Stauffenberg som hjälte

På Sign and Sight finns tre artiklar som, i samband med filmen Valkyria, diskuterar hur man ska se på Stauffenberg och hans gärning.

Själv tittade jag på filmen just för att jag var nyfiken på hur han skulle framställas, och hur mycket av de bakomliggande idéerna hos konspiratörerna som skulle framkomma. Naturligtvis gavs dessa bitar väldigt lite utrymme. Men jag var ändå relativt nöjd, för min rädsla var att producentern skulle förvandla Stauffenberg – i syfte att göra storyn moraliskt simplare – till en behaglig liberaldemokrat.

Men filmen visade upp, glimtvis, Stauffenbergs nationalism – och generellt militäraristokratins motstånd mot Hitler. Detta skapar förmodligen en moraliskt mer komplex världsbild än den som annars är given.

Bernard-Henri Levy

The film shows Stauffenberg’s integrity very well. It shows his courage, the nobility of his views, his firmness of spirit. But what does it tell us of his thoughts? What does it teach us about why he enthusiastically joined the Nazi Party in 1933? Why does it go into no detail on how many of his initial Nazi convictions he had to jettison to carry out his plot and how many remained in tact? A sympathy for Ernst Jünger, for example? Or for Oswald Spengler? A fierce hostility to Weimar and the idea of democracy which he shared with the other former members of the Freikorps who remained true to National Socialism and its frenetic anti-Semitism? Did Stauffenberg hope to get rid of Hitler or Hitlerism? Of a bad tyrant or the principle of tyranny? Was his project to destroy Nazism or to rescue it?

Richard Evans

[Stauffenberg] found moral guidance in a complex mixture of Catholic religious precepts, an aristocratic sense of honour, Ancient Greek ethics, and German Romantic poetry. Above all, perhaps, his sense of morality was formed under the influence of the poet Stefan George, whose ambition is was to revive a ”secret Germany” that would sweep away the materialism of the Weimar Republic and restore German life to its true spirituality. Inspired by George, Stauffenberg came to look for a revival of an idealized medieval Reich, in which Europe would attain a new level of culture and civilization under German leadership.


Stauffenberg at first took a stance that was motivated more by military than by moral considerations. In the course of 1942, however, Stauffenberg realized that such atrocities were not just counter-productive by-products of a brutal policy of waging war, but formed the very essence of the German war effort. Hitler and the National Socialist leadership were betraying Germany, not merely preventing the realization of the true spiritual values of the ”secret Germany” but actually negating them. [….] It was this moral conviction, arrived at when Germany was still absolutely dominant in Europe, that set Stauffenberg apart from the more instrumental views of some of the other conspirators, who sought above all to rescue Germany from the total defeat that stared it in the face after Stalingrad. These beliefs, combined with his energetic personality, were also what led him to act where many other members of the military-aristocratic resistance still hesitated.


The oath he devised for the conspirators declared that in seeking a ”New Order, that makes all Germans bearers of the state”, those who signed it none the less ”despise the lie of equality, and bow down before the hierarchy ordained by Nature”. Like almost all sections of the resistance, he considered parliamentarism, the only viable form of democratic politics, had bankrupted itself in the Weimar Republic; that it would re-emerge after the war would have dismayed as well as surprised him. Here too, in their arrogant dismissal of social and political equality, his ideas looked more to the past than to the future. This rejection of egalitarianism and democracy was shared, in different forms by all the multifarious elements of the resistance.


Anti-democratic, elitist and nationalist, he had nothing to offer the politics of the coming generations, still less the politics of today. In the end, too, for all the desperate heroism of Stauffenberg and his fellow-conspirators, Germany’s honour was not rescued. The conspiracy encompassed only a tiny minority of the German people. The vast majority continued fighting to the end. Most were shocked by the news of the assassination attempt and relieved at Hitler’s survival.

Karl Heinz Bohrer

If, in spite of all the official remembrance days, the names of those who conspired against Hitler surfaced at all in the collective memory of the West German public, it was most likely to be as scapegoats: Why couldn’t the members of an elitist upper class just disappear and take the flawed Nazi past with them – one, it should be said, which the West German majority initially refused to confront (until the children and grandchildren of these very Nazis suddenly became tireless in their efforts to kitschify the intellectual climate with their ”antifascist” posing and strutting.


Evans claims that Fritz Dietlof von der Schulenburg, one of Stauffenberg’s early political mentors, did not arrive at the decision to assassinate Hitler until 1944, after the catastrophe of Stalingrad. Bearing in mind that there are undisputed documents which testify that, as early as 1939, before the outbreak of war, Schulenburg had mentioned in a conspiratorial conversation, the need to eliminate Hitler, not least because of the obvious criminality of his regime, – Evans’s date shifting constitutes libel and insult to his honour, in that it implies that Schulenburg was motivated exclusively by military considerations. This view, which was hinted at in the book, now becomes method. The fact that Schulenburg, like Stauffenberg, thought in categories of Prussian-German patriotism that are alien to us today, is apparently too much for Evans’s one-dimensional historical imagination.


There is no question that like Ernst Jünger and Gottfried Benn, Stauffenberg’s first spiritual influence, Stefan George, entertained pre-fascist fantasies. And there is also no question that the young Stauffenberg’s reverence for the medieval ‘reich’ was reactionary – in a similar vein to Novalis‘s ideas in ‘Die Christenheit oder Europa’. But what does that mean? Neither of them had political ideas that could in any way have served as a model for democratic European societies in the second half of the twentieth century. But to fundamentalise this tautological insight to effectively deny the conspirators any moral or cultural relevance is blinkered and constitutes intellectual bigotry.


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