Cracking the Nazi Code

The Untold Story of Canada's Greatest Spy

by Jason Bell

On Sale: 09/26/2023

Cracking the Nazi Code

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Cracking the Nazi Code

The Untold Story of Canada's Greatest Spy

by Jason Bell

On Sale: 09/26/2023


Dafoe Book Prize

New Brunswick Book Awards, Non-Fiction

About the Book

The thrilling true story of agent A12, the earliest enemy of the Nazis

“Brilliantly researched. . . . A page-turner, one of those books not to be missed.” —Rosemary Sullivan, author of Stalin’s Daughter

“Who knew that a Canadian was the first to warn the world what the Nazis were up to, and to do it years before anyone else was even talking about Nazis? Winthrop Bell is a name you should know, and thanks to Jason Bell and his deep-dive research, you now will.” —Peter Mansbridge

In public life, Dr. Winthrop Bell of Halifax was a Harvard philosophy professor and wealthy businessman. But as MI6 secret agent A12, he evaded gunfire and shook off pursuers to break open the emerging Nazi conspiracy in 1919 Berlin. His reportsthe first warning of the Nazi plot for WWII, went directly to the man known as C, the mysterious founder of MI6. Throughout this, a powerful fascist politician quietly worked to suppress Bell’s alerts. Nevertheless, agent A12’s intelligence sabotaged the Nazis in ways that are only now being revealed.

Bell became a spy once again in the face of WWII. In 1939, he was the first to crack Hitler’s deadliest secret code: the Holocaust. But the führer was a popular politician who said he wanted peace. Could anyone believe Bell’s shocking warning? Fighting an epic intelligence war from Ukraine, Russia and Poland to France, Germany, Canada and Washington, DC, A12 was the real-life 007, waging a single-handed fight against madmen bent on destroying the world. Without Bell’s astounding courage, the Nazis might just have won the war. 

Informed by recently declassified documents, Cracking the Nazi Code is the first book to illuminate the astonishing exploits of Winthrop Bell, agent A12.

Critical Praise

I love books that promise "untold stories". This one does and it delivers. Who knew that a Canadian was the first to warn the world what the Nazis were up to, and to do it years before anyone else was even talking about Nazis? Winthrop Bell is a name you should know, and thanks to Jason Bell and his deep dive research you now will. — Peter Mansbridge

Brilliantly researched, Cracking the Nazi Code upends our conventional, often inaccurate, understanding of the Nazis’ rise to power after WWI. It took the stunning intelligence work of Winthrop Bell, a Canadian spy working for MI6 in Germany, to decipher what was really going on. How did Hitler, an insignificant minion, manage to climb the ladder of power? How wide-ranging was his genocidal intent? As Bell pursues the truth, the twists and turns of his life are fascinating. We come away with a deep respect for intelligence work at its finest. A page-turner, one of those books not to be missed. — Rosemary Sullivan, Stalin’s Daughter

Written with uncommon verve, wonderful detail, and deep insight gained from previously inaccessible archival records, Cracking the Nazi Code reveals the key spy work of Winthrop Bell. His secret fieldwork revealed insurrection, revolution, and the rise of the vile ideology that would underpin the Nazi party. Bell’s dangerous missions saved countless lives, supported battered democratic regimes, and provided British spymasters and Canadian political leaders with crucial information to avert disaster. Cracking the Nazi Code reminds us of the fragility of nations after war and how easily they can slide into chaos as demagogues prey upon the vulnerable, helpless, and hopeless. — Tim Cook, Vimy: The Battle and the Legend

If you think you know everything about World War II, you need this book. Jason Bell’s account of how a philosophy professor alerted world leaders to the true threat of the rising Nazi movement is a first-rate spy story. Cracking the Nazi Code takes you along on one man’s dangerous quest to discover the truth and convince world leaders of perils to come. — Gregory A. Freeman, The Forgotten 500

Move over William Stephenson. It turns out "the Man Called Intrepid” wasn't Canada's only WWII master spy. In this fascinating first-ever biography of Winthrop Bell, historian Jason Bell introduces readers to the shadowy one-time Harvard-philosophy-professor-turned-secret-agent who became one of Nazi Germany’s biggest enemies. — Ken Cuthbertson, Blood on the Coal: The True Story of the Great Springhill Mine Disaster

An amazing book. . . . Winthrop Bell was a harbinger of fate, a prophet in his times. . . Spy stories’ addicts, history buffs, researchers and readers blessed with even a quantum of curiosity – should read this extraordinary ouvrage and reflect on its meaning for our past, but also for our future. — Michael Bar-Zohar, Mossad

“[A] remarkable book about a remarkable man heretofore unknown. Yet in this author’s capable hands, the name Winthrop Bell (1884-1965) should resound in the annals of history. . . . The author’s own academic talents serve him extremely well throughout this fascinating, well-paced text. . . . This book is a significant and timely achievement, and the author should be commended for bringing to colorful life the story of the courageous, intelligent, and infinitely interesting Winthrop Bell. . . .A masterful profile of a significant historical figure.”  — Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

“Bell (philosophy, Univ. of New Brunswick) has penned a remarkable account of the life of Winthrop Bell. . . . Utilizing primary source material from Europe and Canada and reviewing documents from Bell’s archives, the author writes a gripping account of the spy . . . . An extraordinary story of one man’s efforts to stop the Nazi regime. ” — Library Journal

"Even readers well-versed on the war will be surprised by the history Bell has pieced together. It’s a significant new perspective on behind-the-scenes political machinations preceding WWII." — Publishers Weekly

“There’s sufficient derring-do in this volume to qualify it as a spy story—enough history to serve as a serviceable introduction to interwar Europe, enough scholarship to satisfy the faculty lounge.” — Literary Review of Canada

"In detail-rich prose, Canadian academic Bell (no relation) tells the incredible story of 'quite possibly history’s greatest spy.'"  — Booklist

“A hitherto unknown story about how Bell, who had been interned in Germany during World War I, used his excellent German and many connections to describe the country’s turmoil after the war for the benefit of the British secret services and government…The core story is remarkable in itself, but the wealth of detail about Germany in the years after World War I and the inner workings of British espionage makes it doubly so.” — Foreign Affairs

“A deeply researched, intriguing portrait of Winthrop [Bell]…The British agent was not the only person who got Hitler mostly right, but he was one of the earliest to do so.” — Wall Street Journal

“Exceptionally well-written…Extremely informative without being overly complex. Although it describes political, philosophical, and economical theories in detail, Bell’s writing is clear and engaging…Readers will be fascinated by the information that was, until now, unknown to the public. They will be captivated by Bell’s prose; his descriptions of fighting, landscapes, and historical figures carry the reader into the story…The current rise in antisemitism worldwide makes Cracking the Nazi Code a very timely work.” — Jewish Book Council 


Product Details

  • ISBN: 9781443466745
  • ISBN 10: 1443466743
  • Imprint: HarperCollins Publishers
  • On Sale: 09/26/2023
  • Pages: 352
  • List Price:36.99 CAD
  • BISAC1 : HISTORY / Military / World War II
  • BISAC2 : POLITICAL SCIENCE / Intelligence & Espionage
  • BISAC3 : HISTORY / Holocaust

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