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Alliance of Enemies: The Untold Story of the Secret American and German Collaboration to End World War II

By Agostino von Hassell and Sigrid MacRae. 391 pp. Thomas Dunne, 2006. $24.95.

German resistance to Hitler was tiny. It failed. And it had a cast of fairly unsympathetic characters: privileged members of old German noble families like the Moltkes, Yorck von Wartenburgs, and Kleists who actually shared many of Hitler’s aims, particularly the restoration of German military might, and who helped bring him to power in 1933. Most of them turned against their führer only when it was clear that his war was heading for utter disaster. To the bitter end, they held out hope for a negotiated settlement with the Allies that would allow Germany to keep many of its conquests, especially in the east.

The Allies, however, were committed to a very different finale: the destruction of National Socialism and the German military machine. They wanted nothing to do with an internal resistance that might hold them to terms after the war, and so they offered it no assistance.

Von Hassell and MacRae believe the Allies were wrong to do so—and build a coherent case that shakes up the standard received views. Helping the resistance to remove or kill Hitler, these revisionists argue, would have shortened the conflict, thus averting the awful year 1945, which saw as many people killed as the entire rest of the war. They are particularly hard on Franklin D. Roosevelt who, like Hitler, saw the conspirators in the 1944 assassination plot as “a small elitist clique of corrupt aristocrats.” Roosevelt com mitted what the authors see as the great Allied mistake of the war: the offhanded Casablanca Conference declaration that unconditional surrender was a principal Allied war aim.

Allen Dulles emerges as the book’s lonely hero. A protégé of Wild Bill Donovan who later became the first civilian CIA chief (1953–61) and who master minded American-backed coups from Iran to the Bay of Pigs, Dulles at the time was the OSS operative in Bern, Switzerland. Thanks to his extensive contacts among German émigrés, resistance figures, and anti-Nazi intelli gence operatives, a flood of information about the potential strength of the German resistance was flow ing into Washington, but it was persistently misinter preted or simply ignored. Dulles’s desperate struggle to get anyone in DC to recog nize there was “another Germany” that needed American aid, and his increasing disillusionment when no one listened, forms the core of this narrative.

The authors portray Dulles’s dilemma as part of a larger American moral hypocrisy. The same govern ment officials who refused to aid anti-Hitler plotters had no problem later helping many who had backed the Reich to the hilt, including hundreds of Nazi scientists and intelligence agents recruited in the Cold War’s early days because their skills might be useful against the Soviets. Dulles’s own Operation Paperclip, aided by U.S. Army officials, obscured Nazi pasts precisely for such talented types.

This is provocative but solid work, well researched and passionately written: von Hassell is the grandson of a German diplomat who took part in the plot to assassinate Hitler and was executed for it.


Originally published in the July/August 2007 issue of World War II Magazine. To subscribe, click here