Claus von Stauffenberg: the true story behind the film Valkyrie, starring Tom Cruise





On 20 July 1944, a German colonel left a bomb in the Führer's office. It exploded, just missing its target, and the following day the officer was shot. With the daring plot now being made into a film - starring Tom Cruise - Berthold von Stauffenberg, son of the would-be assassin, tells Nigel Jones how his father's 'moral sacrifice' shattered his and his family's lives

Just before 1pm on a boiling hot day in 1944, a 10-year-old boy sat down to lunch at a grand country house in the hills near Stuttgart. An earnest young man, and the heir to one of Germany's most noble families, Berthold von Stauffenberg was in awe of the Nazi regime and talked excitedly about joining the Hitler Youth. But, 800 miles away, his father, Claus, had other plans. A colonel and a trusted member of the Führer's inner circle, he was, at that precise moment, trying to kill Hitler with a briefcase full of explosives. 'It was the closest anyone came to killing him,' says Berthold, now 74 and a fierce guardian of his father's legacy. 'He did what he did, and sacrificed his life, through sheer moral duty.'

Claus von Stauffenberg was a 'good German' amid a nation of demonised villains. An extraordinarily brave soldier and a charismatic leader, his attempt to kill Hitler on 20 July at the Nazi leader's eastern HQ - known as the 'Wolf's Lair' - will receive the Hollywood treatment in a new film, Valkyrie, starring Tom Cruise and Kenneth Branagh, being released next year.

Looming opposite me in a high-backed chair, Berthold, over 6ft and himself a retired major-general, seems to possess many of the same qualities. He has the natural authority and discipline of a military man and bears the burden of being his famous father's son with dignity and grace. When I meet his steady gaze, I think I understand how Claus persuaded so many co-conspirators to join his crusade and risk their lives....


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