An intriguing study of a plot against Adolf Hitler that might have spared Europe the horror of WWII.
Though the Osterfrage has been of much interest to recent German historians, it has received little attention elsewhere. It’s a surprising neglect, since the story offers compelling real-life examples of byzantine variables and countless what-if possibilities. Had England’s Lord Halifax been more vigorous in opposing Chamberlain’s policy of appeasement, had the German army followed its instincts against fighting a two-front war, and had a small group of conspirators succeeded in ousting the Führer before the invasion of Czechoslovakia—well, the world would have been a different place. After Hitler consolidated power within Germany, resistance to his rule was forced underground; surprisingly, however, one of its most potent centers was in the Abwehr, the all-services counterintelligence unit under the command of Admiral Wilhelm Canaris. The admiral’s deputy, army colonel Hans Oster, organized a broad conspiracy among the officer class, which among other things resented Hitler’s rise from the ranks and his inability to understand war beyond an infantryman’s perspective. Complicating this plot to assassinate Hitler were the interminable negotiations between the Nazi regime and the British government over the fate of the Sudetenland. The English were well aware of Oster’s movement, for he had told British military intelligence of his plans, but they did nothing to help him. The attempted coup failed, though Oster managed to evade detection until very late in WWII—so late, writes Parssinen (History/Univ. of Tampa), that as he awaited hanging he “might have heard the guns of the approaching American armies.” Of particular interest is the author’s enumeration of other plots by the German military to depose Hitler during the war, of which only the 1944 bombing attempt by Col. Claus von Stauffenberg is well known.
A useful addition to the English-language literature of the Nazi era.