Almost nobody knows the name, Georg Elser. Elser was a quiet German man who worked in a clock factory. But in the 1930’s he made an assassination attempt on Adolf Hitler’s life, and almost succeeded in killing him.
In January of 1903, Johann Georg Elser was born to Ludwig Elser and Marie Müller. In his early teen years, a young Elser performed woodwork with his father. He continued working with his hands as a furniture maker and later working in a clock factory. He moved to Switzerland in 1936 and started working in an ammunition factory, run by Nazis.
Elser was fairly unbiased when it came to politics. For a short time, he joined a group called Roter Frontkämpferbun. They were associated with the German Communist Party. However, he was only a member so he could play in their brass band. He left after a short while.
The one political stance Elser held was a strong dislike for Nazism. Being a member of the working class for his entire life, he mostly hated their economic policies. He and many others worked long hours and had little rest time. They’d banned trade unions, and to top it all off he wasn’t getting paid since wages were frozen. He detested that Nazis were given rights that working people like him were denied. In 1938 he decided that the only solution was for him to kill Hitler himself.
The Plan to Kill Hitler
The set time and date Elser chose to kill Hitler was November 8, 1939. Every year on that date Adolf Hitler gave a speech in Munich at the Bürgerbräukeller beer hall. It was the commemorative date when Hitler and the Nazi party launched a coup against the Weiman Republic in 1923. They referred to it as the Beer Hall Putsch, it set in motion Hitler’s rise to power. In 1938 Elser took a trip to the Bürgerbräukeller beer hall and scoped out the location to determine the best way to murder Hitler. He decided to detonate the balcony, it was the best way to burn not only the Fuhrer himself but many of his supporters and other Nazi leaders. He returned to the Waldenmaier Armament Factory where he worked and started stealing detonators and ammunition to make his time bomb.
By the next summer, Elser had perfected his bomb and was living in Munich, Germany to prepare for killing Hitler. He became a regular at the bar, eating meals and drinking there. Nightly he waited until the bar was closed in an upstairs storage room and once it was locked for the night he started carving the hole in the pillar to plant the time bomb. It took Elser over a month working every night to complete the bomb. Finally, he set it for 9:20 pm, a time that would have been roughly halfway through Hitler’s speech and patched up the pillar for the final time.
Things Went Exactly Unaccording to Plan
One by one the factors that Elser counted on to make his plan go smoothly began to fall out of line. First, a heavy fog changed Hitler’s travel plans from flight to train. To catch the train in time, Hitler’s speech had to be moved up to 8:00 pm, a whole half hour early and it was shortened. Hitler’s speech ended a little after 9:00pm. Elser’s bomb, however, detonated at 9:20pm as planned. The bomb killed seven and injured over fifty. Hitler, however, was not one of them. Elser snuck out-of-town the night before the speech, but when he attempted to cross the Swiss border he was apprehended by guards.
The exploded clockwork of the time bomb had legible markings linking Elser to the clock shop he used to work at. Further, a waiter from the beer hall and a Munich worker that sold him materials identified him during the investigations. Things were shaping up badly for him. Elser confessed quickly, but the Nazi party did not make it easy for his act of treason, well, attempted treason.
Concentration Camps and Death
He was tortured for a year by Gestapo officers being thrown into the Sachsenhausen concentration camp in 1941. He was later moved to a bunker at Dachau concentration camp in 1945.
With the war ending and the German Nazi party admitting defeat, Hitler ordered the execution of those who had conspired against him. “Eller”, the pet name that he called Elser was first. On April 5, 1945, before the war officially ended, Elser was shot in the head at Dachau Concentration camp and his body burned, fully clothed. There is almost no other end Elser could have met given the assassination attempt. Today he is honored as a member of the German resistance to Nazism. If you’re interested, the film 13 Minutes, which you can purchase on Amazon Prime, tells his story.