The Earliest and Most Audacious Deception by British
Intelligence during the Second World War…
As seen on ITV Britain’s Secret Homes which reached the Top No 1 position on the series, filmed at Latimer House with Sir David Jason…
From a specially equipped M Room in three stately homes deep in the heart of the English countryside, British Intelligence bugged the conversations of Nazi PoWs for the duration of the war. These grand houses were rigged with the latest and most advanced listening equipment. Bugging devices were hidden in the prisoners ‘cells, the light fittings, the fireplaces, behind mirrors, in plants and even in trees in the grounds, and wired back to the ‘M’ Room. At the heart of this clandestine unit were German-Jewish émigrés who had fled Nazi persecution and were serving in the British army. In an ironic turn of events they became British Intelligence’s most valuable asset. They were the ‘secret listeners’ and spent up to twelve hours a day eavesdropping on the conversations of German PoWs. This included not only the conversations of U-boat commanders, U-boat crew, infantry soldiers or Luftwaffe pilots but significantly 59 of Hitler’s Generals. The results were to prove astounding and beyond anything Churchill could have imagined when he authorised unlimited funds in its set-up. It gave British Intelligence unprecedented access to secrets that were not obtained by any other means. Providing a detailed, oft humorous, insight into life of the Generals in captivity, the book shows the farcical ‘stage-set’ in which they found themselves. But against this backdrop, the secret listeners eavesdropped on admission of war crimes and terrible atrocities against Russians, Poles and Jews; as well as details of an SS mutiny in a concentration camp in 1936, and Hitler’s human ‘stud farms’. This story places firmly on record just how much British Intelligence knew about the Holocaust. Why, at the end of the war, were these files not released for the war crimes trials? These and other transcripts of some of the most important German military secrets of the war remained classified until 1999.
At Trent Park near Cockfosters in North London, British Intelligence held 59 German Generals who paraded around the house for up to three years and inadvertantly gave away some of Hitler’s most closely guarded secrets – including information on the top secret V1 and V2 weapon programme. At Latimer House and Wilton Park, both in Buckinghamshire, lower rank prisoners and officers were held in cells beneath the house. The secret listeners tuned into the bugged cells from the ‘M Room’ at these sites.
During their clandestine work the secret listeners did not set eyes on a single German PoW, yet their classified work and the intelligence they gained was as significant for winning the war as Bletchley Park and cracking the Enigma Code. For over sixty years the listeners never spoke about their work, not even to their families. Many went to their grave bearing the secrets of the nation which had saved them from certain death in the Holocaust.
“A treasure-trove of revelations…” The Times newspaper
“The book breaks new ground in drawing attention to the role of Jewish personnel, ” Professor David Cesarani
“Highlights the involvement of rank and file German troops in war atrocities,” Stephen Smith, executive director of the USC Shoah Foundation.
The story of the secret listeners has been made into a documentary for Channel 4 to be broadcast in May 2013: Premiere on pbs in America: http://video.pbs.org/video/2363160202
Channel 4 official Press Release: http://www.channel4.com/info/press/programme-information/spying-on-hitlers-army-the-secret-recordings
Major article on BBC Website: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-20698098
Live TV Interview on BBC1, The One Show, 29 January 2013
Ham & High newspaper:
The book was launched on 29th January 2013 at the London Jewish Cultural Centre. The Centre is an independent and inclusive educational charity resident in Ivy House, the former residence of prima ballerina Anna Pavlova. Its Holocaust and Anti-Racism Education Department has a worldwide reputation for ground-breaking initiatives in Holocaust education in the UK, Eastern Europe and in China. The Centre has also launched a dedicated website, the Holocaust Explained, which receives over 25,000 hits a month. Donations to support the work of the Centre’s Holocaust and Anti-Racism Education Department can be made online at www.ljcc.org.uk
Photographs have just come to light of the Naval Intelligence Division at Latimer House…