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Leaving aside his controversial belief in Scientology, Tom Cruise is not best known for portraying spiritual characters. But as his new film,the Second World War epic Valkyrie opens in the UK at the end of the month, Cruise will be identified with the genuine article. The man he plays, Claus Schenk, Count von Stauffenberg, embodied rare qualities unfamiliar to our debased age, more used as it is to "heroes" whose sole heroism consists of kicking a ball into the back of a net.

It will also be a shock to filmgoers accustomed to seeing German officers only as unreconstructed baddies to watch a parade of British actors - Kenneth Branagh, Bill Nighy and even Eddie Izzard - supporting Cruise by playing the men in field grey as thoughtful, principled and self-sacrificing goodies. These are real heroes in thought, word and deed. And, however tainted by Hollywood vulgarisation Valkyrie may be, if the movie succeeds in showing a mass audience that not all Germans of the war generation were psychopathic sadists or monocled automata, it will have served some purpose.

Valkyrie was the codename for the military putsch triggered by Stauffenberg's intended assassination of Hitler on 20 July 1944. The plot's conspirators wanted to bring down the criminal Nazi regime, end Hitler's war, and usher in a new Germany built on principles of legality, democracy and - not least - Christian civilisation. But Stauffenberg failed. His bomb exploded, killing four members of the dictator's entourage, but not the Führer himself, who was left slightly injured and in an even more murderous mood than he had been before the blast. Stauffenberg's friends in Berlin, who were supposed to launch their coup simultaneously with the bomb, hesitated and dithered when they realised that Hitler had survived. They waited for three fatal hours for Stauffenberg to fly back to the capital from Hitler's HQ and take charge of the putsch. But by then it was too late.

Even though the putsch had been partially successful - in German-occupied Paris, Prague and Vienna the army conspirators arrested all the SS men in those cities without a shot being fired - elsewhere, as news that Hitler still lived spread, uncommitted or cowardly officers drew back and firmly placed themselves on the winning side. By nightfall, despite Stauffenberg's frantic effort to shore up support by telephone, the coup had collapsed. Stauffenberg and his four closest collaborators were summarily shot on the orders of one of these equivocating generals as the Nazis unleashed a vicious orgy of vengeance on all those who had dared lift hands against them.

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michael roloff
January 5th, 2009
7:01 PM
German Army resistance to Hitler started upon H.'s consolidation of power with the "Night of the Long Knives", in 1934. There were other kinds of resistances, among the German Communists and Socialists, and Catholics such as Maurice Bavaud, a Swiss Seminarian who set out in 1938 to kill the "anti-Christ", inveigled himself into the graces of the Nazi party in Munich and was seated within a short distance of Hitler during the memorial march-past for the 1923 Kapp Putsch, and only did not shoot from a short distance because he did not want to injure "innocents" such as - I think it was Goebbels and Himmler - who were marching next to Hitler. [see Rolf Hochhut's Tell 38 for this] Considering the number of failed attempts, it nearly does seem like fate intervened so that Hitler could say at the end that "the German people failed him" !!! MICHAEL ROLOFF Member Seattle Psychoanalytic Institute and Society this LYNX will LEAP you to all my HANDKE project sites and BLOGS: "MAY THE FOGGY DEW BEDIAMONDIZE YOUR HOOSPRINGS!" {J. Joyce} "Sryde Lyde Myde Vorworde Vorhorde Vorborde" [von Alvensleben]

Michael B
December 25th, 2008
10:12 PM
Nicely done. "It was little wonder that Whitehall regarded the plotters as just a milder version of the Nazis." Well, perhaps, I'm not so sure. My view is Roosevelt and Churchill regarded the German resistance as too weak, rather than lacking in bona fides, motivations or responsible, far reaching goals. Regardless, an FYI, there's a superb two hour documentary titled "The Restless Conscience" and directed by Hava Kohav Beller that covers the primary actors, their background, motivations, how their thinking and actions evolved, how they were hunted down and met their deaths in the aftermath, etc. It includes details of actors such as Kordt and Bonhoeffer who served as emissaries to political hierarchies at the highest levels in Britain and the U.S. Has only been available in VHS, but I believe is due to come out in a DVD format shortly.

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