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With hindsight, it is easy to condemn the high-handed rejection of Trott's various attempts to persuade British officialdom of the integrity of his cause. Many of his friends failed to understand why he felt impelled to return to Nazi Germany. Although he had been accepted at Oxford as an honorary Englishman, Trott never doubted where his allegiance lay. He saw it as a civic duty to serve one's country and bring about change, even at the cost of one's own life. Trott told his friend Sheila Grant Duff that he thought it "humiliating to be an emigrant". She proved to be less understanding than another fellow student who was present in the junior common room at Balliol in January 1933 when Trott learnt that Hitler had been appointed Chancellor. Charles Collins recalled how Trott "knew at once that a terrible disaster had befallen his country...A number of things he was sure of immediately: that overt resistance to the regime would be useless for a long time to come, that nevertheless he must oppose it by all means in his power; that a common ground must be found for as many opponents of the regime as possible, and that he himself would try to find that ground in a struggle for the ‘liberal rights'; that although it would certainly be at the cost of handicap for his own career, he would not join the Nazi Party unless it should ever become his clear duty to do so in furtherance of his anti-Nazi activity." The playwright William Douglas-Home, who was present at a dinner given in June 1939 by Lord and Lady Astor, where Trott was seated opposite the Foreign Minister Lord Halifax, was equally struck by the young German's sincerity. Home describes him as being "as passionate an anti-Nazi as he was a patriot". 

And yet many of his closest friends doubted his motives-as did the powers that be. Their distaste for Trott's Hegelian affinities, their disappoval of his links with the appeasing Cliveden set, their suspicion of his left-wing sympathies and his ambiguous role as a German foreign office official, and above all their lack of understanding of the constraints of life under dictatorship all combined to cloud their judgment. Even allowing for the uncertainties of the time, it is breathtaking to read Anthony Eden's response to a memorandum of the German resistance outlining the urgent need to remove Hitler and asking for British solidarity. Eden declared that until "these people" broke cover and gave "some visible sign of their intention to assist in the overthrow of the Nazi regime, they can be of little use to us or to Germany". He dismissed Trott as "not untypical of a number of young Germans in the German ministry of foreign affairs who, profoundly anti-Nazi in upbringing and outlook, have never quite been able to bring themselves to pay the price for their convictions and resign from the service of the Nazi regime". As if conditions in Hitler's totalititarian state were comparable to those in England, Eden, then Foreign Secretary, took his honourable stand against Chamberlain's policy of appeasement and resigned. 

Eden's rebuff was based on a devastating assessment written anonymously for the Foreign Office by Richard Crossman, who had known Trott at Oxford and even spent a few days in 1935 with him on a tour of Germany, although he claimed that their relationship was coloured by mutual distrust. Crossman opined that Trott's unhappy and uncertain state of mind confirmed his own feelings "that in any serious political conflict Adam's high-minded idealism would somehow twist to avoid the really unpleasant decision to work for a revolution in Germany". 

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Fabio P.Barbieri
December 6th, 2009
8:12 AM
I don't see it. The truth is that all the heroes and martyrs of July 20, from Stauffenberg to Rommel, were pickled in the very German and Prussian nationalism that had made World War One, and none of them were really prepared for a world in which Germany was not dominant, pre-eminent, and militarily dangerous. Adam von Trott's infamous letters to the Manchester Guardian show that he cared more for the reputation of those members of his class who were still involved in the German state than for its victims - both Jews and non-Jews - which already were in the tens of thousands. By the time he wrote them, everyone knew that mass killings were going on - everyone in Germany, at least; and positively diabolical rumours were widely circulated - all true - not only about the murders, but about the way they were carried out, and about the way unmurdered prisoners were being treated. Read Konrad Heiden's final chapters in his Der Fuehrer of 1934. If Heiden knew so much, indeed if so much was accessible to any journalist located in or near Germany, how could von Trott imagine that his denials could mean anything other than a public display of allegiance to a compromised nation? What were the British to make of someone who was so obsessed with the good name of Germany that he would declare that black was white, and that in the Manchester Guardian of all places? The British, who had already paid the price of a generation of young men to stop a previous bout of German nationalism, had every right to regard the whole of it - and not just its high-fever pitch of Nazism - as unredeemable; certainly, nothing that happened since suggested that it could be redeemed. Even speaking of the heroes of July 20: may I ask how many of them would have put an immediate end to the mass killings that German forces - with no real distinction between Wehrmacht and Waffen-SS - were carrying out all over Europe? Some of them - especially the serving generals - had themselves been instruments of tyranny, gleeful instruments in some cases. The careers of July 20 conspirators such as Fromm, Kluge and Fellgiebel will not withstand scrutiny. No, the whole German ruling class was corrupt to the core. Even the heroic enemy of Nazism, Bishop Graf von Galen of Munster, was a devout nationalist and militarist who saw nothing wrong with war and would gladly have followed the troops as the humblest of chaplains. The very social leadership for whose good name Adam von Trott zu Soltz was so concerned was simply incapable of reforming itself; and given their attitudes, war was inevitable, whoever was in charge of the state. Hitler was elected because he was more credible than the rest in promising war, but nobody, except for the Communists, had anything against the idea - and as for the Communists, that was a choice between the frying-pan and the fire. In spite of the rivers of blood and oceans of treasure expended in two world wars, Britain did not experience the full meaning of German aggression. They never entered your houses. I grew up in a city where German abductions, torture and murder were a living memory, and the idea disgusts me that anything but unconditional surrender could have been offered to the people whose leaders were eventually justly hanged at Nuremberg.

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