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Operation Foxley was a 1944 plan to assassinate Adolf Hitler, conceived by the British Special Operations Executive (SOE). Although detailed preparations were made, no attempt was made to carry out the plan. Historians believe the most likely date for an attempt would have been 13–14 July 1944, during one of Hitler's visits to the Berghof.
One of the first actual British plans to assassinate Hitler was to bomb the train he travelled in; SOE had extensive experience of derailing trains using explosives. The plan was dropped because Hitler's schedule was too irregular and unpredictable: stations were only informed of his arrival a few minutes beforehand.
Another plan was to put some tasteless but lethal poison in the drinking water supply on Hitler's train. However, this plan was considered too complicated because of the need for an inside man.
Sniper attack plan
Ultimately a sniper attack was considered to be the method most likely to succeed. In summer 1944 a German who had been part of Hitler's personal guard at the Berghof had been taken prisoner in Normandy. He revealed that at the Berghof, Hitler always took a 20-minute morning walk at around the same time (after 10:00). Hitler liked to be left alone during this walk, leaving him unprotected near some woods, where he was out of sight of sentry posts. When Hitler was at the Berghof a Nazi flag, visible from a cafe in the nearby town, was flown.
The basic plan was to assassinate Hitler during his morning exercise, as he walked unprotected to the tea-house in the Berghof compound. The scheme called for the SOE to parachute a German-speaking Pole and a British sniper into the area surrounding the compound, wearing German army uniforms. The men would infiltrate the Berghof compound before moving to a spot where they were concealed, were within effective rifle range (300 metres or less), and had a good view of the path used by Hitler on his morning walk. Security around Hitler was limited at the Berghof.
A sniper was recruited and briefed and the plan was submitted. The sniper practiced by firing at moving dummy targets with an accurized Kar 98k, the standard rifle of the Wehrmacht, under conditions which simulated the actual assassination. An inside man was also found: vehemently anti-Nazi Heidentaler, the uncle of a captured soldier, Dieser, lived in Salzburg, 20 kilometres from the Berghof. He, with like-minded shopkeepers, regularly visited a shooting range 16 km from the Berghof.
There had been some resistance to the assassination plan, particularly from the deputy head of SOE's German Directorate, Lt Col Ronald Thornley. However, his superior, Sir Gerald Templer, and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill supported the plan. The two-man team was to be parachuted in and sheltered with Heidentaler, after which they could make the approach to the killing zone disguised as German mountain troops.
The plan was submitted in November 1944, but was never carried out because controversy remained over whether it was actually a good idea to kill Hitler: he was by then considered to be such a poor strategist that it was believed whoever replaced him would probably do better. Thornley also argued that Germany was almost defeated and, if Hitler were assassinated, he would become a martyr to some Germans, and give rise to speculation that Germany might have won if Hitler had survived[clarification needed]. Since the idea was not only to defeat Germany but to destroy Nazism in general, that would have been a highly undesirable development. However, there were strong advocates on both sides, and the plan never became operational simply because no actual decision was reached. In any case, Hitler left the Berghof for the last time on 14 July 1944, never to return, and committed suicide in Berlin on 30 April 1945, a few days before the war in Europe ended.
The BBC made a docudrama about the operation, titled Killing Hitler, written and directed by Jeremy Lovering, which is a combination of re-enactment with regular voice-overs, historical footage, interviews with various witnesses and a present-day analysis.
In the BBC docudrama, a scenario was devised by the analysts regarding what would have happened if the plan had received the green light and the assassins had succeeded in killing Hitler. The death of Hitler in 1944 might have ended the war and saved as many as 10,000,000 lives, largely through the bombing campaign against German cities being discontinued, the concentration camps being liberated earlier, and an earlier end to the Eastern Front fighting against the Soviet Union. Analysts agreed that the assassination plan would most probably fail during the sniper team's approach to the firing position, but considered that if the sniper could reach a viable firing position, there was a fair chance of killing Hitler.
Conversely, due to his military incompetence, which the British were quite aware of due to Tunny intercepts, killing Hitler may have prolonged the war by enabling the German generals to do their jobs properly, and this no doubt partly explains the reluctance to carry out the plan.
- Roger Moorhouse, Killing Hitler, Jonathan Cape, 2006. ISBN 0-224-07121-1
- Mark Seaman, Operation Foxley - The British Plan to Kill Hitler, Public Record Office, 1998