Hitler’s would-be assassin: A lone wolf who acted on his ideals

On November 8, 1939, Georg Elser, a German carpenter, almost changed the course of history. But his bomb missed killing Adolf Hitler by 13 minutes. It would take postwar Germany decades to acknowledge Elser’s actions.

Adolf Hitler reportedly said that he had the “luck of the devil” on his side throughout his years in power in Nazi Germany. Whether there were evil spirits at play during his reign of terror is a matter for speculation.

What’s indisputable is that he managed to survive several assassination attempts against him while countless plots were uncovered before they could be carried out. In most cases a combination of fate, luck, technical failings and ineptitude on the part of the would-be assassins came to Hitler’s rescue.

Arguably the most prominent of the failed attempts on Hitler’s life was carried out by a group led by German army officer Claus Schenk Graf von Stauffenberg on July 20, 1944. While he and his co-plotters feature prominently in history books and at commemorative events, Georg Elser often falls under the radar.

Five years before Stauffenberg’s assassination plot Elser had tried to kill Hitler with a homemade bomb planted in the Bürgerbräukeller in Munich, the venue of Hitler’s failed coup — the Beer Hall Putsch of November 9, 1923. Every year, on the eve of the anniversary, Hitler had come to the Bürgerbräukeller to make a speech.

The best-laid plans …

The one on November 8, 1939, was supposed to be his last. Elser’s planning had been meticulous — the timing, the placement of the explosives, right down to his escape route. The one thing he hadn’t anticipated was that Hitler finished his speech earlier than expected and left the Bürgerbräukeller. Elser’s bomb went off just under 15 minutes later, killing eight people but not the intended target. Elser was subsequently arrested by a border patrol as he tried to cross into Switzerland. He was thrown in jail, tortured and executed in April 1945, just days before the end of World War II.

So, why have his actions and bravery not received ample recognition? “On the one hand that’s the result of the defamation by the National Socialists, which lingered for many decades after the war. On the other hand, it’s due to Elser’s image, which was created and cultivated as early as the late 1930s,” says Professor Johannes Tuchel, head of the German Resistance Memorial Center in Berlin. 

“The National Socialists presented Elser as a tool of British intelligence. Critical voices in the opposition said, no, this attack was perpetrated by the Nazis themselves to again demonstrate Hitler’s infallibility.” 

Read moreRemembering the German Resistance

A prescient personality

Georg Elser’s homemade explosive device missed killing Hitler by 13 minutes

Those two narratives — skepticism and propaganda — were prevalent as late as the 1960s in a postwar West German society that struggled to recognize and accept the actions of a lone wolf, not least someone with communist leanings.

Elser abhorred National Socialism and everything it stood for: The deterioration of the situation of the working class, the restrictions on personal freedom, on the freedom of belief and education. The real eye-opener came when he worked in an armament factory in 1939 and concluded that Hitler means war and he had to be stopped.

“You have a carpenter from the Swabia region [southwestern Germany] who is an outstanding craftsman. He sees in 1938 what many Germans could have seen and resorts to the most extreme means, namely an assassination attempt — incidentally not only on Hitler but on the entire National Socialist leadership, notably [Hermann] Göring, [Joseph] Goebbels and [Heinrich] Himmler.”

That, says Tuchel, was crucial to Elser’s thinking. “He argued that that would pave the way for others to come to power who weren’t interested in territorial expansion. If you translate that it means others could have already seen the warning signs in 1938 and acted accordingly.”

Not necessarily by carrying out assassination attempts, he adds, but by showing civil disobedience, staging protests or carrying out acts of sabotage. “Elser impressively demonstrated the options and possibilities, and that was difficult, even shameful, for postwar society to grasp and digest.”

Recognition for Elser

It took post-war Germany decades to fully acknowledge Georg Elser’s bravery

Although the road has been long and often arduous, Tuchel says he’s pleased about the progress that’s been made since the mid-90s to recognize and duly appreciate Elser’s motives and actions. Earlier this week, Germany’s president, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, inaugurated a new Georg Elser memorial in  southern Hermaringen, where Elser was born.

Nonetheless, Esler is still seen as non-conformist and recalcitrant, and as someone who invites discussion about his actions and his personality. But, as Tuchel says, it’s necessary to have those discussions. “We need to be able to ask frank questions about his motives, goals and actions. And we’re certainly able to do that much better than 20 or 30 years ago.” Watch video 02:43

July 20 plotter Stauffenberg as role model

DW recommends

Remembering the German Resistance Who were the people who risked their lives to resist the Nazis in Germany? A visit to the German Resistance Memorial Center in Berlin provides some answers — 75 years after the 20 July assassination plot. (19.07.2019)

Johann Georg Elser

Timeline created by 22mitcjac In History

  • Jan 4, 1903Johann’s early lifeJohann Georg Elser was born on 4 January 1903 in the town of Hermaringen, Württemberg to Ludwig Elser and Maria Müller. His father was a timber merchant and his mother worked on there phone.
  • 1922Johanns best skillHe worked as an apprentice at his dad’s at his shop as an lathe operator but was force to quit because of health reasons. He then went to master woodworking school and was top of his class. His skills carried him to planting the bomb just right so no one would know and it would kill Hitler when it exploded.
  • 1933concentration campsThe concentration camps started being built and used on March 1933 to kill thousands of people all at once.
  • 1936The bombElser tested the bomb multiple time to make sure it didn’t fail. One time it blew down a tree making it collapse.
  • Nov 8, 1938Elsers plot to kill HitlerElser went to Munich on November 8, 1938 by train to start the massive plan to kill Hitler. He decided to plant the bomb right behind him in the pillar so if it went off it would kill him and other high ranking generals. He found a job there and plotted this bombing out for over than a year so it would be most effective and he wouldn’t get caught.
  • 1939Airplanes The started reproducing multiple different airplanes to try and when the war in 1939.
  • 1939The start of WW2On September 1 WW2 started
  • 1939Hitler invades PolandIn May of 1939 hilter finally comes to power and plans to do very cruel things to the Jews and other religons.
  • 1939 Honoring the victimsThey held a ceremony for the victims that died at the Beer hall on 1939 two days after the bombing.
  • Sep 23, 1939The jewish badge has to be worn at all times.The Governor General Hans Frank ordered that all Jewish people have to wear the star of david on them at all times.
  • Nov 8, 1939Bombing HitlerIn 8 November 1939, the Bürgerbräukeller beer hall in Munich was bombed as an assassination attempt on Hitler by Johann Georg Esler. It did not succeed because Hitler left early that day and the bomb exploded 13 minutes after he left and injured 64 and killed 8 people.
  • Nov 8, 1939Johanns ArrestOn November 8th at 8:45 p.m. Johann was apprehended by two border guards about 25 meters from the Swiss border fence in Konstanz. He was taken to the border control post and had to empty his pockets and was found with the supplies used for the bombing like wire cutters, notes, and sketches about the bomb. The next day Elser was taken to Munich Gestapo Headquarters by car.
  • 1941Elsers confession attempt Elser was held on the top floor of the prison and the wanted a confession out of him. They tried all different kinds of stuff just for him to tell them who he worked with. Some of the things that they tried were feeding him very salty herring and exposing him to heat, and then depriving him of liquids. He worked alone but it was so sophisticated of a plan that they thought other people had to of been involved.
  • 1944Hitler escapes death once againThere was a bomb that was going to explode in Hitlers briefcase but didn’t determinate so Hitler lives on.
  • Apr 9, 1945Johann georg elser’s deathElser was held as a prisoner for over five years after his plot to try and kill Hitler and other high ranking generals until he was executed at the Dachau concentration camp less than a month before the surrender of Germany.
  • Apr 30, 1945Hitlers deathThere is no clues on how Hitler died but everyone thinks that he committed suicide in his underground bunker.
  • Sep 2, 1945World War 2 ends WW2 was finally over on September 2 of 1945.
  • 201713 MinutesIn 2017 they created a movie that was named 13 minutes to tell about Elsers attempt to kill Hitler. The movie was named 13 minutes because the bomb exploded 13 minutes after Hitler left the stage.

Kazan- Kazan National Research Technical University Казанский национальный исследовательский технический университет имени А. Н. Туполева he graduated in Economics in 1982

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: