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.
From the Hardcover edition.
When the Second World War broke out, Philipp Freiherr von Boeselager, then 25-years-old, fought enthusiastically for Germany as a cavalry officer. But after discovering Nazi crimes, von Boeselager’s patriotism quickly turned to disgust, and he joined a group of conspirators who plotted to kill Adolf Hitler and Heinrich Himmler. In this elegant but unflinching memoir, von Boeselager gives voice to the spirit of the small but determined band of men who took a stand against the Third Reich in what culminating in the failed “Valkyrie” plot—one of the most fascinating near misses of twentieth-century history.
Translation of: Nous voulions tuer Hitler: le dernier survivant du complot du 20 juillet 1944.
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.