The Search for the Truth About the Nazi Plot to Assassinate FDRRoundup
tags: Nazis, FDR, assassination, World War 2
Howard Blum is the author of Night of the Assassins: The Untold Story of Hitler’s Plot to Kill FDR, Churchill and Stalin, available now from HarperCollins.
Reporters crammed into a tight semi-circle in the Oval Office, facing President Franklin D. Roosevelt as he sat in his wheelchair behind the walnut-veneered desk that had once been Herbert Hoover’s. It was Dec. 17, 1943, and the press had come to hear about the secret conference in Tehran where, just over two weeks earlier, FDR, Churchill and Stalin had met for the first time. As he discussed the meeting, about World War II strategy and plans for the post-war world, Roosevelt also disclosed something surprising — that, as the New York Times reported, the Russians had told him that there “was a plot endangering his life in Tehran, the knowledge of which caused him to move his residence from the American Legation to the Soviet Embassy.”
“In a place like Tehran there are hundreds of German spies, probably, all around the place,” FDR told the reporters. “I suppose it would make a pretty good haul if they could get all three of us going through the streets.”
After saying we wasn’t going to get into details, the president laughed his hearty, booming laugh, and the press, as can be heard on a recording of the session, joined in, too. There were no follow-up questions from the supportive war-time press corps. The president quickly moved on, talking about China.
And as the years, then the decades, passed, the actual events surrounding Operation Long Jump, as the Nazi assassination mission that targeted the Tehran Conference was known, remained a deeply buried official secret. The archives of the Wehrmacht, the Nazi military, omitted specific references to incidents, like the proposed killing of Allied leaders, that would be indictable offenses at post-war tribunals; “the very destruction of the fact, of the factuality of the fact,” was how one writer described the careful German practice. For details of how the plot unfolded during five days in Tehran in 1943, one had to consult memoirs (primarily by FDR and Churchill’s bodyguards) and journalistic accounts — some persuasive, others less so — that included postwar interviews with several of the participants in the events. But it was an exercise in battling through a swamp of half-truths, rumors and outright fabrications.