Strange tales: Hitler and the ‘Cointreau’ bomb plot

At the height of the Second World War a group of German army officers attempted to kill Adolf Hitler with a bomb hidden inside a box of Cointreau.

The Nazi dictator was the target of several assassination attempts during his rule, many of them by disgruntled, disillusioned or simply anti-Nazi army officers.

Major general Henning von Tresckow (pictured) headed one group that called itself the ‘Schwarze Kapelle’ (‘The Black Band’).

During the invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941, Tresckow was chief of operations for Army Group Centre (AGC) and began gathering a number of like-minded officers around him, usually (like Tresckow) aristocratic and those who’d served in the old Imperial German army in the First World War.

Their various schemes to kill Hitler were known as ‘Operation Spark’, with the dictator’s death being the ‘spark’ that would instigate a planned regime change.

By 1943, the group felt their preparations were well enough in place to put their plan into action and their opportunity was a visit to the Eastern Front Hitler made in March 1943.

The initial idea to simply shoot Hitler was quashed by General von Kluge who feared that as Heinrich Himmler was not there at the same time and could not be assassinated simultaneously, it could lead to Himmler taking charge and the coup failing.

If Hitler’s plane were to go down on the return journey, however, it could be claimed that he had been bounced by a roving Russian fighter.

Tenuous as this might be given the Luftwaffe’s aerial dominance on the Eastern Front at the time, it would not give the Nazi hierarchy any obvious and immediate warning that a coup was imminent.

Tresckow quickly came up with a plan B and at lunch lieutenant-colonel Heinz Brandt, who was travelling with the Führer if he might take back with him a carton of Cointreau for Tresckow’s friend (and anti-Nazi) Colonel Helmuth Stieff who worked at Hitler’s headquarters in East Prussia.

The Cointreau, Tresckow said, was payment for a bet he’d lost to Stieff.

Brandt agreed and Tresckow’s aide and co-conspirator Fabian von Schlabrendorff delivered the box of Cointreau to the airfield before the plan took off on 21 March.

Only, the box did not contain two bottles of triple sec but a large amount of plastic explosive and a captured British pencil detonator.

The box was placed in the cargo hold and the plane, carrying Hitler and the bomb, took off – and landed safely.

Although the British detonator was usually reliable, the cold temperature in the un-insulated hold made the percussion cap fail and so the bomb did not explode.

If it had there is no chance Hitler could have survived.

The group came up with other plans to assassinate Hitler. Colonel Rudolph von Gersdorff, who supplied the captured British explosive and detonators, even volunteered to be a suicide bomber but each time an accident or simple bad luck frustrated their attempts.

Tresckow was one of the principal planners in the most famous assassination attempt in July 1944 when Claus von Stauffenberg smuggled a briefcase bomb into the Wolfs Lair which came within another inch of killing Hitler.

When that plan also failed Tresckow committed suicide. Of his co-conspirators, one was killed in action in Russia and a few others were executed for their part in the July plot.

Von Schlabrendorff was arrested for his part in the July plot but despite being tortured by the Gestapo and then ferried between Sachenhausen, Flossenbürg, Dachau and Innsburck concentration camps in the first months of 1945 he survived the war and became a judge in post-war West Germany.

Von Gersdorff also survived the war as did several other members of the Black Band.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Please note that comments are subject to our posting guidelines in accordance with the Defamation Act 2013. Posts containing swear words, discrimination, offensive language and libellous or defamatory comments will not be approved.

We encourage debate in the comments section and always welcome feedback, but if you spot something you don't think is right, we ask that you leave an accurate email address so we can get back to you if we need to.

Subscribe to our newsletters

Key Account Manager

MMI Maldives
Maldives

Financial Controller

London City Bond
Barking, UK

Duty Manager

The Whisky Exchange
Great Portland Street, London

Spirits Advisor

The Whisky Exchange
London, UK

International Sales Manager

Elixir Distillers
Park Royal, London, UK

Brand Marketing Executive

Elixir Distillers
Park Royal, London, UK

Cellar Door Manager

House of Townend
Melton, North Ferriby, UK

Marketing Assistant

Bancroft Wines Ltd
London, UK

Marketing Manager

The Whisky Exchange
Whitby Avenue, Park Royal, London NW10 7SF

Millésime Bio 2020

Montpellier,France
27th Jan 2020

Maisons Marques et Domaines Annual Tasting

London,United Kingdom
29th Jan 2020

Austrian Wine Tasting

London,United Kingdom
3rd Feb 2020
Click to view more