cover image Coffee with Hitler: The Story of the Amateur Spies Who Tried to Civilize the Nazis

Coffee with Hitler: The Story of the Amateur Spies Who Tried to Civilize the Nazis

Charles Spicer. Pegasus, $29.95 (400p) ISBN 978-1-63936-226-4

Historian Spicer debuts with a detailed yet unpersuasive attempt to rehabilitate the reputation of the Anglo-German Fellowship, an “exclusive friendship society” comprising British aristocrats, politicians, businessmen, and military leaders who “wined, dined and charmed the leading National Socialists in Germany in the 1930s.” Classifying the group’s members as “amateur intelligence agents,” Spicer draws a somewhat murky distinction between their attempts to “civilize” the Nazi regime in order to avert war and Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain’s policy of appeasement. Focusing on Fellowship members Philip Conwell-Evans, a Welsh political secretary and historian; Grahame Christie, a WWI pilot; and businessman Ernest Tennant, Spicer meticulously details his subjects’ many meetings with Nazi leaders including Joachim von Ribbentrop, Hermann Göring, and Rudolf Hess. While Spicer reveals that Fellowship members passed valuable information on the inner workings of the Nazi government to British and U.S. officials, coordinated with anti-Nazi resistance leaders in Germany, and earnestly believed that improved trade relations and cultural exchanges could decrease the likelihood of war, he overstates how much “the socially gauche National Socialists... admired and aped the British elites” and underplays the “naivety and gullibility” of the Fellowship. This revisionist history feels like a bit too much of a reach. (Sept.)