Albrecht Mertz von Quirnheim
|Albrecht Ritter Mertz von Quirnheim|
Albrecht Ritter Mertz von Quirnheim
25 March 1905|
Munich, Kingdom of Bavaria, German Empire
|Died||21 July 1944
Berlin, Nazi Germany
|Allegiance|| Weimar Germany
|Years of service||1923–1944|
|Battles/wars||World War II|
Quirnheim was born in Munich, Bavaria, the son of Hermann Ritter Mertz von Quirnheim, a captain on the Bavarian General Staff. He spent his youth in the Bavarian capital before his father became head of the Imperial Archive (the Reichsarchiv) and the family moved to Potsdam in Prussia. As a child he befriended Hans-Jürgen von Blumenthal and as a young man came to know the brothers Werner von Haeften and Hans Bernd von Haeften, through family connections; these were all future fellow-conspirators.
Following his Abitur, Quirnheim joined the Reichswehr in 1923. His acquaintanceship with Claus von Stauffenberg, who would become the key conspirator in the 20 July plot, began in 1925, but it was von Blumenthal who introduced him to the circle of conspirators in 1943.
World War II
On the outbreak of World War II, Quirnheim was appointed a Staff Officer at the General Staff's organisational division. He had initially welcomed Hitler's seizure of power, but began to distance himself from the régime as he became more aware of its brutality. In 1941, for example, his support for the more humane treatment of civilians in Nazi-occupied Eastern Europe triggered a dispute between Alfred Rosenberg (Reich Minister for the Occupied Eastern Territories) and Erich Koch (Reich Commissar for the Ukraine).
In 1942, while being promoted to lieutenant colonel and then to Head of Staff of the 24th Army Corps at the Eastern Front, Quirnheim strengthened his ties to the Resistance through his brother-in-law Wilhelm Dieckmann. He was promoted to colonel in 1943, and the same year he married Hilde Baier.
20 July plot
By September 1943, Quirnheim had become involved in the plot to assassinate Hitler. He, his superior General Friedrich Olbricht and Stauffenberg planned Operation Valkyrie, a plan of action to be implemented as soon as Hitler had been killed. Meanwhile, Quirnheim succeeded Stauffenberg as Chief of Staff at the Army's General Office in Berlin. Immediately after the attempt on Hitler's life in East Prussia on 20 July 1944, Quirnheim urged General Olbricht to activate Operation Valkyrie, even though they could not be sure whether Hitler was dead. At about the same time, however, news began to arrive that Hitler had survived the assassination attempt.
Within hours, Quirnheim, Stauffenberg, Olbricht, and Werner von Haeften had been arrested, summarily tried by Colonel-General Friedrich Fromm—a quiet supporter who betrayed them once he saw the plot had failed—and were shot and buried in the Matthäus Churchyard in Berlin's Schöneberg district. A stone in memory of the event stands in the churchyard. Heinrich Himmler subsequently ordered the bodies to be exhumed and cremated and the ashes scattered.
A few days later, Quirnheim's parents and one of his sisters were arrested by the Gestapo and his brother-in-law Wilhelm Dieckmann was executed on 13 September 1944.
There is a now a memorial at the spot where Quirnheim and his co-conspirators were shot.
Depiction in the media
- East German actor Paul Berndt portrayed Quirnheim in the 1971 Eastern Bloc co-production Liberation.
- Rainer Bock portrays Quirnheim in the 2004, Stauffenberg.
- German actor Christian Berkel portrays Albrecht Mertz von Quirnheim in the Bryan Singer thriller Valkyrie (2008).
- Regarding personal names: Ritter was a title, before 1919, but now is regarded as part of the surname. It is translated as Knight. Before the August 1919 abolition of nobility as a separate estate, titles preceded the full name when given (Prinz Otto von Bismarck). After 1919, these titles, along with any nobiliary prefix (von, zu, etc.), could be used, but were regarded as part of the surname, and thus came after a first name (Otto Prinz von Bismarck). There is no equivalent feminine form.