I remember reading a tumblr post months ago comparing Erwin Smith to Reinhard Heydrich, the notorious Nazi Chief of Police and one of the main architects of the Holocaust, and I felt this was such a complete disservice to Erwin. The blond hair aside (one of Heydrich’s nicknames was The Blond Beast), these two men have absolutely nothing in common.
Now, it is common knowledge that Isayama patterned Erwin after Erwin Rommel, also known as the Desert Fox, the legendary Nazi commander who ultimately turned against Adolf Hitler, but there is another Nazi officer whom I feel Erwin has a lot in common.
I present to you Count Claus Philipp Maria Justinian von Stauffenberg, pictured above (and yes, Tom Cruise played him in the film, Valkyrie). The physical similarities are striking to say the least. Moreover, consider the other factors. Count von Stauffenberg was:
- very well educated and cultivated
- not perfect in his initial views about Adolf Hitler but with a strong moral compass, which meant he never turned a blind eye to all the Nazi atrocities when so many of his countrymen did
- decorated for bravery after serving on the same front as Erwin Rommel, and suffered severe injuries resulting in the loss of his left eye, his right hand, and two fingers on his left hand in the course of duty
- a rising army Nazi officer, nevertheless, he expressed outrage and shock at the ill treatment and killing of Jews by Nazi Germany
- with his resolve, organisational abilities, and radical approach, he put an end to inactivity caused by doubts and became the driving force in the planning and carrying out of Operation Vallkyrie, the failed 1944 assassination plot against Adolf Hitler
- aware that he was committing treason, he told his junior officer quite openly, as early as 1943, “ich betreibe mit allen mir zur Verfügung stehenden Mitteln den Hochverrat…” (“I am committing high treason with all means at my disposal….”)
- justified his actions by citing his right under natural law (“Naturrecht”) to defend millions of people’s lives from the criminal aggressions of Hitler
- knew increasingly that the plot would fail, but carried on as this would be the only way to prove to the world that the Hitler regime and Germany were not one and the same and that not all Germans supported the regime
- was caught after incurring a gunshot wound to the shoulder and executed at the age of 36 for his role in the failed July plot. His brother Berthold was also tried and executed by slow strangulation, reportedly by means of piano wires
- a hero and a LEGEND, just like Erwin Smith. Their sacrfices are not in vain. Their stories will be heard long after they have passed on.