Black Boomerang - Sefton Delmer
The team, emigres, P.O.W.s and all agreed with enthusiasm. They were grand fellows with tremendous esprit de corps and a truly German pride in their work. And when we did take our leave again the standard set in those early programmes never sagged. Instead we improved all the time. But there were anxious moments. The first was caused by Lindley Frazer, who was seconded from my department to act as its chief liaison with Carleton Greene and the B.B.C. Lindley rang me on the department's internal telephone one evening soon after `Calais' had started.
" Tom," he said, "unless I was badly mistaught at Balliol the philosopher Spinoza was of the Jewish race and religion." "Lindley," I said with the cheerfulness of a T.V. quiz master awarding a fiver, "you are right! How can I help you?" "Well," Lindley now crashed heavily down upon me, "it seems a little improbable to me, in view of the philosopher's race, that there should be a Spinoza Street in Nazi Frankfort on the Main today. However, I just heard G.7 (our code name for the Soldatensender) announce that R.A.F. bombs had dropped last night in Frankfort's Spinoza Street."
" Oh dear, oh dear," I said, now very small indeed, "thank you very much, Lindley. I'll look into it right away." My heart was in my mouth. I feared we had fallen victims to a pre-Hitler Baedeker. But as good luck had it we had not. The Town plan Schlabrenhorst had worked on was up-to-date. For some obscure reason the Frankfort municipal fathers had gone on calling Spinoza Street Spinoza Street even after Hitler had taken over, and I was able to reassure Lindley that Calais had not slipped. But it was just the kind of mistake that could have tripped us up.
The reception of the Soldatensender by the German public did not justify the gloomy foreboding of Ivone Kirkpatrick. Very soon after we started reports began to come in from prisoners and other sources showing that the German public, far from dismissing it as a clumsy hoax, were eagerly lapping up the Soldatensender and accepting its `candid and outspoken news reports' as evidence that the Reich Propaganda men had to tell many truths to the Wehrmacht which they kept from the German civilian public. Poor little Dr. Goebbels was inundated with reports from Himmler's police officials and from the Gauleiters telling him of the havoc the Soldatensender was causing.
One report, in particular, caused me great joy when a copy of it turned up among a bunch of captured documents. It was from the Bavarian Ministry of the Interior and was addressed to Freiherr von Eberstein, the Munich Chief of Himmler's SD Security Service. I passed it with my compliments to Kirkpatrick. Here it is, verbatim:
Security Service of the Reichsfuhrer
SS SD-Directing Sector Munich Munich 13 III C 4-AZ I7/43-Dr. KnHi Franz Joseph Street 38 16.3. 1944 (Stamped: Bavarian State Ministry of the Interior: zo March 1944 Transmitted: Marked for on I8.3.44 SS Obergruppenfiihrer & General of Police Freiherr von Eberstein.
SS Obergruppenfiihrer. Ref.: Reception and effect of the transmissions of the Soldatensender Calais among the population.
Since October 1943 increasingly frequent references are being made by the population to the transmissions of the radio station which calls itself Soldatensender Calais and concerning whose nationality people are not clear. The chief effect of the station's news transmissions, which have been described as psychologically excellent, emerges from its practice of giving absolutely unexceptionable information, which has also been carried verbatim in the German News Service and mixing in with it a number of isolated, more or less tendentious items. This has caused large portions of the population be believe that Soldatensender Calais was a German station, perhaps one of the many Soldatensender started up in the occupied territories also without anything about them being officially communicated to the population.
That the reports of the Soldatensender Calais often had a sharpness otherwise nowhere to be found in the German News Service was in some cases explained by the population on the following lines: "After all they cannot present the soldier at the front with the same propaganda as they sell us at home. They have to be more honest with the soldiers at the front." As was shown in the course of the last two months of the year 1943, Soldatensender Calais, which originally transmitted on a wave-length around 36o m. and only later started to broadcast on the frequency of Munich, owes a large part of its audience to one quite special circumstance.
Since September 1943, it will be remembered, the Reichssender Munich carried in the evening hours transmissions for Fascist Republican Italy which, as they continued, caused the greatest indignation among listeners here and forced them to dial other stations in order not to lose their evening's entertainment.* They twiddled and found the Soldatensender Calais, which was coming through with extraordinary power and held the population with its news service.
Since the New Year, observers in Munich and the provinces point out with all urgency that the transmitter has caused the greatest unrest and confusion among the population by news concerning the situation at the fronts and at home and that the population is showing ever-increasing trust in the station's news service as its reports have shown themselves more or less correct.
There is general agreement that the majority of the opinions expressed among the population concerning the situation at the front are derived from the news of the Sender Calais which, in the words of a Munich radio expert of note, with Belgrade and the Luftnot-Sender Laibach, belongs to the three most listened to radio stations. Politically responsible observers demand with increasing urgency that action should be taken against this station with all means at our disposal, above all that the population must be enlightened as to its character as an enemy station.
As this had not been done so far, the population feels it has the right to listen to the station, on the one hand because they cannot help listening to it on the Munich frequency, and on the other hand because its effectiveness is not being interfered with sufficiently. As it has not been possible to reduce listening to Soldaten sender Calais by confidential hints as to its origin, it was considered justified that the station should be powerfully jammed.
But this jamming had unpleasant consequences, particularly of late. The noise of the jammer mobilised against Calais made reception of the Reichs-station Munich quite impossible in many parts of the Gau Oberbayern and particularly in the Munich town area. Calais itself, on the other hand, could be received clearly.
The Reichssender Munich is completely drowned (and it is noteworthy that many people have identified the jammer put on against Calais as an enemy jammer attacking the `German station' Calais).
In view of the very grave effects of this enemy station from a morale and propaganda point of view it seems very necessary to limit as far as possible the effectiveness of the Soldatensender Calais, for the attempts to jam it that have been made hitherto must be considered insufficient in the light of the listener reports received here.
(Signature illegible) SS Sturmbannfuhrer.
On the strength of this note, Giesler, the Gauleiter, sent another shorter note to Dr. Goebbels repeating most of these points and asking the Minister to take steps against Calais. In France too, the Soldatensender was causing the German authorities considerable misgivings about the effects of its `poison' on the `simple' minds of their soldiers. The High Command issued orders to unit commanders to lecture their men about the `Poison Transmitter Calais' and laid down the lines for the lectures in a special directive.
But I am happy to say we had plenty of evidence that despite the directive and the talks our audience was still continuing to grow.
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ASPIDISTRA'S ART DECO CONTROL PANEL FACIA - photo 1986