There recently has been a lot of press about Operation Valkyrie because of Tom Cruise’s latest attempt to resurrect his acting career in the movie entitled Valkyrie. A few books have been released to capitalize on that publicity. One of these books is Valkyrie by Philipp Freiherr von Boeselager. The title is a little misleading because it is more of an autobiography by von Boeselager with a small portion of the book devoted to Valkyrie.
For those unfamiliar with Operation Valkyrie, it was a plot by several officers (high and low ranking) to kill Hitler. They planned to kill him by detonating a bomb at a meeting – it obviously failed. It resulted in the execution or suicide of the main plotters.
The book briefly describes von Boeselager’s childhood and his relationship with one of his brothers – Georg. He grew up a devout Catholic in an aristocratic family. His family also had a strong military heritage – many of his relatives had served and he and two brothers eventually served during World War II. The remainder of the book centers around his military career in the cavalry during the war – von Boeselager touches on Georg’s career as well. Included in this part of the book is how he and Georg’s were involved in several plots to kill Hitler – a total of three, two of which were aborted before they were carried out.
Although the book is not really about Valkyrie, that does not take away from its strengths. One strength is that it provides a good perspective of how the military establishment viewed Hitler – they thought of him as a trumped-up corporal. Many of the officers had absolute contempt for Hitler and his henchmen. Another strength of the book is that it explains why many of the officers became involved in the plot to kill Hitler (outside of their contempt for him) – contrary to the beliefs of many historians, not to negotiate a separate peace with the West, but to save lives. The officers were sick of seeing their men slaughtered on the Eastern Front for no other reason than to satisfy a megalomaniac’s desire to wipe out Russia.
It is a quick read at 186 pages with many black and white photographs of the von Boeselager bothers sprinkled amongst the text.
This book is an excellent story of how and why officers in the Wehrmacht joined several plots to kill Hitler and bring stability back to Germany.