The story of the World War 2 Secret British Black Propaganda Operations against the Nazis


Black Propaganda : Sefton Delmer

ON MAY 23, 1941, a few German civilians and soldiers, twisting the knobs of their radios, suddenly heard in German ,"Here is Gustav Siegfried Eins" repeated several times, followed by "Calling Gustav Siegfried Eighteen." Then came a message in a very easily decipherable code apparently directing one underground agent to meet another, then, in clear German, a diatribe against Hitler's deputy, Hess, who had recently flown his plane solo to Scotland on what appeared to be a private peace mission, and against "that flatfooted bastard of a drunken Jew Churchill.".

This was the beginning of Britain's fantastic "Black Propaganda Radio" operation which, for the duration of World War 2, broadcast under such names as Soldatensender Calais and Atlantiksender messages to the troops and the civilian public of Germany purporting to come from within Germany itself, loyally German, thoroughly anti-British but also completely anti war. Through these broadcasts, which created and built up the myth of the "good" anti-Nazi Wehramacht, the german war effort was perceptibly weakened.

In fact all of the broadcasts came from a station in Britain whose chief, Sefton Delmer, an experienced journalist, had grown up in Germany, spoke the language fluently, and had access to detailed reports of conditions inside Germany from British Intelligence, reports of bomber crews, captured German soldiers, etc. For years even after the end of World War 2 the entire operation remained a closely guarded secret. But with the clear revival of authoritarian nationalistic tendencies in Germany backed by the myth of the "good" Wehrmacht which the "Black Radio" did so much to create, Delmer broke silence in an attempt to counteract it by telling the whole exciting story of the World War 2 operation of which he was the director. It is a fascinating story of ingenious propaganda of a kind which made that of Goebbel's seem crude and adolescent.

It would be difficult to imagine a combination of circumstance better calculated to fit a man for an important task than that which preceded Sefton Delmer's appointment as director of Britain's"Black Radio" program during world war 2. Born in berlin in 1904, the son of an Australian father who was a lecturer in English and English literature at Berlin University, Delmer learned to speak German almost before he could speak English. He went to German schools, and took part in German life as naturally as the son of a Berliner of several generations. Sefton Delmer left Germany for England in 1917. In 1927, after his graduation from Oxford, he joined his parents in Berlin as a teacher of English and a freelance correspondent for british newspapers. The following year he was in charge of Beaverbrook's Daily Express Berlin office. As the representative of an influential British newspaper, Delmer had access to the leaders of the Nationalist Socialist Party, and became acquainted with Goring, Goebbel's Himmler, and Hitler.

After the outbreak of World War 2 Delmer was a war correspondent in europe until the fall of Paris. It is not surprising that the Germans remembering his close association with the leaders of the Nazi Party, should have suspected that he was a British spy, or that the British, with the same knowledge and memory of his German background, should have suspected him of being a German agent. But with the British suspicion cleared away he was obviously the man to head Britain's World War 2 "Black Propaganda" operation.

At the end of World War 2, Delmer was awarded an OBE and returned to journalism. As Chief Foreign Affairs reporter of the London Daily Express, He has traveled to almost every country. In June 1962 Delmer was invited to lecture here at the United states Army's psychological warfare school at Fort Bragg. he has had one other Book published in England: Trail Sinister, a volume of his prewar memoirs.

(This foreword is from the dust jacket of the American edition of Black Boomerang by Sefton Delmer Published in 1962 by The Viking Press Inc.)

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Sefton Delmer in East Berlin 1962
Sefton Delmer in East Berlin 1962


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