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Unearthed document reveals Operation Valkyrie plotter was MI6 agent

Was Britain behind ‘Operation Valkyrie’? Unearthed document reveals German lawyer involved in 1944 suitcase bomb plot to kill Hitler was secretly working for MI6… dispelling belief it was just dissenting Nazis

  • The 20 July plot was masterminded by Claus von Stauffenberg, who planted bomb in Hitler’s Wolf’s Lair
  • The plot failed when the bomb was moved behind a thick table leg, shielding Hitler from the blast 
  • Co-conspirator, lawyer Otto John, was known to have been involved and fled afterwards to Madrid
  • But a file which was found by historian Nigel West reveals he was working for MI6 for two years in lead-up
  • He had the codename of ‘Whisky’ and met with handlers 12 times before the plot was carried out

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

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

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 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

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.

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

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 (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 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.

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