Criticism Reconsidered: The German Resistance to Hitler in Critical German Scholarship

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The German opposition to Hitler, especially the armed resistance inside the Wehrmacht, always has been a subject of lively debate. Public and scholarly opinion especially has been divided over assessment of the "20 July 1944 Conspiracy," the failed attempt to assassinate Hitler and the abortive coup d'état that followed. Some consider this attempted overthrow as the greatest moral achievement of the German resistance to Hitler, while others regard it mainly as an effort by opportunistic officers to save their own skins when Germany's defeat was looming on the horizon. The following essay critically reexamines some of the newer, socalled "critical" historiography of the German resistance, written since the 1960s, which tends to question the motives and moral integrity of the 20 July 1944 conspirators. It will argue that much of this historiography suffers from erroneous reading of the sources, one-sided evaluations, moral condescension, and rhetorical manipulation.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)565-590
Number of pages26
JournalJournal of Military History
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1 Apr 2011


  • Coups d'état
  • Historiography
  • Conspiracy theories
  • Political opposition
  • Historiography of Nazi Germany, 1933-1945
  • Germany
  • Hitler, Adolf, 1889-1945 -- Assassination attempt, 1944 (July 20)
  • Schenk von Stauffenberg, Klaus Philipp, Graf, 1907-1944

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