Captain Hans-Heinrich (‘Johann’ or ‘Johnny’) Herwarth von Bittenfeld
14 July 1904 – 21 August 1999
Herwarth was a lawyer and economist who entered the German Foreign Office in 1927, and served in several important foreign posts, including the German embassies in Paris and, from 1931 to 1939, Moscow.
He worked actively against the Nazis, and in particular, along with Friedrich-Werner von der Schulenburg (the German ambassador to Moscow - and not to be confused with conspirator Fritz-Dietlof von der Schulenburg), urged foreign powers in the late 1930s not to give in to Hitler’s territorial demands. He gave important information to foreign diplomats:
- He kept the British informed on the progress of negotiations between the Germans and Soviets in 1939
- On 24 August 1939, the day after the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact was signed, he gave the full text of its secret protocol, concerning, amongst other things, the division of Poland, to US diplomats
- He warned the Allies of the impending launch of Operation Barbarossa (the German invasion of the Soviet Union).
He married his wife Elisabeth in 1935 and they had one daughter.
After the war began, he joined the army where he served in staff posts, mostly in the east. He helped convey explosives for the resistance.
His grandmother was Jewish. He was a cousin by marriage of Claus von Stauffenberg, and worked with him compiling reports of Nazi atrocities against Jews in the occupied east.He survived the war, and was the first West German ambassador to London. He was later ambassador to Rome. He served in a number of prominent positions, including as president of the Goethe Institute from 1971 – 1977.
This is an edited extract from TREASON: Claus von Stauffenberg and the Plot to Kill Hitler