A rare image of a bifurcation point in history: March 21, 1943 and the Arsenal Bomb Plot

British historian Mark Felton posted this video about the events of March 21, 1943 in Berlin.

On that day, a memorial ceremony took place at the old Arsenal building in Berlin, with nearly the entire Nazi top in attendance. Right afterwards, they were given a private showing of an exhibition of captured Red Army weaponry. Colonel Rudolf Freiherr [=Baron] von Gersdorff, chief intelligence officer (Ic) of Army Group Center, was to be their guide.

Unbeknownst to them he was carrying two bombs in his uniform pockets. He had been maneuvered into this role by his direct superior, AGC First Staff Officer (Ia) Col. Henning von Tresckow, who had made his own attempt on Hitler’s life just a week earlier. The bombs’ 10-minute time fuses — British-manufactured ones that made no sound — would run out well before the scheduled 30-minute tour was over.

At 5:12 into the video, you can see this still, which I had no idea existed.

Still from exhibition room at Berlin Arsenal, March 21, 1943, showing Col. Rudolf Freiherr von Gersdorff minutes before his bombs were supposed to go off. In front of him, Admiral Dönitz, standing behind Göring [y”sh]

Unfortunately, Hitler [y”sh] either lost interest, or was running late for the rest of his program (which Felton discusses in detail further in the video) — or did he sense something was afoot? Or was he just following his general modus operandi of ensuring his movements were unpredictable to would-be assassins?

Gersdorff, knowing his target had eluded him, went away to a restroom and managed to defuse his bombs at the last moment. He would live for another three and a half decades, while his target would take his own life just over two years after that fateful day. As for Tresckow, he took his life after the July 20, 1944 Stauffenberg Plot failed, lest he betray his comrades under torture.

What if Gersdorff had succeeded? I am exploring this “Valkyrie 1943” timeline, with as little dramatic license as possible, in an “hard alternate history” series, available on Amazon:

At the moment in the picture above, history bifurcated. The map of Europe would have looked very different, and millions of people who fell in battle or were murdered in the last two years of WW II would likely have lived.

There is an infinity of Pasts[…] At each and every instant of Time, however brief you suppose it, the line of events forks like the stem of a tree putting forth twin branches[…] One of these branches represents the sequence of facts as you, poor mortal, knew it; and the other represents what History would have become if one single detail had been other than it was.

André Maurois (1931)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s