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Close call

Adolf Hitler: Escaped 15 assasination bids. Photo: Special Arrangement

Adolf Hitler: Escaped 15 assasination bids. Photo: Special Arrangement  

Several assassination attempts had been made on Hitler’s life even before he came into power. The first instance was in 1921, in Munich. Hitler was addressing a rally, which deteriorated into a fight, and during the melee someone shot at Hitler. The gunfire was returned, possibly by Hitler himself, as he always carried a pistol with him. He then continued with his speech for a further 20 minutes, until the police arrived!

Since then more than 20 attempts had been made. On March 13, 1943, assassins tried one more time.

After several cancellations and postponements, Hitler finally decided to visit the troops on the Eastern Front at Smolensk. Colonel Henning von Tresckow, Lt. Fabian von Schlabrendorff, Colonel Rudolf von Gersdorff and Cavalry Captain Georg von Böselager, who were part of the Anti-Nazi conspiracy of German Army Officers and Political Conservatives were plotting to kill Hitler. They decided that he would be killed mid-flight.

Working details

Tresckow contacted Captain Ludwig Gehre (a conspirator from Berlin), to get the copies for Hitler’s Condor aircraft. Gehre, in turn, contacted Otto John who was working with Lufthansa to help them with this plan. With great difficulty they managed to lay hands on the blueprint. With the drawings in place, they now needed to get the explosives. These could only be taken out of the warehouse in small quantities at a time. They did not want local fuses as they could not control the noise factor. Finally, they got enough and decided to use a special Plastic C to cover the explosives. This substance was considered to be most explosive and this was proved during their trial run.

Well planned

The conspirators hoped the temperature would be normal on the day of the flight as they found that under temperatures below zero degrees, the bomb failed to explode. They packed it up in a Cointreau (a premium brandy) bottle. The Cointreau bomb was constructed by packing the casing with a timer consisting of a spring which would gradually be dissolved by acid.

On D-day, everything progressed as scheduled. Hitler landed, drove on his own with more security and soon after lunch, proposed to depart. Tresckow requested Officer Brandt who had accompanied Hitler to take a package for the officials in Berlin. Just before Hitler’s Condor plane was to take off, Von Schlabrendorff activated the 30-minute fuse and handed the package to Brandt, who boarded Hitler's plane. Operation Flash was underway and they calculated that the explosion would happen near Minsk.

Hitler, however, landed safely at his East Prussian headquarters. Obviously the bomb had failed to detonate! Tresckow made frantic calls to retrieve the bomb before it could be discovered and aroused suspicion. Although the detonator worked, the explosives failed to ignite. It could be because of the extremely low temperatures in the unheated luggage compartment that prevented the fuse from working.

The perfect assassination, Operation Flash, had failed.

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Printable version | Sep 15, 2020 1:29:58 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/kids/on-march-13-1943-hitler-survived-an-attack-on-his-life-read-on-to-find-out-how/article8336453.ece

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