German Chancellor Angela Merkel Uses Anniversary of Operation Valkyrie Hitler Assassination Plot to Denounce 'Right-Wing Extremism'

July 20, 2019, marked the 75th anniversary of an unsuccessful attempt by German military officers to assassinate Adolf Hitler and potentially end World War II. German Chancellor Angela Merkel used this date as an opportunity to denounce far-right extremism and honor those who fight against it.

In her weekly video podcast, Merkel referred to those behind the July 20, 1944, plot to kill Hitler — dramatized in the 2008 Tom Cruise film Valkryie — by detonating an explosive secreted into his Wolf's Lair headquarters as "role models" for following their conscience.

Even though the plotters failed and were summarily executed for their efforts, the chancellor said the resistance movement nonetheless helped to forge a new Germany that was otherwise destined to live in the "darkness of National Socialism."

"Only by understanding our past can we build a good future," she said, pointing to the current Germany — a constitutional state where "citizens and government are bound by law and democracy." Chancellor said that without the resistance, this German might never have come to be.

"We can build on the courage of these people today," said Merkel, noting that people still have an obligation to "oppose all tendencies that seek to destroy democracy. This includes right-wing extremism."

However, the chancellor acknowledged that such far-right extremism is on the rise, pointing to the June 2, 2019, murder of German politician Walter Lübcke by an apparent neo-Nazi. Before his death, Lübcke had been a supporter of Merkel's policy of accepting refugees from war-torn nations. The suspect in the shooting had previously been convicted of trying to set off a bomb at a shelter for refugees seeking asylum in Germany.

In addition to the podcast, Merkel appeared at a ceremony in Berlin on Saturday to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the attempt and remember Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg — the plot's figurehead, who was executed along with General Friedrich Olbricht, Lieutenant Werner von Haeften and Colonel Albrecht Mertz von Quirnheim in the very courtyard where the chancellor spoke.

"Following their conscience, they proved themselves to be true patriots," Merkel said, according to a translation from Deutsche Welle. "They urge us to be vigilant and to confront racism and nationalism in all its facets."

Merkel's comments amid growing concern about right-wing extremism in Germany. Last month, Thomas Haldenwang, head of the country's Bundesamt für Verfassungsschutz (BfV) intelligence organization, told reporters in the wake of the Lübcke murder, "We currently have 12,700 rightwing extremists willing to use violence in Germany, and it's difficult to have an eye on them all."

Beyond the nearly 13,000 possibly violent extremists in the country, the BBC reports that the government knows of some 24,000 total extremists living in Germany.

Some German politicians and others who openly oppose the far right have faced violence and death threats as a result. Mayor Andreas Hollstein of the town of Altena, was stabbed in the neck in 2017. The attacker was reportedly motivated by the mayor's welcoming attitude toward refugees. He still regularly receives threats through the mail or by phone, according to NBC News.

Right-wing extremists planned a rally this weekend in the city of Kassel, where Lübcke was living when he was assassinated. According to Deutsche Welle, some 500 people were expected to attend the rally, but none had actually shown up by the planned start time. Meanwhile, an estimated 8,000 protestors were on hand to denounce the event, which the city had previously, but unsuccessfully, attempted to halt through the legal system.