Balliol College Archives & Manuscripts

Back to: HOME > Archives & MSS > Modern Manuscripts Collections

Papers of Adam von Trott




III i T199 - T233 Adam von Trott to Diana Hubback

9 Jan. [1935] - 31 Aug. 1935 35 letters

In early 1935 Diana Hubback visited AvT in Berlin, and spent some weeks in Germany (she left Berlin in March), in part to write newspaper articles on the position of women in contemporary Germany. Diana Hopkinson's memoir recounts that at this time AvT was in contact with various different groups of people in Berlin, including communists, and members of the diplomatic corps, "trying to find all these different groups who were admirers of justice, freedom of thought, and the finer German traditions...quite consciously sounding the strength of the potential opposition to the Nazis" (IV iii. p.57). However, he expresses disappointment with his time in Berlin, "a frustration in my efforts" (T208, see also IV iii p.60).

In May he visited England, going first to London, then to Oxford - his first visit since leaving Oxford (IV iii, p.60). He wrote: "some aspects of this visit are a little unsettling...the extraordinarily bad official relations between our countries will, I feel, make it troublesome with a lot of people that I only know half well" (T211). Diana Hubback recalls that his disagreements with friends arose far more often through his disliking their views on European politics than through more personal quarrels (IV iii pp.67-68). However, from Oxford he wrote that "there are many good friends left I was happy to discover" (T213). Yet in T218 he describes "this curious sense of distance which England has impressed on me this time".

He subsequently returned to Kassel, to start work at the law courts there again, and complained about his lack of friends there (T218). He writes also about his work: in T218 he describes a visit to "the place where the very rotten and depraved are housed preliminarily...mentally deficient...drunkards...epileptics, old people..., lunatics..."

T218 makes reference to his "Chinaplan", to leave Germany for a while to study at Chinese universities (see also IV iii p.62). In June his book on Kleist appeared. Diana Hopkinson's memoir asserts that AvT was dissatisfied with it since he felt that the preface had not made it sufficiently clear that he was drawing an analogy between Kleist protesting against Napoleon, and his own antagonism towards the Nazis (IV iii, p.63; see also T223). 

In July Dick Crossman, an English friend, arrived to visit AvT (T224). Diana Hubback met AvT in Kassel in August, and later that month AvT spent some time at Imshausen. During Diana Hubback's visit she met a friend of AvT's named Hans Siebert, a communist whom AvT, struck by his intellect, had successfully attempted to get out of prison where he was in detention for political offenses (IV iii, p.66, see also pp.71 and 81). Later AvT helped him leave the country and asked English friends, including Diana Hubback and Isobel Cripps, to assist him, for example in finding employment there - Diana Hubback later helped him secure a job when she was working with Basque refugee children. However, given the sensitive nature of Siebert's political affiliations they considered it dangerous to refer to the circumstances of his freedom and departure from Germany, hence in the later correspondence he is often referred to not by name but as "the boy" (for instance, T229).

III i T234 - T255 Adam von Trott to Diana Hubback

Sept. 1935 - 31 Dec. [1935] 22 letters, ALS except T250, T252, T253, T255, which are mainly TS.

In September AvT moved to Hamburg for the next stage of his legal training. He proposed the "experiment" of taking Siebert with him to "help him start a new life in a fresh district" - apparently at some financial sacrifice to himself, according to comments in some letters (T234; IV iii p.66). In T245, AvT remarks that Siebert "is not very happy here; like myself he finds the almost universal lack of human participation here, very chilling...". Diana Hopkinson's memoir (IV iii p.66) describes how before leaving Kassel he received a report on his work from his law chief. This report included remarks about AvT's sceptical attitude to the ruling tendency, due "to my weakness in not being able to arrive at a new departure about events..." (T227). At the end of 1935 AvT went to Berlin to help elect the new Rhodes scholars.

Like other sections of the correspondence, many of the letters of this time refer to changes and developments in the relationship between the two of them. The memoir declares that Diana Hopkinson's detailed account of AvT's life finishes at the end of 1935: "from this time our ways separated, our letters grew less frequent and our concern with each other's daily lives less vital", although this did not, she writes, mean a weakening of the friendship (IV iii p.68; see also The Incense Tree , p.153).

III ii H230 - H270 Diana Hubback to Adam von Trott

(including H260A) [3 Jan. 1935] - 9 Sept. 1935 42 letters, ALS except H264, which is TS.

This section of the correspondence matches T199 - T233, in III i. In the New Year of 1935 Diana Hubback's employment was still uncertain, which forms the subject of some letters. In late January she left her job. H233 refers to her plan to gain journalistic experience by working in Berlin. Between January and March she was in Germany, where she spent some time with AvT and also visited a friend of hers and AvT's named Ingrid Warburg in Hamburg. In April she visited Denmark, before returning to England and going to Cornwall in April and May. Several letters refer to AvT's impending visit to England in May. After her return to England she started secretarial training. In August she visited Germany and Austria (where she met Stephen Spender), and saw AvT in Kassel - they also went to Imshausen. H266 and H267 refer to the effect of Abyssinian events on the international situation; H269 also refers to international tension.  

III iii H271 - H295 Diana Hubback to Adam von Trott

11 Sept. 1935 - 26 Dec. 1935 25 letters

The period of these letters is the same as that of T234 - T255, in III i. Diana Hubback's consideration of her future career, perhaps in publishing or advertising, continues. She mentions the possibility of going to the East, perhaps to Palestine to work (H275).

In October she became involved in political work in London, during and after the general election of 1935 (which was in November). After the election she worked for a Labour MP, Ellen Wilkinson ("E.W."). References to political affairs continue, for example in H280 she refers to "...these...days when the chances of any of us living to forty five seem to be diminishing at this threat of war". She also makes reference to public expectations that war will come (for example H281). Narratives of her various activities continue, for instance in H291 she writes that she has recently heard T.S.Eliot and Aldous Huxley read their books. She spent Christmas in Cornwall. 

Many letters of this period concern complexities, involving Shiela Grant Duff, in AvT's and Diana Hubback's relationship at this time. In H292, Diana Hubback requests the return or destruction of her letters to him; however she also expresses faith that there is a future for the relationship. Similarly, at the end of the next year, 1936, AvT wrote that there were things "only you and I seem to sense in the same way. Perhaps one day we will be able to combine this fact with having to live our lives and die our deaths...independently" (26 Dec. [1936], T299). 


III iv T256 - T299 Adam von Trott to Diana Hubback

9 Jan. 1936 - 26 Dec. [1936] 44 letters, 1 (un-numbered) telegram; some letters are ALS and some TS.

Between January and March 1936 AvT spent eight weeks at a lawyers' training camp at Jüterbog - having tried but failed to get respite from this by going to England before it began (see T256). AvT complains in one letter of the noise and lack of privacy, but also remarks how healthy the outdoor life is, and writes: "I met a few good chaps here I knew already and find it quite bearable" (T257; see also T260). The memoir explains that AvT did feel solidarity with individual fellow Germans even though they might be Nazis (IV iii, p.72). The following letter (T258) reports that Siebert ("Sbt", or in some letters "St") was not happy and suggests the possibility of his leaving the country with the help of AvT's friends; perhaps for England then later for the United States - or even, it was later suggested, South America. This subject continues to be discussed in later letters (for example, T264). Diana Hopkinson's memoir quotes him as writing: "I have had a bad week with S. back at the hospital [prison] where I first met him. I can do nothing from here...", which she explains as a reference to Siebert (IV iii, p.72; see also T259). In fact Siebert eventually arrived in England in the autumn of that year.

The memoir (IV iii. p.73) explains that AvT's presence at the camp gave rise to more rumours in England that AvT was a Nazi; T260 refers to these rumours and comments on the effect these have on his attitude to England - "sometimes I feel I never want to go there again".

On finishing the camp AvT was to continue to work for his legal exam, and T261 expresses apprehension about the "stuff I shall have to get through before my exam". After the camp ended he planned to go on to Berlin, then Imshausen then finally to Göttingen (T262). He had wanted to settle in the latter, while working at Kassel, but in fact settled in Kassel that spring. However he wrote on 15 June 1936: "I am very glad that these years at Kassel etc are drawing towards their close - they have not been good years" (T276), and he refers to this "humiliating stage of my life". He was due to take his final examination in September 1936, although the various exams took place at intervals between July and September. His letters refer to his plan to go to the East after that - one letter says he intends to be gone before the spring (1937). Diana Hopkinson's memoir describes his growing restlessness at this time (IV ii. p.77). T279 (17 July) says: "I really must be off and cut myself adrift from problems which by there [sic] nature are not solvable". At the end of July Diana Hubback and AvT met in Leipzig, their last meeting in Germany (IV iii p.78). In T285 he asks her: "Do you think that I am beginning to halve myself into a German and an English part and that one day all those conflicts that arose between us on the ground of mixing the two will be resolved when I keep these selves neatly apart?"

One letter discusses and compares the merits of the ideas of Communists (usually referred to as "Jack's friends" in the correspondence, after a Balliol friend named Jack Dunman) and of Socialists ("our friends") (T276, see also T277, and IV iii pp.75-6). That autumn AvT spent some time in Berlin. He finally finished his exams in October, and wrote to Diana Hubback about his results on 23 October 1936, saying that he had been treated severely, the examiners adding "a lot of nasty and rude things before I quitted" (T289). Nonetheless, "quitting" meant that he was no longer a state servant, and was able to practise free from the control of the Ministry of Justice, "as much of a free man as one is likely to be under the circumstances" (T289). Diana Hopkinson's memoir attributes the severity of the examiners to AvT's lack of political reliability, rather than to an inadequate knowledge of the law (IV iii, p.80).

After the exams AvT spent a short time in Prague. He refers to his wish to leave Germany, perhaps to go to America (T290). He visited Imshausen in November. The same month he went to England (via Frankfurt) for a couple of weeks, visiting London and Oxford, where he stayed with H.A.L. Fisher. Whilst there he wrote a summary of the work he was planning to do in China, for the Rhodes Trustees (the plan to go to China was intended to be his way of taking up the third year of his Rhodes scholarship: see IV iii, p.81, and T294). The purpose of his stay in China was (according to Giles MacDonogh's biography of him, p.104; see also T330, in IV i) to prepare the thesis which would allow his entry into a German university. Such a move would help him avoid pressures to join the Nazi Party which would be greater in other professions (including law). His suggested subject was international law - how Chinese law slotted into the framework existing in Germany and the West.

On his return from England he was "collecting and disentangling my wires for Asia" (T295). In December he had to spend some time in Berlin, serving on the selection committee for the Rhodes Scholarships, although he remarks in T297 that he is "very unpopular with the majority of the committee", and comments on his isolation from their way of thinking (see also IV iii, p.82). He received confirmation of his grant from the Trustees that month, and spent Christmas at Imshausen.    

III v H296 - H327 Diana Hubback to Adam von Trott

(including10 Jan. 1936 - 9 [Aug.] 1936 33 letters H297A)

Diana Hubback's political work and activities continued - attending meetings, researching for speeches, writing letters, and so on. In H296 she refers to making arrangements for the stay in England of "Gandhi's successor" (i.e. Nehru). In January her grandfather died, and she continued to live with her grandmother despite an aspiration to live away from her family. In H297A she mentions a plan to visit Scandinavia, including Sweden, to research into social conditions there. The same letter mentions the death of the king (George V).

On 29th February she wrote to AvT: "I shall not be able to write to you again on February 29th until 1940", by which time, she predicts, international chaos - of which she discerns a growing consciousness - might have made communication impossible (H301). In another letter she writes that Europe seems "not unlikely to disintegrate" (H308). In H305 she claims there is a stronger general will for peace that ever before in European history - although in the House of Commons there is "apathy and uncertainty", people struggling against forces too strong for them.

She writes about her work and how depressing she finds the misery apparent in constituents' letters to her MP. However in April she finished her work for Ellen Wilkinson, and, after a visit to Cornwall, went to Stockholm. From there she visited Finland, the first time to Helsinki (Helsingfors), where she attended the trial of Antikainen, a Communist, accused of roasting a man alive during the Finnish civil war, which, she writes, was a "frame-up of significant political significance" (IV iii, p.75). She describes this trial in H319, and writes: "sometimes I feel inclined to join J's friends [i.e. Communists]. They have got the guts...". In these letters from Sweden she writes of her impressions of the country.

In H322 she writes of her wish to see AvT, and Imshausen, again, a wish refused by him. She argues: "Don't you realise people are discussing now not if the war is coming, but which month of 1937 it will occur? This is so very much a "last" summer in personal and impersonal senses...". They did eventually meet, in Leipzig at the end of July, before she returned to England in August.   

III vi H328 - H351 Diana Hubback to Adam von Trott

(including 15 [Aug.] 1936 - 31 Dec. 1936 25 letters H330A and H338A)

(Note: there is no letter numbered H333 - it has been re-numbered H260A and placed in III ii. See Note on dating and arrangement of letters , above.)

On her return to England Diana Hubback spent some time at an uncle and aunt's house in North Wales, and also visited Scotland, the Cripps' house (Goodfellows), and Cornwall (North and South), before returning to London, where she was still seeking work. In H336 she reports that she has found some temporary investigative work into child welfare, and, in November, has been offered work as the secretary to the Labour Party Commission into Distressed Areas (H345). Several letters in this autumn discuss the arrival of Siebert, and possible arrangements for his future, involving the help of Jane Rendell, Shiela Grant Duff and her mother Mrs. Grant Duff, Isobel Cripps, and even Hasso von Seebach and Frau Braun ("Mrs. B.", or Julie Braun-Vogelstein), friends of AvT's who had left Germany for the United States. However some of the letters refer - usually obliquely - to the problem that many countries would not allow a Communist to immigrate (for example, later on, T319, in IV i).

H344 refers to the international situation including the "Spanish horrors", and comments on the possibility of war between political groups, left and right - across national boundaries - rather than between nations. Some letters in the correspondence at this time refer to people "going south", that is, going to Spain (see IV iii, p.83, also T301 in IV i. The Spanish Civil War broke out in mid-1936). H347 refers to "recent fuss" and scandal (in England), regarding the King. 

She spent Christmas in Cornwall.



You do not need to request permission to download or print one copy of any of the images on these pages for your personal private study or research purposes.
You do need to request permission in writing to use any of these images for any publication in any format, including any use on a website.

The archives and manuscriptss of Balliol College are open by appointment to enquirers in person at the Historic Collections Centre in St Cross Church, Holywell.
Enquiries should be sent in writing (email or post) to the Archivist.
There is no charge for Archive enquiries, but donations for Archive purposes are always appreciated.
Updated 11.viii.14
Balliol College
All rights reserved © 2017