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Policy and Methods of Black Propaganda against Germany

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Copy No. 12

Psychological Warfare Division

10 November 1944

TO:                         G-3, S.H.A.E.F.



1. The essential feature of black propaganda is the effort made to conceal its source. "Black" does not merely mean dirty, underhand, secret, pornographic or unofficial, although all those ephithets apply to it in one way or another. Black means that the German mind is approached through a deception and through elaborately sustained fictions, calculated to throw it off its guard and to appeal to selfish, disloyal, individualist motives in the individual.

2. The second outstanding feature of black propaganda is that it is conducted in secret and therefore can be, and is, disavowed. When the Swiss Minister complained to the Foreign Office that Germans were being encouraged to desert to his country by the propaganda of SOLDATENSENDER CALAIS, the Foreign Office were obliged to disavow responsibility for this pirate programme.

3. The main difference between the black technique and white, official, truth-telling technique is best illustrated as follows: White propaganda can achieve results by saying to the Germans: "We, the B.B.C. in London or S.H.A.E.F. in Luxemburg, tell you not to obey the Nazi evacuation orders". Black propaganda also achieves results by reporting that numerous persons have refused to evacuate and have successfully got away with their disobedience by this or that ruse. White presents an official view of behalf of the "enemy" and sticks to the ascertained facts; Black invents the facts, spreads rumours through news and tries to rationalise all the furtive misgivings and remnants of individualism in the "dirty dog" inside every German. Black can even mobilise patriotic motives against the evacuation order.

4. Black propaganda can also stage stunts. At any time, given the intelligence, the psychological moment and the technical facilities black propaganda can put out a wireless programme, or a leaflet or a series of rumours or a single sensational broadcast, in which the first intention is to deceive. Alarmed and confused behaviour will be caused in the enemy not only by the nature of the news but also by the fact that it appears to come from an authoritative source. The deception, and therefore also the security surrounding the operation, are of the first importance.

5. For a successful, bold and comprehensive black operation, such as has never yet been attempted, it is necessary to deceive foe and friend alike. The deceit must be allowed to work on official propaganda and Allied newspapers, without any indication that they are being fooled. For example, if by an intruder operation it is announced on an official German wireless channel that Hitler is dead, it is necessary for the success of the deception that the world press and our white propaganda carry the news as from a German source, German denials must be disregarded and many important persons left in the dark.

6. The effort of skill and organisation needed to maintain such a deception for any time is great. Slight mistakes in details and current language, careless handling, technical hitches will give away eventually a sustained programme or a series of leaflets. But it is possible to do covert, unofficial propaganda in which no serious attempt is made to maintain the pretence of "inside Germany’ though every effort is made to maintain a German approach to the news and comment, to maintain perfection of technique and the illusion of "being German" in the mind of the listener or reader. This type of propaganda has been christened "grey" and it is to the grey category that belong SOLDATENSENDER CALAIS and the daily newspaper for the troops [NACHRICHTEN]. Both are run by a unit responsible for genuine black output.

7. Generally speaking the pure black technique has been kept up our sleeves, so far as wireless is concerned. But a large number of forged documents and subversive leaflets of ostensibly German origin have been distributed with success. These have been "swallowed" by the neutral press and by the Allied press quoting it. There are important possibilities of black propaganda or "stunts" by wireless left open to us, and even greater possibilities by leaflet and forged papers. In the latter type of work the propaganda agencies operate with and through S.O.E. and O.S.S. with whom plans of production and distribution are drawn up.

8. One important reminder must be given before passing on to description of the media and methods of black and grey propaganda. It is advisable only to a limited extent to say on black things that cannot be said on white. Both types of propaganda work under the P.W.D. directive for policy so far as operations against Germany are concerned. Moreover, the Russian and French Governments are able to D/F black stations and to identify their country of origin. Any political line on black, diverging sharply from the white line, would be noted by our Allies. On the other hand, a quick, sensational operation by wireless could not be detected by them unless repeated at regular intervals.



To assist military operations by softening the spirit of resistance among German fighting men and civilians, by encouraging motives of local and individual self-interest at the expense of national and Party loyalties, and by stimulating action in conflict with German military interests.




a) SOLDATENSENDER WEST (formerly SOLDATENSENDER CALAIS/ATLANTIC) broadcasts nightly for 12 hours a continuous programme of news from the war fronts and from inside Germany, with talks and special news for the Services and records of jazz and light music. The programme goes out on the medium-wave transmitter ASPIDISTRA of exceptional power and also on short wave transmitters. It has a widespread and established audience in the German fighting services and among German civilians. Accurate and exclusive news, inside information based on intelligence, half truths and fictions are used in combination to achieve subversive effect.

b) OPPOSITION S.S. STATION. This broadcasts intermittently on short wave. It purports to present the point of view of an opposition movement within the Waffen S.S. which is active in Germany.

c) CHRIST THE KING STATION broadcasts nightly four half-hour programmes of serious music, interspersed with prayers, sermons, readings from the Bible and reflections. The station presents a priest expressing on Austrian Catholic point of view, opposed to Godless National Socialism,  with the object of rationalising on religious grounds non-cooperation with the German war effort.

d) Other programmes in preparation.


With the news and comment adapted from the material provided for SOLDATENSENDER WEST, a four-page illustrated newspaper for the German troops (NACHRICHTEN FUER DIE TRUPPE) is produced nightly between mid-night and 0600. This is dropped within the next 18 hours in special leaflet bombs over selected targets in and behind the German lines. Whenever possible, the newspaper is also dropped in daylight over targets inside Germany or behind the German lines. The daily distribution aimed at in coming weeks is two million. Targets are selected in consultation with S.H.A.E.F. and the Army Groups.


a) Balloons despatched hitherto from the United Kingdom (but shortly to be despatched from Belgium) and agents operating behind the enemy lines are used to distribute in the German front line and inside Germany subversive leaflets of ostensibly German origin, counterfeit documents, stickers with agitatory slogans and handbooks giving instructions on malingering, desertion and other forms of defeatist behaviour. Some black leaflets now in preparation or distribution are described briefly below.

b) The latest black leaflet operation is to counterfeit "SCORPION" leaflets which have been dropped by German aircraft to their own troops in the West. These leaflets purport to answer questions asked by Front soldiers. The answers are given in forceful, dramatic style, calling on the men to show a do-or-die spirit. The counterfeit leaflets being distributed by Allied aircraft are written in the same style but include subversive suggestions that desertion has become easier, that soldiers and N.C.O.’s are shooting their officers and getting away with it, and that it is the High Command’s intention to scorch every foot of German earth.

c) Small leaflets bearing defeatist slogans which look like the work of organised movements inside Germany have been stuck up on walls and hoardings behind the German lines.

d) In various pocket disguises such as Protestant hymn books, diaries for the soldier, military handbooks and song books, expert and detailed instructions on malingering and desertion have been widely distributed.

e) In envelopes made up to resemble Party propaganda handouts we disseminate among the troops in the West Wall area desertion kits consisting of forged passes, discharge sheets and travel vouchers enabling soldiers to travel home.

f) In Norway and in parts of the Western Front instructions on desertion have been distributed. These bear a small red circle suggesting the existence of an organisation to help deserters.


Forged ration cards, leave passes and other material likely to strain and confuse the German police and administrative machinery are distributed in Germany. Counterfeits of German publications for the troops similar to our own ABCA have been circulated. Further posters, stickers and hand-bills are in preparation.


All the media mentioned carry rumours of an operational kind. They will increasingly be circulated by agents and civilians.



i) Naval, military and air intelligence for use in black operations is obtained through liaison officers or through direct contact with Service Departments, S.H.A.E.F. and Army Groups. The method and form of use are discussed with officers of Operations and Intelligence Divisions.

ii) Political and economic intelligence is collected from the secret agencies, from the German press and by intelligent deduction from German news and propaganda.

iii) Friendly German prisoners of war collaborate as members of the propaganda units in providing guidance on language, procedure, local background, personalities.



i) During and since operation OVERLORD the main task of black propaganda has been to concentrate the attention of the German soldier on the enemy within (Party authorities) rather than on the enemy without. It has emphasised throughout the military disasters in the East; the growing weakness of German war production under stress of bombing, blockade and unnecessary call-up; the impotence of the German Air Force over the battlefield and the homeland, the breakdown of authority, in particular police authority, and the consequently increasing ease with which the law can safely be defied.

ii) Policy may be divided into long-term and short-term policies.

a) Long-term planning is based on fundamental assumptions about the behaviour which it is wished to stimulate in German fighting men and civilians of both sexes. The directive is applied through a number of themes which appear persistently in the handling of day-to-day news and comment. Through news items and stories there is the constant suggestion that those in authority both at the Front and in Germany behave in selfish, defeatist and inefficient ways and get away with it. Through news and comment in talks and articles there is a constant effort to present excuses for inefficiency, faintheartedness and alarmist talk, evasion of discipline and responsibility, substitution of personal and family loyalties for devotion to Party and State. Inequality of sacrifice as between the ordinary man and the privileged Party bureaucracy is a leading theme.

The military situation of the last two months, with a German Army standing on its own frontier in proximity to civilian influences has enabled particular attention to be given to the interplay of civilian and military factors.

b) Short-term planning aims firstly at supporting current and impending military operations; secondly, at stimulating and exploiting crises inside Germany (Army v. Party, Army v. SS); thirdly at preparing a state of mind in the German public likely to enhance the demoralising effect of some operation of which we have advance knowledge. Thus when we were told that Americans would shortly be bombing Germany from Russian bases we ran a campaign showing how German industry was being moved to "safe" Eastern areas.

iii) Deception and confusion in the German General Staff can be created because of the unique status of SOLDATENSENDER WEST, which is known by the enemy to be exceptionally well-informed and at the same time misleading. Moreover, as an unofficial station, disowned by His Majesty’s Government, it can make military and political statements the authenticity of which can be judged by the Germans only with great difficulty. For example, if our wireless programmes suggest that the Super-Fortress B.29 is to be used against Germany, German Intelligence has the choice of two interpretations; either there is no intention to use those aircraft against Germany and our propaganda is bluffing; or it is intended to use them and our propaganda has been instructed to create preliminary anxiety in the German public.

iv) In consultation with G.2 and G.3 S.H.A.E.F. plans have been made to exploit imminent military operations in the West. Quick and extensive success in these operations would offer to black propaganda the opportunity to spread alarming military news, rumours and confusing instructions to thickly populated districts of Germany in the path of an Allied advance. If P.W.D. is advised that a winter campaign is to be expected, propaganda will be directed as before according to the principles described in Para. F(ii) above.



1. The main effort of black propaganda will be devoted to presenting, distorting and interpreting day to day news from the fronts and from inside Germany, following the general directives given by P.W.D. and other divisions of S.H.A.E.F. According to the opportunities offered by military operations, special leaflet and wireless projects will be undertaken in cooperation with S.O.E. and O.S.S. Possible methods and objectives are outlined below.

2. Objectives will be:

a) To stimulate among German fighting men and special occupational groups of civilians ways of thinking and behaving which should assist the work of G.4 and G.5, as the Allied advance into Germany makes progress. Special targets are the miners of the Ruhr, farmers, petty officials, priests, and women with families.

b) To discourage evacuation, execution of a scorched earth policy and the movement of supplies away from the threatened areas of western Germany.

c) To encourage contact and cooperation between fighting men and civilians now frowned on by the military authorities – for such purposes as desertion, resistance to Party orders, hoarding and other defeatist activities.

d) To combat through counterfeit documents and news German official resistance propaganda to troops and civilians, e.g. the Scorpion leaflets now being dropped on their own troops.

e) To increase the strain on the German police system by supporting such special operations as BRADDOCKS, and the propaganda campaign on foreign workers.

g) To support any military or special operations with new weapons or devices by creating expectancy by exploiting their initial effects through rumours.



Black propaganda operates above all by presenting and interpreting the daily news in a subversive manner. It can enhance the effect of important military operations by increasing their shock and surprise effect on the German public. By the use of leaflets and agents, and by joint operations with S.O.E. and O.S.S. it can help to spread subversive ideas and material. It can support the operations of the armed forces and special agencies if its contribution is considered in the early stages of planning. But black propaganda cannot on its own achieve decisive effects except in some sensational news operation against the enemy in which it is agreed that friend and foe alike shall be deceived.

Brigadier General, G.S.C.,
Chief, Psychological Warfare Division


[Source: TNA WO 229/57, transcribed by]



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