March 21

This Day in History

World War II

Mar 21, 1943:

Another plot to kill Hitler foiled

On this day, the second military conspiracy plan to assassinate Hitler in a week fails to come off.

Back in the summer of 1941, Maj. Gen. Henning von Tresckow, a member of Gen. Fedor von Bock's Army Group Center, was the leader of one of many conspiracies against Adolf Hitler. Along with his staff officer, Lt. Fabian von Schlabrendorff, and two other conspirators, both of old German families who also believed Hitler was leading Germany to humiliation, Tresckow had planned to arrest the Fuhrer when he visited the Army Group's headquarters at Borisov, in the Soviet Union. But their naivete in such matters became evident when Hitler showed up—surrounded by SS bodyguards and driven in one of a fleet of cars. They never got near him.

Tresckow would try again on March 13, 1943, in a plot called Operation Flash. This time, Tresckow, Schlabrendorff, et al., were stationed in Smolensk, still in the USSR. Hitler was planning to fly back to Rastenburg, Germany, from Vinnitsa, in the USSR. A stopover was planned at Smolensk, during which the Fuhrer was to be handed a parcel bomb by an unwitting officer thinking it was a gift of liquor for two senior officers at Rastenburg. All went according to plan and Hitler's plane took off-—the bomb was set to go off somewhere over Minsk. At that point, co-conspirators in Berlin were ready to take control of the central government at the mention of the code word "Flash." Unfortunately, the bomb never went off at all—the detonator was defective.

A week later on March 21, on Heroes' Memorial Day, (a holiday honoring German World War I dead), Tresckow selected Col. Freiherr von Gersdorff to act as a suicide bomber at the Zeughaus Museum in Berlin, where Hitler was to attend the annual memorial dedication. With a bomb planted in each of his two coat pockets, Gersdorff was to sidle up to Hitler as he reviewed the memorials and ignite the bombs, taking the dictator out—along with himself and everyone in the immediate vicinity. Schlabrendorff supplied Gersdorff with bombs—each with a 10-minute fuse.

Once at the exhibition hall, Gersdorff was informed that the Fuhrer was to inspect the exhibits for only eight minutes—not enough time for the fuses to melt down.

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This Week in History, Mar 21 - Mar 27

Mar 21, 1943
Another plot to kill Hitler foiled
Mar 22, 1942
Cripps and Gandhi meet
Mar 23, 1944
Germans slaughter Italian civilians
Mar 24, 1944
Wingate dies in Burma
Mar 25, 1941
Yugoslavia joins the Axis
Mar 26, 1941
Naval warfare gets new weapon
Mar 27, 1945
Germans launch last of their V-2s

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