The Vatican Germans and the anti-Hitler Plot

William Frend, later professor of ecclesiastical history at Glasgow University, explained how he influenced the course of European history in 1944.

This is Vatican number 636 speaking’. The voice spoke English with a light German accent, ‘We have something important to tell the Allies’. The date was Friday, July 22nd, 1944, six weeks after the Allies had entered the city; the number was that of the German Embassy. At 3pm I knocked at the door of the Santa Marta building. ‘Herein’ was the reply. I found myself addressing a tall elegant man in his mid-forties, the First Secretary, Albrecht von Kessel, who assured me that what he was about to say had the full authority of Ernst von Weizsäcker, the Ambassador, and until 1943 the State Secretary of the German Foreign Ministry. It was not a hoax.


On June 10th, less than a week after the fall of Rome, a Psychological Warfare (PWB) team had arrived to broadcast Allied news and propaganda. Two days later Dr E.Y. Hartshorne of OSS (Office of Strategic Services) and I arrived as Intelligence Officers and were assigned the duty of assessing the state of feeling among the large and well-educated German community in Rome. We knew that some German officials had taken refuge in the Vatican rather than accompany the remnants of Ambassador Rudolf Rahn’s mission with Mussolini to Fasano. Though it was not easy for us to get into the Vatican as a neutral state, Mgr. Hugh O’Flaherty, a prelate attached to the Irish Embassy to the Vatican and known for his pro-Allied views, agreed to meet us near the Swiss Guard post and, so long as we were in civilian clothes, we could interview Wilhelm von Mohnen, a civilian Air Attaché who had been allowed to take up quarters in the Vatican.


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