“Hitler’s Trojan Horse” – Nazi Intelligence with Nigel West


Nigel West (Wikipedia) joins Andrew (Twitter; LinkedIn) to discuss Germany’s military intelligence service during World War II, the Abwehr. Nigel is known as the experts’ expert on the history of espionage.

what you will learn


  • The rise and fall of the Abwehr
  • The July 20 Plot to Kill Hitler and Operation Valkyrie
  • How effective was German intelligence during WWII?
  • How “Nazi” was the Abwehr?


  • The search for truth through the generations
  • The power of historical documents

And a lot lot more …

episode notes

For decades, historians have considered the German wartime intelligence service, the Abwehr, a relative failure. However, our understanding of the history of intelligence is always evolving as more information is declassified and discovered.

This week on SpyCast, Nigel West joins Andrew to discuss and challenge conventional wisdom about the Abwehr. How effective was German intelligence during World War II? Why has scholarship underestimated the areas in which it was successful?


Nigel’s real name is Rupert Allason: Nigel West is the pen name he uses for his espionage books. Do you know whose real name was David Cornwell?

Quotes of the week

“The Germans were ruthless. They had very good intelligence on all the bridges. They knew exactly what had to be captured beforehand. The bridges would then be held, to allow the tanks to pass, and the tanks would not wait to attack the strong points. They would just keep going to achieve their goals.” – Nigel West.


  • Abwehr: Germany’s military intelligence service from 1920 to 1945, serving both the Riechswehr and the Wehrmacht. It translates as “defense”.
  • Reichswehr: The name of the German armed forces from 1919 to 1935, under the Weimar Republic and the first two years of the Third Reich. By the Treaty of Versailles, the Reichswehr it was severely limited in weapons and personnel. It translates as “Defense of the Reich”.
  • wehrmacht: The name of the German Armed Forces from 1935 to 1945 under Nazi Germany. The heavily militarized and manned wehrmacht it illustrated Hitler’s intentions to expand Germany. It translates as “Defense Force”.
  • sicherheitsdienst: The intelligence agency of the schutzstaffel, or SS. It translates as “Security Service”.
  • Gestapo: The political police of Nazi Germany. Known for their brutality and depiction of Nazi authoritarianism. Full name Geheime Staatspolizeiwhich translates as “Secret State Police”.



featured resources

  • Hitler’s Pit of Vipers: The Rise of the AbwehrN. West (Frontline, 2022)
  • Hitler’s Trojan Horse: The Fall of the AbwehrN. West (Frontline, 2023)

*Spy Throws*

*Resources for Beginners*



  • Reich Security Main Office, S. Tyas (Fonthill, 2022)
  • Canaris: The Life and Death of Hitler’s SpymasterM. Mueller (Frontline, 2017)
  • Hitler’s Fremde Heere Ost, M. Pal (Helium, 2016)
  • Operation Valkyrie: The plot of the German generals against HitlerP. Galante (Cooper Square, 2002)
  • Hitler’s Spies: German Military Intelligence in World War IID. Kahn (DeCapo, 2000)



primary sources

*Wildcard Resource*

  • Look Valkyrie, the great movie of 2008 starring Tom Cruise. Take it with a Hollywood-sized grain of salt though!

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James D. Brown
James D. Brown
Articles: 8214