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Papers of Adam von Trott


Box IV

1937 onwards:

The correspondence after 1936 is rather episodic, given the context of AvT's travels and the increasing tension in the international situation (and, obviously, after 1939, war between AvT's and Diana Hubback's countries): the letters Balliol holds are not nearly as numerous, or at times as frequent, as in previous years. Despite this it is possible in some places to see references in one side of the correspondence mentioned and responded to in the other. However it seems very likely that some letters are missing, given, for example, the apparent infrequency of Diana Hubback's letters at times, compared with her previous habits as a correspondent; and also considering references in AvT's letters to her activities (for instance, a visit to Corsica in April 1937, referred to in T313, and a holiday in Italy, in spring 1938, see T331) about which there are no letters from her to him.

IV i T300 - T328 Adam von Trott to Diana Hubback

4 [Jan. 1937] - 27 Nov. [1937] 29 letters; some letters are ALS and some TS.

AvT spent January and February 1937 visiting various people and places, including a visit to his brother Werner in Marburg, visits to Bavaria, Frankfurt and Imshausen, and some time spent with Wilfrid Israel in Berlin (T305, also IV iii, p.84). References to his plans for his trip continue, for example in T301 he mentions various possible plans for his visit to the United States. Diana Hopkinson's memoir tells us that he travelled to Berlin and Leipzig to gain information about China and introductions to various scholars (IV iii p.84).

In March he visited England, travelling there via Paris, where T310 was written. While in England, Diana Hopkinson's memoir (IV iii, p.85) recalls, he saw the Astors and Tawney as well as her. He also took his degree in Oxford. Shortly after this visit he sailed from Southampton for the United States. The first letter from there is T312, [April 1937], written from New York, where "he soon made friends with his American cousins", especially the Osborn family (IV iii, p.85). Several letters written from New York describe his impressions of the place. Whilst in New York he met the family of Roger Baldwin (the head of the American Civil Liberties Union), to whom he had been introduced by Stafford Cripps (T314). He also visited Washington, before going West - T314 outlines his plans to go to Ithaca, Harvard, Montreal, Ottowa, Toronto, Detroit, Chicago, Denver, and Los Angeles. However, in T315 he mentions his discomfort in travelling: as a German he sensed an "awful distrust against me over here which I suppose is only natural in the present international situation...More and more you are either an emigré or a nazi; and as neither of them are you liked". 

The next letter after the series from New York was written on the train to California, dated May 5, and describes some of the places he visited after leaving New York - Harvard, Ottowa, Chicago, Kansas City - and some of the people he met (T316). Once in California he visited Miriam Dyer-Bennet. T318 gives his impressions of the Californian landscape. He also visited Frau Braun and Hasso von Seebach whilst in California (T318). In some letters he refers to Eberhard, a sinologist to whom he had been introduced earlier in the year in Germany, and who had agreed to accompany him to China.

The fears about Nazi censorship which lie behind so much of the correspondence are apparent when he writes in June: "I very much appreciate the discretion of your letters which I hope you and other friends accessible to you will not disregard but rather increase when I'm in the East because the eyes of providence are watchful even there and its vengance [sic] even more disagreeable than hitherto" (T320, see also T322). T323 instructs her to call the Japanese "Barons" and the Chinese "peasants" in future letters. He was of course writing at a time of hostilities between Japan and China. 

His plans to get to China were complicated by confusion about his passage there (arranged by the Cripps and Diana Hubback). This meant that he could not go via Honolulu and Japan as he had planned (IV iii p.91; T322). Referring to this, he wrote to her: "Perhaps fearing the immediate outbreak of war you would rather have me swim for a whole month on a little british freighter in the South Pacific than know me in Japan where I might conspire against your empire!?" (T321; IV iii p.91).

T322 (dated July 15) refers to the state of affairs in Europe including the situation in Spain. He writes about the internal situation in Germany and its effects on European affairs, and gives his opinion on the appropriate response to this. He comments on the apparent lack of interest of the press in the U.S. in events in Europe. In the same letter he comments on how he is "going away from this whole scene" - but in T323 he writes that "history is closing in on me even in these far continents". He comments on factors which sometimes make him feel distant from English friends - "I am breaking away from your ways and associations and...probably only a few of my English friendships will survive the process". 

On reaching Hong Kong he describes how the war in China and its consequences are affecting his plans - for example he has lost contact with Eberhard. In her memoir Diana Hopkinson quotes from a letter AvT wrote to Lord Lothian (a Trustee of the Rhodes Foundation) in early September from Canton, describing his experiences and future plans, and also the situation in China at that time (IV iii pp.94-6). This refers to AvT's intended work in China, to study China's internal development as a sovereign state. The next letter in the correspondence Balliol holds was written from Hong Kong at the end of September, after AvT had travelled in the interior of Kwangsi province, up the Kwei river (IV iii p.96). It recounts his activities including escape from a number of disasters - earthquakes, epidemics, bombings, mines, and arrest in various places (T325). He outlines some plans for where he might go on the next stages of his trip: first, he writes, to Japan, then to Peking (see also T328 for later plans). T327 (24 October) was written from Peking (where, the memoir tells us - p.98 - his host was Dr. Ecke, a German scholar), and he gives his impressions of the place.   

IV i T329 - T362 Adam von Trott to Diana Hubback

(including one letter from AvT to Mrs. Hubback).

1 Jan. 1938 - [24 Mar. 1942] 34 letters


AvT began the year in Peking, from where T229 and T330 were written. That spring he went to Japan (T331). There is a gap before the next letter, written again from Peking on 12 August 1938. After leaving Peking he travelled around China (T334-T335) and he declares his intention to return to Europe at the end of the year. These letters give his impressions of the East and of the effects his travels have had on his attitudes to Europe. T336 (5 Nov.1938) announces that the death of his father means he must return home sooner than he had planned. He travelled home via Penang, Ceylon and the Suez (IV iii p.105).

A letter dated 24 November 1938 (T337), written on the journey home, refers to events back in Germany: mentioning his concern for Wilfrid Israel (a Jewish friend) he writes, "You know that it is we who are humiliated by what has passed...", a reference to the pogroms which had taken place in Germany that month (IV iii p.107). He refers to his feeling of responsibility for such events (even by his very absence from his country) and comments on their probable effects on his "former friendships". The same letter remarks on the effect of new laws in Germany on landholding there and the possible implications for his family's house at Imshausen. The first letter from Europe was written from Paris (T338), at the end of 1938. He subsequently returned to Imshausen.


His letters around this time give some impressions of the situation in Europe. T342 [February 1939] responds to Diana Hubback's announcement of her impending marriage (to David Hopkinson, which took place in May 1939): "I hope that you and...all of us - who have tried to remain friends during these filthy years in Europe - will in the end succeed" (T342). He visited Berlin, and in February went to England. There he met Diana Hubback, after a separation of nearly two years (IV iii p.110). In her memoir she recounts how she asked him to meet her at the office where she worked, for an organisation involved in helping German and Austrian Jewish refugees, but he refused, partly so as not to allow himself to be connected with a refugee organisation - "he could not afford to compromise himself in Nazi eyes openly" (IV iii p.112). T345 emphasises the need for discretion. This letter, dated [March 1939] and written on AvT's return journey from England to Germany, also contains the passage: "the 25 balls you keep for my plantation are of secret origin and must not be betrayed either in letter or otherwise to continental planters". This is part of the code used by Diana Hubback and AvT in their correspondence: the "balls" were either £1 notes or travellers' cheques, for in 1939 Germans were only allowed to take a small amount of money out of Germany when travelling abroad. AvT smuggled some out and asked Diana Hubback to keep it for him, either to send to Paris later on, or to keep for his next visit to England. This subject is also referred to in H363 in IV iv. 

He returned to Berlin at the end of March, and several letters of spring 1939 refer to his search for a job. One letter (T347), not to Diana Hubback but to her mother, was written from there: he writes, "I hope you will continue to consider me a spite of the strange ways into which the times are forcing us". As Diana Hubback points out in her memoir (IV iii p.113), in most of his letters written in 1939 there is a reference to coming calamities, and often to their effects on AvT's relationships with his English friends. In T349 (26 May 1939) he expresses a wish to see his English friends "at least, once more". Indeed in June he visited England twice, and, Diana Hopkinson's memoir relates, saw Lord Halifax, the Foreign Secretary, and also Chamberlain, "for he was representing powerful elements in Germany negotiating for peace" (IV iii p.115). They met for the last time that month and she writes: "as he left the room I thought it will be five years - ten years - before I see him again" (p.115).

On his return to Germany he visited his sister Monika near Dresden, then went to Berlin before returning to Imshausen in July. The last letter in the correspondence before the war is T356, [August 1939]. However, The Incense Tree recalls that: "Letters arrived from Adam after the outbreak of war, by various means, all of which must have involved him in risk" (p.166). 

In autumn 1939 AvT left for America to attend a conference of the Institute of Pacific Relations (held in November to December 1939). Diana Hopkinson records how surprised she was to receive the letter from AvT written on 11 October 1939 (T357), not having imagined he would be able to leave Germany after the outbreak of war (IV iii, p.118). AvT's trip to America and any hope he might have of making contact with people there on behalf of German opponents of Hitler were damaged by the suspicions that were held of him. An acquaintance in England, Maurice Bowra, who suspected AvT's real aims and sympathies, wrote to influential friends in America warning them of his suspicions, which resulted in AvT becoming the subject of interest by the FBI, as a possible spy. T358 refers to "unfavourable general circumstances" and says, "suspicion is rife everywhere".

In her memoir Diana Hopkinson quotes an article, which appeared in a German emigré paper published in New York, about AvT's activities in the later months of 1939, his opposition to the ruling regime in Germany, and his assertion of German (rather than Nazi) interests (IV iii pp.121-4).


Before leaving the U.S. he saw Miriam Dyer-Bennet in Taft. On leaving America in early 1940 AvT travelled to Hawaii - T359 was written en route for there - and he returned to Germany via visits to China and Moscow. The only other letter of 1940 is T360 (5 Dec. 1940), from Switzerland (this is signed "E"): he reports his marriage (to Clarita Tiefenbacher, in June 1940).


There are two more letters (written in Switzerland also) which are not mentioned in the memoir. In the first of these he refers to Diana Hubback's son Thomas and to his own baby "when it comes next spring". The last short letter has been dated by Diana Hubback 24 March 1942.

IV ii H352 - H358 Diana Hubback to Adam von Trott

15 Jan. 1937 - 16 Feb. 1937 7 letters, ALS except T352, which is TS.

These letters correspond to those in IV i, the early part of 1937, before AvT left for his first visit to the United States and the Far East. Diana Hubback refers to his visit to England (in March). Several of these letters refer to her (socialist) political involvement with "Dick's friends". 

IV iii A memoir of Adam von Trott by Diana Hopkinson (née Hubback).

An account of AvT's life between 1931 and 1940. Photocopy of TS (TS has some MS additions and corrections). Written in 1946, based on extracts from the letters of AvT to Diana Hubback. 130pp. (includes p.16a).

IV iv H359 - H372 Diana Hubback to Adam von Trott

[Feb. 1938] - 16 Jan. 1940 14 letters


The collection holds no letters from Diana Hubback to AvT written between February 1937 and February 1938, the period which corresponds to the earlier part of AvT's extended trip abroad (see Provenance of the collection, above). In H359 Diana Hubback mentions how busy she has been. By this time she had become involved in work with refugee children - first Basque, then German and Austrian Jewish, and later still Czech: for example H359 refers to a concert she organised for the children to give. As part of the help she gave Siebert she secured him work with the Basque refugee children (see H359).

After this single letter of February there are no letters until two in December (by which time AvT had returned to Germany).


H362 - H371 date from the pre-war months of 1939. H363 makes a rather cryptic reference to "the bulbs" which AvT has asked her to take care of: this is a reference to a subject also mentioned in T345 - see section IV i for an explanation.  

H365 gives news of her marriage (see also H366), and of her ill health. It was during a stay in hospital that she saw AvT for the last time (H368 and H369). In H366 she asserts the strength of AvT's links with friends in England - despite "changing external circumstances".

That summer Diana Hopkinson spent two weeks in France (staying at the "Honeymoon Chalet", situated on the lower slopes leading up to Mont Blanc, which had belonged to the Balliol don F.F. Urquhart). From there H371 - a thirtieth birthday letter for AvT - was written (4 August 1939). She writes of the fear and suspense, the malaise "which has grown so intense during the last eighteenth [sic] months...". The final letter from Diana Hubback to AvT is dated 16 January 1940. In it she remarks that Shiela Grant Duff "cannot understand your journey, and I think a letter of explanation (as far as that is possible) would help keep alive your friendship". Presumably this is a reference to AvT's complex (and, she thought, easily misunderstood) activities in America.

Box IV also contains 30 envelopes. When the letters were originally sorted and boxed after they were donated in 1985, where possible envelopes were kept with letters to which they belonged, or re-united with them. However these envelopes could not be identified as belonging to specific letters, so have been placed together.

1942 onwards:

There are no letters in Balliol's collection dated later than March 1942 (AvT's last letter to Diana Hubback). During the war years AvT worked for the German Foreign Office (which he joined in 1940, when he had also become a member of the Nazi party), but used the opportunities this gave him to travel to a number of foreign countries during the war to pursue his anti-Nazi activities abroad, and to attempt to further his own aims in his contact with foreign powers. The article about AvT's activities in America in 1939-40, quoted in the memoir, contains a comment of some of his aims and ideas at that time - for instance, that "the anti-Nazi generals can be persuaded to revolt only at the moment when they have the guarantee that Germany's unity and independence will be assured at the conclusion of peace...If an understanding could not be reached with the Allies on this basis: the exchange of revolution for the maintenance of independence, the German people would fight to a finish until bled white" (IV iii p.124). Such a description certainly matches the view of AvT as a German patriot but not a Nazi, anxious to secure Allied recognition of the opposition to the Nazi regime. AvT's penultimate letter to Diana Hubback, T361 in IV i (20 December 1941), also asserts such a distinction in sympathy and aims.   

AvT died on 26 August 1944, hanged for his activities against the Nazi regime.


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