Operation Valkyrie (Operation Walküre) was an operational plan developed for the Reserve Army of the German Army (Wehrmacht Heer). The plan was approved by German dictator Adolf Hitler, who intended it to be used in the event that a disruption caused by the Allied bombing of German cities resulted in a breakdown in law and order, or a rising by the millions of forced laborers from occupied countries working in German factories.

German Resistance

In an ironic twist of fate, however, the German Resistance—led by members of the Reserve Army and including members of the Kreisau Circle[1]—modified the plan with the intention of using it to take control of German cities, disarm the SS, and arrest the Nazi leadership once Hitler had been assassinated in the July 20 Plot. Hitler's death was required to free German soldiers from their oath of loyalty to him (Reichswehreid). After lengthy preparation, the plot was carried out in 1944.

Apart from Hitler, only General Friedrich Fromm, commander of the Reserve Army, could put Operation Valkyrie into effect, so he had to be either won over to the conspiracy or in some way neutralized if the plan were to succeed. Fromm, like many senior officers, knew in general about the military conspiracies against Hitler but neither supported them nor reported them to the Gestapo.

The key role was played by German Army (Wehrmacht Heer) officer Claus von Stauffenberg, who was in charge of German Reserve Army's Walküre, a role which allowed him access to Hitler for reports, and required his presence in the coup—which ruled out another suicide attack as planned earlier by other officers. After the first attempt had to be canceled and declared an "exercise", Stauffenberg placed the bomb on July 20 and hurried back to Berlin to assume his pivotal role.

Fromm ordered the executions of General Olbricht, his chief of staff Colonel Albrecht Ritter Mertz von Quirnheim, Colonel von Stauffenberg, and his adjutant Lieutenant Werner von Haeften. Shortly after midnight, the condemned men were led to a mound of earth back lit by idle vehicles where each was executed by firing squad in the courtyard of Bendlerstrasse headquarters.

Initial Walküre order to the Wehrkreise (as of 1943)

I. 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 fall on the backs of the hard-struggling front and to seize power for selfish purposes.*
II. In this hour of highest danger, the government of the Reich has declared a state of military emergency for the maintenance of law and order and at the same time has transferred the executive power, with the supreme command of the Wehrmacht, to me.
III. With this, I order:

1. I transfer the executive power – with the right of delegation, on the territorial commanders – in the area of the war at home, on the commander of the army reserves under the simultaneous appointment to the supreme commander in the homeland war – in the occupied western area, on the supreme commander west – in Italy, on the supreme commander southwest – in the occupied eastern area, on the supreme commander of the army groups and the commander of the Wehrmacht eastern land for their respective area of command – in Denmark and Norway, to the Wehrmacht commander.
2. The holders of executive power have control over:

a) all section and units of the Wehrmacht, including the Waffen-SS, RAD and the OT, within their area of command;
b) all public authorities (of the Reich, Germany, the states and the municipalities), especially the entire law enforcement police, security police and administrative police;
c) all office bearers and subdivisions of the NSDAP and those of its affiliated associations;
d) the transportation services and public utilities.

3. The entire Waffen-SS is integrated into the army with immediate effect.
4. The holders of executive power are responsible for the maintenance of order and public security. They especially have to ensure:

a) the protection of the communication facilities,
b) the elimination of the SD (Security Service).

Any opposition against the military power of enforcement is to be broken ruthlessly.
In this hour of highest danger for the Fatherland, unity of the Wehrmacht and the maintenance of full discipline is the uppermost requirement.
That is why I make it the duty of all commanders of the army, the navy, and the air force to support the holders of executive power to carry out their difficult task with all means at their disposal and to guarantee the compliance of their directives by the subordinate sections. The German soldier stands before a historical task. It will depend on his energy and attitude whether Germany will be saved.

  • It was a colorful maneuver by the conspirators to impute the assassination attempt of Adolf Hitler to circles inside the NSDAP. Thereby, they could have legitimized their actions against the Party's organizations in the eyes of the population.

Improvement for 1944

Henning von Tresckow and Claus Schenk Graf von Stauffenberg recognized the weaknesses of the plan regarding a plot. From 1943 on, they altered the plan in order to capture leaders of SS, SD, Gestapo, and the Nazi Party. Stauffenberg later used this revision in his plot in the assassination attempt on Hitler.