Thursday, January 8, 2009


This review from First Things of the new film about the plot to kill Hitler is excellent, and I did not know that the main character—Count von Stauffenberg—played by Tom Cruise was a devout Catholic.

An excerpt.

“Edmund Burke once said that he did “not know the method of drawing up an indictment against a whole people,” but in the case of Germany, that claim has been sorely tested. Ever since the horrors of the death camps were exposed, the world has been asking how such barbarism could have taken place in a supposedly civilized country. The answer, more often than not, has been to point an accusing finger at the German people, and to mock the “Good Germans”—those ordinary citizens who, though not murderers themselves, made Hitler’s crimes possible because of cowardice and passivity.

“This tendency to ascribe mass accountability, however, has obscured an important fact: There really were good Germans—incredibly brave men and women who risked their lives, and even gave them, to save their country from cataclysmic ruin. There were far too few, to be sure, but it’s these people who represented Germany at its best, and should not be forgotten.

“Among the noblest was Claus, Count von Stauffenberg, a Colonel who led a daring conspiracy to overthrow Hitler, and came very close to succeeding. Stauffenberg came from an aristocratic Catholic family whose love of God, Germany, and European culture led him to break with the Third Reich, after initially serving it. In fact, Stauffenberg—who lost an eye, half an arm, and two fingers fighting in North Africa—was actually slow to join the resisters. But when he did, he went further than any of them, placing himself, literally, on the frontlines. Stauffenberg’s attempt to assassinate Hitler on July 20, 1944—the last of over a dozen such efforts—is now the stuff of legend: Having achieved privileged access to Hitler, he was able to plant a bomb, inside a suitcase, next to the dictator during a military briefing at Hitler’s Wolf’s Lair compound, shortly after noon that day. After the bomb exploded, Stauffenberg, certain that Hitler had been killed, raced back to Berlin to set in motion “Operation Valkyrie,” a plan utilizing the German Home Army to erect a new anti-Nazi government. Ironically, Valkyrie had originally been approved by Hitler himself, to restore order, in the event of an emergency; but Stauffenberg and his allies ingeniously devised a strategy to use the plan against the Fuhrer. But, as one of the conspirators presciently warns Stauffenberg in the film, “This is a military operation—nothing ever goes according to plan.” The bomb did kill four, but not Hitler, and when he emerged a short time later, speaking defiantly on German radio, the would-be coup collapsed: Stauffenberg and his allies were rounded up and immediately executed; many of their relatives and friends would soon suffer the same fate. At the time of the operation, Stauffenberg knew there was only a small chance of success, but felt compelled to act nonetheless: “Even worse than failure is to yield to shame and coercion without a struggle.” Had he succeeded, millions of lives could have been saved in the remaining months of the War….