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Opposing Hitler

Adam von Trott zu Solz, 1909–1944
‘To Strive and Not to Yield’

Kenneth A. E. Sears is a retired Education Officer. He read Modern History, followed by post-graduate studies in Government, at Lincoln College, Oxford and is also a member of Mansfield College. His schoolboy diary records the events of 20 July 1944 and the subsequent weeks as the news was received. His interests include Parliamentary procedure, psephology, classical music, poetry and art. He leads an annual pilgrimage to Ypres in Flanders and also visits Waterloo, the Somme and Agincourt.

This book examines the role of one of the most charismatic leaders of the opposition to the Nazis within Germany. Adam von Trott zu Solz was a boy when Germany was defeated militarily in 1918 and in his youth witnessed its economic collapse. He was studying at Oxford University when Hitler came to power in 1933 and was convinced that opposition to the Nazis must come from within Germany and not outside it.

Hitler enjoyed enormous support as the economy improved and, after 1939, as the German armies ravaged at will through Western Europe. Yet von Trott, by now a senior official in the Foreign Office, travelled frequently to Sweden, Switzerland and Turkey to talk with British and American contacts, pleading unsuccessfully for recognition of the resisters. In July 1944 he was one of the leaders of the group which attempted to assassinate Hitler. Refusing all offers to smuggle him out of Germany – ‘I shall take the blame for everything’ – he was executed on 26 August, aged only 35. Based on extensive research and talks with some of those who knew him, this book details the life of a man of brilliant intellect who refused to compromise his conscience and sacrificed himself in a noble cause.

Hardback ISBN: 978-1-84519-282-2
Hardback Price: £24.95 / $55.00
Release Date: October 2009
Paperback ISBN: 978-1-84519-472-7
Paperback Price: £16.95 / $22.95
Release Date: February 2011
Page Extent / Format: 128 pp. / 229 x 152 mm
Illustrated: Yes


Preface and Acknowledgements
Foreword by Diana Walford, Principal of Mansfield College
Foreword by David Marquand, Former Principal of Mansfield College
List of Illustrations

1 Early Years
2 University Life – Munich and Göttingen
3 Mansfield College
4 University Life – Göttingen and Berlin
5 Rhodes Scholar
6 The Years 1933–1936
7 The Far East
8 Return to Germany and to Resistance
9 The 3rd of September 1939
10 The Plea for Recognition
11 The Kreisau Circle
12 Fanning the Flames of Resistance
13 The Year 1944
14 Final Preparations
15 The 20th of July 1944
16 Aftermath
17 The Allied Reaction
18 The Military Situation
19 Epilogue

Short Biographies

It is a remarkable book, which grips the attention like a novel but which, in truth, chronicles the real-life exploits of a man of huge courage, great nobility of spirit and a passionate desire to rid his beloved country of the scourge of Nazism. Much of the story is told via the medium of Adam’s own words, either in letters he wrote or relayed by his family and friends. The inclusion of this material gives the book an immediacy and a poignancy that a mere retelling of the facts could not convey.
From the Foreword by Diana Walford, Principal of Mansfield College

Von Trott and his colleagues wanted to show that Hitler’s Germany was not the only one: that there was another Germany that rejected the barbaric savagery of the Nazis to which too many Germans had closed their eyes, and that remained true to the fundamental values of human dignity, justice, responsibility and self respect. They also wanted to show that denizens of that other Germany were prepared, if necessary, to die for their beliefs. They should not be judged by a utilitarian calculus. They did what they did … because, like Martin Luther, they could do no other. That is why their memory speaks to us through the fog of the most terrible war, and the most evil regime, in human history.
From the Foreword by David Marquand, Former Principal of Mansfield College

As a school boy, Sears entered into his diary the attempted assassination of Adolph Hitler in July 1944. Retired now from a career in history and government at Oxford University, he offers a biography of one of the leaders of the plot, and of the resistance to Hitler generally within Germany. Among the stages of Trott’s life are university life in Munich and Göttingen, Rhodes scholar, the Far East, the plea for recognition, fanning the flames of resistance, the year 1944, the day itself, the aftermath, and the military situation.
Reference & Research Book News

Like most of my generation and others, I seem always to have known of the failed plot by the German Resistance Movement to assassinate Hitler. With it I have always associated the name of Dietrich Bonhoeffer. To my shame I had not heard of Adam von Trott, but reading this short but gripping book has helped me to appreciate both the strength of the Resistance Movement and the leading part played in it by this man. By comparison, Bonhoeffer’s role seems to have been somewhat peripheral.
... Adam von Trott was a handsome high-born German of considerable personality and intellect. Of interest to members of the United Reformed Church and British Congregationalists, he spent a term at Mansfield College in 1929 at the invitation of Dr Selbie, the then principal. The influence upon him of the college and of the university proved to be considerable. In 1931 he returned, this time to Balliol, as Rhodes Scholar. Becoming a passionate anglophile, he preferred for the rest of his life to speak English rather than his native German. Returning to Germany as the clouds were gathering in the 1930s, he identified with those who could see the peril the country and the continent were in as Hitler rose to power. His solution was to join, and to play his parting fostering, the Resistance Movement. He gained a position on the staff of the Foreign Office, travelled the world in support of the cause, and befriended the many senior army officers who shared its aims. He also retained his British friendships and confidently expected the British government to support his cause. They didn’t and shunned him, preferring to fight for the total surrender and humiliation of Germany rather than the elimination of Hitler and his replacement by leaders who, they felt, could not be trusted. Trott never understood this attitude. His love for his country and his desire for its renewal, as passionate as his hatred of Nazism, would not let him go down that road.
... The coup d’état planned for July 1944, as we know, failed. The war, which could have come to an end if the plot had succeeded, dragged on for another ten months. More people died in that final period, as the book points out, than in the previous five years. Adam von Trott, along with others, was tried and hanged: a martyr to a lost cause.
Kenneth Sears’ story is vividly told. It offers a perspective on the history of the Second World War not always found among British historians. It contains many excerpts from Trott’s letters, and many transcripts of conversations with contemporaries. There are forty-one photographs selected from family archives with the help of Trott’s widow, Clarita. Unusually there are two forewords: one by the present principal of Mansfield College, Diana Walford, and another by her predecessor, David Marquand.
C. Keith Forecst, United Reformed Church History Society Journal

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