German leaders on Thursday honored the plotters of a celebrated army attempt to assassinate Adolf Hitler, laying wreaths at the Berlin building where they were executed.

"We remember today the men and women who stood up then for dignity and human rights," Defense Minister Franz Josef Jung said at a ceremony marking the 62nd anniversary of the July 20, 1944, coup attempt.

CountryWatch: Germany

Officials laid wreaths at the Bendlerblock building, now the Defense Ministry, where Col. Claus Graf Schenk von Stauffenberg and three others were executed shortly after their plan to kill Hitler with a briefcase bomb failed.

The plot shows "that even in dark times, there was a handful of upstanding people who had a sure compass, who knew how to tell right from wrong, who did not remain silent or become resigned in the face of the seemingly all-powerful state," Jung said.

Immediately after World War II, the July 20 plotters were widely viewed as traitors, a label the Nazis gave them that stuck for many years. Even now, historians still argue about their motives and — given their conservative views and early support for Hitler — their commitment to democracy.

But the day's significance has become increasingly accepted in Germany, as wounds over the war heal and the rest of Europe grows comfortable with reunified Germany's place in it.