Here is an article by Ann Leonard of the South Bend Tribune that was inspired by the recent movie Valkyrie. Notice how she ties in the involvement of Christians, including Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

The ‘Valkyrie’ story

Tribune Correspondent

Seeing the film “Valkyrie” recently brought so many thoughts to mind.

I had just re-read “Stauffenberg: A Family History, 1905-1944” by Peter Hoffmann and was about to begin Hoffmann’s mammoth “The History of the German Resistance: 1933-1945.”

I was eager to see how Tom Cruise played Claus von Stauffenberg and how the attempted assassination of Hitler was handled.

I personally found the supporting characters believable and the scenes of desert fighting and the German and Russian countryside and Berlin and Wolfschanze itself fascinating.

However, I have to confess I found Tom Cruise inadequate in his characterization of the deeply Catholic, idealistic, aristocratic Stauffenberg, who was both completely devoted to Germany and to the officer tradition of the German army.

That said, I am glad the German resistance to Hitler has been revisited and we have the chance to witness the bravery of the men and women who despised the evil Hitler and his henchmen, and who were determined to overthrow Hitler before he completely destroyed the German nation.

The German military had an added dilemma because they had been forced to take a loyalty oath to Hitler himself rather than to Germany.

If they conspired against Hitler to save the nation, they were abandoning their sacred oaths.

Then when it became obvious the only solution was to kill Hitler, Christians had to decide whether they could morally take this step.

Claus von Stauffenberg’s brother Berthold became an active anti-Nazi before his younger brother Claus. When it became beyond dispute that Jews and anti-Nazis were being murdered wholesale, Claus began the anti-Hitler, anti-Nazi phase of his life.

He had become convinced that Hitler was determined on war, and as a German patriot he felt he had to assuage the guilt all Germans shared because of the extermination of the Jews.

Finally, when the German generals refused, or were unable to initiate Hitler’s assassination, Claus, though maimed from war injuries, attempted the assassination himself.

The plot to usurp the genuine plan called Valkyrie and use it against Hitler called for intense planning and coordination.

Tragically, through unforeseen accidents, the plot on July 20, 1944, failed and Stauffenberg along with Col. Mertz von Quirnheim, Lt. Gen. Friedrich Olbricht and Lt. Werner von Haeften were immediately shot.

Fellow conspirator Ludwig von Beck shot himself.

I was a child during World War II with a healthy horror of Adolf Hitler, and a belief that all Germans were Nazis.

It wasn’t until I read a beautiful memoir written by Baroness Elisabeth von Guttenberg called “Holding the Stirrup” that I became aware of the German Resistance.

The baroness and her family were anti-Nazi and because their tradition was military the men were placed in the dreadful dilemma of being forced to fight for a cause they could not support.

Elisabeth wrote of the influence of the idealistic German poet Stefan George on her cousin Claus von Stauffenberg.

“In Claus, he (George) found the rare combination of a brave and courageous soldier and a man possessed of deep religious faith and high mental qualities,” she wrote.

Years later, by accident I bought and read “Saints and Villains: A Novel” by Denise Giardina, a fictional account of the life of the Lutheran minister and martyr Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

He was executed April 9, 1945, along with Admiral Wilhelm Canaris, Major General Hans Oster, Dr. Karl Sack and Hans von Dohnanyi.

From there, I went on to spend one winter reading non-fiction books on Pastor Bonhoeffer. Those works led me to read “Letters to Freya: 1939-1945” by Helmuth James von Moltke.

These moving personal letters from the international lawyer von Moltke to his wife laid out his hopes, his plans, and his discouragement as his nonviolent resistance to Hitler fails.

The letters convey his great love for his wife and two young sons, and above all, his profound abiding faith in God.

Von Moltke was executed Jan. 23, 1945 – not for his actions, but for his thoughts, which were condemned as treasonous.

His last words to Freya: “The Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.”

Claus von Stauffenberg’s last words were “Long Live Holy Germany” and Dietrich Bonhoeffer gave a message through a friend to Dr. George K.A. Bell, bishop of Chichester: “This is the end, for me the beginning of life. I believe in universal Christian brotherhood which rises above national interests and I believe that our victory is certain.”

Not very many of us could take the brave, principled stands these Christian heroes took against evil, but at least we should honor them and pray if and when the time comes for us, we will step forward and behave with courage and dignity, leaning on our God for help and protection.