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Hans Bernd Gisevius

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Hans Bernd Gisevius

Hans Bernd Gisevius at Nuremberg trials.

Hans Bernd Gisevius (July 14, 1904 – February 23, 1974) was a German diplomat and intelligence officer during World War II. A strong (but covert) opponent of the Nazi regime, he served as a liaison in Zürich between Allen Dulles, station chief for the American OSS and the German Resistance forces in Germany.[1]


  • Pre World War II 1
  • World War II 2
  • Post World War II 3
  • Gisevius testifying at the Nuremberg Trials 4
  • Works 5
  • Notes 6
  • References 7

Pre World War II

Gisevius was born in Arnsberg in the Prussian Province of Westphalia. After law school, he joined the Prussian Interior Ministry in 1933 and was assigned to the newly formed Geheime Staatspolizei, or Gestapo. After joining the Gestapo, he immediately had disagreements with his senior, Rudolf Diels, and was discharged. He continued with police work in the Interior Ministry. When Himmler took over Police functions in 1936 in the German Reich, he removed Gisevius from office.

Throughout his time working for the Gestapo Gisevius described himself as living in constant fear, entering and exiting through the back door, clutching a pistol at his side - all resultant from his misgivings with the terror apparatus to which he was assigned, since according to him, it was like "living in a den of murderers".[2] Gisevius later transferred to the Reich Ministry of the Interior. Although he had no position of power, he maintained connections, notably to Arthur Nebe, that kept him informed of the political background. Gisevius joined the secret opposition to Hitler, began gathering evidence of Nazi crimes (for use in a later prosecution) and attempted to restrain the increasing power of Heinrich Himmler and the SS. He maintained links with Hans Oster and Hjalmar Schacht[3]

World War II

A German stamp of Stauffenberg and Helmuth James Graf von Moltke in commemoration of their 100th birthdays.
Carl Friedrich Goerdeler, postage stamp from 1964
Frick in his cell at Nuremberg, November 1945

When World War II started, Gisevius joined the German intelligence service, the Abwehr, which was headed by Admiral Wilhelm Canaris, who was an opponent of Hitler. Canaris had surrounded himself with Wehrmacht officers opposed to Hitler and he welcomed Gisevius into this group. Working from the consulate in Zurich, Hans Gisevius was involved in secret talks with the Vatican. Canaris arranged for appointment of Gisevius as Vice Consul in Switzerland, where Gisevius met with Allen Dulles in 1943 and agreed to serve as a liaison for the German opposition to Hitler, an assembly which counted among its members General Ludwig Beck, Abwehr Chief Canaris, and Mayor Carl Goerdeler of Leipzig.[4] Several members of the conspiratorial circle against Hitler including Gisevius, "all kept homes within easy walking distance of each other."[5] According to Gisevius, the original plot to kill Hitler earlier (namely, before the acquiescence of Great Britain over the Sudetenland) was literally derailed by Neville Chamberlain whose actions he claims "saved Hitler."[6]

Upon returning to Germany, he was investigated by the Gestapo, but released. In 1944, after the failed July 20th assassination attempt against Hitler, Gisevius first hid at the home of his future wife, the Swiss national Gerda Woog, and fled to Switzerland in 1945, making him one of the few conspirators to survive the war. There, he contacted the Swiss authorities.

Peter Hoffmann's biography of Hitler assassination conspirator Claus Graf von Stauffenberg ("Stauffenberg, A Family History," 1992) indicates that after the failure of Stauffenberg's bomb plot in July 1944, Gisevius went into hiding until January 23, 1945, when he escaped to Switzerland by using a passport that had belonged to Carl Deichmann, a brother-in-law of German Count Helmuth James von Moltke, who was a specialist in international law serving in the legal branch of the Foreign Countries Group of the OKW (Oberkommando der Wehrmacht, "Supreme Command of the Armed Forces"). Through the help of the American Allen Dulles in Berne, Switzerland and of the German Legation (in Berne)'s Georg Federer, the passport was modified and a visa obtained for Gisevius that enabled him to escape to Spain.

Post World War II

Gisevius served as a key witness for the prosecution at the Nuremberg Trials in the case against Hermann Göring, his former boss in the Prussian Ministry of the Interior. He also testified against Keitel and Kaltenbrunner. In the cases against Hjalmar Schacht and Wilhelm Frick, he served for the defence. His autobiography, Bis zum bitteren Ende ("To the Bitter End"), published in 1946, offered a sharp indictment of the Nazi regime, many of whose leading members Gisevius knew personally, as well as of the German people, who, Gisevius claimed, pretended not to know about the atrocities being committed in its name. At the same time, it also offers an insider's account of the German resistance movement.

In 1946 Gisevius was charged and acquitted by the Swiss authorities in a trial for espionage. Gisevius was later criticized as he diminished the contributions of other members (i.e. Claus Schenk Graf von Stauffenberg) of the opposition to Hitler. Gisevius reported in his 1948 book, To the Bitter End, that he considered SS Chief Heinrich Himmler a bit of a hypocrite whereas he saw Reinhard Heydrich as one who epitomized a true German, in accordance with Nazi ideals at least.[7] In the early 1950s he moved to the United States and lived in Dallas, Texas, but soon returned, and lived in Switzerland. Gisevius died in Müllheim in Baden-Württemberg in 1974.

Gisevius testifying at the Nuremberg Trials

  • Nuremberg trials day 114 on YouTube, Hans Gisevius questioned on the stand by Dr. Rudolph Dix, counsel for Hjalmar Schacht [8]
  • Nuremberg trials day 115 on YouTube, Hans Gisevius questioned by U.S. Chief Prosecutor and U.S. Supreme Court Justice Robert H. Jackson [9]


  • Gisevius H.B. (1946). Bis zum bitteren Ende (in German).  (Translated in English editions as 'To the Bitter End', and more recently republished in English as "Valkyrie" to capitalize on the film of the same name)
  • Gisevius H.B. (1966). Wo ist Nebe?. Droemer.  (The title means Where is Nebe?, Nebe being Arthur Nebe)
  • Kitchen, Martin (1994). Nazi Germany at War. New York and London: Routledge. 


  1. ^ Reitlinger (1989). The SS: Alibi of a Nation, 1922-1945, p. 49.
  2. ^ Blandford (2001) SS Intelligence: The Nazi Secret Service, pp 30-31.
  3. ^ Conot (1993), Justice at Nuremberg, pp. 390-395.
  4. ^ Martin Kitchen, Nazi Germany at War (London & New York: Routledge, 1994), 247-248.
  5. ^ Blandford (2001) SS Intelligence: The Nazi Secret Service, p. 106.
  6. ^ Gisevius (1948), To the Bitter End, pp. 327-328.
  7. ^ Hans Bernd Gisevius, To the Bitter End (London: Cape, 1948), p. 149, as found in Reitlinger (1989). The SS: Alibi of a Nation, 1922-1945, p. 49.
  8. ^ "Nuremberg Day 114 Gisevius Direct". YouTube. 2009-06-22. Retrieved 2013-01-04. 
  9. ^ "Nuremberg Day 115 Robert H Jackson/Gisevius". YouTube. 2008-11-07. Retrieved 2013-01-04. 


  • Blandford, Edmund L. SS Intelligence: The Nazi Secret Service. Edison, NJ: Castle, 2001.
  • Conot, Robert E. Justice at Nuremberg. New York: Carroll & Graf Publishers Inc., 1993.
  • Gisevius, Hans Bernd. To the Bitter End. London: Jonathan Cape Publishing, 1948.
  • Gisiger C: Ein sensationeller Prozess? Das militärgerichtliche Strafverfahren gegen Eduard von der Heydt, Hans Bernd Gisevius und Josef Steegman vor dem Divisionsgerischt 6 (1946–1948). Historisches Seminar University Zurich, October 2005.
  • Kitchen, Martin. Nazi Germany at War. London & New York: Routledge, 1994.
  • Guido Knopp: Hitler's Warriors – Episode 6: Canaris – The Master Spy (ZDF/History Channel documentary, 2005)
  • Reitlinger, Gerald. The SS: Alibi of a Nation, 1922-1945. New York: Da Capo Press, 1989.
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