Hitler-Attentat, 20. Juli 1944

Anyone who’s ever watched the movie Valkyrie had to groan in disappointment when the bomb planted by Claus von Stauffenberg (played by Tom Cruise) didn’t kill Hitler as planned. The men involved in the assassination attempt were so close. What would have happened if Hitler and his top men had been killed? That’s a question we can never answer on this earth, but it’s not for lack of trying that Hitler defied death as many times as he did. Numerous attempts were made on his life, Operation Valkyrie being perhaps the most famous but certainly not the first. There was “Operation Flash,” the airplane bomb that didn’t detonate properly, shown at the beginning of Valkyrie. There was an overcoat bomb worn by a suicide bomber that didn’t have enough time to go off because Hitler abruptly called the meeting to an end. Some sources list up to 30 attempts on Hitler’s life, and Hitler took it as a sign of Divine Providence that his life was spared; validation of all his efforts. The source of Hitler’s uncanny good luck is a riddle that has plagued many a historian, but it can be solved, in part, by a rather unglamorous answer: Field Marshal Wilhelm Keitel.

From all accounts, Keitel was nearly as unlikeable a man as Adolf Hitler. Second only to Hitler in Germany’s military hierarchy, Keitel was obsequious and loyal to a fault when obeying Hitler. He was one of Hitler’s main “yes-men,” and among the defendants to use the “Nuremberg defense” before the International Military Tribunal: “I was just following orders from my superior.”

But something happened to Keitel while he was in prison during the Nuremberg trials. He met a Lutheran chaplain named Henry Gerecke, who had been sent to minister to the Nazi leaders on trial there.  (This fascinating story is chronicled in the book Mission at Nuremberg by Tim Townsend.) Keitel, along with a handful of others, repented of his sins and professed saving faith in Jesus. By the end of the trials, Keitel had transformed from a spineless sycophant to a man willing to publicly admit his faults. His final statement to the tribunal was honest and courageous, as he  confessed, “I did not see that there is a limit even for a soldier’s performance of his duty” (Townsend, p 232). When considering the question of how he would act if he were in the same position (serving Hitler) again, he answered, “I should rather choose death than to let myself be drawn into the net of such pernicious methods” (ibid).

So what does Keitel’s conversation have to do with Hitler? Keitel was with Hitler for at least two of the failed assassination attempts: the overcoat bomb and the Valkyrie plot. In The Memoirs of Field-Marshal Keitel by Walter Görlitz, we read, “After the Hitler bomb plot, Field-Marshal Keitel wrote his first will, dated August 2, 1944; it expressly observed that he had escaped death in the bomb plot only by a miracle” (p 267). Keitel was exactly right—a miracle had saved his life, and, therefore, Hitler’s. Quite simply, God wasn’t done working in Keitel’s heart.

I don’t claim to be a history scholar, but I do know the Bible, and the promises God makes in His Word cannot be revoked. Ephesians 1:4-5 tells us, “For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will.” Similarly, we read the words of Jesus in John 10:27-28, “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand.” In other words, Keitel was one of God’s elect from eternity, and nothing—not even an assassin’s bomb—could snatch him out of God’s hands.

This is a great comfort for us. Nothing can snatch you from God’s hand, either. He will accomplish His purposes for you. His sacrifice on the cross covers all your sins. You are His, now and for all eternity.


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