In 1944 the SOE (Special Operations Executive) drew up some plans to kill Hitler. The documents you are about to look at detail two of the proposed assassination plans that formed part of Operation Foxley.
You are going back to 1944. As Head of SOE it is your job is to decide which of two ways of killing Hitler should be given the go-ahead. You must look at the dangers involved and the chances of success. When these plans were revealed in July 1998 they caused world media interest. This is a unique chance to work with these original and secret documents.
Throughout Hitler’s career as a politician and as leader of Germany he was at danger from assassination attempts. Indeed, a number of attempts were made on his life but he survived them all. Bombs were left in a variety of places that either failed to go off, or Hitler changed his plans at the last moment.
In 1944 Hitler was actually injured in an attempt on his life which really should have killed him. He managed to survive only with damage to his hearing. After this attack Hitler claimed he was ‘invulnerable and immortal’. Any attempts on his life by members of his own staff or enemies were brutally dealt with. In May 1942, one of his most senior Gestapo officials had been assassinated by SOE-trained Czechs. In the reprisals that followed 5,000 civilians were murdered.
The SOE was created in 1940 by the British to undertake ‘all action by way of subversion and sabotage against the enemy overseas’ now that much of Europe was under German occupation. The SOE began planning Operation Foxley in 1944 despite some opposition from within their ranks. Some people argued it was better to leave Hitler alive as he was making so many blunders. Nevertheless, a plan was put together and SOE began looking for recruits to perform the attempts. The Allied successes of 1945 overtook the planned assassination attempt and SOE concentrated its energies elsewhere. The existence of such a plan does, however, excite much interest as had it gone ahead and succeeded, it could have changed the course of the war and perhaps history.
The lesson involves quite a lot of reading, and the use some unfamiliar words and terms. However, the pupils are given a rare opportunity to work with some of the most exciting documents to be released for years. This should fire pupils’ imagination and interest in history. We advise that you familiarise yourself with the documents and the questions, so that you can provide help and guidance.
The task can be extended in a variety of ways:
It would suit group work to help the pupils cope with the volume of the material.
Pupils could also compare their findings and debate which is the best plan and why.
An interesting angle for the pupils to look at is why it might have been better to let Hitler live; again this could be debated in class.
For homework, pupils could be set the task of finding out about other assassination attempts on Hitler, in particular the one in 1944 in which he was injured.
The rise from unknown to Nazi dictator.
The Foxley Files
More information on Operation Foxley from the BBC.