Valkyrie: Book summary and reviews of Valkyrie by Philip Freiher Von Boeselager

Valkyrie

by Philip Freiher Von Boeselager

Valkyrie by Philip Freiher Von Boeselager X
Valkyrie by Philip Freiher Von Boeselager
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  • Published in USA  May 2009
    224 pages
    Genre: Biography/Memoir

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Book Summary

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.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

BookBrowse Review
Valkyrie by Philip Freiherr Von Boeselager disappoints on many levels.

First and foremost, readers are expecting the book to be a first-hand account of the secret plot known as "Valkyrie" – an attempt to assassinate Adolf Hitler by members of his inner circle. While Von Boeselager was certainly one of the conspirators, his role as depicted in the book was very minor. His position was peripheral, and he appears to have had scant inside knowledge of what truly transpired. Surprisingly little text is spent describing the conspiracy or its participants. Readers are provided with no new insight into the plot; indeed, readers with little prior knowledge of it are left completely in the dark. The author presupposes knowledge of people and events that many readers will not possess.

The majority of the book focuses on the war-time exploits of Von Boeselager's brother, Georg. Von Boeselager chronicles Georg's rise to command and the many times he saved the lives of his men by his prudent decisions and heroic leadership. Even here the book falls flat, however. Von Boeselager provides a bare-bones outline of action with almost no elaboration, reducing what could have been an exciting account of a remarkable life into relatively dry narrative. It's peppered with place names with no context and military terms without definition, further distancing the reader from the story.

Readers already familiar with "Valkyrie" or with extensive knowledge of WWII Eastern Front battles may glean a few new bits of information from Valkyrie. Those with only a passing familiarity, however, will find the book too light on details and descriptions to be satisfying. - Kim Kovacs


Other Reviews
"Readers already familiar with the history of Valkyrie will gain an insider's perspective, the portrait of a man of honor and independent mind." - Publishers Weekly

"Starred Review. A one-of-a-kind eyewitness account, essential for students of the Third Reich and all champions of freedom against tyranny." - Kirkus Reviews

"[A] remarkable book …. von Boeselager's story is far removed from the new and sanitised Hollywood take on the July 20 plot….many insights [and] details abound …. [it is] of real significance to Second World War historians….[an] astonishing memoir." - Henry Winter, Telegraph

"[A] short, modest memoir …. celebrates a long-since-vanished generation of scholar-warriors …. von Boeselager, a cavalry officer both intelligent and honourable." - Christopher Hudson, Daily Mail

"[A] brisk, illuminating description of how one German solider struggled to reconcile his profound religious and moral sensibility with his cavalryman's patriotic code of honour and thereby became part of this conspiracy." - Christopher Silvester, Daily Express

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More Information

Written with Florence Fehrenbach and Jerome Fehrenbach, translated by Steven Rendall.

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.

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