A tale of the forgotten heroes of the German resistance—forgotten because few Americans, at least, ever noticed them in the first place.
It was a matter of Allied policy, spearheaded by the American government, to demand unconditional surrender of Nazi Germany. That policy, argue von Hassell—the grandson of an executed resistance leader—and MacRae, “left the ‘other Germany’ not even the smallest toehold,” since no electoral argument could be made that by deposing Hitler and his regime, Germany might be saved. The result was that the military officers who made up a good part of the resistance—which, unlike in France, was never coordinated, and not very effective—were forced to seek Hitler’s removal by other means, leading to attempted assassinations and coups. One of the most interesting of the resistance figures, for various reasons, was German military intelligence chief Wilhelm Canaris, whose initial enthusiasm for the Nazi regime was tempered well before the onset of war. Canaris’s Abwehr (the German intelligence organization) became a fertile recruiting ground for Allied spymasters seeking double agents, though when those spymasters—notable among them Allen Dulles—reported to Washington that the Nazi state had influential domestic enemies, they were ignored. Though the book’s subtitle is overstated, von Hassell and MacRae turn up a few interesting matters that history has overlooked or merely glanced at once or twice, including American efforts to stave off war (abandoned, they assert, because his advisors worried in the 1940 election year that FDR might be “accused of appeasement”). FDR’s emissary was a General Motors executive with many contacts inside the Reich, where American corporations did a solid trade; von Hassell and MacRae extend the list of companies guilty of “trading with the enemy” to include Kodak, another small bit of news.
For all its wealth of tales of espionage and intrigue, the narrative is bone dry and repetitive. Le Carré fans, be warned: It takes doing to make wartime Istanbul seem drab.