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In an attempt to ascertain the effects of its clandestine psychological warfare, the Political Warfare Executive routinely monitored neutral and enemy media looking for comment and reaction to its radio broadcasts, underground rumour-mongering and leaflets. The comments of enemy prisoners of war, captured documents and other intelligence sources were also studied. Any comebacks to PWE propaganda campaigns were circulated to interested parties through the following "Evidence of Reception" reports.
PWE Intelligence Series
Ref: L 1129
24th January, 1944
Gustav Siegfried Eins
Another German opportunist has come forward, claiming to be associated with GS1. This man writing from Uruguay to New York asserts that "to some extent I have collaborated actively with this secret transmitter". He also states that GS does not stand for Geheim Sender but for General Staff, GS also being the initials of the murdered General Schleicher.
According to a reliable report the Chef's attack on Alfieri (put out January 1943) caused a considerable stir. When the Italian Air Attaché in Berlin went back to Rome, the first thing he was asked was whether it was true that Alfieri had been surprised in a lady's bedroom and thrown out by her irate husband.
Intercepted letters dated October 13th, 15th and 16th from a Haytain firm to a firm in New York state that the German clandestine radio has denounced as a Nazi spy the former Councillor of the Haytian Legation, Arpad Plesch. (This story was put out by GS1 on 9th September, 10th October and 13th October).
A reliable Finnish source, visiting his legation in Berlin in November, reports that GS1 and Atlantik are listened to by an ever-increasing number of German civilians.
Various other reports of listening have come in from prisoners of war.
Atlantik and Calais
There has been another crop of reports from prisoners of war. Of several U-boat men who had listened to Calais, one believed it to be a French station for German soldiers. Another prisoner of war has stated that he knows of two Commanding Officers in the U-boat service who keep careful notes of what Calais says about officers under their command. A naval prisoner of war who was in the military hospital at Nantes last summer said that the ten men in his ward listened in to Atlantik regularly every evening. They were not afraid of being caught as they kept the set turned low.
A German soldier captured in North Africa had listened to Atlantik, and also to GS1, which he had heard in Corfu, though with difficulty. He was not certain of GS1's origin, but was sure Atlantik was an English station because "every station which transmits regularly must come from a foreign country, otherwise it would soon be discovered".
Among eight airmen recently captured all had heard Atlantik or Calais. Some had listened at their base near Brussels, where the jamming was so bad that the talks were often unintelligible. Orders had been issued to all ranks not to listen to Calais as it was a British station, on pain of solitary confinement on bread and water. Little notice had been taken of this order; some of the crew had even listened in the air, on short waves.
The sole survivor of a crew from Eindhoven in Holland reported reception there was excellent. He thought the music the best on the air and was deeply depressed by the universality of our knowledge. Another airman from Istres in Southern France said that "this British station" made a very clever mixture of genuine German news and subversive news, which everyone was listening to despite official orders expressly forbidding them to do so.
The Swiss Radio Journal (20th November) devotes an article to black stations. In Switzerland it is possible to listen with ease to some twenty different ones, almost all of them working against the Axis. They only one mentioned by name is Atlantik, to which it pays a number of tributes. "How cunning this transmitter, directed from London, is, Swiss listeners occasionally experience when Atlantik attempts to cause confusion amongst us... But what must be the reaction of German listeners when Atlantik puts out much that is true and confirmable with whispers which are sheer bluff? ...The Anglo-Saxons in point of artfulness are many horses' lengths ahead and have out stripped the 35 German shortwave stations in point of world propaganda".
The German propaganda machine has found it necessary on several occasions to refute or denounce stories put out by Atlantik both to its home listeners and to those abroad. The German Telegraph Service (17th December) and the German Overseas Service (21st December) took the trouble to deny statements which had in fact been originated by Atlantik. Even more significant was Hans Fritzsche's attack on Calais (8th January) without mentioning it by name. He accused the BBC of feeding "its illegal children, the camouflaged propaganda radios" with fictitious morsels. He quoted two stories, which in fact were not Calais's, and then seven which were.
Although this station started as recently as 11th December and has only been on the air a few times, a report was received at the end of the month that it had been heard abroad and that it was thought to be the voice of a high-up German army officer. It had also been spotted by FCC in America on 21st December, who described it as anti-Himmler and pro-Wehrmacht. Reception was said to be poor to fair in the afternoons.
A report has been received of an excellent piece of work in connection with the "Front de la Faim" campaign. A special supplement to "Terre et Nation" on this theme was introduced into the latest number of this periodical in the Belgian Ministry of Agriculture.
Special leaflets in German have also been distributed in the barracks at Namur. As a result, the Germans arrested two officers, suspected of anti-Nazi sympathies, on the suspicions that they were the guilty parties.
Clandestine newspapers continue to make full use of the blocks sent over for them.
The Himmler postage stamp has had considerable publicity this month. It arose from the arrival in Switzerland of a letter franked with this stamp and postmarked Stuttgart 23rd September 1943. An article appeared on it in the National Zeitung, Basle (22nd December) and also in the Berner Briefmarken Zeitung. The Daily Telegraph (1st January) under a Zurich dateline reports that the German radio had announced that a batch of these stamps, not yet in circulation, had been stolen from the Stuttgart GPO. Swiss philatelists were said to have paid as much as £35 for a copy.
The Swedish magazine Vecko Journalen has given a complimentary write-up to one of the editions of the malingering booklet. The writer says he received his copy from a member of the German armed forces and describes it as "a malingering handbook for war-weary soldiers and workmen". He praises the thoroughness of this little publication camouflaged as a harmless French-German dictionary.
A copy of the Frankfurter Zeitung leaflet has been found circulating in Denmark.
An interesting report of late August declares that the widespread dissemination of leaflets is an indication of poor morale. Since January 1943 a special unit of the secret police has been employed in tracing the writers and disseminators of them. So far two printing presses have been discovered and 100 people, German and foreign, have been sentenced.
[Source: TNA HS 6/696, transcribed by www.psywar.org]