Military Wiki
Philipp Freiherr von Boeselager
Boeselager receives a medal from Parliament Secretary Wolfgang von Geldern in 1989
Born (1917-09-06)September 6, 1917
Died May 1, 2008(2008-05-01)
Place of birth Burg Heimerzheim, German Empire
Place of death 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

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

Early life

Von Boeselager was born at Burg Heimerzheim near Bonn. He was the fifth of nine children of Freiherr Albert von Boeselager (1883–1956) and his wife Freiin Maria-Theresia von Salis-Soglio (1890–1968). He attended Aloisius Jesuit secondary school Aloisiuskolleg in Godesberg.

Von Boeselager's part in the conspiracy against Hitler

When von 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. Von 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.

Von 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.

Von 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 became 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, von 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."[1] The devoutly Catholic Boeselager vocally objected, citing his own decorations for heroism in combat. Boeselager then left before General Burgdorf could respond.


Wehrmachtbericht reference

Date Original German Wehrmachtbericht wording Direct English translation
1 September 1944 (Addendum) In den schweren Abwehrkämpfen zwischen Bug und Narew hat sich die 3. Kavallerie-Brigade durch unermüdlichen Angriffsschwung und Härte ausgezeichnet. An ihrer Spitze fand der bereits Anfang 1942 mit dem Eichenlaub zum Ritterkreuz ausgezeichnete 28jährige Brigadekommandeur Oberstleutnant Georg Freiherr von Boeselager den Heldentod. Sein im gleichen Frontabschnitt kämpfender Bruder, Ritterkreuzträger Major Freiherr von Boeslager, hat sich erneut durch höchste Tapferkeit hervorgetan[2] In heavy defensive fighting between the Bug and Narew has the 3rd Cavalry Brigade particularly excelled by showing relentless momentum and hardness. In the lead, already in 1942 decorated with the Oak Leaves to the Knight's Cross, the 28 year old brigade commander, Lieutenant Colonel Georg Freiherr von Boeselager found a heroic death. His in the same sector of the front fighting brother, Knight's Cross bearer Major Freiherr von Boeselager, again excelled with highest bravery.

Post-war life

After the war, von Boeselager's part in the failed attempt became known and he was regarded as a hero by 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, von 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."

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

On April 18, 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 Spring 2009 to coincide with the release of 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.

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.


  1. Philipp Freiherr von Boeselager, Valkyrie: The Story of the Plot to Kill Hitler by its Last Member, Vintage Books, 2009. Page 177.
  2. Die Wehrmachtberichte 1939–1945 Band 3, p. 228.
  • Antonius John: Philipp von Boeselager – Widerstand und Gemeinwohl. Bouvier-Verlag, Bonn 2007, ISBN 978-3-416-03203-2 [1]
  • Ulrich Cartarius: Opposition gegen Hitler. Deutscher Widerstand 1933–1945. Berlin 1984, ISBN 3-88680-110-1
  • 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.
  • Fabian von Schlabrendorff, German Officers Against Hitler, Deutsche Offiziere gegen Hitler, Zurich, 1948.
  • (in German) 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]. München, Germany: Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag GmbH & Co. KG. 1985. ISBN 978-3-423-05944-2. 

External links


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