Bugging Hitler’s Soldiers

Program Transcript

Secrets of The Dead: Bugging Hitler’s Soldiers

CHURCHILL (V.O.)
We are in the preliminary stage of one of the greatest battles in history…I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat.

NARRATOR
In the chaos and carnage of total war, high-grade intelligence is as vital as firing power.

NARRATOR
MI19, an intelligence department of the British war office, set out to exploit German prisoners of war in the most ambitious surveillance operation ever attempted.

Three stately homes in the British countryside were converted into unlikely prison camps and wired for sound.

MI19’s specially designed microphones reached everywhere, nothing was out of range.

HELEN FRY SYNC
There were bugging devices in the lamp fittings, behind mirrors, in the fire places. It was a huge operation and something this technical and sophisticated had never been undertaken before… The British were very clever at thinking into the mind set of how they could get intelligence from the enemy and it was a very British thing to do actually.

JOSH LEVINE
We’re very used now days to the idea of conversations being bugged. People weren’t during the second world war; this was the beginning of modern surveillance. This was entirely new.

NARRATOR
TIGHT
Hidden away in basements and attics were the listening rooms – filled with what at that time was state-of the-art disk recording equipment.

FRITZ SYNC
I was told to report to the Commanding Officer… that what I was going to do was probably more important for the war effort than if I drove a tank or fired a machine gun.

INTERROGATOR
So, what can you tell me about Knickenbein?

NARRATOR
Captured German soldiers were brought to the UK and interrogated.
If they were suspected of having important intelligence, the soldiers were then sent to bugged locations…

NARRATOR
…Where listeners were ready and waiting for them to start talking.

GERMAN Voice – ATMOS NOT SUBTITLED “Also, ich kann Ihnen folgendes erzaehlen.“
Well, I can tell you my experience … (Translation)

FRITZ SYNC
We were working in a special room which was called the ‘M’ room. There were five or six of us sitting in front of something like an old fashioned telephone switchboard. And whenever the conversation seemed to be going towards the subject we were waiting for we switched on a turn table and recorded on an old fashioned 78 record what they were saying.

NARRATOR
The evidence comes from one of the most audacious operations British intelligence ever conducted.

Conversations between German prisons of war were secretly recorded and then transcribed, word for word.

SONKE SYNC
In the transcripts we found totally new knowledge about war crimes. About huge war crimes.

FRIED
I had an hour to spare and we went to some kind of barracks and there we slaughtered 1,500 Jews.

NARRATOR
These were German soldiers as they’d never been heard before; uncensored and unguarded.

FRITZ
This operation was what was called `Top Secret’. I did not tell even my closest family what I had been doing for about 50 years after the war.

NARRATOR
The recordings were destroyed. But now, using transcripts hidden for decades, these conversations are reconstructed for the first time.

HARTELT
I bet she let you sleep with her too?

MINNIEUR
Yes. I mean, you couldn’t tell that she was a Jewess; she was quite a nice type, too. It was just a shame that she had to die with everybody else. 75,000 Jews were shot there.

CAPTION: All the dialogue in this film was spoken by German prisoners of war between 1939 and 1945.
Nothing is made up.

NARRATOR
In the aftermath of World War Two, ordinary German soldiers claimed they knew nothing about the Holocaust. They blamed all its atrocities on the SS.

GERMAN Voice – SUBTITLED
“Da sind saemtliche Juden hingerichtet worden.“
All the Jews were executed. (Translation). We saw one of these executions once (Bleeds into Minnieur English)

MINNIEUR
We saw one of these executions once. We were actually there when a pretty girl was shot.

HARTELT
That’s too bad.

MINNIEUR
But she knew she was going to be shot.

But these recently declassified transcripts expose the full extent of that lie.

VON FELBERT
What did they do to the children?

KITTEL
They seized three-year olds by the hair, held them up and shot them with a pistol and then threw them in. I saw it for myself.

BACK TO ORIGINAL

POHL
On the second day of the Polish war I had to drop bombs on a station at Posen. Now eight out of the sixteen bombs fell on the town, among the houses. I didn’t like that but I said to myself: “Hell, orders are orders.”

FRITZ SYNC
We knew that the microphones must have been of very high quality because we could hear the prisoners very clearly and even if they whispered to their cell mate it was very often possible to pick up what they said…

POHL
On the third day I didn’t care, and on the fourth day I was enjoying it. It was our before breakfast entertainment to chase single soldiers across the fields with machinegun fire and leave them lying there with a few bullets in the back.

JOSH LEVINE SYNC
They weren’t being interrogated; they weren’t minding what they were saying. They weren’t being very careful to not give anything away they were speaking to their equals. In what they thought was privacy.

POHL(O.S.)
We attacked civilians in the street… all machine guns firing like mad. You should have seen the horses stampede!

NARRATOR
The recordings were translated into English and transcripts were sent directly to Churchill himself.

POHL VOICE REPRISE …for entertainment to chase single soldiers across the fields with machine gun fire and to leave them lying there with a few bullets in the back.

NARRATOR
And soon, they overheard secrets that helped save Britain in its darkest hour.

NARRATOR
For eight consecutive months, the German Luftwaffe bombed British cities. A million homes were destroyed. In London alone, 40,000 civilians were killed.

JOSH LEVINE
The Blitz came as a real shock to Britain and to the people of Britain because it was unrelenting. And what the British really were having difficulty in understanding was how were the Germans managing to guide themselves onto the targets night after night accurately in total darkness.

NARRATOR
Scientists wondered if the Germans were using a secret navigation system.

Their answer came from a conversation between two Luftwaffe pilots.

Pilot A51
The system is called X-Gerät. I’ll tell you it works – a beam is sent on a short wave. This short wave beam has a width no broader than one kilometre. Even as far as London.

JOSH LEVINE
This very small snippet of conversation about X- Gerät was hugely significant. And what it was was a system of guiding the bombers in using radio pulses, using radio waves. The bombers would effectively fly down the path of a radio wave.

NARRATOR
Armed with this top secret information, scientists jammed the radio navigation beams, saving tens of thousands of lives.

They were so successful that some bombers even landed at RAF bases believing they were back in Germany.

GERMAN DIALOGUE GERMAN DIALOGUE

NARRATOR
But it is only now that we are piecing together the story of this extraordinary bugging operation.

And it’s only by accident the transcripts were discovered at all.

GERMAN Voice – ATMOS NOT SUBTITLED
“Glauben Sie mir, wenn Sie es gesehen haetten, Ihnen wäre das Grauen gekommen!“
Believe me; if you had seen it, it would have made you shudder! (Translation)

NARRATOR
On a routine research trip to the national archive in London, German historian Sonke Neitzel requested files on U-boat crews.

What arrived on his desk was the discovery of a lifetime.

SONKE SYNC
I just ordered three files, and had these three huge, massive files on my desk, and so I start reading that.
September ’43, German Navy personnel.
And it was, I mean, it was so authentic, you could really just see the people speaking to each other…

GERMAN Voice – ATMOS NOT SUBTITLED
“Glauben Sie mir, wenn Sie es gesehen haetten, Ihnen wäre das Grauen gekommen!“
Believe me; if you had seen it, it would have made you shudder! (Translation)

NARRATOR
Sonke was given 800 pages of transcripts. The archives contain another 49,000…

SONKE SYNC
And then at that moment, I realised, I might be standing on a tip of an iceberg…

GERMAN Voice – SUBTITLED
“Da waren so zwanzig Schuetzen mit Maschinenpistolen…”
There were some twenty men there with machine guns. It only took a second, and nobody thought anything of it. (Translation)

NARRATOR
Without the original recordings, historians must rely on the transcripts.

GERMAN Voice – SUBTITLED
“Es tat mir ja wirklich beinahe Leid. Ein Volk, das sich selbst nicht aufgibt…””
I almost felt sorry for him. He said (imitating HITLER):’A people which does not surrender can never be defeated.

NARRATOR
The transcribers even noted how the original words were spoken.

GERMAN Voice
“Wir fuhren mit dem Motorrad vorbei, auf einmal ruft sie uns. Sie meinte, sie gehen zum Erschiessen.”
We were going past on motorcycles and saw a procession; suddenly she called to us. She said they were going to be shot. (Translation)

SONKE SYNC
You were really able to see these people talking, you were able to get a feeling of the killing, the fighting, the dying, the war.

GERMAN Voice – ATMOS NOT SUBTITLED “… rechts, links, fertig.”
…fired to the right and left and that was that! (Translation)

GERMAN Voice – ATMOS NOT SUBTITLED “Ob sie noch lebten oder nicht war egal.”
It didn’t matter whether they were still alive or not. (Translation)

COL. FARRELL
When I saw the documents one of the things that struck me was that, how real they were, I mean the discussions, the way they conducted themselves, this is how soldiers talk.

NARRATOR
The recordings reveal shocking secrets about a war where both civilians and soldiers were on the front lines.

MULLER
Kharkiv was a delightful town! Everybody spoke a little German. They had splendid cinemas and wonderful cafes.

It’s beautiful country.

NARRATOR
Lance Corporal Muller told Sergeant Faust about his experiences as his unit moved into Russia.

MULLER
Everywhere we saw women working. Extraordinarily lovely girls. We drove past; we would simply pull them into the armoured car, rape them and throw them out again.
And did they curse!

SONKE
Well, I think these are typical conversations for men at this time. It was totally normal for them but only for them. For us it is a very astonishing thing. How can you tell a story about nice, nice Russia as being a tourist and then combining that with a story of raping?

NARRATOR
For the first, desperate years of war, British Intelligence had few prisoners to spy on.

But in 1942, Britain’s fortunes changed.

Victory over the Germans in North Africa brought thousands of POWs to England.

Among them, the first senior officers – including the highly prized General Willheim Ritter von Thoma.

NARRATOR
Von Thoma was taken back to London and confined to the stately—but bugged– home reserved for officers – Trent Park.

NARRATOR
His capture was a coup. Von Thoma knew the intimate secrets of Hitler’s military machine. And though a proud patriot, he was not a member of the Nazi party.

He was met by the Welfare officer – Lord Aberfeldy.

VON THOMA
When I was captured the Italian generals who were taken at the same time arrived with a load of luggage. They looked like tourists!

[Lord ABERFELDY laughs politely but watches his new prisoner with interest.]

VON THOMA (CONT’D)
I immediately said “Please don’t put them with me!”.

ABERFELDY (V.O.) Von Thoma is very intelligent and exceedingly well read. He has a striking personality and is violently anti-Nazi.

NARRATOR
Von Thoma joined General Ludwig Cruwell who was also captured in North Africa when his aircraft accidentally landed at a British airfield.

ABERFELDY (V.O.)
Crüwell is a follower and admirer of Hitler. An ignorant, stupid, sentimental, vain and self-satisfied type of Prussian senior officer.

NARRATOR
Holding such strong, opposing political views, Von Thoma and Crüwell inevitably clashed. And when they did, the recorders were ready.

VON THOMA
The stupid thing about our propaganda is that it’s entirely negative.

CRUWELL
Your attitude is negative.

VON THOMA
No, but the propaganda –

CRUWELL
Oh, no, everything else is bad, wherever you go things are bad, according to you.

VON THOMA (O.S.)
There are a lot of things that are bad.

CRUWELL (O.S.)
Of course there are! And with the English everything’s all right!

VON THOMA
I’ve never said anything of the sort. I wouldn’t dream of it.
But here in England if there is dirty work then it’s brought up in Parliament.
At home, if you so much as breathe a word you end up in concentration camp.

CRUWELL
Of course.

VON THOMA
But it is such a pity that they do that.

NARRATOR
British intelligence listened with interest as their new lab rats began to fight.

KEVIN FARRELL
The allies believed that understanding the German mind, if you will. They see this as essential in the effort to defeat Nazi Germany. If we can understand what makes them tick, what they are thinking it would give us an advantage in defeating them.

NARRATOR
The trap, so carefully set by MI19, was working as planned.

NARRATOR
The captured generals brought to Trent Park were shown full respect for their rank.

NARRATOR
They never imagined the lavish treatment and luxurious surroundings were part of an ingenious plan to catch them off-guard.

SONKE SYNC
German Generals were really astonished, how nice it was in Trent Park. I mean they were supplied with newspapers; they could listen to the radio. Sometimes they struggled with the British food, but normally they were quite comfortable. The British obviously did this not because they were caring for these Generals, because they knew if we treat them well they will speak.

GERMAN Voice – SUBTITLED
“Die Ideen des Fuehrers sind ganz gesund.”
The Führer’s idea is a sound one… (Translation)

GERMAN Voice Bleeds into CRUWELL
The Führer envisages a Europe under our absolute control.

CRUWELL (O.S.)
The Führer envisages a Europe under our absolute control.

CRUWELL (O.S.)
I am firmly convinced that is the only way that Western Civilization can be saved.

KEVIN FARRELL
Having access to the opinion of German Officers gives us a very different view on the war than say the rank and file would have provided. We can see what the Generals themselves thought of the ultimate chance of victory. What they thought of Adolf Hitler. What they thought of the party. And gained some insight as to how they would proceed in the future.

NARRATOR
To break the monotony of confinement and disarm them further, the guests, as MI19 liked to call their captives, were indulged with day trips to London; and, on occasion, to luncheon at the exclusive Simpsons on the Strand.

HELEN FRY SYNC
When Churchill finds out about this he is absolutely furious. I mean you can imagine Churchill, he is absolutely enraged.

NARRATOR
Churchill calmed down when MI19 explained that the POWs spoke more freely when treated well.

NARRATOR (CONT’D)
In fact, the generals’ whole world was built on deception. Nothing was what it seemed and that included `Lord Aberfeldy’, their welfare officer.

HELEN FRY SYNC
Of course he wasn’t a real Lord… he was an MI19 officer, but he gained their trust because they kind of began to believe that he was on their side in an odd sort of way…but of course little did they know, these German Generals, that even the trees were bugged!

NARRATOR
Once Lord Aberfeldy had earned their trust, he exploited it.

His casual questions were deliberately leading and timed to be within range of a microphone.

ABERFELDY
I’ve read that the generals are taking over now and that the Nazi Party is being pushed aside to some extent?

VON THOMA
If things get really bad then the Party will go. I can assure you, because so much hatred has been stored up. Of course, they will try everything possible in order to stay in power. But a few thousand Gestapo men can’t keep down a people of eighty million, if the people are no longer willing.

ABERFELDY
But the S.S. at home – couldn’t the S.S. suppress a revolutionary movement?

VON THOMA
No, if it really broke out, then it would be impossible.

SONKE SYNC
His real name was Ian Munro… And they, the British went even so far to put him in a distant relation to the Royal Family so they felt quite impressed.

NARRATOR
The generals were generously supplied with a radio, books, newspapers…

MI19 hoped that keeping them in touch with the outside world would provoke useful conversations.

ARCHIVE AUDIO: Period Radio Broadcast

NARRATOR
And it was radio news of the German defeat at Stalingrad that gave Trent Park its biggest breakthrough.

COL. FARRELL
The defeat at Stalingrad affected the German Generals profoundly. This is the first all-out defeat. There was, it was unambiguous, it was a disaster.

NARRATOR
The humiliating surrender of General Paulus brought even von Thoma and Cruwell together in shared dismay.

CRUWELL
I would have rather blown my brains out. I am bitterly disappointed, bitterly disappointed in Paulus!

VON THOMA
Yes, it’s terrible.

CRUWELL
And that so many generals surrendered…

VON THOMA
It’s frightful! Twenty-six of them!

NARRATOR
The possibility of military defeat was a bitter prospect for such proud warriors.

Later, von Thoma discussed with Cruwell a new secret weapon that might yet save their beloved fatherland.

VON THOMA (O.S.)
…this rocket business.

VON THOMA
I saw it once; there is a special testing site.
They’ve got these huge things. They said they would go up 15 km into the stratosphere…

CRUWELL
And how do you aim?

VON THOMA
You can only aim at an area – at some central point, you’re bound to hit somewhere… its horrible. But the Major there was full of hope, he said: “Wait until next year and the fun will start”. It was all very secret.

NARRATOR
Von Thoma was talking about the deadly V2 being tested at Peenemunde on the north German coast.

It was the first rocket fired through the stratosphere, and there was no defense against it.

Von Thoma provided conclusive evidence that the terrifying weapon did exist.

COL. FARRELL
This is crucial information for British Intelligence. No longer is it in the realm of whispers or hearsay of what it is, these are two high ranking individuals that have knowledge of a top secret programme that the Germans hope will turn the war in their favour.

NARRATOR
Von Thoma’s evidence persuaded Bomber Command to carry out a risky raid on Peenemunde. The V2 site was destroyed and the rocket’s use delayed by several months – buying the allies valuable time.

COL. FARRELL
The V2 certainly could have had a dramatic impact on the Allied landings at Normandy.
Certainly they would not have gone off as planned, and they might have failed overall.

NARRATOR
But, it wasn’t just operational secrets that MI19 hoped to gather.

Factions began to form between the generals: those who supported the Nazis and those who did not.

VON THOMA (O.S)
Every day that this war continues constitutes a war crime. They should put Adolf Hitler in a padded cell.

JOSH LEVINE SYNC
And it was very important that these people revealed their secrets because if they were with the Nazis then Hitler had a future, if they were against the Nazis then there is the possibility that there might be a coup, there is the possibility that Germany might go in a different direction. So it was very important that the British understood the thought processes of this officer class.

NARRATOR
General Cruwell headed those who supported the Führer… while General von Thoma led the anti-Nazi faction.

CRUWELL
I always say – no matter how many faults the system has, nor how wrong it is, I have served under this system, I have fought under this system and my soldiers have fallen under this system; so I cannot, the moment things go wrong, say: “To hell with it.’. I won’t do that.

SONKE SYNC
Cruwell was fighting for his Führer, he was fighting for Hitler, and he tried to take all these ideas of the Third Reich seriously. And obviously he also saw negative things, but he tried to avoid that, to put this under the carpet somehow.

VON THOMA
I regret every bomb, every scrap of material and every human life that is still being wasted in this senseless war. The only gain that it will bring us is the end of ten years of gangster rule.

COL. FARRELL
Von Thoma represents the traditional German Officer. He’s well read, he’s old world, if you would, he’s very comfortable and academic in intellectual circles. Such an individual with such a background would look at a relatively low born coarse individual like Adolf Hitler; he would have looked at him with suspicion if not outright disgust.

NARRATOR
Hostilities came to a head when a young officer, Lieutenant Klaus Hubbuch, told Cruwell that von Thoma had made derogatory remarks about the Führer.

NARRATOR
Acting on this report, Cruwell confronted von Thoma – and the recorders captured the angry exchange.

CRUWELL
I would like to discuss something with you.

VON THOMA
Certainly.

CRUWELL
Hubbuch came to see me and asked me to tell you not to try to influence him with propaganda.

VON THOMA
What’s all this about?

CRUWELL
He said you gave him your views on the situation.

VON THOMA
Because he talked such a damned lot of nonsense: Fancy saying: “All English newspapers are Jewish.”

CRUWELL
I’ve have a thoroughly good impression of him. But the boy is bound to feel upset when you say to him: “Hitler isn’t normal’.

VON THOMA
It is common knowledge that he is not normal.

CRUWELL
I don’t agree. I also know that you’re saying that to everyone, and I know that a great many people take exception to it. Don’t make any mistake about that. A great many people here are not at all amused when you say that.

VON THOMA
All right, tell me who they are.

CRUWELL
I shall be delighted to tell you.

VON THOMA
Well, tell me then!

CRUWELL
Well, I must ask them first…

VON THOMA
All right, then bring them to me!

CRUWELL
I will!

VON THOMA
Then we shall see what happens.

CRUWELL
Right, I will!

VON THOMA
They should come with you!

CRUWELL
I’ll see to that.

VON THOMA
With you!

CRUWELL
I will!

NARRATOR
As the generals in Trent Park argued over Hitler’s sanity, the listeners heard accounts of just how far that madness had spread.

MINNIEUR
We saw one of these executions once. Believe me; if you’d have seen it, it would have made you shudder!

HARTELT
Did they shoot them with machine guns?

MINNIEUR
With sub-machine guns.

NARRATOR
Horst Minnieur was one of a new group of POWs, who saw action on the Eastern Front.

NARRATOR
They were the shock troops, participating in the Nazis’ ideological fight against Jews and Communists. And in a special decree, signed by Hitler himself, they were given free rein to act without restraint.

COL. FARRELL
The war in the East is a completely different war. Torture is not prohibited; in fact, the civilian population is quite literally eliminated in many cases and always treated ruthlessly…

MINNIEUR
We were actually there when a pretty girl was shot.

HARTELT
That’s too bad.

MINNIEUR
But she knew she was going to be shot.
We were going past on motorcycles and we saw a procession and suddenly she called to us. She said they were going to be shot. And at first we thought that she was making some sort of joke.

HARTELT
Did she walk there in her clothes?

MINNIEUR
Yes, she was smartly dressed. She certainly was an incredible girl.

HARTELT
Surely the one who shot her, shot wide.

MINNIEUR
Nobody could do anything about it. The guys were standing there with their machine guns. They clipped on a magazine, fired to the right and to the left and that was that! It didn’t matter whether they were still alive or not; when they were hit they fell over backwards into a pit. Then the next lot came up.

HARTELT
What about the people who were in there who were not dead yet?

MINNIEUR
That was bad luck for them; they died down there!

HARTELT
(laughs)

MINNIEUR
I can tell you, you heard a terrific screaming and shrieking!

HARTELT
Were you watching when the pretty Jewess was there?

MINNIEUR
No, we weren’t there then. All we know was that she was shot.

HARTELT
Had you met her before?

MINNIEUR
Yes, she cleaned our barracks. The week we were staying there we went to the barracks to sleep so that we didn’t have to stay outside…

HARTELT
I bet she let you sleep with her too?

MINNIEUR
Yes, but you had to be careful not to be found out. It’s nothing new; it was really a scandal, the way we slept with Jewish women.

HARTELT
What did she say?

MINNIEUR
Well, we chatted together and she said she was at Göttinggen University.

HARTELT
And a girl like that let anyone sleep with her!

MINNIEUR
Yes. You couldn’t tell that she was a Jewess; she was quite a nice type, too. It was just her bad luck that she had to die with the others. 75,000 Jews were shot there.

NARRATOR
For many of the listeners, these shocking confessions carried an added chill…

MINNIEUR
It really was a scandal the way we slept with Jewish women

NARRATOR
The stories of killing Jews touched them personally.

FRITZ SYNC
We all tried not to get emotionally involved in it we tried to remain detached from what we heard.

NARRATOR
Lustig was a German Jewish refugee with relatives left behind in Berlin.

For the bugging operation to work properly, MI19 needed hundreds of native German speakers, men who were also committed to the Allied cause.

HELEN FRY SYNC
The answer was actually staring them in the face and it was in the British army’s pioneer corps where a number of German Jewish refugees were serving in British army uniform. They had fled Nazi persecution and now they were giving something back to Britain for saving their lives.

FRITZ SYNC
We felt that what we were doing was in a way retribution for what the Nazis had done to us and to other Jews. We felt that we were getting back at them and that was very satisfying.

When I told English people at first that I had joined the British army during the war, their reaction would often be ‘how awful for you to have to fight your own people’. They cannot understand that they were not our own people anymore. They were our enemies and we wanted to fight them. We had to fight them.

NARRATOR
Fritz and his fellow listeners amassed damning evidence of German war crimes…

…but, there were still far darker secrets to come…

NARRATOR
By the end of 1943, the war had turned against Germany.

North Africa is lost, the Italians had surrendered and in Russia, the Germans were decisively defeated at the world’s largest-ever tank battle at Kursk.

NARRATOR
For the captured generals at Trent Park, the grim reality of Germany’s future was finally sinking in.

GERMAN Voice – SUBTITLED
“Der Krieg ist fuer uns verloren. Ohne ein Wunder ist der Krieg…”
We’ve lost this war. We can’t win the war unless a miracle … (Translation)

GENERAL
We can’t win the war unless a miracle happens. Only a few complete idiots still believe we can.

NARRATOR
For months, the listeners could hear growing anxiety, recrimination and guilt in the voices of the generals.

VON THOMA
He told me the kind of things that happened. I know myself that there were savage, brutalized louts there, who trampled on the bellies of pregnant women, and that sort of thing.

CRUWELL
Yes, but these are very isolated cases for which even the SS can’t be blamed. I cannot believe that Germans would do such a thing!

VON THOMA
I don’t think I should have believed myself, if I hadn’t actually seen it.

CRUWELL
I am the last to defend such atrocities but you must admit that we were bound to take the most incredibly severe measures to combat the illegal guerrilla warfare in those vast territories

VON THOMA
But the women had nothing whatever to do with it!

COL. FARRELL
Cruwell probably finds it difficult to believe these atrocities because now he’s faced with the spectre not only of a lost war, but a criminal war as well.

CRUWELL
If you listen to the gentlemen here, we’ve done nothing else but kill everyone off. But if you ask, they were never present themselves. They heard about it from von Thoma!

NARRATOR
The confessions of the unwitting prisoners would have shaken even Cruwell’s convictions.

NARRATOR
These recordings are powerful evidence of atrocities committed not just by Hitler’s elite SS but also by regular German forces.

GERMAN Voice – ATMOS NOT “… haben 1500 Juden umgelegt.”
… killed 1500 Jews. (Translation)

NARRATOR
Luftwaffe pilot Fried described what happened after a routine transport flight…

FRIED
I was at Radom once and had my midday meal with the Waffen S.S. battalion there. An S.S. captain or whatever he was said: “Would you like to come along for half-an-hour? Get a machinegun and let’s go.” So I went along. I had an hour to spare and we went to some barracks and there we slaughtered 1,500 Jews. There were some twenty men with machine-guns. It was over in a couple of seconds, and nobody thought anything of it.

BENTZ
You fired, too?

FRIED
Yes, I did. There were women and children there, too!

BENTZ
They were inside as well?

FRIED
Whole families, some were screaming terribly others were just apathetic.

COL. FARRELL
One of the myths to come out of the war was that the mass murder genocide was committed by the Waffen SS. We know now that that was just that – a myth, that the army was complicit in carrying out the crimes of the Third Reich. This case shows us that conclusively.

BENTZ
What – you fired?

FRIED
Yes, I did. There were women and children there, too!

NARRATOR
The brutality is shocking, but the transcripts raise a question – how could an ordinary person become a genocidal murderer?

STEVE REICHER SYNC
What I find particular powerful about this extract is precisely that it’s so matter of fact. This man doesn’t have to spit hate; this man doesn’t have to tell you lurid stories about why the Jews are so awful and why it’s ok to kill them. He just assumes that nobody will have a problem with doing this…

People can kill, they can do appalling things when they can believe that what they were doing is good, is even noble…And Himmler encompassed that idea in a very powerful metaphor.

He described killing Jewish people like killing the rats in the sewers. It’s a horrible job, nobody wants to do it, but only the noblest people are prepared to descend into the sewers to carry out the dirty task in order to preserve civilisation up above.

NARRATOR
Just four days after Fried confessed his involvement in mass extermination, the generals at Trent Park prepared to celebrate the Fuhrer’s birthday.

ABERFELDY O.S
Hitler’s health will be drunk in beer. It is agreed by the Nazi POWs that it is a great pity that this will have to be English beer. Cruwell is very worried in case Thoma refuses to stand up and drink Hitler’s health.

CRUWELL
Gentlemen, to the Fuhrer.

GENERALS COLLECTIVE
The Fuhrer

NARRATOR
But Cruwell did not know about the reports trickling in, detailing the SS’s activities in the death camps.

GERMAN POW OS
I’ve heard talk about the Auschwitz concentration camp in Poland.
It’s a hutted camp for Jews. I’ve heard say, that no one who enters the camp, comes out alive.

NARRATOR
This direct evidence was recorded four months before the allies accepted the existence of Auschwitz. But, in what would later become a highly controversial decision, no action was taken.

KEVIN FARRELL
At the time there can be no doubt that they were aware that bad things were happening. But I think in the minds of the allied senior leaders the, the most effective way to end these atrocities would be to end the war itself as quickly as possible. And that meant destroying Germany’s ability to wage the war.

ARCHIVE NEWS BROADCAST
The British, Canadian and American troops who landed on the Coast of France, North of the lovely town of Caen in broad daylight this morning are already several miles inland.

NARRATOR
As the Allies advanced through Normandy, more prisoners arrived from liberated France…

ARCHIVE NEWS BROADCAST
They’re pushing steadily on backed by the tremendous fire power of heavy British, United States war ships.

NARRATOR
Among them was the General Paul von Felbert who vehemently opposed the Nazis. He surrendered with little resistance and, in his absence, was sentenced to death for cowardice by Hitler himself.

A conversation between von Felbert and fellow inmate General Heinrich Kittel provided the Allies with disturbing intelligence.

VON FELBERT
Were you also in places where Jews had been liquidated?

KITTEL
Yes.

VON FELBERT
And that was carried out quite methodically?

KITTEL
Yes.

VON FELBERT
Women and children – everybody?

KITTEL
Everybody! It was horrible!
For instance, in Latvia, near Dvinsk, there were mass executions of Jews by the SS. I got up and went outside and said: “What the hell’s all this shooting about?” The orderly said to me: “You ought to go over there, sir, you’ll see something.” 300 Men had been driven in from the town, they dug a communal grave then marched home again. The next day along they came again, men women and children – the executioners first laid all the clothes out in a big pile. And then twenty women were made to take up their positions – naked – on the edge of the trench. Someone gave the command and the twenty women dropped like ninepins down into the trench. I went away and I thought: “I’m going to do something about this. So I went over to the Security Service man and I said: “once and for all, I forbid these outside executions, where people can look on. If you kill people in the woods or somewhere where no-one can see, that’s your business. But I absolutely forbid another day’s shooting here. We draw our drinking water from deep springs; we’ll get nothing but corpse water!

VON FELBERT
What did they do to the children?

KITTEL
They seized three-year olds by the hair, held them up and shot them with a pistol and then threw them in. I saw it for myself.

VON FELBERT
That’s why everyone hates us – not because of this one incident, because all these murders.

KITTEL
If one were to destroy all the Jews in the world simultaneously there wouldn’t be anyone left to do the accusing.

VON FELBERT
It’s obvious, it’s such a scandal. We don’t need a Jew to accuse us – we ourselves must bring the charge! We must accuse those what done it.

KITTEL
Then we have to admit that our government is all wrong.

VON FELBERT
It is, it’s obvious that it’s wrong, there’s no doubt about it. Such a thing is unbelievable.

KITTEL
We are the tools

NARRATOR
Kittel’s account of the massacre was carefully filed away for future war crime trials.

SONKE SYNC
He saw the mass killings, he saw the mass shootings, and he might have been in the position to say no we have to stop this.

NARRATOR
Interactions between the generals at Trent Park grew increasingly volatile.

This tension reflected what was happening in Germany. And then a shocking turn of events revealed just how bad things were for the Nazis.

GERMAN Radio – SUBTITLED
“Zum Mordanschlag auf den Fuehrer”
News of an assassination attempt on the Führer! (Translation)

“Zum zweiten Mal in diesem vom Judentum entfesselten Kriege …”
For the second time in this war started by the Jews (Translation)

“… wurde ein rueckloser Mordanschlag auf unseren Fuehrer veruebt.”
there has been an assassination attempt on the Führer. (Translation)

“… hat die Vorsehung den Mann beschirmt, “
Fate has protected the man… (Translation)

der das Schicksal des deutschen Volkes in seinen Haenden traegt.”
… who holds the future of Germany in his hands. (Translation)

NARRATOR
MI19 urgently needed the general’s reaction to this attempt on Hitler’s life.

GERMAN Radio – SUBTITLED
“Der Fuehrer bliebt unverletzt.”
The Führer is unharmed! (Translation)

NARRATOR
They made sure no one missed the German radio broadcast.

GERMAN Radio
“Dass der Fuehrer lebt, ist fuer uns das Wichtigste.”
That the Führer is unharmed is the most important thing. (Translation)

ABERFELDY
Who is this Stauffenberg?

BRUHN
What happened?

ABERFELDY
He threw the bomb. A Count Stauffenberg, a Colonel.

BRUHN
He was on my staff.

ABERFELDY
He has been shot.

BRUHN
Good God! It can’t be true! An excellent man like that! He was my operations officer… Has HIMMLER taken over the Army?

ABERFELDY
Yes.

SCHLIEBEN
Now there will be a massacre in Germany, and we can only guess the scale.

ABERFELDY
It has already started.

BRUHN
And no one will die of natural causes!

ABERFELDY
I heard Hitler’s broadcast. He said that the bomb exploded two metres away from him. Even so, he wasn’t wounded.

ABERFELDY
Well, excuse me, gentlemen!

SCHLIEBEN
This is the end.

BRUHN
Good God, why did that bomb have to be so small!

VON THOMA
Well, he didn’t want to kill any of the others.

SCHLIEBEN
Yes, but that just can’t be helped. It must have been a hand grenade; it can’t have been anything larger.

BRUHN
Good God, good old Stauffenberg.

SCHLIEBEN
My God, it’s a tragedy that he missed.

VON THOMA
Yes, it really is…

NARRATOR
Though the assassination failed, it signalled the beginning of the end.

As the Allies advanced, fresh prisoners brought news of a regime in its death throes.

NARRATOR
Four weeks after the assassination attempt on Hitler, the puffed-up General Dietrich von Choltitz, ex-commander of Paris, was captured and sent to Trent Park.

With his arrival came news of Hitler’s state of mind.

NARRATOR
And the listeners recorded his every word.

GERMAN Voice – SUBTITLED
“Hitler hasst uns. Ja, er hasst uns.”
Hitler hates us! Yes, he hates us. (Translation)

VON CHOLTITZ
Hitler hates us.

SCHLIEBEN
Yes, he hates us!

VON CHOLTITZ
Yes. I saw Hitler four weeks ago.

ARNIM??
Think line is said by VonThoma?? What kind of impression did he make?

VON CHOLTITZ
Oh God, well, it was just shortly after the assassination attempt and he was still rather the worse for wear!

SCHLIEBEN
Was he still injured?

VON CHOLTITZ
Well, he was more worn out than anything. He has put on almost 8 kilos.

VON THOMA
Mentally, he is ill, very ill.

VON CHOLTITZ
I went into the room and there he stood, a fat, broken-down old man with festering sores on his hands… they’d been scratched a bit as a result of the attempt on his life. I almost felt sorry for him. He said (imitating HITLER):’A people which does not surrender can never be defeated’.

ALL
General laughter

VON CHOLTITZ
We all went out for lunch. Two-hundred and-fifty Generals were rushed by air from the front. And he talked and talked; after about seven minutes 40 per cent of the Generals were all snoring.

ALL
General laughter

VON CHOLTITZ
But as usual, once he’s worked up he notices nothing!

NARRATOR
But while von Choltitz amused the generals with Hitler gossip, MI19 was about to hear the Nazis’ darkest secret of all.

PFAFFENBERGER
You’ve no idea of the amount of people killed at Buchenwald while I was there. It could easily be about 30,000…

NARRATOR
Accused of being a communist, Private Pfaffenberger was a political prisoner for more than seven years at the Buchenwald death camp. He was only released when Germany became desperate for soldiers.

PFAFFENBERGER
The senior inmate in each hut told us: “All those who have tattoo marks are to report to me.” He needed about a 100 of them. Those who had attractive tattoo marks were injected and killed. They were handed over to the pathologists who removed as large a piece of skin as they needed with the tattoo mark on it and the rest of the body was taken to the crematorium and burnt. The pieces of skin were impregnated and tanned. The wife of the commandant got them and she had a lamp-shade made out of them.

Human skin tans wonderfully, I’ve held pieces in my hand. I wanted to steal a couple.

FRITZ SYNC
Any mention of atrocities…were recorded, the records were especially marked in red because they were possibly used later on for war crime trials.

NARRATOR
Pfaffenberger’s account of the death camps was one of the earliest, detailed descriptions the Allies had.

JOSH LEVINE SYNC
It says here at the top of Pfaffenberger’s transcript, it says “his statements appear fantastic but they’re given for what they’re worth”. In other words the people listening to this, hearing it they couldn’t actually believe these could be true, these could be taken seriously…and of course this is a legacy of the Nazis.

VON THOMA
This is the great tragedy in our history that we needed such a terrible, lost war as this, to come to our senses.

NARRATOR
For Cruwell and his followers, their world and its values were in ruins.

ABERFELDY (V.O.)
Cruwell has been heading for mental disaster. He quite openly admits that he is getting into a nervous state. At any time he is to be found alone in his room staring into space or fumbling with patience cards.

ARCHIVE Radio Broadcast
We are interrupting our programme to bring you a news flash. The German radio has just announced that Hitler is dead. I repeat that, the German radio has just announced that Hitler is dead.

COL. FARRELL
As the end of the war approaches and it’s clearly a lost war, it’s a day of reckoning, if you will and they’re going to have to account how it got to be the way that it was and what their individual roles were.

KITTEL
I am certain to be named as a war criminal. 18,000 Jews were killed at ROSTOV. Of course I had nothing to do with the whole business! I was the only known general there… By the way, I’m going to hold my tongue about what little I do know until such time as they pick me out.

CHOLTITZ
The worst job I ever carried out – which however I carried out with great efficiency – was the liquidation of Jews. I carried out this order down to the very last detail.

VON THOMA
The whole thing was done on Hitler’s orders.

NARRATOR
With the war over, MI19 confronted their guests with the shame of the regime they served.

SYNC FROM MOVIETONE REEL – MUSIC Track
General Eisenhower comes to see with his own eyes the atrocities at Nazi Germany prison camps captured by the allied armies. He orders German civilians to be compelled to come and look at the ghastly evidence among them a Nazi officer who was a commander of the camp. Reluctant the Nazi officer a camp commander knows well enough what he’ll see.

SCHLIEBEN
That’s the only thing about the ‘thousand year Reich’ which will last for a thousand years.

VON FELBERT
Yes, we are disgraced for all time.

BRUHN
If you ask me: ‘Did we deserve victory?’ I say: ‘No, not after what we’ve done. Not after all the human blood we’ve shed. I see now we deserve defeat; we deserve our fate…

NARRATOR
As they stripped the stately homes of listening equipment, MI19 faced a choice: They had 50 thousand pages of damning transcripts. But releasing them meant revealing their methods of espionage.

HELEN FRY SYNC
Now Churchill wanted them released for war crimes trials… and what’s now emerging is that there was an intense debate within British Intelligence over whether the files should or should not be released.

SONKE SYNC
So there is an exchange of letters, what should we do with this material, should we use this in the Nuremberg Trials, for example, and the answer was very clear, no. We were very successful, we want to be successful in the future as well, so keep it secret, close your mouth, and we lock it away.

NARRATOR
In the end, the British chose to protect their new methods for the coming cold war – even at the expense of justice.

Not one of Trent Park’s prisoners was ever convicted of a single war crime on the basis of what they said while imprisoned.

END