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"There was little we didn't know about Nazi Germany"
May 23, 2013 11:06 AM   Subscribe

In a new book, a historian reveals that during WWII, the British kept three groups of Nazi prisoners captive under condititons that an outraged Churchill demanded be stopped.

As seen on Secrets of the Dead. how British Intelligence bugged their Nazi prisoners and learned about the inner workings of the Third Reich.
posted by never used baby shoes (31 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite

 
Plan 9 from Culture
posted by Free word order! at 11:13 AM on May 23, 2013


The high-ranking guests chatted away at such events in their native language, unaware that Col Kendrick himself spoke German and that such entertainment was being provided so as to relax them in captivity, making them so unguarded as to spill secrets - which they did.

"Hans, I'm a little worried about whether this Kendrick fellow can understand us. I mean, if I had someone like me as a prisoner, I would at the very least assign a liaison officer who could, you know, talk to us."
"Don't be ridiculous. They're English. They couldn't possible learn another Germanic language. I mean, it's not like their King is thirteen-sixteenths German or anything."
posted by Etrigan at 11:17 AM on May 23, 2013 [22 favorites]


They key was that they were dealing with German generals, most of which were still products of Prussian aristocracy and wacky high-minded academies. "Yes, I have wine and comfort. Exactly what I should be getting from these British pansies."
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 11:28 AM on May 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


Reveals? This has been known about for decades.

Constantly, a new book comes out about something and some journalist who hasn't heard of something before doesn't even check to see if it already was known.
posted by Ironmouth at 11:28 AM on May 23, 2013 [11 favorites]


Etrigan: "I mean, it's not like their King is thirteen-sixteenths German or anything."

I'm going to object to this one.
posted by Chrysostom at 11:33 AM on May 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


I don't consider things "revealed" until they have been featured in a blockbuster film directed by and/or starring Ben Affleck.
posted by Behemoth at 11:34 AM on May 23, 2013 [20 favorites]


What do you want, Ironmouth? I would imagine the press release also said it was excitingly new, so unless you actually want research or fact checking the journalist is blameless.
posted by jaduncan at 11:36 AM on May 23, 2013 [5 favorites]


Only if Affleck plays Hitler.
posted by phong3d at 11:38 AM on May 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


They also did this to scientists who worked on the German nuclear project.
posted by Jehan at 11:42 AM on May 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


'Secrets of the Dead' is one of the few worthwhile series on TV. After Mr. Roquette wakes from his nap, I am watching the Fremantle episode. And probably all the rest.
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 11:44 AM on May 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


Big deal. According to my extensive pre-adolescent research in Commando comics German is basically English with the esses turned to zees and the occasional "Gott in Himmel" and "Englander Schweinhund!" thrown in. It would be just like those stupid krauts not to realize we'd seen through that charade.
posted by yoink at 11:45 AM on May 23, 2013 [11 favorites]


They also did this to scientists who worked on the German nuclear project

Well, yes. What intelligence service wouldn't bug high value prisoners? These are the people that you codebreak all day to listen to before capture; the cost of post capture bugging is comparatively negligible.
posted by jaduncan at 11:46 AM on May 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


Constantly, a new book comes out about something and some journalist who hasn't heard of something beforeis repeating a press-release talking point doesn't even check to see if it already was known.
posted by DU at 11:48 AM on May 23, 2013


What do you want, Ironmouth? I would imagine the press release also said it was excitingly new, so unless you actually want research or fact checking the journalist is blameless.

Isn't that what Journalists are, you know, meant to do?
posted by garius at 11:53 AM on May 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


Isn't that what Journalists are, you know, meant to do?

I call my journalist Lord Bandersnatch and he serves me hamburgers.
posted by FatherDagon at 11:56 AM on May 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


My sarcasm indicators are apparently set on low. Suffice it to say I may have been eating a hamburger whilst commenting.
posted by jaduncan at 11:57 AM on May 23, 2013


"I mean, it's not like their King is thirteen-sixteenths German or anything."

I'm going to object to this one.


George VI's great-great-grandparents:

Ernest I, Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha
Princess Louise of Saxe-Gotha-Altenburg
Prince Edward, Duke of Kent and Strathearn
Princess Victoria of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld
Frederick William, Duke of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Glücksburg
Princess Louise Caroline of Hesse-Kassel
Landgrave William of Hesse-Kassel

Princess Louise Charlotte of Denmark
Duke Louis of Württemberg
Princess Henriette of Nassau-Weilburg

Count László Rhédey von Kis-Rhéde
Baroness Ágnes Inczédy von Nagy-Várad
George III of the United Kingdom
Duchess Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz
Landgrave Frederick of Hesse-Kassel
Princess Caroline of Nassau-Usingen


Sorry, I was wrong: He was, by ancestry, 11/16ths German (I misread those two Hungarians). I'm not saying he wasn't sufficiently British, but you can't deny that if he were a dog, his papers would say he was mostly of a German breed.
posted by Etrigan at 12:00 PM on May 23, 2013 [5 favorites]


you can't deny that if he were a dog, his papers would say he was mostly of a German breed

Or that he would have looked truly adorable in his coronation robes.
posted by yoink at 12:02 PM on May 23, 2013 [28 favorites]


Or that he would have looked truly adorable in his coronation robes.

The speech therapy would also have been considerably trickier.

"Can you say 'at war'? I know you can. Who's a good monarch?"
posted by jaduncan at 12:06 PM on May 23, 2013 [11 favorites]


I'm actually surprised to find a monarch who actually had 16 distinct great-great-grandparents. They don't even do inbreeding like they used to.
posted by DU at 12:11 PM on May 23, 2013 [6 favorites]


I misread those two Hungarians

You mean Austrians, they were Haubsburgs NOT Magyars!
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 12:12 PM on May 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


Please, please, people: back on topic! Enough of the "Was the King German or not?" derail.

We were discussing whether or not it was moral for the British ruling family to have more than two children.

And how much the noise bothered their downstairs neighbors, which I guess in their case, were the staff.
posted by IAmBroom at 12:12 PM on May 23, 2013 [10 favorites]


If someone can find a YouTube of it, I remember seeing on some A&E special regarding interrogations that police officers are able to get more information when they're being buddy-buddy with the suspect, than through torture. Or maybe it was that doc about the Stasi.

The idea is that if the suspect feels threatened, even slightly, they are better able to focus on their planned responses. If they are too relaxed and confident, the brain will accidentally* slip little pieces of truth into the things they say. The other problem with torture or other harsh techniques is that they often produce false confessions or manufactured information. People will go out of their way to end the episode.

*Not the word I wanted to use, but it's the closest to what I mean.

[Tangent: I remember when I was in high school, the Vice Principal was my best friend's father, and when I was sent to his office for some infraction or another, we'd sit around chatting about Black Sabbath or some new expensive dj/audio equipment; and he'd let me off with a "boys will be boys... don't get caught, next time." In retrospect, I realize a couple times he had caught me saying something that pointed him towards more major infractions by other students. I was a narc, and didn't even know it. And he was amazingly tricky about it, too.

Him: "Well, when we set up the show in the auditorium, we'll have to make sure that the fog machines aren't on the floor again. It was like the bathroom when C's in there. *wink*."

Me: "C? Or do you mean his brother?"

What I later figured out, he just picked a random friend of mine, and knowing I was the type that didn't want people to have the wrong idea about people I liked, I walked right into it. That's not the best example, but it's one of the ones I can remember.]
posted by Bathtub Bobsled at 12:16 PM on May 23, 2013 [14 favorites]


A lazy ass piece that once more proves that the BBC isn't free of Flat Earth Newsreporting either, sadly. Nothing new is said, the author overstates her points and there's nothing there you couldn't have gotten from Wikipedia.
posted by MartinWisse at 12:17 PM on May 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm actually surprised to find a monarch who actually had 16 distinct great-great-grandparents. They don't even do inbreeding like they used to.

One of them (Prince Edward, George VI's father's father's mother's father) was the son of two of the others (King George III and Queen Charlotte, George VI's mother's mother's father's parents). So if you go back one more generation, you start seeing repeats.
posted by Etrigan at 12:25 PM on May 23, 2013


Bathtub Bobsled: police officers are able to get more information when they're being buddy-buddy with the suspect, than through torture.
It's a pretty solid component of military interrogation, at least up until GWB took over. I have a friend who did this during live exercises, and could get people that knew he was there to interrogate them and whose promotions were partly tied to their success in the exercises to give him loads of information.

Only a completely naive, vengeance-blinded stooge would believe waterboarding would get you farther than coca-cola and a comfy chair. Or someone who had no real training, who would essentially be a low-level patsy, and later probably offered up as a scapegoat...
posted by IAmBroom at 12:27 PM on May 23, 2013 [7 favorites]


Well, yes. What intelligence service wouldn't bug high value prisoners? These are the people that you codebreak all day to listen to before capture; the cost of post capture bugging is comparatively negligible.
Of course. Though I'm not sure how much information about the nuclear project ever turned up in decrypted communications. Listening in to German scientists was more of a "first run" intelligence gathering than listening in to generals.
posted by Jehan at 1:29 PM on May 23, 2013


The speech therapy would also have been considerably trickier.

Up and at them.
posted by juiceCake at 1:42 PM on May 23, 2013


'Secrets of the Dead' is one of the few worthwhile series on TV

Check out the episode "The Airmen and the Headhunters". So great.
posted by Pruitt-Igoe at 9:53 PM on May 23, 2013


I do love that Churchill told them to stop, and they were basically "Eh, fuck that guy."
posted by corb at 5:33 AM on May 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


yoink: ">you can't deny that if he were a dog, his papers would say he was mostly of a German breed

Or that he would have looked truly adorable in his coronation robes.
"

Pugs in ermine.
posted by Lexica at 4:00 PM on May 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


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