Betraying Hitler: Fritz Kolbe, the Most Important Spy of the Second World War by Lucas Delattre - review by Nigel Jones

Nigel Jones

The Good Spy

Betraying Hitler: Fritz Kolbe, the Most Important Spy of the Second World War


Atlantic Books 304pp £16.99

Espionage is a thankless trade. For those whose motives are venal, there's rarely much money in it. For the rest, the work can be dull when it’s not deadly dangerous, the perks are few, pensions non-existent, and the risks and rewards – as this account amply demonstrates – respectively high and paltry. Given this unpromising job description, it’s surprising that there seem to be so many spooks around. And it is utterly astonishing that the savagely totalitarian state of Nazi Germany spawned men and women willing to risk all by their refusal to knuckle under to the evils of Hitlerism. For those who were caught conspiring against the regime, the penalties were months of hellish Gestapo torture, a mocking, humiliating 'trial' before the People's Court, and a far from swift dispatch by being slowly strangled by piano wire dangling from a butcher's hook. Not an enticing prospect. Yet some were so outraged by the enormities of National Socialism that they chanced it. This book tells the story of one such heroic soul.

Fritz Kolbe is not exactly unknown. He was featured in magazine stories after the war, and received generous public acknowledgement and help from his American controller, Allen Dulles. Yet it is true that he is not so familiar as the other superspies of the Second World War. The exploits of

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