Excerpt of The Conquerors by Michael Beschloss
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Chapter 1 : The Plot to Murder Hitler
Chapter 2 : "Unconditional Surrender"
Chapter 3 : "Fifty Thousand Germans Must Be Shot!"
Chapter 4 : "On the Back of an Envelope"
Chapter 5 : The Terrible Silence
Chapter 6 : The "One Hundred Percent American"
Chapter 7 : "Oppressor of the Jews"
Chapter 8 : "We Will Have to Get Awfully Busy"
Chapter 9 : "Not Nearly as Bad as Sending Them to Gas Chambers"
Chapter 10 : "Somebody's Got to Take the Lead"
Chapter 11 : "Christianity and Kindness"
Chapter 12 : "It Is Very, Very Necessary"
Chapter 13 : "Do You Want Me to Beg Like Fala?"
Chapter 14 : "A Hell of a Hubbub"
Chapter 15 : "As Useful as Ten Fresh German Divisions"
Chapter 16 : "Lord Give the President Strength"
Chapter 17 : "The Only Bond Is Their Common Hate"
Chapter 18 : "Arguing About the Future of the World"
Chapter 19 : "No Earthly Powers Can Keep Him Here"
Chapter 20 : "What Will We Make of It?"
Chapter 21 : "I Was Never in Favor of That Crazy Plan"
Chapter 22 : "You and I Will Have to Bear Great Responsibility"
Chapter 23 : "How I Hate This Trip!"
Chapter 24 : "We Are Drifting Toward a Line Down the Center of Germany"
Chapter 25 : "The Spirit and Soul of a People Reborn"
Chapter 26 : The Conquerors
Author's Note and Acknowledgements
Chapter One: The Plot to Murder Hitler
Had the plotters been more deft, Thursday, July 20, 1944, would have been Adolf Hitler's last day on earth.
Six weeks after D-Day, the United States, Great Britain and their allies had landed a million men in France. The Red Army was marching westward. When Hitler's generals proposed retreat behind more defensible lines, the Führer had shaken his head, crying, "Victory or death!"
Now Hitler was burrowed in at the Wolf's Lair, his field headquarters near Rastenburg, in a melancholy, dank East Prussian forest. At noon, in a log barracks, he listened to a gloomy report from one of his army chiefs about Germany's retreat on the Eastern front. In the steamy room, Hitler took off the eyeglasses he vainly refused to use in public and mopped his forehead with a handkerchief. SS men and stenographers stood around the massive, long oak table like nervous cats. Maps were unfurled. Hitler leaned over them and squinted through a magnifying glass, grimacing at the bad news.
Into the room strode a thirty-seven-year-old officer named Claus von Stauffenberg. He was a Bavarian nobleman, with blond hair and sharp cheekbones, who had lost an eye and seven fingers to an Allied mine in Tunisia while fighting for Germany. Unknown to the Führer or the other two dozen people in the chamber, Stauffenberg was part of a secret, loosely rigged anti-Hitler conspiracy that included military officers, diplomats, businessmen, pastors, intellectuals, landed gentry.
Some wanted historians of the future to record that not all Germans were Nazis. Some simply wanted to spare their nation the full brunt of conquest by the Soviet, American and British armies. Still others were unsettled by Hitler's war against the Jews. For years, the plotters had tried to kill Hitler with rifles and explosives, but the Führer had always survived.
Disgusted by what he heard about Nazi brutality in Russia, Stauffenberg had taught himself how to use his remaining three fingers to set off a bomb. By luck, in July 1944, he was summoned to the Wolf's Lair to help brief Hitler about the Eastern front. When Stauffenberg entered the room, the Führer shook his hand, stared at him appraisingly, then returned to his maps.
Copyright © 2002 by Michael Beschloss.