Claus Philipp Maria Justinian Schenk Graf von Stauffenberg commonly referred to as Claus Schenk Graf von Stauffenberg, Claus von Stauffenberg, or Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg, was a German army officer and Catholic aristocrat who was one of the leading members of the failed 20 July plot of 1944 to assassinate Adolf Hitler and remove the Nazi Party from power. Along with Henning von Tresckow and Hans Oster, he was one of the central figures of the German Resistance movement within the Wehrmacht. For his involvement in the movement he was shot shortly after the failed attempt known as Operation Valkyrie.
He was born in the Stauffenberg castle of Jettingen between Ulm and Augsburg, in the eastern part of Swabia, at that time in the Kingdom of Bavaria, part of the German Empire. On 11 November 1919 and according by the treaty of Versailles, article 109, a new constitutional law, as part of the Weimar Republic, abolished the privileges of nobility.
In his youth, he and his brothers were members of the Neupfadfinder, a German Scout association and part of the German Youth movement.
Stauffenberg was commissioned as a Leutnant (second lieutenant) in 1930. He studied modern weapons at the Kriegsakademie (German Military Academy) in Berlin-Moabit, but remained focused on the use of horses—which continued to carry out a large part of transportation duties throughout World War II—in modern warfare. His regiment became part of the German 1st Light Division under General Erich Hoepner, who had taken part in the plans for the September 1938 German Resistance coup, cut short by Hitler's unexpected diplomatic success in the Munich Agreement.
The unit was among the troops that moved into the Sudetenland, the part of Czechoslovakia that had a German-speaking majority, as agreed upon in Munich. However, Stauffenberg disliked the method by which the Sudetenland was annexed and strongly disapproved of the invasion of Prague.
On the outbreak of the Second World War Stauffenberg joined the staff of 6th Panzer Division. During Operation Barbarossa (the code name for Germany's invasion of the Soviet Union during World War II that began on 22 June 1941), Stauffenberg became appalled by the atrocities committed by the Schutzstaffel (SS) (Protection Squadron or defence corps, abbreviated SS).
In 1942 he started associating with Henning von Tresckow, Fabian Schlabrendorff and other opponents of Adolf Hitler. Promoted to the rank of major, he was badly injured when his staff car ran into a mine field and was attacked by enemy aircraft. Stauffenberg lost his left eye, two fingers on the left hand and his right forearm.
While recovering from his injuries Stauffenberg decided to kill Adolf Hitler and overthrow the Nazi government. Stauffenberg was joined by Wilhelm Canaris, Carl Goerdeler, Julius Leber, Ulrich Hassell, Hans Oster, Henning von Tresckow, Fabian Schlabrendorff, Peter von Wartenburg, Ludwig Beck, and Erwin von Witzleben in what became known as the 20 July Plot or Operation Valkyrie.
After murdered Adolf Hitler, Hermann Göring and Heinrich Himmler it was planned that troops in Berlin seize key government buildings, telephone, signal centres and radio stations.
At least six attempts were aborted before Stauffenberg decided on trying again during a conference attended by Hitler on 20th July, 1944. It was decided to drop plans to kill Göring and Himmler at the same time. Stauffenberg, who had never met Hitler before, carried the bomb in a briefcase and placed it on the floor while he left to make a phone-call. The bomb exploded killing four men in the hut. Hitler survive to the bomb explosion, in his headquarters known as the "Wolfsschanze" (Wolf's Lair), in East Prussia, with his right arm badly injured.
Operation Valkyrie had the intention that Ludwig Beck, Erwin von Witzleben and Friedrich Fromm take full control of the German Army. This idea was abandoned when it became known that Adolf Hitler had survived the assassination attempt. In an attempt to protect himself, Fromm organized the execution of Stauffenberg along with two other conspirators, Friedrich Olbricht and Werner von Haeften, in the courtyard of the War Ministry.