Was Britain behind ‘Operation Valkyrie’? Document reveals conspirator was an MI6 agent


Britain’s intelligence service may have played a role in the 1944 attempt on the life of Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler, an author has discovered.

The unsuccessful Operation Valkyrie plot, which took place on July 20 in the penultimate year of World War Two and was masterminded by senior German officer Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg, led to a planted suitcase bomb being detonated inside Hitler’s Wolf’s Lair headquarters.

Whilst the explosion killed four people, Hitler himself escaped with a perforated eardrum, meaning that von Stauffenberg’s subsequent attempted coup failed and he was executed along with many of the other co-conspirators.

Up until now, the assassination attempt, which was immortalised in 2008 Hollywood thriller Valkyrie, was believed to have been the sole work of Germans – although it was known that British-made explosives and triggers were used.

But a previously top-secret file which had until recently lain unread in the National Archives since it was declassified in 2007 has revealed that conspirator Otto John, a German lawyer, was working for MI6 when the attack took place.

The file reveals how John was given the codename of ‘Whisky’ and met with his Mi6 handlers a total of 12 times in the lead-up to the attempt to kill Hitler, which is now popularly known as the 20 July plot.

He is believed to have acted as an intermediary between another key plotter, Colonel George Hansen, and Britain’s spy chiefs.

Author Nigel West came across the file while carrying out research for his upcoming book Hitler’s Nest of Vipers, a two-volume history of the German intelligence service.

He told MailOnline that whilst John is a ‘well-known figure’ among historians, ‘What was never known was that his codename was Whisky and for two years before 20 July, he was meeting Graham Maingot and Rita Winsor of Mi6.’

The historian jokingly added that whilst the pair might have just been having ‘cosy meetings’ and ‘cups of tea’, it is extremely likely that they were intimately discussing the 20 July plot. ‘The historical implications of this are gigantic’, Mr West said.

Britain's intelligence service may have played a role in the 1944 attempt on the life of Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler, an author has discovered. Above: The aftermath of the 20 July plot

Britain’s intelligence service may have played a role in the 1944 attempt on the life of Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler, an author has discovered. Above: The aftermath of the 20 July plot

The 20 July plot had been hatched by disillusioned army officers including nobleman Count von Stauffenberg who knew that Germany was set to lose the war and wanted to take control themselves before striking a peace deal with the Allies.

After months of preparation with his co-conspirators, von Stauffenberg placed the bomb in a conference room at Hitler’s East Prussian headquarters, where the dictator was meeting with his aides and military advisers.

Von Stauffenberg, who was played by Tom Cruise in the 2008 film detailing the plot, then made an excuse and left the room before the bomb went off.

But the plan ultimately failed because someone inadvertently moved the briefcase containing the bomb next to a table leg, meaning it absorbed much of the blast.

Up until now, the assassination attempt was believed to have been the sole work of Germans – although it was known that British-made explosives and triggers were used. But a previously top-secret file (pictured) which had until recently lain unread in the National Archives since it was declassified in 2007 has revealed that conspirator Otto John, a German lawyer, was working for Mi6 when the attack took place

Up until now, the assassination attempt was believed to have been the sole work of Germans – although it was known that British-made explosives and triggers were used. But a previously top-secret file (pictured) which had until recently lain unread in the National Archives since it was declassified in 2007 has revealed that conspirator Otto John, a German lawyer, was working for Mi6 when the attack took place

Written by official Herbert Hart, the most revealing passage details how John had been 'an S.I.S [MI6] agent for two years and whom the Germans are now hotly pursuing on the footing that he was party to the attempt on Hitler's life on July 20'

Written by official Herbert Hart, the most revealing passage details how John had been 'an S.I.S [MI6] agent for two years and whom the Germans are now hotly pursuing on the footing that he was party to the attempt on Hitler's life on July 20'

Up until now, the assassination attempt was believed to have been the sole work of Germans – although it was known that British-made explosives and triggers were used. But a previously top-secret file (pictured) which had until recently lain unread in the National Archives since it was declassified in 2007 has revealed that conspirator Otto John, a German lawyer, was working for Mi6 when the attack took place

The file reveals how John (pictured) was given the codename of 'Whisky' and met with his Mi6 handlers a total of 12 times in the lead-up to the attempt to kill Hitler, which is now popularly known as the 20 July plot

The file reveals how John (pictured) was given the codename of 'Whisky' and met with his Mi6 handlers a total of 12 times in the lead-up to the attempt to kill Hitler, which is now popularly known as the 20 July plot

The file reveals how John (pictured) was given the codename of ‘Whisky’ and met with his Mi6 handlers a total of 12 times in the lead-up to the attempt to kill Hitler, which is now popularly known as the 20 July plot

However, four people, including three German officers, were still killed. Along with his perforated eardrum, Hitler’s trousers were also left singed and tattered.

After the subsequent attempted coup failed due to Hitler’s survival, Stauffenberg and several others were shot dead in the courtyard of the Bendlerblock, the army HQ in the centre of Berlin.

Others were hanged on piano wire in the Gestapo prison of Ploetzensee in Berlin.

The MI5 document found by Mr West details John’s ultimately successful attempts to flee Germany after the plot failed.

The unsuccessful Operation Valkyrie plot, which took place on July 20 in the penultimate year of World War Two and was masterminded by senior German officer Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg (pictured above), led to a planted suitcase bomb being detonated inside Hitler's Wolf's Lair headquarters

The unsuccessful Operation Valkyrie plot, which took place on July 20 in the penultimate year of World War Two and was masterminded by senior German officer Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg (pictured above), led to a planted suitcase bomb being detonated inside Hitler's Wolf's Lair headquarters

Actor Tom Cruise played the officer in 2008 film Valkyrie

Actor Tom Cruise played the officer in 2008 film Valkyrie

The unsuccessful Operation Valkyrie plot, which took place on July 20 in the penultimate year of World War Two and was masterminded by senior German officer Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg (pictured left), led to a planted suitcase bomb being detonated inside Hitler’s Wolf’s Lair headquarters. Right: Actor Tom Cruise played the officer in 2008 film Valkyrie

Tom Cruise’s Valkyrie 

The 2008 film Valkyrie dramatically told the story of the 20 July plot. 

 Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg was played by Hollywood superstar Tom Cruise. 

To demonstrate how the officer had been blinded in one eye in previous fighting during WWII, Cruise’s character was seen in the film wearing an eye patch. 

The production, which was directed by Brian Singer, received mixed reviews from critics. 

The 2008 film Valkyrie dramatically told the story of the 20 July plot

The 2008 film Valkyrie dramatically told the story of the 20 July plot

The 2008 film Valkyrie dramatically told the story of the 20 July plot

At the time, MailOnline gave it a two-star review, pointing out how Cruise’s use of his American accent made it less convincing. 

It added: ‘Does this picture tell us anything we didn’t know, apart from that late on, when Hitler was losing his grip and the war, some of his former supporters turned against him? I fear not.’

Written by official Herbert Hart, the most revealing passage details how John had been ‘an S.I.S [MI6] agent for two years and whom the Germans are now hotly pursuing on the footing that he was party to the attempt on Hitler’s life on July 20’.

John was able to escape Germany because he was employed by German airline Lufthansa and so was not suspected when he caught a flight to Madrid.

However, after he had arrived in Spain, Hitler’s soldiers discovered his involvement and arrested his brother before executing him.

After making it to Madrid, John was flown to the UK and later headed up West Germany’s domestic intelligence service after the war.

Mr West said the new file is ‘absolutely breathtaking’. The file also references a counterpart MI6 document which has never come to light.

If it still exists, it could contain more information about the extent of John’s relationship with the intelligence service.

Mr West said: ‘Based on this astonishing new evidence, it is completely inconceivable that the British did not know, have an opinion on, nor participate in such a momentous plot.

‘We now know that Otto John was an MI6 asset, and has a large MI6 file. If this can be released, it will show the British involvement in Valkyrie and the role of Otto John as the “missing link”.

The historian found the MI5 file amid an ongoing legal battle led by German aristocrat Prince Frederick Solms-Baruth, whose grandfather was involved in the 20 July plot.

The family’s 17,000 acre estate, Baruth Castle, was a key headquarters for the plotters, where they met and discussed their plans whilst horse riding.

Prince Frederick’s grandfather, Prince Friedrich zu Solms-Baruth III, was arrested and tortured by the Nazis after his role was discovered.

He was forced to transfer ownership of his family’s estates to Hitler’s deputy Heinrich Himmler. 

After the war ended, the family never got their land back and it is now owned by the German state.

Prince Frederick is set to appear in court to push for the land to be returned.

The 2008 film Valkyrie dramatically told the story of the 20 July plot. 

 Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg was played by Hollywood superstar Tom Cruise. 

To demonstrate how the officer had been blinded in one eye in previous fighting during WWII, Cruise’s character was seen in the film wearing an eye patch. 

The production, which was directed by Brian Singer, received mixed reviews from critics. 

At the time, MailOnline gave it a two-star review, pointing out how Cruise’s use of his American accent made it less convincing.

After months of preparation with his co-conspirators, von Stauffenberg placed the bomb in a conference room at Hitler's East Prussian headquarters, where the dictator was meeting with his aides and military advisers. Above: von Stauffenberg is seen far left standing next to Hitler as he meets an official five days before the attack

After months of preparation with his co-conspirators, von Stauffenberg placed the bomb in a conference room at Hitler's East Prussian headquarters, where the dictator was meeting with his aides and military advisers. Above: von Stauffenberg is seen far left standing next to Hitler as he meets an official five days before the attack

After months of preparation with his co-conspirators, von Stauffenberg placed the bomb in a conference room at Hitler’s East Prussian headquarters, where the dictator was meeting with his aides and military advisers. Above: von Stauffenberg is seen far left standing next to Hitler as he meets an official five days before the attack

Along with his perforated eardrum, Hitler's trousers (pictured above) were also left singed and tattered

Along with his perforated eardrum, Hitler's trousers (pictured above) were also left singed and tattered

Along with his perforated eardrum, Hitler’s trousers (pictured above) were also left singed and tattered

The historian found the MI5 file amid an ongoing legal battle led by German aristocrat Prince Frederick Solms-Baruth

The historian found the MI5 file amid an ongoing legal battle led by German aristocrat Prince Frederick Solms-Baruth

His grandfather was involved in the 20 July plot

His grandfather was involved in the 20 July plot

The historian found the MI5 file amid an ongoing legal battle led by German aristocrat Prince Frederick Solms-Baruth, whose grandfather (right) was involved in the 20 July plot

The family's 17,000 acre estate, Baruth castle, was a key headquarters for the plotters, where they met and discussed their plans whilst horse riding. Prince Frederick's grandfather, Prince Friedrich zu Solms-Baruth III, was arrested and tortured by the Nazis after his role was discovered. He was forced to transfer ownership of his family's estates to Hitler's deputy Heinrich Himmler. After the war ended, the family never got their land back and it is now owned by the German state

The family's 17,000 acre estate, Baruth castle, was a key headquarters for the plotters, where they met and discussed their plans whilst horse riding. Prince Frederick's grandfather, Prince Friedrich zu Solms-Baruth III, was arrested and tortured by the Nazis after his role was discovered. He was forced to transfer ownership of his family's estates to Hitler's deputy Heinrich Himmler. After the war ended, the family never got their land back and it is now owned by the German state

The family’s 17,000 acre estate, Baruth castle, was a key headquarters for the plotters, where they met and discussed their plans whilst horse riding. Prince Frederick’s grandfather, Prince Friedrich zu Solms-Baruth III, was arrested and tortured by the Nazis after his role was discovered. He was forced to transfer ownership of his family’s estates to Hitler’s deputy Heinrich Himmler. After the war ended, the family never got their land back and it is now owned by the German state

It added: ‘Does this picture tell us anything we didn’t know, apart from that late on, when Hitler was losing his grip and the war, some of his former supporters turned against him? I fear not.’

At the time, MailOnline gave it a two-star review, pointing out how Cruise’s use of his American accent made it less convincing. 

It added: ‘Does this picture tell us anything we didn’t know, apart from that late on, when Hitler was losing his grip and the war, some of his former supporters turned against him? I fear not.’

The German aristocrat and army officer who led a plot to assassinate Adolf Hitler 

Colonel Count Claus von Stauffenberg  (left) was born in Stauffenberg castle into a noble family in what was then the Kingdom of Bavaria

Colonel Count Claus von Stauffenberg  (left) was born in Stauffenberg castle into a noble family in what was then the Kingdom of Bavaria

Colonel Count Claus von Stauffenberg  (left) was born in Stauffenberg castle into a noble family in what was then the Kingdom of Bavaria

Colonel Count Claus von Stauffenberg was born in Stauffenberg castle into a noble family in what was then the Kingdom of Bavaria.

In 1926, he joined the family’s traditional regiment, the Kavallerieregiment (Cavalry Regiment 17).

Although Stauffenberg agreed with the Nazi’s nationalistic and racist views and supported the German invasion of Poland, as well as making extremist remarks about Polish Jews, he never became a member of the party.

As von Stauffenberg remained a staunch Catholic he switched between a strong dislike of Hitler’s racist policies and a respect for his military prowess. 

But von Stauffenberg became even more disaffected with the party after The Night of the Long Knives – in which Hitler purged the army of his rivals  and Kristallnacht – which saw Jewish business vandalised and synagogues set on fire.

To von Stauffenberg these incidents proved Hitler had no intentions of pursuing justice. 

He supported the invasion of Poland and, as many of the German aristocracy believed, he saw the eastern territories surrendered after World War I was rightfully belonging to Germany.

After taking part in Operation Barbarossa in 1941, he went to Tunisia to fight in the Afrika Korps where he was directing tank units when an air strike took out his column of vehicles.

Von Stauffenberg lost his left eye, his right hand, and two fingers on his left hand during the attack.

After D-Day on June 6, 1944, he saw the war as lost and wanted Hitler to surrender to save Germany being damaged any further.  

But his plot to assassinate the Fuhrer failed when he only armed one of the two bombs in a brief case and the device was moved from being near Hitler and placed behind a solid oak table leg.

Hitler suffered minor injuries including a perforated ear drum and von Stauffenberg and many other co-conspirators were executed. 



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