Twilight of the Valkyries: A 20 July Plot TL (Redux)



Twilight of the Valkyries
was written back in 2016 out of a deep curiosity regarding the 20th July Plot, a famous point of divergence which I felt had immense potential in terms of stories that could be told or scenarios that could be devised. It was inmensely enjoyable - if a bit difficult - to write, but the TL eventually died – right before I was due to retcon some errors - as I struggled with personal issues I’ve only recently started to overcome.

It was only a week ago that I started to re-read the original version and inspiration suddenly came to me despite not having written anything for this TL in over two years, and here we are again. This Redux version will require this new thread though, since I’ve done few retcons and the old thread was locked for what I presume must have been necroposting.

This particular TL – I imagine very few people might remember - explores what might have happened if the Stauffenberg bomb had killed Hitler on July 20th, but without altering previous events or fixing some of the errors which would have probably doomed Valkyrie and the plotters. Now, there’s actually a few different possible outcomes that might arise from Hitler’s successful assassination – as in, who actually becomes the last man standing -, so please regard Twilight of the Valkyries not as “this is the most likely outcome” but as “this might have happened”.

Anyway, best not to go overboard with a new introduction. During the next few days I’ll be posting the rewritten and retconned chapters and the new ones I have done – Part I (Valkyrie) and II (Fall Silber), covering from July to September-October 1944 -, and then update the TL as I finish new chapters in the hopes of finishing it this time.

I hope you enjoy it!
PART ONE - Brünhild

PART ONE –Brünhild

Europe, July of 1944:

The Second World War is getting closer and closer to its bloody end.​

Across Eastern Europe and after years of brutal fighting, the Red Army continues to smash the once mighty Wehrmacht and push it back into Poland, each day coming closer to a long awaited revenge on Germany itself. Army Group Center has all but collapsed under the crushing, relentless blows of Operation Bagration. In the West the Liberation of France has begun as the Allies continue to expand their beachhead on Normandy following a month of furious battles, and it is only a matter of time for their inevitable breakthrough. Field Marshal Kesselring continues to block the Allied advance into Italy as Mussolini lives out the final months of his regime, but neither can hold out forever. And the skies of the Reich present an increasingly mortal danger as allied bombing burns entire cities to the ground whilst pummeling the remnants of the Luftwaffe.

For Germany, the war is lost.​

Even amidst the delusion of those of still believe in the final victory, a large part of the Wehrmacht and the Nazi elite is sufficiently aware of how desperate the situation has become. And within that group, there are a few who have decided something must be done. Angry, disappointed, bitter or hopeful, men of different backgrounds and institutions have grown to believe there is only one way to save their Sacred Germany from utter ruin and humiliation: to assassinate the Führer, bring down the Nazi regime, and achieve a negotiate peace with the Western Allies. Misguided, naïve, perhaps even blind to reality to some degree, this group of diverse, uneasy conspirators are desperate enough to risk everything on a last roll of the dice as the situation continues to deteriorate, many of them inspired and emboldened by the courage of a young officer: a war hero and the Reserve Army Chief of Staff, Claus von Stauffenberg.

Their plans for a military coup, drawn from the existing mechanisms for eventuality of an uprising of some sort by foreign workers or other disruptive elements, are codenamed Operation Valkyrie. By assassinating Hitler with a timed bomb and then mobilizing the units of the Reserve Army across Germany and Occupied Europe, the conspirators hope to overwhelm the party and the SS by pretending to avenge the Führer, a flawed plan which has failed to produce results after a number of close calls, mistakes and miraculous instances of survival by their elusive target. With the Gestapo seemingly closing on the conspiracy by arresting or chasing several of the plotters many believe the plot is either doomed or facing its last chance to succeed.

On the morning of July 20th, 1944, Colonel von Stauffenberg arrives on the Wolf’s Lair at Rastenburg, carrying two small bombs on his case that he is to assemble before a critical meeting with Hitler and other key generals. Fully aware of the ticking clock for Germany and for his fellow conspirators, out of alternatives, and having already aborted an attempt five days ago, Stauffenberg is determined to see Valkyrie through to its conclusion.

In the timeline we know the bomb detonated in less than ideal circumstances, Stauffenberg failed to kill Hitler, and Operation Valkyrie (a flawed plan at best) crashed down in flames once the Führer’s survival became known. But what if...?
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I. July 20th, 1944 (Morning)

July 1944:
Hitler’s reign comes to a sudden end
at the hands of Claus von Stauffenberg​

July 20th, 1944
The Wolf’s Lair, East Prussia
12:03 to 12:42 PM

Among the members of the conspiracy to assassinate Hitler there were only two who both held high rank and were constantly present at the Wolf’s Lair, thus having access to the Führer: General Helmuth Stieff, once the designated assassin, who had backed away from going through with the plot several times before, and more crucially, General Erich Fellgiebel, the man in charge of army communications within the base. Having resisted Hitler in secret from within the army since 1938[1], and after spending the 15th of July in agony as Stauffenberg and the Bendlerstrasse [2] plotters dithered and wasted an opportunity to kill the Führer, Fellgiebel could only hope that the Colonel would get it right this time. Nervous at not having seen Stauffenberg over a good part of the morning, the General’s instinct was to have a call placed, but ultimately he put his nerves under control and decided against it. If Stauffenberg was going to get caught, there was hardly anything he could do to save him, and interrupting him would probably cause problems of its own. Unwittingly, Fellgiebel had just ensured Stauffenberg and his aide Werner von Haeften would not be disturbed as they were preparing the explosives that were to be used in the attempt later that day [3].

By 12:30 Colonel Von Stauffenberg and General Walter Buhle reach the conference room on a rush, knowing they are late to the meeting. While Buhle is unfazed as he believes the Colonel’s delay is understandable given the handicaps of his wounds, Stauffenberg is fully aware that only through sheer luck he has managed to set everything up before having to leave the room in which he was “dressing”. With the clock ticking, both pieces of plastic explosive had been prepared at the last possible moment and put into the Colonel’s briefcase, ensuring that the blast would be as powerful as it possibly could [4]. Inside the room, General Heusinger – temporary Chief of the General Staff following Kurt Zeitzler’s breakdown – was already giving an exposition on the general state of the frontlines, but paused for a moment as Stauffenberg entered the room and was introduced to the Führer by Field Marshal Keitel. Hitler looked over to the young Colonel, and then shook his hand. Von Stauffenberg successfully hides the immense pressure he is facing, but it is no easy task. Even for a battle-hardened veteran, the role Stauffenberg has to play – not only assassinating the Führer, but ensuring the success of Valkyrie – is beyond critical. If the bomb fails to detonate or kill Hitler, if Stauffenberg is detained before leaving the Wolf’s Lair, if the Reserve Army can’t mobilize, then all will be lost for him and his comrades.

As the conference goes on for a few minutes, von Stauffenberg finally decides it’s time to leave the room as he sets up the briefcase as close as possible to Hitler. Although the fuse is set to last up to thirty minutes, the heat in the room makes it likely – as explained back in Berlin by Colonel von Quirnheim and others – that it could last as little as ten. He makes a signal to von Freyend (Keitel’s adjutant) that he needs to make a phone call, and the young officer leads him out of the room. Almost forgetting to take his hat and his belt [5], Stauffenberg begins to walk rapidly towards a nearby building, where General Fellgiebel and Lt. Haeften wait nearby a car. He hopes not to have attracted any suspicions, but his nerves have already almost betrayed him at a crucial moment. Just as Stauffenberg has left the room Heusinger is touching the subject of the defence of East Prussia (which brings the Colonel to the meeting), and to Hitler’s disappointment the officer is not there to answer a question regarding new divisions for the area.

The Colonel’s absence is most noted, and Hitler’s annoyance grows due to the avalanche of bad news from virtually all fronts. Colonel Brandt, one of the officers at the meeting, notices Stauffenberg’s briefcase and pushes it slightly forwards. As Heusinger points towards the Normandy in one of the maps, Hitler moves forward in order to look more closely. At about 12:42, as Stauffenberg and Fellgiebel have just saluted each other and while Hitler oversees the mounting ruin of the Third Reich in the map at the table, the explosives finally detonate.

On the way to the Airfield:
12:42 to 13:15 PM

The loud explosion startles Stauffenberg, Fellgiebel and Haeften, neither of them expecting the blast to be so soon or that strong. Some of the other officers are almost nonplussed, one of them commenting on how usual it is for animals to step on the perimeter landmines [6]. Stauffenberg excuses himself on going straight for lunch with the camp’s commander, then enters the car obtained by Fellgiebel and orders the driver to move on. As the Colonel and his aide leave the area smoke is starting to come out of the main building, and more and more soldiers rush to the scene. Stauffenberg hears screams of horror. Having passed the first checkpoint easily, the others pose a challenge as the alarm has already been raised across Rastenburg. Calling a fellow officer back at the compound to obtain clearance, Stauffenberg finally makes it through the final checkpoint and into the airfield, where a He 111 provided by the conspirators awaits. At 13:15 PM, and barely believing their luck, Stauffenberg and Haeften begin their flight towards Berlin [7]. Stauffenberg can only hope that the blast has been enough to kill Hitler – infamous for inexplicably surviving countless others attempts -, and that his fellow conspirators are already enacting Valkyrie from Berlin. The flight to the capital will leave him uncommunicated.

Back at the Wolf’s Lair:
12:42 to 14:00 PM

The first men to rush towards the burning conference room are one of the Führer’s aides (Schaub) and Hitler’s valet (Linge), both terrified at not seeing anyone emerge from the rubble. Entering the wreckage, they look in horror at the grim display: more than two dozen bloodied and burnt corpses across the room, many of them barely recognizable. Seeing a familiar figure at one of the extremes, Schaub moves and then tends to an agonizing Field Marshal Keitel – who’ll perish in a matter of minutes – while Linge looks towards a nearby body. It doesn’t take long for the valet to recognize the man he’s served for years, just as von Hasselbach – the nearest doctor - and a cohort of SS troops enter as well. Hasselbach kneels besides the body and checks for vital signs as Linge and Schaub begin to tear up, which is followed by the now famous statement: “Der Führer… der Führer ist tot.” It is thus recorded that, at 12:43 PM of July 20th, 1944, Adolf Hitler was dead. But it did not stop there. Twenty-three other people were present at the meeting by the time the bomb went off, and the impact was large enough to kill all of them either instantly or within a few minutes, Field Marshal Keitel and Otto Gunsche being the last to perish [8].

Main Casualties of the Stauffenberg Bomb:

Adolf Hitler, Führer of Germany
Field Marshal Wilhelm Keitel, Chief of the OKW
General Alfred Jodl, Keitel’s Chief of Staff
General Adolf Heusinger, Interim Chief of the General Staff
General Rudolf Schmundt, Chief of the Army Staff Office
General Walther Buhle, Chief of Army Staff at OKW
General Walter Warlimont, Deputy Chief of Staff at OKW

General Gunther Körten, Chief of Staff of the Luftwaffe
Lt. General Hermann Fegelein, SS Liason Officer
Vice Admiral Hans Erich Voss, Kriesgmarine Liason Officer

In addition to these men, the explosion also killed several officers serving as adjutants to the different Wehrmacht branches or to some high ranking officers present at the meeting, such as Air General Karl Bodenschatz, Colonels Nicholaus von Below, Heinrich Borgmann and Heinz Brandt, Rear Admiral Karl Jesko von Puttmaker, Captain Heinz Assman, and Majors Ernst von Freyend, Herbert Büchs and Walter Scherff. Also killed were diplomat Franz von Sonnleithner, bodyguard Otto Günsche and three stenographers: Berger, Buchholz and Waizenegger. Although the aides and adjutants were fairly irrelevant in the grand scheme of things, it was the Wehrmacht’s structure that Hitler had created that had just suffered an enormously crippling blow, losing not only its commander in chief in the Führer, but the Heads of the OKW (Keitel and Jodl), the Chief of the General Staff (Heusinger), Jodl’s Deputy (Warlimont), and key staff and operation officers (Buhle, Schmundt and Warlimont), all of which left a gaping hole in terms of leadership of the army.

As the officers in the Wolf’s Lair tried to make sense of the situation and placed the compound into as much of a lockdown as possible, chaos spreas quickly [9]. With the SS moving to find Brigadier General Rattenhuber (head of security) and Lt. Colonel Struve (camp commander), the mangled bodies are quickly taken out of the room in fear of more explosives. Fellgiebel, recognizing this is his best chance to try and manipulate communications, orders his staff to enforce a full communication black-out, with emphasis on blocking communications from the SS. Having personally seen Hitler’s body, at around 13:10 Fellgiebel successfully calls Lt. General Thiele (his chief of Staff in Berlin) to inform him of the deaths of Hitler, Keitel and Jodl, ordering him to relay the info to General Olbricht as soon as possible. The General also contacts Colonel Hahn, fellow conspirator and subordinate at the nearby Mauerwald OKH HQ, and orders him to disconnect a couple of stations nearby, further complicating communications and leaving the Wolf’s Lair as isolated from those not involved in the conspiracy as his authority allows (with the SS having a channel out of his authority) [10].

It does not take long for Martin Bormann (and Rattenhuber) to arrive at the scene, forced to come to terms almost immediately with the sudden demise of the Führer. A horrified Bormann ponders on his mind both the implications and potential culprits: the political succession of the Reich is left almost wide open due to Goering’s blatant unsuitability as a would-be Führer – the succession decree notwithstanding [11] – and what Bormann suspects is the near-incontrollable ambition of Himmler, of Speer, and of more than a few Generals. If this is part of a coordinated plot it is likely that any conspirators might attempt something else (even killing other prominent figures), and even if not, Bormann is not only aware of how damaging a succession struggle would be… he knows he is not currently in a position to win one, certainly not with a close ally like Keitel dead [12].

Tasking the shell-shocked Rattenhuber with an immediate investigation on the attack, Bormann resolves to move as fast as possible and find a temporary solution to the crisis. He resolves to inform Himmler, Doenitz, Goering and Goebbels and have them summoned to Rastenburg.

It is around this time that events start to happen in Berlin.

Notes for Part I:
[1] Fellgiebel, of course, was involved in the aborted 1938 coup planned by Beck, Halder and others in case war was to break out over Czechoslovakia, with Fellgiebel tasked to cut communications through Germany.
[2] Name given to the Reserve Army HQ, since it was based on the Bendlerblock in Berlin.
[3] This is the POD, chosen because of its sheer simplicity. Fellgiebel does not leave a call for Stauffenberg that interrupts the Colonel as he is preparing the bombs.
[4] In OTL, Fellgiebel’s call forced an aide to interrupt Stauffenberg, ensuring a single explosive was used. Here, they have two, ensuring any blast will be lethal regardless of Brandt moving the briefcase away from Hitler.

[5] A simple detail, which in OTL made the driver suspicious of the Colonel. Here, probably more confident due to being able to set both explosives, Stauffenberg does take his hat and belt.
[6] OTL, although this one was a surprise to read about.
[7] It took a lot of courage and luck for Stauffenberg to get through to the plane to Berlin, but with even greater confusion and considering the situation I think he would have managed to get the airfield here as well.
[8] Despite all disadvantages, had both pieces of explosive been used everyone in the room would have died. Most of them instantly given the blast.
[9] Plainly speaking, everybody at the Wolf’s Lair were caught with their pants down in the OTL attempt, and it was the slightly wounded Nicholas von Below who took decisive action first, arranging for several orders that were crucial in retrospect because of their early timing. But of course, ITTL von Below and most of the senior officers are dead. I do not know who else of high rank was there at the moment of the explosion (Himmler and Goering are in East Prussia, but not in Rastenburg), and neither Stieff nor Fellgiebel have the rank to give orders around, so Bormann and Rattenhuber will have to do.
[10] All of this minus successfully relaying Hitler’s death instead of his survival is OTL. Fellgiebel did as much as he could, but the expectations placed from Berlin were always too high related to his actual powers. Still, this is a key detail, because here he can inform the plotters early enough that Hitler is indeed dead, an overlooked factor in the almost suicidal delays for Valkyrie.
[11] On one side, Goering does have an official decree which names him as successor to Hitler. On the other, not only is he despised by the public, the military and the party alike, his own Luftwaffe subordinates and party rivals try to get him removed from power basically every month. The degree of loyalty that Goering might nonetheless command is, however, a source of debate. This will be covered on greater detail.
[12] Obviously, Bormann built most of his power on having full access to Hitler as his gatekeeper and from his handling of his schedule, but he had a “back-up”: his alliance with Keitel, Lammers, and at times Heinrich Müller as well, allowing him to influence the military, Gestapo and the bureaucracy. Here, not only has Bormann lost his patron, he has lost his link to the military leadership than can give orders (Keitel), meaning that all he has left is his bureaucratic lieutenants at the Party and Reich Chancellery and possibly Müller.
II. July 20th, 1944 (Afternoon)

July 1944:
Himmler’s paranoia forces him to make a move,
with dramatic consecuences​

July 20th, 1944
Reserve Army HQ, Berlin:
13:10 to 15:00 PM

Right after receiving Fellgiebel’s call from Rastenburg regarding the success of the assassination, Lt. General Thiele rushes to inform General Fredrich Olbricht – head of the General Army Office and key conspirator – and his chief of staff, Colonel Mertz von Quirnheim. The three men are both ecstatic and relieved to hear that, at last, they have finally managed to succeed in their mission to get rid of Hitler. And yet, as Mertz von Quirnheim points out, the hard part of the task begins now. Despite thinking it necessary to take some time for extra arrangements, von Quirnheim presses onto Olbricht the need to immediately place the Reserve Army (Erzatzheer) in alert, establish contact with the rest of the plotters and, above all, break the news of Hitler’s death to their superior: General Fromm, the man whose authority is crucial to properly commence and execute Valkyrie. Olbricht then places a call to General Eduard Wagner – Quartermaster General – at OKH HQ in Zossen, informing him of the assassination and asking him to make preparations for the eventual arrival of Field Marshal Erwin von Witzleben [13].

Mertz von Quirnheim then sets Phase One of Valkyrie in motion, placing units across Berlin in full alert. Shortly afterwards, Olbricht and Quirnheim grab the set of documents needed to authorize Valkyrie from a safe in the Bendlerstrasse, and rush towards Fromm’s office to inform him and hopefully persuade him to grant immediate authorization for their plans. Fromm, who had already lost faith in the conspiracy ever since the failure of July 15th (and who remained outraged at the usurpation of his authority that day to mobilize the Reserve Army) is not particularly surprised when he hears of von Stauffenberg making an attempt, but expresses his clear disbelief at the Führer’s death. Having suspected such a situation might arise, Olbricht contacts Fellgiebel at the Wolf’s Lair, giving Fromm a direct line. Asking for Field Marshal Keitel, Fromm hears it directly from Bormann - the only one prepared to talk to him – that Hitler, Keitel, Jodl and several others are dead. Afterwards, the General almost collapses into his seat. To the frustration of Olbricht and Quirnheim, he demands to be left alone for a few moments, the orders for Valkyrie still on his desk.

Around 14:40 Fromm emerges from his office and into the room where the two plotters wait for him. Handing Quirnheim the signed folder, he instructs him to begin Phase Two as soon as possible, and eventually implement the entire plan [14]. Fromm warns Olbricht that even at this stage his participation remains very much conditional – to Olbricht’s disbelief - and he also makes it clear he will not tolerate any sort of insubordination from Reserve Army officers. By 15:00 PM, a group of plotters already inside the Bendlerstrasse has joined Fromm and Olbricht, including former panzer commander General Hoepner, Counts von Schulenburg and Yorck von Wartenburg, and Stauffenberg’s brother Berthold. Officers and staff at the Reserve Army HQ are informed of Hitler’s death and the assumption of military and political power by Beck and von Witzleben, the unspoken assumption being that the SS – and possibly key party members – are plotting a coup against the state. Beck is expected to arrive within the hour, and Field Marshal Witzleben is preparing to travel to Zossen. Goerdeler, the likely candidate for Chancellor, remains hiding from the Gestapo, unlikely to be contacted until the morning of the next day. With Fromm’s temporary – and reluctant - support, the coup is now in motion.

The Wolf’s Lair:
14:00 PM to 18:00 PM

From the men that were to be contacted by Bormann after Hitler’s death and summoned to Rastenburg, Goebbels would receive the news too late to leave Berlin and Himmler would laconically express his inability to attend a meeting – fueling Bormann’s growing paranoia -, thus making it unable for all of the seemingly key players within the Reich to be on the same spot at once. The first one to obey Bormann’s summons and arrive at the Wolf’s Lair was Joachim von Ribbentrop, who hardly had any time to mourn the Führer before Reichsmarshall Hermann Goering finally made his appearance sometime after 2:00 PM, using his private train to enter Rastenburg. For all the decadent days Goering experienced around that time, July 20th did not saw him on a drug induced frenzy, but it did found him on a particularly aggressive state of mind. Indeed, the Reichsmarshall wasted no time to harshly berate Bormann him in front of the staff for the security lapses that led to Hitler’s demise, along with Bormann’s failure to secure the immediate attendance of Goebbels and Himmler. An infuriated Bormann, about to inform Goering of his growing suspicions regarding the missing Colonel Stauffenberg, bit his tongue and decided not to bring up the issue [15].

Matters are made worse when it is announced that Mussolini’s arrival via special train is imminent. Goering – who intensely dislikes Mussolini – declines to go to receive the Duce and forces von Ribbentrop to go to the station despite the Minister’s protests. Learning from Hamburg that Grand Admiral Doenitz has boarded a plane at 14:50 PM and is expected soon, Goering is forced to give the visibly shaken and even emotional Mussolini a tour of the Wolf’s Lair so he can pay his respects to the fallen Führer. Sitting down to drink some tea after the arrival of Doenitz from Hamburg and to Bormann’s increasing annoyance, Goering boasts of his new position as Hitler’s successor and begins to speak at length on his plans on Europe and his belief that “things need to change”. As Field Marshal Graziani – who came with Mussolini – asks whether some knowledge of the culprit is available, the Italians watch in increasing disbelief as Goering launches a tirade against Himmler and the SS first, then against Ribbentrop when the latter attempts to stop Goering from launching accusations. An attempt by Bormann to intervene only makes matters worse, as Goering charges them both with incompetence [16], Doenitz choosing to stay out of the discussion.

It does not take long for Mussolini and Graziani to propose suspending the meeting until the situation is more clarified, and the Reichsmarshall is happy to oblige them. It is around that time (18:00), that Fellgiebel’s blackout begins to slowly falter. Goering, Ribbentrop and Bormann receive a series of disturbing news: Rumors state that both SS and Heer units are moving across the streets of Berlin, with a report stating that gunfire has erupted through the capital. A stunned Goering orders Fellgiebel to contact Himmler and Fromm immediately, demanding to know what’s going on. A few minutes later, Fellgiebel reports the Bendlerstrasse cannot be reached and that Himmler is out of contact, last seen departing his village for Berlin with Kaltenbrunner in tow. As Mussolini’s train starts the journey back to Northern Italy and Bormann quietly slithers away to receive a phone call from Müller, Goering continues to fume and demands to be put through to the OKH/OKW HQ immediately. Grand Admiral Doenitz, sitting quietly and alone, begins to seriously consider the possibility of a coup within the party and military structures being in progress. The question is… by whom?

Gansenstein Village and Berlin:
13:00 to 16:00 PM

It was through the SS’s own communications channel at Rastenburg that the Reichsführer SS, Heinrich Himmler, was informed of the explosion at the Wolf's Lair no less than twenty minutes after Hitler’s demise. Himmler and his subordinates spent the next few moments in deep consideration, and then suspended their meeting to allow Himmler to immediately phone Ernst Kaltenbrunner at the Security HQ in Berlin. Upon informing Kaltenbrunner and as they discuss Hiitler's death, both men immediately suspect the resistance groups within the army, and realize that should that be the case – as they themselves have failed to take certain actions which might have prevented the situation - both of them are in serious danger [17] either by the actions of any potential plotters in the event of a coordinated plot, or via an attempt by Goering, Bormann and other members of the government to remove them from any possible succession crisis. Furthermore, Himmler does not believe for a moment that Bormann or Goering aren’t already mobilizing for support and/or considering ways to neutralize his SS.

Having experienced severe manpower shortages through the middle of the year due to the continuous creation of Waffen-SS units for the battlefield, it had been only five days ago that Hitler had granted Himmler permission to recruit men for the SS from the Reserve Army units, a key disposition that nonetheless had not been started at that point. While Himmler thought that most if not all of the SS combat units would stand with him should the need arise, virtually all of those combat ready divisions where fighting in the Balkans, Normandy or the East, each of them locked in battles harsh enough to make it virtually impossible that they could be quickly redeployed to Germany itself. Nonetheless, Himmler felt he could still rely on his police units, guard camps, a few parachuting regiments, a few units in formation in Austria and Bohemia-Moravia, and potentially a few regiments in Berlin as well. As a result, both Kaltenbrunner and Himmler agreed that putting down a potential putsch by the army and seizing the security services was vital to their survival, and might prove crucial in an upcoming struggle for the leadership of the nation.

The call is interrupted by an SS officer, who informs Himmler that Bormann is summoning him to come at the Wolf's Lair at the earliest possible moment. Although Gansenstein is only half an hour away from Rastenburg, Himmler nonetheless hesitates, and privately wonders not only why is Bormann - whom Himmler has increasingly seen a threat for the last few months - trying to "run the show", but whether it is safe to go to Rastenburg at all. Himmler resolves to ignore the summon, orders Kaltenbrunner to keep a close eye in Berlin until his arrival that afternoon, and starts placing further calls to Kaltenbrunner and the entire security apparatus at the Prinz Albrechtstrasse. Kripo Chief Arthur Nebe is first, being tasked by immediate investigation of the assassination. Gestapo Chief Müller follows, receiving orders to arrest key individuals in Berlin – including Stauffenberg -, and Walter Schellenberg is warned of a potential coup and ordered to stay vigilant. Finally, Himmler manages to reach whom he thinks is the most reliable officer he can find in the Berlin area: the infamous Lt. Colonel Otto Skorzeny. Breaking the news of Hitler’s demise to him and presenting it as the result of a conspiracy, Himmler orders the outraged Skorzeny to gather SS units and work with Kaltenbrunner and loyal Heer formations to ensure the safety of the capital. Temporarily satisfied, the Reichsführer and his lieutenants board their cars for the nearest airport and prepare to reach Berlin as soon as possible. After all, they reason, there is little point in allowing Goering – or any possible rival – to mobilize first.

What Himmler fails to realize, however, is that Nebe is already a conspirator, Schellenberg has withheld knowledge of the plot for himself, and Müller has already secretly sided with Bormann weeks, if not months, ago [18].

Berlin Area:
15:00 to 17:00 PM
Although most of the key figures of the Third Reich were absent from Berlin in that particular day – Hitler and Bormann at the Wolf’s Lair, and Doenitz, Himmler and Goering elsewhere -, left in the city were still key members of the bureaucracy and the security services, and more importantly Reichministers Speer, Funk and Goebbels, who spent the morning at the Propaganda Ministry at a venue designed to raise the morale of fellow ministers, functionaries and selected journalists. It was Speer’s task of delivering the main speech that resumed the call for resistance and total war, which drew a healthy round of applause. Having refused General Fromm’s invitation for lunch, Speer shared a glass of wine with Funk and Goebbels before leaving for his ministry [19]. Due to Fellgiebel’s blackout of communications and the chaos at Rastenburg it takes a while for Press Chief Otto Dietrich to finally contact Goebbels, breaking the news of the Führer’s death. Goebbels, grief stricken and in shock, resolves to depart to Rastenburg. Alas, before Goebbels can depart to the airport the Reserve Army begins to mobilize and spreads through the streets of Berlin, reaching the outskirts of the Propaganda Ministry very soon due to a last minute change in planning.

Kripo Chief Arthur Nebe informs the Bendlerstrasse that Himmler has contacted him from East Prussia, which makes Himmler’s surprise arrest virtually impossible [20]. Quirnheim and General Paul von Hase, the City Commander, convene that the greater threat within Berlin is Goebbels, and therefore task Nebe with his arrest (thus replacing Major Remer, a seemingly unreliable officer, from performing this task). Nebe rushes with a group of his men and a company of Reserve Army troops, and blocks the exits to the Propaganda Ministry as the phone lines are cut. Desperate attempts from Goebbels to contact Rastenburg, the Bendlerstrasse or Speer meet in failure, and soon afterwards the lines are cut. Realizing the gravity of the situation Goebbels tries to find a way to seek help or escape alongside his press adjutant von Oven, only for the Kripo to storm the building. Nebe and his men eventually break into Goebbels’s office, informing him of his arrest for treason against the party. Realizing a coup is taking place by the army, and believing the SS to be involved due to Nebe’s presence, Goebbels’s psyche gives in as he finds the situation to be hopeless. Before the Kripo can intervene he bites a cyanide capsule, violently collapsing to the floor. A few minutes afterwards, a messenger reports to the Bendlerstrasse that Minister Goebbels is dead [21].

Stauffenberg and von Haeften land in Berlin at 15:45 after escaping from the Wolf’s Lair, being escorted along with General Beck to the Reserve Army HQ as they unwittingly miss an SS squad by minutes. With the support of City Commander von Hase, orders begin to pour out to the Berlin units, to the Wehrkreise (military districts), and to key cites like Prague, Paris and Warsaw. The beginning of these orders will become famous (or infamous): “The Führer Adolf Hitler is dead! An unscrupulous clique of party leaders alien to the front has attempted, under the exploitation of this situation, to betray the hard-struggling front and to seize power for their own selfish purposes...” Included in the message as well is the proclamation of General Beck as Head of State, and Field Marshal von Witzleben as Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces. Despite Fromm being forced to arrest the Commander of Wehrkreis III (Berlin), General von Kortzfleisch, due to insubordination [22], the other officers in Berlin follow orders, and troops begin to mobilize across the capital. Supported by Nebe’s Kripo and the Berlin Police under conspirator Count von Helldorf, ministries and offices are locked down and scads of party members, SS officers and bureaucrats are taken prisoner, including men like Ley, Funk, Lammers and other key Nazi personnel.

A crisis, however, begins at around 16:30. It is around this time Skorzeny begins to enter the center of Berlin followed by several companies of SS men, being blocked by a Reserve Army unit led by Major Remer. Hoping to avoid friendly fire Skorzeny tries to ask Remer to stand down, unaware that the Major has received strict orders to arrest SS officers. A botched attempt to capture Skorzeny on the street results in a gunfight between the Reserve Army and the SS, Skorzeny barely escaping with his life as Remer is riddled with bullets. Around the same time SS Oberführer Humbert Achamer-Pifrader and a Gestapo squadron arrive at the Bendlerstrasse on Müller’s command, bringing orders for the arrest of von Stauffenberg, who just arriving by car. Reserve Army troops try surround the Gestapo officers, who nonetheless attempt to fire at the Colonel as another gunfight breaks out in the street.

By 17:00 PM, the SS, Gestapo and security services are in a shooting war with the Reserve Army.

Notes for Part II:

[13] The butterflies begin to spread! In OTL, Olbricht is informed that Hitler lives, but Fellgiebel’s wording regarding von Stauffenberg is ambiguous enough to make it look like no attempt took place at all. I’ve decided to go with Peter Hoffman’s take on the situation, that being that Olbricht, unaware that the bomb had actually gone off IOTL initially thought it was a situation similar to July 15th and thus a coup was either futile or too much of a risk. Here, it is clear Hitler is dead and the attempt was successful, emboldening Olbricht and preventing a decisive two-hour delay.
[14] Fromm knew very well what Stauffenberg was up to. Stauffenberg told him point blank, and despite his constant ambiguity he personally told Stauffenberg not to forget about Keitel if he attempted a coup. In this scenario, not only is Hitler gone (and Fromm has reliable information), but also Keitel and a good part of the Wehrmacht command. Fromm, highly ambitious despite his caution, knows there’s a real vacuum in power to be filled, and much as he may not like Olbricht events show he did have some faith in Stauffenberg. As we will see later on, Fromm’s attitude is far more complex and opportunistic than it seems to the plotters, but I feel it’s perfectly reasonable that in this particular context and in the absence of Hitler and Keitel he would give Valkyrie the greenlight whilst keeping an open mind about the future. Fromm was, if anything, prepared to be flexible, which led to his OTL death.
[15] Bormann is one crafty fellow, but also one to hold grudges, and he and Goering did not get along at all. Knowing how much of a mess Goering is at this point and looking as his own actions in July 20th and in April 1945, I have no doubt he would not be able to rise up to the occasion, and would unnecessarily antagonize his rival. Bormann, in response, would probably be only too happy to undermine Goering and begin to think about the future.
[16] Seeing that Goering and Ribbentrop were at each other’s throats in OTL July 20th and the Foreign Minister probably feels a lot more entitled to speak his mind without Hitler around, chances are this meeting with Mussolini would turn into a mess as well, presenting a very inauspicious start to Goering’s aspirations as the next Führer.
[17] I don’t subscribe to any conspiracy theories of Himmler being a part of the 20 July Plot, but there are factors we simply cannot overlook. Himmler had been contacted at least once by the plotters through indirect means; with one associate of Carl Goerdeler bluntly offering support should Himmler overthrow Hitler to end the war. Far from having him arrested, thus uncovering the plots of Tresckow and the Army Group Centre officers, Himmler did nothing, and it appears he had privately expressed suspicions that some officers were plotting against Hitler. Whether this is negligence, underestimating the conspiracy or something else I don’t plan to speculate on, but the facts are these:

Himmler has expressed openly his utter contempt for Goering, going as far to declare that should something happen to Hitler he would see to it that the Reichsmarshall would not become Führer. Not only that, Himmler knows that Goering knows of his hostility, which on this environment and given the paranoid court Hitler (and Bormann) were running can only predispose both men to a conflict. But to make matters truly worse, Himmler realizes that if word gets out to Bormann or Goering that he did nothing to stop the plot – whatever his motives were -, he’s finished. That, above all, would mean he needs to get into action far sooner he would prefer too.

I suppose the jury is still out on the extent of knowledge Kaltenbrunner had, but neither the Gestapo nor the security services had been particularly effective despite slowly closing in the Valkyrie plotters through July. A similar accusation can be levelled against him by his rivals since to merely arrest Goerdeler or others that were targeted a few days ago might have stopped the conspiracy, and since he realizes that, I believe it plausible Himmler and him would join forces out of their belief that they position is in danger.

[18] Believe it or not, Müller – who clearly excelled at his work – presented Himmler with concrete evidence of plotting within the General Staff, particularly through Admiral Canaris. Himmler’s response? He told Müller to simply drop the case. As a result, Müller would then enter in an informal pact with Bormann in OTL.
[19] Minor butterflies again, as Goebbels was contacted and informed while meeting with Funk and Speer, and would later insist on having Speer nearby as he set his crucial countermoves in place. With sheer chaos at Rastenburg and with Fellgiebel doing his best to make communications hard for those outside the plot, Speer and Funk leave before Goebbels is informed.
[20] Nebe was supposed to take a dozen policemen or so to arrest and kill Himmler on the day of the plot, but the signal for him never arrived because, inexplicably, the plotters neglected the fact that Himmler was not in Berlin! (seriously, amateurish stuff) Here, with an earlier and better coordinated plan due to greater clarity regarding Hitler’s death, orders are changed accordingly and Nebe – a more determined conspirator - is sent after Goebbels, who can’t talk his way out of the situation like he did with Remer.
[21] Goebbels showed little inclination to survive Hitler in OTL, and as far as he knows Berlin is already falling to a coup. The emotional distress he would probably go through makes me think he’s likely to kill himself before surrendering to Nebe – which, ITTL hindsight, would have been the right choice for him -.
[22] Pretty much OTL. This particular General never believed in Hitler’s death, and had to be arrested by Beck and Olbricht after disobeying orders. Chances are he wouldn’t believe Fromm either, so he gets arrested here as well.
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In what way?
Remer founded the Socialist Reich Party, the first major Neo-Nazi party in West Germany, which was notable in that it actually cooperated with German communists and the Soviet Union. After the party was banned he fled Germany and spent some time serving Nasser’s Egypt as an advisor before becoming an arms dealer. He returned to Germany in the 1980s and once more became involved in Neo-Nazi politics, and then fled to Spain in 1994 to escape imprisonment for Holocaust denial. One of his most unorthodox positions amongst the far-right is that he supported the Soviet Union and considered the USA to be the real enemy of Germany.
Q: General Remer, you have called for German-Soviet cooperation. Can you tell us about that?

A: We Germans must leave the NATO alliance. We must be militarily independent. We must create a nuclear-free zone. We must come to an understanding with the Russians. That is, we must obtain reasonable borders from the Russians. They are the only ones that can do that. The Americans don't have any influence at all in that regard.

In return, we will guarantee to buy [Russian] raw materials, and cooperate on hundreds of projects with the Russians, and that will eliminate our unemployment. All this has nothing to do with ideology. The Russians are so economically backward that they will readily and happily agree to this, and they'll be free of ideology.

Q: How would the French react to this?

A: France will have to work together with us. France is so much economically weaker than we are that it must trade with us in the West or not at all. The Americans are our mortal competitors.

Q: Might not a German-Soviet alliance lead to war?

A: No. On the contrary, we would prevent war. The Russians do not need a war. That's why Gorbachev makes his proposals. It's America that wants war.

Q: Wouldn't America try to provoke hostilities?

A: If we really come to an understanding with Russia, then it's all over for America.

Let me say frankly: the government of Adenauer [the first postwar West German chancellor] retained the entire wartime staff of Goebbels, and put them in government positions in Bonn. And as a result, the wartime anti-Communist outlook of Dr. Goebbels, which was quite proper during the war, was continued right up to the present. They were all Goebbels' people ... Who still really believes in Communism these days? We are really against Communism.
III. July 20th, 1944 (Night)

July 1944:
Beck and the Valkyrie plotters set up
their new government as the coup goes on

July 20th to July 21st, 1944
Berlin Area
17:00 PM to 6:00 AM

Despite a complete takeover of Berlin by the plotters appearing to be likely after the death of Goebbels and the partial implementation of Valkyrie orders, the Bendlerstrasse is surprised at the rapid reaction of the SS and other security units that were not surrounded in time. Although by this point key bureaucrats and ministers are now under heavy guard, reports start to arrive stating that isolated SS forces are either blocking the advance of Reserve Army units and/or arresting/releasing officers, leading to the crucial escape of figures targeted for arrest.

A few minutes after surviving the shootout with Major Remer, Skorzeny and his men return to the Prinz Albrechtstrasse to meet with Kaltenbrunner and Walter Schellenberg, the latter of which has just been dragged out of his machine gun desk [23]. With the SS officer asking for instructions in light of the apparent chaos, Kaltenbrunner orders him to disrupt any movements or orders from the Bendlerstrasse, and puts Schellenberg to work in terms of contacting relevant SS figures to warn them of the situation. For his own part, Heinrich “Gestapo” Müller learns of the mass arrests of party members – including several of Bormann’s other allies – and the failure to arrest Stauffenberg at his arrival on Berlin, and thus resolves to call to Bormann at the Wolf’s Lair. Following a brief conversation and realizing Kaltenbrunner is mobilizing men and that the Prinz Albrechtstrasse is likely to become the center of a battle, Müller resolves to disappear from the complex alongside his Gestapo officers that are still free to move.

The zeal of SS units in fighting the Reserve Army has caught Stauffenberg and the Bendlerstrasse officers by surprise, and Himmler’s counter-coup units are soon bolstered in strength when Kaltenbrunner reaches out to the Regiment Hermann Goering and successfully persuades the commander to switch sides and take over Tegel Airport in support of the SS. Talk is spreading across several units of Hitler’s death with conflicting explanations as to the actual culprits – Himmler, an army cabal, Goering -, and the center of Berlin becomes a war zone as SS units snipe at the Reserve Army and plan to force their way into the Bendlerstrasse. One of the few places not attacked by either side is the Armaments Ministry, where Albert Speer has basically barricaded himself alongside his staff after learning of Hitler’s death. Speer is deeply shaken by the news of Hitler’s death and outright refuses to answer any further calls from the Bendlerstrasse after a tense conversation with General Fromm, to whom he grimly warns that he needs to reevaluate his support for the coup before it’s too late [24].

In the meantime, more units begin to pour into Berlin as most of the radio and communication centers are taken over by the army. Crucial to the Valkyrie plans is the entrance of the Gross Deutschland Reserve Brigade of Colonel Stirius from Cottbus, a much needed reinforcement in holding the SS back and in raising morale amongst the conspirators. And yet, as the night approaches it becomes clear that for anyone to fully overrun the other side and firmly secure Berlin itself – key to the success of any coup or counter-coup - they will require the invaluable assistance of Guderian’s armored forces, as the ambitious General controls the Panzer cadets stationed at Potsdam. Guderian has indeed put his forces into alert, putting Panzer units on the road and stopping them just short of entering the city, but to the shock of several officers who attempt to call into his HQ Guderian is allegedly out of reach after going for a walk at his estates [25]. Despite desperate attempts by Beck, Himmler and Bormann to reach him or persuade his subordinate General Wolfgang Thomale – another conspirator - into action, the panzer forces fail to move.

In the Bendlerstrasse, most of the Berlin based conspirators are already in place giving orders. The main exceptions are Carl Goerdeler, who won’t be found until the next day (as he hides from the Gestapo) and General von Tresckow, who will receive orders from Beck that night and will take flight to Berlin escaping the vigilant eyes of the – furious - Field Marshal Model. More important in retrospect will be a critical order issued by Stauffenberg, ordering Colonel von Boeselager (key conspirator) to move his 3rd Cavalry Brigade (5,000 strong) west. Boeselager, currently stationed near East Prussia in order to protect the region from a Soviet breakthrough is also is given a key target to seize: the Wolf’s Lair. In the meantime, the first nationwide radio message is sent around 7:00 PM and delivered by the recently arriving General Lindemann, announcing Hitler’s death, denouncing the current situation an as attempted coup by the SS and proclaiming the installation of a new government led by Colonel General Beck. Fromm’s annoyance grows as it becomes clear the coup is actually badly planned and badly coordinated when several of the Wehrkreise refuse to acknowledge Beck’s authority or stall for time, and even more when he learns Himmler, Goering and Bormann are all alive and most likely planning a counter-coup of their own.

Despite this failure to arrest the other key members of the Nazi regime – Goebbels’s death notwithstanding - Beck, Stauffenberg and Olbricht have nonetheless succeeded in turning a seemingly hopeless plot into a credible – if by no means strong – opportunity to seize control of the state and overwhelm their opponents. And yet, unless they can force a major change on the scramble for power, time may act against their side [26].

The Wolf’s Lair:
18:00 PM to 6:00 AM

As the news of the all-out war across Berlin by the SS and the Reserve Army continue to pour into the Wolf’s Lair, Goering dispatches Doenitz back to Hamburg to act as his representative in the zone and to keep the Kriesgmarine in line. In the meantime, Martin Bormann is absolutely restless following the call by Gestapo Müller through his own secure connection [27], in which he is informed about the arrests by the Reserve Army – including key allies of his like Reich Chancellery Chief Hans Heinrich Lammers -, about Himmler’s independent and unsanctioned orders to Müller, and of the sheer chaos within Berlin. Deprived of his own sources of power and facing the growing wrath of Goering – with whom Bormann hasn’t had the best relationship in the past - he is painfully aware that any misstep could lead to his arrest or even his execution, having been caught off guard by the sudden power-play and the loss of Keitel. To make matters worse, Himmler appears to be acting on his own, which strongly suggests – to Bormann – that the SS is already mobilizing in a struggle for power, and the failure of Himmler and his vast security apparatus to prevent the assassination is either suspicious or an error that could be exploited. Determined to win time and survive at all costs Bormann resolves to attempt to manipulate Goering, reasoning that by inciting the Reichsmarshall against Himmler and exploiting his status as an “official” but immensely flawed (and unpopular) successor – and a lesser evil of sorts for his own personal ambitions - he can gain some time and then make a move against Goering – whom the Wehrmacht may not take seriously before long – once the time is right [28].

Bormann rejoins the group and immediately starts playing the part of a dutiful subordinate, informing Goering of the new “evidence” uncovered by the Gestapo and of the events taking place in Berlin. Thus, Goering is briefed by Bormann regarding Himmler’s “contacts” with individuals opposed to the late Führer, the “convenient” failure to prevent the assassination, and the unilateral orders to security officers in Berlin. The unsettled Reichsmarschall – who is nonetheless all too glad to have an excuse to wield against his rival – is thus persuaded that an SS putsch is either a reality or imminent, and despite Ribbentrop’s suggestion that both men should meet to avoid a direct conflict before it’s too late (a notion soon shot down by Bormann, who expresses his concern at the Reichsmarschall’s security), Goering has Rattenhuber and other SS officers across the Wolf’s Lair arrested, turning over the separate SS communication lines to General Fellgiebel’s, who has managed to avoid suspicions thus far. Pressed on by Bormann to take immediate and decisive action, Goering decides to prepare a radio broadcast to the nation and contact the Gauleiters and the Army Group commanders to try and secure the support of the party and of the Wehrmacht.

Luftwaffe General Köller drafts a provisional statement to be read across the radio – as it will take time for Goering to be prepared for his own - announcing Hitler’s death, denouncing Himmler and the SS as plotting a coup and informing the Reich of Goering’s new status as head of the government, statement which is finally aired by the stations that can be reached through the Wolf’s Lair radio communication systems after extensive technical delays. While limited on its broadcast, it will soon be followed by Goering’s own statement mourning the Führer, asserting his new position and his “unwavering belief” in victory, and crucially, his personal denunciation of Himmler as a traitor to be arrested as the direct culprit of Hitler’s death [29], a relevant factor in pushing undecided or neutral officers to nonetheless partially acknowledge Valkyrie orders as far as arresting the SS is concerned. As Goering hurriedly tries to assemble his staff and prepare for taking control over the state [30], the first radio messages from Berlin arrive during the night after Fellgiebel can offer no further delays, denouncing an unnamed group over trying to take over Germany – strongly implied to be the SS – and declaring the sudden creation of the Beck Government, with Field Marshal Witzleben as Supreme Commander. Goering has a fit of rage at the news, only made worse when he is informed of the occupation of Karinhall by Reserve Army troops and the arrest of several of his closest allies and officers. As the news continue to pour in regarding the SS rising in Prague and the Reichskommisariat, and the growing instability within the Wehrkreise, Goering now has to fight what appears to be two different coups. Eventually, more radio dispatches are issued as communications become more fluid, and Goering records another – and longer - speech to the German people denouncing both the Beck Government and the SS and demanding the arrest of the “traitors”.

By morning of the next day Goering – through Bormann’s furious maneuvering - has achieved some degree of success. Although the enormous loss of public and private prestige incurred over the last few years and over disasters such as Stalingrad has turned the Reichsmarschall into a figure of ridicule and/or scorn, (which prevents Goering from immediately commanding wide support) the combination of the the official decree, the shock at Hitler’s violent death and the also noteworthy flaws of Himmler (widely unpopular with the Army) and Beck (who technically speaking has no real justification for suddenly becoming head of state) help in persuading Field Marshals Kesselring (Army Group C) and Model (Army Group Center) to immediately declare their loyalty to Goering and arrest suspicious elements within their theaters, a decision which is also supported a few of the Wehrkreise. On the other hand, Goering finds little success in identifying units he can instantly mobilize within Germany, since, as Model makes it clear, diverting already shaken and demoralized units from the eastern front without risk an irreversible and full-blown collapse.

Furthermore, Goering feels unsafe at the Wolf’s Lair not only in light of Hitler’s fate – which suggests the base is infiltrated and compromised -, but because of his marked distaste for Bormann. Finding him to be a valuable “ally” in the middle of the crisis, the Reichsmarshall is nonetheless convinced he’ll soon have to get rid of Bormann once the SS is dealt with. Entrusting Bormann with control of Rastenburg – to avoid keeping him too close - and dubitative between flying to Munich or to Hamburg, an exhausted Goering finally makes a choice and boards a plane alongside Köller and other loyal officers.

Occupied France:
16:00 PM to 8:00 AM

From Zossen, General Wagner sends a simple coded message to Colonel Finckh, one of the conspirators in Paris. All the message says is “exercise finished”, the codename for Hitler’s successful assassination. Finckh rapidly takes the documents necessary to put Valkyrie orders for Paris in place from a safe and contacts General Blumentritt (Chief of Staff, not a conspirator) and the Army Group B HQ in La Roche Guyon, being forced to leave a message for Field Marshal von Kluge at the hands of General Speidel. The news also makes its way into the Hotel Majestic and to General Carl-Heinrich von Stülpnagel, Military Governor of France and key member of the Valkyrie plotters. Stülpnagel informs his staff of the situation – presenting it as an SS coup - and gives the appropriate orders to arrest all SD and SS personnel in Paris, and then speaks to Colonel General Beck through the phone for a few minutes. As Beck informs him that Field Marshal von Kluge allegedly remains unconvinced and ambivalent about Hitler’s death, von Stülpnagel resolves to take immediate action and decides to visit La Roche Guyon by 7:00 PM.

Despite General Beck’s best attempts at swaying von Kluge on the phone, the Field Marshal continues to doubt Hitler’s demise, even attempting to contact the Wolf’s Lair several times without any results [31]. As more and more news begins to pour in from Berlin, several voices join urging him to act: General Speidel, General von Falkenhausen (former military commander of Belgium) via telephone from Brussels, and even Blumentritt, who despite not being a member of the plot is convinced of the actual existence of the SS/Gestapo coup. Alas, it takes Stülpnagel’s arrival to La Roche Guyon for the officers to finally persuade the Field Marshal that Hitler is indeed dead. Kluge finally resolves to act, cancelling preparations for an ordered – and on his opinion suicidal - counteroffensive in Normandy and ordering Speidel to draft plans for an orderly withdrawal, hoping to take advantage of the temporary halt in the Allied advance. The main concern at the time remains the Waffen-SS units present on the battlefield, as arresting their commanders might risk the collapse of some of their best units. On the other hand, Kluge and his officers are aware that Sepp Dietrich and other of the SS commanders openly distrust and even despise Himmler, a key factor they could exploit [32]. Kluge orders Rommel to be put under a heavier guard for his own safety and resolves to conference with Dietrich the following morning. Von Stülpnagel, despite his misgivings towards Kluge’s caution, returns to Paris [33].

At 11:00 PM the Paris garrison suddenly storms the SS and SD HQ and arrests all officers and men in sight, securing their surrender with no casualties and not a single shot fired. However, the situation remains tense during the night as Admiral Theodor Krancke gets hold of the radio dispatches from Goering and Himmler and denounces Beck and Stülpnagel as being behind the actual coup. Krancke threatens to release the SS troops with the thousand or so marines at his disposal, and he has to be taken into custody after a tense scene. As July 21st dawns on Paris, Stülpnagel and Kluge report to Berlin that the plotters can count on Paris and Army Group West. Their celebration is short-lived, however, as Bernay Hospital (where Rommel is recovering) reports that a company of Waffen-SS men has taken over the building under orders from General Sepp Dietrich.

Across the Wehrkreise and the Third Reich:
16:00 to 8:00 AM

In order for a coup or a countercoup to succeed, securing the support of Reserve Army units and the military structure of the Wehrmacht inside Germany is crucial, and this is represented by the Wehrkreise (military districts). The level of organization of the plotters in each of the districts varies from direct support from the main commanders to a skeleton group of mid-ranking conspirators, and as the day develops and confusion grows the results are, at best, mixed. Having deployed most of their strength and influence to take over Berlin, the Valkyrie plotters nonetheless secure the support of Wehrkreis II (Stettin), IV (Dresden), VI (Münster), IX (Kassel) and XI (Hannover), with Wehrkreis XI erupting in infighting and severe confusion as several officers attempt to declare for Goering anyway [34]. On the other side, Goering also succeeds in gaining over districts in the first hours, securing Wehrkreis I (Konigsberg), VII (Munich), X (Hamburg) and XVIII (Salzburg), mostly thanks to early supporters like Grand Admiral Doenitz, Gauleiter Paul Giesler and General Julius Ringel. The rest of the Wehrkreise adopt a tentative “wait and see” strategy, although in virtually all of them the SS are arrested or forced into hiding as both Beck and Goering have marked them as public enemies. Despite the criticisms of plotters like intelligence officer Hans Bernd Gisevius, SS officers are held under custody as opposed to shot and killed when arrested.

Another key element is the combined OKH/OKW in Zossen, where the former staff of Keitel and Jodl – now left without a direct superior – is desperately trying to prevent the collapse of the front resulting from Hitler’s death. Seconded by General Wagner and General Lindemann, Field Marshal von Witzleben makes his entrance on the HQ bringing the Valkyrie orders, and stating his new position of Supreme Wehrmacht Commander. The staff is torn on how to react to the Field Marshal’s announcement (and whether it has any legality), but lacking a better alternative the officers allow Witzleben to assume temporary command. Although the Field Marshal does his best to reach out to the Army Group commanders he receives non-committals or outright refusals from officers to acknowledge his new position, Field Marshal Model outright warning Witzleben he’ll be hanged for treason before the week is over. Tempted to leave for Berlin [35], Witzleben is nonetheless able to coordinate with the few Wehrkreise already behind the coup, and successfully orders General Friessner of Army Group North – who carefully avoids formally recognizing the Beck government - to commence an immediate withdrawal south to defend East Prussia and avoid an encirclement from the Red Army.

Vienna is a particularly successful instance for the coup, as General von Esebeck and Colonel Kodre take immediate action after being contacted at around 5:00 PM. Inviting the SS commanders to the Army HQ in Vienna, the officers actually surrender with no complaints [36], and Gauleiter Baldur von Schirach is virtually the only one arrested while attempting to resist. A takeover of the rest of Austria seems unlikely at best, though, as the 24th Waffen SS Mountain division (1,000 strong), based on Linz, is put on alert by Himmler. On the other hand, the outcome of the coup in Prague results in a most unexpected outcome. Realizing that the Heer units are actually outnumbered by the SS due to the presence of the SS-Oberabschnitt Böhmen-Mähren, General Ferdinand Schaal attempts to obey the Valkyrie orders with caution and delays making a move. The Minister President and SS General Karl Frank (alerted by Himmler) reacts faster, sending men to capture Schaal and Reich Protector Frick. Several gunfights erupt through Prague during most of the afternoon and night, leading to Frick’s capture by the SS and Schaal’s death when a grenade is tossed into his office. By morning, Frank reports to Himmler that Prague, and by extension most of Bohemia-Moravia is now SS-controlled territory.

By 7:00 PM, radio announcements are spreading through Germany, the Valkyrie ones having an advantage of a few minutes over those of Goering, and it is still several hours before SS broadcasts can be put in place from Prague. While the death of Hitler is undisputed and the news spreads quickly through Germany (and soon reaches Allies), by the time July 21st dawns the inner Third Reich stands in monstrous confusion as Goering, Beck and Himmler have all accused each other of being behind the assassination of the Führer, with Himmler bearing the worst part due to Bormann’s manipulation of Goering and his own recklessness in deploying the SS in Berlin. The plotters have found success in Paris, Vienna, Norway – via an early message from General von Falkenhorst - some of the Wehrkreise and most of Berlin, numbers favoring them against the SS troops. Goering has mobilized some tentative support from parts of the Wehrmacht and the Party, and Himmler, although badly damaged on his prospects due to the consequences of Valkyrie and the machinations of Bormann, can still count on loyal SS units still active through Germany, new allies mobilizing in several of the Reichskommissariat and his newfound haven in Prague as he frantically tries to contact the main Waffen-SS commanders and any Field Marshal willing to back him up.

Germany wakes up the day after Hitler’s death with three prospective leaders.

Notes for Part III:

[23] Schellenberg also knew a plot was going to take place and did nothing. Here Skorzeny finds him first, and therefore he has no option to support Himmler, at least for now.
[24] Speer’s portrayal is something altered from the original version of Twilight of the Valkyries (along with that of Skorzeny and others), which is motivated by how my personal perception of him has changed in three years. This may not be that noticeable since most of what I planned for Speer was coming in the chapters that were never written, but back then I happened to believe in some of Speer’s myths despite being mostly cynical about what many high-ranking Nazis wrote post-war. Influenced by Gitta Sereny’s characterization of Speer – her biography of him is a brilliant book – I originally envisioned Speer as possessing certain idealistic, emotional and principled traits he probably lacked in RL – or did not possess to the level he pretended to -, something which was bound to influence my portrayal of him. It was interesting to notice as I was rewriting that my mental image of Speer had changed.
[25] Guderian’s motivation was a source of some debate in the original version, and with good reason. The level of his involvement on the OTL coup is subject to significant debate and Guderian’s own memoirs can hardly be accepted as truth given how much Guderian – known for his enormous ambition – distorts things to support his own convenient narratives. Objectively speaking, we know General Thomale (Guderian’s deputy) was a conspirator. We know several of Guderian’s units were prevented from going to the Eastern Front by Olbricht (presumably in the hopes they would support the Reserve Army). We also know Guderian went for a “walk” of several hours and couldn’t be reached on July 20th, only taking action by sending his men to depose the coup when it was clear Hitler was alive and well. We are not yet at a point in which Guderian has acted differently than OTL – thus his men are yet to enter Berlin -, but we soon will be.
[26] By this point the coup is already a lot more successful than it ever came close to being in OTL, but it’s still deeply, deeply flawed. Far from just being the Wehrmacht against the SS, it still remains a group of Reserve Army officers and a few isolated commanders trying to use loyalty to Hitler to secure the Government against Goering and Himmler under extremely false and flimsy pretenses. Not a very easy task, even if the alternatives are so deeply flawed in the eyes of those who decide to carry out the Valkyrie orders out of different reasons.
[27] Bormann had his own secure line out of the Wolf’s Lair that was isolated from what Fellgiebel could control. If the July 15th bomb had gone off and taken out Goering and Himmler then Bormann would have been the only one who could have immediately reacted right after Hitler’s death. It’s an interesting notion for anyone who wants to explore a July 15th Plot scenario.
[28] A lot of what happens in this scenario – and indeed, in any attempt at simulating Valkyrie – will depend not only on the narrative one wants to explore, but also on how one reads the psychology of the main figures of the Third Reich. Whereas it could be argued the logical solution would be for Goering, Himmler and Bormann to cooperate in a rational manner my understanding of the situation is that without Hitler as a common element to bind them into a common pursue, accounting for the sheer animosity between these characters, and reading Bormann as a schemer – who would find it hard to think 100% rationally when his life and position appears to be at risk -, I find it reasonably he’d try to pit Himmler and Goering against each other so he could profit. This is in no way objective, but it makes sense to me.
[29] The essential problem with simulating something like this is that there are too many factors to consider. Too many characters involved – many of them with a personal agenda -, too many events within a few hours, too many possibilities as to how the situation after Hitler’s death would play out. Some are more implausible than others or downright unlikely (as in, immediate Himmler takeover or instant Valkyrie victory, both of which are extremely unlikely), and so this has to be one out of countless ways in which events could develop. The main takeaway from this is that the impact of Hitler’s death, the flaws of each would-be successor and the painful mistakes of the Valkyrie plotters (near amateurish) all conspire to lead towards a frantic form of chaos, a chaos in which momentum is everything.
[30] Goering was also another somewhat controversial part of the original version, some arguing his position was just too deteriorated by 1944 to make for a realistic successor. That’s a sentiment I happen to share only up to a point. Goering is obviously damaged goods and too flawed to make for an evident rallying point for Nazi loyalists and this is exactly why he struggles to instantly overcome the flawed Valkyrie plans or the SS, but on the other hand one shouldn’t underestimate the psychological impact of Goering being the “official” successor to a beloved leader who has just been martyrized by his scheming enemies. Against the cartoonish villainous Himmler and against Beck, who is both a relic and extremely unpopular with the army (not to mention lacking any justification to assume power), I find it reasonable at least a few key officers would decide Goering is the least bad option or the one that makes sense from a standpoint of loyalty and standing up by Hitler’s instructions.
[31] Kluge’s attitude on July 20th is easily the stuff of dark comedy (reminds be a bit of Malenkov in The Death of Stalin), as he changed sides at least four times that day whilst displaying a near bipolar mood. No reason for him to suddenly grow a spine, so Stülpnagel still has to go and save the day for the Valkyrie plotters.
[32] Rommel allegedly spoke to Sepp Dietrich shortly before the air attack incapacitated him, and apparently sounded Dietrich out on his loyalties in the event of a struggle, receiving a fascinating response. Alas, this is something Kluge and Stülpnagel don’t know, they can only guess where Dietrich’s loyalties may lay.
[33] Unlike OTL, Kluge has not been able to contact the Wolf’s Lair and Keitel is dead anyway, which means there are no contrary reports to Hitler’s death. Much like Fromm, I believe Kluge would join the plot in this context, if conditionally so.
[34] Tresckow and the other officers who wrote the operational plans for Valkyrie proved to be surprisingly naïve as to what should be done and how it should be implemented. This resulted in an amateurish operation which failed to make necessary decisions while making unbelievable mistakes – like ordering Nebe to arrest Himmler but not noticing that the latter was nowhere near Berlin that day -, and which depended all too much on Stauffenberg’s courage and drive to issue necessary orders whilst assassinating Hitler. The shockwaves from Hitler’s death and the general backstabbing between the Nazi loyalists are decisive in giving Valkyrie a credible shot at a victory, but they don’t alter the fundamentally flawed plans that, barring incredible look, would have made a clean and successful capture of power near impossible as opposed to a prolonged struggle.
[35] IOTL, Witzleben was so disgusted from the chaos at Zossen that he left to the Bendlerstrasse and then abandoned the coup. Here, despite the mistakes included in Valkyrie is somewhat more successful, and therefore remains at Zossen.
[36] This is OTL. The SS officers even ceased to complain after von Esebeck supplied them with cigars and brandy.
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Thank you all for the kind comments!

Back during the original version it was suggested it would be helpful to have maps, though I didn't have the means to either draw one or modify an existing one. This time I managed to adapt an existing map of the Wehrkreise that can be found on Wikipedia - created by Historien2208, it's brilliant - to reflect the - shifting - allegiances of military regions and some of the Reichskommissariat. Hopefully it proves useful in offering a clearer picture of how the situation develops.


I’m loving this timeline so much, please continue it! For such detailed chapters it does beg the question, how long do you plan on the timeline going for? I would much enjoy to see how the aftermath of this mess fairs during the Cold War era.