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Evidence of Reception Reports

  12 of 15   | ARTICLES
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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.




Calais and Atlantik

There have in the past been numerous cases of individual listeners expressing astonishment at the accuracy of Calais' intelligence. Now there are indications that the German authorities themselves are convinced that Calais has special information, not only of Allied intentions but of what is going on inside Germany. In private conversations at the end of July, a senior German official in Sweden said that it was officially believed that Calais has many correspondents in Germany itself, and a number of officials were engaged in checking its statements in the hope of tracing these informants. He quoted as an example Calais' statement that the German Naval Attaché in Stockholm, von Wahlert, was implicated in the 20th July putsch. In consequence, some of the Legation officials decided to investigate the matter secretly, and came to the conclusion that quite possibly the report was true.

The German authorities seem to have believed the Calais story that 3,500 Super-Forts were going to be used to finish off Germany, as DNB European (30th August) put out the following items:

"The German command is paying great attention to the latest US bombers of the Boeing B.29 type. Luftwaffe authorities are in constant touch with the Japanese authorities, which have already gained valuable experience in dealing with these super-bombers".

It continued by giving the weaknesses and technical shortcomings of this aircraft and hinted that an unpleasant surprise was in store for the enemy owing to the use of "completely new methods of defence, so far unknown".

It is of interest, too, that one of the captured German generals said that his HQ had been ordered to listen to Calais. He gave no reason for this order, but added that as it was never countermanded it was strictly adhered to.

There has been some doubt about the extent of Calais' audience among civilians in Germany. The evidence that has now accumulated shows that this audience must be extensive. Not only are there individual reports of listening, but some of the regular themes (also carried by Black leaflets) have produced reactions from the German authorities. For example, the Hakenkreuzbanner (15th June), the official Mannheim Party newspaper denied the story that special rations were only distributed where morale required it, and ascribed it to the "seeds of rumour planted by enemy transmitters". The West Neuste Nachrichten (Bielefeld) found it necessary to publish a medical certificate to prove that the Gau treasurer Sloma was unfit for active service - no doubt because Calais on 12th June reported that Sloma was only 33, but after a short term in the Army in 1939, had returned to work unceasingly on the home front.

More significant is an article in the Bremer Nachrichten (13th July) in the series "Conversations in Bremen Shelters". Speaking of enemy propaganda, the writer, Kreisleiter Schumann says:

"It is, however, wrong to suppose that the enemy is naïve - with the greatest cunning and the cleverest methods, for instance, he disguises his propaganda programmes for the German forces, he broadcasts German programmes and German news here and there, and almost imperceptibly, gives it the meaning he wants. One of these stations is the Soldatensender Calais... Anyone who listens to enemy broadcasts commits spiritual self-mutilation and has forfeited his life!"

A curious piece of evidence comes from a postal intercept. On 10th February, Calais sent a greeting to a certain Frau Matz of Kiel from Rogge, through whose help she got her present office job. The greetings were obviously heard widely, but misheard, as she wrote in great excitement on 20th February to her husband, a prisoner of war in Canada, saying that her chief stopped her on the stairs of the office to ask her who "Robert" was who had sent her greetings on the Radio station Calais. 'I blushed like a schoolgirl' continues her letter, 'we were very amused and I have become famous overnight. I simply must make the acquaintance of Robert, perhaps he is the type I like'.

Other reports of listening inside Germany come from Cologne ("everybody listens" according to a Panzer driver prisoner of war) and Wiesbaden (a prisoner of war stated that his parents always listen there). There are also listeners in Austria, as is shown by an announcement in the Karntner Zeitung of Klagenfurt (23rd August) that three workers in a small village had been sent to prison for "repeatedly listening to Soldatensender Calais".

There is a mass of evidence of listening by the Wehrmacht, from the highest ranks to the lowest. Admiral Hennecke, who was captured at Cherbourg, was convinced that there was a traitor there; he could not understand how, otherwise, Calais could have given such accurate information of what was going on there. General Elfeldt listened regularly but General Spang said he obeyed strictly the order against listening. A German Colonel has related how he heard Goebbels speech on Calais, and only realised afterwards which station it was. Colonel von Aulock, of St Malo fame, praised its good reception compared with the German stations which were difficult to hear. General von Choltitz, the military commander of Paris, dismissed his part in the Putsch as a "Calais rumour", though in fact Calais never mentioned his complicity.

There has again been a number of comments on Calais's astonishingly accurate information. One NCO found that frequently the station knew more than they did, and von Helldorf was astounded when he heard Calais announce that his unit's camouflage was excellent, and if the Hitler Jugend Division nearby were to copy them they would save many casualties.

One of the German fighter squadrons referred to it as "Unser Haussender" (our home station). Listening was fairly open, and very frequent as the pilots had a good deal of spare time. Often they turned it on quietly to go to sleep to.

The story of the Me.164 doing trial non-stop flights between Germany and Japan in preparation for the flight of the Führer has twice been repeated, without reference to Calais; once it was given as authentic by a fighter pilot and once hotly denied by a bomber observer, who said that were it true he would lose faith in the Führer, and all he had been fighting for.

Calais is not without its critics. An air gunner dismissed it as "a barrage of slogans by a few Polish Jews". An NCO thought that the propaganda was too thickly laid on. Several prisoners of war have questioned its veracity, others considered it too "rough". There is the usual divergence of opinion about the music. Many are loud in its praise but others, particularly the more intellectual, find it unbearable.

More and more evidence is accumulating of the concern felt by the German authorities on the effects produced by Calais. A captured German order dated 4th February, addressed by General von Schlieben, the GOC 709th Infantry Division to commanding officers of regiments and battalions is headed "Defensive measures against enemy propaganda". It is particularly interesting as being the first order so far seen which draws a parallel between the disastrous effects on the Germans of propaganda in the last war, and its possible effects in this. The following are extracts:

1. "The enemy is trying, with unheard-of hatred, with ever changing tricks and ruses, with lies and falsehood and with everything, however mean, to undermine the morale of the German People and to force a decision on the 'battlefield of the War of Nerves', just as he did in the first World War. In the West, the efforts of the enemy agitators have been intensified from month to month. I need only mention the increasing number of seditious leaflets in German and the dangerous propaganda broadcast by the provocative enemy station 'Soldatensender Calais'". It has become decisive for the outcome of the war that we provide officers, non-commissioned officers and men with convincing counter-arguments well ahead of time and that we promptly parry any propaganda attack by the enemy. There are still occasional cases where unit commanders have not been convinced of the importance of this task. We must bear in mind that during the first World War enemy propaganda succeeded in wearing down the morale and fighting spirit of the German people to such an extent as to contribute materially to the outcome and military breakdown. We must always be aware of this precedent as a warning example."

2. "Political instruction cannot and must not be neglected any more than the cleaning of rifle or gun".

3. "The Führer demands that all commanders down to Company COs etc. will do their utmost to utilise fully every opportunity to maintain also the fighting spirit of the troops".

A warning against listening to Calais/Atlantik was contained in a secret order to the Cherbourg Harbour Defence Flotilla. Among documents captured in the German Police Department in Rome was one warning against the "Hetzsender" Calais/Atlantik, which is  described as cleverly done and not immediately recognisable as an enemy station. A similar document was captured among some regimental papers; it was dated 10th September 1943. Battery orders, dated 10th October 1943, of  a Flak regiment refer to the cleverly camouflaged enemy transmitter Atlantik, and states that the severest penalties will be inflicted for listening to it. Another interesting find was a divisional order dated 23rd December, for the jamming of Calais; Post Parisien was to be taken off the French network and used instead to jam Calais. (This collaborates what we ourselves deduced at the time).

The following are details of areas where Calais is shown to have been heard:

Bielefeld (Ruhr). A Calais story was denied by the local press.

Bremen. "Soldatensender Calais" was mentioned by name in the Bremer Nachrichten.

Cottbus area (65 miles southeast of Berlin). A parachutist used to listen at his home.

Hanover. An NCO discovered Calais while home on leave.

Kiel. A postal intercept (February) shows that listening is fairly widespread.

Königsberg (East Prussia). A German naval captain said it could be heard here very clearly.

Saxony. A prisoner of war reported that in Saxony "everybody listens" or at least hears it second-hand.

Spittal (Austria). Three civilians have been sentenced for listening here.

Wiesbaden area. One report of regular listening.

BELGIUM. There are several reports of listening in Brussels.

BOLIVIA. A postal intercept tells of good reception.

FINLAND. A secret report states that all Germans in Finland listen. Reception is generally good.

FRANCE. In the battle area it was always louder and clearer than any of the German stations.

GREECE. An anti-Nazi radio monitor from Athens heard Calais regularly.

ITALY. A German radio operator listened regularly on his field set. Calais came in very clearly at 6 a.m.

RUSSIA. A cable from Moscow says it is usually clear and strong on the 31 m band.

SPAIN. There have been more reports of listening in Barcelona and Madrid.

SWEDEN. The numerous Calais items reproduced in the press, as well as postal intercepts, show that reception must be good.

SWITZERLAND. Regular monitoring in Lugano and Arosa shows that the recently added frequency in the 40 m band is the best for that area at present. Occasionally excellent reception  has been obtained even on medium wave.

USA. The CBS picked up and quoted a Calais story, as coming from "a secret German radio".



Black Leaflets

Further documents have been captured warning against our various malingerer publications. An order, dated 12th June, addressed to the Harbour Defence Flotilla at Cherbourg describes out Sports malingerer, saying that a copy had been found near Lyons, and ordering immediate notification of any other copies. An OKW order of 1st November 1943 gives warning about a cleverly camouflaged leaflet which contains instructions on how to feign illness and practice self-mutilation so as to avoid active service. (It is not clear which particular edition is referred to). A further warning is given in an Abwehr document captured in France in July. It describes a series of pamphlets which are excellently reproduced as official publications and therefore dangerous, because they are not always recognisable as propaganda by the ordinary soldiers. As examples it quotes our Health Chart edition of the Malingerer, as well as two others of our black leaflets. (False Pregnancy and Volksentfremdung).

The Children's Songbook edition of the Malingerer is mentioned in a Mitteilungen für die Truppe of June 1944, with the remark that people will recognise this for enemy work, and treat it with the contempt it deserves. It only remains to keep it away from weak characters.

The same issue refers to some of our other productions with appropriate comments:

Posthumous Divorce. This is described as a clever and unscrupulous lie, changing the German effort to keep marriage sacred into a state swindle to do widows out of their due.

Scharnhorst Leaflet. A leaflet aiming at destroying the confidence of men in their leaders.

Diplomatenrationen. For the thousandth time the lie is told that Party people get four to eight times normal rations, do not need coupons and get special petrol.

The Göteborgs Tidningen (16th August) states that two of our malingerers - the Cigarette Paper pack, and the Bewegung songbook - are circulating among German troops as well as one of our Hitler Mein Kampf quotation stickers.

A number of our leaflets have been found among papers captured in France, including Dr Goebbels' 30 Points (several copies), Air Defence of the Reich, Bolschevismus droht (several copies) and others.

There have been a number of reports about our leaflets circulating in Norway. The Nordisk Nyhedstjenste (11th August), an underground newspaper, carries a description of our leaflet on foreign workers, with the comment that it is going round among German troops. Three others - Führerbild, BDO, and the OKW desertion leaflet - have also been reported from there. "Our Lady of Mariazell" prayer card was distributed among Austrian troops in Norway during the spring.

Schluss! sticker

From Germany comes the report that a German workmen was detected by a member of the Hitler Jugend while he was fixing "Schluss!" stickers on his way to work.


Nachrichten für die Truppe

There is ever growing evidence of Nachrichten's popularity with news-hungry German soldiers. It is not only eagerly picked up, but even searched for. One platoon used to send out a scout every morning at 7 o'clock to look for a copy. This when found was widely read by NCO's and privates alike.

There is also praise for its accuracy, and the up-to-date news it contains. Some soldiers first learnt of the 20th July Putsch from Nachrichten.

The man in charge of the lighthouse in Cherbourg harbour reported that the Nachrichten were dropped over his place when the white flag already flew from the fortress of Cherbourg. He was enthusiastic over them, but did not understand why we spent money to inform him so late.

A number of copies of Nachrichten have been discovered among captured documents and also on prisoners.


[Source: TNA HS 6/696, transcribed by]

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