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Last survivor of plot to kill Hitler dies

By David Rising

Associated Press

Published: Tuesday, March 12 2013 9:35 p.m. MDT

BERLIN — As a 22-year-old German army lieutenant, Ewald-Heinrich von Kleist volunteered to wear a suicide vest to a meeting with Adolf Hitler and to blow himself up along with the Nazi dictator.

The assassination didn't come to pass, but von Kleist went on to play a key role in the most famous attempt on Hitler later that same year, and was the last surviving member of the group of German officers who tried and failed to kill the Fuehrer on July 20, 1944.

Von Kleist died Friday at age 90 at his home in Munich, his wife Gundula von Kleist told The Associated Press.

Despite his family's opposition to the Nazis, younger von Kleist joined the German army in 1940, and was wounded in 1943 in fighting on the Eastern Front.

During his convalescence, he was approached in January 1944 by Col. Claus von Stauffenberg, another officer from an aristocratic family, and presented with a plan to kill Hitler. Von Kleist had been chosen as the officer to model a new uniform for Hitler, and von Stauffenberg proposed that he wear a suicide vest underneath, and detonate it when he stood next to the dictator.

Years later von Kleist remembered explaining the suicide plot to his father, who paused only briefly before telling his 22-year-old son: "Yes, you have to do this."

Months later, however, von Kleist was approached again by von Stauffenberg to take part in what would become known as the July 20 plot — for the day in 1944 that the assassination was attempted — which was brought to the big screen in 2008 in "Valkyrie," starring Tom Cruise.

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