For my purposes it did not matter over much whether Nansen's claims were false or true, so long as he made his clandestine SS station sound convincing and the message his broadcasts conveyed worthwhile. I think he succeeded in both. For his main theme was the favourite saga of all true German soldier patriots-"We have been betrayed. We must rid ourselves of those who have betrayed us . . ."
The patriotic ideals of the fighting heroes of the SS, Nansen declaimed, had been betrayed by the unworthy Fuhrer who had clothed his worst hangmen, sadists, and concentration camp gaolers in the `Waffenrock' (uniform) of the noblest elite of German youth, thereby soiling their good name throughout the world. The `Hagedorn' group was going to wipe out this stain while there was still time. And, true to our old Gustav Siegfried recipe, we gave him enough inside news to accompany these tirades to make Herr Himmler highly suspect and ensure the unfortunate Fegelein's disgrace. Fegelein did indeed fall under the Fuhrer's displeasure-allegedly for his cowardice-and was shot. Himmler was ultimately deprived by Hitler of all his offices. I do not, of course, claim this was our doing though we may have helped to create the right atmosphere. But although he was reasonably effective as a broadcaster I refused to treat our SS recruit as an ordinary member of the MB team. I did not allow him inside the compound. Instead I hived him off with an officer who had to watch over him in a special abode of his own. This was Paris House, a `nouveau Tudor' mansion which one of the Dukes of Bedford had bought, beams, bricks, plaster and all, at a Paris exhibition of the Seventies, and re-erected in Woburn Park. Here, Child, Stevens, and I-and occasionally the Corporal and Max Braun-called on Nansen to discuss with him points of SS intelligence we wanted to elucidate. Most useful he was, too. And in between answering our questions Nansen recounted something of his own fantastic story.
" I worked with the Polish Underground," Nansen told me in his high-pitched tenor voice. "I procured Red Army guns for the guerrilla army of General Bor Komerovski and ammunition too to go with them."
" But why Soviet guns, Nansen ?" I asked, suspicious that he was romancing.
" Because the SS had large dumps of captured Soviet guns and munitions in Poland and I could get hold of the stuff without it being missed."
Yes, I thought, that sounded likely enough.
" I also helped the Poles free Polish Resistance men from an SS prison," Nansen went on. "Other Poles I smuggled to Sweden by pretending they were agents of the SD. Later when I was arrested and imprisoned by the SD myself, my SS group got me out and the Poles, in their turn, smuggled me to Sweden by their own special escape route. That is why I am here. For in Stockholm the Poles introduced me to your intelligence and they flew me to Britain."
I checked his story with my Polish friends. It was perfectly true. He had sold them Soviet guns and ammunition. He had helped their men escape and they had passed him over to Sweden. But I still did not feel like bringing him to MB. For one thing, I did not know what effect contact with an SS man, even an allegedly repentant SS man, would have on some of my more emotional Jewish collaborators.
But I did take pity on Nansen sufficiently to give him a companion. I arranged for him to be joined at Paris House by Wolfgang von Putlitz, a German diplomat friend of mine from my Berlin days.* `Mr. Potts' as we called him was not much use to me at MB. He had been out of touch with Germany too long. For it was in the earliest days of the war that the SD had got wise to him. Putlitz, who had been passing information and documents to the British over a number of years, had been forced to flee helter-skelter from his post at the German embassy in the Hague and take refuge in Britain. C had passed him on to me. At MB he contributed the occasional item to Max Braun's daily list of suggestions for the Soldatensender. The rest of the time he lounged elegantly around the compound, cheering up the secretaries with the happy smile which at Berlin cocktail parties in the golden twenties had earned him that highest of Berlin's social accolades: `Er hat ein gutes Auftreten!' (He has a good presence.)
So to put his charm to better use I now sent Putlitz along to cheer up our SS man. Before he went I made him promise me not to talk about MB to Nansen, and not about Nansen to MB That was a waste of breath for both of us. For Putlitz gossiped to Nansen about everyone and everything he knew. Fortunately his knowledge was far from exhaustive. But it was enough for Nansen to try to `rehabilitate' himself, as he put it, by turning informer against the `worthless traitors and collaborators at MB', when he returned to Germany after the war.
In January 1950, Zech-Nenntwich, alias Dr. Nansen, was received by Chancellor Adenauer in a tete-a-tete audience at his Rhineside home in Rhendorf. For two hours Zech Nentwich sat with the old chancellor, so he boasted later, telling what he knew of the men who had worked with me, particularly of those who, like the Social Democrats, had become active in post-war Germany's political life and were now opposing Adenauer.
I am not really surprised that `Dr. Nansen's SS conscience' should have begun to prick him after the war. It must have been most galling for him to find his old SS comrades from the Gestapo and the SD trickling back into fat jobs with the new West German police and the multiplicity of security and espionage services that were springing up again in 1950. It is never pleasant for an opportunist to find he has backed the wrong side after all. But while he was at Paris House he collaborated most nobly and helped us, not only with his own broadcasts, but as a consultant on everything pertaining to the SS. He was invaluable for instance in the preparation of what was almost our last counterfeit-the forgery of a special series of moraleboosting propaganda sheets which Himmler was issuing to the units on the Western front. Himmler was now in overall command here and these leaflets were the idea of one of his bright boys among the young SS political commissars. To remedy the distrust of the ordinary German soldier in the ever optimistic propaganda of his own side `Scorpion', as he called himself, was promising to tell them the full truth however bitter.
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View from the first floor balcony over the grounds at MB