A Small Town in Germany

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A Small Town in Germany
First edition
Author John le Carré
Country United Kingdom
Language English
Genre Thriller
Publisher William Heinemann
Publication date
October 1968
Media type Print (Hardback & Paperback)
Pages 304 pp
ISBN 0-434-10930-4
OCLC 887880
LC Class PZ4.L4526 Sm PR6062.E33
Preceded by The Looking-Glass War
Followed by The Naïve and Sentimental Lover

A Small Town in Germany is a 1968 espionage novel by British author John le Carré. It is set in Bonn, the "small town" of the title, against a background of concern that former Nazis were returning to positions of power in West Germany.


Bonn, the eponymous small town, was chosen as West Germany's capital after World War II mainly due to the advocacy of Konrad Adenauer, Chancellor of West Germany after World War II, who came from the area.

Plot summary[edit]

A Small Town in Germany is set in the late 1960s, in Bonn, the capital of West Germany. From London, Alan Turner, of the British Foreign Office, arrives to investigate the disappearance of Leo Harting, a minor British Embassy officer; moreover, secret files have disappeared with him. The embassy's security chief, Rawley Bradfield, is hostile to Turner's investigation. Despite that, he is dinner party host to Turner and Ludwig Siebkron, head of the German Interior Ministry; the latter is close to industrialist Klaus Karfeld, who is successfully building his new political party.

Initially, Turner suspects Leo Harting is a spy, but comes to grasp that Harting was secretly investigating Karfeld's Nazi career — as the war-time administrator of a laboratory that poisoned 31 half-Jews. In fact, Harting is hiding from Siebkron, and might assassinate Karfeld. To Turner's chagrin, Bradfield is unsympathetic to Harting's circumstance and uninterested in protecting him, because he considers him a criminal and a political embarrassment.

Characters in "A Small Town In Germany"[edit]

  • Rawley Bradfield - security chief at the British Embassy in Bonn
  • Leo Harting – long-term temporary employee at the British Embassy in Bonn
  • Alan Turner – British Foreign Office Official
  • Ludwig Siebkron – German Interior Ministry official
  • Klaus Karfeld – German Industrialist and politician with a hidden Nazi past

Allusions/references to actual events[edit]

  • David Cornwell (John le Carré) worked as an intelligence officer for MI6 under diplomatic cover as the 'Second Secretary' of the British embassy in Bonn, during the period depicted in this novel.
  • At the time of publication there were worries that the extreme right was rebuilding in West Germany. However, these fears later proved to be unfounded, as the extreme right to this day remains a marginal factor in German politics, with no representation in the Bundestag.
  • The West German Chancellor, Kurt Georg Kiesinger, was, like Karfeld, a former committed Nazi, who had joined the NSDAP in 1933. Although Kiesinger was cleared of war crimes by the denazification courts, radical groups such as the Red Army Faction argued that an informal but powerful network of ex-Nazis, including Kiesinger, controlled the country.
  • Real locations in Bonn such as the British Embassy feature prominently.


  • The Economics Minister at the Bonn embassy was James Marjoribanks. One of the characters in Le Carré's book is also called Marjoribanks.

Release details[edit]