Bernardis, Robert, born 07-08-1908, in Innsbruck, Innsbruck Stadt, Tyrol (Tirol), Austria, into a typical old Austrian military family. Even his grandfather worked in the naval port of Pula Pula as a ship’s carpenter, his father worked his way up to civil engineer in the military and was involved in the construction of the fortresses in South Tyrol and the construction of the cadet school in Vienna. When his father was transferred, the family moved from Innsbruck to Linz, where Robert and his older brother Friedrich grew up.
Married to Hermine Feichtinger, with whom he had two children, and after finishing the military academy in Enns and Klosterneuburg Austria, Bernardis started his military career as a leutnant in Linz. After the Anschluss in 1938, he accepted the new regime, but remained critical. However, once the Second World War had begun, experiences at the front such as witnessing the murder of civilians changed his mind and he became involved in the resistance movement against the Third Reich.
Robert Bernardis was regarded as a staunch National Socialist during his training as a career military officer in the Austrian army and at the War Academy in Berlin. After seeing action in Poland, France, and the Soviet Union, he was promoted to Major in 1942 and transferred to the Allgemeines Heeresamt (General Army Office) of the Army High Command in Berlin, where he headed a department. In the winter of 1943 as a Oberstleutnant of the General Staff, his duties brought him into contact with Claus Schenk Graf von Stauffenberg. In the spring of 1944, he was included in the plans for a military coup. Bernardis prepared the coup in military district XVII (Vienna). On July 20, 1944, he was with Stauffenberg as a member of the staff of the General Army Office where he was responsible for relaying the “Valkyrie” orders. He was not stationed near Hitler’s headquarters at Wolfsschanze near Rastenburg when the 20 July assassination attempt was carried out, but was instead in Berlin. Bernadis was unaware that the bomb had not killed Hitler and was responsible for the order that initiated Operation Valkyrie. Bernardis was arrested that same evening. Bernardis was to lay the groundwork for the operation in Vienna. This preparatory work, carried out in collaboration with Major Carl Szokoll, was so successful that it – despite the failure of the assassination attempt and in contrast to other military districts –actually worked as planned. Carl Szokoll (born 15-10-1915) was an Austrian resistance fighter involved in the 20 July Plot, major in the Wehrmacht, and, after the war, author and film producer. He survived the war and died 25-08-2004 (aged 88) in Vienna, Austria.
Death and burial ground from Bernardis, Robert.
It was an ultimately fatal venture that Robert Bernardis took up, planned by mostly noble career officers, ingrained and socialized in the system of command and obedience. Carried out in a leader state that knew no right of resistance. It was supposed to be an uprising of “another Germany”: the initiation of self-liberation from the Nazi reign of terror in order to end the Second World War and then be able to return to the circle of civilized nations. For Bernardis as well as for Claus von Stauffenberg and everyone else involved in the coup, this meant the separation of what had previously been symbiotically connected: the military oath and pledge of allegiance to Adolf Hitler and National Socialism. After July 20, 1944, the Wehrmacht was to become a citizen army again and no longer an ideological weapon in wars of conquest and annihilation. The military opponents of the regime had recognized over the course of the war that the oath of allegiance had long since given way to obedience, which no longer earned honor. Despite being deported to a concentration camp, Bernardis’s family survived the war. Hermine Bernardis, the wife of Robert Bernardis, came with her mother to the Ravensbrück concentration camp in August 1944, Ravensbrück from which they were released after a little more than a month. She then lived in Linz until her death, where she died on 03-11-2009 at the age of almost 100 years.
On 08-08-1944, the People’s Court under jurist Roland Freisler sentenced him to death,
and he, age 36, was murdered, on the guillotine, the same day in Berlin-Plötzensee. Robert, Bernardis was buried at the Plötzensee prison cemetery in an anonymously grave like all Plötzensee victims.