SpyCast 3.14.23
Ep 578 | 3.14.23

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

Show Notes


Nigel West (Wikipedia) joins Andrew (TwitterLinkedIn) to discuss Germany’s military intelligence service during WWII, the Abwehr. Nigel is known as the expert’s expert on spy history.

What You’ll Learn


  • The rise and fall of the Abwehr 
  • The 20th of July plot to kill Hitler & Operation Valkyrie 
  • How effective German intelligence was during WWII 
  • How “Nazi” the Abwehr was


  • The search for truth across generations
  • The power of historical documents

And much, much more …

Episode Notes

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

This week on SpyCast, Nigel West joins Andrew to discuss and challenge the conventional wisdom on the Abwehr. Just how effective was German intelligence during the WWII? Why has scholarship underestimated the areas in which they were successful?


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

Quotes of the Week

“The Germans were ruthless. They had really good intelligence on all the bridges. They knew exactly what had to be captured in advance. The bridges would then be held, so as to allow the tanks over, and the tanks wouldn't wait to attack strong points. They would just go directly ahead in order to achieve their objectives.” – Nigel West.


  • Abwehr: Germany’s military intelligence service from 1920-1945, serving both the Riechswehr and Wehrmacht. Translates to “defense.”
  • Reichswehr: The name for German armed forces from 1919-1935, under the Weimar Republic and first two years of the Third Reich. Per the Treaty of Versailles, the Reichswehr was very limited in arms and personnel. Translates to “Reich Defence.” 
  • Wehrmacht: The name for German Armed Forces from 1935-1945 under Nazi Germany. The heavily militarized and manned Wehrmacht illustrated Hitler’s intentions to expand Germany. Translates to “Defense Force.” 
  • Sicherheitsdienst: The intelligence agency of the Schutzstaffel, or SS. Translates to “Security Service.”
  • Gestapo: Nazi Germany’s political police force. Notorious for their brutality and representation of Nazi authoritarianism. Full name Geheime Staatspolizei, translating to “Secret State Police.”



Featured Resource(s)

  • Hitler’s Nest of Vipers: The Rise of the Abwehr, N. West (Frontline, 2022)
  • Hitler's Trojan Horse: The Fall of the Abwehr, N. West (Frontline, 2023)


*Beginner Resources*



  • Reich Security Main Office, S. Tyas (Fonthill, 2022)
  • Canaris: The Life & Death of Hitler’s Spymaster, M. Mueller (Frontline, 2017)
  • Hitler’s Fremde Heere Ost, M. Pal (Helion, 2016)
  • Operation Valkyrie: The German Generals' Plot Against Hitler, P. Galante (Cooper Square, 2002)
  • Hitler's Spies: German Military Intelligence In World War II, D. Kahn (De Capo, 2000)



Primary Sources 

*Wildcard Resource*

  • Watch Valkyrie, the 2008 major-motion picture starring Tom Cruise! Take it with a Hollywood sized grain of salt, though!