The double life of Munich’s ‘good German’ – and would-be Hitler killer – Adam von Trott zu Solz

In 1939, Trott made several trips back to England to lobby British officials and his friends – which included his meeting with the Astors and Chamberlain while on his double mission for both the Auswärtiges Amt and resistance.

Back in Germany he prepared a report of the proposals and reception – a Nazi-fied account that was intended for the eyes of top Party members. Hitler only saw a shortened version of it. Some Brits saw him as an appeaser. “I think the feeling about him was suspicion at the time,” says David Boyle. “They didn’t understand why they were willing to denounce their own government.”

He revealed his double mission to one college friend, Maurice Bowra, who asked what would become of recently claimed territories, such as the Sudetenland. Trott explained they’d need to keep the support of right-wing Germans. Bowra decided that Trott was “really on the side of the Nazis” and showed him the door.

Trott went to the US on a similar mission. Bowra wrote to an influential friend in Washington, warning him about Trott. Just as in Britain, the trip started well but descended into failure and suspicion. Trott found himself being followed by the FBI. “From his clash with Bowra, if not before, Trott was surrounded by whisperings alleging him to be a ‘spy’ or a ‘Nazi agent,’” wrote German historian Joachim Fest. “He himself seemed to encourage these reproaches.”

In 1940 Trott married Clarita Tiefenbacher, whom he’d first met in China. Shorty after getting married he officially entered the Foreign Service, and joined the Party – the best means of battling the Nazis. He even wore the Nazi badge in the office. He was constantly under suspicion in Germany, too.

Trott became a prominent member of the Kreisau Circle, a group of intellectuals, aristocrats, Christians, and socialists who opposed Nazis. Trott was key in maintaining contact between resistance groups. Using his position in the foreign office as a cover, he travelled regularly to Sweden, Switzerland, and Italy – he tried to make connections between the Allies and resistance, passed messages, and liaised with anti-Nazis on both the left and the right. The efforts took their toll – he became gaunt, broken, and physically depleted. He confessed to one friend that he was “bitterly disappointed, shattered even” by the futility of their efforts.

“The British government didn’t really play ball,” says David Boyle. “They started insisting at that stage on unconditional surrender. Von Trott was let down by the British.”

There were multiple attempts on Hitler’s life, though the best-known effort occured on July 20, 1944, when Claus von Stauffenberg hid a bomb in a briefcase and took into to a conference at the Wolf’s Lair HQ.

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