It seems like every election cycle we see a news story about how this candidate, or that potential challenger is “mentally unfit for office.” This typically means that the opinion writer, or news host making the claim disagrees with that candidate, and nothing more. Everyone once in a while they will even find a psychologist as a guest who agrees with the host, but somehow has never met, nor examined the candidate in question. There have been times in history where it might have been true.
I have been reading this fascinating book by William Breuer about some of the previously Top Secret stories that went on during World War II. There was an instance before the war that several military leaders had an active plot to declare Hitler insane. I think we can all agree that in this case, the leader they worried about actually was completely nuts.
In November of 1937 there was a meeting of top General and Admirals with Hitler. Hitler had summoned them to discuss future plans.
It is an important historical note that Hitler was a corporal in the German Army during World War I. He had been in the trenches in France, which was the worst of the fighting. During his time there he had been gassed with chemical weapons, and earned the Iron Cross, First Class, for Valor. This is unique for an enlisted man.
Before the meeting began Hitler swore everyone in the room to secrecy. This might be a surprise for a group of General Officers who keep military secrets and know how to not disclose things publicly. However, this was not the only surprise of the day.
These men sat and listened as the madman announced his plan to gain more living space for the German people. It appears he was determined to annex or conquer, whatever was necessary, Austria, Czeckoslovakia, and Poland. Then, when Germany was powerful enough, he intended to invade the Soviet Union.
The officers in the room were certain that France and Great Britain would never stand for this. Hitler had an answer ready. These two nations would only launch a war of words, and would never do anything more than talk.
Hitler went on to describe how he would accept nothing less than absolute and total obedience from his officer corps. Then he said the operation was to be launched in 1938, then completed by 1943.
The men were surprised to say the least. Hitler was not even supposed to have much of a standing army as part of the agreement that ended World War I. That didn’t bother Hitler, he was getting ready to fight a war of conquest, and nothing would stop him.
At this point a group of these Generals, Admirals, some civilian leaders, and a few government officials created a conspiratorial group who would declare the man insane.
The leader of this group was General Ludwig Beck (I have written about him before, this isn’t his only disagreement with Hitler, Click here for previous article). Beck was regarded by other German Generals, and many world leaders as a man of honor and integrity.
Their plan was simple. Unfortunately, it was also known as coup d’état.
In their plan, Hitler would be arrested in Berlin, and great care would be taken to ensure he wasn’t killed. They needed him discredited so that none of his closest confidants would take power and make things worse.
He would then be put on trial. The claim that they intended to make was based on his medical history from the Great War. The had obtained former Corporal Hitler’s records which said that he had “gone mad” from being gassed.
Kicking off the plan would be simple.
At the right time, General Fellgiebel, the chief signals officer, would cut all communications throughout Germany. That would isolate Hitler in Berlin. At the same exact time, General Erwin von Witzleben, the commander of the military in Berlin, would rush his men into the capital and arrest Hitler along with his two top aids. These two men you may have heard of before: General Hermann Goering, and Heinrich Himmler.
Once on trial, according to their plan, Hitler was to be exposed as totally nutso. They would tell the world that his madness had caused him to put together a plan for world domination, and the execution of that plan would be the demise of Germany.
Once a judge declared Hitler to be nuts they would put him in an institution under constant armed guard.
The only question was when to strike because they had an issue. Hitler had the absolute love of most of the German military. He also had some of the biggest names in German industry on his side. It appears Hitler rebuilding the military was making them very rich. That, in turn, because of some of the higher salaries being paid made many of the German people really like Hitler, and they didn’t realize that he was crazy. So, these men had an issue.
They determined that they needed to time things just right. They could not launch the plan until Hitler did something to turn the German people against him. Unfortunately, by time that happened it was a little late.
If you enjoy history, like this, you may enjoy a Novel I had the pleasure of working on, which you can find by clicking on the title: China Bones.