Coffee with Hitler: The Untold Story of the Amateur Spies Who Tried To Civilize Hitler

Pegasus. Sept. 2022. 520p. ISBN 9781639362264. $29.95. HIST
The maiden effort by historian Spicer (based on his eight years of dissertation research) corrects long-standing misinterpretations of the work of the Anglo-German Fellowship: an interwar diplomacy program in which amateur British intelligence agents socialized with and befriended leading political figures of Nazi Germany, as part of an attempt to influence and “enlighten” Nazi officials and head off a war. The British leaders of the fellowship—which had its heyday from 1934 to 1938, shut down in 1939, and disbanded in 1949—have often been described as Nazi appeasers, but Spicer argues that most weren’t interested in appeasement. Instead, they saw their mission as civilizing, building on centuries-old ties between Germany and Britain, and promoting amity, trade, and prosperity. The spokesmen of the Anglo-German Fellowship were a left-wing Welsh historian, a butterfly-collecting businessman, and a World War I air ace. And yes, they drank coffee with Hitler. They also attended Nazi rallies, but they spoke against persecution of Jewish people. When it became obvious to Britain that peace with Hitler was a lost cause, members of the fellowship—at great personal risk—began sussing out German military secrets and connecting with dissenters inside Germany.
VERDICT The escalation of Nazi violence, Edward VIII’s unexpected abdication, an unprepared Britain, and a government ignoring the danger signs of war all make for a heady brew and an exciting read. Will be easy for history lovers to enjoy.
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