Claus von Stauffenberg thought he’d pulled off the perfect coup when he placed a powerful bomb at the heart of the Wolf’s Lair, Adolf Hitler’s impregnable headquarters in Rastenburg. The disillusioned Nazi officer placed a suitcase carrying the explosives in the East Prussia conference room where the Führer held court with senior staff every day to direct wartime operations. It was July 20, 1944, and Stauffenberg was a key figure in Operation Valkyrie, the plot to kill Hitler, replace the SS and Nazi leadership and allow the Wehrmacht to take power in Germany.

To escape the carnage, the aristocratic turncoat slipped away shortly before the bomb detonated at 12.43pm, wrecking the room.

Astonishingly, the bold assassination plot failed, leaving Hitler virtually unscathed despite killing four other people.

At this crucial time, Hitler trusted very few people but he did confide in his masseur after the attempt on his life.

Said to have been named A J Weinert, the man’s views of the event have never been published in Britain. Years after the end of the Second World War, Weinert gave a series of interviews to German-born Wolfe Frank, an interpreter at the Nuremberg war trials of leading Nazis.

Frank’s vivid accounts of the conversations have been published in a new book, The Undercover Nazi Hunter, and provide a fresh perspective on Hitler’s reaction to the assassination attempt, which if it had succeeded would have changed world history.

killed During one long interview, Weinert said “He [Stauffenberg] simply plonked the briefcase containing the bomb down on a chair in Hitler’s conference room, and beat it. What happened next was miraculously lucky for Adolf. “He somehow pushed the chair with the loaded briefcase on it under the heavy conference table and stood behind the chair while talking to the assembled group.

Adolf Hitler in Munich in the spring of 1932 (Image: Heinrich Hoffmann/Archive Photos/Getty Images)

“At the moment the bomb exploded, Hitler’s hand was outstretched over the table, making a gesture. The top of the table was blown upward, against his arm, which was badly sprained and bruised. But that was just about his only injury.

“By some freak, the main force of the explosion was directed away from Hitler and blew the legs off some of the people who were standing on the other side of the table. Four people were killed in the explosion.

“I saw Adolf less than five minutes after it happened. His trousers hung in shreds. In fact, all the horizontal threads seemed to have been blown away, leaving only the vertical ones hanging down.

“He controlled himself pretty well, I must admit, under the circumstances. He sat on the couch and laughed and laughed for quite a long time. And he kept slapping his thigh with his uninjured arm as he laughed.

“All his entourage crowded around to tell him he had been saved by an act of God. He seemed to believe it.”

He added: “I must say I haven’t much respect for the people who bungled that affair. If you plan to pull off something like that, you should go ahead boldly, prepared to go down the drain yourself.”

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The aftermath of the bomb (Image: ullstein bild/ullstein bild via Getty Images)

Stauffenberg – portrayed by Tom Cruise in the movie Valkyrie – and an accomplice were tracked down in Berlin and shot that evening as Hitler reinforced his grip on his army and its high command. The German aristocrat wasn’t necessarily an idealist or anti-Nazi, as he has been portrayed by Hollywood. Rather he had in mind the salvation of Germany by committed military men such as himself and an end to corruption and maladministration by Hitler’s coterie.

Weinert remained with Hitler until the closing days of the war as the Russian troops and Allied forces raced towards the Führer’s bunker in Berlin. Although Hitler knew time was running out for him and his murderous regime, he became jealous when it was suggested Weinert should also massage his lover, Eva Braun.

The book claims the German dictator stopped the massage because he could not bear the thought of anyone touching his lover.

Weinert’s account also shows what an extraordinary emotional hold Braun held over Hitler, talking him into a suicide pact around the time of his birthday on April 20, 1945.

Weinert told Frank: “It was she who eventually persuaded Hitler to put an end to it all.Adolf was still listening to those around him, like Goebbels, who kept telling him he could still win.

“If Eva hadn’t worked on him and persuaded him that all was finished, they might have persuaded him to bail out and carry on from somewhere else.”

Weinert, who was among staff living in the bunker, added: “Adolf was the most horrible sight I ever hope to see. He walked without lifting his feet off the ground and his whole body seemed to he made of jelly.

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Hitler and Italian dictator Benito Mussolini inspect the damage (Image: ullstein bild via Getty Images)

“The features of his face had sagged monstrously, and his mouth seemed to droop open all the time. His voice was hoarse and his speech blurred. You see, in those few days he realised that not only had he lost the war and driven Germany into disaster, but – and I think this was the worst blow – he realised also that nearly all the people who he had trusted had turned against him or deserted him.”

Weinert escaped from the bunker six days before Hitler and Braun killed themselves on April 30, shortly after Eva’s brother-in-law, Hermann Fegelein, was shot in the garden above the bunker on the direct orders of the Führer. It is known that Hitler had a travelling masseur, but this is the first time his interviews have been published in the UK.

Author Paul Hooley came across the papers while researching the incredible life of Wolfe Frank, who was born in Germany but fled to Britain in fear of his life in 1937 with a bounty on his head as he had criticised Hitler’s regime. During the Nuremberg war crimes trials, Frank became a key interpreter because of his language skills. He delivered the translations of death by the rope to Nazi leaders who were sentenced to capital punishment. All but one were hanged on October 16, 1946. After the hangings, Frank became something of a media star as his translations had been beamed around the globe on radio.

But he also became an unofficial Nazi hunter using a fake identity, leading a dangerous double life unmasking members of the former regime. To help make ends meet, he sold some of his interviews to the American Herald Tribune newspaper in 1949.

While researching Frank’s life, Paul Hooley came across his original notes and typed up interviews.

“He was an incredibly brave man who risked his own life to track down many of these Nazis,” said Hooley.

“I found his interviews with Hitler’s masseur fascinating because they give a different insight into what was really going on with Hitler and his inner circle.”

Some of the information Frank gathered was fed back to intelligence chiefs in London, who were monitoring the fall-out from the Nazi regime. Frank managed to secure a confession from one senior Nazi, SS General Waldemar Wappenhas.

As the war progressed, Wappenhas had suffered heart troubles, which presented a problem to his boss Himmler who had been put in charge of running large parts of the Third Reich.

If One day Himmler drove him to meet Hitler and talked about a future job once Britain has been invaded.

Eva hadn’t worked on he might “Himmler was at the wheel of a small Mercedes,” said Wappenhas.

“I sat beside him and in the back were two aides. Himmler praised my service record. He didn’t need me urgently, only in good health.”

Himmler told him he ought to “brush up his English” as they were forming a British legion of the SS and he wanted him in charge.

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Ripped uniform of one of the Wolf’s Lair bomb victims (Image: NC)

However, as the war was ending, Himmler was later caught by the British and killed himself while under arrest.

Wappenhas was taken into custody briefly after being tracked down in 1949 but, after giving Frank 84 pages of detailed testimony about the Nazi war machine, was allowed to go back to his family. He died in Hanover in 1967, age 74.

Wolfe Frank took his own life while living in poverty in Britain in 1988, but his documents only surfaced when a friend found them while clearing out an attic in 2015 and passed the files to author Hooley.

The Undercover Nazi Hunter: Exposing Subterfuge and Unmasking Evil in Post-War Germany, by Wolfe Frank (Frontline Books, £25). For your copy with free UK delivery, call the Express Bookshop on 01872 562310, or send a cheque/postal order payable to Express Bookshop to: Wolfe Frank Offer, PO Box 200, Falmouth TR11 4WJ or visit www.expressbookshop.co.uk

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