Every morning when I fire up my computer, that’s the headline I expect to see. Either that or “Vladimir Putin Assassinated.” Subhead: “Russian generals announce ceasefire, seek peace talks with Ukraine.”
Maybe I am dreaming in technicolor. But perhaps this scenario is not as far-fetched as you might think. I summon Adolf Hitler to the dock. Between 1932 and 1944, citizens of the German Reich made forty-two attempts to assassinate him, give or take, some better executed than others. Examples?
In 1934, militia member Beppo Romer yearned to do the deed as revenge for the Night of the Long Knives. He was betrayed to the Gestapo and jailed. Romer had been backed by a resistance group of officers, professors, businessmen, and government workers.
Four years later, a Swiss theology student, Maurice Bavaud, was armed and ready to shoot Hitler from a reviewing stand as he passed in a parade – but the cheering crowd blocked his sightline. Five years after that, in 1943, army officers in Smolensk failed in three different tries to assassinate Hitler.
But the best-known attempt on Hitler’s life happened in 1944, when Claus von Stauffenberg came close to killing the megalomaniac. His action marked the culmination of efforts by an underground resistance to overthrow the Nazi regime. Von Stauffenberg had begun to doubt Hitler’s sanity during the anti-Jewish pogroms of the late 1930s. In the early 1940s, Nazi atrocities in Russia finally convinced him to act.
From a hospital bed, while recovering from injuries, he told his wife, Countess Nina, “I feel I must do something now to save Germany. We officers must accept our responsibility.” On July 20, Von Stauffenberg planted a bomb in a briefcase and placed it near Hitler, but by chance an officer moved the briefcase aside and the targeted madman escaped with minor injuries. The Gestapo arrested more than 7,000 people, of whom 4,980 were executed.
Vladimir Putin knows all this. But those around him do too. Would it be so surprising if one of them, outraged by the rape of Ukraine, rose to the occasion? I, for one, will keep checking headlines.