How Hitler Escaped Death 42 Times with Minor Injuries

The top 10 failed assassination attempts on Adolf Hitler.

Abhi Thakur
10 min readFeb 26, 2022
Adolf Hitler (Photo taken from The Times)

On 30th April 1945, Adolf Hitler along with his wife Eva Braun died by suicide. Soon after his death, Berlin fell apart and surrendered on May 2, which ultimately led to the end of World War II (after Japan surrendered).

But did you know, World War II would have ended long before if any of the attempts on Hitler’s life were successful? Even before he assumed the role of Chancellor, no. of attempts to assassinate him took place, but none of them turned successful.

Whether you call it luck or Satan was protecting Hitler himself, the German dictator escaped 42 known attempts on his life. And to the most surprising fact, each of the attempts involved the citizens of the German Reich, except a few.

While it’s not possible to talk about all of the attempts, we’ll discuss the top 10 failed assassination attempts that almost got Hitler killed.

10. February 9, 1932 (Berlin)

The first known attempt on Hitler took place on February 9, 1932, by Ludwig Assner, a Nazi turned communist. He was a German politician and a member of the Bavarian State Parliament.

Assner considered Hitler to be a madman and claimed he would lead Germany into misery. So he, Ludwig Assner, must kill Hitler to prevent this from happening.

To fulfill his plan, Assner sent a poisoned letter to Hitler from France, but Hitler was warned of the plot by an acquaintance of Assner. The poisoned letter was soon intercepted. In his second attempt in 1933, Assner was caught with a loaded handgun and was immediately arrested. Perhaps, he was executed later by the Gestapo.

9. December 20, 1936 (Nuremberg)

Helmut Hirsch, a young German Jew and a member of the Black Front, was plotting to kill Hitler. The Black Front assigned Hirsch to plant explosives, that was filled in suitcases, at Nazi party headquarters in Nuremberg.

Helmut Hirsch (Brandeis University)

On Dec 20, 1965, Hirsch arrived at the Hotel Pelikan after his friend failed to meet him as planned. The next day early morning, the agents of the Gestapo arrested him and interrogated him. Soon they moved him to Berlin’s Plotzensee Prison.

During the trial, it was found that there was a double agent in the Black Front who revealed the plot to the Gestapo, which arrested Hirsch, put him on trial, and later executed him by decapitation in 1937. He was only 21 when he died.

8. September 28, 1938 (Berlin)

General Major Hans Oster and Major Helmuth Groscurth of the Abwehr organized a plot to overthrow Hitler if he declared war on Czechoslovakia. Other people such as Ludwig Beck, Wilhelm Adam, Walther von Brauchitsch, Franz Halder, Wilhelm Canaris, and Erwin Von Witzleben were also part of the conspiracy.

The conspirators were against the Nazi regime, which was leading the country to a war it was not ready for. They intended to overthrow Hitler and his regime by forcing into the Reich Chancellery with the help of forces loyal to them and taking control of the government. The forces would soon either arrest or assassinate Hitler and restore the Monarchy under Prince Wilhelm of Prussia, the grandson of Wilhelm II.

Unfortunately, when Hitler invaded Czechoslovakia, Britain and France agreed to the annexation and even conceded the strategic areas of Czechoslovakia to him. The plot soon lost its base when Poland invaded Czechoslovakia on October 1, 1938.

It neutralized any possibilities of war and made Hitler “the greatest statesman of all times” in the eyes of the German people. The plot to assassinate Hitler eventually failed.

7. November 9, 1938 (Munich)

Maurice Bavaud was a Swiss Theology student who planned to shoot Hitler during the parade held every year in Munich for the anniversary of Beer Hall Putsch.

Bavaud traveled to Berlin with a semi-automatic pistol he had purchased in Basel. He posed as a Swiss reporter and gained a seat on the reviewing stand where he could shoot Hitler as he passed during the parade. However, Hitler turned out to be marching with other Nazi leaders whom Bavaud didn’t intend to kill and dropped the plan.

Adolf Hitler marching with other Nazi officials (Allinfo)

In his second attempt, Bavaud purchased expensive stationery and traveled to Berchtesgaden, believing that Hitler had returned there. He had also forged a letter of introduction in the name of Pierre Taittinger, a French nationalist. But Hitler was still in Munich when Bavaud arrived. He soon returned to Munich but found that Hitler was preparing to leave for Berchtesgaden.

After all the failed attempts, Bavaud was left with no money. He boarded a train to Paris, where he was discovered by a conductor who handed him over to the Gestapo. He was put on trial and later executed by a guillotine on the morning of May 14, 1941.

6. November 8, 1939 (Munich)

A 36-year old German carpenter named Georg Elser missed killing Hitler by 13 minutes on November 9, 1938. Hitler accompanied by his high-ranking Nazi officials was due to give a speech at the Bürgerbräukeller for the anniversary of Beer Hall Putsch. But neither Hitler nor his officials knew about the bomb a few feet away which was about to go off.

Georg Elser was planning this for a year and intended to kill Hitler, believing the war was unavoidable under him. Every year, Hitler gave his speech at the Beer Hall, but this time, it was different. World War II was in its early days and Hitler was eager to return to Berlin and devote his attention to the war with France.

The Fuhrer left early at 9:07 pm and the bomb, which was a few feet away from where Hitler was standing, exploded at 9:20 pm killing 8 people and injuring others. The ceiling had collapsed where Hitler was standing.

The Bürgerbräukeller after the explosion (Wikipedia)

These crucial 13 minutes saved the life of Hitler, who was unaware of the explosion. When he was told of the bombing by Goebbels, Hitler responded, “A man has to be lucky.”

Elser, who tried to escape through the Switzerland border, was caught and handed over to the Gestapo. He was put on trial where he confessed to his plan to kill Hitler. He was held as a prisoner for over five years until he was executed at the Dachau concentration camp on April 9, 1945, less than a month before Hitler killed himself. A movie titled 13 Minutes was also released in 2015 depicting how Elser carried out the plot solely.

5. March 13, 1943 (Smolensk)

On March 13, 1943, three attempts to assassinate Hitler took place in a single day, but all failed miserably.

The first attempt took place under the direction of Major Georg von Boeselager, where several officers were to intercept and kill Hitler on his way from the airport to headquarters. However, the plan was dropped as an armed SS escort was guarding Hitler.

On the second attempt, Henning von Tresckow, Boeselager, and others set up a plan to get up at a sign and fire pistols at Hitler during lunchtime. However, the plan was again dropped when it became clear that Hitler would not be present.

In the last attempt, Fabian von Schlabrendorff gave a package of two liqueur bottles to an officer in Hitler’s group as a gift to a friend in Germany. In reality, a time bomb was camouflaged as a package.

The bomb was expected to go off during Hitler’s return flight to Poland. However, the package froze in the hold of the aircraft and failed to detonate. When Schlabrendorff realized the plot’s failure, he immediately flew to Germany and retrieved the package before getting discovered.

4. March 21, 1943 (Berlin)

General Major Gersdorff involved himself in the plan to kill Hitler after befriending Henning von Tresckow. After the failed attempts on March 13, 1943, Gersdorff declared himself to act as a human bomb and threw himself over Hitler in a death embrace.

On March 21, 1943, Hitler visited Zeughaus Berlin to inspect captured Soviet weapons. Hitler was accompanied by top Nazi officials — Herman Goring, Heinrich Himmler, Wilhelm Keite and Kar Donitz. Gersdorff, being an expert, was to guide Hitler on the exhibition.

Gersdorff was carrying explosive devices hidden in his coat pockets, which he soon set off as Hitler entered the museum. As planned, he was to throw himself around Hitler, but unfortunately, the Fuehrer raced through the museum in less than ten minutes and left the building. After his exit, Gersdroff defused the bomb at the last second in a public bathroom.

Gersdorff was one of the few conspirators who survived the war and was never suspected by the Gestapo of his involvement in killing Hitler. He died in 1980 at the age of 74.

3. November 16, 1943 (Wolf’s Lair)

Major Axel von dem Bussche was a German officer and member of the German Resistance. Claus von Stauffenberg, who was part of the famous July 20 plot, encouraged Bussche to be part of the plan to kill Hitler. Being personally encouraged by Stauffenberg, Bussche decided to carry out a suicide bombing to assassinate Hitler.

At Wolf’s Lair near Rastenburg, Hitler was due to inspect new Army winter uniforms. Major Buscche was selected as an ideal model for the uniforms because he exemplified the looks of Hitler’s Nordic racial ideal. He intended to hide a landmine with a fast-reacting hand grenade in the deeper pockets of his uniform trousers. As soon as he embraces Hitler, the bomb will detonate.

Like other assassination attempts, this one failed too. The night scheduled for inspection was November 16, 1943. But the night before, the rail car containing the new uniforms was destroyed in an air raid by Allies on Berlin.

Major Bussche was never caught by the Gestapo, and like Gersfroff, he too survived the war and died in 1993, aged 73.

2. March 11, 1944 (Berghof)

Eberhard von Breitenbuch was a German cavalry officer who took part in a plot to assassinate Hitler. Henning von Tresckow, who was part of many conspiracies, arranged for Breitenbuch to become the aide to General Field Marshal Guenther von Kluge to get access to Hitler. After Kulge got injured in a road accident, Breitenbuch became an aide to General Field Marshal Ernst Buch.

Ernst Buch and his aides including Breitenbuch were summoned to brief Hitler at Berghof in Bavaria on March 11, 1944. Seeing it as a chance to kill Hitler, Breitenbuch, after debating with Tresckow, decided he would shoot Hitler on his head with a pistol hidden in his pocket.

But the plan eventually failed when Busch and Breitenbuch arrived at Berghof. Earlier that day, SS guards were ordered not to allow any aides into the conference room with Hitler, thus preventing Breitenbuch’s attempt.

Like Gersdroff and Bussche, the Gestapo never suspected Breitenbuch to be part of the conspiracy. He lived up to the age of 70 before his death in 1980.

1. July 20, 1944 (Wolf’s Lair)

The final attempt on Hitler’s life on July 20, 1944, is most popularly known as July 20 plot. A movie named Valkyrie starring Tom Cruise was also released in 2008, depicting the scenarios of the plot carried out at the time of the Fuhrer’s regime.

After failing multiple assassination attempts on Hitler, Henning von Tresckow, Ludwig Beck, Friedrich OIbricht and other famous officials joined with Claus Von Stauffenberg, the man who almost killed Hitler.

The plan was for Stauffenberg to join Hitler’s meeting at the Wolf’s Lair field headquarters at Rastenburg and place a briefcase filled with explosives near Hitler in a conference room. As planned, Stauffenberg left the briefcase with a bomb and slipped away from headquarters.

As soon as he reached outside, the bomb went off, which he witnessed himself. Believing Hitler was dead, Stauffenberg flew to Berlin to join the other conspirators and carry out ‘Operation Valkyrie’.

Headquarters after the explosion (Encyclopedia Britannica)

Operation Valkyrie was an emergency continuity of operations issued to the Reserve Army to restore law and order in the event of a general breakdown in the civil order of the nation. The plotters had modified the operation, signed by Hitler himself, to take immediate control of the government, disarm the SS, and arrest Nazi officials once Hitler was assassinated.

Unaware of the fact that Hitler had escaped the explosion with minor injuries, Stauffenberg and other conspirators implemented Operation Valkyrie with immediate effect. An officer had put the briefcase far away from Hitler which shielded him from the explosion, immediately killing a stenographer and three officers.

Everyone including the Reserve Army came to know that Hitler was alive. He ordered the Reserve Army to arrest the conspirators who were soon executed. Stauffenberg, Olbricht, and other officials were shot dead while Ludwig Beck killed himself with a pistol. Just like the other attempts, this one failed too.