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Historical Critique: Valkyrie

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Taylor Hull

on 3 May 2013

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Transcript of Historical Critique: Valkyrie

•“Valkyrie is a 2008 American historical thriller film set in Nazi Germany during World War II. The film depicts the 20 July plot in 1944 by German army officers to assassinate Adolf Hitler and to use the Operation Valkyrie national emergency plan to take control of the country” (“Valkyrie (Film)”). Film Information
•“Valkyrie was directed by Bryan Singer for the American studio United Artists, and the film stars Tom Cruise as Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg, one of the key plotters. The cast included Kenneth Branagh, Bill Nighy, Eddie Izzard, Terence Stamp and Tom Wilkinson” (“Valkyrie (Film)”). Historical Accuracies
•Operation Valkyrie was a true assassination attempt against Hitler on July 20, 1944. The movie very clearly follows the events that took place on that day. Including the placement of the briefcase bomb, Stauffenberg leaving the room to take a call, then leaving to fly back to Berlin and initiate Valkyrie, the movement of the briefcase while he was gone, and the failure to kill Hitler (“July Plot”). The main plot leaders included, “Colonel General Ludwig Beck (1880-1944), former chief of the army general staff, Colonel General Friedrich Olbricht (1888-1944) and Major General Henning von Tresckow (1901-44). Lieutenant Colonel Claus Schenk von Stauffenberg (1907-44), chief of staff of the reserve army, also played a central role in the conspiracy” (“July Plot”). All of these plot leaders were characters within the movie. Historical Accuracies
•After the operation took place Colonel Von Stauffenberg and General Friedrich Olbricht were then arrested and executed by firing squad which is very accurately depicted in the movie because, according to official accounts, “Shortly after midnight, the condemned men were led to a mound of earth back lit by idling vehicles where each was executed by firing squad in the courtyard of Bendlerstrasse headquarters” (“Operation Valkyrie” Wikipedia). Historical Accuracies
•The movie also very clearly follows the plan of the operation. “In essence, the plan was to trick the Reserve Army into the seizure and removal of the civilian government of wartime Germany under the false pretense that the SS had attempted a coup d'État that included the assassination of Adolf Hitler” (“Operation Valkyrie” Wikipedia). After the assassination they had also planned to implement operation Valkyrie which was, “to be put into operation if there was a breakdown in communication between Hitler and the High Command in Nazi Germany as a result of Allied bombing or an uprising. The conspirators involved in the July Bomb Plot planned to use Operation Valkyrie – which effectively passed command of Germany over to the Reserve (Home) Army – to remove the power of the SS, Gestapo and SD – three major bastions of Hitler’s power base” (“Operation Valkyrie”). The movie followed these plans accurately. Historical Accuracies
•The depiction of Colonel Von Stauffenberg was also very accurate. Stauffenburg was a very respected member of the German army, but he did not necessarily agree with the things that Hitler was doing. He believed that Germany was heading in the wrong direction with Hitler in power, and that is why he agreed to be a part of Operation Valkyrie (Jones). The movie also accurately explains why Stauffenberg was chosen for the assassination attempt. He was appointed as Chief of Staff which allowed him to be in closer proximity to Hitler (Jones). They also showed that he had been severely injured in battle. He lost an eye, hand, and two additional fingers (Jones). Historical Accuracies
•The movie also shows Stauffenberg’s family accurately. Stauffenberg was married to Nina Freiin von Lerchenfeld and they had five children. All were shown in the movie except their fifth child who was born after Stauffenberg’s execution (“Claus Von Stauffenberg”). Historical Inaccuracies
•In the movie after Stauffenberg returns to Berlin Operation Valkyrie is not implemented right away because there was no confirmation of Hitler’s death, and General Fromm refused to start the operation. So in turn, Stauffenberg goes against General Fromm and initiates Valkyrie regardless. In “real life” the Valkyrie plan was not implemented and was stalled until word of Hitler's death came through. As soon as word that Hitler was still alive came through General Fromm turned on the conspirators and turned them in (“July Plot”).
oThe director may have made this decision to make the plan seem like it was much closer to following through than it truly was. This made the film more dramatic, and it also made Stauffenberg seem like more of a rebel and a fighter. Historical Inaccuracies
•Although the film depicted Stauffenberg very well there were some details left out. Such as: his refusal of morphine after he was injured. Stauffenberg in real life refused to morphine for fear of addiction (“Valkyrie (Film)”).
o Here the director explained the reasons for the removal, "There were things I actually left out because I knew people would think we were making them up... imagine Tom Cruise saying 'No morphine!' People would think it's a contrivance” (qtd. in “Valkyrie (Film)”). Historical Inaccuracies
•Another historical inaccuracy of the film was when Haeften steps in front of Stauffenberg at the firing range. In reality, “when filmmakers attempted to reconstruct the scene based on eyewitness testimony and photographs, they discovered that the shots that killed von Haeften would also have killed von Stauffenberg, who was actually shot shortly after” (“Valkyrie (Film)”).
o The director may have added this scene to show the audience how noble and brave these men were. It adds to the dramatic effect of the film as well. Historical Inaccuracies
•In the movie there is a meeting in which Stauffenberg attends to discuss the revised plan of Valkyrie. This meeting takes place in the concrete bunker and was originally where they had planned for the bomb to be detonated. But by historical accounts this meeting actually took place at Berchtesgaden, and this is where Stauffenberg was going to attempt the briefcase bombing on July 11th (“Valkyrie (Film)”).
oThis scene was altered in order to prevent the audience being confused. Being in one place during these scenes makes the movie easier to follow, and the Producer also commented that, “the shift of the first assassination attempt to the Wolf's Lair was in order to show the audience the inside of the concrete command bunker, with the intent being to emphasize that Hitler most certainly would have been killed had the July 20th attempt not been moved to the outdoor conference hut” (“Valkyrie (Film)”). Historical Inaccuracies
•The film also did not show what happened to Stauffenberg’s family after his execution. Historical accounts state that, “After the failed assassination attempt, von Stauffenberg's pregnant wife and other adult family members were rounded up, questioned, and sent to concentration camps. His children were, under Hitler's orders, to change their names and be raised by an SS soldier's family. Von Stauffenberg's brother and uncle were later killed, but his wife was later liberated, as were his children” (Jones). The film also showed only the main conspirators being executed but they do not explain that, “Hundreds of people thought to be involved in the conspiracy also soon were arrested, and around 200 eventually were executed” (“July Plot”).
oThis decision was probably made because it adds a sort of elusiveness to the end of the film; i.e. not knowing what happened to them. This also allows the audience to perceive that the family was safe and nothing bad happened to them, and the sole conspirators were the only people who died. Recommendation
I would highly recommend this movie. The accuracies of the film make it a truly gripping and intense film which also pays great tribute to the conspirators and of the German people who feared Hitler’s leadership. Because the accuracies far outweigh the inaccuracies it shows a great depiction of the true feeling of many men and women in Nazi Germany. ` Works Cited
"Claus Von Stauffenberg." Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 25 Apr. 2013. Web. 25 Apr. 2013.
Jones, Nigel. "Claus Von Stauffenberg." Historynet.com. Weider History Group, 22 Dec. 2008. Web. 25 Apr. 2013.
"July Plot." History.com. A&E Television Networks, n.d. Web. 25 Apr. 2013
"Operation Valkyrie." Operation Valkyrie. N.p., n.d. Web. 25 Apr. 2013.
Operation Valkyrie." Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 04 Nov. 2013. Web. 25 Apr. 2013.
"Valkyrie (film)." Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 23 Apr. 2013. Web. 25 Apr. 2013 Courtesy of: tipsfromchip.blogspot.com
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