Operation Foxley

This was a British unrealised plan by the Special Operations Executive to assassinate Adolf Hitler (summer 1944).

The best opportunity for such an undertaking would have been during a visit by Hitler to the Berghof, his home in the Obersalzberg area of the Bavarian Alps near Berchtesgaden. After the failure of the assassination attempt of Oberstleutnant Claus Philipp Maria Schenk Graf von Stauffenberg, who left a briefcase filled with explosives at a conference which Hitler had called on 20 July, an attempt which injured the German leader, Hitler reduced the number and frequency of his public appearances to one or two per year, thus limiting the opportunities for another attempt.

One of the first plans was to bomb Hitler’s train. SOE had much experience with the derailment of trains, but the plan was dropped because Hitler had too irregular a schedule, with stations being informed of his arrival only minutes beforehand. The next plan was to poison Hitler’s tea, but this was considered too complicated as it would need an ‘inside man’. Next the use of a sniper was considered. A talk with a German prisoner of war, who had been part of Hitler’s personal guard, revealed that at the Berghof, Hitler always took a morning walk, around the same time and for the same duration, and at last the planners could work on the basis of routine that offered some possibility of success. Moreover, Hitler always wanted to be alone during this walk, leaving him unprotected near some woods and out of sight of the sentries. On each occasion that Hitler was in residence at the Berghof a Nazi flag was raised, and this indication of Hitler’s presence could be seen from the nearby town.

A sniper was found, and the plan submitted. Even an inside man was found in the form of one Heidentaler, the uncle of a captured soldier, a vehement anti-Nazi and a resident of Salzburg, only 12.5 miles (20 km) from the Berghof and regular visitor to a shooting range, just 10 miles (16 km) from the Berghof, in the company of like-minded shopkeepers.

There had been some resistance against the plan, especially from a superior named Thornley, but he was replaced by a supporter of the plan, Templar. Prime Minister Winston Churchill was also in favour of the plan.

The sniper and a German-speaking Polish companion were to be dropped by aeroplane and seek shelter with Heidentaler, after which they could make the approach disguised as German mountain troops. The plan was submitted for approval in November 1944, but did not receive the relevant authorisation as several voices were raised against the concept: it was argued that Hitler was so bad and so meddling as a strategist that any successor might prove to be a superior war leader; and with Germany on the verge of defeat Hitler might have become a martyr if assassinated. As the Allies wished not just to defeat Germany, but also to discredit the Nazi ‘philosophy’ beyond any possibility of later revival, making Hitler a martyr would have been counter-productive.

There were also strong advocates for the plan, but ultimately no decision was reached. Late in November 1944 Hitler had left the Berghof for the last time. The term ‘Little Foxley’ was used for a number of speculative plans for the assassination of lesser members of the Nazi leadership.