Operation Blitz (iii)

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'Blitz' (iii) was a German unsuccessful plan by an element of the anti-Nazi movement to kill Adolf Hitler in an aeroplane crash (13 March 1943).

Late in 1942 Oberst Henning von Tresckow and General Friedrich Olbricht had formulated the plan to assassinate Hitler and stage a coup. On 13 March 1943, returning from his 'Wehrwolf' eastern headquarters near Vinnitsa in German-occupied western Russia to his 'Wolfsschanze' headquarters in East Prussia, Hitler was scheduled to make a stop-over at the headquarters of Generalfeldmarschall Günther von Kluge’s Heeresgruppe 'Mitte' at Smolensk. In preparation for such an opportunity von Tresckow had prepared three options.

Firstly, Major Georg Freiherr von Boeselager, in command of a cavalry honour guard, could intercept Hitler in a forest and overwhelm the SS bodyguard and the Führer in a fair fight (this option was rejected because of the prospect of a large numbers of German soldiers fighting each other, and a possible failure regarding the unexpected strength of the escort). Secondly, a joint assassination could be carried out during dinner (this option was abandoned as supporting officers abhorred the idea of shooting the unarmed tyrant). Thirdly, and as a final resort, a bomb could be smuggled onto Hitler’s Focke-Wulf Fw 200 Condor personal transport aeroplane.

von Tresckow asked Oberstleutnant Heinz Brandt, who was a member of Hitler’s staff and usually travelled on the same aeroplane as Hitler, to take a parcel with him, supposedly the price of a bet won by a friend of von Tresckow, General Helmuth Stieff. The package concealed a bomb, disguised in a box for two bottles of brandy. von Tresckow’s aide, Leutnant Fabian von Schlabrendorff, set the fuse and entrusted the parcel to Brandt, who boarded Hitler’s aeroplane. It was expected that the bomb would explode in this Fw 200 about 30 minutes later in the air near Minsk, close enough to the front to be attributed to action by Soviet fighters.

Head of the Allgemeines Heeresamt (General Army Office) in the Oberkommando des Heeres and chief of the Wehrersatzamt (Armed Forces Replacement Office) in the Oberkommando der Wehrmacht, Olbricht was to use the resulting crisis to mobilise his Ersatzheer (Reserve Army) network and secure Berlin, Vienna, Munich and the German Wehrkreis centres.

It was an ambitious but credible plan, and might have worked if Hitler had indeed been killed. But fortune once again favoured Hitler. The British-made chemical pencil detonator on the bomb had been tested many times and was considered reliable: the detonator did indeed go off, but the bomb did not, probably as a result of the fact that the percussion cap became too cold as the parcel was carried in the unheated cargo hold. Displaying considerable courage, von Schlabrendorff took the next aeroplane and retrieved the package from Brandt before its contents were discovered.