On a Mission to Kill Hitler, Tom Cruise and His Conspirators

Daily Mail, 8 September 2007
By Jasper Rees
**Thanks, Maureen, Jude

Their stern faces reflect the gravity of their mission. (Click here to see an annotated photo)

Dressed in German uniforms and sombre suits, Tom Cruise's character and his co-conspirators look over their plan to kill Adolf Hitler - and end the Second World War.

Cruise's fellow plotters are played by Kevin McNally, Christian Berkel, Bill Nighy, Terence Stamp, David Schofield and Kenneth Branagh.

They form the core of the Nazi resistance in the film "Valkyrie", which Cruise has promised will be faithful to history.

It depicts the ill-fated plan to blow up the dictator on July 20, 1944. But he survived, and the plotters paid with their lives.

1. Carl Goerdeler
Kevin McNally, 51, plays Carl Goerdeler, the former mayor of Leipzig. He was the son of a Prussian district judge, and after studying law became a local civil servant. He also became price commissioner in the government of Heinrich Brüning and remained in office when Adolf Hitler came to power in 1933. Goerdeler resigned in 1934 after disagreement with Hitler over his policies and was a central figure in the civilian resistance to Hitler. But when the July 20 bomb attempt backfiredhe was betrayed and arrested. He was beheaded in Ploetzensee jail in Berlin in 1945.

2. Albrecht Riter Merz von Quirnheim
One of the few Germans in the cast, Christian Berkel, 49, plays von Quirnheim, once a committed Nazi officer who became disillusioned with Hitler's conduct of the war in 1943. Drawn into the conspiracy, he was shot in July 1944, when Hitler survived the bomb which went off in his headquarters in East Prussia.

3. General Friedrich Olbricht
Bill Nighy, 57, plays the general who was one of the main architects of the operation. He mistrusted Hitler from the earliest days but served with distinction in the campaign against Poland in 1939 and against France the following year. The general was shot in the Bendlerblock in Berlin, the headquarters of the army high command, where the conspirators had hoped to stage a coup.

4. Count Claus Schenk Graf von Stauffenberg
Tom Cruise, 45, plays the leading role of the nobleman who planted a briefcase containing two pounds of explosives in Hitler's conference room at his headquarters. But the briefcase was moved behind a table leg before it exploded, protecting Hitler from the brunt of the blast which killed four others in the room. The American's character turned against the war after learning about the Nazi's extermination of so many Jews. Stauffenberg was a driving force in the conspiracy. He too met his end in the Bendlerblock before a firing squad, shouting, "Long live Germany!"

5. General Ludwig Beck
Terence Stamp, 68, plays the General, one of the only officers to stand up to Hitler in the early days of his regime. As head of the general staff, the British actor's character-knew a war against the West was unwinnable and quit in August 1938. The General joined the resistance later in the war and was arrested after Valkyrie failed. He was allowed to commit suicide with his own pistol but managed to blind himself instead. He was killed by a Nazi stormtrooper.

6. Field Marshal Erwin von Witzleben
David Schofield, 56, who featured in the Pirates of the Caribbean films, plays the Field Marshal, who was one of the conquerors of France in the Blitzkrieg of 1940. Like Stauffenberg, the British actor's character came to realise Hitler was leading Germany to disaster and joined the conspiracy against him in 1942. Arrested on August 8, 1944, he was strangled in the Ploetzensee prison in Berlin. Thousands of co-conspirators met the same fate, their deaths filmed for Hitler to watch in the cinema at his Berchtesgaden mountain retreat.

7. Henning von Tresckow
Kenneth Branagh, 46, plays Stauffenberg's closest accomplice in the plot. Although he was initially a Nazi sympathiser, the Shakespearean-actor's character became disenchanted with Hitler's war plans. He planned several assassination plots, but all failed. When he heard that the Valkyrie plot had failed, he killed himself with a hand grenade on the eastern front. He left behind several papers, one of which said: "Hitler is a dancing dervish. One must shoot him."

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