Black Boomerang - Chapter Six - Sefton Delmer

THAT was the beginning of it, the beginning of the trail , that was to see the building up of a powerful new weapon of Psychological Warfare, the legend of which I would find reverberating in Germany long after the war was over.

But as I sat down in my austere little office to think out a scheme for the new R.U. I was utterly without any sense of this. What I did feel was that the German service of the B.B.C. as it was being put over at this time, had got itself into a groove, and a bad and unprofitable groove at that. The German news bulletins, edited by my colleague Hugh Carlton Greene, the former Berlin correspondent of the Daily Telegraph, were right enough. They were straightforward and-with some lapses owing to carelessness or credulity-accurate.

But the talks were terrible. They sounded like emigres talking to emigres or, as I used to say at the time, like Maida Vale calling Hampstead, not like London calling Berlin. They were addressed not to the mass ' of Germans who supported Hitler and his war of aggression, but to the infinitesimal few who wanted to lose it. To the ordinary German they were bound to sound like arid enemy propaganda and would be dismissed as such.

I had therefore been urging that the B.B.C. at this stage of the war should go all out to build up its reputation in Germany as a reliable source of news; that it should concentrate on well and clearly written news bulletins, on talks containing information 1 rather than views, and interpretation of information rather than comment.

Argument, I suggested, should be kept to a minimum - and appeals eliminated altogether. But it was useless. The B.B.C.Went on just as before. An analysis of the B.B.C. talks in German between October the 26th, 1941 and December the 6th, 1941 shows that 'Ideological humanitarian appeal' constituted 21 per cent of the output, `argument' took up 32 per cent, that 12 per cent of the talks assumed a friendly audience of anti-Nazi pacifists and 35 per cent looked forward to `revolution or active opposition'.

In my view, all this attempt to convert the Germans to rebellion against Hitler by argument and appeal was a waste of breath and electric power. The Germans, I was convinced, would only begin to listen and react to that sort of thing when they had realised that the war was lost and that it was better for them to abandon Hitler than to fight on. To stimulate the Germans into thoughts and actions hostile to Hitler before this stage had been reached they would have to be tricked.

Trickery and deception however was a task which lay right outside what it was possible or desirable for the B.B.C. to undertake. A new weapon of psychological warfare was needed for this purpose. Perhaps the new R.U., I thought, could make a first experimental probing in this direction. In much the same way as the commando raids being carried out at this time against the coast of Norway and France seemed to be a probing experiment with a new technique of amphibious assault. In analogy to `Black Magic', `Black Mass', and `Black Market' my friends and I called this new psychological attack `Black Propaganda'.

There had, of course been `Black Propaganda' and `Black Radio' broadcasts against Hitler before this. In the early years of the Third Reich I had sometimes listened to the `Secret Transmitter' which the ex-Nazi Rudolf Formis operated from the garret of an inn at Zahori in Czechoslovakia-until on the night of the 23rd of January, 1935 a murder squad of SS men crossed the nearby Frontier and shot Formis down.

Then, in the Autumn of 1939 I had heard another `Freedom Radio'. It was operated for the French Government from a j transmitter just outside Paris by Willy Munzenberg,* the Communist propaganda genius who had so brilliantly faked up the legend that the Nazis had lit the Reichstag fire. Miinzenberg himself had let me into the secret of his `Freedom Station' one evening as we dined together in a private room at the La Perouse restaurant in Paris.

The Formis Station, like Munzenberg's `Freedom Radio', Neubeginn's `European Revolution', and the other British station which had closed down, all had one thing in common. They were straightforward opposition radios, appealing to the German people to rise against Hitler, denouncing the war, vaunting the strength of the allies, and generally behaving like an enemy propaganda broadcast, except that where the B.B.C. said `you Germans' they said `we Germans'. As I thought about the station I was to run, I decided that a new approach was needed.

" I think we should try out a new type of `Black Radio' on the Germans," I suggested to Leonard, when I went to talk things over with him again, "one that undermines Hitler, not by opposing him, but by pretending to be all for him and his war."

The idea obviously appealed to Leonard. He asked me to elaborate. I said that with a super patriotic platform for the new station we ought to be able to get across all manner of subversive rumour stories under a cover of nationalist patriotic cliches. I told him how Hitler had once said to me: `there is an inner pigdog in every man'

." We must appeal to the `inner pigdog' inside every German in the name of his highest patriotic ideals," I said, "give him a patriotic reason for doing what he would like to do from selfinterest, talk to him about his Fuhrer and his Fatherland and all that sort of thing, and at the same time inject some item of news into his mind which will make him think, and if possible act, in a way that is contrary to the efficient conduct of Hitler's war." We would have to be told of course, I added, what our people at the top actually wanted the Germans to do.

" I think you are on the right lines all right," said Leonard. "Get that paper written though, and stop gassing. And don't forget to include my little slogan among your campaigns." "Which one?" "You can't bomb a currency," Leonard intoned like a priest chanting the credo, "but you can destroy it with whispers." A few days later I put up my paper. Rex Leeper* the top boss of my department minuted it: "A novel and promising idea. Please go ahead with all speed."

Dick Crossman also approved. Such was the basic formula for this first `Black Radio' I was now designing, and by and large this psychological judo which exploited the impetus of the enemy's own ideological preaching to turn it against him was to remain the prescription for almost all our German `Black Radio' campaigns that followed.

One other break with tradition I planned for this new unit: the broadcasts should not sound as though they were addressed to the public. I remembered the way I had sometimes found myself listening to the salty conversations of ships' captains talking over the radio telephone at sea. I would try to make the German listener believe that he was eavesdropping in much the same way on radio talk not intended for his ears. As he twiddled the knobs on his set, he would suddenly find himself tuned in to what sounded like the signals traffic of a clandestine military organisation sending cyphered instructions to its secret cells all over occupied Europe.

In between the cypher messages a die-hard of the old Prussian school would use the transmitter to give the members of the organisation his caustic and salaciously outspoken views of what was going on. Views, which while being spiced with plenty of inside information, would show him as loyal and devoted to the Fuhrer, but scathingly contemptuous of the `rabble' that had seized control of the Fatherland in the Fuhrer's name. The station, in fact, would seek to be a nightly demonstration of a growing split between the conservative elements of the army and the radicals of the Nazi Party.

To add a special touch of irony, I decided that the nameless leader should be introduced as `Der Chef'-the chief. For this -was the title by which I had heard the members of his immediate entourage refer to Hitler, as I travelled around Germany with him during 1932 and 1933. The station itself we would call `Gustav Siegfried Eins'-signallers German for George Sugar One-and leave it to the listener to decide what these cabalistic initials signified. Did they mean `Geheimsender 1' - Secret Transmitter 1 - or `Generalstab 1' - General Staff 1 ? Or perhaps, as Leonard Ingrams suggested, `Gurkensalat 1' - Cucumber Salad 1 ?

I had no idea, nor did anyone else. But we were soon to hear the most intriguing theories being reported back to us from Germany and elsewhere abroad. * He was robbed and murdered by a fellow refugee as they were fleeing from the Nazis in 1940

* Sir Reginald Leeper, G.B.E., later Ambassador to Greece, later still to the Argentine, today Director of De Beers Diamond Corporation and Chairman of their London Committees.

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POTSGROVE - photo 1986
POTSGROVE - photo 1986


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