Hitler’s Hearing Loss, Part II

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


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!



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About Robert Traynor

Robert M. Traynor is a board certified audiologist with 45 years of clinical practice in audiology. He is a hearing industry consultant, trainer, professor, conference speaker, practice manager, and author. He has 45 years experience teaching courses and training clinicians within the field of audiology with specific emphasis in hearing and tinnitus rehabilitation. Currently, he is an adjunct professor in various university audiology programs.