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Hitler's Spies in America: The FBI and the Case that Stirred the Nation

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Hitler's Spies in America: The FBI and the Case that Stirred the Nation

Daytime Program

Noon Lecture/Seminar

Wednesday, November 18, 2020 - 1:00 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. ET
Code: 1M2107
This program is part of our
Smithsonian Associates Streaming series.
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  • This program is part of our Smithsonian Associates Streaming series.
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In the mid-1930s just as the United States was embarking on a policy of neutrality, Nazi Germany launched a program of espionage against the unwary nation. Hitler attempted to interfere in American affairs by spreading anti-Semitic propaganda, stealing military technology, and mapping U.S. defenses.

In a fascinating illustrated presentation, historian Rhodri Jeffreys-Jones offers insights into the role of espionage in shaping American perceptions of Germany in the years leading up to the country’s entry into World War II and sheds light on a significant episode in the history of international relations and the development of the FBI.

Using recently declassified documents, he examines how Germany’s foreign intelligence service, the Abwehr, was able to steal top-secret American technology, such as a prototype codebreaking machine and data about the latest fighter planes.

He gives a special focus to Leon Turrou, the FBI agent who helped bring down the Nazi spy ring in a case that quickly transformed into a national sensation. The arrest and prosecution of four members of the ring was a high-profile case with all the trappings of fiction: fast cars, louche liaisons, a murder plot, a Manhattan socialite, and a ringleader codenamed Agent Sex. He examines how the rise and fall of Turrou, whose talent was matched only by his penchant for publicity, was an essential part of the breaking of the Nazi spy ring.

Jeffreys-Jones is emeritus professor of history at the University of Edinburgh. His book The Nazi Spy Ring in America (Georgetown University Press) is available for sale.

Book Sale Information


Listen to the Rhodri Jeffreys-Jones interview on the Not Old Better podcast with host Paul Vogelzang.

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