Adam von Trott
9 August 1909 – 26 August 1944
The son of a Prussian minister for culture, Adam von Trott studied law and political science. He was a Christian who saw Nazism as standing against everything he considered important.
He travelled to Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar, where he met David Astor (later the editor of the Observer, and one of the founders of Amnesty International) Astor regarded Trott as the most influential person in his life.
Subsequently, Trott travelled to the US and Asia, returning to Germany in the late 1930s. In 1939, he travelled to Britain. He was able to meet Halifax (then Foreign Secretary) and Chamberlain (Prime Minister) to urge greater opposition to Hitler. He found Chamberlain’s response ‘icy’.
In 1940, Trott joined the Nazi party – having repeatedly been refused employment in key diplomatic posts because he was not a member. His membership also provided cover for his resistance activities.
As a diplomat involved in the resistance group later known as the Kreisau Circle, he took the lead on foreign policy matters. He sought a united Europe – in a union without conquest, and not under a German hegemony, but with a common market and even a common currency – a vision largely realised today.
Trott’s position enabled him to travel to neutral countries. From 1942 to 1944 he travelled abroad, on conspiracy business, at least sixteen times, visiting (amongst other places) Switzerland seven times, Sweden four times, and Turkey once. He did his best to impress on the Allies that Nazism and Germany were distinct, and to seek support for action against Hitler. He enlisted the assistance of Dr Visser’t Hooft, secretary of the World Council of Churches, as well as that of David Astor and Sir Stafford Cripps, his friends in Britain. In this way, he was able to pass messages to Winston Churchill.
He advocated the assassination of Hitler, and recruited many people to the conspiracy.
Trott was a friend of Claus von Stauffenberg. Claus’s brother Berthold introduced Claus to Trott before the war. Especially from 1943, they became close friends. Trott’s wife later indicated that this was the closest friendship of her husband’s life. Trott told her that Claus, by his ‘fiery’ character, had given new impetus and vigour to the opposition. Trott told a female friend after the July plot collapsed that Claus had been his ‘closest friend.’
On the eve of 20 July 1944, Claus sought Trott out and spent time with him.
On 20 July 1944 Trott was in the Foreign Office, he worked on speeches for radio with General Fritz Lindemann and Dr Fritz Theil. He was waiting to hear when these speeches should be given. Although troops loyal to the conspiracy seized the radio stations, they failed to pass on this news, and the speeches were never broadcast.
Trott was with Hans-Bernd von Haeften (another lawyer, and the brother of Stauffenberg’s aide Werner) when they heard that troops under the command of Major Remer (loyal to the Nazis) were surrounding the Bendlerblock, at which point they knew the Plot had failed.
The day after the Plot, Trott went to work in the Foreign Office as usual. That day a friend offered to fly him to Madrid. He considered the offer overnight, and declined, so as not to endanger his family. Two days later he was offered a further chance of escape – this time into Switzerland – and again declined. He was arrested the next day – 25 July.
After extensive interrogation he was tried before the People’s Court on 15 August 1944. His wife Clarita went to the court in the hope of providing some comfort. When her identity as discovered she was ejected. He was sentenced to death.
Following the trial, he was interrogated for eleven days. On 25 August he received covert news that he was about to die. Just before he was taken away, Trott wrote a moving last letter to his wife Clarita (which she did not receive until the following year):
My dearest Clarita,
This unfortunately now is probably my very last letter.Before all else – forgive me for the great sorrow I have had to cause you.
Today we have a clear sky, Peking blue, and there is a rustling in the trees. Teach our dear, sweet little ones to understand these signs from God – and his profounder ones – thankfully but also with an active and valiant spirit.
I love you very much. There would be still so much to write – but there is no more time.
May God keep you. I know that you will not let yourself be defeated, and that you will struggle through to a life in which I shall in spirit still be standing by your side, even if you seem to be all alone. I pray for strength for you – please do the same for me … Do not grieve too much on my account – for fundamentally everything is very clear – even if very painful.
I embrace you with all my heart and know that you are with me.
God bless you and the little ones.
In steadfast love,
Greet Innshausen and its hills from me
He was hanged on 26 August 1944.
He did not know that his two small daughters, the older aged two and a half years and the younger just nine months, had been taken away by the Gestapo. His wife was imprisoned.
In 1945, with the Nazi administration beginning to crumble, she was released from prison and reunited with their children.
This is an edited extract from TREASON - Claus von Stauffenberg and the Plot to Kill Hitler