The Soldatensender Calais used the Russian front not only as a bogey to frighten Hitler's soldiers in France out of showing too much keenness and efficiency, and as a pretext for feeling `written off', `deserted' and `second class'. We also used it as a stage on which to present mysterious new American `miracle weapons' against which resistance was useless.
The Americans, reported the Soldatensender, had been supplying the Russians with these ultra-modern 'superweapons'. One of them was a phosphorous shell of unprecedented penetrative power which burst through the thickest armour and concrete and burned up everything inside it. It was this new weapon and others like it, we said, that were responsible for the latest German defeats in Russia. To my gratification in one instance at least this propaganda had its effect, as we learned soon after D-day. Through amplifiers an appeal had been made to Lieutenant General von Schlieben who commanded the Fort du Roule blocking the American advance in the Cherbourg perimeter.
" You and your men have put up a gallant fight," said the voice through the amplifier, "but your position is hopeless. The only thing for you is to surrender while there is still time. Otherwise you and your men will be destroyed."
For a few minutes all was silence, and the team of psychological warriors feared they would be forced to admit failure. But suddenly a voice could be heard calling from the German position. It was General von Schlieben himself.
" I cannot surrender," said the General, "my orders are to fight to the last man and the last cartridge. It would be different if you could prove to me that our position is hopeless. If you could, for instance, fire one of those phosphorous shells . . ."
The Americans complied with alacrity. The nearest battery fired an ordinary common or garden shell at the Fort. Up went the white flag, the great steel and concrete gate of the turret swung open, and out trooped the general with his men. In his huge greatcoat and steel helmet, the knight's cross gleaming under his heavy jowl, the General was the picture of gloom. But his honour had been salved, Fort du Roule was ours, and the way into Cherbourg clear. The procedure was repeated with success on several further occasions by the Americans and ourselves at Concarneau and elsewhere.
But we had yet another motive for stressing the theme that `the true defence of the German fatherland is on the Eastern front". I hoped that this Calais campaign might have a political impact on leaders of the German officers' corps.
We knew that the generals were becoming increasingly restive about the consequences of Hitler's interference with them and their strategy. `Peace feelers' were being noted with increasing frequency, and they were coming from men who claimed they had the support of the generals.
For some time already we had not only been attempting to speak in the name of this `army opposition'. We had also been trying to give its leaders the kind of encouragement `white', as the official voice of the allies, was unable to give them. We had been seeking to suggest to them that all they had to do was to overthrow Hitler for us to be ready to start peace negotiations. For instance when the Frankfurter Zeitung was closed down by Hitler and I produced a counterfeit of a `free' Frankfurter Zeitung, edited ostensibly by the German Resistance, I included in it a leading article on the need for the overthrow of Hitler and the establishment of a German peace government.
" Are the Western powers ready for peace talks?" asked the article. "We believe that in the light of first cautious contacts of German military circles in the West with the enemy we can answer this question in the affirmative. Only we must act at last!" And there had been other similar gestures.
It seemed to me just possible that the generals might regard this Calais campaign as encouragement for their dream of revolt against the Fuhrer followed by a separate peace with the West. Such a separate peace was, of course, out of the question. But if Calais by its repetition of the priority for the Eastern Front theme could trick the generals into action against the Supreme war-lord, I was going to have no regrets. A coup by the generals, whether successful or not, even so much as the suspicion of an anti-Hitler conspiracy among them would all help to hasten Hitler's defeat. And as it turned out we were to be rewarded here too.
When, in September 1944 I interviewed Otto John, the only survivor of the Generals' conspiracy to get away abroad, I learned that our broadcasts had indeed been heard by the conspirators, and interpreted in precisely the sense I had hoped. I am sorry the generals ended their lives on Hitler's meat hooks. But I cannot say that I have any compunction about having raised false hopes in them. For these men and their caste were the original patrons and sponsors of Hitler's movement. They were the profiteers of his Reich. And they only rose against him when it was clear that he and his war of conquest were doomed.
Critical readers may well object that I paid too little attention to the German conscience as an ally in the struggle against Hitler. "What about the Church opposition to Hitler?" they might say, "What about Pastor Niemoller and Archbishop von Galen, what about the Scholls? What did you do to support and encourage them?"
I agree that on the Soldatensender I made little attempt to appeal to anything but instincts of self-interest and selfpreservation in our German listeners, both personal and national. When we suggested methods of sabotage to U-boat men we did not approach them as pacifists or even as antiNazis. We told them in news items how other crews had successfully delayed the departure of their ship by unattributable acts of sabotage which we carefully described.
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The top of the stairs outside the ASPIDISTRA control room - photo 1987