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Luck of the Devil: The Story of Operation…

Luck of the Devil: The Story of Operation Valkyrie

by Ian Kershaw

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Ian Kershaw, author of the monumental two-volume biography of Adolf Hitler, is a British historian who is widely regarded as a leading authority on Nazi Germany. Luck of the devil. The story of Operation Valkyrie is a short publication, focusing on the various attempts to murder Adolf Hitler.

Luck of the devil. The story of Operation Valkyrie consists of two parts, the historical description of the facts and events, and a set of 13 primary source documents related to the events. The historical description is identical to Chapter 14, "Luck of the Devil" (pp. 655-684) and Chapter 15, "No Way Out", Sections I and II, (pp. 687-705), and are taken from the second volume of Kershaw's Hitler biography, Hitler, 1936-1945. Nemesis. However, the photos added to Luck of the devil. The story of Operation Valkyrie are different from the photos in the biography, related to the same event.

The documents, except the fourth, are all taken from the fifth edition of Germans against Hitler, July 20, 1944, with some amendments of the translation. These documents consist of a witness account of the assassination attempt on March 13, 1943, plans and timetables drawn up by the conspirators, the SS report on the conspiracy, Hitler's speech afterward, extracts from the trials, a gruesome description of the executions, and preserved farewell letters from two of the conspirators. The fourth, added document contains amended plans for the murder attempt.

While the historical description of the murder attempt by Von Stauffenberg are described at unprecedented detail and set in a wider context of a conspiracy, the drawbacks of creating a book by lifting chapters from an existing book are evident. Despite the amount of detail, the text is clearly not a biography of Von Stauffenberg. Luck of the devil. The story of Operation Valkyrie is not a monograph of the murder attempt, and in that aspect remains wanting.

Nonetheless, the publication shows that throughout the war, there was a basis for resistance to Hitler, and that the German General's allegiance to Adolf Hitler rested more on loyalty to institutions than on sympathy with the person of Adolf Hitler or his ideas. Far more, the book suggests that the military code of honour prevented the military from taking action against Adolf Hitler.

The historical documents, reissued in this edition, and not included in the biography, give the reader a taste of primary source authenticity, and being in touch with history. The description of the executions makes Hitler's vengeance palpable. Still, it is remarkable that out of the chaos, documents of planning, proceedings, trials and personal documents, such as the farewell letters of the captured conspirators have survived.

Most interesting among the documents are the Kreisau Circle's "Principles for the New Order in Germany", drawn up in August 1943, and Carl Goerdeler's Peace Plan of late summer to early autumn 1943. These documents show an early awareness of necessary action and plans for the next stage for Germany, after the end of the Third Reich. In effect, Carl Goerdeler's Peace Plan is nothing short of a blue print for the European Union.

To sum up, it seems Luck of the devil. The story of Operation Valkyrie would be a very thorough short exposition of the murder attempts on Hitler, for prospective readers who will not read Ian Kershaw's monumental 2-vols. biography, either because they have read other biographies or historiographies of the period, or are not that deeply interested in Adolf Hitler. On the other hand, readers with a deep interest in the period and events may find the additional photographs and documents a valuable addition to their library. ( )
2 vote edwinbcn | May 12, 2012 |
This short book is an excellent account of the tragically unsuccessful plot by Stauffenberg and others to assassinate Hitler in July 1944. It is taken from his mammoth biography of Hitler which I have not read and have not hitherto felt the urge to do so, having read Alan Bullock's one many years ago. On the strength of this writing, I may well revise that view, though. ( )
  john257hopper | Apr 13, 2010 |
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'It is now time that something was done. But the man who has the courage to do something must do it in the knowledge that he will go down in German history as a traitor.'

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