Intrigue at Neuilly as a coup is plotted

Intrigue at Neuilly as a coup is plotted

Why would Colonel Engelke move from his position as chief of SS administration in Paris in June 1944 to an SS prison cell in Dachau in April 1945, if in fact he's the same person? That is the implied question that forum poster Ian Sayer asks on the Axis History Forum mentioned previously.

The answer is speculative, but it leads to a theory about what might have been discussed at those parties with Madame Kleinknecht, the one-time cabaret dancer who is now a premier hostess in Nazi-occupied Paris.

Der Spiegel mentions "German generals" being present at Neuilly, though not by name. Likely one of those would have been Carl-Heinrich von Stülpnagel, a general of infantry from the Eastern Front (where he was responsible for atrocious war crimes) who in March 1942 was made the military commander of occupied France.

Stülpnagel goes down in history as one of the prominent actors in the Hitler July 20 assassination plot. In the plan, Hitler's killing by bomb blast at his Wolf's Lair bunker was to have been followed by mobilization of the Army Reserve, establishment of a new military government, and a negotiated end to the war.

In fact, the bomb injured Hitler but did not kill him, but this was not known for some hours. Meanwhile, aspects of the plan went into effect while other parts began to break down. In Paris, Stülpnagel went ahead with his part and rounded up all the SS and Gestapo officers in Paris. However, expected support from another top general, Field Marshal Günther von Kluge, evaporated as it became clear that the assassination had failed.

Stülpnagel was forced to release the prisoners. Recalled to Berlin in the bloody aftermath of the plot's unravelling, he attempted suicide but was well enough to stand trial by the so-called Peoples Court for high treason.  He was found guilty and immediately hung on August 30, 1944.

Kluge was also recalled for possible involvement in the plot. Unlike Stülpnagel's, his August 17 suicide attempt, by cyanide capsule, was successful.

So from this it is not hard to imagine that some of the conspiratorial talk in the weeks leading up to the July 20 plot probably took place in the villa on the rue de la Saussaye.

We know from Der Spiegel that both of the Kleinknechts were much involved with spying and intelligence. "Valuable information came in this way from the capital of occupied France in Gestapo headquarters in Berlin. A large number of Germans and Frenchmen were arrested on Laure's messages out," according to the publication.

We're told that Laure went to Berlin in the hot summer weeks before or after July 20 (it is not clear), and that she had meetings directly with Hitler and Himmler. After the plot was foiled, we are told that Walter Kleinknecht was shot dead (presumably by Gestapo) in Paris and that Laure was imprisoned. Weeks later, Paris was liberated and Laure was able to convince the Allied side that she was a member of the resistance and not a Nazi collaborator.

In the context of the Hitler plot, it makes sense that Col. Engelke could be the same man who is in a military prison at the war's end in April 1945. Or that his brother might also have been investigated and then transferred to a combat post.  If there is a question, it is why Engelke is only in jail and not dead.

Many more people than were actually involved in the July 20 plot were rounded up and executed in its aftermath. However, all the evidence seems to point to key military and SS figures in Paris, including Generals Stülpnagel and Kluge, military administrator Engelke and industrialist Kleinknecht, being prime movers on the Paris end of the operation.

It is chilling to imagine the intrigue alive in those rooms of the Neuilly salon as Madame Kleinknecht, the one-time Anika Moor and future Laure Dissard, acted the perfect hostess.