Regardless what you think of the Nazi’s, one thing can’t be denied. They had an extremely effective and well oiled propaganda machine.
Not only German Nazi members and citizens were involved it had also foreign Nazi sympathizers working for them and none so infamous and notorious as William Joyce AKA Lord Haw Haw.
William Joyce was born on Herkimer Street in Brooklyn, New York, to an Anglican mother and an Irish Catholic father, Michael, who had taken United States citizenship on 25 October 1894. A few years after his birth, the family returned to Galway, Ireland.
Joyce attended the Jesuit St Ignatius College in Galway (1915–21).
It was here that during a fist fight with another boy that Joyce had his nose broken. He kept quiet about the injury and his nose never properly set – giving him the nasal broken drawl so familiar in his later broadcasts from Germany
Unusually for Irish Roman Catholics, both Joyce and his father were strongly Unionist. Joyce later claimed he had aided the Black and Tans during the Irish War for Independence
and had become a target of the Irish Republican Army.
The Joyce family were in Ireland at the time of the Sinn Fein insurrections and because they were Conservative and pro-Union they were very unpopular with the rebels. Joyce’s early life was marked by violence, including an attack on his father’s business and attacks on the family home by Sinn Feiners. When the British Prime Minister Lloyd George announced the Anglo-Irish Treaty of 1921 and the creation of the Irish State the Joyce family left for England. Joyce was then 15 years old.
Far from being the puny figure described by the press during World War II, William Joyce was of average height and strongly built. During his youth he excelled at boxing, swimming and fencing. This was to hold him in good stead later when he was involved in many street battles.
On 22 October 1924, while stewarding a meeting in support of Jack Lazarus (the Conservative Party candidate for Lambeth North in the general election), Joyce was attacked by Communists and received a deep razor slash that ran across his right cheek. It left a permanent scar which ran from the earlobe to the corner of the mouth.He claimed his attackers were Jews.
In 1932, Joyce joined the British Union of Fascists (BUF) under Sir Oswald Mosley, and swiftly became a leading speaker, praised for his power of oratory.
The journalist and novelist Cecil Roberts described a speech given by Joyce:
“Thin, pale, intense, he had not been speaking many minutes before we were electrified by this man … so terrifying in its dynamic force, so vituperative, so vitriolic”
William Joyce gained the reputation of a savage fighter and was always the first to dive into a fracas with knuckle-duster at the ready.† The image of “Jewish Communists” who scarred his face was always in the back of his mind and he wanted revenge. Standing on his soapbox in Blackshirt battledress – a buttoned black suit with a high-necked pullover – his left hand in his pocket and his right clutching the microphone – he fed on the tension and heckling like a drug. The June 1934 Olympia conference which turned into a bloody fight and the violent rhetoric of Joyce destroyed the image of respectability that Mosley and the BUF were striving for. But this did not prevent Joyce from being appointed Deputy Leader of the BUF.
His violent rhetoric and willingness to physically confront anti-fascist elements head-on played no small part in further marginalizing the BUF. After the bloody debacle of Olympia, Joyce spearheaded the BUF’s policy shift from campaigning for economic revival through corporatism to a focus on antisemitism. He was instrumental in changing the name of the BUF to “British Union of Fascists and National Socialists” in 1936, and stood as a party candidate in the 1937 elections to the London County Council. In 1936 Joyce lived for a year in Whitstable, where he owned a radio and electrical shop.
One particular concern for Joyce was the Government of India Bill (passed in 1935), designed to give a measure of autonomy to India, allowing freedom and the development of limited self-government. Joyce harboured a desire to become Viceroy of India should Mosley ever head a BUF government, and is recorded as describing the backers of the bill as “feeble” and “one loathsome, fetid, purulent, tumid mass of hypocrisy, hiding behind Jewish Dictators
Mosley and Joyce were completely different in character. Mosley was relaxed, humorous and charming whereas Joyce was impatient, intense and bad-tempered. Joyce’s departure from the BUF in April 1937 came as a result of Joyce being dismissed from the salaried staff of the BUF. Bad election results, falling support and lack of money led to a BUF staff reduction of 143 to approximately 30. This and Joyce’s personal differences with Mosley led Joyce to form the British National Socialist League.
Despite Joyce having been Deputy Leader of the BUF between 1933 and 1937 and a brave fighter and powerful orator, Mosley snubbed him in his autobiography and denounced him as a traitor because of his wartime activities.
On 26 August 1939, approximately a week before the outbreak of war, Joyce and his family fled to Berlin after a tip-off that, under the soon to be introduced emergency powers, he would be interned for the duration of the war. It was an act that would lead eventually to his death and denouncement by many, including Mosley, as a traitor. Rightly or wrongly Joyce was adamant that Britain was being led into another pointless war and Neville Chamberlain’s, and subsequently Winston Churchill’s, governments were betraying their people.
In Berlin, Joyce could not find employment until a chance meeting with fellow Mosleyite Dorothy Eckersley got him an audition at the Rundfunkhaus (“broadcasting house“).Eckersley was the former wife of the Chief Engineer of the British Broadcasting Corporation, Peter Eckersley. Despite having a heavy cold and almost losing his voice, he was recruited immediately for radio announcements and script writing at German radio’s English service. William Joyce replaced Wolf Mittler.
The name “Lord Haw-Haw of Zeesen” was coined in 1939 by the pseudonymous Daily Express radio critic Jonah Barrington,but this referred initially to Wolf Mittler (or possibly Norman Baillie-Stewart). When Joyce became the best-known propaganda broadcaster, the nickname was transferred to him. Joyce’s broadcasts initially came from studios in Berlin, later transferring (because of heavy Allied bombing) to Luxembourg and finally to Apen near Hamburg, and were relayed over a network of German-controlled radio stations that included Hamburg, Bremen,Luxembourg, Hilversum, Calais, Oslo and Zeesen. Joyce also broadcast on, and wrote scripts for, the German Büro Concordia organisation, which ran several black propaganda stations, many of which pretended to broadcast illegally from within Britain.His role in writing the scripts increased as time passed, and the German radio capitalized on his public persona. Initially an anonymous broadcaster, Joyce eventually revealed his real name to his listeners; and he would occasionally be announced as “William Joyce, otherwise known as Lord Haw-Haw”.Urban legends soon circulated about Lord Haw-Haw, alleging that the broadcaster was well-informed about political and military events to the point of near-omniscience.
Although it was illegal to listen to his broadcasts in Britain they became very popular with British listeners. They always began with the words “Germany calling Germany calling,” which because of Joyce’s broken nose sounded like: “Jarmany calling, Jarmany calling.” During his heyday Joyce had almost as many listeners as the BBC – and he caused alarm with his tales of a Fifth Column in Britain and his talks on how to treat bombing wounds. He caused panic with his apparently accurate descriptions of Town Hall clocks that had stopped and how many steps there were in a particular church steeple.
After the Battle of Britain and the invasion of Russia, Joyce’s broadcasts lost more and more listeners in Britain – but he still remained the number one broadcaster in Berlin and his anti-semitism never faded in its virulence – continuing to blame the war on “Jewish International Finance.” For his efforts Joyce continued to live a comfortable life in Berlin and in September 1944 was awarded the Cross of War Merit 1st Class with a certificate signed by Adolf Hitler. As the war worsened he began to drink heavily and his marriage became a joke with both his wife and he having numerous affairs.
During the final stages of the war, with the Red Army approaching Berlin, Joyce moved to Hamburg. He made a final broadcast on 30 April 1945 – warning that the war would leave Britain poor and barren now that she had lost all her wealth and power in 6 years of war, leaving the Russians in control of most of Europe. He signed off with a final defiant “Heil Hitler.”
Joyce was captured while going through a wood near Flensburg after the war; he received a bullet wound to the leg in the process. Joyce’s fate at the gallows was then merely a formality and the British press whipped up all the hysteria they could – reminding people that he was a snarling traitor. The British Government passed the Treason Act 1945 the day before Joyce was flown back to Britain.
Although Joyce was born in the USA, brought up in Ireland and took German nationality on 26 September 1939, he was charged with treason from 3 September 1939 to 2 July 1940, the date his British passport ran out, and sentenced to death. Joyce was confined in a death cell at London’s Wandsworth Prison. In the cell next door was John Amery, the son of a British lord and the man who had tried to form British expatriates and sympathetic British POW’s into a Freicorp to fight on the German side. Joyce was executed five days after Amery on 3 January 1946. He was adamant and defiant to the end. He showed no emotion when confronted by news and scenes from the concentration camps, blaming the deaths on starvation and disease caused by Allied bombing of communication lines. He also scratched a swastika on the wall of his cell whilst awaiting sentence. His last public message reported by the BBC was “In death as in life, I defy the Jews who caused this last war, and I defy the powers of darkness they represent.” He was not yet 40 years old when executed. He was buried in an unmarked grave in the grounds of the prison.