Hitler assassination plan

Adolf Hitler on board his train, c1941 (HS 6/624)

How did the British plan to kill Hitler?

In 1944 the SOE (Special Operations Executive) drew up some plans to kill Hitler. The documents you are about to look at detail two of the proposed assassination plans that formed part of Operation Foxley.

You are going back to 1944. As Head of SOE it is your job is to decide which of two ways of killing Hitler should be given the go-ahead. You must look at the dangers involved and the chances of success. When these plans were revealed in July 1998 they caused world media interest. This is a unique chance to work with these original and secret documents.


Tasks

1. Read Source 1. This is the introduction to Operation Foxley, the British plan to assassinate Hitler.

  • What is the ‘object’ of Operation Foxley?
  • How many different methods are put forward?
  • Where is the assassination likely to be carried out? Find the two places mentioned

2. Read Source 2. This piece of the file details the plans for assassination at Salsburg railway station.

  • What method of killing Hitler is described here?
  • What is meant by the word ‘medium’?
  • What is meant by the word ‘operatives’?
  • Briefly describe how the cleaners could be used to kill Hitler
  • Who else could be used in this plan?
  • What will cause the poison to mix in the water?

3. Read Source 3. This section of the plan describes the poison which could be used.

  • How much of ‘I’ kills?
  • What would ‘I’ not be suitable for? Why is this?
  • List all the reasons why ‘I’ is the best ‘medium’ to use

4. Read Source 4. This section of the plan details Hitler’s drinking habits.

Read Hitler’s drinking habits carefully. What would be the best way of poisoning him without the poison being detected?

Consider the following factors in your answer:

  • How likely is there to be the right opportunity to put this plan into action?
  • If the plan goes ahead, how likely is it to kill rather than just injure Hitler?
  • How likely is it that the people carrying out the plan will be caught?

5. Read Source 5. This section of the plan deals with the opportunities to assassinate Hitler in Obersalzberg. How will the assassins know whether Hitler is in Obersalzberg?

6. Look at Source 6. This is a map of the area of the Berghof, Hitler’s home in Obersalzberg.

  • Study the map carefully. Where do you think would be a good place to make the assassination attempt? Why is this?

7. Read Source 7. This section of the plan describes the opportunity to assassinate Hitler during one of his daily walks.

  • Find Hitler’s walk on the map shown in Source 6. Was this one of the locations you suggested?
  • How well protected is Hitler on this walk?
  • What cover does the area provide for would-be assassins?

8. Read Source 8. This section deals with locations for the assassins.

  • Can you work out where on the map (Source 6) the assassins should launch their attack on Hitler?
  • What weapons should the assassins carry?
  • What disguises are suggested?

9. Read Source 9. If the first plan fails, what is the alternative one?

10. By comparing the plans for the attempts on Hitler’s life, you should be able to decide which plan has the greatest chance of succeeding.

  • Write a report to the Prime Minister outlining which of the assassination plans should go ahead. Give full reasons for your choice

Background

Throughout Hitler’s career as a politician and as leader of Germany he was at danger from assassination attempts. Indeed, a number of attempts were made on his life but he survived them all. Bombs were left in a variety of places that either failed to go off, or Hitler changed his plans at the last moment.

In 1944 Hitler was actually injured in an attempt on his life which really should have killed him. He managed to survive only with damage to his hearing. After this attack Hitler claimed he was ‘invulnerable and immortal’. Any attempts on his life by members of his own staff or enemies were brutally dealt with. In May 1942, one of his most senior Gestapo officials had been assassinated by SOE-trained Czechs. In the reprisals that followed 5,000 civilians were murdered.

The SOE was created in 1940 by the British to undertake ‘all action by way of subversion and sabotage against the enemy overseas’ now that much of Europe was under German occupation. The SOE began planning Operation Foxley in 1944 despite some opposition from within their ranks. Some people argued it was better to leave Hitler alive as he was making so many blunders. Nevertheless, a plan was put together and SOE began looking for recruits to perform the attempts. The Allied successes of 1945 overtook the planned assassination attempt and SOE concentrated its energies elsewhere. The existence of such a plan does, however, excite much interest as had it gone ahead and succeeded, it could have changed the course of the war and perhaps history.


Teachers' notes

The lesson involves quite a lot of reading, and the use some unfamiliar words and terms. However, the pupils are given a rare opportunity to work with some of the most exciting documents to be released for years. This should fire pupils’ imagination and interest in history. We advise that you familiarise yourself with the documents and the questions, so that you can provide help and guidance.

The task can be extended in a variety of ways:

It would suit group work to help the pupils cope with the volume of the material.

Pupils could also compare their findings and debate which is the best plan and why.

An interesting angle for the pupils to look at is why it might have been better to let Hitler live; again this could be debated in class.

For homework, pupils could be set the task of finding out about other assassination attempts on Hitler, in particular the one in 1944 in which he was injured.


External links

Adolf Hitler
The rise from unknown to Nazi dictator.

The Foxley Files
More information on Operation Foxley from the BBC.

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