This Day In History: Hitler Escapes An Assassination Attempt (1939)

On this day in history in 1939, there was an attempt on the life of Adolf Hitler. On this day in Munich when Hitler and the Nazis were celebrating the anniversary of the Beer Hall Putsch, a bomb exploded. Hitler had just finished his speech when the bomb exploded and he was not hurt by the blast.

The anniversary of the Putsch was very important for the Nazis. In 1923 Hitler and his henchmen decided to take advantage of the political and economic situation in Germany to seize power in Bavaria and then the rest of the country. The Putsch was a disaster and some two dozen Nazis were killed and Hitler himself was imprisoned. The anniversary of the attempted seizure of power by Hitler was often used to inspire his hardcore followers with ideas of the Fatherland and National destiny.  The German leader gave one of his typical impassioned and histrionic speech to an audience of long-time Nazis. When he finished his speech instead of staying and talking with some of the Nazi old guard, he left immediately and this may have saved his life. Some ten minutes after he left the Beer Hall where he had given his speech the bomb exploded. It caused a powerful blast and it sent shrapnel everywhere. Seven people were killed and over sixty wounded in the hall.

Himmler (R) with unidentified military policeman in Warsaw after German invasion of Poland.
Himmler in 1939

The Nazi elite was outraged. The next day an official paper denounced the bomb and blamed the British Secret Service for the attempt on Hitler’s life. They accused the British Prime Minister of plotting to kill the Nazi leader. This was all propaganda and it was aimed at hiding an inconvenient truth for the Nazi. The actual perpetrators were members of the German military and were part of a resistance movement to the Nazis.

Hitler and the Nazis could not admit that there was internal opposition to their rule and their war aims.

Himmler and Heydrich decided to dupe the British into revealing any information that they had on the German resistance. They assumed that their internal enemies had made contact with the British intelligence. Because at this date the SS and Gestapo had little information on the Anti-Nazi resistance.  He had Heydrich to arrange a meeting with some British agents in order to find out what they knew. The pretext of the meeting was that the Nazis wanted guarantees about the neutrality of the Netherlands.  However, a Nazi agent pretended to be an anti-Nazi resistance member in order the find out what the British knew about the assassination attempt.  The British knew nothing. Then the Nazis agents kidnapped the British agents, anyway and brought them to Germany and Himmler brazenly announced that they had been responsible for the bomb. The British agents were forced to confess to something that they could not possibly have done.

The person who actually planted it was a German communist and he was probably backed by members of the German military, disgusted by Hitler and his Nazis.