Daily Double: 1945, and the legacy of Valkyrie

1 comment February 2nd, 2011 Headsman

By February of 1945, Nazi Germany was in quite a fix.

Its last big offensive, the Battle of the Bulge, had been repulsed in the west to no lasting effect other than the thousands of squandered men; in the east, the Red Army was smashing its way through Poland and into the Reich itself, advancing within 70 kilometers of Berlin.* The war’s outcome was self-evident; everyone who was anyone was trying to cut the best deal possible with the soon-to-be-conquerors.

Old Adolf, though — he was determined to check out with all of Germany for his pyre. Götterdämmerung: the Twilight of the Gods. The man loved himself some Wagner.


Albert Speer said that this scene of Brunnhilde‘s immolation from Wagner’s Götterdämmerung was the last thing the Berlin Philharmonic performed before it evacuated Berlin in 1945.

Though one can’t speak for every single German, it’s safe to say that the Teutonic consensus at that moment would have trended quite a bit less pyromaniac. After all, they were the kindling.

The reason Der Fuhrer remained at liberty to enact this weird and destructive climax was his efficiency in scotching threats to his life or leadership from the upper echelons of the Reich.

And he was still at it even as the war slipped away: here, just weeks before the fall of Berlin, adherents of the previous year’s near-miss assassination attempt were still being shuffled off this mortal coil.

These next two dates are not literally the last of the Stauffenberg affair, but they’re a sort of metaphorical last — for these tragic, bumbling dissidents, and the regime they could not topple.

These dates have a fitting, entirely coincidental postscript: on February 4, 1945, the Yalta Conference opened — and Stalin, Roosevelt and Churchill set about shaping the postwar world.

* Liberating Auschwitz in the process.

On this day..

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