Nigel West, H*tler’s Trojan Horse (Frontline, 2022)
Intelligence and counter-intelligence have been part of almost all wars. They are necessary components in uncovering enemy intentions while preventing them from uncovering yours. In World War II, the Abwehr was one of two German intelligence organisations, but their story has never been fully told. Nigel West’s H*tler’s Trojan Horse attempts to fill that gap.
After a lengthy list of dramatis personae, which foreshadows some of the often bewildering detail to follow, West delves into the cut and thrust of the counter-intelligence battle that raged behind the scenes across Europe and North Africa. It is apparent that the Abwehr gave as good as they got at least until 1943. They were particularly good at infiltrating resistance networks in occupied Europe. However, West notes that as the tides of war began to flow in favour of the Allies, the Abwehr increasingly found itself on the back foot, a situation accelerated by a stream of defectors. West also describes the roles of the Abwehr and British intelligence in the attempted assassination of H*tler in July 1944, and he ponders the Klatt mystery on the Eastern Front, where we still do not know fully the extent of Soviet disinformation deployed against the Abwehr. With the Allies rampaging across Europe after D-Day, the Abwehr planned on ‘stay behind’ groups to cause havoc in the Allied rear, but the Abwehr was too compromised by Allied intelligence, and the effort came to almost nothing. In the end, West writes, the Abwehr simply evaporated in the dying days of the Reich.
If you judge a book on information and content, then H*tler’s Trojan Horse passes with flying colours. West takes a deep dive into the intelligence war and teases out some fascinating details, particularly on the July Putsch. However, the book is too ‘packed’; the writing suffers from too many interruptions to make room for source material, some of it very lengthy, that could have been incorporated into the flow of the narrative, and extraneous details riddle the text, gumming up the works. One effect of that is the reader loses the hierarchy of importance because everything seems equally important. Nevertheless, for students of the intelligence war, they are likely to enjoy substance over style and should enjoy this.