Claus von Stauffenberg Biography

Claus Philipp Maria Schenk Graf von Stauffenberg, a German military officer during World War II, played a significant role in the failed 20 July plot of 1944 to assassinate Adolf Hitler and overthrow the Nazi Party. Inheriting noble titles from his father, Stauffenberg was involved in various military campaigns, including the invasion of Poland and the Soviet Union, as well as the Tunisian Campaign. Rising through the ranks to become a colonel, he held similar views to the Nazi Party but gradually developed a disdain for Hitler and the party. As the driving force behind the German Resistance movement within the Wehrmacht, Stauffenberg’s arrest ultimately led to his execution by firing squad.

Quick Facts

  • German Celebrities Born In November Also Known As: Claus Philipp Maria Justinian Schenk Graf von Stauffenberg
  • Died At Age: 36
  • Family:
    • Spouse/Ex-: Nina Schenk Gräfin von Stauffenberg (m. 1933)
    • Father: Alfred Schenk Graf von Stauffenberg
    • Mother: Countess of Uxkiill-Gyllenband
    • Siblings: Alexander Schenk Graf von Stauffenberg, Berthold Schenk Graf von Stauffenberg, Konrad Maria Schenk Graf von Stauffenberg
    • Children: Berthold Maria Schenk Graf von Stauffenberg, Franz-Ludwig Schenk Graf von Stauffenberg, Heimeran Schenk Graf von Stauffenberg, Konstanze von Schulthess, Valerie Schenk Gräfin von Stauffenberg
  • Born Country: Germany
  • Soldiers
  • Military Leaders
  • Died on: July 1, 1944
  • Place of death: Berlin, Germany
  • Cause of Death: Execution
  • More Facts:
    • Awards: German Cross in Gold

Childhood & Early Life

Claus von Stauffenberg was born on November 15, 1907, in the Stauffenberg castle of Jettingen. He was the third of four sons of Alfred Klemens Philipp Friedrich Justinian and Caroline Schenk Gräfin von Stauffenberg. He had a twin brother named Konrad Maria, and his other two brothers, Berthold and Alexander, were also twins. Stauffenberg grew up in a Catholic household with a strong aristocratic code of honor. He remained a practicing Catholic for the rest of his life. He was deeply influenced by Romantic poetry and had a powerful moral imperative.

Early Military Career

Stauffenberg received a carefully planned education and initially had a love for literature. However, in 1926, he joined the military and chose to serve with the family’s traditional regiment, the Bamberger Reiter- und Kavallerieregiment 17 in Bamberg. He was promoted to the post of leutnant (second lieutenant) in 1930 and attended the Kriegsakademie in Berlin-Moabit, pursuing a degree in modern weapons. Despite his interest in literature, his main passion remained the use of horses. His regiment was assigned to the German 1st Light Division under General Erich Hoepner. During this time, he harbored similar views on racist and nationalistic aspects as the Nazi Party, although he never sought membership. He struggled between his disdain for Hitler’s policies and admiration for his military acumen due to his Catholic faith.

Service During the Second World War

At the start of World War II, Stauffenberg and his regiment joined the forces that invaded Poland in 1939. He agreed with several policies of the Nazi regime concerning Poland, including the use of Poles as slave workers and the total colonization and exploitation of Poland by Germany. His unit later became part of the 6th Panzer Division, and he was appointed an officer on its general staff in the Battle of France. He received the Iron Cross First Class for his service. Stauffenberg served in the organizational department of Oberkommando des Heeres (“Army High Command”; OKH) during the Phoney War (1939-40). It was during this time that his uncle, Nikolaus Graf von Üxküll-Gyllenband, asked him to be part of the resistance movement against Hitler. However, Stauffenberg did not become involved in any coup during this period. In 1943, he was sent to Tunisia, where he served under General Erwin Rommel. He was severely injured in an attack and spent three months in a hospital in Munich.

The Attempted Assassination of Adolf Hitler

After his recovery, Stauffenberg became fully involved in the resistance. He worked closely with General Friedrich Olbricht and met Henning von Tresckow, who would later commit suicide after the failure of the operation. Stauffenberg, von Tresckow, and Olbricht modified Operation Valkyrie, a plan originally developed as an emergency continuity of government operations plan. They planned to implement it to take command of German cities, disarm the Schutzstaffel, and apprehend the Nazi leadership once Hitler’s assassination had been successfully executed. Stauffenberg believed that killing Hitler was the only logical solution, as he knew the war was lost and an immediate armistice was needed to prevent further destruction. After a failed attempt by another conspirator, Stauffenberg decided to carry out the plan himself on July 20, 1944. He planted a bomb in the briefing room of Wolfsschanze, but Hitler survived with minor injuries. Stauffenberg and his associates were arrested and executed by firing squad on July 21, 1944.

Death and Personal Life

Stauffenberg urged his co-conspirators to begin the military coup against the Nazi leaders, but they soon learned that Hitler was still alive. Stauffenberg was shot in the shoulder during a brief exchange of bullets and was executed the next day. He was married to Elisabeth Magdalena “Nina” Schenk Gräfin von Stauffenberg, and they had five children. After his execution, his wife gave birth to their youngest child. The older four children were not informed about their father’s actions and spent the remainder of the war in a foster home, adopting new surnames due to the stigma associated with the Stauffenberg name.

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