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G9 Deutscher Kurzwellensender Atlantik Black radio station: Object, Method and Effect

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Research Unit G.9 was Sefton Delmer's most ambitious clandestine radio station. Shortwave Sender Atlantik was originally formed in collaboration with the Naval Intelligence Department to attack the morale of German U-boat crews operating in the North Atlantic. The first broadcast went out on 22nd March 1943. It's remit soon expanded to appeal to the whole German Wehrmacht with special programmes for the Luftwaffe and Army added later. Unlike other black radio stations, G.9 was broadcast live. Extensive use of dance music was used to provide popular entertainment with news flashes and sports news interleaved. From 14th November 1943, Atlantik was relayed on Europe's most powerful medium-wave transmitter, codenamed Aspidistra, under the call sign of Soldatensender Calais. The Soldatensender also played a valuable part in the Operation Overlord deception campaign. Following the D-day landings and the Allied advance through France, the medium-wave broadcasts were renamed Soldatensender West and continued until 30th April 1945. The following Political Warfare Executive report is an appraisal of the object, method and effect of Atlantik written before the advent of Soldatensender Calais.

Object

To undermine the morale of the German armed forces in Western Europe - particularly of the U-boat crews operating in the Atlantic - by creating alarm in their minds regarding conditions at home, by unsettling their faith in their arms and equipment and in their leaders, by rationalising bad discipline and performance of military duty, and wherever possible by encouraging actual desertion.

The general line is to win the confidence and the interest of the German Services listener by presenting him with informative news of current events and with pleasant entertainment in the form of good dance music - such as he is no longer given by the Reich Radio.

Apart from its established popularity with Services listeners, there is growing volume of evidence that the station also has gained a wide circle of listeners both inside Germany and in Sweden and Switzerland - the Swiss paper Weltwoche of the 27th August [1943] even described it as a "source of information playing a role hardly less important than that of our own press and Swiss radio" - and the station may therefore be regarded as exerting a considerable influence on the German Home front as well.

Method

"Atlantik" is on the air without intermission from 18.30 to 08.00 hours British Summer Time. The most noteworthy feature of its technique of presentation is that it plays recorded dance music continuously, with short interruptions for "features" and news flashes and longer ones lasting 15 to 20 minutes for full news bulletins.

News bulletins consist of reports from the front, from inside Germany and from Germany's allies, together with items of special interest to service men, and they include information taken straight from the official German news agencies as well as material slightly "doctored" for subversive purposes and items which are out-and-out, but nevertheless plausible, inventions. In addition to straight news a number of human interest stories as well as expertly written sports bulletins are constantly introduced for cover purposes. Useful cover has also been obtained by pretending to hook up between 04.00 and 07.00 hours with the Soldatensender "Mittlemeer", an official German station broadcasting from the Balkans. Every item used is given as a plain statement of fact without comment, and no viewpoint is expressed except in the special naval talks (averaging one a day) in which the attitude of the speaker is merely that of a man defending the interests of the ordinary seaman. Regular "features" include talks warning U-boat crews against certain reckless and otherwise incompetent commanders, naval greetings and reports of air raid damage street by street in German towns affected by Allied bombing. The last names are always followed by reference to the German High Command order entitling members of the Armed Forces to compassionate leave if they have received news that their homes have been bombed.

The entire programme is broadcast "live", even during the night, and this enables the station to offer its listeners an up-to-the-minute news service which often "scoops" the official Reich Radio (as for example on the bombing of Ploesti and the evacuation of Smolensk, both of which came through shortly before 07.00 in the morning).

At the moment "Atlantik" has ten different announcer voices, as well as six compères. These voices are, in view of the station's main audience, predominantly North German, although additional Bavarian and Austrian voices have been used when special features have demanded it.

There is close coordination between rumours put out by "Atlantik" and those of other Black stations. Stories carried by "Atlantik" have been "picked up" by Balkan and Italian stations and vice versa, and "Atlantik" has also been used to launch a new line which has been subsequently taken up and developed more fully by the others - as for example the current Bulgarian line that the Nazis are making plans to educate the new King in Germany and thereby keep him and Bulgaria under German influence.

The same two-way coordination has been maintained between "Atlantik" and the German leaflets. Reports first put out by "Atlantik" have later been given further circulation as leaflets and leaflets issued first have been referred to and quoted in "Atlantik" news items as soon as their circulation inside Germany has been established. The station and the leaflet department have worked particularly closely together in furthering both the malingering and the desertion campaigns.

Effect

Reception is good in the Mediterranean, with no jamming, and in the Atlantic the station can usually be heard well, though jamming is strong in certain areas. There is also evidence that the station can be heard fairly well as far away as Salvador, 5,000 miles from Europe, whilst its popularity in Sweden and Switzerland suggests that it can easily be listened to on ordinary sets both in Northern and in Central Europe.

A Chief Interrogating Officer, recently responsible for the interrogation of some 200 prisoners of war in North Africa, has stated: "Considering the short time that Atlantik has been operating, it seems to have acquired a surprisingly large audience in the German Army and to be already exerting considerable influence." One of the POWs in question even referred to it as the "most listened-to station" (meist gehörter Sender). The German press has of late taken to answering specific "Atlantik" rumours which it admits to be circulating within the Reich. It has for example denied the truth regarding the behaviour of, and the attitude of the authorities towards, German evacuees, as well as "Atlantik" accounts of recent events in Italy, while DNB has had to issue a long statement to refute a number of "Atlantik" items about the financial difficulties into which the rapidly rising German death-rate is plunging the German Insurance Companies. The new Chief of the German Storm Troops, Shepmann, has also gone out of his way publicly to repudiate an "Atlantik" suggestion that he is planning to form a Waffen-SA in opposition to the existing Waffen-SS. Several Swedish newspapers are now taking "Atlantik's" news service regularly.

Prisoners of war have paid tribute to the quality and popularity of "Atlantik's" musical programmes. Several have expressed admiration for the cleverness of its use of cover, some saying that if an officer entered the room during an Atlantik news bulletin listeners were able to prove that they sincerely believed it to be an ordinary German station.

[Source British National Archives file: FO 898/51]



 

 

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