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Papers of Adam von Trott


The Collection

The eleven-year correspondence held by Balliol covers a wide variety of subjects, some of them constant or frequent themes. The letters are written largely in English but with the occasional German passage. They are letters between friends, hence at times they discuss ephemeral matters, such as arrangements to meet; yet at the same time the importance to both correspondents of their broader context - Europe of the 1930s, events in Germany, and the relationship between their two countries - is clear.

In the letters they discuss their various activities - work and social; their health; their friends and acquaintances (mutual and otherwise); their meetings with each other, and the nature of their relationship; books, art and literature; and their surroundings and places that are meaningful to them (Oxford and its environs, including Wytham woods; Cornwall; Imshausen; and so on). Various references which may seem obscure - to people, places and so on - will become clearer if the reader looks at both sides of the correspondence together. Diana Hopkinson's memoir (IV iii) refers to various people mentioned in the letters, including for instance A.L. Rowse, Bertrand Russell, Humphrey Sumner (AvT's tutor), David Astor, Stephen Spender, Isaiah Berlin and Sir Stafford Cripps, among many others. Sometimes she explains who someone is, if they are referred to only by Christian name (or even initial) in the actual letters. Mrs Hopkinson has annotated some letters to indicate the identity of people originally referred to by initials. AvT and Diana Hubback occasionally address each other as "Friedrich" or "Fred" (Friedrich was actually his first name, though rarely used), and "Mary" (her second name). The memoir may also make it clearer where AvT or Diana Hubback were at any time. Diana Hopkinson wrote a book about her life before the war ( The Incense Tree ) which is listed, along with other works relating to AvT's life (some of which have used Diana Hubback's letters as a source), in the bibliography.

In the memoir Diana Hopkinson also gives her view of AvT's political convictions, which may elucidate more fragmentary comments or discussions in the letters. Her explanation may be helpful particularly when, as she describes, their extreme consciousness of censorship and the political situation in Germany after 1933 meant that political discussion in the correspondence had to be "disguised and modified. This impediment made Adam's letters on the vital political issues about which he was concerned obscure and fragmentary and his meanings were concealed" (IV iii, p.15). For example in their letters Diana Hubback and AvT refer not to socialists and communists but to "Dick's friends" (referring to Dick Crossman) and to "Jack's friends" (referring to Jack Dunman) respectively. Some complexities in this area though may be due to the fact that AvT was not writing in his native language - a state of affairs with which he sometimes expressed frustration. However in some letters AvT was not as careful as he might have been and his comments about political matters are not particularly oblique.


Provenance of the collection

The majority of the correspondence was given to Balliol by Mrs Diana Hopkinson in 1985. The exceptions are the following seventeen letters, which were given by her in 1994:

I vH84A III viH330A

III vH297AIV ivH359 - H372

T160A (in II i), which had been omitted from the catalogue previously, was also added and allocated a number.

Some additions to the catalogue were given "A" numbers because they were slotted into the order into which the first set of letters given to Balliol had been placed. (Note that "A" numbers come after the letter with the original number).

Some of the letters had been destroyed. For example, because any evidence of contact with left-wing English people might be a risk for him, given the political climate in Germany, AvT destroyed some of the letters Diana Hubback wrote to him. Various letters in the correspondence refer to one or other of them returning or destroying the other's letters (see T114, in II i, for example). Mrs Hopkinson confirmed in 1995 that a number of her letters to AvT during the latter part of the 1930s were destroyed by him, especially the ones to China. AvT told her that he had destroyed some and put the remainder in a wooden box with other letters hidden at the family home at Imshausen: they were subsequently found by his wife Clarita and returned to Diana Hopkinson after the end of the war.

Additonal material: "Verfassungsrechtliche und -politische Auffassungen Adam von Trott zu Solz (1909-1944)" - an essay by Andreas Schott in "Der Kreisauer Kreis" (C F Müller Verlag, Heidelberg, 1996), edited by Ulrich Karpen and Andreas Schott and presented to Balliol Library in April 1996 by Levin von Trott zu Solz. (with V/II)

Dating and arrangement of letters

Letters from Adam von Trott to Diana Hubback begin with the letter T (T1 - T362); those from her to him begin H (H1 - H372).

Some letters are dated (when written) by the author (Adam von Trott or Diana Hubback). However, in some cases a date has been added later by Diana Hopkinson: in these cases, or when an element in a date is unclear or illegible, the date or part thereof is put in square brackets [ ]. In cases where the date seems clear it is given without brackets.

When the correspondence was originally catalogued the order into which Mrs Hopkinson had placed the letters (which was broadly chronological) was retained, except where a letter or page had clearly become misplaced. There are four boxes of letters, I-IV, which contain letters of the following dates:

I :1931-33III:1935-36

II : 1934IV :1937-42

Within the boxes there are sections (i, ii, iii, etc.) each of which contains either "T" or "H" letters.

However, because some of the dates are absent or unclear the order in which the letters have been placed and numbered with a T or H number may not be an exact chronological one: for example, in the case of some of the letters written by Adam von Trott from Oxford in summer 1933 (in I iii), the order in which they were written, sent or received is unclear, because Mrs Hopkinson has only been able to hazard a guess at their dates, for example "summer 1933" or "June 1933" - as she points out in her memoir (IV iii, p.20; see also H215, in II iii). Some other series of letters manifest the same problem, for example those of November 1933 (in I iii). There were times at which letters took a long time to arrive, for example after the outbreak of war in 1939: Diana Hubback recalls that a letter (T360) posted in December 1940 did not reach her until March 1941 (IV iii, p.128). The content of the letters sometimes makes it clear that the order which they are now in does not always make perfect sense - although this does not mean that a better or more certain order could now be established. In some cases, this problem of exact dating might be resolved, to some extent at least, by examining the two sets of letters (T and H) together to see if their subject matter determines a better relative order than the one in which they are numbered.

However this is complicated by the fact that Balliol does not hold all the letters Diana Hubback and AvT wrote to each other: as noted above, some of the letters were destroyed. Some of the letters in Balliol's collection are fragmentary.

In a few cases only, when the letters were re-catalogued in 1994, it was decided, from examining the dates on the letters, and comparing their content with that of other letters, that they should be moved. This is true in the following cases:

T65 was re-numbered T36A. There is, therefore, no letter T65 in the revised arrangement.

H205 was re-numbered H338A. There is now no H205.

H333 was re-numbered H260A. There is therefore no H333.

In these three cases, a slip has been placed where the original letter was, explaining why they are now placed according to a date different from the one originally attributed to them.


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Updated 11.viii.14
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