Hans-Heinrich Herwarth von Bittenfeld

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Person.png Hans-Heinrich Herwarth von Bittenfeld   Amazon IMDBRdf-entity.pngRdf-icon.png
Hans-Heinrich Herwarth von Bittenfeld.jpg
Born14 July 1904
Died21 August 1999 (Age 95)
SpouseAnnemarie Herwarth von Bittenfeld-Honigmann
Member ofKönigswinter
InterestsCommittee for the Liberation of the Peoples of Russia
German diplomat who spied for Britain during WW2. Went on to high positions in the West German foreign service, and attended the 1963 Bilderberg meeting.

Employment.png Leader of the Bundespräsidialamt

In office
1961 - 1965
Office of the Federal President

Employment.png Employee

In office
1939 - 1945

Hans-Heinrich Herwarth von Bittenfeld, also known as Johnnie or Johann von Herwarth. He provided Britain and the United States with information prior to and during the Second World War, including the German-Soviet Treaty of Non-Aggression and the decision to launch Operation Barbarossa in 1941. He also was active in recruiting Eastern Europeans to fight for the Germans. He went on to high positions in the West German foreign service, and attended the 1963 Bilderberg meeting.


Herwarth was born in Berlin. His paternal grandmother, Julia von Herwarth (née Haber), was Jewish. He graduated from high school in Berlin. He studied law and economics in Berlin, Breslau and Munich.

In 1927 he entered the German Foreign Office (Auswaertiges Amt) and was first stationed in Paris. He was stationed in Moscow 1931–1939, where he met George F. Kennan, Charles W. Thayer and Charles E. Bohlen. Fitzroy Maclean, then a young diplomat in the British Embassy, states in his memoir Eastern Approaches that Herwarth condemned the appeasement of the Munich Agreement, predicted a Soviet–German commitment to non-aggression (which came to pass as the German-Soviet Treaty of Non-Aggression), and saw ahead to what he called "the destruction of Germany".

After 1939, he worked at the German Army Headquarters (OKW), in the Abwehr department. Within Army Group South he took part in recruiting defecting Soviet soldiers. He was employed as a political officer by General Ernst-August Köstring, the commander of the eastern troops, and represented the Wehrmacht in founding the Committee for the Liberation of the Peoples of Russia (Komitet Osvobozhdyeniya Narodov Rossii, KONR).

After the official surrender, Herwarth turned himself in to the US authorities in Austria. There he was tracked down by Thayer. Herwarth writes about this reunion of the old acquaintance from the Moscow days:

I stayed with Charlie for about nine weeks. He asked me to put down in writing my experiences with the Soviet Union during the war and, above all, to describe the activities of the volunteer organizations [troops from German-occupied or allied countries deployed in the German Army and especially in the Waffen-SS]. I accompanied Charlie to his office in the old St. Peter's Convent every day [...] At the end of the summer I was assigned to the American Historical Research Group at Camp King [...]"[1]

Christopher Simpson writes about Herwarth's activities during the war:

"Thayer also knew that Herwarth had had something to do with the defector battalions fighting partisans in 1944, because he had admitted it himself. In addition, as head of the OSS, Thayer must have known that the actions had involved the mass shooting of thousands of civilian hostages, the looting of villages, and other crimes. Nevertheless, Thayer ensured that Herwarth was quickly released from the Wehrmacht, spared him American captivity and released him from American custody. Herwarth's activities during the war were not even briefly investigated, which was usual even for non-commissioned officers."[2]

After the war

From 1945 onward, Herwarth worked for the new German government, first in Munich, then in Bonn. In 1955, he became the first post-war German ambassador in London. In 1961, he was head of Bundespräsidialamt (the office of the Federal President); later he became ambassador to Rome. From 1971–1977 he was president of the Goethe-Institut, responsible for cultural relations.

Herwarth and his contacts

In his memoirs (Witness to History, 1973), former U.S. ambassador to Germany Charles E. Bohlen reveals how, on the morning of 24 August 1939, he visited Herwarth at the German embassy and received the full content of the secret protocol to the German-Soviet Treaty of Non-Aggression, signed the day before. The secret protocol contained an understanding between Germany and the Soviet Union on how to split Central Europe, the Baltic states and Finland between the two powers. President Franklin D. Roosevelt was urgently informed, but the United States did not pass this information to any concerned governments in Europe. A week later the plan was realised with the German invasion of Poland and the Second World War began.[3]

According to the website of the German embassy in London,[4] Herwarth and his superior, Ambassador von der Schulenburg, had already been trying since before the Munich Agreement to persuade Britain, France and the United States not to give in to Hitler's territorial demands.

Hans von Herwarth was the chief contact from the German embassy in Moscow to the western powers. Through him, the British were continuously informed on the progress of Soviet-German contacts during 1939. Von Herwarth is also held to be one of the German officials who informed the Allies on the decision to launch Operation Barbarossa in 1941, and to have given some of the earliest accounts of atrocities against Jews[5] and other civilians behind the Eastern Front and in the Holocaust. It's not known how much his Soviet counterparts were informed.

Herwath was one of the leading players in the yearly deep state Konigswinter conferences that was organised by Lilo Milchsack that healed the bad memories after the end of the Second World War. He worked with the ex soldier Fridolin von Senger und Etterlin, future German President Richard von Weizsäcker and other leading German decision makers as well as leading British politicians like Dennis Healey, Richard Crossman and the journalist Robin Day.[6]

In June 1989, Hans von Herwarth met the Latvian historian and member of the Soviet parliament, Mavriks Vulfsons, during the latter's visit to West Germany. Vulfsons was the first person in the USSR to publicly confirm the authenticity of the secret protocols to the German-Soviet agreement of 1939 dividing Eastern Europe into "spheres of influence", a copy of which he obtained in the archives of the German Foreign Office.


  • Johnnie Herwarth von Bittenfeld and S. Frederick Starr: Against Two Evils: Memoirs of a Diplomat-Soldier during the Third Reich. London: Collins, 1981 and New York: Rawson, Wade, 1981 ISBN 978-0-89256-154-4 ISBN 0892561548; his autobiography
  • Vulfsons, Mavriks: Baltic Fates: With a View on WW2. 100 Days That Destroyed the Peace, Riga-Hamburg-Rostock-London: SIA BOTA, 2002. ISBN 9984-19-354-3


Event Participated in

Bilderberg/196329 March 196331 March 1963France
Hotel Martinez
The 12th Bilderberg meeting and the second one in France.
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  1. Herwart von Bittenfeld: Zwischen Hitler und Stalin, 1982.
  2. Christopher Simpson: Der amerikanische Bumerang. NS-Kriegsverbrecher im Sold der USA. Wien 1988, S. 113.
  3. Brian R. Sullivan, "Where One Man, and Only One Man, Led," in Neville Wylie, ed., European Neutrals and Non-Belligerents, (2002) pp 119–149
  4. Diplomats and martyrs Archived 2005-10-23 at the Wayback Machine.
  5. Von Peter Hoffmann Seine historische Rolle Das war nicht der wahre "Stauffenberg"
  6. Long Life: Presiding Genius, Nigel Nicolson, 15 August 1992, The Spectator, Retrieved 28 November 2015 ]
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