Friday, May 2, 2008

Last of failed Hitler assassins dead

The last living man who tried to kill Adolf Hitler, the 1944 briefcase bomber Philipp Freiherr von Boeselager, died Thursday. He was 90.
Von Boeselager was part of a group of officers who tried to kill Hitler on July 20, 1944, supplying explosives for the operation led by Col. Claus Graf Schenk von Stauffenberg.

The von Stauffenberg plot is the basis for the upcoming Tom Cruise film ''Valkyrie'' in which the American actor plays the aristocratic colonel.

Von Stauffenberg placed the bomb in a conference room where Hitler was meeting with his aides and military advisers but escaped the blast when someone moved the briefcase next to a table leg, deflecting much of the explosive force.

Almost immediately afterward, von Stauffenberg and many of his cohorts were arrested and executed in an orgy of revenge killings that saw some hanged by the neck with piano wire. Though many of those rounded up by Nazi officials were tortured in the hopes they would give up other conspirators, von Boeselager's name was never divulged and he was never found out.

Still, he carried a cyanide capsule with him until the end of the war in case his secret was revealed.

Von Boeselager, who lived in Altenahr, near Bonn, was first recruited by von Stauffenberg coconspirator Maj. Gen. Henning von Tresckow in 1942, he told the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung in an interview three weeks ago that was published Friday.

He said he knew that Jews were being systematically killed and that Germany was waging a war of annihilation along the Eastern Front with Russia and that he never considered declining taking part in the plot.

By 1942, he said that ''It was no longer about saving the country, but about stopping the crimes,'' the newspaper quoted him as saying.

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