has no support, Himmler has the SS, Goebbels I would presume doesn't have much influence apart from Hitler who is now dead, and Bormann has some bureaucrats and some of the party. The army will be key here, as they, apart from the SS, actually have guns.

I really wish to avoid the cliche of Stauffenberg and company seizing power with no explanation only to magically make peace with the Western Allies, and thus I've explored a number of possible scenarios and alternate ways July 20th could have developed had Hitler died as a result of the Stauffenberg bomb.

Funny I though the AH cliche or rather near consensus (as far as this board is ever able to agree on anything that is not the sea mammal that shall not be named) is that even if the plot succeeds nothing major would change compared with otl (except for a lower death toll and maybe a new stab in the back legend)

p.s the english translation for Konteradmiral is Rear Admiral not Counteradmiral
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A TL which acknowledges that the Allies (both east and west) are unlikely to seek terms with any successor government and that short-term the chaos imposed upon the German military command structure by Valkyrie would worsen thinks?

You have my attention.
A TL which acknowledges that the Allies (both east and west) are unlikely to seek terms with any successor government and that short-term the chaos imposed upon the German military command structure by Valkyrie would worsen thinks?

You have my attention.

Seconded. I don't think we've seen a good "Successful Valkyrie" TL, let alone one that acknowledges that even if the plotters succeeded, killing Hitler would be the easy part.
Very interesting ... because now the German generals will not have the excuse of not break
theirs oath to the Fuhrer, who were used to justify their loyalty to the regime and they will have to decide where their true loyalties are.
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Thank you for the responses and the feedback! Part Two should be up soon, covering up the beginning of Valkyrie and the reactions of a few key people (Bormann, Goering, Himmler, Goebbels and so on). If things go according to plan, the first few updates should be concentrated in the first few days, then cover longer periods of time.

Now, to answer a few things:

Funny I though the AH cliche or rather near consensus (as far as this board is ever able to agree on anything that the sea mammal that shall not be named) is that even if the plot succeeds nothing major would change compared with otl (except for a lower death toll and maybe a new stab in the back legend)

p.s the english translation for Konteradmiral is Rear Admiral not Counteradmiral

Actually, I meant it as a general cliche (as I've seen the idea on a few forums, and I recall I read at least one timeline elsewhere where the Valkyrie plotters make peace and prevent an invasion, restore democracy and bring back the Hohenzollerns. Somehow I knew Counteradmiral sounded wrong, but I couldn't quite figure out why...

Very interesting ... because now the German generals will not have the excuse of not break
theirs oath to the Fuhrer, who were used to justify their loyalty to the regime and they will have to decide where their true loyalties are.

Indeed! The more I do research on the subject, the more people who knew about the conspiracy and did nothing (and there's some very surprising names in there, many who will show up in the next update). Even if OTL July 20 shows that many will not believe Hitler's demise at first, I do believe it changes everything because of the way he set up a potential succession (which is basically making all the potential heirs paranoid of each other).


Seems well researched. So Goring has no support, Himmler has the SS, Goebbels I would presume doesn't have much influence apart from Hitler who is now dead, and Bormann has some bureaucrats and some of the party. The army will be key here, as they, apart from the SS, actually have guns.

Pretty much, by this point in 1944 many of the individuals who seem powerful are so mostly because of Hitler, and without him I would think they would find themselves not having as much influence as they expected. This, of course, will only fuel more paranoia and fear of being taken out by the others.
Part II: Operation Valkyrie Launched:


Colonels Claus von Stauffenberg and Mertz von Quirnheim, close friends and key officers in the 20 July Plot

July 20th, 1944
Reserve Army HQ, Berlin:
13:10 to 15:00 PM

Right after receiving Fellgiebel’s call from Rastenburg regarding the success of the attack, Lt. General Thiele rushes to inform General Fredrich Olbricht – head of the General Army Office and key conspirator – and his chief of staff, Colonel Mertz von Quirnheim. The three men are relieved that, at last, they had managed to succeed in the mission to kill the Führer. And yet, as Mertz von Quirnheim points out, the hard part of the task begins now. Despite feeling it necessary to take some time for extra arrangements, von Quirnheim presses onto Olbricht the need to immediately place the Reserve Army (Erzatzheer) in alert, establish contact with the rest of the plotters and, above all, break the news of Hitler’s death to their superior: General Fromm, the man whose authority was crucial to properly commence and execute Valkyrie. Olbricht then places a call to General Eduard Wagner – Quartermaster General – at OKH HQ in Zossen, informing him of the assassination and asking him to make preparations for the eventual arrival of Field Marshal von Witzleben [1].

Mertz von Quirnheim then sets the phase one of Valkyrie in motion, putting units across Berlin in full alert. Shortly afterwards, Olbricht and Quirnheim take the set of documents needed to authorize Valkyrie from a safe in the Bendlerstrasse, and rush towards Fromm’s office to inform him and hopefully persuade him to grant immediate authorization. Fromm, who was slowly losing faith in the conspiracy ever since the failure of July 15th (and the usurpation of his authority to mobilize the Reserve Army in that day) is not particularly surprised when he hears of von Stauffenberg making an attempt, but expresses his disbelief at the Führer’s death. Having suspected such a situation might arise, Olbricht contacts Fellgiebel at the Wolf’s Lair, giving Fromm a direct line. Asking for Field Marshal Keitel, Fromm hears it directly from Bormann - the only one prepared to talk to him – that Hitler, Keitel, Jodl and several others are dead. Afterwards, Fromm almost collapses into his seat. To the frustration of Olbricht and Quirnheim, he demands to be left alone for a few moments, the orders for Valkyrie on his desk.

Around 14:40 Fromm emerges from his office and into the room where the two plotters await for him. Handing Quirnheim the signed folder, he instructs him to being phase two as soon as possible, and eventually implement the entire plan [2]. Fromm warns Olbricht that his participation remains conditional – to Olbricht’s disbelief - and he also makes it clear he will not tolerate any sort of insubordination from Reserve Army officers. By 15:00 PM a group of plotters already inside the Bendlerstrasse has joined Fromm and Olbricht, including former panzer commander General Hoepner, Counts von Schulenburg and Yorck von Wartenburg, and Stauffenberg’s brother Berthold. Officers and Staff at the Reserve Army HQ are informed of Hitler’s death and the assumption of military and political power by Beck and von Witzleben, the unspoken assumption being that the SS – and possibly key party members – plot a coup. Beck is expected to arrive within the hour, while Field Marshal Witzleben is preparing to travel to Zossen. Goerdeler, the likely candidate for Chancellor, remains hiding from the Gestapo, unlikely to be contacted until the morning of the next day. With Fromm’s temporary support, the coup is now in motion.

The Wolf’s Lair:
14:00 PM to 18:00 PM

From the men that were to be contacted by Bormann after Hitler’s death and summoned to Rastenburg, Goebbels would receive the news too late to leave Berlin and Himmler would laconically express his inability to attend a meeting – therefore fueling Bormann’s growing paranoia, thus making it unable for all of the seemingly key player to be on the same spot at once. The first one to arrive was Joachim von Ribbentrop, who hardly had any time to mourn the Führer before Reichsmarshall Hermann Goering finally made his appearance sometime after 2:00 PM, using his private train to rush towards Rastenburg. For all the decadent days Goering experienced around that time, July 20th did not saw him on drug induced frenzy, but it did found him on an aggressive state of mind. Indeed, the Reichsmarshall wasted no time to harshly berate Bormann him in front of the staff for the neglected security that led to Hitler’s demise, along with Bormann’s failure to secure the immediate attendance of Goebbels and Himmler. An infuriated Bormann, about to inform Goering of his growing suspicions regarding the missing Colonel Stauffenberg, bits his tongue and decides not to bring up the issue [3].

Matters are made worse when it is announced that Mussolini’s arrival via special train is imminent. Goering – who intensely dislikes Mussolini - forces von Ribbentrop to receive their ally at the station despite the Minister’s protests. Learning from Hamburg that Grand Admiral Doenitz has taken a plane at 14:50 PM and is expected soon, Goering is forced to give the visibly shaken and even emotional Mussolini a tour of the Wolf’s Lair so he can pay his respects to the fallen Führer. Sitting down to drink some tea after the arrival of Doenitz from Hamburg and to Bormann’s increasing annoyance, Goering boasts of his new position and begins to speak at length on his plans on Europe and his belief that “things need to change. As Marshal Graziani – who came with Mussolini – asks whether some knowledge of the culprit is available, the Italians watch in increasing disbelief as Goering launches a tirade against Himmler and the SS first, then against Ribbentrop when the latter attempts to stop Goering from launching accusations. An attempt by Bormann to intervene only makes matters worse, as Goering charges them both with incompetence [4], Doenitz staying out of the discussion.

It does not take long for Mussolini and Graziani to propose suspending the meeting until the situation is more clarified, and the Reichsmarshall is only too happy to oblige them. It is around that time (18:00), that Fellgiebel’s blackout begins to slowly falter. Goering, Ribbentrop and Bormann receive a series of disturbing news: Rumors state that both SS and Heer units are moving across the streets of Berlin, with a report stating that gunfire has erupted through the capital. A stunned Goering orders Fellgiebel to contact Himmler and Fromm immediately, demanding to know what’s going on. A few minutes later, Fellgiebel reports the Bendlerstrasse cannot be reached and that Himmler is out of contact, last seen departing his village for Berlin with Kaltenbrunner in tow. As Mussolini’s train departs back to Northern Italy, Bormann is called to answer a call from Gestapo Chief Müller, all while Goering fumes and demands to be put through to the OKH/OKW HQ. Grand Admiral Doenitz, sitting quietly and alone, begins to seriously consider the possibility of an coup within the party and the military structures. The question is… by whom?
Gansenstein Village and Berlin:
13:00 to 16:00 PM
It was through the SS’s own communications channel at Rastenburg that the Reichsführer SS, Heinrich Himmler, was informed of Hitler’s assassination. Himmler had spent the morning with Kaltenbrunner and few SS officers making plans regarding Hungary and the possibility of forcing Regent Horthy to finally hand over the Hungarian Jews, until news were broken to him no less than twenty minutes after Hitler’s demise. Himmler and Kaltenbrunner spend the next few moments in deep consideration, and then suspend the meeting to discuss the situation alone. In privacy, both men immediately suspect the resistance groups within the army, and realize that should that be the case both of them are in serious danger [5] either by the potential plotters or by Goering, Bormann and other members of the government.

Having experienced severe manpower shortages through the middle of the year due to the continuous creation of Waffen-SS units for the battlefield, it had been only five days ago that Hitler had granted Himmler permission to recruit men for the SS from the Reserve Army units, a key disposition that nonetheless had not been started at that point. While Himmler thought that most of it not all of the combat units would stand with him should the need arise, virtually all of those combat ready divisions where fighting in the Balkans, Normandy or the East, each of them locked in battles harsh enough to make it virtually impossible that they could be quickly redeployed to Germany itself. Nonetheless, Himmler could still rely on his police units, guard camps, a few parachuting regiments, a few units in formation in Austria and Bohemia-Moravia, and potentially a few regiments in Berlin as well. As a result, both Kaltenbrunner and Himmler agreed that putting down a potential putsch by the army and seizing the security services was vital to their survival.

Soon afterwards, Himmler receives a summon from Bormann that he choses to ignore, and more news on the assasination are sent by Rattenhuber through SS channels. In response Himmler begins to have calls placed, some of them successful despite the growing blackout Fellgiebel is trying to enforce. Kripo Chief Arthur Nebe is first, being tasked by immediate investigation of the assassination. Gestapo Chief Müller follows, receiving orders to conduct the arrest of von Stauffenberg and other key officers in Berlin, with Walter Schellenberg being warned of a potential coup and ordered to stay vigilant. Finally, Himmler manages to reach the most reliable office he can find in the Berlin area: the infamous Lt. Colonel Otto Skorzeny. Breaking the news of Hitler’s demise to him and warning him that a plot may be in order, Himmler orders Skorzeny to gather SS units and work with loyal Heer formations in ensuring the safety of the capital. Temporarily satisfied, the Reichsführer and his lieutenants board their cars and prepare to reach Berlin as soon as possible. What Himmler fails to realize, however, is that Nebe is already a conspirator, Schellenberg has withheld knowledge of the plot for himself, and Müller has already secretly sided with Bormann weeks, if not months, ago [6].

Berlin Area:
15:00 to 17:00 PM

While most of the key figures of the Third Reich were absent from Berlin in that particular day – Hitler and Bormann at the Wolf’s Lair, and Doenitz, Himmler and Goering elsewhere -, left in the city were still key members of the bureaucracy and the security services, and more importantly Reichministers Speer, Funk and Goebbels, who spent the morning at the Propaganda Ministry at a venue designed to raise the morale of fellow ministers, functionaries and selected journalists. It was Speer’s task of delivering the main speech that resumed the call for resistance and total war, drawing a healthy round of applause after finished. Having refused General Fromm’s invitation for lunch, Speer shared a cup of vine with Funk and Goebbels before leaving for his ministry [7]. Due to Fellgiebel’s blackout of communications and the chaos at Rastenburg it takes a while for Press Chief Otto Dietrich to finally contact Goebbels, breaking the news of the Führer’s death. Goebbels, grief stricken and in shock, begins to prepare to depart to Rastenburg. Alas, before Goebbels can depart to the airport the Reserve Army begins to mobilize and spreads through the streets of Berlin, passing outside the Propaganda Ministry very soon due to a last minute change in planning.

Kripo Chief Arthur Nebe informs the Bendlerstrasse that Himmler has contacted him from East Prussia, making his arrest virtually impossible [8]. Quirnheim and General Paul von Hase, the City Commander, convene that the greater threat within Berlin is Goebbels, and therefore task Nebe with his arrest (thus replacing Major Remer, a seemingly unreliable officer). Nebe rushes with a group of his men and a company of Reserve Army troops, and blocks the exits to the Propaganda Ministry. Desperate attempts from Goebbels to contact Rastenburg, the Bendlerstrasse or Speer meet in failure, and soon afterwards the lines are cut. Nebe and his men eventually break through the building and storm into Goebbels’s office, informing him of his arrest for treason against the party. Realizing a coup is taking place by the army, and believing the SS to be involved due to Nebe’s presence, Goebbels’s psyche gives in as he believes the situation to be hopeless. Before the Kripo can intervene he bites a cyanide capsule, violently collapsing to the floor. A few minutes afterwards, a messenger reports to the Bendlerstrasse that Joseph Goebbels is dead [9].

By 15:45 Stauffenberg and von Haeften land in Berlin after escaping from the Wolf’s Lair, being escorted along with General Beck to the Reserve Army HQ. With the support of City Commander von Hase, orders begin to pour out to the Berlin units, to the Werhkreise (military districts), and to key points like Prague, Paris and Warsaw. The beginning of these orders will become famous (or infamous): “The Führer Adolf Hitler is dead! An unscrupulous clique of party leaders alien to the front has attempted, under the exploitation of this situation, to betray the hard-struggling front and to seize power for their own selfish purposes...” Included in the message as well is the proclamation of General Beck as Head of State, and Field Marshal von Witzleben as Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces. Despite Fromm being forced to arrest the Commander of Wehrkreis III (Berlin), General von Kortzfleisch, due to insubordination [10], the other officers in Berlin follow orders, and troops begin to mobilize across the capital. Supported by Nebe’s Kripo and the Berlin Police under conspirator Count von Helldorf, ministries and offices are locked down and scads of party members, SS officers and bureaucrats are taken prisoner, including men like Ley, Funk, Lammers and other key Nazi personnel.

The key moments, however, happen at around 16:30. It is around this time Skorzeny begins to enter Berlin followed by the first few companies of SS men, being blocked by a Reserve Army unit led by Major Remer. Remer, under orders to arrest the SS, attempts to force the SS Colonel to surrender. The SS men reply by opening fire, and soon both groups fall back leaving a dozen men dead on the ground, Major Remer included. Around the same time SS Oberführer Humbert Achamer-Pifrader and a Gestapo squadron arrive at the Bendlerstrasse on Müller’s command, bringing orders for the arrest of von Stauffenberg, just arriving by car. Reserve Army troops surround the Gestapo officers, who nonetheless attempt to fire at the Colonel as another gunfight breaks out in the street.

By 17:00 PM, the SS, Gestapo and security services are in a shooting war with the Reserve Army.

Notes for Part II:

[1] The butterflies begin to spread! In OTL, Olbricht is informed that Hitler lives, but Fellgiebel’s wording regarding von Stauffenberg is ambiguous enough to make it look like no attempt took place at all. I’ve decided to go with Peter Hoffman’s take on the situation, that being that Olbricht, unaware that the bomb had actually gone off IOTL initially thought it was a situation similar to July 15th and thus a coup was either futile or too much of a risk. Here, it is clear Hitler is dead and the attempt was successful, emboldening Olbricht and preventing a decisive two hour delay.
[2] Now, Fromm knew very well what Stauffenberg was up to. Stauffenberg told him point blank, and despite his constant ambiguity he personally told Stauffenberg not to forget about Keitel if he attempted a coup. In this scenario, not only is Hitler gone (and Fromm has reliable info here), but also Keitel and a good part of the Wehrmacht command. Fromm, highly ambitious despite his caution, knows there’s a real vacuum in power to be filled, and much as he may not like Olbricht events show he did have faith in Stauffenberg. As we will see later on, Fromm’s attitude is far more complex and opportunistic than it seems, but I feel it’s perfectly reasonable that in this particular context and in the absence of Hitler and Keitel he would give Valkyrie the greenlight.
[3] Bormann is one crafty fellow, but also one to hold grudges, and he and Goering did not get along at all. Knowing how much of a mess Goering is at this point and looking as his own actions in July 20th and in April 1945, I have no doubt he would not be able to rise up to the occasion, and would unnecessarily antagonize his rival. Bormann, in response, would probably be only too happy to undermine Goering and begin to think about the future.
[4] If you think this looks strange, the OTL tea party with Hitler, Mussolini and the rest was one for the ages… Seeing that Goering and Ribbentrop were at each other’s throats in OTL July 20th and the first one probably feels a lot more entitled to speak his mind, chances are this meeting with Mussolini would turn into a mess as well, and a very unsauspicious beginning to Goering’s aspirations.
[5] Now, I don’t subscribe to any conspiracy theories of Himmler being a part of the 20 July Plot, but there are factors we simply cannot overlook. Himmler had been contacted at least once by the plotters through indirect means; with one associate of Carl Goerdeler bluntly offering support should Himmler overthrow Hitler to end the war. Far from having him arrested, thus uncovering the plots of Tresckow and the Army Group Centre officers, Himmler did nothing, and it appears he had privately expressing suspicions that some officers were plotting against Hitler. Whether this is negligence or something else I don’t plan to speculate on, but the facts are these:

Himmler has expressed openly his utter contempt for Goering, going as far to declare that should something happen to Hitler he would see to it that the Reichsmarshall would not become Führer. Not only that, Himmler knows Goering knows of his hostility, which on this environment and given the paranoid court Hitler (and Bormann) were running can only predispose both men to a conflict. But to make matters truly worse, Himmler realizes that if word gets out to Bormann or Goering that he did nothing to stop the plot – whatever his motives were -, he’s finished. That, above all, would mean he needs to get into action far sooner he would prefer too.

I suppose the jury is still out on the extent of knowledge Kaltenbrunner had, but neither the Gestapo nor the security services had been particularly effective despite slowly closing in the Valkyrie plotters through July. A similar accusation can be levelled against him by his rivals since to merely arrest Goerdeler or others that were targeted a few days ago might have stopped the conspiracy, and since he realizes that, I believe it plausible Himmler and him would join forces out of their belief that they position is in danger.

[6] Believe it or not, Müller – who excelled at his work – presented Himmler with concrete evidence of plotting within the General Staff, particularly through Admiral Canaris. Himmler’s response? He told Müller to simply drop the case. As a result, Müller would then enter in an informal pact with Bormann, which will have serious effects later on.
[7] Minor butterflies again, as Goebbels was contacted and informed while meeting with Funk and Speer, and would later insist on having Speer nearby as he set his counterattack in place. With sheer chaos at Rastenburg and with Fellgiebel doing his best to make communications hard for those outside the plot, Speer and Funk leave before Goebbels is informed.
[8] Nebe was supposed to take a dozen policemen or so to arrest and kill Himmler on the day of the plot, but the signal for him never arrived because, inexplicably, the plotters neglected the fact that Himmler was not in Berlin. Here, with an earlier and better coordinated plan, orders are changed accordingly and Nebe goes after Goebbels, who can’t talk his way out of him like he did with Remer.
[9] Goebbels showed little inclination to survive Hitler in OTL, and as far as he knows Berlin is already falling to a coup. The emotional distress he would probably go through makes me think he’s likely to kill himself before surrendering to Nebe – which, ITTL hindsight, would have been the right choice for him -.
[10] Pretty much OTL. This particular General never believed in Hitler’s death, and had to be arrested by Beck and Olbricht. Chances are he wouldn’t believe Fromm either, so he gets arrested here as well.
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Thanks for the update. Things are starting to move and the chaos is churning. Just who may survive and thrive?
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