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After two failed coup attempts during the early years of World War II, the unpurged Wehrmacht high command remained loyal to Adolf Hitler despite military setbacks. However, unrest grew among the general German population especially in Münster after the arrest of Bishop von Galen. A group of senior military and political leaders colluded forming the Committee for the Salvation of the German Nation.

After Hitler declared war on the United States in March 1944, the Committee decided the war was unwinnable and took action.[1] When Hitler gave a broadcast speech in Münster about the insurrection taking place there, a bomb was planted which exploded, killing him. Immediately the Committee took over the radio broadcast and their leader Heinz Guderian announced Hitler's death and the Committee's takeover. He also announced the imminent arrest of Heinrich Himmler, Rudolf Hess, Hermann Göring and Josef Goebbels.[2] It was later announced that Himmler had been killed and Göring had disappeared with no one knowing if he were alive or dead[3] while Goebbels took refuge in the Italian embassy in Berlin.[4]

This left the Nazi Party hierarchy in disarray. The SS and Waffen-SS remained loyal to the Party[5] along with some junior officers and troops of the Wehrmacht and other military branches.[6] However, the lack of senior leadership and the previous emphasis of loyalty to Hitler personally, left the Party at a disadvantage.[7] While a civil war was fought, especially in the Ruhr valley and around Berlin,[8] the Committee retained the advantage and quickly suppressed the Party and its supporters. Holdouts continued to fight in the Bavarian mountains and places in Austria but were little more than a nuisance.[9]

Guderian and the Committee sued for peace and negotiated a peace treaty with Britain, France and the Soviet Union. Germany agreed to withdraw from the Low Countries, Denmark and Norway along with the areas of the USSR it still occupied (mostly Belarus and Ukraine).[10] In return, the pre-war annexation of Austria was confirmed and the Sudetenland annexation which was the casus belli was allowed. Czechoslovakia was broken up into the puppet state of Slovakia and the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia.[11] The Soviet Union gained the three Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania which became new Soviet Socialist Republics. In addition, the Soviet Union gained Wilno and the surrounding territory from Poland and added it to the Lithuanian SSR.[12]

Domestically, the Committee loosened the more restrictive policies of the Nazis. News broadcasts included uncomplimentary reports about Germany and emphasized the crimes and cruelty of the SS and SD. It also quietly revoked the Reich Citizenship Law of 1935, thus effectively restoring citizenship to Jews, rather than treating them as residents without rights. It also removed the requirement that Jews have the yellow star of David on their clothing in public.[13]

Altogether, with relatively minor adjustments, the Committee succeeded in restoring the status quo ante bellum.

ReferencesEdit

  1. Last Orders, pgs. 300, 311, HC.
  2. Ibid, pgs. 299-300.
  3. Ibid, pg. 326.
  4. Ibid, pg. 382.
  5. Ibid, pg. 309.
  6. Ibid, pgs. 301, 303.
  7. Ibid, pg. 325.
  8. Ibid, pg. 318.
  9. Ibid, pg. 382.
  10. Ibid, pg. 318.
  11. Ibid, pgs. 341-343.
  12. Ibid, pg. 344.
  13. Ibid, pgs. 382-383.

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