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Quote of the Day – August 17, 2017: Plots for Hitler's Assassination – Roger Moorhouse

Hitler's new status has imposed new requirements under the security regime. On the one hand, his appointment was a deep shock to all those who thought he and his movement were fleeting or even slightly ridiculous. It alerted its both passive and active opponents, forcing them to take note of him and call into question possible countermeasures. Hitler's moment of triumph was unquestionably his most vulnerable moment.

As chancellor, Hitler inherited a surprisingly violent tradition of political assassinations. The famous 19th-century Chancellor Otto von Bismarck escaped from two such attacks, and the aztured years following World War I witnessed political crimes that culminated in the assassination of Foreign Minister Walter Rathenau at Berlin in the summer of 1922.

Following this attack, the security of the Chancellor and his ministers imposed a new approach. As leading politicians had only the most summary security measures before – only one driver, a companion and maybe a few policemen – they would now be much better guarded. Only five days after Rathenau's murder, new measures were designed and adopted. For example, a second escort car was to accompany the Chancellor, while security at the Reich Chancellery was radically reorganized. All those who sent threatening or offensive letters to ministers could be investigated by the police. Any threat made was to be taken very seriously.

As a result of these new measures, a number of plots were uncovered in the years preceding Hitler's appointment. In the winter of 1922, for example, two pistols were found in the possession of a Dresden trader named Willi Schulze, who confessed that he intended to assassinate Chancellor[Josef] Wirth. A few years later, in 1931, an improvised device intended for Chancello[Heinrich]r Brüning was intercepted by the security service. The following year, a woman with a 28 cm dagger was caught in the Chancellery building. Despite increased security measures, the aggressor had managed to break through a back door and reach the second floor of the building before being caught. The security camera was working clearly. But with Hitler's appointment as chancellor in 1933, the security apparatus would face the hardest challenge.

For one who is so accustomed to violence, it is probably no surprise that Hitler has acutely felt the need to solve the problem of his own vulnerability. From the very beginning of his political career, Hitler understood that he needed a guard, a unit whose loyalty could not be challenged, a group of "people who, to one ie… to fight against their own brothers." To that end, he hired a small group of tough guys who served as drivers, guards in general, good people at all. This group was organized in 1920 as Saalschutz (hall protection), which developed the following year into the paramilitary organization SA (Sturmabteilung or "Assault Battalions"). However, while the SA was responsible for "security" in the broadest sense, Hitler's personal safety was in charge of a small group of tough, reliable people. Among them were former wrestler Ulrich Graf, who served as Hitler's bodyguard, Emil Maurice, a former watchmaker and veteran of Freikorps and who was Hitler's driver; Christian Weber, a horse merchant and part-time pimp who was his "secretary"; julius schaub; and his deputy, Wilhelm Brückner. Initially, these individuals were responsible for Hitler's safety at public events or speeches. They formed the Führer's closest circle.

In the 1923 crisis year, it was decided to reorganize Hitler's security. An elite guard was formed, stabswache ("Headquarters Guard"), which was recruited from among sa and who vowed to defend Hitler from both internal and external threats. When Stabswache fell victim to the fighting of the SA, a new guard was created. Stosstrupp ("Assault Detachment") counted 100 members, but the core was made up of Hitler's unofficial guards. Graf, Maurice, Weber, Brückner and Schaub were all members. They received the baptism of fire that year, in the November coup in Munich, when five of them were to be killed.


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