Hitler escapes assassination

Beer cellar after 1939 bomb plot to kill Hitler
The scene in the Munich Beer hall after Elser's bomb went off. Hitler had left only minutes earlier.

A Nazi Party tradition was the annual meeting in Munich to celebrate the anniversary of the “Beer Hall Putsch” of November 8th 1923. Hitler would usually speak to the party faithful at length. In 1939 he was forced to begin his speech earlier than expected in order to return to Berlin by train. Fog had closed Munich airport, which he had intended to fly from later.

It was only a matter of minutes in travel arrangements but it was enough to save his life and undoubtedly changed the course of world history. Had he not started his speech 30 minutes earlier than planned he would not have left the cellar at 9.07pm but would have been killed by the explosion at 9.20pm.

Georg Elser had spent some considerable time preparing a time bomb and planting it in one of the beer hall pillars close to where Hitler spoke. Elser was a carpenter by trade and a communist sympathiser, although he was acting alone, motivated solely by his personal convictions about the nature of the Nazi regime. His time bomb was effective, killing eight and wounding sixty people.

Georg Elser had by this time been apprehended as a suspected smuggler, whilst attempting to cross into Switzerland. The contents of his knapsack, including a postcard of the beer cellar, aroused suspicion. He initially denied any involvement but eventually confessed after several witnesses identified him as being a frequent visitor to the cellar.

Even after he had been brutally tortured the Nazi’s found it difficult to believe that he was acting alone. He was kept prisoner throughout the war for use in a potential show trial. He was finally murdered in Dachau concentration camp on 9th April 1945, just weeks before the end of the war in Europe.