Fake news WWII style

fakenews

Between 1941 and 1943, an exceedingly peculiar series of transmissions reached radio sets in Germany. The broadcaster called himself Der Chef, or the chief, and his Berliner accent and prodigious knowledge of military affairs suggested he was a high-ranking German of the old guard, probably an army officer.

OFFICER

A patriot and Hitler loyalist, Der Chef bemoaned the corruption enveloping Nazi headquarters while the war was being fought across Europe. He disclosed worrying news that injured German soldiers were receiving infusions of syphilis-tainted blood from captured Poles and Slavs, and gossiped about an Italian diplomat in Berlin who was bedding the wives of German officers. German civilians picking up the shortwave radio transmissions thought they were eavesdropping on the affairs of a secret military organ led by Der Chef.

“Had his listeners been able to take a peep at the surroundings in which his messages were, in fact, recorded,” the British journalist Sefton Delmer wrote years later, “our audience would, I am sure, have shrunk to zero.” Delmer knew of what he spoke: He had helped create Der Chef.

DELMER

Denis Sefton Delmer (24 May 1904 – 4 September 1979) was a British journalist of Australian heritage and propagandist for the British government. Fluent in German, he became friendly with Ernst Röhm who arranged for him to interview Adolf Hitler in the 1930s.

_Ernst_Röhm

During WWII he led a black propaganda campaign against Hitler by radio from England, sufficiently successful he was named in the Nazis’ Black Book for immediate arrest after their invasion of England.

Although this was hardly the first instance of a wartime disinformation campaign, Delmer’s “Black Propaganda,” as he called it, shared plenty with today’s “fake news.” It was agitprop masquerading as inside dirt. To be sure, British intelligence agents played a role, but it was behind the scenes, unlike traditional government propaganda. By most accounts the broadcasts were insidiously effective: Hitler’s high command repeatedly attempted to block the signal.

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It turns out that Delmer, developed a fake news factory aimed at disrupting the Nazis. He introduced several other radio stations, including one anchored by a young German named “Vicki,” who read a mixture of real news culled from intelligence sources and fake items, including a fabricated report about an outbreak of diphtheria among German children.

Delmer had access to Aspidistra, a 500 kW radio transmitter obtained from RCA in the US (their largest off-the-shelf-model), which Section VIII bought for £165,000.

Aspi4logo

Use of Aspidistra, which began in 1942, was split between PWE, the BBC, and the RAF. Delmer’s creation was Deutsche Kurzwellensender Atlantik (or popularly Atlantiksender).

Soldatensender Calais (“Calais Armed Forces Radio Station”) was another clandestine radio station directed at the German armed forces by Delmer. Based in Milton Bryan and transmitting from Crowborough, Soldatensender Calais broadcast a combination of popular music, “cover” support of the war, and “dirt” – items inserted to demoralize German forces.

aspi01

In November 1943, Delmer ended Der Chef’s reign of error by penning a script that had Nazi troops storming the studio and “shooting” him mid-broadcast, but many other ruses lived on. Beginning in May 1944, he produced a German-language newspaper called Nachrichten für die Truppe (News for the Troops), which was air-dropped to soldiers on the Western front.

NEWSPAPER

After the war, Delmer rejoined Britain’s Daily Express, revealing his earlier role as a source of fake news in a 1962 memoir.

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The War of the Worlds

 

Yet across the gulf of space, minds that are to our minds as ours are to those of the beasts that perish, intellects vast and cool and unsympathetic, regarded this earth with envious eyes, and slowly and surely drew their plans against us.

— H. G. Wells (1898), The War of the Worlds

I don’t know what it is about this Sci-Fi classic by H.G. Wells first serialised in 1897 in the UK by Pearson’s Magazine and in the US by Cosmopolitan magazine. The novel’s first appearance in hardcover was in 1898 from publisher William Heinemann of London.

But ever since I came across the story I fell in love with it. But it was via Jeff Wayne’s musical version I  encountered the tale of the Martians that invaded our planet, Even though the chances of this happening were a Million to one.

I forget how often I have listened to that album but at least hundreds of times if not thousands(maybe I should get out more). In 2008 I got the chance to see the live show. 30 years I had waited for it and it did not disappoint. Although I was a bit surprised by the cast who joined for the most recent shows,in my opinion some just had no talent at all(An ex member of Westlife), leave alone to be a part of such an amazing phenomena.

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But of course it was Orson Welles’s radio broadcast of the World of the Wars which had probably the biggest impact. The panic that ensued because people believed it was a genuine news broadcast. Ingenious really when you think of it, you just can’t buy that kind of publicity. It was on the 30th of October 1938, the world was in grip of events happening in Germany.

 

Someone asked me once “what is your favourite War of the Worlds movie?”And I honestly couldn’t say. I like the 1953 and Spielberg’s 2005 adaptation equally.

 

The story is really the most basic form of Science Fiction. The earth being invaded by aliens. But it works, it is compelling. It basically is a war story but rather then human enemies we are fighting extra terrestrial foes.

The story clearly inspired other TV show and movie makers. Series like “V” and “Falling Skies” are clearly based on the War of the Worlds as is “Independence Day”

 

What is the most fascinating is that it was written between 1895 and 1897 and it didn’t date. It is still as fresh as it was when it was first released. Ironically I only read the book after I listened to the musical version and watched the movies.

correa-martians_vs-_thunder_child

I think I might just retreat now and listen to the album again, or read the book. I may even watch one of the movies.Either way one thing I know for sure the story will never bore me regardless in which configuration or adaption. Leaving you with some art work of Jeff Wayne’s musical version of TWOTW and my favorite track.

 

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I am passionate about my site and I know a you all like reading my blogs. I have been doing this at no cost and will continue to do so. All I ask is for a voluntary donation of $2 ,however if you are not in a position to do so I can fully understand, maybe next time then. Thanks To donate click on the credit/debit card icon of the card you will use. If you want to donate more then $2 just add a higher number in the box left from the paypal link. Many thanks

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