Military history


The Nazi German occupation of Britain would not have been a gentle affair. The captured German papers leave no doubt of that. On September 9 Brauchitsch, the Commander in Chief of the Army, signed a directive providing that “the able-bodied male population between the ages of seventeen and forty-five [in Britain] will, unless the local situation calls for an exceptional ruling, be interned and dispatched to the Continent.” Orders to this effect were sent out a few days later by the Quartermaster General, in OKH, to the Ninth and Sixteenth armies, which were assembled for the invasion. In no other conquered country, not even in Poland, had the Germans begun with such a drastic step. Brauchitsch’s instructions were headed “Orders Concerning the Organization and Function of Military Government in England” and went into considerable detail. They seem designed to ensure the systematic plunder of the island and the terrorization of its inhabitants. A special “Military Economic Staff England” was set up on July 27 to achieve the first aim. Everything but normal household stocks was to be confiscated at once. Hostages would be taken. Anybody posting a placard the Germans didn’t like would be liable to immediate execution, and a similar penalty was provided for those who failed to turn in firearms or radio sets within twenty-four hours.

But the real terror was to be meted out by Himmler and the S.S. For this the dreaded R.S.H.A.,* under Heydrich, was put in charge. The man who was designated to direct its activities on the spot from London was a certain S.S. colonel, Professor Dr. Franz Six, another of the peculiar intellectual gangsters who in the Nazi time were somehow attracted to the service of Himmler’s secret police. Professor Six had left his post as dean of the economic faculty of Berlin University to join Heydrich’s S.D., where he specialized in “scientific matters,” the weirder side of which cast such a spell over the bespectacled Heinrich Himmler and his fellow thugs. What the British people missed by not having Dr. Six in their presence may be judged by his later career in Russia, where he was active in the S.S. Einsatzgruppen, which distinguished themselves in wholesale massacres there, one of the professor’s specialties being to ferret out captured Soviet political commissars for execution. *

On August 1, the R.S.H.A. captured archives reveal, Goering told Heydrich to get busy. The S.S. Security Police and the S.D. (Security Service) were to

commence their activities simultaneously with the military invasion in order to seize and combat effectively the numerous important organizations and societies in England which are hostile to Germany.

On September 17, which, ironically, was the date on which Hitler postponed the invasion indefinitely, Professor Six was formally appointed to his new post in England by Heydrich and told:

Your task is to combat, with the requisite means, all anti-German organizations, institutions, and opposition groups which can be seized in England, to prevent the removal of all available material and to centralize and safeguard it for future exploitation. I designate London as the location of your headquarters … and I authorize you to set up small Einsatzgruppen in other parts of Great Britain as the situation dictates and the necessity arises.

Actually, already in August Heydrich had organized six Einsatzkommando for Britain which were to operate from headquarters in London, BristolBirmingham, Liverpool, Manchester and Edinburgh—or in Glasgow, if the Forth Bridge was found blown up. They were to carry out Nazi terror; to begin with, they were to arrest all those on the “Special Search List, G.B. [Great Britain],” which in May had been hurriedly and carelessly compiled by Walter Schellenberg, another one of Himmler’s bright young university graduates, who was then chief of Amt (Bureau) IV E—Counterespionage—of R.S.H.A. Or so Schellenberg later claimed, though at this time he was mainly occupied in Lisbon, Portugal, on a bizarre mission to kidnap the Duke of Windsor.

The Special Search List, G.B. (die Sonderfahndungsliste, G.B.) is among the more amusing “invasion” documents found in the Himmler papers, though of course it was not meant to be. It contains the names of some 2,300 prominent persons in Great Britain, not all of them English, whom the Gestapo thought it important to incarcerate at once. Churchill is there, naturally, along with members of the cabinet and other well-known politicians of all parties. Leading editors, publishers and reporters, including two former Times correspondents in Berlin, Norman Ebbutt and Douglas Reed, whose dispatches had displeased the Nazis, are on the list. British authors claim special attention. Shaw’s name is conspicuously absent, but H. G. Wells is there along with such writers as Virginia Woolf, E. M. Forster, Aldous Huxley, J. B. Priestley, Stephen Spender, C. P. Snow, Noel Coward, Rebecca West, Sir Philip Gibbs and Norman Angeli. The scholars were not omitted either. Among them: Gilbert Murray, Bertrand Russell, Harold Laski, Beatrice Webb and J. B. S. Haldane.

The Gestapo also intended to take advantage of its sojourn in England to round up both foreign and German émigrés. Paderewski, Freud* and Chaim Weizmann were on its list, as well as Beneš, the President, and Jan Masaryk, the Foreign Minister, of the Czechoslovak government in exile. Of the German refugees there were, among many others, two former personal friends of Hitler who had turned on him: Hermann Rauschning and Putzi Hanfstaengl. Many English names were so badly misspelled as to make them almost unrecognizable and sometimes bizarre identifications were attached, as the one for Lady Bonham Carter, who was also listed as “Lady Carter-Bonham” and described not only as “born, Violet Asquith,” but as “an Encirclement lady politician.” After each name was marked the bureau of R.S.H.A. which was to handle that person. Churchill was to be placed in the hands of Amt VI—Foreign Intelligence—but most were to be handed over to Amt IV—the Gestapo.

This Nazi Black Book actually formed a supplement to a supposedly highly secret handbook called Informationsheft, which Schellenberg also claims to have written, and whose purpose seems to have been to aid the conquerors in looting Britain and stamping out anti-German institutions there. It is even more amusing than the Search List. Among the dangerous institutions, besides the Masonic lodges and Jewish organizations, which deserved “special attention” by R.S.H.A., were the “public schools” (in England, the private schools), the Church of England, which was described as “a powerful tool of British imperial politics,” and the Boy Scouts, which was put down as “an excellent source of information for the British Intelligence Service.” Its revered leader and founder, Lord Baden-Powell, was to be immediately arrested.

   Had the invasion been attempted the Germans would not have been received gently by the British. Churchill later confessed that he had often wondered what would have happened. Of this much he was certain:

The massacre would have been on both sides grim and great. There would have been neither mercy nor quarter. They would have used terror, and we were prepared to go all lengths.38

He does not say specifically to what lengths, but Peter Fleming in his book on Sea Lion gives one of them. The British had decided, he says, as a last resort and if all other conventional methods of defense failed, to attack the German beachheads with mustard gas, sprayed from low-flying airplanes. It was a painful decision, taken not without much soul searching at the highest level; and as Fleming comments, the decision was “surrounded by secrecy at the time and ever since.”39

This particular massacre on which Churchill speculates, the unleashing of this kind of terror which the Gestapo planned, did not take place at this time in this place—for reasons which have been set down in this chapter. But in less than a year, in another part of Europe, the Germans were to unleash horrors on a scale never before experienced.

Already, even before the invasion of Britain was abandoned, Adolf Hitler had come to a decision. He would turn on Russia in the following spring.

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