I was moved to read, in yesterday's New York Times, of the death of Philipp von Boeselager at the age of 90. Count von Boeselager was the last of the approximately 200 German officers to have participated in the plot to assassinate Hitler at the Wolf's Lair in 1944. Claus von Stauffenberg, who planted the briefcase bomb in the failed attempt, was summarily executed, along with most of the other conspirators. His name is the one most frequently associated with the plot. Von Boeselager--shown here in a picture taken three weeks before he joined the anti-Hitler movement in 1942--was chosen to be the gunman in a 1943 plan to shoot both Hitler and Himmler at close range. He was all set to go, loaded pistol in hand, when Himmler decided at the last moment not to attend the meeting at which the action was to take place, and the attempt was called off.
There he was, though, von Boeselager, in 1943, two feet from Hitler with a loaded pistol and prepared to pull the trigger...
The Times obituary quotes the late Count from a recent interview: "I always see Hitler from here to the fireplace in front of me"--those scant two feet--"and think, 'What would have happened if you had shot him?'"
What, indeed. May 1st was Holocaust Remembrance Day in Israel. I wonder how many million Jewish lives would have been spared by that one bullet? How many tens of thousands of other lives? The Buddhist teachings forbid the taking of life at any time, in any circumstance. I don't know what the Buddha might have done in such a circumstance, knowing, as von Boeselager did, of the existence of the extermination camps, and knowing of the atrocities of war. But I think I would have encouraged von Boeselager to take aim and fire.