Book excerpt: “The Nazi Conspiracy”

Brad Meltzer and Josh Mensch previously explored dramatic conspiracies against political leaders in their best-selling books The First Conspiracy (about a treasonable conspiracy against General George Washington) and The Lincoln Conspiracy (about an attempt to assassinate Abraham Lincoln) during his first term ).

In her latest book “The Nazi Conspiracy: The Secret Plan to Kill Roosevelt, Stalin, and Churchill” (Flatiron Books) they investigate an alleged Nazi plot to assassinate the three Allied leaders as they attended a 1943 summit in Tehran – a plot foiled by the head of FDR’s intelligence agency.

Read the excerpt below and Don’t miss the interview with Jim Axelrod Brad Meltzer on “CBS Sunday Morning” on January 29th!


Tehran, Iran
November 28, 1943

The President is hiding.

The street is lined with soldiers. There are thousands of them stretching across blocks on either side. Most wear Soviet uniforms, some are British or American.

They wield automatic rifles. In the hot, dry air, they use their weapons and bodies to block the noisy crowds trying to push their way through to see what’s happening—or rather, who’s coming.

It is a wide avenue, a central thoroughfare through the bustling city of Tehran, the capital of Iran.


Flatiron Books

At the end of November 1943, there was great excitement in the city. Starting today, it will be the scene of one of the most important events in the course of the global war currently sweeping the world. The event was previously kept secret but has now been released to the public. Although not militarily involved in the war, Iran is under Allied control, hence the presence of Soviet security forces for the event.

A wave of noise rises from the crowd. Soldiers and onlookers alike turn to the approaching procession of cars, a mix of military and civilian vehicles. In the middle of the motorcade stands a long, dark sedan, gleaming in the bright sun. This is the vehicle that the soldiers are supposed to protect.

Anyone who can catch a glimpse sees a driver in the front seat of the car. In the back seated is a lone passenger, a tall, late middle-aged, white-haired man. The crowds on both sides of the avenue crane their necks for a better view. Every now and then a hand pops out of the car window as the man waves. The crowd bends forward, all trying to look at United States President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Or at least they think that’s inside.

On their way through the city, the President’s entourage passes crowded market squares and apartment buildings. Some local residents watch the spectacle through windows or rooftops. Today’s dark limousine’s destination is no secret: the President is traveling to the Soviet Embassy, ​​a walled and heavily guarded complex north of downtown. There, Roosevelt will meet two world leaders who are his allies in the war: Joseph Stalin, Prime Minister of the Soviet Union; and Winston Churchill, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom.

It will be a summit meeting of world-historical significance: for the first time, the “Big Three” leaders of the Allied armed forces will meet in person in the ongoing war. Planning for this conference took almost a year and involved immense geopolitical coordination and complicated security considerations.

But in the midst of the great spectacle, all is not as it seems. Unnoticed by onlookers and soldiers – and even by many in the procession – the tall, gray-haired man in the back seat of this limousine is not actually the President of the United States. Instead, he’s a member of the US Secret Service, wearing a bulletproof vest and pretending to be president.

the real The President isn’t even in that motorcade. At that moment, the real FDR crouches in the back of a very different vehicle, a small, dirty sedan, speeding through the city’s back streets. While the sleek black presidential limousine is surrounded by armed vehicles and military personnel, the nondescript car carrying the actual president is escorted only by a single, fast-moving jeep as he speeds through the winding streets.

Why this elaborate deception?

Late the night before, senior Soviet intelligence officials briefed US security of an alarming discovery: camouflaged Nazi agents are roaming this city under Allied control. Their mission, according to the Soviets, is to kill Roosevelt. And Churchill. And Stalin. It’s an almost unbelievable plot, breathtaking in its boldness. Right here in Tehran, during this momentous conference, Nazi agents will attempt to assassinate the Big Three.

If successful, this conspiracy will have consequences almost unimaginable.

For almost four years now, the Second World War has gripped the planet. Entire regions of Europe, Asia and North Africa were completely devastated. The suffering and loss of human life is almost incalculable and continues every day. Mass atrocities against civilians are almost too numerous to count. There is currently no immediate end in sight.

The driving force of war is a terrifying and appalling ideology that has taken root in several nations but has reached its most extreme and powerful form in Germany under the Nazi Party. Built on a twisted form of extreme patriotism, it is fueled by racial hatred, mass propaganda, conspiracy theories, the demonization of minorities, and the personality cult centered around a narcissistic leader. Under the influence of this ideology – plus the ruthless political party that promotes it – a country that once held democratic values ​​has turned to authoritarianism, hatred and violence. It is Germany and its most important allies, Italy and Japan, who unleashed this fatal war.

The clash of the world’s military powers, great as it is, is not all that is at stake. As the Nazi regime expands, it commits mass atrocities far beyond the scope of ordinary warfare, targeting peoples it considers “undesirable”: Roma, the insane, Poles, and other Slavic peoples. Civilians, including women and children, are routinely imprisoned, tortured, worked to death, or simply massacred.

Above all, the regime has directed its brutality against a group that it has vilified and blamed from the start: the Jewish people. To solve what they call the “Jewish problem” in Europe, the Nazi leaders created a mass murder apparatus so horrifying during the war that it will be years before the world fully understands it.

To fight back, the Allies have planned this long-awaited meeting of the Big Three – the leaders of the United States, the United Kingdom and the Soviet Union – knowing that this meeting in Tehran is the best and perhaps only chance for the Allied powers represents implementing a military strategy to finally cripple Nazi Germany and end the war that caused so much suffering around the world. Planning and executing this strategy will be a mammoth undertaking, requiring global military coordination on an unprecedented scale.

Millions of lives depend on the success of this conference. Probably tens of millions.

If the Nazis have their way, these three world leaders will not leave the city alive – and the Allied hopes of victory will die with them.

It is no exaggeration: the survival of nations is at stake.

And right now, FDR is crouching and hiding in the back of a speeding car.

Excerpt from “The Nazi Conspiracy”. Copyright © 2023 by Forty-Four Steps, Inc. Extracted with permission from Flatiron Books, a division of Macmillan Publishers. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without the written permission of the publisher.

For more information: Book excerpt: “The Nazi Conspiracy”

Rick Schindler

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