This series of posts at looks at Hitler’s hearing impairment.  This is the second posting in this series and it is certainly not a tribute, but an interesting discussion of a hearing loss that was accumulated over a lifetime by an historical figure. This series is a re-visit of a topic that was first discussed at Hearing International August 27-September 10, 2013. While much of the content will be taken from the 2013 originals, components have been added in this visitation of Hitler’s Hearing Loss.  At the end of this three-week series, there will be an estimate of his likely hearing impairment. 

While history will never know the extent of this impairment, there is evidence that can be compared with what we know today that gives us clues as to the extent of his hearing impairment. Did this have any effect on behavior? Did this cause miscommunication among trusted generals and others? Other issues? At the end of our discussion …you decide….RMT

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The second part of the story of Hitler’s Hearing Loss begins with the most important person in the plot, Claus Philipp Maria Schenk Graf Justinian vonHII Stauffenberg. known to history as Claus Schenk Graf von Stauffenberg.  As one of the prime movers in the July 20, 1944 Valkyrie plot against Hitler, he and the others HII1
who attempted to change the government of Germany from within, were truly the forgotten heros of WW II. Born in 1907 at Stauffenberg Castle in the city of Jettingen-Scheppach in the eastern part of Swabia (at the time part of the Kingdom of Bavaria within the German Empire ), Stauffenberg was an aristocrat. He was the third son of Alfred Klemens Phillip Fredrich Justinian, the last Oberhofmarschall of the Kingdom of Württemberg. Like his brothers, Claus was carefully educated and was interested in literature, but eventually took up a military career.  In 1926, he joined the family’s traditional regiment, the Bamberger Reiter- und Kavallerieregiment 17 (17th Cavalry Regiment) in Bamberg.  Stauffenberg was commissioned as a leutnant (second lieutenant) in 1930. He studied modern weapons at the Kriegsakademie in Berlin, but remained focused on the use of horses, which still carried out many of the transportation duties for Germany throughout World HII3War II. His regiment became part of the German 1st Light Division under General Erich Hoepner, who had taken part in the plans for the September 1938 German Resistance coup, which was cut short by Hitler’s unexpected diplomatic success in the Munich Agreement.  

Why Stauffenberg Became Involved………

Stauffenberg’s  unit was among the troops that moved into the Sudetenland, a part of Czechoslovakia with a German-speaking majority. However, Stauffenberg disliked the method by which the Sudetenland was annexed and strongly disapproved of the invasion of Prague. Although he agreed with some of the Nazi Party’s nationalism, he found much of its ideology repugnant and he never joined the party. Moreover, Stauffenberg remained a practicing Catholic. While the Catholic Church had signed the Reichskonkordat in 1933, the year Hitler and the Nazi Party came to power, Stauffenberg vacillated between a strong personal dislike of Hitler’s policies and a respect for what he perceived as Hitler’s military acumen. On top of this, the growing systematic ill treatment of Jews and suppression of religion had offended Stauffenberg’s strong personal sense of Catholic religious morality and justice.

Stauffenberg became a highly decorated officer after serving in the Conquest of Poland (1939), The Battle of France (1940), Operation Barbarossa (Invasion of the Soviet Union, 1941), and Tunisia, 1942.  While in TunisiaHII7 in 1943, Stauffenberg was directing the movement of a column of units near Mezzouna when his vehicle was strafed by a P-40 fighter bomber and he suffered multiple severe wounds.  He spent three months in a hospital in Munich, where he lost his left eye, his right hand, and two fingers on his left hand. He was awarded the Wound Badge in Gold for his injuries and  the German Cross in Gold for his courage. In 1942, he was sent to his home in southern Germany to rehabilitate. By this point, as was noted in Part I of this series, he had come to hold two basic convictions that many other German military officers also held:

1.  Germany was being led to disaster.

2. Hitler must be removed from power.

Initially, he felt frustrated not to be in a position to stage a coup himself, but in September 1943 he was approached by the conspirators and introduced to Henning von HII8Tresckow (left) at the headquarters in Berlin of the Ersatzheer  or “Replacement Army,” which was charged with training soldiers to reinforce first line divisions. One of Stauffenberg’s superiors was General Friedrich Olbricht (right), a committed member of the German resistance movement. h2The Ersatzheer had a unique opportunity to launch a coup, as one of its functions was to put Operation Valkyrie (Check out the movie) in place. This was a contingency measure that would let it assume control of the Reich in the event that internal disturbances blocked communications to the military high command. Ironically, the Valkyrie plan had been agreed to by Hitler, but had now been secretly changed to sweep the rest of his regime from power in the event of Hitler’s death.

The Plot to Kill Hitler

From early September 1943 until 20 July 1944, Stauffenberg was the driving force behind the plot to assassinate Hitler and take control of Germany. With the help of his friend von Tresckow, he united the conspirators and drove them into action. Stauffenberg was aware that, under German law, he was committing high treason. Only after another conspirator, General Helmuth Stieff, Chief of Operations at Army HII11High Command, had declared himself unable to assassinate Hitler did Stauffenberg decide to personally kill Hitler and to run the plot in Berlin. By then, he had grave doubts about the possibility of success, but Tresckow convinced him to go ahead even if failure was likely to demonstrate “that not all Germans supported the regime.”

Besides Stieff, Stauffenberg was the only conspirator with regular access to Hitler and also the only officer among the conspirators thought to have the resolve and persuasiveness to convince German military leaders to throw in with the coup once Hitler was dead. This requirement greatly reduced the chance of a successful coup.

After several unsuccessful attempts to meet Hitler, Göring, and Himmler when they were all together,  Stauffenberg went ahead with the attempt at Wolfsschanze on 20 July 1944. He entered the briefing room carrying a briefcase bomb and a back-up bomb in the event that the first on did not explode. The meeting location had unexpectedly been changed from the subterranean Führerbunker to Albert Speer’s wooden barrack/hut due (left) because of the hot weather that day, Stauffenberg left the room to arm the first bomb with specially adapted pliers, a task made difficult because of his loss of his right hand and two fingers on his left. A guard knocked and opened the door, urging him to hurry as the meeting was about to begin. As a result, Stauffenberg was able to arm only one of the bombs. He left the second one with his aide-de-campWerner von Haeften, and returned to the briefing room, where he placed the briefcase under the conference table, as close as he could to Hitler. Some minutes later, he excused himself and left the room, but Colonel Heinz Brandt moved the briefcase.

The Bomb

The bomb that exploded has been reported to be one kilogram of Hexite plastic explosive, packed in a simple brown wrapper and placed inside a briefcase similar to the one below. The detonator was a standard timedHII12 type, utilizing acid that would eat through a thin copper wire at a set rate before releasing a pin to strike the HII12detonator cap and set off the bomb. This type of bomb was often used by the French Resistance and the English OSS. One kilogram of plastic explosive is enough to bring down a sizable iron bridge, or to collapse a bunker.

This type of bomb was also employed by US forces to destroy bunkers in and around Normandy It could bring down several feet of reinforced concrete, so it seemed quite adequate to kill Hitler, even if only half of it  exploded.  When the explosion tore through the hut, Stauffenberg was convinced that no one in the room could have survived. However, although four people were killed and almost all survivors were injured, Hitler himself was shielded from the blast by the heavy, solid-oak conference table leg and was only slightly wounded.

That is the official story from the German High Command……..But What about Hitler’s Hearing Loss?  Next Week we will make that case!

 

References:

Answers (2018)  What were Adolf Hitler’s Policies.  Retrieved January 10, 2018.

Astridge, P. (2011).  General Helmuth Stieff.  PAULA ASTRIDGE.COM.  Retrieved January 10, 2018.

BBC (2014).  Heinrich Himmler (1900-1945). Retrieved January 9, 2018.

Aps (2005). Ersatzheer in the second half of 1944. Axis History Forum. Retrieved January 10, 2018.

Gedenkstatte Deutscher Widerstand (2016). HENNING VON TRESCKOW.  Retrieved January 9, 2018. 

Gutman, I. (1990).  Encyclopedia of the Holocaust.  Jewish Virtual Library. Retrieve January 10, 2018.

Historical Resources (2008).  The Battle of Tunisia.  Retrieved January 10, 2018.

History Channel (2018). The Germans Invade Poland.  Retrieved January 10, 2018.

History Channel (2018). Nazi Party. Retrieved January 9, 2018.

Hitler Pages (2018). Wolfsschanze.  Retrieved January 10, 2018.

Hoffman, P. (2003). Stauffenberg. A Family History, 1905-1944. Second Edition.  Jewish Virtual Library. Retrieved January 10, 2018.

Kjærgaard, J. (2009).  Castle Jettingen.  Virtual Globetrotting .com.  Retrieved January 10, 2018.

Simon Wiesenthal Center (1997).  The “Jewish Question”: Nazi Policy 1933-1939.  Retrieved January 10, 2018. 

Trueman, C. (2015).  Operation Barbarossa.  History Learning Site.  Retrieved January 10, 2018. 

Trueman, C. (2015).  The Czechslovakia Resistance.  History Learning Site.  Retrieved January 10, 2018. 

Unofficial Military History (2018).  The Count of Stauffenberg and his hatred of Hitler. Retrieved January 11, 2018.

Wikipedia (2017). General Fredrich Olbritch.  Retrieved January 9, 2018.

Wikipedia (2018).  The Battle of France. Retrieved January 10, 2018.

Wikipedia (2018).  The Reichskonkordat.  Retrieved January 10, 2018.

Wikipedia (2018).  Operation Valkyrie.  Retrieved January 10, 2018. 

This series of posts at looks at Hitler’s hearing impairment.  It is certainly not a tribute, but an interesting discussion of a hearing loss that was accumulated over a lifetime by an historical figure. This series is a re-visit of a topic that was first discussed at Hearing International August 27-September 10, 2013. While much of the content will be taken from the 2013 originals, components have been added in this visitation of Hitler’s Hearing Loss.  At the end of this 3-week series, there will be an estimate of his likely hearing impairment. 

h1While history will never know the extent of this impairment, there is evidence that can be compared with what we know today that gives us clues as to the extent of his hearing impairment. Did this have any effect on behavior? Did this cause miscommunication among trusted generals and others? Other issues? At the end of our discussion …you decide….RMT

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Like most World War I survivors, Hitler had been exposed to intense noise during the war in the trenches and sheer speculation would suggest that he had some high-frequency sensori-neural hearing loss. While that is speculation, there is documented medical evidence suggesting that he did incur some hearing impairment during World War II as a result of drug injections and especially from the July 20, 1944 assassination attempt against him. Part I in this series offers some background into the plot to assassinate him.

Background

h10Since about 1938 there had been various plots in the German Army and in the German Military Intelligence Organization to depose Hitler. Early leaders of these plots were mostly political adversaries of Hitler and his National Socialist Party who had no plans to forcefully take over the government of Germany. One group of opponents called the Kreisau Circle met regularly in Kreisau (now Krzyżowa, Poland) at the home of Helmuth James Graf von Moltke (right).h12 self-governing communities, so as to avoid a manipulation of the whole of society. The circle’s main focus was to plan and propose a peacetime government for Germany and  a society based on Christian values; they did not ever appear to have made any plans to overthrow the Nazi state. As van Moltke wrote to his wife just before his execution “we are to be hanged for thinking together.”

h2The July 20 plot was developed as a modification of Operation Valkyrie (Unternehmen Walküre). Operation Valkyrie had been approved by Hitler for use if there was a general breakdown in civil orders as the result of Allied  bombing of German cities or an uprising of forced laborers from occupied countries working in German factories. It called for the creation of the Reserve Army, which included members of the Kreisau Circle. They totally changed the Valkyrie plan to include assh11assinating not only Adolf Hitler, but also Hermann Goering (left, above) and Heinrich Himmler (left, below).  German Army officers General Friedrich Olbricht (above, right), Major General Henning von Tresckow (right, middle), and Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg (right, below) sought to take control of German cities, disarm the SS, and arrest the Nazi leadership once Hitler had been assassinated. Hitler’s death (as opposed to his arrest) was required to free German soldiers from their oath of loyalty to him (Reichswehreid). 

By mid-1943 the tide of war was turning decisively against Germany. The Army plotters and their civilian allies became convinced that Hitler should be assassinated so that a government acceptable to the western Allies could be formed, and a separate peace negotiated in time to prevent a Soviet invasion of Germany.

 

Count von Stauffenberg Joins the Group

h4In August 1943, Tresckow met, for the first time, a young staff officer named Lieutenant Colonel Claus Schenk Graf von Stauffenberg. Badly wounded in North Africa, Count von Stauffenberg was a political conservative, a zealous German nationalist and a Roman Catholic. From early in 1942, he had come to share two basic convictions with many military officers that:

1.  Germany was being led to disaster.

2. Hitler’s removal from power was necessary.

After the Battle of Stalingrad in December 1942, despite his religious scruples, he concluded that the Führer’s assassination was a lesser moral evil than Hitler’s remaining in power. Stauffenberg brought a new tone of decisiveness to the ranks of the resistance movement. When Tresckow was assigned to the Eastern Front, Stauffenberg took charge of planning and executing the assassination attempt.

 

Plot Thickens…….

h13After lengthy preparation, the plot was finally ready to be carried out in 1944. While a modification of the plans offered by the Kreisau Circle, General Olbricht suggested that this plan could be used to mobilize the Reserve Army for the purpose of the coup. In August and September 1943, Tresckow drafted the “revised” Valkyrie plan and new supplementary orders. A secret declaration began with these words: “The Führer Adolf Hitler is dead! A treacherous group of party leaders has attempted to exploit the situation by attacking our embattled soldiers from the rear in order to seize power for themselves.”

Detailed instructions were written for occupation of government ministries in Berlin, Himmler’s headquarters in East Prussia, radio stations and telephone offices, and other Nazi apparatus through military districts, and concentration camps. 

Previously, it was believed that Stauffenberg was mainly responsible for the Valkyrie plan, but documents recovered by the Soviet Union after the war and released in 2007 suggest that the plan was developed by Tresckow by autumn of 1943. All written information was handled by Tresckow’s wife, Erika, and by Margarete von Oven, his secretary. Both women wore gloves to avoid leaving fingerprints. Operation Valkyrie could only be put into effect by General Friedrich Fromm (above right), commander of the Reserve Army, so it was essential for the plan’s success that either he be won over to the conspiracy or be in some way neutralized. Fromm, like many senior officers, knew in general about the military conspiracies against Hitler but neither supported them nor reported them to the Gestapo.

 

Next week: The execution of the plot and how Hitler actually received a significant portion his hearing loss.

 

References:

Chen, P. (2018). Helmuth James Graf von Moltke.   World War II Database.  Retrieved January 9, 2018.

Editors (2017).  Gestapo:  Nazi Political Police.Encyclopedia Britannica.  Retrieved January 9, 2018.

Gedenkstatte Deutscher Widerstand (2016). HENNING VON TRESCKOW.  Retrieved January 9, 2018. 

History Channel (2018). Nazi Party. Retrieved January 9, 2018.

History Channel.com (2018). The SS. Retrieve January 9, 2018.

History.com (2018). General Fromm executed for plot against Hitler. Retrieved January 9, 2018.

Jones, N. (2008). Claus von Stauffenberg. Historynet.com Retrieved January 9, 2018.

Morehouse, D. (2014).  The Kreisau Circle.  Weimar and Nazi Germany.  Retrieved January 9, 2018.

BBC (2014).  Heinrich Himmler (1900-1945). Retrieved January 9, 2018.

Staff (2015).  Hermann Göring.  History.com.  Retrieved January 9, 2018.

Truman, N. (2015). Battle of Stalingrad.  History Learning site.  Retrieved January 9, 2018.

Wikipedia (2017). General Fredrich Olbritch.  Retrieved January 9, 2018.

Wikipedia (2018) The German Army.  Retrieved January 9, 2018.

Wikipedia (2018). Reichswehreid.  Retrieved January 9, 2018.

Wirinner, A. (2013).  Why did Hitler tolerate the existence of the Abwehr (German military intelligence) for so long, even though they had opposed him and many of his policies? Quora. Retrieved January 8, 2018.

Ziwica, K. (2011).  Germany remembers Operation Valkyrie, the plot to kill Hitler.  Made for Minds. Retrieved January 9, 2018.