Undermining Hitler (Part Two of Three)

Continued from Part One

To establish the credibility of the Gustav Siegfried Eins broadcasts and to win as many German listeners as possible, Delmer and his team had "Der Chef" indulge in as much Allied-bashing as possible.   Winston Churchill was often referred to as "flat-footed bastard of a drunken old Jew" which helped reassure audiences about the broadcaster's political leanings.  The curmudgeonly Chef was also enthusiastic in supporting the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union and followed up by advocating a "cleaning-up campaign" aimed at the hidden Bolsheviks in the Nazi party itself.     As the Soviet invasion dragged on and the true body count became known, Gustav Siegfried Eins became required listening for millions of Germans who listened to the broadcasts blaming all setbacks on corruption in the German high command.

The point of Delmer's broadcasts was to undermine confidence in the Nazi party any way he could.  In his own words, "if we could blacken these men in the eyes of the German public as a venal and slothful privilegentsia which demanded everything from the common man, but made no sacrifices itself, why then we would have struck a mortal blow at a vital nerve of German[y]'s war morale.  Not only that, we would be giving the ordinary German a splendid excuse for any falling short in his own devotion to duty."   This included spreading numerous rumours of Nazi party members taking advantage of their privileged position to stockpile textiles and other luxuries that were otherwise denied the average German. 

While stories of the terrible suffering of German soldiers on the Eastern front began leaking back home, Delmer's broadcasts included laments about "brave soldiers freezing to death" and blamed it on traitorous war profiteers delaying the production of winter uniforms to line their own pockets.  In railing against these traitors sabotaging the war effort, the broadcasts were filled with accusations of soldiers who were malingering or otherwise goofing off.  The intriguing thing about these accusations was that they contained broad hints about how listeners could do the same thing.   This kind of "operational propaganda" - basically persuading listeners to act against their country's interests - was very much Sefton Delmer's trademark.

Another way of undermining the confidence of the German people in their leaders was known as the “phony nurse ploy.” Upon learning about the date and time of a German soldier’s death, British forgers promptly prepared a letter that appeared to have been written by a nurse who had been present when the soldier died. In this letter, which was covertly mailed to surviving family members, the nurse told them that the soldier had certain valuables in his possession which he asked to be sent to family.   The nurse would then state that she had personally handed the gifts over to Nazi officials to be sent home as requested.   When the non-existent valuables fail to turn up, family members were left with the impression that Nazi officials were robbing their own dead soldiers. This added to rumours of government corruption that further weakened civilian morale.  

Sefton Delmer’s anti-Nazi propaganda efforts went to often-bizarre lengths to portray Adolf Hitler as evil and perverted. One Jewish refugee, who happened to be a talented artist, later described her own experiences with Delmer’s team.   On her first day with the PWE, she was shown a picture postcard of Hitler in Lederhosen sitting with his hands in his lap with the words “Was wir haben, halten wir" (What we have we hold).    She was then told to draw a penis in Hitler's hands but not to make it "too large." 

Delmer also directed a covert radio station named "Christ The King" which was purportedly run by an Austrian Roman Catholic priest.   The broadcasts from this station focused on Nazi atrocities directed against Jews throughout occupied Europe and also dealt with what was happening in the Nazi concentration camps.  The one supposedly making the broadcasts was identified only as a "priest" named "Father Andreas."   According to rumours spread by Delmer and his team, the hidden station was actually run by the Catholic Church as a way of undermining the Nazi propaganda effort.   The implication that the Catholic Church was secretly opposed to Adolf Hitler and his Nazi machine was especially damning given that Hitler was himself a Catholic.

Another successful Delmer project was Deutsche Kurzwellensender Atlantik.(German Short-Wave Radio Atlantic), a station specifically aimed at the crew of German U-boats.  Since these submarines were routinely cut off from Germany for long periods of time, the crews were often forced to rely on news from foreign stations to catch them up on what was happening at home.   Thisstation, known as Atlantiksender for short, provided authentic-sounding news broadcasts including German military music and human interest stories aimed at German soldiers overseas.  The star announcer was a fictional soldier's sweetheart named Vicky who shared her fears about her boyfriend's safety along with her announcements.   The broadcasts also contained subtle propaganda in the form of rumours about the good treatment prisoners of war received in British and American concentration camps.  Some even hinted that prisoners were earning large amounts of money working in these camps.  Much like Gustave Siegfried Eins, the broadcasts also contained "helpful hints" about ways that soldiers could delay or even sabotage operations to make their lives easier. While the German high command quickly recognized that these broadcasts were British propaganda, there was no way to stop their U-boat crew from listening.

And both sides soon took notice of what Delmer's team was doing.    As the Nazis began planning Operation Sea Lion as part of their plan to occupy Great Britain and make it part of the Third Reich, Sefton Delmer's name was placed on the list of British citizens subject to arrest once the Nazis took over.   Josef Goebbels,, Adolf Hitlers own propaganda chief, found himself having to deal with the political fallout from the broadcasts and wrote in his private diary that the covert radio station run by Delmer's team "does a very clever job of propaganda and from what is put on the air one can gather that the English know exactly what they have destroyed and what not."  High praise indeed from a master of the Big Lie.  Even Britain's allies were confused at first about "Der Chef's" radio broadcasts and American agents in Berlin began reporting back to Washington on what they were hearing.  Apparently, the British high command only let the Americans in on the secret in 1942 after the U.S. formally entered the war against Germany. 

Ironically, because of the difficulty with radio reception even with short-wave radio, stations such as Atlantiksender were the only way many German soldiers could get any news about what was happening back home.   In Germany however, the penalty for being caught listening to foreign radio broadcasts grew increasingly severe as the tide turned against the Nazis.  Since people in occupied Germany quickly learned not to trust the optimistic news broadcasts they were getting from "official" sources, they came to depend more and more on the foreign broadcasts.  

To ensure their word was reaching Europe, Sefton Delmer's team took advantage of one of the most powerful radio transmitters then available.  A 500,000 watt radio built by RCA had been crated up and transported to Sussex, England to allow the British propaganda team to reach ordinary radio sets all over occupied territory.  Since they operated on a frequency close to to the German national "home service", there was no way to block ordinary citizens from hearing news that the German high command preferred they not know about.   

With the Allied invasion and the war turning against Germany, the impact Delmer's message was having on the German people became more important than ever.  More on that next week.

To be continued




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