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Valkyrieby Phil Von Boeselager
Synopses & Reviews
When the Second World War broke out, Philipp Freiherr von Boeselager, age twenty-five, fought for his country enthusiastically as a cavalry officer. His rearing on the family estate in the Rhineland had instilled in him a strong Catholic faith, a reverence for the fatherland, and a love of horsemanship and the hunt. And so, like his brother Georg, he accepted a commission when the call came to restore the pride Germany had lost in the humiliating peace of Versailles.
Soon, however, beyond the regimented and honor-bound world of the cavalry, von Boeselager would discover what shocking brutality the SS was perpetrating at the behest of the Third Reichs highest authorities. When, in the summer of 1942, he heard that five Roma had been killed in cold blood, von Boeselagers patriotism quickly turned to disgust. Under his commanding officer, Field Marshal von Kluge, Philipp and his brother joined a group of conspirators in a plot to kill Adolf Hitler and Heinrich Himmler.
It was planned that Philipp would shoot both the Führer and Himmler in the officers casino during a camp inspection visit, but when that attempt had to be aborted at the last moment, the plotters resolved to use a bomb to assassinate Hitler alone. Once von Boeselager had delivered the explosives to Claus von Stauffenberg, a leader of the plot, he and Georg led an unauthorized retreat of cavalry units from the eastern front, a surreal night maneuver indelibly described here. The mission: to take control of Berlin and effect the coup detat.
When the bomb failed to kill Hitler, the SS launched a terrifying purge of senior army officers. The von Boeselager brothers barely managed to return with their units to the eastern front in time to escape detection. One by one their fellow plotters were found out, tortured, and executed, but steadfast in their cause, they never gave up the von Boeselagers names. Georg would eventually fall in battle on the Russian front, but Philipp survived the war.
In this elegant but unflinching testimony, Philipp von Boeselager, until his death in 2008 the last surviving member of the plot code-named Valkyrie, gives voice to the spirit of the small but determined band of men whose sense of justice and honor could not be dissolved by the diabolical glamour of the Third Reich. Here is an invaluable new perspective on one of the most fascinating near misses of twentieth-century history.
"The July 20, 1944, plot to kill Hitler has received much historical attention from historians (and lately from Hollywood, in the recent eponymous film starring Tom Cruise), and this slim volume adds a little to that literature. As a rare firsthand memoir by a participant, this narrative gives a personal account of the events and conspirators' motives. The first half of the book is less thriller than an account of von Boeselager's military exploits leading a German cavalry division on the Russian front, and illustrates his growing disillusionment with the Nazi regime. He and his brother Georg, a fellow army leader and co-conspirator, were persuaded to join the plot co-hatched by Col. Henning von Tresckow. Readers already familiar with the history of Valkyrie will gain an insider's perspective, the portrait of a man of honor and independent mind, but readers new to the subject may want to read this along with histories of the plot. 17 photos." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
In this memoir, Philipp Freiherr von Boeselager says he didn't know about Nazi misdeeds as a young soldier-recruit in Germany during the 1930s. Yes, the Catholic Church, to which the aristocratic Boeselagers belonged, had denounced Nazism, but Philipp paid little attention. He did find out about Kristallnacht, the rampage against Jewish shops; but he and his fellow soldiers were sure that "the generals... Washington Post Book Review (read the entire Washington Post review) would act" to punish the hooligans. Otherwise, his cavalry regiment, he writes, "was hermetically sealed off from much of the outside world." But in 1942, Boeselager was witness to a horrific conversation in which a general calmly announced that he often ordered Jews and Gypsies to be shot without trial — that, indeed, liquidating them was his mission. "This incident changed my view of the war," Boeselager recalls. He realized that the atrocities he'd been hearing about weren't isolated episodes but that "the state, as a whole, was riddled with vice and criminality." He and his brother Georg joined in a conspiracy, code-named Valkyrie, to save Germany by assassinating Hitler. The plot failed, but Boeselager survived the resulting purge of the army. Before his death in 2008, Boeselager sat for long conversations with Florence and Jerome Fehrenbach, and together they produced "Valkyrie," which tells the real-life story behind the Tom Cruise movie of the same name. At the end, Boeselager lays out the three rules he tried to follow in his life: "to keep my political conscience awake, to respond to the call, and also to know how to say no." Dennis Drabelle is a Washington Post book critic. Reviewed by Dennis Drabelle, Washington Post Book World (Copyright 2006 Washington Post Book World Service/Washington Post Writers Group)
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The only firsthand account of the failed German military plot to kill Hitler--told by one of the key conspirators--gives eloquent voice to the courageous spirit of the men whose honor could not be dimmed by the diabolical propaganda of the Third Reich.
About the Author
Philipp Freiherr von Boeselager was born in Bonn, Germany, in 1917, the fifth of nine children. He was raised with a liberal education, strong moral and religious values, and a love of hunting. In 1938, he enlisted and was placed in the cavalry regiment. He rose to the rank of commanding lieutenant, only to join the German resistance in 1941. His participation in Valkyrie went undetected, and he lived to be the last surviving member of the plot. In 2003, France awarded von Boeselager the Legion of Honor. He died on May 1, 2008.
Florence Fehrenbach is the granddaughter of Karl von Wendt, a coconspirator and close friend of Philipp von Boeselager. She and her husband, Jérôme Fehrenbach, convinced Boeselager, at the age of eighty-nine, to recount his experience.
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