Oster Conspiracy

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The Oster Conspiracy of 1938 was a proposed plan to overthrow German Führer Adolf Hitler and the Nazi regime if Germany went to war with Czechoslovakia over the Sudetenland. It was led by Generalmajor (major general) Hans Oster, deputy head of the Abwehr (Germany's counter-espionage agency) and prominent figures within the German military who opposed the regime for its behaviour that was threatening to bring Germany into a war that they believed it was not ready to fight.[1] They planned to overthrow Hitler and the Nazi regime through a planned storming of the Reich Chancellery by forces loyal to the plot to take control of the government, who would either arrest or assassinate Hitler, and most of the members involved agreed that they would support the restoration of the Hohenzollern monarchy of Kaiser Wilhelm II and that had been residing in exile in the Netherlands since 1918.[2]

Background

Hans Oster in 1939

The plot was organised and developed by Oberstleutnant (lieutenant colonel) Hans Oster of the Abwehr; he drew into the conspiracy such people as Generaloberst (colonel general) Ludwig Beck (a former Chief of Army General Staff), Generaloberst Walther von Brauchitsch (Commander in Chief of the Army), Generaloberst Franz Halder (Chief of the Army General Staff), Admiral Wilhelm Canaris (Chief of the Abwehr), and Generalleutnant (lieutenant general) Erwin von Witzleben (Commander of the Berlin and Brandenburg Military District). First, Count Hans-Jürgen von Blumenthal would lead a storm party into the Reichkanzlei and kill Hitler. It would then be necessary to neutralise the Nazi Party apparatus in order to stop them from proceeding with the invasion of Czechoslovakia, which they believed would lead to a war that would ruin Germany.

Therefore, in addition to these military figures, the conspirators had contact with Secretary of State Ernst von Weizsäcker and the diplomats Theodor and Erich Kordt. Theodor Kordt was considered a vital contact with the British on whom the success of the plot depended; the conspirators needed strong British opposition to Hitler's seizure of the Sudetenland.

However, Neville Chamberlain, apprehensive of the possibility of war, negotiated interminably with Hitler and eventually conceded strategic areas of Czechoslovakia to him. This destroyed any chance of the plot's succeeding, since Hitler was then seen in Germany as the "greatest statesman of all times at the moment of his greatest triumph", and the immediate risk of war had been neutralized.

Aftermath

The plotters survived to become leaders of the German Resistance to Hitler and Nazism during the Second World War. Oster himself was on active duty until 1943, when placed under house arrest after other Abwehr officers were caught helping Jews to escape Germany. After the failed 1944 July Plot on Hitler’s life, the Gestapo seized the diaries of Admiral Canaris, in which Oster’s long term anti-Nazi activities were revealed. Oster was executed in April 1945.

See also

Pius XII and the German Resistance

References

  1. Nigel Jones. Countdown to Valkyrie: The July Plot to Assassinate Hitler. Pp. 73-74.
  2. Nigel Jones. Countdown to Valkyrie: The July Plot to Assassinate Hitler. Pp. 73-74.

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