The techniques for malingering which we recommended had been specially devised by MB's own `witch doctor', the late Dr. J. T. McCurdy of Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, a wise old one-eyed Canadian. McCurdy's peace-time job was to practise and teach the healing of mental illness. Now he revelled in applying his expertise against Hitler's Germans in the reverse.
Dr. McCurdy laid down two fundamental rules for malingerers. Firstly "the malingerer must give the physician the impression that here is a patriotic citizen, dedicated to his duty, who has the misfortune to be ill, despite himself". Secondly the would-be malingerer must never tell the doctor that he is ill, that he is suffering from some specific disease, or volunteer symptoms.
" One single symptom," said the handbook, "which the doctor has discovered by his own questions, is worth ten which the patient has volunteered." Then the booklet proceeded to enumerate the symptoms the patient should allow the doctor to discover in examination. It classified these symptoms not by illness, but by what kind of a leave was desired by the patient, whether he wanted a short respite from duty, a longer one, or whether he wanted to be exempt for the duration of the war.
" Our purpose in preparing this little booklet," I explained to the officers "is twofold---as in the case of the sabotage stickers. On the one hand I hope it will stimulate malingering among the Germans, on the other hand I hope it will cause German doctors who are warned about the handbook-as they are bound to be-to suspect malingering where there is in fact no malingering. I have high hopes that right now they are sending genuinely sick men and women back to duty, possibly even to spread infection, because they believe their symptoms have been faked up with the aid of this unspeakable fellow Dr. med. Wohltat."
My underground clients loved it. Alas, things did not turn out altogether as I had intended. For the German authorities were so impressed with the potentialities of Dr. McCurdy's handbook that they had it translated into English and shot it into the British and American lines. This German-made English version of our opus even outlasted hostilities. Copies of it were fetching a good price in London's Soho right up to 1952. For Britain's new Welfare State had put a premium on the wisdom it purveyed.
Among other samples of `black' printing I tried to sell to my foreign visitors, was an astrological magazine called Zenith. Armin Hull had got it up most beautifully with advertisements photo-copied from genuine German astrological magazines. The text came from a famous Berlin-born astrologer, named Louis de Wohl, whom I used to visit in his Piccadilly basement flat at Athenaeum Court almost every time I was in London. He was a most sinister looking creature and it was with trepidation that, drawing partly on my knowledge of coming operations, partly on my store of propaganda campaigns, I sought to guide this new Nostradamus into lines which would fit our purposes of subversion.
There he sat, as I entered his den, a vast spectacled jellyfish of a man dressed in the uniform of a British army captain, puffing over-dimensional rings of smoke from an over-dimensional cigar. A khaki jellyfish in a spider's web of smoke. As I nervously put forward my views on what I rather hoped the stars might be foretelling, he frowned at me with terrifying ferocity, as though to reprove me for my infidel cynicism. Then he would grab up a handful of astrological charts from his Chippendale escritoire and make some rapid astral calculations. "I' his done, he would turn once more to me, his frown nowrelaxed into a patronising smile. With the air of the master addressing a promising neophyte he would say in his guttural Berlin English:
" How do you do it, my friend? It is most extraordinary. There is something very much like you say. In the . . ." Then there would follow some, to me completely unintelligible jargon about constellations, aspects, signs, and so forth. But I had to keep the straightest of straight faces when making my suggestions. For my astrologer always insisted that he would under no circumstances be prepared to prostitute his sacred knowledge to purposes of subversion, much as he abhorred Hitler and what he stood for. It was simply a most fortunate coincidence that what I suggested so often fitted in with what the stars did indeed foretell.
Undoubtedly he was a great artist in his field. And zenith became a nice little sideline of Psychological Warfare. It contained horoscopes for Germany's leaders, prognostications for U-boats and aircraft according to the date and hour of their launching and sortie and, of course, those general forecasts of woe or weal for persons born between certain dates without which no astrological magazine would be complete.
My respect for the sage's mystic integrity, however, did not preclude me from ante-dating some numbers of Zenith in order to include astoundingly accurate forecasts of events which had in fact already taken place. Thus Hitler's defeats at Alamein and Stalingrad were astrologically foreseen in a zenith number which bore the date June 1942, but had in fact been printed in March 1943. I felt that this little subterfuge would add weight to other predictions in the magazine which were concerned with developments far ahead of the date when our German customers would first find it lying around.
How did we deliver our `evidence' to our underground distributors? By the same canisters in which S.O.E. parachuted their supplies of arms to them. Our paper was stuffed into any gaps left between the automatic guns and plastic bombs. That was one reason why it was so specially necessary to brief these officers on the meaning and purpose of our bits of paper. Otherwise they might well have thrown them away as so much useless waste.
The Poles, in my experience, were the cleverest operators of all. From their bases in Poland they travelled over the whole territory of the Reich. And it was to the Poles that S.O.E. entrusted, on our behalf, the tricky job of posting letters inside Germany itself. It was the Poles, for instance, who posted for us to German provincial newspapers the papier mache matrices with which we counterfeited the feature service of one of Goebbels's Nazi agencies. The Poles sent them to any number of newspapers for us. But the Danziger Vorposten was the only newspaper in which I was able to read one of our articles. It celebrated the fiftieth birthday of Admiral Doenitz. The article contained all the appropriate Nazi sentiments and was completely orthodox except for one sentence.
" As a consequence of the loss of an average of thirty U-boats a month over the last half year," it said, "the Admiral has recently lost some of his pristine youthful freshness (,~ugendfi-ische) and elan (Schneid)." 'I'he other posting jobs the Poles did for us in Germany were more worthwhile than this elaborate pinprick operation against Donitz. Two of them in particular appealed to my Polish friends' sense of the macabre. The first consisted of posting letters to the relatives of German soldiers who had recently died in German military hospitals in Italy. Fortunately for us the German hospital directors made a practice of sending radio telegrams en clair to the local party authorities in Germany asking them to break the news to the relatives. These telegrams were intercepted and passed on to me. And they gave us all the information we needed-the soldier's name, the address of his relatives and the name of the hospital.
We now concocted a moving letter, written out in German longhand script on notepaper bearing the letter heading of the ( *erman hospital. Ostensibly the letter came either from a nurse or from a comrade of the dead man who had entrusted it for posting to someone going to Germany on leave. Whoever was the writer, he or she had been with the dead man during his last hours, and was now writing to comfort his relatives.
In moving terms the `friend' then described the dying soldier's devotion to the Fuhrer, his unshakeable faith in ultimate victory, his last greetings to his relatives. And then, almost as :m afterthought, he (or she) mentioned the diamond studded watch, or the gold crucifix, or some other piece of valuable jewellery which the dead soldier had hoped to bring home as a present for his dear ones.
" It has been specially forwarded to Herr Ortsgruppenleiter . . ." and there followed the appropriate name, "to be handed to you by him personally or by one of his representatives." When sufficient time had elapsed for the letter to have been sent to the relatives and take effect, the Soldatensender took up the operation. In an indignant talk by Sepp Obermeyer or one of the other champions of the German servicemen we heaped vituperation on the miserable `Leiehenfledderer' (Corpse robbers) who did not hesitate to steal the effects of men who had died for their country. And, of course, we had many more cases and names to cite as instances of this kind of `crime' than just those in which we had-through our Polish allies-sent letters to the relatives.
On other occasions we used the same technique to tell the relatives that their soldier had not died of wounds, but had been given a lethal injection. The Nazi doctor at the hospital, we explained through our nurse, had considered the man had no chance of becoming fighting fit again before the war was finished. The doctor had required the man's bed for soldiers with a better chance of rapid recovery. The second posting operation also exploited the death of a soldier and even more cynically. It is the only one of our many operations against the Germans of which I feel a little ashamed when I think of it today. My contacts at the Prisoner of War Postal Censorship had told me that they now received quite a number of `dead letters' -letters written by the parents of missing German soldiers who continued to write to their son, although they had been informed that there was no trace of him in Britain or anywhere else in the West. These parents just would not accept that their son was dead.
" Can I have some of the `dead letters'?" I asked. "I think I can use them." Immensely moving they were, those letters written by the old mother of the dead man or the father. They gave him the family news just as though he was still alive." Your sister Erna is married to Fritz Klausen. They were married on his last leave. And she now has a delightful little boy. She has named him Martin after you. Think of it, dear Martin, you are an uncle now! Tante Minna has moved to Pfaffenhofen to stay with Herr Professor Spitzbart and his family. It is quieter down there, though in Bavaria, too, they are now beginning to have air raids. Do let us hear from you soon, dear boy. We think of you all the time . . ."
But although they invariably made me feel as weepy as if I had seen Edward G. Robinson adopting a couple of orphans after a Mississippi steamer wreck, I still insisted on going through with our operation. For here was a ready made opportunity to push our desertion campaign.
" Dear Frau . . ." wrote one of my Germans on a German typewriter. "Please make no inquiries about the whereabouts of Martin. He is safe and well in a neutral country with a good ,job. Other comrades are with him. When this terrible war Hitler caused is ended, he will either return to you or send for you. He asks me to send his best greetings to you and Erna and hopes you are all well. Please tell no one about this letter." The only signature was a circle drawn in red ink. It was posted inside Germany.
My calculation was that no parents would be able to resist the temptation of passing the good news of their son's salvation to at least one close friend. And thus, the news of the successful desertion of German soldiers to neutral countries would spread, and more and more Germans, I hoped, would be encouraged to follow their example.