David Irving


He Who Rides a Tiger

August 1944 saw many of the intricate problems facing Hitler solved of their own accord, though not as he had wished.  When September arrived, he no longer had to concern himself with Petain’s puppet government in France, for France was lost ;  nor with keeping Finland and Romania in the alliance, for both had defected ;  nor with impressing Turkey, for she had bowed to the enemy’s pressure and broken off diplomatic relations with Germany.  In Europe, Hungary alone remained an ally of any substance ;  but Admiral Horthy too regarded Germany as doomed, and had begun tactical maneuvering to regain his country’s lost sovereignty—once again evoking from Hitler the warning that Germany and her allies were in one boat and there could be no disembarking in mid-tempest.  Or as he put it in another context—reading Kaltenbrunner’s reports on the renegades of July 20—“He who rides a tiger will find he can’t dismount.”

In France, the American breakthrough succeeded at Avranches.  In the east the Red Army reached the Baltic on August 1, cutting off General Sch–rner’s entire Army Group North from East Prussia.  Russian troops were only an hour’s drive from Hitler’s headquarters.  In Italy, the British occupied Florence.  In Warsaw, a fresh uprising broke out.

Hitler fought a gigantic delaying action, but his health was now uncertain.  General Heinz Guderian—the new Chief of General Staff thus had a free hand.  Hitler was disposed to accept this modern general’s advice, for Guderian was born at Culm and it was his own homeland he was now defending ;  his forefathers had farmed West Prussian soil since the seventeenth century, and even now his wife was living in Hohensalza, close enough to hear the rumble of distant gunfire from the Warsaw front.  “May the F¸hrer’s faith in you persist,” she wrote him on July 30, “so that you really get the opportunity to go to work.”  “And so that you can save Germany’s East,” she added a few days later, “and our newfound ancestral homeland stays in our hands.”

Guderian thrived on tough decisions.  He was appalled at the neglect of the frontier defenses and issued dramatic orders for their renovation on July 27.  “All eastern Germany must become a fortress in depth.”  Local Gauleiters and military commanders were to work together on the rapid construction of defensive positions—the Pilica line, the Narev-Bobr line, and the Vistula line from Warsaw northward to Danzig, with well-armed bridgeheads east of the most important cities along the river.  Guderian signed these orders with Hitler’s name ;  the F¸hrer grumbled but allowed them to pass.  A Russian invasion of East Prussia or the Upper Silesian industrial region would bring psychological disaster in its train.  Indeed, now Hitler claimed to find positive advantages in the shrinking of his eastern empire—for it was the sheer distance of the eastern front of 1942 that had proved its undoing.  Hundreds of thousands of men and women, young and old, began digging antitank trenches running southward from Stolp, across ripening harvest fields and farms.  In Pomerania, seventy thousand women volunteered.  Nothing had been done in the ancient fortresses of K–nigsberg and Lotzen ;  Guderian soon had them bristling with minefields and captured guns.  Moreover, word of Hitler’s presence in East Prussia was spread from mouth to mouth.  Thus the miracle was achieved :  the Red Army was halted at Augustov and Grodno, and Field Marshal Model’s emaciated Army Group Center, with its fewer than forty divisions, undertrained and exhausted, withstood for a while the weight of one-third of the entire Soviet forces—143 rifle divisions, 19 rifle brigades, 12 cavalry divisions, and a host of armored brigades and regiments mustering over 2,000 tanks along its four-hundred-mile front line.

In Warsaw, astride the main access routes to Army Group Center, the Polish underground army rose in arms against the Germans as soon as the Russians showed across the river.  Himmler came at once to Hitler.  “Mein F¸hrer,” he orated with determined optimism, “the moment is an awkward one, but viewed historically what the Poles are doing is a blessing.  We’ll survive the next five or six weeks.  But by then Warsaw, the capital, the brains, the nerve center of this former sixteen- or seventeen-million-strong nation of Poles, will have been wiped out—this nation that has barred our passage to the east for seven centuries and lain foul of us ever since the first Battle of Tannenberg.”  The Reichsf¸hrer ordered the total destruction of the city ;  it was to be burned down and blown up block by block.  SS General von dem Bach-Zelewski fought a cruel battle against the partisans ;  but the Poles’ commander, General Bor-Komorowski, was every inch his equal and rejected every demand to surrender, despite the around-the-clock bombardment of the city by 600-millimeter artillery and despite the dawning realization that the Russian relief attack across the river would not come in time.  “I wish we had a multitude of men like General Bor,” exclaimed Himmler on September 21, and when the last Polish insurgents finally surrendered ten days later, he ordered that Bor be treated well.

In Finland voices could again be heard in Parliament demanding an armistice.  The Red Army had reached Tukkum on the Gulf of Riga, thus cutting off Sch–rner’s Army Group North.  The importance the Russians attached to destroying Hitler’s position in the north was clear from the appeals by Moscow radio urging his generals to defect while there was still time.  It was to General Kinzel, the army group’s Chief of Staff, that Stauffenberg and Beck had issued late on July 20 the “order” to retreat immediately.  A catastrophe would have befallen the army group ;  bereft of artillery and ammunition it would have been devoured.  But evidently the Berlin dissidents had failed to win any frontline commanders to their cause.

Hitler’s major worry on this account was the German generals in Moscow.  The OKW warned every headquarters of repeated cases in which unfamiliar officers in German uniforms and with valid identity cards had issued damaging orders to the troops.  This became a standard explanation for each fresh reverse.  “The Bolsheviks grow more useless every day,” complained Sch–rner in a private letter to Hitler.  “Recent days’ prisoners range from fourteen-year-olds to old men.  But what is astounding is the sheer hordes of human beings. . . .”  Hitler had prepared calmly for the army group’s temporary isolation :  on July 12 he had already instructed the admiralty to coordinate the seaborne supplies to any such enclave.  Sch–rner shared his confidence.  He had ruthlessly stripped the entire command area of soldiers and packed them into the combat zone.  “I am convinced the enemy is staking everything on one card,” he wrote.  “I am convinced that ... what matters now is to survive this phase of the battle, then we shall have won.”  Guderian had planned a counterattack in August, confident that it would restore land contact to Sch–rner (and it did).

By early August, Army Group North-Ukraine had also weathered its crisis.  The Soviet attack in mid-July had extended on the twenty-third to the sector of the First Hungarian Army, putting the headquarters unit to an unseemly flight which was only just halted forward of the Hungarian frontier.  The Germans conceded that “German troops also gave way in places, which is attributed to the failings of individual commanders and the infiltration of panic-mongers and saboteurs from Russia.”  A few days later the army personnel branch recommended that in the future the families of German traitors should be punished, as a deterrent ;  Hitler approved the recommendation.

Farther south, Army Group South-Ukraine had been becalmed since the rout of April 1944, when it had fallen back on Romanian territory.  At that time General Sch–rner had bitterly rebuked the OKW’s General Erich Hansen—the military liaison to Marshal Antonescu—for the inadequate provision made to receive the struggling army group.  The military chaos, the refugees, the abandoned equipment, and above all the added financial burden on the Romanian economy put a strain on German-Romanian relations.  Hansen was nearly sixty and what Guderian described as “a man of General Beck”;  but he had Antonescu’s confidence, and thus Hitler refused Sch–rner’s repeated recommendations for a replacement.  As he later in August told General Alfred Gerstenberg, the Luftwaffe commander of the Romanian oil regions :  “We are staking all we’ve got.  If we lose the oil regions, we cannot win the war.”

General Guderian had transferred six panzer and four infantry divisions away from Army Group South-Ukraine, and he had sent Sch–rner to Army Group North, where his particular skills were urgently needed.  This brought Marshal Antonescu protesting to Rastenburg on August 5.  Guderian—speaking French, for the marshal spoke no German—explained the military situation.  Hitler spoke through his interpreter to Antonescu for hours on end, assuring him that the Stauffenberg putsch was of no importance, that impressive new German tanks and guns were under construction, that a new explosive “at the experimental stage” was capable of killing everybody within two miles of its point of impact, that he had failed to keep his promise about the Crimea and Ukraine because of “traitors” in the General Staff who had encouraged the decay of the lines of communication, and that pro-Soviet traitors had also procured the collapse of Army Group Center.  But Antonescu was disturbed at the growing financial burden of enemy air raids on Romania—particularly now that the enemy might begin using Turkish airfields—and the discussion was sometimes heated.  He assured Hitler that his army was completely loyal to him, that “he would remain at Germany’s side and be the last country to abandon the Reich”;  but Hitler mistrusted King Michael as he mistrusted every monarch.

It was a warm summer’s day as Hitler took leave of Antonescu.  He did not drive to the airfield with him, but as the column of cars moved off he suddenly stepped forward and called out in German, “Antonescu !  Antonescu !  On no account set foot inside the king’s castle !”  Antonescu had not understood him and stopped the car.  Hitler repeated, “Don’t go into the king’s castle !”  A sudden instinct had warned him that he might otherwise not see Antonescu again.

Before July was over, Himmler’s drastic measures had provided the army with forty new reserve battalions, of which thirty were earmarked for Army Group North alone.  The new divisions were divisions with a difference ;  they were now called Volksgrenadier divisions, for Himmler had obtained Hitler’s approval to raise a People’s Army which would eventually supplant and replace the army of Hans von Seeckt, Werner von Fritsch, and Walther von Brauchitsch—which he identified only with obstructionism, defeatism, and retreat.  The Himmler divisions were designed to attract German youth untainted by the spirit of the older generation.  Whereas General Fromm had grudgingly furnished Hitler with 60,000 new soldiers a month, by mid-August Himmler had already raised 450,000 new troops, and 250,000 more recruits were already in the barracks.

When Bormann assembled the Gauleiters at Posen on August 3, Himmler boasted of his prowess as the new de facto Commander in Chief of the army.  He boasted too of having prepared since Stalingrad for such a putsch as the one on July 20, insisting for example on a separate training ground for the SS in Lausitz, near Berlin.  But he could not explain how the rambling, ill-concealed Stauffenberg network had escaped his scrutiny.  Speer then spoke of how future arms production would restore Germany’s freedom of action and air supremacy by December.  Production of the excellent MPi 44 submachine gun would increase fivefold to 100,000 a month ;  of tanks from 1,680 to 3,200 ;  of V-1 flying bombs from 3,000 to 9,000 ;  and of fighter aircraft from 2,927 to 4,800.(1)

Thus encouraged, the Gauleiters came to hear Hitler speak on August 4.  He was still unwell—at times he felt dizzy and there was a ringing in his ears (tinnitus aurium).  One diarist wrote :  “The F¸hrer walked in very slowly and stiffly, and proffered only his left hand ;  but later, when he began his speech, he loosened up and became more lively.”  No transcript has survived, but he evidently disclosed that he had set up an Army Court of Honor under Rundstedt to discharge the conspirators from the Wehrmacht so that they could be tried by the People’s Court ;  those found guilty would be hanged.  “What annoyed him most was that a clown like Goerdeler had been chosen to succeed him.”  Another diarist, Helmut S¸ndermann, the deputy press chief, wrote :

The speech’s beginning was delayed a bit as the F¸hrer ordered the prepared desk to be removed ;  he had a small table and chair brought, sat down, and began to speak so softly at first that I had difficulty hearing from the back row.  Then his voice rapidly rose.  “I always knew that shots would be fired at me one day from this quarter ;  but I never dreamed the blow would be struck so far below the belt !”  He said he was now “old and shaky,” not because of his fight against Germany’s enemies but because of the perpetual conflict with “this clique which always eluded me.”  This numerically small but highly influential group would have been totally incapable of any real political achievements, as they were wholly out of touch with the broad public.... Now we were in the position of somebody who had been poisoned—if we could surmount this crisis then we would not be dead, but in superb health.  Although he had spoken virtually nothing of substance, his speech had an obvious impact on the Gauleiters.  As the senior man present, [Konstantin] Hierl [leader of the Reich Labor Service] spoke a few words of thanks to the F¸hrer :  “There is only one kind of loyalty.  There is no ‘loyal, more loyal, loyalest.’  There is only ‘loyal,’ and that says everything.”

The F¸hrer’s insomnia had returned, and with it his nervous twitch.  He scoffed at Stauffenberg’s “bungling,” but the injuries to his legs and arms were very painful, and Morell’s treatment of his right elbow—a bandage soaked in acid aluminum acetate—had resulted in dermatitis and pruritis which left it so swollen that he could not sign state documents ;  when unsuspecting frontline generals heartily grasped his right hand he winced at the pain.  Morell was also treating him with massive doses of Ultraseptyl, a sulfonamide-type drug (as Germany had no penicillin);  the other doctors noted with concern that the F¸hrer’s health had begun to deteriorate.  An oxygen bottle now stood permanently hissing in one corner of his bedroom, but still he could not sleep.  One night, just after he had drifted off, the emergency lighting suddenly came on.  “I had to clamber about like a monkey,” he grumbled to his manservant.  “I dragged a table over, but the fixture was right up in the ceiling, and then of course the bulb was so tightly screwed in that it was all I could do to unscrew it.”

An unsettling predicament had confronted him since August 1.  One of the confessed putschists, Lieutenant-Colonel Caesar von Hofacker, had convincingly implicated both Field Marshal von Kluge and the invalid Field Marshal Rommel in the July 20 plot.  The degree of their involvement was uncertain, but neither had reported the conspiracy to Hitler.  Both these officers enjoyed an immense popularity in the army—it would be unthinkable to stand them before the People’s Court.  Hitler decided to wait and see.  He told Guderian :  “Kluge is an accessory, but we cannot dispense with him.”  He sent for Jodl privately on August 1, showed him the Hofacker interrogation report, and indicated that as soon as Rommel had recovered, he would personally question him and then retire him from the army without fuss.  As he said a few weeks later, “He has done the worst possible thing a soldier can do under such circumstances—sought for some way out other than the purely military.”

The Allies had now landed a million and a half troops on the Normandy beachhead.  The attempted British breakthrough from Caumont had been checked ;  but through the breach at Avranches on the coast, at the extreme southwestern end of the German containing line, American armor and troops were pouring into Brittany—General George S. Patton’s Third Army.  To Hitler it seemed that the Americans had suddenly mastered the German knack of exploiting God-given opportunities, but there was an obvious countermove :  if German tanks struck through to the coast again, it would sever the one artery on which Patton’s bold thrust relied.  “We must strike like lightning,” he announced.  “When we reach the sea the American spearheads will be cut off.  Obviously they are trying all-out for a major decision here, because otherwise they wouldn’t have sent in their best general, Patton.  That’s the most dangerous man they have.  But the more troops they squeeze through the gap, and the better they are, the better for us when we reach the sea and cut them of !  We might even be able to eliminate their whole beachhead.  We mustn’t get bogged down with mopping up the Americans that have broken through ;  their turn will come later.  We must wheel north like lightning and turn the entire enemy front from the rear.”  If Hitler’s stroke of genius came off, the Allies would scarcely have time to beat a disorderly retreat to their artificial harbors off the Normandy beaches—and then he, Hitler, could turn his attention to Russia once again.

It was an intoxicating prospect, though with obvious fallacies.  Hitler issued the order for the attack late on August 2.  It was to be spearheaded by General von Funck’s Forty-seventh Panzer Corps.  Hitler planned to employ eight of his nine panzer divisions in Normandy, and a thousand fighter planes.  He sent Jodl’s deputy, General Warlimont, to “sit in” on Kluge’s headquarters personally, and the generals there assured Warlimont that the attack might well succeed.  During the sixth, Hitler drafted a powerfully worded message to Funck’s troops :

The outcome of the Battle for France depends on the success of the attack on the southern wing of the Seventh Army.  Commander in Chief West [Kluge] will have a unique and unrepeatable opportunity of thrusting into a region largely devoid of the enemy, and to change the whole situation thereby.

While the spearheads were thrust boldly through to the sea, fresh panzer divisions were to follow in their wake and wheel north, where they would turn the enemy front in Normandy.  “The utmost boldness, determination, and imagination must inspire every commander down to the lowest levels,” Hitler’s order continued.  “Each man must believe in victory.  The restoration of order in the rear areas and in Brittany can be left until later.”  But in a series of telephone conversations that afternoon General Jodl learned that Kluge was planning to start the attack before midnight, without waiting for the fighter squadrons to arrive.  In addition, only four of the planned eight panzer divisions could be extricated from the battlefield in the north in time, and those that had arrived were still short of tanks and artillery.  So far Funck would command only 75 Mark IV tanks, 70 Mark Vs, and 32 self-propelled assault guns.  Kluge explained that the enemy had already detected their preparations, and he was prepared to take the responsibility for jumping off now even though understrength.

Hitler mistrusted Kluge’s judgment.  Above all, he wanted Kluge to wait for the right weather.  He sent his best infantry general, Walter Buhle—whom he had earmarked as Zeitzler’s eventual successor—by plane to France to influence Kluge, but it was too late :  the half-cocked thrust toward Avranches had already begun by the time Buhle arrived.  The first big town, Mortain, was recaptured by an SS panzer division, but then the fog lifted and a murderous enemy air assault began.  Over a thousand Allied fighter-bombers roamed the battlefield virtually unchecked ;  the Luftwaffe could provide only 300 fighter planes, and by the next day, August 8, only 110 were still in action.  Kluge’s grenadiers unflinchingly faced slaughter by the enemy’s strategic bomber squadrons, but the tanks themselves could proceed no farther.  At eleven that evening Kluge informed Jodl that he had failed.  When General Warlimont reported back from France that day, Hitler terminated his battle narrative with one rasping sentence—as ominous as the judgment the People’s Court passed that same day on Witzleben, Hoepner, and their fellow conspirators :  “The attack failed because Kluge wanted it to fail.”(2)

Kluge’s headquarters warned that the enemy’s objective was becoming plainer every day :  “Target Paris !”

At Hitler’s headquarters the fiasco of Kluge’s first counterattack was openly blamed on the Luftwaffe.  But Reichsmarschall G–ring had not been seen here since July 23, and he still had to introduce to Hitler a successor to the fatally injured Chief of Staff.  Korten’s deputy—an able Bavarian general, Karl Koller—officiated in their absence.  G–ring recognized that his own star was waning.  After the July 20 putsch attempt, Admiral D–nitz had preceded him in a broadcast to the nation, and he was no match for the new Himmler-Bormann-Goebbels triumvirate ;  he had therefore retired to bed, surrounded by medicines.  He eventually named Werner Kreipe as Korten’s successor over the far more capable Koller, although Kreipe was many years the latter’s junior.  Until G–ring had “recovered,” Koller had to bear the brunt of Hitler’s intemperate attacks.  “At every conference the F¸hrer goes on for hours on end about the Luftwaffe,” lamented Koller in his fragmentary shorthand diary on August 8.  “He strongly reproaches the Luftwaffe.  The reasons are our lack of aircraft, technological shortcomings, and noncompletion of the replacement squadrons in the Reich, the Me-262, etc.... How am I to know what claims the Reichsmarschall and General Korten made, or undo the wrongs committed from 1939 to 1942 through the total absence of any planning ?  It’s a hard lot to have to answer for these errors.”

Six squadrons, each of sixty-eight fighters, had been transferred to the Reich for rehabilitation in July ;  now that Hitler ordered Kluge to prepare a second attack on Avranches, a tug-of-war began over these squadrons.  He instructed Jodl late on the eighth to transfer four squadrons to the west by August 12.  Kreipe was horrified and telephoned G–ring and General Galland.  “Both agree with me :  the squadrons aren’t ready, they will sink without trace in the chaos of the west and then they are lost to the home defense.”  (This was sheer shortsightedness, because if the enemy overran France, his intensified bombing operations from French airfields would take more than four extra squadrons of fighters to prevent.)  The next day Hitler increased his demand to six squadrons and ordered Kluge to be ready to attack Avranches again on the eleventh.  “The Forty-seventh Panzer Corps attack failed because it was launched prematurely and was thus too weak, and under weather conditions favoring the enemy.  It is to be repeated elsewhere with powerful forces.”  Kluge was to employ six panzer divisions in a more southwesterly direction than on the seventh ;  and General Hans Eberbach was to be in command instead of Funck (who had been on Fritsch’s staff before the war and therefore could not be trusted).

General Kreipe was finally introduced to Hitler on August 11, and wrote in his diary :  “The F¸hrer has become very bent, with cotton wool in his ears, and frequently trembles uncontrollably ;  one must not shake his hand too violently. ... First the F¸hrer asked me about my career, then spoke at length on the origins of what he called the collapse and failure of the Luftwaffe—primarily the errors of the Reichsmarschall’s technical advisers, who had made overhasty promises about the quality and quantity of new aircraft types.  The air staff had probably also been deceived, and—through negligence or ignorance—made false statements to him on which he [Hitler] had unhappily based his decision.  He mentioned Milch, Udet, and Jeschonnek in this context.”  Kreipe swore to speak only the unadulterated truth to him.

In France, meanwhile, the Goddess of Fortune had eluded Hitler’s grasp and would not return.  Suffice to say that events now overtook General Eberbach.  The force he had assembled invited envelopment by the enemy, and the invitation was accepted.  On the twelfth, the Allies captured Alengon in Eberbach’s rear, and by late on the thirteenth the jaws closing on him—the British and Canadians from Falaise in the north, and the Americans from Argentan—were barely twenty miles apart.  Desperate fighting ensued in the Falaise pocket to prevent the encirclement of the bulk of the German Seventh Army and Eberbach’s Fifth Panzer Army.  Small personal tragedies occurred, hurting Hitler deeply.  Hans Pfeiffer, his one-time adjutant, died in a blazing tank in Normandy.  Hans Junge, the young SS captain who had been his orderly, was struck down by a strafing Spitfire far behind the lines.  Frau Traudl Junge was Hitler’s youngest secretary—he kept the gloomy secret to himself until it was confirmed some days later, then broke it to her in person.  “Ach, child, I am so sorry ;  your husband had a fine character.”  Bormann’s private letters testify to Hitler’s dejection over this one episode.

Field Marshal Kluge’s tactics in Normandy, meanwhile, defied explanation.  Despite Hitler’s clear orders, he was still holding Eberbach’s tank forces too far to the north, thus positively aiding Patton’s encirclement operation.  On August 14 Hitler again ordered Eberbach to attack the American Fifteenth Corps at AlenÁon ;  Kluge was to use the Nineteenth Army to defend the Mediterranean coast of France against the invasion now known to be imminent there as well.(3)  Patton’s tanks were already roaming across Brittany.  The fortress commandant of Saint-Malo—a port Hitler had ordered strongly defended—radioed :  “The enemy is putting German prisoners on his tanks so as to get close to our strongpoints.”  A Luftwaffe general attending Hitler’s midday conference recorded :  “Tense atmosphere.  Fegelein [Himmler’s liaison officer to Hitler] dropped hints that even more generals and field marshals are involved in July 20.”  That afternoon Heinrich Himmler, conferring alone with Hitler in the now restored conference barracks where Stauffenberg’s bomb had exploded, arrived with still firmer proof that both Kluge and Rommel had been in the anti-Hitler conspiracy up to their necks.  Late that evening, news reached Hitler’s conference that the invasion of the French Riviera was underway.

Thus August 15, 1944, arrived.  “The worst day of my life,” Hitler subsequently admitted.  It brought one of the war’s great unsolved riddles.  At the morning conference the news was that the Americans had started their big attack on the Falaise pocket, and the fate of Eberbach’s panzer divisions was in the balance ;  but Field Marshal von Kluge had disappeared.  He had ostensibly set out to confer with Eberbach on whether to abandon the panzer attack on AlenÁon.  But he had not arrived, and an enemy radio signal was monitored asking where Kluge was !  Was it coincidence that Major General Henning von Tresckow and so many other leading conspirators of July 20 had served under Kluge in Russia until 1943 ?  The clouds of suspicion suddenly loomed up.  As evening came, Hitler learned that Kluge’s radio truck had been silent since last signaling at 9:30 A.M., and neither Eberbach, nor SS General Hausser, nor SS General Sepp Dietrich had seen him.  Either he was dead, gunned down like Hans Junge by a strafing aircraft—or he was at that very moment secretly negotiating the surrender of the entire western front to the enemy.  “To change our destiny by surrendering to the British and joining forces against Russia—what an idiotic notion !”  Hitler scoffed a few days later.  From his own sources he had long decided that Churchill had sold out the Balkans and all Europe east of the river Elbe—if not indeed the Weser—to Stalin.  He had recently described Britain’s standpoint as “AprËs moi le dÈluge—if only we can get rid of the hated National Socialist Germany.”

At 7:30 P.M. on August 15 Hitler ordered SS General Hausser to take over Army Group B and stop the enemy onrush threatening to envelope the Fifth Panzer Army.  Kluge was still missing.  Hitler spent a sleepless night, swallowed fresh sedatives to no avail at 6 A.M., and asked for a doctor again at eleven.  He learned that Eberbach’s HQ had reported Kluge’s arrival late that night in the heart of the Falaise pocket ;  there was no explanation of where he had been all day.

Hitler could trust him no longer, and he radioed the order “Field Marshal von Kluge is to leave the danger area immediately for Fifth Panzer Army HQ, from which he is to direct the withdrawal movement.”  (From outside the pocket, Kluge could no longer secretly contact the Allies.)  Field Marshal Model, to whom Hitler had only the day before pinned the Diamonds award for his magnificent reconstruction of Army Group Center, and who was already back at the eastern front, was now recalled to the Wolf’s Lair and secretly appointed Kluge’s successor.  His instructions were to build up a new front in France as far forward of the Seine-Yonne line as possible, using to that end divisions evacuated from southern France step by step (any other line would mean the loss of the French coast and the V-1 launching sites).

Model was sent by plane to Kluge with a sealed letter ordering him back to Germany.  He arrived unannounced at Kluge’s headquarters late on the seventeenth and immediately issued orders which resulted three days later in the almost unhoped-for escape of the main German forces from the Falaise encirclement.  Kluge returned to his native village—but in a coffin, having been killed on the nineteenth by a cerebral hemorrhage, according to the army doctors.  Hitler, thwarted of his prey, ordered a second autopsy ;  but even Model’s doctors again reported natural causes.  According to his Chief of Staff, General Blumentritt, Kluge had been shocked by the failure of his counterattack on Avranches on August 7 and upset by Hitler’s reproaches ;  he had sent his son into the Falaise pocket with the words “Let nobody accuse me of sparing my son and heir”;  on the road to NÈcy, the prearranged rendezvous with Eberbach and Hausser on the fifteenth, Kluge had seen four of his staff killed when their radio truck was strafed—hence, apparently, the day-long silence on his movements.  Blumentritt had last seen him on the eighteenth, tapping a battle chart and moaning, “Avranches, Avranches !  This town has cost me my reputation as a soldier.  I’ll go down in history as the Benedeck of the western front.(4)  D’you know Count Moltke’s book on Benedeck ?  I did my best, but that’s fate for you.”  It seemed that an aged field marshal had faded away, his heart worn out by the burden of being both Commander in Chief West and Commander of Army Group B.  Hitler allowed preparations for a state funeral to proceed ;  but mistrustfully he ordered SS doctors to stage yet a third autopsy, and meanwhile the death was to remain a state secret.

American forces had reached the Seine on August 18 and were only thirty-six miles from Paris.  The German army was in full flight across the river, by barge, pontoon bridge, and raft, abandoning its heavy gear to the enemy in a panicstricken scramble for the German frontier.  Some German soldiers blamed the lack of fuel and motor transportation for the German defeat in France ;  others, the age and indolence of their commanders.  The Luftwaffe’s General Koller returned from Paris with grim reports on the moral decay of the army after four years of occupation and a carefree life as demigods.

Hitler had foreseen that all this would happen if the Normandy front collapsed ;  his generals had their “war of movement” with a vengeance.  On the nineteenth he called in Keitel, Speer, and Jodl and soberly ordered them to lay the material foundations for a new western army, as he was planning a great counteroffensive in November when the enemy air forces would be grounded by bad weather.  Twenty-five divisions must be raised and equipped for this.  (Thus was born the Ardennes offensive of December.)

Martin Bormann steered most of the odium for the defeat onto the Luftwaffe.  G–ring was still malingering, and Hitler asked caustically how long the Reichsmarschall’s illness might be expected to last ;  not until August 26 did G–ring reappear at the Wolf’s Lair, after an absence of five weeks.  Meanwhile Bormann, aided by Goebbels, had initiated a “Luftwaffe Scandals” file to which the Gauleiters contributed profusely.  Bombs had been shunted out of bombproof stores to make room for contraband from Italy and Greece.  At Rechlin, the main experimental airfield, a technician tipped off Bormann that a villa was being built for the commandant at Lake Ammersee at Luftwaffe expense and that Luftwaffe workmen were flying down to Bavaria each weekend to finish the job.  G–ring’s sacked deputy, Milch, was accused of having fostered bad aircraft and aeroengine projects for the sake of old Lufthansa business cronies.  Gauleiter Hartmann Lauterbacher reported that four hundred flying instructors and pupils who had volunteered for an immediate special Reich-defense mission had been idle ever since.  In Italy, General Maximilian Ritter von Pohl’s staff had swollen while his squadrons had diminished ;  his officers were said to be idling in luxury hotels, with ample cigarettes, cognac, and coffee, or lazing on beaches with their female personnel.

Small wonder that Hitler unfavorably compared the Luftwaffe’s squandering of manpower with the way that Himmler had conjured up new battalions for the army.  Air Chief of Staff General Kreipe could not even find out how many men were in the Luftwaffe.  Hitler began to think of dissolving the entire Luftwaffe and building up the antiaircraft defenses instead.  On August 17 he had angrily telephoned Kreipe and instructed him to replace Field Marshal Sperrle, the fat Luftwaffe commander in France, by General Dessloch ;  it was typical of Hitler to have delayed this decision until now, when it was too late.  The future of the Messerschmitt 262 jet was again debated.  The first jet bomber squadron was still to enter service ;  G–ring, Kreipe, Speer, and Galland all wanted the Me-262 used as a fighter after all.  But now the enemy’s bombing of the oil plants had reduced aviation fuel supplies to a trickle.  The bombproof refineries would not begin operating until March 1945, but by December the OKW fuel reserve would have been consumed.  Small wonder that Hitler began complaining of splitting headaches to his doctors ;  the ringing in his ears just would not stop.

On August 20, 1944, the Red Army launched its main offensive of the late summer on General Friessner’s army group on the Romanian frontier—twenty-seven German and twenty Romanian divisions on a three-hundred-mile front from the Carpathians to the Black Sea.  Within three days the Sixth Army would be all but encircled here, but Hitler’s eyes were still on France.  In Paris, armed partisan bands had risen against the German garrison.  General Dietrich von Choltitz, the arrogant, feckless military commander Hitler had only recently appointed in place of General Hans von Boineburg—who had allowed the capital to decay into a rotten Etappenstadt of draft dodgers, malingerers, and army scroungers—asked the insurgents for a three-day armistice to prevent harm from coming to life, limb, or the capital.  The insurgents agreed, Choltitz withdrew his pitifully few troops to the east bank of the Seine, and then, to his injured surprise, the uprising began again the next day.  Paris, however, was vital both militarily and politically, and Hitler had emphatically demanded its defense in an order of the twentieth ;  and not just the city, but a cordon well outside the city.  Every Seine bridge between Paris and the sea had been destroyed ;  Hitler ordered those intact in Paris heavily defended by antiaircraft guns.  If, however, the bridges fell undemolished into enemy hands—and Choltitz had not even mined them yet—then the enemy could prise open Hitler’s coastal defenses from the rear and rob him of his V-1 launching sites as well.  “In all history the loss of Paris has meant the loss of France,” Hitler reminded Model in an order on August 22.  “Inside the city the first signs of revolt are to be harshly put down, e.g., by blowing up entire street blocks, by public execution of the ringleaders, or by evacuation of any districts involved, as only this will stop things getting out of hand.  The Seine bridges are to be prepared for demolition.  Paris must not fall into enemy hands—or if it does, then only as a field of ruins.”

Where previously he had relied on his army generals, now Hitler leaned increasingly on his trusted Party comrades—particularly on Martin Bormann and Heinrich Himmler, both of whom took to attending the regular war conferences.  It was Bormann who mobilized the Gauleiters and Reich officials to construct deep frontier defenses in the west.  When Hitler’s two southeastern commanders, Weichs and L–hr, came for a conference on August 22, Himmler was also inexplicably hovering in the background.  Weichs had brought news of a remarkable rapprochement between General Nedic, the puppet prime minister of Serbia, and Draza Mihajlovic, leader of the Cetnik guerrillas, who proposed to unite in the face of the threat to the Serbs posed by Tito’s Communist partisans ;  together they had offered to help Hitler in the Balkans if he would provide the necessary ammunition—three million rounds—and allow them to raise an army of fifty thousand men from the Cetniks.  Weichs admitted that these two men would have 90 percent of the Serbs behind them and proposed a modified acceptance of their terms—perhaps a quarter of a million rounds and six thousand troops at first.  All Hitler’s latent Austrian resentment against the Serbs welled up within him.  “The Serbs are the only eternally consistent people in the Balkans,” Jodl’s diary quoted him as warning.  “They alone have the strength and the ability to keep pursuing their pan-Serbian aims.”  Hitler’s experiences in arming helpful friends and neighbors had chastened him ;  too often the ammunition had ended up in the bodies of German troops.  He would therefore permit the new experiment proposed by Weichs on only the smallest scale.

Joseph Goebbels came the next day to confer with Hitler and Bormann.  All Germany’s erstwhile allies were scampering off the sinking ship.  On August 17, Keitel had decorated Marshal Mannerheim with a high German award ;  but Mannerheim had pointedly responded that the Finnish people had made him president in place of Ryti because they objected to the latter’s pro-German policies.  This gave the marshal “a free hand.”

On the southern Russian front, Marshal Rodion Malinovski’s armies were pouring into Romania.  Far into the night Hitler—his inflamed sinuses preventing sleep—conferred from his bed with Generals Guderian and Jodl.  He trusted Marshal Antonescu, but not the Romanian army ;  indeed, only recently he had secretly authorized General Friessner to withdraw Army Group South-Ukraine to the obvious best line—from Galatz on the Danube to the Carpathians—the instant the Russians attacked.  But to say that the Romanian divisions were failing would be a euphemism.  Friessner’s Chief of Staff wrote :  “It was obvious they were deliberately not fighting, so as to shorten the war.”  As Friessner fell back, Hitler obviously felt he could defend the new line and the vital oil fields, for on August 22 he ordered experts to find out if a seventy-foot-wide canal could be excavated immediately—using hordes of slave laborers—from the Danube to the Black Sea at Constanta ;  because if the Russians could blockade the Danube at its delta, the strategic implications would be vast.  Rumors multiplied—for instance from the air attachÈ in Hungary—that a coup d’etat was imminent in Romania, but the German envoys in Bucharest itself reassured Hitler that all was well.  Hitler rebuked Kreipe on August 21 :  “Your air attachÈs shouldn’t poke their noses into what doesn’t concern them.  The SS report the opposite.” Nonetheless Hitler at last decided to replace General Hansen as his military representative in Bucharest.

Again he was overtaken by the rudeness of events.  He was having tea with his staff in his bunker late that day, August 23, when his Wehrmacht adjutant, Amsberg, called him to the telephone.  A voice announced that Marshal Antonescu had just been arrested after seeking an audience with his king.  Hitler replaced the receiver and commented to Amsberg :  “Why on earth didn’t he listen to me !  I knew this would happen !”  Shortly afterward, Romanian radio broadcast a proclamation by King Michael :  “The Romanian government has accepted the armistice offered by Russia and the United Nations.”  The Allies had promised to restore Transylvania to Romania, to guarantee her independence, and to fight side by side with her against the Hungarian dictatorship.  The king ordered his forces not to open hostilities with the German Wehrmacht, however.  This was cold comfort for Hitler, for much of his current oil requirements were met from the Romanian wells.  But his men in Bucharest were not men of action—indeed, as in Warsaw and Paris, the German agencies were scattered throughout the capital of Romania and the surrounding country with a blithe disregard for a potential emergency such as this ;  the embassy’s radio station was in a distant suburb, which left Hitler reliant on the ancient Romanian telephone service.  Kreipe wrote that evening :  “Telephone conversation with Ambassador [Manfred] von Killinger, and Gerstenberg [the Luftwaffe attachÈ] in Bucharest.  Both trapped in the legation, Killinger a complete wreck, sends greetings to the F¸hrer.  Gerstenberg suggests dive-bomber attack and using the [German] antiaircraft division at Ploesti to seize the city !  I phone Hitler several times, he approves Gerstenberg’s proposals, demands the arrest of the king.  Contact established with Bucharest once more, then interrupted.”

From 9:45 P.M. until far into the night Hitler’s headquarters issued orders to Friessner’s army group and General Hansen—still the German military representative in the Bucharest legation.  Friessner was to prepare for a German takeover of the oil fields and plan means for getting the oil to the Reich.  Every German serviceman in Romania was placed at his disposal.  Hansen was to put down the putsch, the Fifth Antiaircraft Division at Ploesti was to occupy the capital as Gersternberg had suggested, and Admiral Brinkmann was to seize the Black Sea harbor of Constanta.  A pro-Nazi Romanian general was to be appointed head of the government.  Friessner promptly dismissed Hansen and commanded Gerstenberg to execute Hitler’s orders.

Hitler began his delayed evening war conference at 2 A.M. and afterward again discussed the wholly altered Balkan situation with Field Marshal von Weichs.  He had decided to abandon Greece to the enemy the moment they attacked, particularly the Peloponnesus.(5)  He would shift his Schwerpunkt to northern Greece.  This made it vital to prevent the Bulgarians—whose defection was clearly only hours away—from seizing the railway line from Nis to Skoplje for the Allies, as this was the only link with Greece.

At 3:30 A.M. Gerstenberg radioed from Ploesti to Hitler’s headquarters :  “Fought my way out and took command in Ploesti together with SS General Hoffmeyer.”  But both Hansen and Killinger had already given up hope.  Their telephone message reached East Prussia an hour later :  “This is no putsch by some court camarilla, but a well-laid coup d’etat from above with the complete backing of the army and people.”  Not one Romanian general sympathetic to Nazi Germany could now be found.  The Romanians controlled the means of communication.  “Given the balance of forces, there is at present no prospect of a military or political success.”  However, Hitler repeated his orders and detailed Ribbentrop to broadcast a proclamation to the Romanians ;  Horia Sima, the leader of the Iron Guard which had with Heydrich’s clandestine backing unsuccessfully attempted to overthrow Antonescu in January 1941—after helping him to power in 1940—would be brought out of German exile, where he had languished then on Antonescu’s insistence, and appointed his successor.

Hitler had ordered Gerstenberg to advance on Bucharest at 6:30 A.M., and five hours later the two thousand antiaircraft troops were at the city’s northern outskirts.  Gerstenberg emphatically disowned Hansen’s gloomy assessment and called down three bombing attacks on the city center.  But he was outnumbered 4 to 1 ;  the Romanians had mined the approach roads and they were bringing up tanks and artillery.  Gerstenburg captured the radio station, but without proper combat troops he could proceed no farther.  Hitler ordered more troops in.  “War conference with the F¸hrer,” a Luftwaffe general wrote at midday.  “Everyone busy with Romania.  Hitler very optimistic, curses SS Intelligence service and foreign ministry, mimicks Ribbentrop.—Goebbels and Bormann also present.”  But the new troops were slow in arriving, and the Romanians were master of their capital still.

The midday conference next day was long and acrimonious.  “Ribbentrop pleads extenuating circumstances, is sure Killinger and Gerstenberg will restore the situation.  Hitler accepts this view.”  Using the bombing attacks as an excuse, the Romanians declared war on Germany on the twenty-fifth.  Hitler transferred General Stahel, the Luftwaffe troubleshooter-general who had had served him well in Sicily and more recently in Vilna and Warsaw, to take command in Bucharest.  But within four days of his arriving in Romania he and Gerstenberg were captives of the Red Army now debouching into the country.  Baron Manfred von Killinger committed suicide as his legation was stormed.

With the now hostile Romanians in the rear, Friessner’s army group collapsed ;  sixteen German divisions were wiped out in the debacle.  Finland and Bulgaria trembled, and from Hungary too came sounds of an imminent earthquake that needed no seismograph for Hitler to detect.

To his war staff Hitler still radiated confidence and dynamism.  A young SS captain, fresh from the street-fighting in Warsaw, who now joined the conferences as Fegelein’s adjutant, jotted down his first impressions on August 27, 1944 :

After supper at 10 P.M. work goes on until 3 A.M. or even later.  Every day I see the F¸hrer for several hours and stand only a pace or two away ;  each day it is the same great experience anew, one I will never forget.  I am filled with the most ineffable admiration of him ;  he is unique as a man, as a politician, as a military commander.  He radiates such a comforting calmness.  But more than once I have heard him speak harshly—and each occasion was when on purpose or sometimes out of ignorance less than the full and brutal truth had been spoken, or even an outright lie.  He seems to sense it at once ;  it is enormously impressive for me.... The F¸hrer is never angry if, as I have myself found several times, you tell him you have to make an immediate inquiry before you can answer a question or questions.  What astounds me again and again is the radiance emanating from the F¸hrer :  I have seen the highest ranking officers come to report laden with problems and worries.  They always leave his presence full of new confidence and hope.

Yet the secret image of Hitler was not always what the public then believed or history has come to accept of him.  The sequel to July 20 provides many examples.  He was revolted by the newsreel film of the People’s Court hearing against Field Marshal Witzleben and the other putschists, and he sent a sharp rebuke to Roland Freisler over his melodramatic and insulting behavior as the judge.  “He is behaving like a ham actor, instead of getting the trial of these common criminals over as quickly as possible,” Hitler told Schaub.  The hangings were also filmed, but Hitler refused to see the films ;  when Fegelein produced photographs of the naked corpses, Hitler irritably tossed the pictures aside.  Helldorf—on his instructions—was required to witness his fellow-conspirators’ execution before his turn came.  Hitler ordered their property sold to benefit the “frontline troops” they had betrayed.  Most remarkable was his instruction to Himmler at the end of August to provide proper monthly subsistence payments to the next-of-kin of the hanged men “to spare them the worst hardships as in the case of the next-of-kin left by those shot after [the R–hm purge of] June 30, 1934.”

About 140 people were executed after July 20, and perhaps 700 more arrested.  Investigations still continued.

Choltitz’s feeble surrender of Paris on August 25 now made it impossible to build a Somme-Marne position in time.  Warsaw, Paris, and now Bucharest had seen disgraceful scenes of German officialdom—and above all Wehrmacht officers—in full flight.  Hitler issued an angry order to his viceroys to prevent any recurrence by evacuating their main staffs immediately from the biggest non-German cities :

Our military and civilian authorities are often living irresponsibly and opulently without the slightest warlike preparations, sometimes even surrounded by their families and female employees.  Defeats at the front coupled with uprisings in the cities result in their being paralyzed the moment a crisis breaks out.  The upshot is that our troops are witness to a panic-stricken headlong flight, encumbered by a disgraceful load of German and alien womenfolk and their own or other people’s ill-gotten goods, streaming across the countryside.

Nothing is more likely to tarnish the image of these German authorities and thus of the Reich in the eyes of our troops and foreign populations.  When their escape is cut off and the German authorities are trapped by the enemy or insurgents, moreover, it is the combat troops who have to go in and risk their own lives to protect them or rescue them from their luxurious quarters.

Shameful word reached Hitler of the scenes of rout and degradation in France.  In one area, five chaotic columns—two of them out in the fields—belonging to five different divisions streamed eastward down the same road toward Belgium or the West Wall.  In another, officers forced their cars past bridge bottlenecks at pistol point, or Luftwaffe trucks laden with furniture and loot pulled out of bases in which irreplaceable radar gear or artillery or ammunition would fall intact into enemy hands.  All the while enemy aircraft leisurely strafed the columns from a hundred feet up with cannon and machine-gun fire.

Scapegoats were sought in Rommel’s old headquarters most of all.  General Speidel, the Chief of Staff, was indicted by several of the putschists as an accomplice, but Model demurred at his release, and two weeks passed before Speidel was turned over to the Gestapo.  Hitler assumed that all Rommel’s associates had become infected by the spirit of July 20.

Kluge’s mortal remains were still at his village church, awaiting burial while rumor and speculation spread.  On August 28, General Burgdorf, chief of army personnel, showed Hitler the long-awaited report on the third autopsy, by SS doctors—and with it a long, penciled letter Kluge had addressed to his F¸hrer.  Martin Bormann noted triumphantly in his diary :

On the evening of August 28, SS General Fegelein disclosed to me that analysis by the RSHA [Reich Main Security Office] has established that Field Marshal Kluge poisoned himself with cyanide !  And that Kluge wrote the F¸hrer a farewell letter, which General Burgdorf handed to him.

Kluge wrote that as a soldier he has drawn the consequences of his defeat, which he had predicted and dreaded all along.  In Kluge’s view Germany’s defeat is inevitable ;  hence the F¸hrer should realize this and act accordingly.

The letter was a strange amalgam of Nazi fanaticism, personal asseverations of loyalty, and defeatism.  The next day cross-examination of Kluge’s nephew in the People’s Court elicited clear proof that the field marshal was linked with the plotters—evidence so damning that a stunned Judge Freisler adjourned the trial to send for Kluge, not realizing that he was long dead.  To Speidel’s successor, General Hans Krebs, Hitler vented his bitter disgust thus :  “Twice I personally promoted him, I gave him the highest medals, a big cash gift to buy an estate, and a supplement to his field marshal’s pay.... Maybe he just slid in, I don’t know ;  maybe he saw no other way out :  he saw one officer after another being arrested, and feared what they might testify.”

Hitler ordered a quiet funeral, with military pallbearers but no other honors.  Now he could interpret the army’s reports on that “blackest day”—August 15—more certainly :  obviously Kluge had tried to contact the enemy, only to have a chance fighter-bomber destroy his only radio truck.  Why else had he stopped halfway and sent off his staff officer, Major Behr, to go on alone to the alleged rendezvous planned with Eberbach and the other generals ?  “It was the purest chance that his plan was not carried out,” Hitler marveled on August 31.  “The army group’s entire actions are explicable only in this light.”  But all of this was only of academic interest now.(6)

Kluge, at sixty-two, had given up the fight ;  Hitler, at fifty-five, would fight on.  “We shall fight on, if need be on the Rhine.  Where, matters not the least to me.  Come what may we will keep fighting this fight until—as Frederick the Great once said—one of our accursed enemies tires of the struggle, and we can get a peace assuring the German nation’s livelihood for the next fifty or a hundred years—and above all a peace that does not drag our honor in the mire as happened in 1918.”

1 Martin Bormann later warned Hitler that several Gauleiters had proof that Speer’s figures were dishonest.  Speer now admits that they were deliberately exaggerated, though justifiably so.

2 The principal cause for the failure of Hitler’s plan, here as elsewhere, was that OKW code signals were being deciphered by the British.

3 Largely by close surveillance of enemy ships passing Gibraltar, the German naval staff deduced that an invasion of southern France was imminent, although most of the evidence gained by German secret agents (i.e., those leftovers of the Canaris era) pointed the other way.  General Charles de Gaulle provided the necessary confirmation in a radio broadcast to France on August 7, boasting that “a mighty French army” (i.e., that in North Africa) would shortly set foot in France.

4 Ludwig von Benedeck commanded the Austrian army crushingly defeated at the Battle of K–niggratz by General Helmuth von Moltke during the Austro-Prussian War (1866).

5 This and his recent secret order to General Friessner again refute the postwar legend that Hitler never voluntarily abandoned territory when it was strategically desirable that he do so.

6 I know of only one clue to the mystery on the Allied side.  In American files is a reported statement of Lieutenant Colonel George R. Pfann, secretary of General Patton’s Third Army General Staff, in 1945.  Pfann explained that Patton had vanished from Third Army HQ for an entire day in mid-August, 1944 ;  when he returned, he stated he had been out to try to make contact with a German emissary, who had not, however, shown up at the appointed place.  On the German side is the CIC interrogation of Kluge’s son-in-law, Dr. Udo Esch (of the German army medical corps), on July 27, 1945.  It was he who had supplied Kluge with the cyanide.  Kluge, said Esch, discussed with him the possibility of surrendering the entire western front.  “He went to the front lines but was unable to get in touch with the Allied commanders.”


p. 680   A minute on Stauffenberg’s telephone call to Army Group North at 7:55 P.M., July 20, is in German army files (T78/352/2592);  Beck himself took the phone, declaring, “To let yourselves be shut in just as in Stalingrad—that is no way to lead an army !”

p. 681   In addition to the German record of Hitler’s meeting with Antonescu there exists the marshal’s own account, published on January 15, 1953, in La Nation Roumaine in Paris.  I also used Guderian’s manuscript (ZS-57), the army conferences with General Garbea (T78/366/8704 et seq.), and—with caution—Professor Andreas Hillgruber’s study of the last months of the German-Romanian alliance in WR, 1957, pages 377 et seq.:  Hillgruber relies perhaps too heavily on Erik Hansen as a source.  Hitler’s warning was witnessed by his adjutant Colonel Erik von Amsberg, whom I interviewed in 1971 ;  and Hitler himself later referred to it, according to Wolf Junge’s manuscript.

p. 682   The diarist was Herbert Backe’s wife.  I also used the account written by Hitler’s deputy press chief Dr. Helmut S¸ndermann—at the time, according to his son.

p. 683   See Jodl’s diary, August 1, 1944.  “5 P.M.:  F¸hrer has me read Kaltenbrunner’s report [dated July 30] on the testimony of Lieutenant Colonel Hofacker about discussions with K[luge] and R[ommel].  F¸hrer is looking for a new Commander in Chief West.  Plans to question R[ommel] after he’s better again and then to retire him without further ado.” Kluge appears to have remained on the sidelines as an interested observer of the conspiracy and little more.  At an emergency conference late on July 20 with St¸lpnagel, Hofacker, and Blumentritt he had dissociated himself from the deed, but he had noticeably failed to report these meetings to the Gestapo investigators.  Salmuth later wrote :  “It became clear to me that Kluge had known what was planned on July 20 when I paid a visit to him the next day, because when I asked him for his view he only answered, ‘Well, it didn’t work out !’ and these few words told me enough.”

p. 684   On Hitler’s and Jodl’s attempts to prevent Kluge launching the Avranches counterattack prematurely, see the war diary of Commander in Chief West, annexes.  That the panzer divisions were unready is clear from the telephone log of the Seventh Army (AL/528/1).

p. 685   General Werner Kreipe’s diary (transcribed by the Americans as MS P-069) and Koller’s papers provide extensive information on Hitler and the Luftwaffe at this stage.

p. 687   Of 192 agents’ reports, only 15 accurately predicted the Allied invasion of southern France.  See the naval staff war diary, August 8, 10, 13, and 15, 1944 ;  and its annex, “Investigation of the Value of R.S.H.A. Intelligence on Enemy Invasion Plans,” October 16, 1944 (PG/32218).

p. 687   Blumentritt stated under British interrogation that Keitel had told him of the intercepted enemy signal to Kluge.  Guderian told much the same to Milch (diary, October 28, 1945) “Kluge tried in France to contact the enemy to surrender, but this misfired. . . . Moreover Kluge is to blame for the false use of the tanks—he seems to have deliberately tried to lead the tank units into the pocket at Falaise !!”  Salmuth also heard of this story from Gauleiter Greiser in January 1945—but dismissed it as “a rumor probably spread by the Party on orders from above.”  I also used a conversation between General Eberbach and Blumentritt on August 19, 1945, recorded by CSDIC, the diary of chief of army personnel, and Blumentritt’s letters to Jodl (AL/1720) and Burgdorf (X-967).

p. 689   Jodl recorded Hitler’s meeting of August 19, 1944, in his diary ;  Buhle—also present—told the OKH artillery branch of Hitler’s intention to raise fourteen new artillery brigades on August 24 :  “By these means a concentration of one thousand guns is to be achieved for a decisive job in the west.”  And, “The armament of the twenty-five divisions demanded is to be German” (T78/269/7521 et seq.)

p. 689   Martin Bormann’s file on “Luftwaffe Scandals” is in the BA Schumacher collection file 315.

p. 690   According to the unpublished manuscript of the Abwehr colonel Friedrich-Wilhelm Heinz on “Canaris and Nicolai” (NA special film ML-690), a trusted crony of Canaris’s placed on Choltitz’s staff persuaded the general to turn over Paris intact to the enemy.  Hitler’s order to the contrary (page 690) is in the annexes both of Army Group B’s war diary and of Commander in Chief West’s war diary.

pp. 691-92   Hitler’s startling—but short-lived—project for a canal is reported by Admiral Voss in the naval staff war diary.

pp. 692-93   My narrative of Antonescu’s overthrow—and Hitler’s attempted countermeasures—relies on the naval staff diary (which is far preferable to the OKW war diary here);  General Hans Friessner’s memoirs, Verratene Schlachten (Hamburg, 1956);  and a report by the Fourth Air Force on events in Romania in 1944, dated February 11, 1945.

p. 693   Hitler’s immediate decision to abandon Greece is recorded in Weichs’s private diary, August 23-24, 1944.  The formal OKW directive followed on August 26 ;  see also OKW war diary, Vol. IV, page 681.

p. 694   Hitler’s rebuke to Freisler is confirmed by Schaub’s unpublished manuscript, by interviews of Heinz Lorenz and Otto G¸nsche in 1967, and by a U.S. Seventh Army interrogation of Dr. Immanuel Sch”ffer of the propaganda ministry in June 1945.  British files contain an account by one of the guards at Pl–tzensee, describing the hangings ;  Helldorf’s grim treatment is described by the Gestapo official Dr. Georg Kiessel in his account of “The Plot of July 20, 1944, and its Origins,” August 6, 1946 (British files), and by SS Captain Otto Prochnow under CSDIC interrogation, March 1946.  The rest is based on Himmler’s letters to Thierack, November 7, 1944 (BDC, SS-4465), and to Lammers and SS General Franz Breithaupt, August 27, 1944 (BDC file 242).  British files list 81 such executions at Pl–tzensee prison after July 20, 1944 ;  a separate list of 130 names altogether also exists.  Kiessel puts the final figure at 140.  There is no support for the figure of “4,890” put about by the Allies in 1945, nor for the New Statesman’s “official estimate” of “over twenty thousand executed.”

p. 696   The original page in Bormann’s handwriting is in OCMH files, Washington (X-967).  Kluge’s penciled letter to Hitler is in London files (ML14/7).  The version published in the OKW war diary, Vol. IV, pages 1574 et seq., is only a translation of an English translation.

p. 696   On the Kluge mystery, see the memo by Colonel Hugh M. Cole, historical officer attached to the U.S. Third Army, in OCMH file X-967 (and Time magazine, June 25, 1945).  According to the CSDIC interrogation of Blumentritt, Kluge’s first reaction to the spurious word of Hitler’s death on July 20, 1944, had been :  “If the F¸hrer’s dead, we ought to get in touch with the people on the other side right away.”  So the idea was not anathema to him.  And note his curious words on the telephone to Blumentritt at 11:55 A.M. on August 16, after his miraculous return from his “vanishing act” the day before :  “Pass word up to the top that I’m now ‘back from abroad’ again and that I didn’t let the reins of government out of my hands for one instant” (war diary, Commander in Chief West, annex 1450).