Hitler : The (Strange) Elser Case

Nikos Raptis


Georg Elser was born in the German Village of Hermaringen in 1903. At the age of

fourteen he was apprenticed as a (lathe) turner in a local iron factory. In 1922

he passed his journeyman’s exam as a cabinet-maker and became a specialist in

carpentry and metal work.. For the next decade Elser lived as a wandering

craftsman, sometimes working in clock factories or repairing furniture. In

1928-9 he joined the militant communist group "Rotfrontkaempferbund"

(Red Front Fighters’ Association). Except for playing in its brass band he did

not engage in Communist party activities. After 1933 he was considered an



1938 Elser was alarmed by the Munich agreements and terrified by the prospect of

a second World War, having experienced the first W.W. as a teenager. Elser, a

reserved, slow-spoken individual, in the autumn of the same year of 1938,

decided to assassinate Hitler. He planned the assassination attempt

meticulously, accumulating a stock of explosives, designing a special clock

mechanism and hiding his apparatus in a wooden column behind the speaker’s

rostrum in the Munich "Buergerbraeukeller" where Hitler was due to

speak on November 8, 1939, delivering his annual address before the "Old

Fighters" in commemoration of the "Putsch" of 1923, which had

started in the same "Buergerbraeukeller".


The "Buergerbraeukeller" is a huge beer hall where the Germans down

enormous quantities of beer in noisy camaraderie, while discharging the

"processed" beer at spacious lavatories on the one side of the hall,

with immediate access from the hall.)`


November 8, 1939 Hitler was speaking at the "Buergerbraeukeller". His

speech normally ended about 10 p.m., but that day he left at 9.07 to catch his

special train. The bomb exploded at 9.20 destroying half the hall, killing seven

people and wounding sixty-three. Next day Hitler claimed that an "inner

voice" had told him to get out and on the same day he decided to launch a

western offensive ! Elser was arrested the same evening of the attempt at the

Swiss frontier, brought to Berlin, the Gestapo, etc. Subsequently, he was sent

to the Sachsenhausen concentration camp as "Hitler’s special

prisoner," He was given a carpenter’s bench and allowed to make what he

pleased. In 1944 he was moved to Dachau and kept alive, possibly in the hope of

being used in a show trial after the war. On April 9, 1945, only 29 days before

the Germans surrendered, he was murdered by the Gestapo on a secret order from

Himmler. and his death was attributed to an allied bombing raid.


Elser case is unknown not only to the general public but there is almost nothing

in the works of scholars, with expertise on Hitler and Nazism. For example, in

the work of Ian Kershaw, Professor at the University of Sheffield in England,

there is no mention of Elser’s name ("The Hitler Myth," Oxford, 1987;

"Popular Opinion & Political Dissent in the Third Reich," Oxford,

1983). However, in a recent interview to the German magazine "Der

Spiegel" Kershaw when asked if Elser is "his hero at that time,"

he answered that Elser is " certainly one of the few (heroes), probably

just because he was an outsider. Elser is no political person, he wanted to kill

Hitler, to put an end to the war, simply that. Compared to the (Nazi) officers,

who hesitate again and again, Elser is a luminous figure." (Der Spiegel,

34/2000, p.58)


Germans have repressed the Elser case for more than 60 years. Yet, there are

exceptions. One is that of the 53-year old artist Wolfram Kastner of Munich,

whose work as a painter aims to "make visible, what the people do not want

to see." In order to make "visible" The act of Elser, Kastner, on

November 8, 1999, sprayed in four different sites of the city of Munich, a

sentence taken from the minutes of the Esler trial : "I wanted through my

act to prevent more bloodshed." (Elser’s words). One of the sites was the

monument dedicated to the "Resistance against the Nazis." The monument

consists of a black stone slab on which are engraved the names of those that

resisted Nazism. Elser’s name is not among them! Kastner sprayed Elser’s name on

the monument with white paint. Next day the German Rolf Hochhuth gave a lecture

in the Bavarian Academy for the Fine Arts. The title of the lecture : "Johann

Georg Elser – the most solitary among us Germans."


seems that in the Elser case there are still some things that demand to become

"visible’, or should be analyzed at a deeper level. What would have

happened if Elser succeeded in eliminating Hitler? Would the (US supported, in

the 1920s and 1930s,) Nazi institutions have found a Hitler substitute and

continued W.W.II? Can the act of an individual (Elser) have so vast effects as

to stop W.W.II?


Who is going to make a film on the Elser case?


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