A Conspiracy within the Conspiracy: Allen Dulles and the 1944 Hitler Assassination Attempt

Werner Rügemer was inspired by the celebrations of the Hitler assassination attempt on July 20, 1944, to investigate in more detail who else was part of the resistance: the US intelligence service OSS and Allen Dulles. The article came with this comment: «Again I found it interesting how informative and productive such kinds of historical investigations are, and how incredible cheap the dominating legends are knitted together. And this is not all that complicated to research. In this case, you only need to read the openly available, but of course forgotten, book written by the secret service boss himself.»
Herrengasse 23 i Bern, Allen Dulles’s HQ in neutral Switzerland during WW2.  (CC Wikimedia)

By Werner Rügemer

During the war, the US secret service OSS under Allen Dulles had informants among the July 20. conspirators.

In all German mainstream media, from Chancellor Merkel, and also in the enlightened left-wing newspaper Junge Welt: In all assessments on the 75th anniversary of the assassination attempt on Hitler on July 20, 1944, one participant remains doggedly hidden: The US intelligence service Office of Strategic Services (OSS). Its leader in Europe, Allen Dulles, had infiltrated the resistance from left to right with informants. His objective: The resistance should preferably not succeed, because it would only have benefited  «the Russians» and possibly led to peace negotiations. The Western hostility against the Soviet Union, with the danger of a new war, had begun by 1943 at the latest – and is a continuity to this day.

For 72 years, since 1947, we have known (almost) everything from the master of conspiracies himself: Since 1942, the Wall Street star lawyer Allen Dulles was leader of OSS in Europe. In New York in 1947, he published a book, Germany’s Underground. In 1948 it was published in a German language edition, in Switzerland. In 1949, it appeared in Germany itself, from the Harriet Schleber publishing house, which had been founded by the US military government.

Dulles: Broad resistance in Germany!

«My first and most important task was,» Dulles writes, «to find out what was going on in Germany. Among other things, Washington wanted to know who in Germany were really opposed to the Hitler regime and whether they were actively at work to overthrow it. As far as the outside world could see, it often seemed as though Hitler had succeeded in winning over, hypnotizing or terrorizing the entire German nation.»

This was also the analysis of the Nazi terror-state spread by critical theory in the United States [1]. But Dulles stated: There was a broad resistance. «I was able to establish contact with the German underground, and for many months before the culmination of the plot on July 20 I had kept in touch with those who were conspiring to rid Germany of the Nazis and the Nazi state. Couriers, risking their lives, went back and forth between Switzerland and Germany with reports of the conspirators’ progress, and these reports reached me through secret channels I had developed. (p xii)» Dulles sums up: There was an anti-Nazi underground working in Germany, despite the general impression to the contrary. It developed out of heterogeneous groups that finally achieved a working unity and reached into the vitals of the army and the government services. Professional men, church and labor leaders, and high commanding officers …» (p xii)

So the master spy drew a completely different picture from what the US government and above all the State Department propagated at that time: All Germany was under the grip of the Nazis, all Germans were Nazis, the terror was total. Dulles sent his reports to Washington under the code word Breaker. But Roosevelt and his generals continued to lie. Churchill joined in enthusiastically: All Germans are Nazis! In the January 1943 Casablanca Conference, when the defeat of the Wehrmacht in Stalingrad was clear, they reaffirmed: no peace negotiations! Unconditional surrender – unconditional surrender after the final, total defeat of the Germans! [2]

Please note: even today, government propaganda and real (intelligence) knowledge are two very different things! Fake information, fake production – it can also consist of claiming the opposite of what one knows.

The informants

From 1942, Dulles stayed in the «neutral» country of Switzerland, in the capital Bern. Formally, he was a member of the US Embassy and had an office in the financial center Zurich. He managed several informants among the conspirators. The most important was Hans Bernd Gisevius. He had been a member of the «conservative» German National People’s Party (DNVP). In the Nazi regime, he first belonged to the Gestapo, then to the staff of Admiral Canaris, the head of the «Abwehr» counterintelligence service, who was one of the leaders of the military resistance together with General Oster.

Gisevius had been appointed, after some regime infighting, to Vice Consul in the Consulate General of the German Reich in Zurich. This city was where important information about the war came together. Here, Swiss and German traders did their business, because Switzerland was by no means neutral: Swiss companies supplied important military equipment to the Wehrmacht; Swiss banks procured hard currency for the German Reich by buying and selling stolen gold and stolen shares.

Gisevius used his privileged status to constantly shuttle back and forth between Switzerland and Berlin. In addition, Canaris and Oster hoped to use Gisevius as a conduit to Dulles, to get help from the Western Allies, and from 1942, Dulles via Gisevius at once organized a «connection to the conspirators». At the same time, Gisevius maintained «friendly and political relations with several members of the OSS». So the German Vice Consul «was of invaluable assistance for me,» Dulles stated. When the informant came back from Berlin, the intelligence chief met him at night in Bern or Zurich to get the latest information.

When the Gestapo started to suspect Gisevius, the US secret service procured secret Gestapo identification marks for him – an indication of how deep Dulles had penetrated the infrastructure of the Nazi terror apparatus. Other informants who were able to travel back and forth were Gero von Gaevernitz, Edward Wätjen and Theodor Strünk, the latter was for Dulles «our loyal messenger Strünk».

Preference: «Conservative resistance» – the military

Above all, Dulles sought contact with the «conservative» resistance, which wanted to maintain the rule of big business and banking, only without the Nazis. Dulles himself was a lawyer for US banks and corporations, as well as German corporations such as Krupp and IG Farben, companies that collaborated with their American counterparts during the Weimar Republic.

That is why Dulles also established his informants in the Bank for International Settlements (BIS), founded by Wall Street banks in 1931. It also had its headquarters in Switzerland, in Basel. It was run by Thomas H. McKittrick, a Wall Street banker. In exchange for the German military’s stolen gold, the bank provided war-vital foreign currency for the German Reich. Dulles had the overriding mission of securing the property and affairs of US corporations and banks such as Ford, General Motors, IBM, ITT, Standard Oil, Chase Manhattan, and JP Morgan in the German Reich throughout occupied Europe, also with a view to the post-war period (but he does not mention that in the book). [4]

So he established contacts to «conservative» military circles in the Third Reich. In addition to Canaris and Oster, they included general Georg Thomas (responsible for the mobilization of armaments companies), Ulrich von Hassell of the Central European Economic Assembly (an association of leading German corporations, banks and business associations), the German ambassador to the always well-informed and  active anti-Communist Vatican, and general Alexander von Falkenhausen, the military governor of Belgium.

«Conservative» resistance – the politicians

Dulles also established contacts with «conservative» politicians, including their political leader among the conspirators, Carl Friedrich Goerdeler, who had been Price Commissioner under Hitler from 1933 to 1936. He was a member of the former Catholic Center Party, somewhat to the right of former Chancellor Heinrich Brüning, who had received a professorship at the University of Harvard in the United States. Dulles also kept contact with Joseph Wirth, the left-wing and union-friendly Center Party politician, who in the Weimar Republic had been Chancellor and several times Minister, and later fled to Switzerland. The «convinced anti-Nazi Wirth,» said Dulles, helped the OSS to outsmart Himmler’s agent in Switzerland.

By the way: The alleged resister, post-war Chancellor Konrad Adenauer, who received a high pension from the Nazis in Germany, did not mention Dulles – and certainly rightly so.

The conspirators had connections to England and the military neutral states of Sweden, Spain, Switzerland and Turkey. «One of the best connections abroad – for the conspiracy – was the Catholic lawyer Joseph Müller, who was the secular liaison man of Cardinal Faulhaber to the Vatican,» writes Dulles, who also enjoyed the fruits of these contacts.

Similarly, Dulles maintained contacts with «conservative» church officials in both the Catholic and Protestant denominations. «Dr. Eugen Gerstenmaier, whom I got to know well, was a member of the Kreisau circle.» The OSS was «in constant contact» with Dr. Hans Schönfeld from the Evangelical Church in Germany, who often came to the World Council of Churches in Geneva, as well as the Jesuit Father Muckermann, who had fled to Switzerland. Dulles also told his Washington government about the more radical Christian opposition, such as Martin Niemöller, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, «and many other priests, pastors, and laity.»

The Roosevelt government kept silent about it. Dulles agreed. He voluntarily withheld reports from Jewish and other informants about the persecution of the Jews and the concentration camps, and did not forward them to Washington. The task of the secret service was to know everything. But neither the protection of Nazi opponents nor the protection of the Jews was one of his duties (Dulles writes nothing about his treatment of the persecution of the Jews in his book).

The Churchill government in England behaved similarly. Dulles observed that Schonfeld and Bonhoeffer had met secretly in Stockholm with the British bishop of Chichester. He had forwarded the coup plans and requests for help to the British Foreign Minister, Anthony Eden. «But the British government was not impressed,» said the OSS chief.

Bankers and industrialists: The Wallenbergs

An important OSS informant was the Swedish banker Jakob Wallenberg. With his brother Marc, he led the largest banking and business consortium in Sweden. The neutral country Sweden supplied the German Reich with war-important materials and products, such as minerals and ball bearings.

Jakob Wallenberg was a member of the joint government commission for economic relations between Germany and Sweden. That is the reason why he was so often in Berlin to discuss deliveries with the Nazi government. Incidentally, from 1940 to late 1943, he met with Goerdeler, who wanted to win his support for a coup d’état against Hitler. Several meetings took place in Stockholm.

Because the Wallenbergs also had good relations with Churchill, the conspirators around Goerdeler also hoped for British help. Wallenberg was meant to convey the message, but remained reserved. In any case, he kept Dulles up to date on the activities of the Goerdeler group, including their intensifying contacts with the military circle around Stauffenberg. (In the dominant World War II legend, the rescue of Jews in Budapest by family member Raoul Wallenberg is often told, but not about the war-important relations of the Wallenberg clan to Hitler’s Germany, and Dulles does not mention this in his book, although he through informants in Stockholm knew what was going on).

Social Democrats, Communists, Socialists, Trade Unionists

In the detailed book chapter «The Left» Dulles describes his different contacts with the left-wing conspirators.

When I was in Switzerland working with the underground in Germany and in German-occupied Europe, I relied heavily on members of the Social Democratic party and on other Socialists and trade unionists. Among the latter the International Transport Workers Union was particularly effective. I found in these groups devoted men and women willing to risk their lives for the restoration of liberty in Europe.  (p97)

So the OSS maintained contacts with leading SPD members, such as Wilhelm Hoegner, who had been exiled in Switzerland: «He was always able to help me get in contact with members of the German left in Switzerland.» After the war, Hoegner became the first prime minister in the US-occupied Bavaria.

And Dulles also knew about the illegal activities of Communists: «There exists in Germany a Communist central committee which directs and coordinates Communist activities in Germany. This committee has contacts with the Free Germany Committee in Moscow and receives support from the Russian government.» (p137) Likewise, the OSS knew about the spy group Red Orchestra, where officials in government departments, communists, and even an American, secretly radioed reports to the Soviet Union, before they were discovered and executed, including the American (but the US government did not protest).

The OSS also knew about the illegal and dangerous actions of communists: putting propaganda material in mailboxes, sabotage in shipyards, slowdown industrial actions, organizing foreign workers. The OSS’ informants reported on local alliances between Communists and Social Democrats. The US secret service registered the «splits and divisions» within the left and of new groups, such as the «New Beginning» group and the International Socialist Combat League (ISK).

The OSS maintained contacts in the Kreisau Circle, where the more radical officers like Adam von Trott zu Solz and Claus Schenk von Stauffenberg also met with Social Democrats like Adolf Reichwein, Carlo Mierendorff and the union leader Wilhelm Leuschner and the Catholic trade unionist Jakob Kaiser.

Just skim information, do not support

«From Sweden as well as Switzerland, Spain, Turkey and the Vatican, the conspirators learned that they could not expect any promises from the Allies,» Dulles summarizes. With the «Allies» he meant the Western allies, because the conspirators of July 20 did not make contacts with the Soviet Union.

Even the direct informants, who like Gisevius moved back and forth between Switzerland and Germany, repeatedly told the conspirators the position of the OSS and of Roosevelt and Churchill: there is no support at all!

Gisevius reported to Dulles in January 1943: The conspirators were deeply disappointed because the Western powers had given them no encouragement. But the intelligence chief did not end the activity of his informants, on the contrary: He just wanted to know exactly how the preparations for the assassination proceeded – because the resistance threatened to radicalize to the left.

The informants reported to Dulles in 1944: The socialist Leuschner «asserted increasingly more influence in the conspiracy». «The brilliant socialist Dr. Julius Leber «at the last moment» tried to involve the Communists in the conspiracy shortly before July 20″. The circle around Stauffenberg agreed that after the successful assassination «Leuschner, Leber and Haubach should receive all cabinet posts» in the new government, according to Dulles. There lay the «danger»: The US military had only just landed in France, the Red Army advanced faster and faster, hypothetically the Soviet Union could offer peace negotiations.

Delay the assassination!

Dulles was informed through the informant Jakob Wallenberg: The coup plans made by the Goerdeler circle were ready-to-go in September 1943. The staffing of the «interim government» was clarified: general Beck as head of state, with military men, ministers, representatives of trade unions and municipalities included; then elections would be held where the Social Democrats probably would win.

But the conspirators did not make progress, because they still credulously put their hopes in the US and British governments. But these governments categorically blocked any encouragement. But others also put on the brakes, like the Wallenbergs. Dulles reports: Around Christmas of 1942, Carlo Mierendorff, Theodor Haubach and Emil Henk, Social Democrats of long standing and members of the Kreisau circle, met at a spa in the Bavarian mountains…. They saw that Hitler’s elimination, meant «a political vacuum … The British and American forces were far away … Hitler’s disappearance might all too easily deliver Germany into the hands of Communism.» Therefore, the motto of the SPD people was «to Postpone the assassination of Hitler until the American and British armies had established themselves on the Continent.”

Dulles further learned from his informants: The United States and England made themselves unpopular in the German population by the bombardments of the cities, in 1943 also against Hamburg for the first time with phosphorus bombs. There developed a «growing skepticism in Germany to what could be hoped for from the West … It made a great impression on the masses that this bombing came only from the West.»

The danger of premature peace!

Dulles recognized and reported to Washington: The influence of the National Committee for a Free Germany (NKFD), which cooperates with Moscow, is growing and is significantly reinforced by the «millions of Russian prisoners of war in Germany … The slide to the extreme left has taken on an amazing scale and is constantly growing in importance … The hostile mood that had built up among the workers and the civic community weakened the influence of the Western-oriented conspirators, and gave those who placed their only hope in the Soviet Union the upper hand.»

The US intelligence chief informed his government: Many conspirators meanwhile believe that «Russia» is better for the post-war development in Germany: Russia lets Germany «develop further, to a greater degree than England and France, who in Germany saw a competitor on the world market.»

Dulles rightly analyzed: «Russia is constantly coming up with constructive ideas and plans for rebuilding Germany after the war … By comparison, the democratic countries have nothing to offer the future of Central Europe.»

Churchill: «nothing but a dog-eats-dog affair»

Thus the resistance was weakened from the beginning of the war. The assassination was delayed further and further: it was then attempted at the last possible time, and finally failed.

Radio Moscow described the assassination in detail, praised the assassins, and let General Walther von Seydlitz issue statements. He had founded the League of German Officers (BDO) and later joined the NKFD.

In the West, the assassination was played down as meaningless. Churchill commented seen from the point of Western strategy: «nothing but a dog-eats-dog affair».

Dulles subsequently praised the courageous resisters as role models in his book, but he had merely skimmed them for information, they were pitilessly sacrificed. Likewise, in the further course of the total Western war, the much more numerous civilian and military casualties were accepted: Unconditional surrender!

Continuation after the war

Incidentally, the contacts and knowledge that Dulles acquired as head of the US secret service OSS during the war in all occupied countries, he kept up as head of the OSS successor service CIA after the war – continued against the substantial Nazi opponents, continued against «Russia», continued for US dominance in post-war Europe.

Social Democrats adapting to the CIA non-communist left policy line (but treating the Soviet Union as an enemy) were encouraged. [8] Those who did not even offer «conservative» resistance, such as Konrad Adenauer, Jean Monnet and Maurice Schuman, became the founding fathers of the EU.

Anyone who celebrates the failed assassination attempt of July 20, 1944 as an example – and in addition accepts the insult of the assassins by Churchill without comment – like the discredited ruling class in Germany, seems prepared to accept similar sacrifices today. You’re already in the middle of it.


[1] Cf. Franz Neumann: Behemoth. Structure and Practice of National Socialism. First ed. New York 1942, extended version 1944. Neumann described the terror apparatus without going into the early promotion of Hitler by the big capitalists, like Henry Ford and Krupp. Neumann was also an adviser to the Nuremberg military tribunal.

[«2] Paul Sparrow: The Casablanca Conference – Unconditional Surrender, fdr.blogs.archives.gov, 10.1.2017

[«3] Ingolf Gritschneder / Werner Rügemer: Hehler für Hitler. Die geheimen Geschäfte der Firma Otto Wolff  WDR/ARD 2001

[«4] Adam LeBor: The Tower of Basel, New York 2013

[5] Raoul Wallenberg was sent by the Swedish government as special envoy for the rescue of Jews in Budapest, against the reservations of the OSS-delegation in Stockholm: They had filed concerns because of the close relations between the Wallenberg family and Hitler’s Germany (Wikipedia about Rauol Wallenberg).

[«6] The National Committee for a Free Germany was founded by officers of the Wehrmacht after the defeat in Stalingrad. On 12./13 July 1944, a week before the assassination of Hitler, it gathered in  Moscow, with the participation of trade unionists, writers, soldiers and politicians of all political tendencies.

[«7]Mildred Fish-Harnack: „Ich habe Deutschland so geliebt“, in: Werner Rügemer: Bis diese Freiheit die Welt erleuchtet, Köln 2017, S. 187ff.

[«8] Werner Rügemer: Obstacles of the Opposition in Western Capitalism. How US intelligence infiltrated, weakened or destroyed the anti-fascist opposition in Europe during the Second World War, in: Klaus-Jürgen Bruder u.a. (Hg.): Paralyse der Kritik – Gesellschaft ohne Opposition? Gießen 2019, S. 87 – 100

This article is Creative Commons 4.0 for non-commercial purposes. Translated by Terje Maloy. Werner Rügemer is a German commentator, lecturer and writer. He served as the President of Business Crime Control,  is a member of Transparency International, the International Gramsci Society, the Association of German Writers (VS) in ver.di, the PEN Center of Germany, the attac scientific committee, and is co-founder of the «Verein Aktion gegen Arbeitsunrecht».