Philipp von Boeselager

Philipp Freiherr von Boeselager

Boeselager receives a medal from Parliament Secretary Wolfgang von Geldern in 1989
Born (1917-09-06)6 September 1917
Burg Heimerzheim, German Empire
Died 1 May 2008(2008-05-01) (aged 90)
Burg Kreuzberg, Altenahr, Germany
Allegiance Germany

Major der Kavallerie (Wehrmacht)

Oberstleutnant der Reserve (Bundeswehr)

Cavalry Regiments Centre

3. Kavalleriebrigade
Commands held

41st Cavalry Regiment

31st Cavalry Regiment
Battles/wars Eastern Front (World War II)
Awards Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross
Relations Georg von Boeselager, his brother
Other work economist, forester

Philipp von Boeselager (6 September 1917 – 1 May 2008) was the second-to-last surviving member of the 20 July Plot, a conspiracy among Wehrmacht officers to assassinate German dictator Adolf Hitler in 1944.

Early life

Burg Heimerzheim.

Philipp von Böselager was born at Burg Heimerzheim near Bonn. He was the fifth, and second surviving son, of the nine children of Albert Dominikus Hyacinthus Antonius Johannes Hubertus Vitus Joseph Maria Freiherr von Boeselager (Bonn 15.6.1883-Heimerzheim, Kr. Euskirchen 20.5.1956), by his wife (they married, Kassel, 22.9.1910) Maria-Theresia Ferdinandine Antonie Alonsia Freiin von Salis-Soglio (1890–1968), daughter of Anton Joseph Alonsius Nepomuk Stanislaus Maria Freiherr v. Salis-Soglio (1860–1939),[1] of Gemünden and Mandel, Kreuznach, by Maria Adelheid Theresia Gräfin von Bissingen[2] und Nippenburg (daughter of Ernst Maria Ferdinand Adam Johann Nepomuk Joseph Graf von Bissingen-Nippenburg).[3] He attended Aloisius Jesuit secondary school Aloisiuskolleg in Godesberg.[4]

Boeselager's part in the conspiracy against Hitler

When Boeselager was a 25-year-old field lieutenant, he was part of Operation Walküre, which was a plan developed to re-take control of Germany once Hitler had been assassinated. Boeselager's role in the plan was to order his troops (who were unaware of the plot) to leave the front lines in Eastern Europe and ride west in order to be air-lifted to Berlin to seize crucial parts of the city in a full-scale coup d'état after Hitler was dead.

Boeselager's opinion turned against the Nazi government in June 1942, after he received news that five Roma people had been shot in cold blood, solely because of their ethnicity. Together with his commanding officer Field Marshal Günther von Kluge, he joined a conspiracy to assassinate Hitler. The first attempt was in March 1943, when both Hitler and Heinrich Himmler were coming to the front to participate in a strategy meeting with Kluge's troops.

Boeselager was given a Walther PP, with which he was to shoot both Hitler and Himmler at a dinner table in the officers' mess. However, nothing ever came of this plan, because at the last minute, Himmler left Hitler's company, and the risk of leaving him alive to succeed Hitler was too great.

The second assassination attempt was in summer 1944. No longer caring about Himmler, the conspiracy planned to kill Hitler with a bomb when he was attending another strategy meeting in a wooden barracks. When the assassin's bomb failed to kill the Führer, Boeselager was informed in time to turn his unexplained cavalry retreat around and return to the front before suspicions were unduly raised. Because of Boeselager's fortunate timing, his involvement in the operation went undetected, and he was not executed along with the majority of the other conspirators. Philipp's brother Georg was also a participant in the plot, and likewise remained undetected; however, he was subsequently killed in action on the Eastern Front.

Shortly before the end of the war, Boeselager overheard General Wilhelm Burgdorf saying, "When the war is over, we will have to purge, after the Jews, the Catholic officers in the army."[5] The devoutly Catholic Boeselager noisily objected, citing his own decorations for heroism in combat. Boeselager then left before General Burgdorf could respond.

Post-war life

After the war, Boeselager's part in the failed attempt on Hitler's life became known and he was regarded as a hero by many in Germany and France, receiving the highest military medals both countries could provide. He studied economics and became a forestry expert. Even in his old age, Boeselager still had nightmares about the conspiracy and the friends he lost in the war, and urged young people to become more involved in politics, as he felt apathy and the political inexperience of the German masses were two of the key reasons Hitler was able to come to power. The entrance to his residence in Kreuzberg bears the Latin motto "Et si omnes ego non — even if all, not I."

Boeselager was a member of K.D.St.V. Ripuaria Bonn, a Roman Catholic student fraternity at the University of Bonn that now belongs to the Cartellverband der katholischen deutschen Studentenverbindungen. Up until his death on 1 May 2008, he still had the Walther PP pistol he was given to use to shoot Hitler.

On 18 April 2008, just two weeks before his death, Philipp von Boeselager gave his last videotaped interview. It was conducted by Zora Wolter for the feature documentary, The Valkyrie Legacy. It was televised on The History Channel in Spring 2009 to coincide with the release of the film Valkyrie, starring Tom Cruise and directed by Bryan Singer. The documentary was produced by Singer and directed by Kevin Burns.

Ewald-Heinrich von Kleist-Schmenzin was the last survivor of the July 20 plot until his death on 8 March 2013.


Boeselager arms

See also



  1. Gothaisches Genealogisches Taschenbuch der Freiherrlichen Häuser, Justus Perthes, Gotha, 1910.
  2. de:Bissing (Adelsgeschlecht)
  3. de:Nippenburg
  4. "Valkyrie".
  5. Philipp Freiherr von Boeselager, Valkyrie: The Story of the Plot to Kill Hitler by its Last Member, Vintage Books, 2009. Page 177.
  6. Fellgiebel 2000, p. 138.
  7. Scherzer 2007, p. 231.


  • Antonius John: Philipp von Boeselager – Widerstand und Gemeinwohl. Bouvier-Verlag, Bonn 2007 ISBN 978-3-416-03203-2
  • Ulrich Cartarius: Opposition gegen Hitler. Deutscher Widerstand 1933–1945. Berlin 1984, ISBN 3-88680-110-1
  • Fellgiebel, Walther-Peer (2000) [1986]. Die Träger des Ritterkreuzes des Eisernen Kreuzes 1939–1945 — Die Inhaber der höchsten Auszeichnung des Zweiten Weltkrieges aller Wehrmachtteile [The Bearers of the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross 1939–1945 — The Owners of the Highest Award of the Second World War of all Wehrmacht Branches] (in German). Friedberg, Germany: Podzun-Pallas. ISBN 978-3-7909-0284-6. 
  • Kaltenbrunner-Berichte an Bormann und Hitler über das Attentat vom 20. Juli 1944, in: Hans-Adolf Jacobsen (Hrsg.): Spiegelbild einer Verschwörung. Stuttgart 1961
  • von Boeselager, Philipp. Valkyrie: the Plot to Kill Hitler. London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson. 2008.
  • Der 20. Juli 1944. Ein Zeitzeuge berichtet (Hörbuch), Philipp Freiherr von Boeselager. Interview: Prof. Hans Sarkowicz. Doppel-CD. Audiobuch Verlag, Freiburg i. Br. 2004, ISBN 3-89964-046-2
  • Philipp Freiherr von Boeselager 80 Jahre, in: Holz-Zentralblatt, 123. Jahrgang, Folge 107/1997, S. 1524, ISSN 0018-3792
  • Ilkka Ahtiainen, Hitlerin murhaaja. Helsingin Sanomat monthly supplement, August 2007.
  • Scherzer, Veit (2007). Die Ritterkreuzträger 1939–1945 Die Inhaber des Ritterkreuzes des Eisernen Kreuzes 1939 von Heer, Luftwaffe, Kriegsmarine, Waffen-SS, Volkssturm sowie mit Deutschland verbündeter Streitkräfte nach den Unterlagen des Bundesarchives [The Knight's Cross Bearers 1939–1945 The Holders of the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross 1939 by Army, Air Force, Navy, Waffen-SS, Volkssturm and Allied Forces with Germany According to the Documents of the Federal Archives] (in German). Jena, Germany: Scherzers Miltaer-Verlag. ISBN 978-3-938845-17-2. 
  • Fabian von Schlabrendorff, German Officers Against Hitler, Deutsche Offiziere gegen Hitler, Zurich, 1948.
  • Die Wehrmachtberichte 1939-1945 Band 3, 1. Januar 1944 bis 9. Mai 1945 [The Wehrmacht Reports 1939–1945 Volume 3, 1 January 1944 to 9 May 1945] (in German). München, Germany: Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag GmbH & Co. KG. 1985. ISBN 978-3-423-05944-2. 


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