Read Tapping Hitler's Generals: Transcripts of Secret Conversations 1942-45 by Sönke Neitzel Online


Between 1942 and 1945, MI-19, a division of the British Directorate of Military Intelligence, created a number of Combined Services Detailed Interrogation Centres in and around London. The most important of these centers was at Trent Park, in North London. Sophisticated tapping equipment was installed, and secret gramophone recordings were made of conversations between GerBetween 1942 and 1945, MI-19, a division of the British Directorate of Military Intelligence, created a number of Combined Services Detailed Interrogation Centres in and around London. The most important of these centers was at Trent Park, in North London. Sophisticated tapping equipment was installed, and secret gramophone recordings were made of conversations between German general staff officers. In these transcripts, the officers reflect on how they thought the war was progressing, and the direction of German politics and strategy. The officers discussed the July Plot of 1944, the failed attempt to assassinate Hitler, collaboration with the enemy, and their experience of German war crimes. The editor has written biographies of all of the officers who appear in the transcripts, and has meticulously researched the valildity of their assertions. Tapping Hitler’s Generals also tells the extraordinary background and details of the surveillance operation. One tactic for acquiring information involved mixing up Wehrmacht and Luftwaffe officers in order to elicit more detailed explanations of events and technologies. German stool pigeons were used to stir up debate, and a bogus welfare officer named Lord Aberfeldy acted as an undercover interpreter....

Title : Tapping Hitler's Generals: Transcripts of Secret Conversations 1942-45
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ISBN : 9781853677366
Format Type : Hardcover
Number of Pages : 404 Pages
Status : Available For Download
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Tapping Hitler's Generals: Transcripts of Secret Conversations 1942-45 Reviews

  • Roger
    2019-05-18 09:53

    There has been so much written on World War Two that it would be reasonable to think that every aspect has been covered, and that there is not much new to say. In some ways this proposition is true, and yet all the time publications come out that, while they might not reveal new information, look at the War from a different perspective. This is such a publication.During wartime prisoners are taken, and usually separated by rank. In the case of the Allies in World War Two, German officers of General Rank were taken and held in a facility at Trent Park, a large house on the outskirts of London. There the Generals were interrogated, and held captive before being moved, usually to the USA or Canada. Quite often their stay was short, a matter of weeks, although some were there for more than a year. Usually the officers arrived at Trent Park shortly after their capture, sometimes only a matter of days after being picked up from the battlefield.The Allies were careful to interrogate officers as quickly as they could, before they had settled into PoW life and before they could perhaps get their minds in a place where they could evade the questioning effectively. The Allies also did something else, something else that the Germans did not expect - they bugged the gaol! A team of hundreds of men listened to all the conversations between the officers, and recorded onto vinyl any sections of these conversations that they thought would be of interest to the Allied cause.These recordings have until recently been classified, and have in the last ten years provided useful and interesting primary material for historians to work with - one of the other books I've read recently by the same author, Soldaten, used this material to develop its thesis. Tapping Hitler's Generals consists of a long introduction, and excerpts from the conversations between the Generals, grouped into three themes, to do with politics and strategy, war crimes, and reactions to the 20 July 1944 assassination attempt on Hitler.The documents almost without fail are highly interesting. What the reader sees is a group of men who are grappling with their consciences for the most part, working through what has happened to them and trying to make sense of it, or to justify their actions. The Generals can be broadly put into two camps: those that were thoroughly anti-Nazi, and those who, while acknowledging excesses, still put their faith in Hitler, rather than the Party as a whole.Much discussion between the officers in this book centres around whether and how the army should act in relation to the government, especially as the war moved into Germany in 1945. There is much balancing of honour and fidelity to their oath to the Fuhrer, with the obvious waste of life and property when the outcome of the War was certain. Where some, such as von Thoma, saw the continuation of the War as the biggest war crime, others thought that to surrender now would only lose face and that the Allies would destroy the country anyway. Records of discussions about earlier chances to depose the Nazis get some coverage here, with some officers self-aware enough to acknowledge that the officer-class of the Army is just as culpable as the Nazis in allowing the War to begin, and to continue.The section that deals with the reaction to the 20 July plot is fascinating in showing the mindset that prevailed at the time amongst the officer corps. Many of them had in fact been sounded out by the plotters, and the fact that the plot remained a secret right up until the time it was carried out says something about the army's disillusionment with Hitler.The initial reaction at Trent Park was the the bomb plot was a put-up job. The reasoning was two-fold: firstly, those that knew Stauffenberg thought there was no way that he could mess up the job of planting the bomb, and secondly they saw the bomb and subsequent propaganda as a ruse of Hitler to denigrate the army while showing himself as the agent of providence. The reluctance of officers to be actively involved in the plot, and to believe the worst after it had failed, was disastrous on two fronts, both in failing to ensure the plot would be successful, and in their conversations influencing the Allies to dismiss the plotters as a viable opposition.The section on war crimes proves what has been proven elsewhere - that there was widespread, although not total, knowledge of the massacre of the Jews, and Poles and partisans and others, within the Army. Most of the discussions recorded here lay the blame on the SS and SD, although there is acknowledgement of the Army's culpability in some outrages, with some officers realising that their necks would be on the line for the actions of their troops. The general anti-semitism of the officers is on display, with even those denigrating the Holocaust expressing their dislike for the Jews and their wish to expel them from Germany. The murder of hostages was seen only as bad as a matter of degree, not as wrong in and of itself - it is interesting that the German Army saw taking hostages to guarantee an occupied community's good behaviour as consistent with the rules of war, which the Western Allies did not.The overall picture of the officers held in Trent Park (and it should be remembered that this group was not necessarily an accurate cross-section of the officer corps of the German Armed Forces) is one of a group of highly structured technocrats, most of whom subscribed to similar notions of nationalism, militarism and honour. They were all at sea when it came to politics and their responsibilities to the people of Germany, and those they conquered. Their blinkered views were in part what enabled Hitler and the Nazis to do what they did.As for the book itself, there are some minor quibbles: there are regular mis-spellings and missing letters which annoy the reader rather than damage the text, and there is only a name index, which is of little help in navigating the work. There are balanced by comprehensive notes, and useful biographies of the prisoners, which list their military careers, and - where the authors have access to them - assessments by their senior officers and by the British authorities. These assessments are an interesting insight into both the German and British character. I give the assessments of Generalmajor Fritz Kraus as an example - assessed by Rommel in 1943 as "straightforward, exemplary character. Positive attitude to National Socialism. Proved himself greatly as senior artillery commander during the major offensives and retreats of summer and winter 1942 in Africa, such that he was promoted to Generalmajor after the capture of Tobruk. mentally and physically very vigorous and active." The British assessment is as follows - "A pleasant rather unintelligent man, anti-Nazi. His main occupations at Trent Park were chess, table-tennis and bridge. He was an inspired cello player in the string quartet." I think that says a lot.This book is worth a look for those interested in the German Army.Check out my other reviews at

  • Patricia Roberts-Miller
    2019-06-02 12:53

    An actively painful book to read. But important.

  • Themistocles
    2019-06-02 13:02

    I thought this would be an exceedingly interesting book, however I was disappointed.In hindsight, I'm not sure what I should have expected. Those imprisoned and bugged were normal people after all and their discussions bordered on the boring. So much so that I bailed out.True, it may have a great value as a source or to verify or deny various details, but it mostly consists of ramblings. I don't know, maybe the choice of excerpts to include was not the best but it's really a painful job trying to find a really interesting nugget among all the whining.

  • Mike Roach
    2019-06-07 09:34

    Secretly recording the musings of captured German generals gives a mixed bag of the interesting, the boring, and the occassionally profound. The dawning realization that they will lose this war, their own knowledge of the Holocaust, and the fear of what will become of Germany will, at the book's best, make for some fascinating reading, but a lot of it is also, well, tedious.

  • Andy
    2019-06-01 09:39

    From 1942 to 1945, Trent Park, a country house nestling in Capability Brown-landscaped grounds in north London, became the Cockfosters Cage, a prisoner-of-war camp exclusively for captured high-ranking German officers.Those incarcerated there - in no little luxury - had suspected that their captors were listening in. But the technical triumph of bugging every room, tree, bush and bench - plus the astounding volume of talks, discussions, arguments and debates which were recorded, translated and analysed - impresses even today.This volume includes transcriptions of men ruminating on the whole idea of national socialism, resistance to the regime, the extent of war crimes and the shape of postwar Europe.The generals come across as a mixed bag. Some are resigned, some angry, others defiant. All exude a sense of shock that their side might lose the war while there are eyewitness accounts of mass killings and other atrocities.A grim, sometimes repetitive, read, this book is a stark, at times compelling, insight into the often dark nature of mankind.

  • Patty
    2019-05-18 14:00

    Fascinating for what was going on in their heads, especially for those with an interest in WWII.