Georg Elser

Georg Elser
Georg Elser 2-12179.jpg
Born(1903-01-04)4 January 1903
Hermaringen, Württemberg, German Empire
Died9 April 1945(1945-04-09) (aged 42)
Cause of deathExecuted
Known forAttempting to assassinate Adolf Hitler

Johann Georg Elser (4 January 1903 – 9 April 1945) was a German worker who planned and carried out an elaborate assassination attempt on Adolf Hitler and other high-ranking Nazi leaders on 8 November 1939 at the Bürgerbräukeller in Munich (known as the Bürgerbräukeller Bombing). Elser constructed and placed a bomb near the platform from which Hitler was to deliver a speech. It did not kill Hitler, who left earlier than expected, but it did kill 8 people and injured 62 others. Elser was held as a prisoner for more than five years until he was executed at the Dachau concentration camp less than a month before the surrender of Nazi Germany.


Family and early life

Georg Elser (the name normally used to refer to him) was born in Hermaringen, Württemberg, to Ludwig Elser and Maria Müller. His parents married one year after his birth, and Maria moved to Königsbronn to live with Ludwig on his smallholding. His father was a timber merchant, while his mother worked the farm. Georg was often left to care for his five younger siblings: Friederike (born 1904), Maria (born 1906), Ludwig (born 1909), Anna (born 1910) and Leonard (born 1913). He attended elementary school in Königsbronn from 1910 to 1917 and showed ability in drawing, penmanship and mathematics. His childhood was marred by his father's heavy drinking. Elser recalled in his interrogation by the Gestapo in 1939 how his father habitually came home late from work drunk.[1][dubious ]

Career and social life

In 1917, Elser worked half a year assisting in his father's business. Seeking independence, he started an apprenticeship as a lathe operator at the smelter in Königsbronn, but was forced to quit for health reasons. Between 1919 and 1922, he was apprenticed to master woodworker Robert Sapper in Königsbronn. After topping his class at Heidenheim Trade School, he worked in the furniture factory of Paul Rieder in Aalen. In 1925, he left home to briefly work at Wachter woodworking company in the small community of Bernried, near Tettnang. Exploring along Lake Constance on foot, he arrived at Friedrichshafen, where he found employment shaping wooden propellers for the fledgling aircraft manufacturer Dornier.[1][2]

Dornier flying boat, 1932

In August 1925, a work-friend enticed Elser to go with him to Konstanz to work in a clock factory. Due to lack of work, the clock factory closed down, was sold, then reopened as the Schuckmann Clock Factory. Elser was re-employed, but, along with the other employees, he was dismissed when the factory mysteriously burned down after the owner had unsuccessfully tried to sell the failing business. During this period, Elser shared a room with a Communist co-worker who convinced him to join the Red Front Fighters League. He also joined a traditional dress and dance group (Trachtenverein). In 1929, he found work with Schönholzer, a small woodworking company in Bottighofen, requiring Elser to cross the border daily into Switzerland. The work ran out within six months, however, and he was let go.[1][3]

Around this time Elser met a waitress, Mathilde Niedermann. When she became pregnant, he drove her to Geneva, Switzerland. Mathilde was found to be in the fourth month of pregnancy, precluding a legal abortion. The child was born, a boy named Manfred. When Elser left Mathilde, he was left with child support payments that often surpassed his weekly wage.[1]

In 1930, Elser began commuting daily by ferry from Konstanz to work in the small Rothmund clock factory in Meersburg where he made housings for wall and table clocks. At the Kreuzlingen Free Temperance Union he started a friendship with a seamstress, Hilda Lang. Between May and August 1932, after Rothmund closed down, he lived with several families in Meersburg doing odd carpentry jobs.[1][3]

In August 1932, Elser returned to Königsbronn after receiving a call for help from his mother. His alcoholic father, often violent and abusive towards her, was now heavily in debt. Elser assisted his parents in their work and supplemented his income by making furniture in a home workshop until his father was forced to sell the family property in late 1935. Elser escaped the grim family situation with music, playing flute, accordion, bass and the zither. He joined the Zither Club in Königsbronn in early 1933.[1]

At around this time, Elser joined a hiking club where he met Elsa Härlen. He moved to lodge in the Härlens' basement, building kitchen cabinets, kitchen chairs and a doll's house for Elsa. Their love affair in the spring of 1936 led to her separation from her husband in 1937 and divorce in 1938.[3]

In 1936, Elser worked with a carpenter named Grupp in Königsbronn, making desks and installing windows, but soon gave up the job, believing the pay was too low. He began working as a labourer at the Waldenmaier armament factory in Heidenheim, commuting by train or by bike from Königsbronn. While working there, he began a friendship with a fellow employee, Maria Schmauder.[1]

In 1938, Elser's parents bought half of a double house together with their son Leonhard and his wife. Elser felt cheated, and was forced to move out of the house, severing ties with his family except for his sister Maria in Stuttgart. In May 1939, he moved in with the Schmauder family in nearby Schnaitheim.[3]

At Waldenmaier, Elser worked in the shipping department and had access to many parts of the plant, including the "special department" where fuses and detonators were produced. After his arrest and confession, Elser told the Gestapo: "Before the decision to take my action in the fall of 1938, I had stolen neither parts nor powder from the factory."[1]

Ideology and religion

Elser was a carpenter and cabinet maker by trade and a member of the left-leaning Federation of Woodworkers Union. He also joined the Red Front Fighters' Association, although he told his interrogators in 1939 that he attended a political assembly no more than three times while a member. He also stated that he voted for the Communist Party until 1933, as he considered the KPD to be the best defender of workers' interests.[1] There is evidence that Elser opposed Nazism from the beginning of the regime in 1933; he refused to perform the Hitler salute, did not join others in listening to Hitler's speeches broadcast on the radio, and did not vote in the elections or referendums during the Nazi era.[3]

Elser met Josef Schurr, a Communist from Schnaitheim, at a Woodworkers Union meeting in Königsbronn in 1933. Elser had extreme views, supported by a letter that Schurr sent to a newspaper in Ulm in 1947 which stated that Elser "was always extremely interested in some act of violence against Hitler and his cronies. He always called Hitler a 'gypsy'—one just had to look at his criminal face."[3]

Elser's parents were Protestant, and he attended church with his mother as a child, though his attendance lapsed. His church attendance increased during 1939, after he had decided to carry out the assassination attempt, either at a Protestant or Roman Catholic church. He claimed that church attendance and the recitation of the Lord's Prayer calmed him. He told his arresting officers: "I believe in the survival of the soul after death, and I also believed that I would not go to heaven if I had not had an opportunity to prove that I wanted good. I also wanted to prevent by my act even greater bloodshed."[1]

Other Languages
беларуская: Ёган Георг Эльзэр
Bikol Central: Johann Georg Elser
čeština: Georg Elser
Deutsch: Georg Elser
español: Georg Elser
Esperanto: Georg Elser
français: Georg Elser
Gaeilge: Georg Elser
interlingua: Georg Elser
italiano: Georg Elser
Lëtzebuergesch: Georg Elser
Nederlands: Georg Elser
polski: Georg Elser
português: Georg Elser
svenska: Georg Elser
Türkçe: Georg Elser