On this day in 1944, Adolf Hitler takes to the airwaves to announce that the attempt on his life has failed and that “accounts will be settled.”
Hitler had survived the bomb blast that was meant to take his life. He had suffered punctured eardrums, some burns and minor wounds, but nothing that would keep him from regaining control of the government and finding the rebels. In fact, the coup d’etat that was to accompany the assassination of Hitler was put down in a mere 11 1/2 hours. In Berlin, Army Major Otto Remer, believed to be apolitical by the conspirators and willing to carry out any orders given him, was told that the Fuhrer was dead and that he, Remer, was to arrest Joseph Goebbels, Minister of Propaganda. But Goebbels had other news for Remer—Hitler was alive. And he proved it, by getting the leader on the phone (the rebels had forgotten to cut the phone lines). Hitler then gave Remer direct orders to put down any army rebellion and to follow only his orders or those of Goebbels or Himmler. Remer let Goebbels go. The SS then snapped into action, arriving in Berlin, now in chaos, just in time to convince many high German officers to remain loyal to Hitler.
Arrests, torture sessions, executions, and suicides followed. Count Claus von Stauffenberg, the man who actually planted the explosive in the room with Hitler and who had insisted to his co-conspirators that “the explosion was as if a 150-millimeter shell had hit. No one in that room can still be alive.” But it was Stauffenberg who would not be alive for much longer; he was shot dead the very day of the attempt by a pro-Hitler officer. The plot was completely undone.
Now Hitler had to restore calm and confidence to the German civilian population. At 1 a.m., July 21, Hitler’s voice broke through the radio airwaves: “I am unhurt and well…. A very small clique of ambitious, irresponsible…and stupid officers had concocted a plot to eliminate me… It is a gang of criminal elements which will be destroyed without mercy. I therefore give orders now that no military authority…is to obey orders from this crew of usurpers… This time we shall settle account with them in the manner to which we National Socialists are accustomed.”
READ MORE: 6 Assassination Attempts on Adolf Hitler