The bomb plot conceived by senior German officers aimed at the assassination of Adolf Hitler on 20 July 1944 was the object of a feature film starring Tom Cruise not so long ago. The story appeared to have been well established, but one crucial dimension was absent until, that is, on 30 November 1997 President Boris Yeltsin handed over to Helmut Kohl classified records detailing the fate of Colonel Claus, Graf von Stauffenberg’s former aide, Major Joachim Kun.
Their importance is that they highlight Stalin’s preoccupations after the allies landed in Normandy on 6 June 1944, opening the second front that he had long demanded. Since the flight of Rudolf Hess and his imprisonment in Britain (May 1941) on the eve of the German invasion of the Soviet Union, Stalin had feared a separate peace between the Germans and the allies. Even Soviet spy Kim Philby could not find out what was going on. “Never in the field of human conflict has so much been hidden from so many by so few”, quipped a friend of his, a press spokeman at the Foreign Office.
Stalin was also very much aware that the only issue that had blocked Chamberlain from continuing appeasement after the invasion of Poland in 1939 was that he would have to come to terms with Hitler. The implication was that, with Hitler out of the way, a separate peace suddenly became practicable on an anti-Bolshevik basis. The bomb plot thus scarcely came as welcome news to Stalin.
Having heard the news that the attempted assassination had failed, on 27 July 1944 Major Kun surrendered to the Red Army in Poland and briefed them on the bomb plot in a confession put together on 2 September. Following his directions, on 17 February 1945 Smersh uncovered the documents behind the plot at the command and communications headquarters in Mauerwald in East Prussia. Although confined to an inner prison in the Lubyanka and then Butyrskii, Kun was considered a valuable asset and given the medical treatment he required. From March 1947 to April 1948 he was even given a datcha, but he made the crucial mistake of confiding his hostility to the Soviet régime and his wish to defect to the Americans. As a result plans to have him rehabilitated to serve in the Russian occupation zone of Germany, which was soon to become the GDR, were rapidly abandoned and he was returned to prison.
Kun was not formally arraigned until the arrest and execution in 1951 of Minister of State Security Abakumov, who had protected him. And then the accusation was that Kun was not only guilty of participating in an aggressive war against the Soviet Union. More importantly, he and the other plotters had conspired to “liquidate Hitler; conclude a separate peace with England, France and the USA; in order to continue the war against the Soviet Union with these states.” In other words, Stalin had not wanted the bomb plot to succeed. He preferred Hitler’s continuation in power to a dictatorship of the generals.
Майор Кун: судьба заговорщика