A True Hero: “How I Put Down Hitler’s Assassins”
Putting down the ‘Valkyrie’ conspiracy: my role in Berlin on July 20, 1944
by Otto Ernst Remer
MY ASSIGNMENT to the guard regiment “Grossdeutschland” in Berlin was actually a form of rest and recreation — my first leave from the front — after my many wounds and in recognition of my combat decorations, including the Knight’s Cross with Oak Leaves and the Close Combat Badge in Silver (48 days of close combat). Later I would be wounded again. In all I was to command the guard regiment for only four months, since I felt obligated to be back with my comrades at the front.
My mission as commander of the guard regiment “Grossdeutschland,” which I took over at the end of May 1944, was, aside from purely ceremonial duties, to safeguard the Reich government and the Reich capital. Since there were more than a million foreign workers in Berlin and its immediate vicinity, the possibility of internal unrest had to be taken into account. Around noon on July 20, 1944, First Lieutenant Dr. Hans Hagen, who had been severely wounded at the front, concluded his lecture on cultural history before the officers and NCOs of the regiment. He was attached to my regiment only administratively and in no way as a National Socialist political officer, as has often been reported. I was the regiment’s sole leader, politically as well as militarily.
I had invited Hagen to lunch afterward in my quarters at the Rathenow barracks, together with my adjutant, First Lieutenant Siebert. Siebert, who had lost an eye in combat, was a pastor of the Confessional Church
[a branch of the German Protestant Church that opposed Hitler]
. He attended services every Sunday at the Garrison Church, with my express permission, although I myself had left the church. Among us personal freedom was the rule. Nor did it bother me that, after having been an SA stormtrooper and a member of the party during the years of struggle before Hitler came to power, he had resigned from both organizations to protest defamatory remarks by his local party leader concerning the ancestry of Jesus Christ. Lt. Siebert suffered no adverse consequences due to his resignation.
In those days that sort of thing was entirely possible, with no repercussions. Indeed, before I chose Siebert, due to his character, as my adjutant, he confided to me that while still a stormtrooper he had broken into a Gestapo office in order to obtain documents incriminating colleagues in the Confessional Church. For me Siebert’s frank admissions were just a further evidence of the personal élan that recommended him as a trustworthy adjutant That’s the way it was in the Third Reich, so widely demonized nowadays. Neither in my unit nor in the officer corps as a whole did there prevail the stubborn narrowmindedness, not to mention the sort of terror against dissenting opinions, that is carried on against nationalists in Germany today by the “Office for Constitutional Protection.” Nor have I ever heard that Pastor Siebert considered himself to be a “resistance fighter” or that he later pretended to have been one.
During the early afternoon of July 20, 1944, my regiment, like all units of the Replacement Army, was alerted by the codeword “Valkyrie.” “Valkyrie” provided for the mobilization of the Replacement Army in case of internal unrest. While my regiment automatically implemented the prescribed measures, I was summoned from the swimming pool. In compliance with my orders I drove immediately to my designated post, the Berlin City Command Center, directly across from the “Eternal Watch” honor guard. While the other unit commanders waited in the anteroom, I alone was admitted to the city commander, Major General von Hase, and given the following briefing on the situation and my assignment:
The Führer has had a fatal accident! Civil disorder has broken out. The Army has assumed executive authority! The guard regiment is ordered to concentrate a strong force, reinforced for counterattack, to seal off the government quarter so that nobody, not even a general or a government minister, can enter or leave! To support you in sealing off the streets and subways, I’m seconding Lieutenant Colonel Wolters to your command!
As these orders were being issued, I was struck by the circumstance that a younger officer of the general staff, Major Hayessen, assisted, while the former and senior general staff officer, whom I knew personally, stood about, idle and noticeably nervous.
I was naturally very shocked by the general’s words, since I felt that with Hitler’s death the possibility of a favorable turn in the war had almost disappeared. Immediately I asked:
Is the Führer really dead? Was it an accident or has he been assassinated? Where have civil disturbances occurred? I saw nothing unusual while driving here through Berlin. Why is executive authority passing to the Army and not to the Wehrmacht [Armed Forces]? Who is the Führer’s successor? According to Hitler’s testament, Hermann Goering is automatically his successor. Has he issued any orders or proclamations?
Since I received neither detailed information nor clear answers to my questions, the situation became even murkier, and I felt a certain sense of mistrust even from the beginning. When I tried to get a brief glimpse of the papers which lay before me on the table, above all to see who had signed the orders, Major Hayessen ostentatiously gathered them up and put them in a folder. As I returned to my regiment I kept thinking: “Hitler’s dead. Now confusion reigns, and various people will probably try to seize power.” I contemplated the future struggles for succession.
I decided that, in any case, I would not allow myself to be misused in my capacity as commander of the only elite unit on active duty in Berlin. My regiment was made up entirely of picked, proven combat soldiers with high decorations for bravery. Every officer sported the Knights Cross. I was also mindful of the events of 1918, after which the Berlin guard units had been reproached for their hesitancy, which contributed to the success of the revolution. I had no desire to expose myself to a similar reproach before History.
When I returned to my troops, I gathered my officers and informed them of the situation and our orders. The alleged death of Adolf Hitler sent officers and men into shock. Never in my life, even at Germany’s final defeat, have I witnessed such despondency. Despite the numerous stories which flourish today, that is the absolute truth: I vouch for it.
I made no secret to my officers that there was a lot that was still unclear, indeed mysterious to me, and that I would in no way allow myself or my unit to be exploited. I expressly demanded unconditional confidence and absolute obedience, just as at the front, from every one of my officers. This somewhat unusual demand was due to a telephone call I received during the briefing from a general I didn’t recognize — it was probably Major General Friedrich Olbricht — at the High Command of the Replacement Army, requisitioning a company from my unit for a special assignment. This demand I explicitly rejected, pointing out that I had been entrusted with a clearly defined mission and that dispersing my forces didn’t seem advisable.
After the briefing I received two reports which further disturbed me. The first was from First Lieutenant Dr. Hagen, a member of my staff, who informed me that while on the way to the barracks he had seen Field Marshal Brauchitsch, in full uniform, driving his car on the streets of Berlin. This was strange, for Brauchitsch was retired. Given the circumstances, his appearance in uniform seemed remarkable. It later turned out that the officer seen by Dr. Hagen could not have been Brauchitsch. Probably it was one of the conspirators.
The second disconcerting report was from Lt. Colonel Wolters, who had been attached to my regiment as a liaison officer by the Command Center. He told me that I musn’t believe he was there to keep tabs on me as an informer. Such a remark was completely uncalled for. Not only was it incongruous and annoying, it awoke precisely the suspicion it was designed to allay: somebody had something up his sleeve. As it turned out, the briefing I gave my officers caused the colonel misgivings. In order to avoid responsibility, he simply went home — an unthinkable course of action for an officer on active duty.
I had my doubts that Major General von Hase’s description of the situation matched the facts. I also doubted another version of the story, according to which Hitler had been murdered by the SS. Those doubts convinced me that I had to determine the facts for myself. I decided to telephone every command post I could. That was just basic reconnaissance, a matter of course for every commander before committing his troops. Needless to say, this type of thinking and acting is quite at odds with the notorious corpse-like obedience that denigrators of the Third Reich’s army attribute to it.
Among other things I decided to send First Lt. Dr. Hagen, who had eagerly volunteered, to the Reich Defense Commissioner for Berlin, Dr. Joseph Goebbels. Dr. Hagen had earlier worked under Dr. Goebbels in the Propaganda Ministry, and I believed that by dispatching him to Dr. Goebbels I would be informed not only about the military but also the political situation. Dr. Goebbels was not only Reich Propaganda Minister. He was also Gauleiter and Defense Commissioner for Berlin. As a consequence of those two latter positions, he was patron of the “Grossssdeutschland” Division, which was made up of soldiers from all the provinces of the Reich.
About an hour and a half after the “Valkyrie” order was given, my regiment, by then combat-ready, moved into the areas to be sealed off in accordance with its orders. The normal guard units, such as those at the War Memorial and the Bendlerblock, the headquarters of the Commander of the Replacement Army and of the Defense Production Office, remained at their posts. At about 4:15 p.m. Lt. Arends, the duty officer in the Bendlerblock, reported to me that he had been ordered to seal off all entrances to the building. A Colonel Mertz von Quirnheim, whom Lt. Arends didn’t know, had given him this assignment. Lt. Arends had further been instructed by General Olbricht to open fire on any SS units that might approach.
After personally inspecting my troops in their new positions, at about 5:00 p.m. I returned once more to the City Commander, General von Hase, to inform him that I had carried out his orders. At that time I was asked to establish my command post there in the City Command Center, opposite the War Memorial. I had already set up a message center, commanded by Lt. Gees, in the Rathenow Barracks, with which I maintained telephone contact. Then von Hase gave me an additional assignment: to very tightly seal off a block of buildings north of the Anhalt Rail Station (he showed me where on the map).
As I began carrying out these orders, I ascertained that the designated block housed the Main Office of Reich Security. The unclearness, not to mention the deception, of this misleading order, only strengthened my suspicions. Why wasn’t I given explicit orders to place the Main Office of Reich Security under guard? It goes without saying that I would have carried out even that order.
Thus, on my third visit to General von Hase, I asked him directly “Herr General, why am I receiving orders formulated so obscurely? Why wasn’t I simply told to pay special attention to the Main Office of Reich Security?” Von Hase was quite nervous and excited. He didn’t even respond to my question. If one wonders today how a young officer like me could allow himself such liberties with a general, it should be borne in mind that we young commanders saw ourselves as battle-hardened, proven combat leaders, and we had scant regard for the chairborne warriors of the home front.
In this connection I should like to point out something based on my long experience at the front. Just as in the First World War, it was the veteran commanders of the shock companies who epitomized the front experience, so also in the Second World War it was the young commanders, come of age on the front, who had forged with their troops a sworn fellowship of combat. These men not only could fight, they wanted to fight, particularly since they believed in Germany’s victory.
While in General von Hase’s office I overheard from a conversation between the General and his First General Staff Officer that Goebbels was now to be arrested, and that this assignment was to be mine. Since I found this an unpleasant duty in light of my attempt to contact Goebbels, I jumped in and told General von Hase:
Herr General, I consider myself unsuited for this assignment As you know, I’ve been with the “Grossssdeutschland” Division, I’ve worn its stripe for years. This mission would be very unchivalrous for me, for as you are doubtless aware, Dr. Goebbels, in his capacity as Gauleiter of Berlin, is at the same time the patron of the “Grossdeutschland.” Only two weeks ago I paid Goebbels my first call as new commander of the guard regiment. On these grounds I consider it inappropriate that I, in particular, be ordered to arrest my patron.
Possibly von Hase sympathized with my arguments. For whatever reason, he now ordered the military police to take Reich Minister Dr. Goebbels into custody.
Around 5:30 p.m. Lt. Dr. Hagen finally met with Dr. Goebbels in his private residence, at 20 Hermann-Goering-Strasse beside the Brandenburg Gate, after having tried in vain to see him at the Propaganda Ministry. The Reich Minister had no idea of the danger he was in. It was only after Hagen, in order to emphasize how serious the situation was, pointed out vehicles from the guard regiment as they drove by, that Goebbels took fright. He cried, “This is impossible! What shall we do?” To that Hagen suggested, “The best thing would be for you to summon my commander here.” Goebbels asked curtly: “Can your commander be trusted?” “I’d lay down my life for him!” replied Hagen.
As I was going down the corridor just after leaving the City Commander’s office, I finally found my bearings as a result of Hagen’s contacting Goebbels.
Hagen had driven back to the barracks, gave Gees his instructions, and then drove to my new command post at the Command Center, which was heavily guarded. To avoid any hindrance, he did not enter the building, but informed my adjutant, Lt. Siebert, and my orderly, Lt. Buck, of the situation, asking them to inform me without delay. They reported as follows:
There’s a completely new situation! This is probably a military putsch! Nothing further is known! The Reich Defense Commissioner requests that you come to him as quickly as possible! If you’re not there within twenty minutes, he will assume that you are being forcibly restrained. In that case he will be compelled to alert the Waffen-SS. To avoid civil war, he has until then ordered the Leibstandarte [Hitler’s personal bodyguard, the 1st Division of the Waffen-SS] to stay where it is.
When I learned these things from my adjutant, I decided to see General von Hase one more time. That I still trusted the Major General, even then, is shown by my having Lt. Buck repeat to me once again, in the presence of von Hase, the message from Goebbels. I didn’t want to seem an intriguer; as a veteran combat officer it was my practice to lay all my cards on the table. Von Hase bluntly rejected my request to comply with the Reich Defense Commissioner’s summons so that I might clarify the situation in the interest of all concerned.
After leaving the Command Center without interference, I deliberated, together with my adjutant, Lt. Siebert — today a pastor in Nuremberg — about what I should do. My key role in this difficult and obscure situation, which I had not caused, was increasingly clear to me. By now I felt that my head was on the line too. After evaluating the situation as carefully as I could at that time, I decided that in spite of von Hase’s order to the contrary I would go to Goebbels. My reasons were as follows:
First, under no circumstances did I want to be deprived of my freedom of action, as often happened at the front. Often there was a very thin line between being awarded a high decoration, or being sentenced to death by a court martial.
Second, I felt myself still bound by my oath. The report of the Führer’s death was still at least doubtful. Thus, I had to act in keeping with the oath I swore on the flag.
Third, at the front I had many times made responsible decisions on my own, decisions the correctness of which were confirmed by my being awarded high decorations. Many a situation can only be mastered by decisive action. I felt as one with my comrades at the front, who wouldn’t understand if I were to stand idly by out of a lack of civic courage. I could not allow myself the responsibility of letting things come to a fatal head. I thought of 1918.
Fourth, I was under compulsion, since Goebbels had plans to alert the Waffen-SS, raising the possibility that a fraternal war between two forces, each proven in combat, might break out. As the commander of the only elite unit in Berlin on active duty I was responsible for the lives of the men entrusted to me. To employ them in a totally confused affair was not my duty.
Nevertheless, I didn’t entirely trust Goebbels either, for I still assumed that Hitler was dead, and believed that a struggle for succession was possible. I was far from wanting to let myself and my unit be thrust into a latterday Diadochian struggle. Inasmuch as Goebbels’ role remained unclear, I took along Lt. Buck and a platoon of soldiers. Their orders were to come and get me if I didn’t emerge from Goebbels’ residence in 15 minutes.
Then, after releasing the safety catch of my pistol, I entered the Reich Minister’s office, where I had been eagerly awaited, and asked Goebbels to orient me. With that Goebbels asked me to tell him everything I knew. I did so, although I didn’t reveal that von Hase intended to arrest him, since I was still unclear as to Goebbels’ role in all this. When he asked me what I intended to do, I told him that I would stick to my military orders and that I was determined to carry them out. Even if the Führer were no longer alive, I felt bound by my oath and could only act in accord with my conscience as an officer. At that Goebbels looked at me in amazement and cried: “What are you talking about? The Führer is alive! I’ve spoken with him by telephone. The assassination failed! You’ve been tricked.”
This information came as a complete surprise. When I heard that the Führer was still alive, I was greatly relieved. But I was still suspicious. Therefore I asked Goebbels to assure me, on his word of honor, that what he said was true and and that he stood unconditionally behind the Führer. Goebbels hesitated at first, because he didn’t understand the reason for my request. It was only after I repeated that as an officer I needed his word of honor in order to see my way clear that he obliged.
My wish to telephone the Führer’s headquarters coincided with his. Within seconds I was connected to the Wolf’s Lair at Rastenburg in East Prussia. To my great surprise Hitler himself came on the line. Geobbels quickly explained the situation to the Führer and then handed me the receiver.
Adolf Hitler said to me, approximately, the following: “Major Remer, can you hear me? Do you recognize my voice? Do you understand me?” I replied affirmatively, but I was nevertheless uncertain. It flashed through my mind that someone could possibly be imitating the Führer’s voice. To be sure I had become personally acquainted with the Führer’s voice during the previous year, when, after he had awarded me the Oak Leaf to the Knight’s Cross, I had been able to speak with him alone and completely frankly for an hour about the cares and miseries of the front. It was only as he continued speaking over the telephone that I became convinced that I was indeed speaking with Hitler. He went on:
As you can tell I’m alive. The assassination has failed. Providence didn’t intend it. A small clique of ambitious, disloyal, and traitorous officers wanted to kill me. Now we’ve got these saboteurs of the front. We’ll make short work of this treacherous plague, by brute force if necessary.
From this moment on, Major Remer, I am giving you complete authority in Berlin. You are responsible to me personally and exclusively for the immediate restoration of peace and security in the Reich capital. You will remain under my personal command for this purpose until Reichsführer Himmler arrives there and relieves you of responsibility.
The Führer’s words were very calm, determined, and convincing. I could breathe a sigh of relief, for the conversation had removed all my doubts. The soldier’s oath which I had sworn to the Führer was still binding, and was the guiding principle of my actions. Now my only concern was to eliminate misunderstandings and to avoid unnecessary bloodshed by acting quickly and decisively.
Goebbels asked me to inform him of the content of my conversation with Hitler, and asked me what I intended to do next. He placed the downstairs rooms of his house at my disposal, and I set up a new command post there. By this time it was 6:30 p.m. About 15 minutes later, the first report of the bomb attack in the Führer’s headquarters was broadcast over the Greater German Radio Network.
Due to my visit to the Berlin City Command Center I had a rough idea, for the most part, of the dispositions of the units advancing on Berlin. To let their commanders know the real situation, I dispatched staff officers in all directions to bring the word. Success was total. The question “The Führer — with him or against him?” worked miracles. I would like to state unequivocally that every one of these commanding officers, who like me were outraged at what had happened, subordinated themselves unconditionally to my command, although they all outranked me. Thus, they demonstrated that their soldier’s oaths were binding for them as well. Difficulties, temporary in nature, arose here and there, where personal briefings were not immediately possible.
Due to the prevailing uncertainty and because of misunderstanding — some thought that the guard regiments sealing off its designated area meant that it had mutinied — on two occasions my regiment came within a hair’s breadth of being fired on by other units. At the Fehrbelliner Platz an armored brigade had assembled at the order of the conspirators, but an order radioed by Lt. General Guderian removed it from the conspirators’ control. Thereafter this unit undertook reconnaissance and mistakenly concluded that the guard regiment “Grossdeutschland” was on the side of the conspirators and had apprehended Reich Minister Goebbels. Several of the brigade’s tanks advanced tentatively, and bloodshed would have been a near thing had I not intervened personally to clear up the confusion.
The same thing happened in front of the Bendlerblock, the headquarters of the Commander of the Replacement Army, when a panzergrenadier company tried to take over from my guard, which had been authorized by the Führer. The energetic intervention of officers from my regiment made possible a clarification at the last moment and prevented German soldiers from firing on each other. Here too the question “Hitler — with him or against him?” proved decisive. I had sent one of my company commanders, Captain Schlee, to the Bendlerblock in order to clear things up. At this point I had no idea that the leadership of the conspiracy had its Headquarters there. Schlee had orders to withdraw our guards, because I wanted, as much as possible, to avoid bloodshed. When he arrived he was ordered to see General Olbricht. He took the precaution of telling the guard to bring him out by force in the event he didn’t return promptly. In fact he was placed under arrest in the general’s waiting room by Colonel Mertz von Quirnheim, who told him to stay there. When Mertz went into Olbricht’s office, however, Schlee simply walked away.
When he returned to our guard, Lt. Arends informed him of a strange occurrence. He’d heard shouts coming from an upper story of the building and just then a typewriter and a telephone came flying through the window and into the courtyard. Schlee did an about-face and led a patrol back up to find out what was going on. He quickly identified the room from which the noise was coming; it was locked, but not under guard, and the key was still in the lock. Inside was General von Kortzfleisch, commanding general of the Berlin Military District. It was he who had thrown the objects out the window. The general had been summoned to the Bendlerblock to receive his orders. On his arrival, he steadfastly refused to cooperate with the conspirators. He was arrested and locked in, but left unguarded. Now that he was free, he gave us our first information regarding the leadership of the conspiracy.
At 7:30 p.m. our guards were relieved, in keeping with orders. Olbricht had to replace our guard detail with his own officers. The commander of the new guard was Lt. Colonel Fritz von der Lancken. As he was moving out Schlee learned from a captain in the communications center in the Benderblock that I had been ordered by the Führer to put down the putsch. They had been able to overhear my conversation with the Führer, and recognized that the telexes they were to send out were the conspirators’ orders. Thus the men in the communications center deliberately delayed sending the messages, or in some cases didn’t dispatch them at all.
Truly a masterfully prepared plan: the conspirators had no accomplices! Furthermore, telexes and telephone messages continued to come in from the Führer Headquarters, making the actual state of affairs quite clear.
Countless orders were given that late afternoon of July 20th. Among other measures I moved the replacement brigade of the “Grossdeutschland” from Cottbus to the outskirts of Berlin as a combat reserve. The brigade, too, had been given different orders earlier by the conspirators. Its tried and true commander, Colonel Schulte-Neuhaus, who had lost an arm in combat and whom I knew from the front, reported to my command post. I introduced him to Goebbels. Meanwhile I concentrated my own troops more tightly around the Reich Chancellory complex, and formed a strong combat reserve in the garden of Goebbels’ official residence. Goebbels asked me to address the troops assembled there, which I did. Their outrage at the traitorous goings-on was so great that they would have torn every single conspirator to pieces, had they been there.
Then I sealed off the City Command Center, for I’d gotten the impression that there was a number of questionable characters there. I also learned that after my refusal to arrest Goebbels, the military police had been ordered to do so. I waited in vain for them to appear. Later I heard that not a single unit was ready to arrest Dr. Goebbels, so that it was left to von Hase himself. At this point the City Commander was at the headquarters of the deputy commander, to which he had driven in order to work out further measures with the general who had been installed there by the conspirators. They had discussed things for two hours without coming to a decision, which was typical behavior for these combat-shy conspirators.
After General von Hase’s return to the City Command Center was reported to me, I asked him over the telephone to come by my command post at Goebbels’ residence in order to clarify the situation. At first he refused my invitation, and demanded that, since I was his subordinate, I should report to him at the Command Center. I informed him that I had been ordered personally by the Führer as his immediate subordinate, to restore peace and order, that von Hase was therefore under my orders, and that I would come and get him if he didn’t appear of his own free will. Only then did the general arrive. At this point I was still under the impression that von Hase, who had often been my guest at the officers’ club, who frequently expressed his solidarity with the soldiers at the front, and who never omitted a “Sieg Heil!” to his beloved Führer from any speech, had been deceived, just as I had been, and was unaware of the facts. Therefore I apologized for my unusual behavior. On his arrival von Hase was affability personified; he even praised me for my independence and decisiveness, and for seeking out Goebbels, by which I had averted a good deal of mischief.
Even with Goebbels von Hase played the innocent, and acted as if he had no inkling of any conspiracy. He was asked to stand by for further information, and a room was placed at his disposal. As von Hase left Goebbels’ office, there was an embarrassing incident, which made me, as a German officer, blush for shame. In these very tense circumstances, von Hase stated that he had been busy the whole day and hadn’t had a thing to eat. Goebbels immediately offered to have a sandwich prepared and asked him if he would like a glass of Mosel or Rhine wine as well. As soon as von Hase had left the office, Goebbels sneered:
“My name is Hare [Hase], I know nothing.” That’s the stuff our revolutionary putsch generals are made of. With the irons still in the fire they want to be wined and dined, and call their mommies on the telephone. In their place I’d see my tongue ripped out before I’d make such contemptible requests.
Two events illustrate how little thought and planning went into the putsch. My conversations and orders were routed through the same communications center in the Bendlerblock, headquarters of the conspiracy, from which the plotters’ orders were being disseminated in all directions. The communications officers could have delayed my orders or not transmitted them at all, or they could have interrupted my telephone calls, none of which they did. I even received a message from the Reich Broadcasting Service, asking what was going on. As a result, I was able to give the order that under no circumstances was any unscheduled transmission to be made. As a result, this important communications medium was also denied to the plotters. What transpired at the Broadcasting Center on the Masurenallee? Major Jacob had been ordered to occupy the Broadcasting Center. Astonishingly enough he had been ordered neither to broadcast any announcements nor to shut down the station. He attempted to telephone the conspirators to report his occupation of the radio station and to request additional orders. He had no luck, however. He wasn’t put through, as happened at many offices. For front-line soldiers the loss of telephone connections was a frequent occurrence. In such a case the normal procedure was to establish radio communications or to send a courier. Major Jacob had a teleprinter at his disposal as well, but he used none of those methods. Stauffenberg, the General Staff officer who planned the putsch, gave no thought to furnishing motorcycle couriers. Such trivial details were studiously overlooked.
Rudolf-Günther Wagner, the man who was to broadcast the conspirators’ proclamations, said later:
I had known for years that I was to broadcast the proclamation on the day of the putsch. I awaited with feverish excitement the arrival of the lieutenant who was to bring me the proclamation. Unfortunately I waited in vain, until I heard from Goebbels’ loudspeakers that the assassination had failed.
As is now well known, General Lindemann, who had the text of the proclamation, was nowhere to be found. General Beck was not willing to step in; he ordered Hans-Bernd Gisevius, a conspirator with the Abwehr, to bring the proclamation. First, however, Gisevius had to speedily draft a new statement, while the conspirators Stauffenberg, Hoepner, Yorck, Schwerin, and Schulenburg shouted suggestions at him. For this fiasco, too, Stauffenberg, the “manager” of the conspiracy, bears responsibility. To keep a broadcasting station in operation requires skilled and trustworthy personnel. A team had been ordered to the City Command Center, but it waited there idly until it was arrested during the counteraction. Hans Kasper, who was part of Operation Jacob, later commented:
It was around that time that the July 20 [attempted putsch] collapsed. From the perspective of a radio editor it was tragic. Tragic because the way in which details were handled made it obvious that this revolt had had very little chance of succeeding.
In the meantime Lt. Schlee had reported to me what was happening at the Bendlerblock. I knew nothing of the inside story, nor that Lt. General Fromm, Commander in Chief of the l Replacement Army, had withdrawn from the plot and been arrested by the conspirators. Schlee was further ordered, after our guards ad been relieved, to surround and seal off the Bendlerblock, without entering the buildings. At about 7:00 p.m. I felt I had the situation in Berlin in hand. The tension began to subside.
About the Author
Born in 1912, Otto Ernst Remer enlisted in the German army in 1930. During the Second World War he served as a front line officer in Poland, the Balkans, and in the campaign against the Soviet Union. He was wounded eight times, and his courage and ability earned him the German Cross in Gold, the Iron Cross, and other decorations. In May 1944 he was given command of the Guard Regiment “Grossdeutschland” in Berlin.
Remer played a key role in putting down the attempt by Claus von Stauffenberg and other conspirators to kill Hitler and seize control of the German government on July 20, 1944. On that day, one of the conspirators, Paul von Hase, ordered Remer and his troops to seal off the government buildings in central Berlin and arrest Reich minister Dr. Goebbels. However, Goebbels put Remer in direct telephone contact with Hitler, who ordered him to arrest the conspirators in the German capital and put down the attempted coup. Remer did this quickly and with no loss of life.
Promoted to Colonel, he took part in the Dec. 1944 Ardennes offensive. He was promoted to Generalmajor on Jan. 30, 1945. In the final weeks of the war he commanded a panzer division in Pomerania. After the war he helped found the Socialist Reich Party (SRP), which was later banned. After a court sentenced him to prison for “Holocaust denial,” he emigrated to Spain, where he died in exile in Oct. 1997.
Remer Dies in Exile
War Hero Fled to Spain to Avoid ‘Thought Crime’ Imprisonment
by Mark Weber
Otto Ernst Remer — a wartime German army officer who played a key role in putting down the July 1944 plot against Hitler, and an important postwar revisionist publicist — died on October 4, 1997, at the age of 85. Since 1994 he had been living in exile in the Spanish resort of Marbella. In poor health for some months, he died of natural causes.
He is survived by his wife, Anneliese. At the time of his death, it was announced that his remains would be cremated, with the ashes to be buried later in Germany.
Born on August 18, 1912, Remer volunteered for service in the German army in 1930. During the Second World War, he served as a front-line officer in France, the Balkans and on the eastern front.
After promotion to Major and then Colonel, in 1944 he was chosen to command the “Grossdeutschland” guard regiment in Berlin. In this post, the 31-year-old officer played a historically pivotal role in putting down the attempt by a small circle of insurgent officers to kill Hitler and seize control of the government.
On the afternoon of July 20, 1944, General Paul von Hase, the military commander in Berlin and a leader in the anti-Hitler conspiracy, announced to Remer that Hitler was dead, that civil disorder had broken out, and that the army was assuming overall authority in Germany. Hase ordered Remer immediately to seal off key government buildings in central Berlin.
Hesitating to carry out this highly unusual order, Remer decided to contact Joseph Goebbels to confirm its validity. After telling the skeptical and uncertain Remer that Hitler was not dead, the propaganda minister and Berlin Gauleiter arranged for him to speak directly with the Führer by telephone at his military headquarters in East Prussia. (Although the bomb planted by conspiracy leader Colonel Claus Schenk von Stauffenberg during a conference had killed four officers, Hitler escaped with only minor injuries.)
“Major Remer, can you hear me, do you recognize my voice?,” Hitler began. After explaining that an attempt on his life had failed, he gave Remer complete authority in Berlin to suppress the conspiracy. Remer and his men moved quickly to put down the revolt, which had been poorly planned and organized.
Five months later, Remer commanded the elite “Panzer Führer-Begleitbrigade” during the ill-fated “Battle of the Bulge” offensive. Following his promotion by Hitler on January 30, 1945, to the rank of Major General he was given command of tens of thousands of soldiers of the legendary “Panzer Führer-Begleitdivision.” During the war’s final months, he and his men fought off vastly superior Soviet forces, thereby rescuing hundreds of thousands of refugees who were fleeing the advancing Red troops.
Remer showed exemplary courage and valor in combat, and was wounded numerous times in battle. He was awarded some of the nation’s most distinguished military decorations, including the Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross, the German Cross in Gold, the Oak Leaves of the Iron Cross, the Golden Wounded Badge, and the Silver Close Combat badge.
At the end of the war he came into American captivity, and remained a prisoner of war until 1947. During this period, the American commander of a camp for German prisoners, First Infantry Division officer Stanley Samuelson, said of him: “Of the 87 German generals in this camp, General Remer is the only one whom I respect as courageous and honorable.”
Remer played a leading role in the formation of the postwar “Socialist Reich Party,” which, after winning 16 seats in a state parliament, was banned in 1952. Remer than lived in exile for several years in Egypt and Syria. He also wrote two books, including “Conspiracy and Treason Around Hitler” (Verschwörung und Verrat um Hitler), a memoir and study reviewed by H. Keith Thompson in the Spring 1988 Journal.
As a featured speaker at the Eighth (1987) Institute for Historical Review Conference, Remer spoke on “My Role in Berlin on July 20, 1944.” (His address was published in the Spring 1988 Journal, and is available on both audio CD and DVD video from the IHR.)
In October 1992 a German court in Schweinfurt sentenced him to 22 months imprisonment for “popular incitement” and “incitement to racial hatred” because of allegedly anti-Jewish “Holocaust denial” articles that had appeared in five issues of his tabloid newsletter, Remer Depesche. The judges in the case flatly refused to consider any of the extensive evidence presented by Remer’s attorneys. (See the March-April 1993 Journal, pp. 29-30, and the May-June 1994 Journal, pp. 42-43.)
To avoid imprisonment, in February 1994 Remer sought exile in Spain. (See the July-August 1995 Journal, pp. 33-34.) German authorities sought his extradition, but Spain’s highest court rejected these requests on the basis that Remer’s “thought crime” was not illegal in Spain. Nevertheless, until the final weeks of his life, German authorities persisted in their efforts to extradite the dying octogenarian so that he could be imprisoned in Germany.
Many of the numerous newspaper reports that have appeared about Remer over the years have contained demonstrable falsehoods. For example, he has repeatedly, and inaccurately, been referred to as a former “SS man” or “SS officer.” In fact, he was never even a National Socialist party member.
Newspapers also reported that Remer “denied the murder of Jews” or “declared that no Jews were murdered under the National Socialist regime.” Actually, Remer pointed out, “I have never denied that Jews were killed during the Third Reich, but have only disputed the figures of Jews who died in Auschwitz and the alleged method of killing” (that is, in gas chambers).
In challenging the gassing claims, Remer cited the various forensic studies of the alleged gas chambers at Auschwitz, particularly the investigations carried out by German chemist Germar Rudolf and American gas chamber specialist Fred Leuchter.
The Remer case points up the strange and even perverse standards that prevail in Germany today. Although his “crime” was a non-violent expression of opinion, to dispute claims of mass gassings in wartime concentration camps is regarded in today’s Germany as a criminal attack against all Jews, who enjoy a privileged status there.
More than half a century after the end of the Third Reich and the Second World War, Germans are ceaselessly exhorted to “never forget” the anti-Jewish measures of the Hitler era, to atone for what is called the most terrible crime in history, and to regard themselves as a nation of criminals and moral misfits. As a further expression of the country’s “national masochism,” the July 1944 conspirators are officially venerated, while outstanding wartime combat heroes and selfless patriots such as Remer are dishonored.
Particularly in Germany, the struggle on behalf of historical truth is not merely an academic question — it is an issue of national survival.
If Germany were ever to find itself in another major war, it would be suicidal stupidity to cite as role models for its soldiers and officers the individuals who, at a time of national emergency, tried to assassinate the nation’s leader and overthrow the government in a murderous putsch.
Every nation with a healthy survival instinct naturally venerates, particularly in time of war, individuals of exemplary self-sacrifice, patriotism, and heroism — men of the caliber of Otto Ernst Remer.
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Source: Institute for Historical Review