Bausum pens new ebook on failed Operation Valkyrie plot | Covid-19
JANESVILLE – Would you like to read about the dangers of a dictator feeling betrayed?
The award-winning author Ann Bausum has published her latest book “Caught in the Wolfsschanze: In the 1944 Conspiracy to Kill Hitler and the Ghost Children of His Revenge” and is planning a virtual event on January 24th at 1:30 pm in the Hedberg Public Library. To participate in the evening, people can visit the library’s YouTube channel.
“This book offers a glimpse into the depths of the evil that existed in the regime and that can be placed alongside the misdeeds we are much more familiar with, such as the Holocaust. It helps to illustrate the breadth and consistency that it entails when such an evil occurs, ”said Bausum.
Her book, published by National Geographic, brings a unique moment in history to life by connecting readers to the personal stories of four eyewitnesses she interviewed.
In the summer of 1944, a secret network of German officers and civilians banded together for Operation Valkyrie in one last attempt to assassinate Adolf Hitler. Their conspiracy was to take place in Wolfsschanze, the dictator’s headquarters in East Prussia, where he spent almost half of World War II. The assassination attempt by Claus Schenk Graf von Stauffenberg failed and an angry Hitler demanded revenge by taking family members, including children of the Valkyries conspirators, with him.
Within a few weeks, Gestapo agents had up to 200 relatives removed from their homes, separated the adults from the children and punished them all.
Bausum said some are familiar with the failed coup because of the Tom Cruise film “Valkyrie”, although the incident is not particularly well known in Germany or the US.
She found that the Germans offered broad and sustained resistance to the Nazi regime. Even when one group was exposed or eliminated, others stepped forward. This story is recorded in the German Resistance Memorial Center in Berlin.
There were so many travesties related to the Nazi regime, mainly the Holocaust, that sometimes minor, but also nasty behaviors fell under the radar.
“After this failed coup, around 700 people were arrested and more than 150 of them were executed after show trials,” said Bausum.
While family members and older adolescents were taken to various prisons and prisons and often interrogated, some of the youngest children were taken to the Borntal, a collection of state houses in which the children in Bad Sachsa are staying. With the resemblance of a summer camp, the Borntal had imprisoned children aged 10 days three to six weeks before the liberation by the American forces in 1945.
Bausum interviewed the eldest son of Claus Schenk Graf von Stauffenberg, a military officer who planted the explosives to kill Hitler in the Wolfshaus. She was able to spend a few hours with Berthold Schenk Graf von Stauffenberg, who was 10 years old at the time of the putsch.
“It was very moving to hear this man’s childhood memories of his father,” said Bausum.
The other man she interviewed was Friedrich-Wilhelm von Hase, who was 7 years old at the time of the attack.
Although the boys were not physically abused on site and things looked normal from the outside, Bausum said it was traumatic. Children were separated from siblings because they were housed according to age and gender. They were also told that they had new surnames, took their possessions like photos, and knew next to nothing about their fate or that of their families.
“It’s a reminder that terror can take many forms,” she said.
The other two adult children were interviewed by phone during the pandemic in the US, including 97-year-old Maria-Gisela from Hase Boehringer, who was 20 at the time.
“She was taken to prison,” said Bausum
Christa von Hofacker Miller, then 12 years old, shared her diary.
She said her report shows how regimes can manipulate and control others by taking advantage of their fears and shrouding them in uncertainty.
While researching the book, Bausum traveled to Europe twice to get to know the people and places that were intertwined in 1944 after the failed attempt to kill Hitler in the wolf camp. Bausum’s son Sam Boutelle, who had lived in Germany on a Fulbright Scholarship a year after college, gave the project his knowledge of German during these trips.
Lauren Rachel Woolf, an intern at Beloit College, spent a semester as a research fellow on the project.
“Trapped in Wolfsschanze: In the 1944 conspiracy to kill Hitler and the ghost children of his revenge” is Bausum’s 11th book for National Geographic Kids and her fourth look at international history. She has published a total of 16 books. Her first, a photographic biography of Beloit-born explorer Roy Chapman Andrews, was published in 2000.