After several weeks of painstaking clandestine labor, Elser successfully installed his bomb. He set it to explode on November 8, at p. Elser had planned his bombing to perfection, but luck was not on his side.
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World War II had started in earnest a few months earlier, and Hitler moved the start time of his speech to 8 p. Eight people were killed and dozens more injured, but Hitler was not among them. Elser was captured that same night while trying to steal across the Swiss border, and he later confessed after authorities found his bomb plans. He would spend the next several years confined to Nazi concentration camps. One of the most audacious plots unfolded on March 13, , when Hitler arrived at the Smolensk post of Henning von Tresckow—a disillusioned German military officer—for a brief visit.
The officer obliged, not knowing that the package actually held plastic explosives rigged to a minute fuse. An officer named Rudolf von Gertsdorff volunteered to be the triggerman for a bomb attack, but after scouting the premises, he came to a grim realization: security was too tight to plant explosives in the room. The would-be suicide bomber was forced to make a mad dash for the bathroom, where he defused the explosives with only seconds to spare.
At the center of the plot was Claus von Stauffenberg, a dashing colonel who had lost an eye and one of his hands during combat in North Africa. If their coup was successful, the rebels would then immediately seek a negotiated peace with the Allies.
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He arrived carrying a briefcase stuffed with plastic explosives connected to an acid fuse. After placing his case as close to Hitler as possible, Stauffenberg left the room under the pretense of making a phone call.
All these men believed that Germany had already lost the war militarily. In the handsome von Stauffenberg they had finally found that man, and so it was that he arrived that hot and sultry morning at Rastenburg to meet his destiny. Himmler had at his command the entire security apparatus of the Third Reich, while Goring had his telephone wiretapping Research Office, established by him in and not given over to Himmler the following year with the Gestapo. They knew about the plot but stood aside, did nothing, and were prepared to let events take their course.
Neither was at the conference at which the bomb exploded but arrived later in response to the news about the assassination attempt. Also not present at Fort Wolf at the time were Dr. Josef Goebbels and Albert Speer; they had scheduled a meeting in Berlin. In order to destroy Hitler, von Stauffenberg had to fly to East Prussia, enter the conference room and—using a pair of ice tongs to break an acid capsule that would provide a minute fuse—place the time bomb wrapped in a shirt in his briefcase as close to Hitler as possible.
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Following the explosion which he somehow must avoid , he would then find a way to leave Fort Wolf, fly back to Berlin, and there lead the revolt in person! In one day von Stauffenberg would thus overthrow one government and start another—or so the plan went until fate intervened. This is, in fact, what occurred. At , Hitler stood with 23 generals, officers and aides poring over maps spread out on a heavy oak tabletop, listening to several reports.
At he left the hut to make an imaginary phone call.
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At pm, the bomb exploded. To the watching von Stauffenberg outside, it seemed as if a mm howitzer shell had hit the hut directly. Utilizing the ensuing confusion, he bluffed his way past the startled guards, out of Rastenburg and was airborne for Berlin by pm, convinced that he had, indeed, killed Adolf Hitler. But Hitler lived.