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21 February 2018 at 12:50 pm
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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 1596
28th April, 1944
Atlantik and Calais
A most interesting report has been received from Ankara. It gives an accurate and detailed account of the programme "make-up" of Atlantik, and says that it is regularly listened to by the officials of the German Embassy, as well as by anti-Nazi Germans. Some of the German officials are said to believe that Atlantik is a genuine German station, though most think that it is British, and a few that it is Russian. Surprise is expressed that it is so much better informed than the BBC; not only is it more interesting, but its foreign news is more accurate. The writer winds up: "In my view, and from what I have been able to observe in German circles at Ankara, this is the finest possible propaganda both for Germans at and abroad".
There has been considerable correspondence for some weeks in the Swedish wireless paper Röster i Radio, arising out of an article in Dagens Nyheter which had stated that Atlantik was "illegal and not under German control". The views expressed on Atlantik's origin differ considerably, some correspondents being convinced of its "illegality", others thinking that it is a German propaganda station connected with Radio Metropole in Belgrade. The paper's own theory is that it was originally an illegal station which the Germans had located and taken over, and were now running for their own purposes.
The following interesting reaction comes from a censorship intercept. On 29th October Atlantik reported that personal belongings left behind at U-boat bases were being stolen when the owner had been posted as missing or killed, and gave the names of some victims of these thefts, amongst whom that of Ulrich Rahn. Rahn was captured, and his mother writing to him on 6th December tells him that the disappearance of his personal belongings which he left behind at his base has still not been cleared up. She goes on to say that she had heard from local friends "that the whole affair had been broadcast over the radio". This provides good evidence of listening by civilians in Mecklenburg.
There have been further reports from the Services. A Luftwaffe prisoner of war stated that his squadron never listened to Atlantik. Once or twice they had tuned in to it in error, "but no self-respecting German could listen to it". This somewhat pompous attitude is unusual, and another Luftwaffe pilot pronounced it as first class - "we laugh ourselves sick over it". A wounded pilot shot down in February asked that we should transmit a message on Atlantik that he was happy in hospital as all his friends listen to it, although it is forbidden.
A U-boat officer mentioned Korvettenkapitän Jahn as the "one made such a fuss of on the English Atlantiksender". He is convinced that we must have an amazing spy-system to be able to give such circumstantial details in these transmissions. In support he quoted a long story which he said he had heard on Atlantik, unconsciously adding several details which had not been broadcast. There have recently been a number of such cases, where Atlantik is credited with far more than it ever put out.
An editorial in Heimatblatt (17th March) Wels, (Austria) headed "Soldatensender X" deals with enemy propaganda, and describes its latest tricks. "Part of their new method is, for instance, the now increased broadcast propaganda which tries to confuse the Germans under the cover of objectivity, or even by sailing under a false flag. In this connection some 'soldiers' stations' play a considerable part." The article winds up hopefully with the line that enemy propaganda will not provoke revolution "because wise Germans will not touch the poisoned soup offered to them and the few idiots who do will hardly have the chance to revolt".
Evidence of reception shows that while jamming is especially bad in Berlin, the station was audible on medium wave northwest of Hanover. It can also be heard near Nuremberg, but jamming is at times so bad that reception is worthless. Reception reports from Switzerland indicate that on medium waves reception is bad two out of three times. It is much better on short waves and appears to be improving. It is even said that on a few occasions the Swiss Telediffusion service has relayed some of Atlantik's music. This is a fine tribute to the technical efficiency of this RU.
Evidence of reception is given by an article in Dagens Nyheter on 8th February, describing this RU as "one of the most interesting illegal stations, a Catholic transmitter without any special name. The language is German and the station is anti-Axis".
Although comebacks to this station are often nebulous and difficult to claim there is an interesting and striking similarity between the Pastoral Letter issued by the Catholic Bishops after the Fuldar Conference in September 1943 and the German Priest's Sermon of 25th January 1943. taking the same text "Let him who will enter into eternal life keep my commandments", both documents deal with each commandment in turn, urging inter alia that youth be allowed to observe Sundays, that officials should not usurp parental authority and indicating the killing of innocent hostages, war cripples, lunatics and newborn children.
No new evidence.
There was less evidence than usual during this period. The Himmler stamp continues to provide news and the Evening Standard (11th April) claims to have unearthed the "facts". It is a normal issue of the German Post Office, and forms one of a series of four, designed to commemorate Hitler's tenth anniversary, the other three bearing portraits of Hitler, Goebbels and Ley.
The German Generals postcard was reproduced in the Swiss paper Die Nation (2nd March) with the comment:- "This postcard destined for Germany was dropped by foreign aircraft over Switzerland and shows how unscrupulous and subtle are the methods of war propaganda".
The St Galler Tagblatt (25th March) mentions the "ballistischer Wegweiser" malingering leaflet, and says it is allegedly composed by medical students. It then goes on to report that police found copies of a leaflet "ten commandments for German soldiers" stuck on the desks at Leipzig University. (Ours is actually entitled "ten duties for workers" so this can only be claimed as a possible comeback).
Reports have been received from Belgium of nine of our leaflets being in circulation. They include the list of bombed streets, one on malingering and another on desertion to Switzerland.
[Source: TNA HS 6/696, transcribed by www.psywar.org]