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Valkyrie: The Story of the Plot to Kill…
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Valkyrie: The Story of the Plot to Kill Hitler, by Its Last Member… (edition 2010)

by Philip Freiherr Von Boeselager, Florence Fehrenbach, Jerome Fehrenbach, Steven Rendall (Translator)

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Member:tony100
Title:Valkyrie: The Story of the Plot to Kill Hitler, by Its Last Member (Vintage)
Authors:Philip Freiherr Von Boeselager
Other authors:Florence Fehrenbach, Jerome Fehrenbach, Steven Rendall (Translator)
Info:Vintage (2010), Paperback, 224 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:****
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Valkyrie by Philipp von Boeselager

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This is a focused tight sad memoir of the Second World war, written by Philipp von Boeselager in his old age as one of the last surviving members of the group of upright, outstanding army officers who particpated in the 20th July plot, the Stauffenberg plot or "operational Valkyrie" , a plan and plot to assassinate Hitler. They were unsuccessful and it is one of those conundrums of history as to why they failed. Were they too amateurish? Were the wrong people in charge of doing the deed? Was the planning glossed over? Or it was it fate, unpredictability and happenstance that led to failure.

He and his brother were very young German cavalry officers. The first chapter sets the scene with a little bit of background on this large Catholic family who clearly felt agrieved at the defeat of Germany in the First World War.

It is a relatively short book, which was almost coaxed out of Von Boeselager by two co-authors as he came to realize that he was a witness to a rather different view of Germany's history and the disastrous efforts made to eliminate Hitler within Germany by Germans. His long buried story should be recorded and told. These were men who bit by bit put together the truth about Nazism and whilst they identified with a military ethos and a German way of life, they were appalled at the random and senseless killing of Jews and Gypsies. They also came to realize the anti- religious stance of the Nazis. One should remember the youth of these two brothers - they were in their twenties and were brought up to become leaders and military men but they were adventurous and brave and keen on an equestrian and a military life.

There were 200 plotters, senior army officers, many of aristocratic origins. They failed and the price exacted was heavy with 5000 executions of conspirators or those near to the plotters. Miraculously Philipp and his brother escaped the purge by returning eastward to their cavalry units, only for Georg (Philipp's brother) to die in battle on the Russian front. They were not betrayed by those tortured and interrogated. There were a number of efforts on the part of the conspirators to kill Hitler, with three attempts alone failed in 1943. I found it fascinating that the realization that Hitler and his henchmen were criminals came so early in 1942. Von Boeselager was much influenced and close to General Henning von Tresckow ( a key plotter). These officers were men of courage,honour, intelligence,a earlier military tradition. Philipp's family were affluent landowners with a country estates and hunting, shooting game, and riding were not simply sports but a way of life. The memoir does not question his upbringing or its values but does probe the hard choices to be made in arriving at a decision to become a conspirator- the issues were ones of trust, finding the right path to truth as a young man, betrayal. Who were the real traitors? I had read something of the 1944 plot against Hitler and knew about the heroism of Adam Von Trott ( a friend named his son for that hero) but I had not realized how widespread was the network of conspiracy with a purpose .

One can understand why Von Boeselager kept his involvement and his role an almost secret part of his history until his old age. He died in 2008 and in January 2004 the French government made Philipp von Boeselager an officer of the Legion d'honneur. Sometimes too one feels that memory in old age is selective and is after all memory and recall. So there may be a partial approach to telling what happened and why. As two cogs in a very large wheel, the von Boeselagers did not know all the details - their own role was very specific.

My own father was in the Royal Air Force ( he was British) in the Second World War) and he was almost a contemporary of von Boeselager, and I think as a fellow combatant and adversary ( rather than enemy) he would have cheered and drank a toast to a man who tried to bring the war to an end earlier ( rather than the six year sacrifice involved for so many who survived and the sacrifice was even greater for those killed in warfare or as civilians.)

There is almost a sense of nostalgia in reading this memoir - can you imagine in 1939 still thinking that horses and the cavalry stil had a role to play in modern warfare? However, the tone and voice of Von Boeselager is measured, sober, selectively factual and the ironies of his position are not self evident. The book was published originally in German but a recent American movie ( with Tom Cruise in the lead role) has been made under the title "Valkyrie".... I would have preferred a German movie and actors to tell this half forgotten tale of heroism and loss. There is no index A final word - the cover with the casual scratched on face of Hitler is not successful- it looks like a child's scribble and hence I bought the book because the book had been tossed onto a sale table as "defaced". The book is illustrated with some interesting family and military photographs. There is a good bibliography notes and source references. In summary the book is an important memoir and adds to the literature of Germany and the second world war. The period mainly covered by the memoir is 1939 to 1945. I strongly recommend this work. Four stars. Reading this work is encouraging me to read more about the internal opposition to Hitler and what happened to these Germans.
  Africansky1 | Nov 21, 2013 |
This is a work of history, biography and fiction combined; no mean achievement in such a small volume. It is a history of Germany prior to, and during the Second World War. It is a biography of the Von Boeselager family, and it is fiction in its selection of facts.
Ostensively, this is the story of the attempt by army officers to assassinate their Führer, Adolf Hitler, when it became apparent that his fanatical proclivities would not win the Second World War. A war, it should be remembered, started by Germany, and fought overwhelmingly by the German army, and not by the Waffen SS (10% of the army), Gestapo or any other of extreme group conjured up by an insane dictator.
As history, it introduces the reader to the world of privilege and luxury in pre-war Germany. We get a good idea what it was like to be born into the nobility, and the trials and tribulations of hunting shooting and fishing, and the extension of that bucolic existence into the army of the 1930’s.
As a biography; and that is essentially, what the book is, we learn about Von Boeselager’s elder brother Georg. Boeselager confers almost god-like status on this sibling, and based on this information it would be justified. When he was not riding off into the woods destroying wildlife, he was busy riding the Russian steppes destroying Russians. He was wounded, and ultimately killed by them
Boeselager himself was no shrinking violet when it came to fighting, he was wounded five times and lived to tell the tale until he was ninety. The infusion of shot and shell did nothing to prejudice his longevity, and he has been able to relate his story to Florence and Jerome Fehrenbach whose prose has been admirably translated by Steven Rendall.
This work was originally published in Germany in 2008 as ‘We Wanted To Kill Hitler’, or something close to that in German. Someone had the great idea of bringing it to the USA to coincide with the release of Tom Cruse’s movie ‘Valkyrie’, so they did, and changed the name. I do not know if the idea worked. I am inclined to hope that it did not, as the two stories are very different. The 60 or so years, which have passed since the occurrences referred to, have taken their toll on the authors memory. This fact is very convenient as it enables Boeselager to distance himself by omission from the unpleasant activities occasioned by the German army in their relentless blitz-krieg of Western and Eastern Europe.
We are all soft and gullible these days, but it stretches credulity to its limits to suggest that these fine upstanding army officers were unaware of the atrocities meted out daily upon hundreds of thousands of people. The book refers only to the murder of five Gypsies. According to Boeselager, when the war was over and they were thoroughly beaten, his regiment strolled back to Paderborn and amused themselves with equestrian pursuits until America put their country back together.
A thorough investigation into Operation Valkyrie this book is not, but it is a good read nonetheless. I enjoyed reading it and would read it again. ( )
1 vote Ductor | Feb 4, 2010 |
Better than the Movie, But Still Lacking

Having watched Tom Cruise's attempt at showcasing the German resistance, I picked up this book, "Valkyrie" by Philipp Freiherr von Boeselager who was the longest living conspirator in the plot to assassinate Hitler, in order to find out more about the motivations of the group.

The book is more than just about the plot. It is a semi-autobiographical memoir of Boeselager and his family. The lead up to the war is discussed and we get a glimpse into his aristocratic upbringing. The early military incursions are also briefly touched on, the blitzkrieg through France, and the failed attempt to invade the USSR.

While not much else is exposed about the plot that we didn't learn from the movie, Boeselager does give a glimpse -- if still too brief -- into the motivations and reasons behind the conspiracy. Unfortunately, there remains much ambiguity on this subject. For example, Boeselager is dismissive of Kristelnacht but claims to be morally outraged when he learns of the early slaughter of Jews in Gypsies prior to the actual Holocaust. What appears to have motivated them more was the need to save German lives, to align with the western allies in a combined effort to resist a Soviet invasion.

Ultimately, we are left still wondering if the conspiracy was mostly patriotic or moral in inspiration. My feeling is that they were patriotic and the moral indignation was a result of the guilt factor after the fact.

Overall, I do recommend reading the book either as a standalone or a companion text to the movie. There remains much that is still unknown about this historical event. ( )
  bruchu | Jun 13, 2009 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0307270750, Hardcover)

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 Reich’s highest authorities. When, in the summer of 1942, he heard that five Roma had been killed in cold blood, von Boeselager’s 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 d’etat.

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.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:34:37 -0400)

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Follows Philipp Freiherr von Boeselager and his fellow officers as they begin to understand the horrors perpetrated by the Third Reich and decide that they must assassinate the F?uhrer.

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