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Munich Summary & Study Guide

Robert Harris
This Study Guide consists of approximately 103 pages of chapter summaries, quotes, character analysis, themes, and more - everything you need to sharpen your knowledge of Munich.
This section contains 1,656 words
(approx. 5 pages at 400 words per page)
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Munich Summary & Study Guide Description

Munich Summary & Study Guide includes comprehensive information and analysis to help you understand the book. This study guide contains the following sections:

This detailed literature summary also contains Quotes and a Free Quiz on Munich by Robert Harris.

The following version of this book was used to create this study guide: Harris, Robert. Munich. Toronto, Random House Canada, 2017. PB.

On September 27th, 1938, Hugh Legat meets his wife at the Ritz for their anniversary, though he suspects she is unfaithful. Their meal is interrupted by a phone message calling Legat back to work at Number 10 Downing Street, the government headquarters. Prime Minister Chamberlain argues with his Cabinet about the merits of war over the ongoing Czech crisis. He dismisses them without conclusion and delivers a speech—revised by Legat—committed to peace.

In Berlin, Paul von Hartmann and his colleague Kordt agree it is time to act. They watch a military parade and note the lack of public support for war. Hartmann translates Chamberlain’s radio speech, angry that it delivers no ultimatum. He carries the translation to State Secretary Weizsäcker, who gives him Hitler’s reply for the British Ambassador. Hartmann has Weizsäcker’s secretary Frau Winter make a copy before he delivers it.

Legat finds an envelope on his front step; it is an old Hitlerian directive for invasion. Legat takes it to Cadogan at the Foreign Office, who interrogates Legat about his connections in Germany. He asks Legat to carry Hitler’s telegram to Chamberlain. The Prime Minister asks for a copy of Hitler’s speech from the day before, then composes a telegram asking Mussolini to intercede.

Hartmann meets Kordt, General Beck, Colonel Oster, Gisevius, Schulenburg, Dohnányi, and Captain Heinz. Beck explains that the Army will depose Hitler, but only if he starts a war Germany cannot win. Oster and Heinz will move against Hitler the next day, and Hartmann will enter the Chancellery to keep the doors open. The conspirators argue inconclusively about their end goal. When Hartmann leaves, he goes to Frau Winter’s apartment. They make love, then she gives Hartmann a document to show the English if he wants them to fight.

The next morning at Number 10, Mrs. Chamberlain invites Legat to share breakfast and a walk in the garden. Chamberlain feeds the birds and broods about the threat of war, renewing his determination to do anything for peace. Without informing the Cabinet, he dictates letters to Hitler and Mussolini proposing a meeting between Germany, England, France, and Italy. Meanwhile in Berlin, Kordt arms Hartmann before he goes to the Chancellery. There, he sees Attolico, the Italian Ambassador, demand entry. Mussolini is asking Hitler to delay the ultimatum by twenty-four hours. As Chamberlain addresses the MPs, Legat notices a disturbance in a gallery. Cadogan has a note from Hitler, and Legat helps pass it to Chamberlain. Chamberlain reads it and announces a meeting in Munich to a standing ovation.

Hartmann tells the conspirators he has proof of Hitler’s hopes for conquest. If he and Legat can both be at Munich, he can prevent Chamberlain from signing an agreement. Weizsäcker adds Hartmann to the delegation as a translator. When Hartmann boards Hitler’s special train, SS officer Sauer demands a reason for his inclusion, but the train leaves the station. In London, Cadogan questions Legat, who explains that he has not spoken to Hartmann since the end of their walking holiday in Munich together six years before. Legat reluctantly agrees to go to Munich to receive another document. He calls the number written in his wife’s day diary and a man answers, Pamela’s voice in the background.

Sauer openly searches Hartmann’s suitcases, but turns friendly when he finds nothing, since Hartmann has hidden the gun and document elsewhere. They go to breakfast, but Hartmann insults Sauer and earns his enmity. The translator, Dr. Schmidt, asks Hartmann to prepare the English-language press summary. When Hartmann delivers it, he looks at the top of Hitler’s head and realizes he cannot kill him. The train stops so Mussolini’s entourage can board. Hartmann uses the station phone to call Kordt’s office for the list of British delegates. Sauer confronts Hartmann, but Schmidt defends Hartmann’s actions as useful to the translators. As the train continues north, Sauer watches Hartmann closely. In Munich, Hartmann walks to the Führerbau, remembering his last visit, with Legat and Leyna.

As the British delegation boards their plane, crowds gather to see Chamberlain off. They land in Munich to crowds chanting Chamberlain’s name. Legat is also flooded in memories of 1932, when he, Hartmann, and Leyna had narrowly escaped political violence. At the Regina Palast, Legat is told to stay at the hotel to organize the rooms and keep the phone lines open.

At the Führerbau, Hartmann, Weizsäcker, and Schmidt watch the leaders greet each other. Hitler calls the leaders and their chief advisers to his study to begin discussions. He forces Hartmann to loan him his watch. While the leaders meet, Hartmann searches for Legat. He tries to use the meal break to leave the building through a back entrance, but the delegations return just as he reaches the parking lot.

Chamberlain briefs the British delegation: Mussolini produced a draft agreement requiring the British and French to guarantee Czech compliance, and Chamberlain asked for a break to review it. After the delegation leaves again, Legat hears an argument. He discovers that the Gestapo are holding the two Czech delegates in their hotel room. They ask for Chamberlain’s intercession. Legat hurries to the Führerbau, where he sees Hartmann.

Hartmann indicates Legat should follow him and they make their way to a nearby bar. Hartmann asks to meet Chamberlain, but Legat worries about Hartmann’s motives and calls the conspiracy naïve. He will pass along Hartmann’s proof but arrange no meetings. They shake hands and Hartmann leaves. When Legat opens the document, he finds meeting minutes on the Lebensraum policy. He decides Chamberlain should see the document, but the debates are already over.

Hitler and Mussolini banquet with their entourages while the final documents are prepared. Hartmann tries to leave early, but Hitler calls him back to return his watch. Hartmann leaves through the Führerbau’s back entrance again.

Legat watches uncomfortably as the Czechs receive the news of the agreement. He returns them to the Gestapo and sees Hartmann in the lobby. Hartmann accuses Legat of choosing his career over action. Legat agrees to take him to Chamberlain, who reluctantly agrees to a short meeting. Hartmann outlines the conspiracy, but though the Prime Minister lauds his sincerity, he insists his mandate is peace. When Hartmann leaves, dejected, Chamberlain rebukes Legat harshly.

At the Führersbau, Sauer tells Hartmann that the SS know of the conspiracy. Hartmann remains calm. Schmidt reveals that Hitler has personally requested that Hartmann prepare the English-language press summary again. When the British arrive, Sauer interrogates Legat, too. Legat is more worried about dismissal, but his colleagues remain friendly. He watches with the other delegations as the leaders pose for the cameras and sign the agreement.

Hartmann wakes Legat in the middle of the night and drives them to Dachau. Legat again calls him naïve, but Dachau was only one stop. They are truly going to see Leyna. Legat remembers the events of their walking holiday. He had fancied Leyna, who was Hartmann’s girlfriend, so he was easily convinced when she wanted to watch for Hitler at his apartment. She yelled salacious accusations and the SA pursued them. Legat escaped and met Leyna at the hostel, but she and Hartmann had argued. Legat and Leyna had sex and Legat left in the morning.

They drive to a care home, where Leyna is bed-bound and brain-damaged. Back in the car, Hartmann explains that she became a communist. When she was arrested a second time, her captors knew of her Jewish heritage and tortured her. Her destruction disillusioned Hartmann, proving that violent anti-Semitism is an inextricable part of Nazism. Legat agrees at last, and the old friends part on good terms.

In the Regina Palast, Chamberlain asks Legat for the newspaper with Hitler’s speech. He wants it worked into a joint statement of Anglo-German relations, since he has cornered Hitler into a private morning meeting. The professional diplomats are appalled, but they draft the statement. Legat sees a man leaving his room and realizes the document is missing. He works his way into Chamberlain’s meeting as an extra translator in the hopes of warning Hartmann. Meanwhile, the exhausted Hartmann prepares the press summary. He learns that Frau Winter has been arrested just before he and Schmidt take a car to Hitler’s apartment.

Chamberlain does all the talking at the meeting, Hitler only nodding politely. He agrees to sign the joint statement, but Legat thinks he feels no sense of obligation. Legat slips out and warns Hartmann that the Gestapo have the document. After the British leave, Hartmann finds himself alone with Hitler again as the Führer reads the press summary. Again he knows he cannot kill him. Hitler rants to Ribbentrop that the real obstacle to German expansion is the German people, not Chamberlain. Hartmann slips away. He expects arrest all the way back to Berlin, where he goes to Frau Winter’s apartment. He knows he will one day be caught and killed, but for now he is content with his life and his cause.

When the British delegation lands in London, they are greeted by a hysterical crowd. Chamberlain reads out the joint statement against the urging of his advisers. While they wait for buses back to their offices, Joan approaches and reveals that she was sent to watch over Legat. She took the document from his room, not the Gestapo. Late that night, Legat returns to his apartment. Pamela claims she has missed him, but to her relief Legat says he is leaving again, perhaps to join the RAF. He briefly watches his children sleep, then walks through the revelers watching fireworks in the street.

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