In a tale as twisted as any spy thriller, discover how three women delivered critical evidence of Axis war crimes to Allied forces during World War II: “A tantalizingly novelistic history lesson" (Kirkus).
In 1944, news of secret diaries kept by Italy's Foreign Minister, Galeazzo Ciano, had permeated public consciousness. What wasn't reported, however, was how three women—a Fascist's daughter, a German spy, and an American banker’s wife—risked their lives to ensure the diaries would reach the Allies, who would later use them as evidence against the Nazis at Nuremberg. In 1944, Benito Mussolini's daughter, Edda, gave Hitler and her father an ultimatum: release her husband, Galeazzo Ciano, from prison, or risk her leaking her husband's journals to the press. To avoid the peril of exposing Nazi lies, Hitler and Mussolini hunted for the diaries for months, determined to destroy them. Hilde Beetz, a German spy, was deployed to seduce Ciano to learn the diaries' location and take them from Edda. As the seducer became the seduced, Hilde converted as a double agent, joining forces with Edda to save Ciano from execution. When this failed, Edda fled to Switzerland with Hilde’s daring assistance to keep Ciano's final wish: to see the diaries published for use by the Allies. When American spymaster Allen Dulles learned of Edda's escape, he sent in Frances De Chollet, an “accidental” spy, telling her to find Edda, gain her trust, and, crucially, hand the diaries over to the Americans. Together, they succeeded in preserving one of the most important documents of WWII.
Drawing from in‑depth research and first-person interviews with people who witnessed these events, Mazzeo gives readers a riveting look into this little‑known moment in history and shows how, without Edda, Hilde, and Frances's involvement, certain convictions at Nuremberg would never have been possible. Includes a Reading Group Guide.