Last survivor of plot to kill Hitler
EWALD-HEINRICH von KLEIST, 1922- 2013
Sought advice from father: Ewald-Heinrich von Kleist. Photo: AP
Ewald-Heinrich von Kleist was believed to be the last surviving member of an elaborate plot to kill Adolf Hitler during World War II.
In January 1944, he was 22 and recuperating from combat wounds when he was approached by Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg to join an assassination plot.
At the time, Lieutenant von Kleist led a unit that was scheduled to meet Hitler to show him new army uniforms. Von Stauffenberg asked him to take along hidden explosives, which he would then detonate at the meeting.
He asked for a day to decide, and he travelled home from Berlin to talk with his father, Ewald von Kleist-Schmenzin, who had been arrested many times for resistance activity. Von Kleist told his father, '''I have difficult decisions I have to make.' He said, 'What is it?' And I told him. And he said at once, 'Yes, of course you have to do it,' and I said, 'Yes, but I have to blow up with the colonel.'
"He said: 'Yes, you have to do that. A man who doesn't take such a chance will never be happy again in his life.'"
Von Kleist agreed to go through with the plan but Hitler cancelled at the last moment and von Stauffenberg and others began devising a new plan.
In July 1944, as other conspirators in the plot were being discovered and arrested, von Stauffenberg decided to leave a bomb under a table during a meeting of Hitler and his aides at Wolf's Lair, his field headquarters in East Prussia. Von Kleist was among several conspirators whose job was to wait in Berlin to stage a coup once Hitler's death was confirmed.
When the bombing took place, on July 20, four people were killed but Hitler was only slightly injured. The conspiracy was quickly discovered, and von Stauffenberg was among those who were arrested and shot to death that night. Von Kleist's father was arrested on July 21 and killed by the Nazis in 1945.
Von Kleist was taken for questioning at the Gestapo's headquarters on the day of the bombing. Yet while he served time in prison with other conspirators, charges against him were eventually dropped, for reasons that were not immediately clear. He was assigned to combat duty on the front lines.
Ewald-Heinrich von Kleist was born on July 10, 1922 in the province of Pomerania, Prussia. After World War II, he became a book publisher. In 1962 he established an annual forum on security and defence issues in the West that expanded and is now the Munich Security Conference.
Von Kleist appeared in several documentaries about the plot but he was neither involved in nor portrayed in Valkyrie, the 2008 film about the plot.
Ewald-Heinrich von Kleist's survivors include his wife, Gundula.
William Yardley, The New York Times