bureaucracybusters

A PLEA FOR CONSCIENCE: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on May 6, 2016 at 12:05 am

On July 20, 1944, Colonel Claus Shenk von Stauffenberg appeared at Hitler’s well-guarded military headquarters in East Prussia.  Like all his other outposts, Hitler had named it–appropriately enough–“Wolf’s Lair.”

“Wolf’s Lair”

Stauffenberg entered the large, concrete building while the conference was in session.  He placed his yellow briefcase next to Hitler–who was standing with his generals at a heavy oaken table.

Then Stauffenberg excused himself to take an “urgent” phone call.

At 12:42 p.m. on July 20, 1944, Stauffenberg’s briefcase bomb erupted.

But the Third Reich didn’t come to an end–because, as if miraculously, Hitler had survived.

Hitler shows off the site of the explosion

What had happened?

First, the conference location had been changed–from a wooden building to a concrete one.  The concrete absorbed much of the blast.

Second, owing to the summer’s heat, Hitler had ordered all the windows–about ten–opened to let in a breeze.  This allowed much of the force of the blast to be dispersed.

Third, and perhaps most important: Stauffenberg had carefully placed his briefcase near Hitler, who was standing next to a heavy oaken support of the conference table.

But after Stauffenberg left the room, Colonel Heinz Brandt, who stood next to Hitler, found the briefcase blocking his legs.  So he moved it–to the other side of the heavy oaken support.

When the bomb exploded, Hitler was partially shielded from its full blast.  Brandt died, as did two other officers and a stenographer.

Not only did Hitler survive, but the plotters failed to seize the key broadcast facilities of the Reich.

This allowed Hitler to make a late-night speech to the nation, revealing the failed plot and assuring Germans that he was alive. And he swore to flush out the “traitorous swine” who had tried to kill him.

Adolf Hitler

Mass arrests quickly followed.  Among the first victims discovered and executed was the conspiracy’s leader, Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg.  Standing before a makeshift firing squad at midnight, he cried: “Long live our sacred Germany!”

At least 7,000 persons were arrested by the Gestapo–of which 4,980 were executed.

Had the conspiracy succeeded, history would have turned out differently:

  • If Germany had surrendered in July or August, 1944, World War II would have ended eight to nine months earlier.
  • The Russians–who didn’t reach Germany until April, 1945–could not have occupied the Eastern part of the country.
  • This would have prevented many of the future conflicts between the United States and the Soviet Union over access to West Berlin and/or West Germany.
  • Untold numbers of Holocaust victims would have survived because the extermination camps would have been shut down.

Thus, history can be altered by the appearance or disappearance of a single individual.

Which brings us back to Donald Trump.

Donald August 19 (cropped).jpg

Donald Trump

Since declaring his candidacy for the Presidency on June 16, 2015, Trump has been the first choice among the Republican base.

At first, he was dismissed as a bad joke–by Republican Presidential candidates as well as by Democrats.

Surely voters would reject a bombastic, thrice-married “reality show” host who had filed for corporate bankruptcy four times.

Yet from the outset Trump dominated the field–and a series of Republican debates. The other Republican candidates watched him with envy–and tried to out-do his hate-filled rhetoric and agenda.  

But none of them succeeded–and, one after another, they dropped out of the race: Marco Rubio, Ben Carson, Jeb Bush, Chris Christie, Rick Santorum, Carly Fiorina, Mike Huckabee, Rand Paul.  

Eventually, only two were left to deny Trump the Republican nomination–Texas U.S. Senator Rafael “Ted” Cruz and Ohio Governor John Kasich.  

On May 3, 2016, Trump captured 53.3% of the votes in the Indiana primary, compared to 36.7% for Cruz and 7.5% for Kasich.

That night, Cruz bowed out of the race. The next day, so did Kasich–the man who had dared compare Trump to Adolf Hitler.  

For conservative columnist David Brooks, a Trump Presidency would be disastrous. On the March 25 edition of the PBS Newshour, he offered this assessment of Trump’s character: 

“The odd thing about [Trump’s] whole career and his whole language, his whole world view is there is no room for love in it. You get a sense of a man who received no love, can give no love, so his relationship with women, it has no love in it. It’s trophy.  

And so you really are seeing someone who just has an odd psychology unleavened by kindness and charity, but where it’s all winners and losers, beating and being beat. And that’s part of the authoritarian personality.”

In his bestselling 1973 biography, The Life and Death of Adolf Hitler, British historian Robert Payne harshly condemned the “Army bomb plot” conspirators who failed to kill Hitler:  

“The conspirators died heroically, but they were not heroes. They bungled the most necessary assassination of their time when it was within their power to do the job well….They were amateurs when professionals were needed.”

There is a very real danger that Donald Trump will assume the Presidency–and all the awesome power that goes with that office.  

If that happens, future historians–if there are any–may similarly condemn those Americans who stood by like “good Germans”–and allowed their country to fall into the hands of a ruthless tyrant.

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