Born 15th November 1907 in Jettingen near Ulm to a distinguished, aristocratic, Roman Catholic family. He was well educated with a love of literature, but eventually took up a military career in 1926. When the National Socialists came to power he found many aspects of their ideology repugnant though he did not oppose the concept of nationalism. He felt strongly that the ‘Kristallnacht’ of November 1938 had brought great shame on Germany and encouraged by his uncle, Nikolaus Graf von Üxküll, and guided by his conscience and religious convictions, he began to consider joining the resistance movement, though like all German soldiers, he had pledged allegiance to Hitler himself, which created a dilemma, as it did for many others.
In 1943 Stauffenberg was promoted to Obersleutnant i.G and went to Africa to join the 10th Panzer Division, part of Irwin Rommel’s (1) Afrikakorps, as it’s First Officer General Staff. While out scouting for new command positions he was strafed by British fighter-bombers and was seriously wounded, losing his right eye, his left hand and the fourth and fifth fingers of his left hand. After three months in hospital he was sent home for rehab. To Lautlingen. After recuperating from his wounds he was posted as a Staff Officer to the Erzatzheer, located in Bendrerstrasse, Berlin. Here he worked with General Friedrich Olbricht, a committed member of the resistance movement and was now in a position to launch a coup.
The attempt took place at the Führer’s briefing hut at the military high command Wolfsschanze near Rastenburg East Prussia (today Kętrzyn, Poland) on 20th July 1944. Stauffenberg placed a briefcase containing a bomb under the table and announced he had to make a phone call and left. The bomb exploded killing 4 people, but Hitler miraculously survived. Stauffenberg and his aide de camp, Leutnant Werner von Haeften managed to leave the compound and fly to Berlin where on arrival learnt of the failure. They were arrested, an impromptu court martial was held and Stauffenberg along with several other ringleaders were shot later that night in the courtyard of the Bendlerlock (Headquarters of the Army) in Berlin. His last words were; Es lebe unser heiliges Deutschland! (‘Long live our sacred Germany’).
The Bendlerblock now houses the memorial to the failed anti-Nazi resistance
Movement and the street in which it is situated has now been renamed Stauffenbergstrasse.
(1) See portrait.