The Nazi Spy Ring in America

Hitler's Agents, the FBI, and the Case That Stirred the Nation

Rhodri Jeffreys-Jones

"This is an excellent read: informative, intriguing, entertaining, and suspenseful throughout."
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The first full account of Nazi spies in 1930s America and how they were exposed.

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. The Nazi Spy Ring in America tells the story of Hitler’s attempts to interfere in American affairs by spreading anti-Semitic propaganda, stealing military technology, and mapping US defenses.

This fast-paced history provides essential insight into the role of espionage in shaping American perceptions of Germany in the years leading up to US entry into World War II. Fascinating and thoroughly researched, The Nazi Spy Ring in America sheds light on a now-forgotten but significant episode in the history of international relations and the development of the FBI.

Using recently declassified documents, prize-winning historian Rhodri Jeffreys-Jones narrates this little-known chapter in US history. He shows how Germany’s foreign intelligence service, the Abwehr, was able to steal top secret US technology such as a prototype codebreaking machine and data about the latest fighter planes.

At the center of the story is 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. Part of the story of breaking the Nazi spy ring is also the rise and fall of Turrou, whose talent was matched only by his penchant for publicity, which eventually caused him to run afoul of J. Edgar Hoover's strict codes of conduct.

Table of Contents


1. Lonkowski’s Legacy

2. Jessie Jordan

3. Murder in the McAlpin

4. Enter Leon Turrou

5. Crown Identified

6. Tales of Hofmann

7. Avoiding a High Court Trial

8. What Griebl Knew

9. Miss Moog Says No

10. A Season of Inquiry

11. The Flight of the Spies

12. Blame Games

13. Dismissed with Prejudice

14. Seeking the Evidence

15. The Nazi Spy Trial

16. Of Propaganda and Revenge

17. Spy Sequels

18. The Case Named for Duquesne

19. Pfeiffer’s Story

Dramatis Personae





"This is an entertaining tale that doubles as an important work of scholarship."—

"Jeffreys-Jones packs the narrative with fine-grained details and memorable character sketches. Espionage buffs will want to take a look."—Publishers Weekly

"Clear, structured, and lively, the book and its intrigues are fascinating. Jeffreys-Jones humanizes all involved, revealing the motivations of spies and government investigators alike. The Nazi Spy Ring is an engaging account of interwar espionage that played out in newspapers across the world."—Foreword Reviews

"The 1938 Nazi spy affair was an event of world-historical significance. Here, an eminent intelligence historian, writing with tremendous verve and wit, tells the whole story for the first time, revealing a complex web of intrigue, sex, and betrayal."—Hugh Wilford, author of The Mighty Wurlitzer and America’s Great Game

"Kidnapping plots, honey traps, ace detectives–this untold story of a Nazi espionage ring has all the elements of a good spy novel. Besides spinning a great yarn, Jeffreys-Jones also shows how the discovery and revelation of these plots had profound historical consequences for America’s role in the world."—Kathryn Olmsted, professor of history, University of California, Davis

"This excellent history reads like a thriller and compels the reader from its first page to the last. By exposing the nefarious plans of Hitler's international spy network, Jeffreys-Jones makes a valuable contribution to our understanding of how World War II was fought in the shadows and reminds us that the plots, betrayals, murders, and mayhem of real life can rival the creations of the best Hollywood screenwriters."—Bradley W. Hart, author of Hitler's American Friends: The Third Reich's Supporters in the United States

"Simply stated, The Nazi Spy Ring in America: Hitler's Agents, the FBI, and the Case That Stirred the Nation is an inherently fascinating and impressively documented history told in the kind of narrative storytelling style that will engage and hold the reader's rapt attention from beginning to end."—Midwest Book Review

"Careful documentation ... lends authenticity to a fast-paced plot: Jeffreys-Jones is a thorough researcher who plumbed sources from New York City court records to Gestapo files in Germany to write a book that I was sorry to see end."—World War II

"The Nazi Spy Ring in America brings many scenes to life with novelistic detail"—Washington Independent Review of Books

"A very good read, suitable for all audiences."—Choice

"The Nazi Spy Ring in America will be of interest to anyone interested in the Abwehr or espionage. Rhodri Jeffreys-Jones tells a complex story well."—Cryptologia

"This is an excellent read: informative, intriguing, entertaining, and suspenseful throughout."—H-Diplo

"By breathing new life into this often-ignored spy story and its implications, Jeffreys-Jones provides readers an important reminder that although the United States today faces different adversaries, seeing the actions of any nation in a clear, honest light is vital to avoid repeating the failures of the 1930s and once-again paying the disastrously high cost of fixing them."—Studies in Intelligence


Supplemental Materials


About the Author

Rhodri Jeffreys-Jones is emeritus professor of history at the University of Edinburgh. He has authored or edited fifteen books, including The FBI: A History, In Spies We Trust: The Story of Western Intelligence, and The CIA and American Democracy.

256 pp., 6 x 9
19 b&w photos
ISBN: 978-1-64712-004-7
Sep 2020
Only for sale in the USA, Canada, and the Phillippines

256 pp., 6 x 9
19 b&w photos
Sep 2020
Only for sale in the USA, Canada, and the Phillippines

256 pp.
19 b&w photos
ISBN: 978-1-64712-005-4
Sep 2020
Only for sale in the USA, Canada, and the Phillippines

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