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Black Propaganda in the Second World War

John Simkin

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In a forthcoming documentary (Sex Bomb, Channel 4) it will be claimed that during the Second World War, the journalist, Sefton Delmer ran produced 'Black Propaganda' broadcasts to Nazi Germany. This included Soldatensender Calais, a pseudo-German radio station established in Crowborough for the German armed forces. Delmer's propaganda stories included spreading rumours that foreign workers were sleeping with the wives of German soldiers serving overseas. He also claimed that senior Nazis were paedophiles. What I find striking about this story was that when Stafford Cripps discovered what Delmer was up to he wrote to Anthony Eden, the foreign secretary: "If this is the sort of thing that is needed to win the war, why, I'd rather lose it." Could one imagine a modern politician responding in this way?

Sefton Delmer is an interesting character. In the 1932 general election Delmer travelled with Hitler on his private aircraft. He was also with Hitler when he inspected the Reichstag Fire. During this period Delmer was criticized for being a Nazi sympathizer and for a time the British government thought he was in the pay of the Nazi regime. As a journalist with the Daily Express he definitely appeared to hold extreme right-wing views. However, during the Second World War he was willing to work for the Special Operations Executive (SOE).


After the war Delmer became chief foreign affairs reporter for the Daily Express. Over the next fifteen years Delmer covered nearly every major foreign news story for the newspaper. However, rumours began to circulate that Delmer was spying for the Soviet Union. It was argued that his pro-Hitler stance was just a KGB trick in order that he would be recruited by MI6. This was of course a trick used by Kim Philby, Guy Burgess, and other spies employed in order to penetrate MI5 and MI6.

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