Commemorating anti-Hitler resistance

20 July 1944 Commemorating anti-Hitler resistance

76  years ago, Claus Schenk Graf von Stauffenberg attempted to assassinate Adolf Hitler. When the attempted coup failed, he and other resistance fighters were executed that same night. The German government has paid tribute to resistance to the National Socialist in a memorial service.

Commemorating 20 July 1944: Federal Defence Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer speaks. Behind her wreaths can be seen against the wall and on the steps.

Federal Defence Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer spoke at the Berlin-Plötzensee Memorial Center

Photo: BMI/Hannibal Hanschke

"The conscience and the resolve of the brave men and women of 20 July have become deeply meaningful for the Federal Republic of Germany," stressed Federal Defence Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer in an address during the ceremony in Berlin-Plötzensee. This legacy has not only been incorporated in the institutional make-up of our country, but also made possible our return to the community of states. "We unequivocally accept this legacy," declared the minister.

In the days following the attempt on Hitler’s life, the Gestapo arrested thousands of opponents of the regime. At the start of August 1944, trials began in front of the "Volksgerichtshof" or People’s Court. They continued until the collapse of the National Socialist regime in May 1945. It is not known exactly how many people were sentenced. Hundreds were executed. Many family members were also arrested and imprisoned or sent to concentration camps.

The representatives of all constitutional bodies of the Federal Republic of Germany and the state of Berlin commemorate the failed coup every year. After a few words of welcome from the Governing Mayor of Berlin, Michael Müller, Philipp von Schulthess, grandson of Claus Schenk Graf von Stauffenberg, spoke. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, this year’s commemoration had to be scaled back and held without guests.

The memorial service is held alternately in the courtyard of the Bendler Block and the Plötzensee Memorial Center. Between 1933 and 1945 this site housed a prison and an execution ground. Almost 3,000 people were killed in Plötzensee, including many opponents of the National Socialists.

The Bendler Block, where the commemorative ceremony will be held next year, is a historical complex of buildings close to Berlin’s Tiergarten park. It was the centre of the attempt on Hitler’s life on 20 July. Today it is home to German Resistance Memorial Center. The courtyard is at the heart of the Bendler Block. After their failed coup, Claus Schenk Graf von Stauffenberg and three other resistance fighters were shot there on the evening of 20 July 1944.