Not all Germans loved Hitler or his decisions to drag the country into costly wars and cause the unjust sufferings of other nations. Although unheard of, one of those opposing Hitler was German carpenter Georg Elser.

He was not just another person silently cursing the Fuhrer, as Elser decided that enough was enough and that he had to do something with his own hands to stop the dictator from waging another war. So with his skills and knowledge, he went his way and decided that he would end Adolf Hitler’s life.

Opposing the Whole Nazi Thing

Georg Elser’s life was simple. He was born in Hermaringen, Wurttemberg, to a timber merchant father and a farm laborer mother. He was the eldest among the six children and would often be left to look after his five younger siblings. In 1917, he sought independence and started an apprenticeship as a lathe operator at the smelter in Konigsbronn. In 1925, he left his family to work at the Wachter woodworking company in Bernried, a small community near Tettnang. Soon, he explored the Lake Constance area by foot and arrived at Friedrichshafen. There he started a job shaping propellers for the fledgling aircraft manufacturer Dornier.

Bust of Georg Elser in Berlin. (Rutherford, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

In 1936, he started working at the Waldenmaier armament factory in Heidenheim while also being a carpenter and cabinet maker. Elser became a member of the Federation of Woodworkers Union, a left-leaning organization. At the same time, he joined what was called the Red Front Fighters’ Association. However, he told his interrogators in 1939 that he only attended about three times of their political assemblies while he was a member. From the beginning of the Nazi regime in 1933, Elser had since opposed the whole idea and refused to do the Hilter salute. He also would not join the others in listening to the Fuhrer’s blaring speeches on the radio, nor did he vote in the elections or referendums during Nazism.

Plotting the Assassination

In the fall of 1938, the idea of eliminating Hitler dawned on Elser. From the daily newspaper, he began gathering information that could help him decide when and where was the best time to carry out his plan and what was the best way to do it. He found out that the next meeting of leaders was on the 8th and 9th of November in Munich.

On November 8, Elser traveled to Munich on the day of Hitler’s yearly speech on the anniversary of the Beer Hall Putsch. Unfortunately, he could not enter the Bürgerbräukeller until 10 PM, so he stayed there until midnight before returning to his lodging. In the following weeks, he decided that the best place to pack explosives would be the pillar directly behind the speaker’s podium.

He had a year to plant his explosives and ensure the success of his plan. So he continued working in the Waldenmaier armament factory, stealing explosives and packets of power in his bedroom. Finally, on April 4, 1939, he returned to Munich to photograph the column and determine its dimensions. At that time, he had become unemployed due to disagreements with a factory supervisor.

The Bürgerbräukeller after the bombing. (Bundesarchiv, Bild 183-E12329 / Wagner / CC-BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

On August 5, 1939, he rented a nearby room to begin his plan to plant the bomb. For the next 30 straight nights, he would chisel the pillar and hollow out the place where he would place his timed explosive device that he designed intricately, set to detonate halfway through Hitler’s traditional 90-minute speech. He also ensured that the ticking clock would not be heard, so he lined the hole with cork to muffle the sound. In case some decorations would be nailed on the pillar, he also put a tin around his explosives to ensure they would not be damaged or accidentally detonated.

Three days before Hitler’s November speech,  everything was all set as far as Elser’s plan was concerned.

Day of the Speech

Unbeknownst to Elser, Hitler had already planned on attacking France on November 12 but had to postpone the operation until spring 1940, so he was in a rush back to Berlin to oversee the whole plan. He still attended the Beer Hall Putsch but cut his speech to an hour so he could catch the train back to Berlin. Twelve minutes after Hitler left, Elser’s bomb exploded and killed seven people while injuring 63 more. At that time, Elser was already on his way to the Swiss border on a route he had scouted a few months earlier.

 Short description of the offense from the personal file of Georg Elser, from the state police control center Düsseldorf
Short description of the offense from the personal file of Georg Elser, from the state police control center Düsseldorf. (WeißkunigCC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

He was still arrested and tortured by wartime security before being detained in the Dachau concentration camp. At first, Hitler thought the Allies were behind Elser’s conspiracy and kept him alive for a staged show trial. However, that changed when the war ended, and they secretly decided to execute Elser in April 1945.