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Axel von dem Bussche-Streithorst
Axel von dem Bussche-Streithorst
Born (1919-04-24)24 April 1919
Died 26 January 1993(1993-01-26) (aged 73)
Place of birth Braunschweig, Weimar Germany
Place of death Bonn, Germany
Allegiance  Nazi Germany
Service/branch Wehrmacht
Years of service 1937–1945
Rank Major
Battles/wars World War II
Awards Iron Cross
Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross
German Cross
Relations Anders Lassen (cousin)
Other work Diplomat, scholar

Axel Freiherr (Baron) von dem Bussche-Streithorst[1] (24 April 1919 – 26 January 1993), usually referred to as Axel von dem Bussche in English, was a German nobleman, professional Army officer, and member of the German Resistance. He tried to assassinate Adolf Hitler in coordination with Count Stauffenberg in November 1943 at the Wolfsschanze.

Army career

Born in Braunschweig, to his German father and to his Danish mother Jenny Lassen, he joined the German Army in 1937 at the age of 18 as a professional officer and was posted as a junior officer of the elite Infantry Regiment 9 Potsdam (IR 9) to the eastern front in Poland. In 1942 Captain von dem Bussche witnessed by chance an SS-organised massacre of more than 3,000 Jewish civilians carried out by the SD at the old Dubno airport. This experience traumatized him all his life and was enough to turn him decidedly against Hitler. He joined an ad hoc resistance group within Army Group Centre later (Sept.1943) to be led by Count Stauffenberg. After this experience he declared that there were only three ways left to preserve his honor as an officer: to die in battle, to desert, or to rebel against the government that had ordered this and all other massacres. He chose the last alternative justifying his intention to kill Hitler by his legal right to defend others against unlawful, ongoing, criminal attacks.


In November 1943, von dem Bussche, personally encouraged by Count Claus Stauffenberg, undertook to carry out a suicide bombing to kill Hitler. Hitler was due to inspect new Army winter uniforms at his Führerhauptquartier Wolfsschanze, near Rastenburg in Eastern Prussia (today in Poland). Von dem Bussche, over two meters tall, blond and blue eyed, exemplified the looks of Hitler's "Nordic" racial ideal, and was an ideal model for the uniforms. Von dem Bussche equipped a landmine with a fast reacting hand grenade detonator, which he intended to hide in the deeper pockets of his uniform trousers. He planned to detonate this bomb while embracing Hitler, thus killing both Hitler and himself. The viewing was scheduled for 16 November 1943, but the night before, the railway truck containing the new uniforms was destroyed in an Allied air raid on Berlin. On 18 November 1943, von dem Bussche returned to his unit on the Eastern Front. He had spent three terrible nights at the Führerhauptquartier.

Captain von dem Bussche volunteered to try again in February 1944, when new uniforms would be at hand.

In January 1944, however, von dem Bussche was seriously wounded and lost one of his legs.

Another young officer, Captain Ewald von Kleist, volunteered to carry out von dem Bussche's mission at a viewing on 11 February 1944. However Hitler repeatedly postponed and finally cancelled the event.

Von dem Bussche spent many months in the Waffen-SS hospital in Lychen and so was not involved at all in the July 20 Plot to kill Hitler. Von dem Bussche's role in the earlier assassination plots was not suspected, and he was not betrayed by any of the officers who knew of his involvement. Consequently, he was one of the extremely few Army plotters to survive the war.

After the war

After the war, Baron Axel von dem Bussche studied law at Göttingen University and later became a diplomat, serving from 1954 to 1958 in the German embassy in Washington. Then he was headmaster of the Kurt Hahn boarding school "Schule Schloss Salem" located near the lake of Constance in Southern-Germany. In 1968, he was admitted to the Swiss commandery of the Order of Saint John as an Ehrenritter ("Knight of Honor").[2]

In addition, he was also a member of the presidency of the Evangelical Church in Germany, an adviser to the World Bank, and a delegate to the Stockholm UN environment conference of 1972. In 1950, he married Lady Mildred Camilla Nichola Acheson, eldest daughter of the 5th Earl of Gosford and Mildred Carter (of Virginia), who before had been married to Baron Hans Christoph Schenk von Stauffenberg. Von dem Bussche had two daughters with Lady Camilla, (Mrs.) Nicola Dietzsch-Doertenbach and Baroness Jane von dem Bussche.

Axel von dem Bussche was a godfather to Prince Friso of Orange-Nassau. He was a friend and distant relative of Prince Claus of the Netherlands.

Axel von dem Bussche was first cousin of the Danish Victoria Cross recipient Anders Lassen, who fought with the British against the Germans. Anders Lassen was killed in action in 1945 in Italy.

See also


  1. Regarding personal names: Freiherr is a former title (translated as Baron), which is now legally a part of the last name. The female forms are Freifrau and Freiin.
  2. Robert M. Clark, Jr., The Evangelical Knights of Saint John: A History of the Bailiwick of Brandenburg; Dallas, Texas: 2003; page 46.
  • Fellgiebel, Walther-Peer. Die Träger des Ritterkreuzes des Eisernen Kreuzes 1939–1945. Friedburg, Germany: Podzun-Pallas, 2000. ISBN 3-7909-0284-5.
  • Fest, Joachim; Plotting Hitler's Death – The Story of the German Resistance, Henry Holt and Company, New York, 1996. ISBN 0-8050-4213-X
  • Fest, Joachim; "Hitler – Eine Biographie", Propilaeen, Berlin, 2.Aufl. 2004. ISBN 3-549-07172-8
  • Roger Moorhouse; "Killing Hitler", Jonathan Cape, London, ISBN 0-224-07121-1
  • Marion Graefin Doenhoff in "Axel von dem Bussche", Gevinon von Medem; v. Hase und Koehler Verlag, Mainz/Muenchen,1994. ISBN 3-7758-1311-X
  • Josef Tal: Ein Mensch-zu-Mensch-Erlebnis im Wissenschaftskolleg Berlin (1994) in Axel von dem Bussche, Hase&Koehler Verlag, pp 125–131 ISBN 3-7758-1311-X

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