In 1944, on this day a plot headed by a small group of German officers (the Kreisau Circle) succeeds in killing Adolf Hitler, along with a number of his staff, including the head of OKW Field Marshal Wilhelm Keitel.
A briefcase bomb, planted by Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg (pictured), explodes at 12:40 PM, less than three feet away from Hitler. By 4:00, Unternehmen Walkure (Operation Valkyrie) was in effect, with strongpoints throughout Berlin being seized by units of the Reserve Army.
The Kreisau Circle by Zach TimmonsWehrmacht troops quickly arrest any SS and Gestapo units they can find, having been told that the SS was behind the plot to kill the Fuhrer. Heinrich Himmler is killed after a pitched battle erupts at SS headquaters, but most top Party officials (Goebbels, Bormann, Goring) are arrested with little struggle. One of the few senior officials to go along with the conspirators is Albert Speer; he will be rewarded by being retained as Armaments and War Production Minister.
By midnight, Valkyrie has been mostly successful, with most senior Army commanders around the Reich believing the cover story of the SS power seizure; also, a number of wavering military leaders (including Erwin Rommel and G?nther von Kluge) and Party officials (inc. Speer and Adm. Wilhelm Canaris) openly throw their support to the Kreisau conspirators. Within three days, their hold has been consolidated; a new government is formed, with General Ludwig Beck as President, and Carl Goerdeler as Chancellor. The ban on political parties is lifted (excepting the Communists), and the concentration camps are immediately shut down.
On July 29th, the new German government, through Swedish mediators, proposes a 48-hour truce to the Western Allies, with the intention being a total ending of hostilities in the West. The Germans agree to evacuate all occupied nations in Western Europe, with a mutual twenty-mile demilitarized zone on the western borders of Germany; their only request is the halting of Lend-Lease convoys to the Soviets. Although Churchill and Roosevelt are loathe to agree to a negotiated peace (and even less wanting to back out of their alliance with Stalin), they realize that their main reason for waging war on Germany (the Nazis and the occupation of Western Europe) has suddenly vanished. Accordingly, on August 7th, a provisional truce is signed between Germany and the Western Allies.
Stalin and the Red Army will have to face the Wehrmacht on their own.