Shadow banned by MI5
September 9, 2018 9:32 PM   Subscribe

“... [T]he records do suggest that having spent the war as fake German spies, Perigoe and Kohout finished it receiving Nazi medals that were forged by the world’s most famous Jewish bank.”
posted by chappell, ambrose (21 comments total) 25 users marked this as a favorite
 
This is an awesome story! Thanks for posting.
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 9:42 PM on September 9 [2 favorites]


During the Cold War MI5 uncovered quite a few senior civil servants passing information to the Soviets (and missed a lot more). When these men retired they were typically given knighthoods, to assuage any fears the opposition might have had that they’d been discovered. A lot of espionage is a grim, seedy business.
posted by um at 10:08 PM on September 9 [6 favorites]


British Intelligence managed to turn every Nazi spy in the UK; all were run from MI5 and feeding disinformation back to the Nazis. They only discovered how complete their success had been after seizing records in Berlin.

The flipside of this is that, had the Nazis even one spy delivering useful intelligence from Britain, the war may have gone very differently. (Had they discovered, say, Bletchley Park, certainly.)
posted by acb at 12:29 AM on September 10 [5 favorites]


[A couple deleted. I'm not sure what's in the water today, but let's just discuss this like we're grownups without weird rage tweeting or tough guy stuff.]
posted by taz (staff) at 3:55 AM on September 10 [9 favorites]


There were a whole bunch of fairly outlandish ideas that were tried during the war and worked. My favorite Second World War documentary was about decoys built to fool German bombers. (And the interview with an elderly German bomber pilot who basically said "We kind of figured we were bombing fields sometimes, but we weren't going to go back and say that, were we?")

I think we could have done without the "Jewish bank" phrasing in the article. (Which is also probably not accurate, but I'm not sure. The Rothschild family owned (owns?) the entity that refined gold etc for the Royal Mint, but the mint itself is state-owned.)
posted by hoyland at 4:24 AM on September 10 [5 favorites]


They also had almost total information about what the IRA were up to during the Troubles, what with the head of the IRA internal affairs unit working for them. Makes me wonder what kinds of information we'll see released 20/30 years from now about Brexit and it's boosters.
posted by Damienmce at 4:56 AM on September 10 [8 favorites]


At the end of the war, MI5 decided not to prosecute any of the ‘Fifth Column’ – partly because it did not want the Home Office to discover what it had been doing. According to Hutton, the operation was so controversial that details were kept out of reports sent to Winston Churchill.
Once I would have found all this thrilling, but today it's impossible for me to ignore the anti-democratic deep-state-unsupervised angle. Sure, I can cheer in this case because the "good guys" came out on top, but it's not a principled stance, is it?
posted by Western Infidels at 5:53 AM on September 10


I don’t think there are usually a lot of principles in existential conflict.
posted by schadenfrau at 6:00 AM on September 10 [3 favorites]


I don’t think there are usually a lot of principles in existential conflict.

If what you're fighting for is the continued existence of democracy there have to be principles.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 6:05 AM on September 10 [3 favorites]


Western Infidels: Once I would have found all this thrilling, but today it's impossible for me to ignore the anti-democratic deep-state-unsupervised angle. Sure, I can cheer in this case because the "good guys" came out on top, but it's not a principled stance, is it?

I'd suggest that everything about war is troubling from a principled stance.
posted by clawsoon at 6:20 AM on September 10 [4 favorites]


If what you're fighting for is the continued existence of democracy there have to be principles.

Paging Karl Popper's paradox of tolerance
posted by Damienmce at 6:28 AM on September 10 [4 favorites]


Hutton visited Kohout’s son Earnest in 2017. He had found the medal among his father’s possessions after his death. “When he asked his mother about it,” Hutton said, “she told him it had been given to his grandfather for long service on the Austrian railway. So he hung it on his toilet wall.”

I want to believe that he hung it on the wall because there was no easy way to attach it to the inside of the toilet bowl.
posted by Halloween Jack at 6:30 AM on September 10


I don't understand why Churchill would have objected to MI5 subverting and blunting a fifth column.
posted by M-x shell at 6:42 AM on September 10 [1 favorite]


> If what you're fighting for is the continued existence of democracy there have to be principles.

Were they fighting for the continued existence of democracy or for the continuation of the existing social and political structure against a foreign power that would surely treat them as enemy combatants or worse?

I mean, that's an unanswerable question for a variety of reasons, but my suspicion that even the people who entered service as idealists weren't too tenacious about their ideals after a while.
posted by ardgedee at 6:49 AM on September 10 [2 favorites]


I don't understand why Churchill would have objected to MI5 subverting and blunting a fifth column.

I can think of two reasons to do this. First, Churchill having a bigger picture might have decided to use the info for other purposes counter to what MI5 intended - The player has different objectives than the chess pieces after all and sometimes you sacrifice valuable things for even more valuable objectives - so at one level bureaucratic turf protecting. The other is compartmentalization - Churchill's office may not have been fully secure particularly with so many of British high society being openly nazi-fanboy prior and during the early stages of WWII.
posted by srboisvert at 7:27 AM on September 10 [4 favorites]


If what you're fighting for is the continued existence of democracy there have to be principles.

I mean, when you’re fighting Nazis, you’re not fighting for democracy or any other abstract ideal, unless you are the sort of incredibly privileged and also Aryan-looking figurehead they might find useful after they win. You’re fighting for survival.
posted by schadenfrau at 7:33 AM on September 10 [13 favorites]


Once I would have found all this thrilling, but today it's impossible for me to ignore the anti-democratic deep-state-unsupervised angle.

Well, one way to think about this is to consider closely the meaning of the phrase "details were kept out of reports." I assume based on what we know about other operations that Churchill would have been made minimally aware that this sort of counterespionage was happening, but for reasons both having to do with the security of the operation and the need for Churchill not to be caught lying about it, the less that went on paper the better.

MI5 also had good reason not to trust MI6, and vice versa (in addition to a bunch of bad reasons relating to class, schooling, and politics). And in fact it turned out that MI6 was thoroughly penetrated by the Russians. MI5 would have (correctly) assumed that the more members of the cabinet or Parliament knew about the operation, the better the chance the whole thing would have been blown. MI6 did more of this sort of operation than MI5 did, out of a more ingrained sense of institutional (and individual) paranoia, but it's hardly surprising that MI5 would have identified the risk of titled aristocrats leaking (more or less intentionally) to German relatives or spies.
posted by fedward at 7:36 AM on September 10 [7 favorites]


 British Intelligence managed to turn every Nazi spy in the UK

Not sure it quite makes up for the damage done to the entire Dutch and a fair chunk of the French clandestine operations due to SOE's crap encryption, though.
posted by scruss at 2:29 PM on September 10


Once I would have found all this thrilling, but today it's impossible for me to ignore the anti-democratic deep-state-unsupervised angle.

Two years ago I'd have agreed with you.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 5:09 PM on September 10


Makes me wonder what kinds of information we'll see released 20/30 years from now about Brexit and it's boosters.

If it's embarrassing enough it will never be released. There are still people trying to get access to surviving records from Britain's decolonisation era. I'm talking about really bad stuff - torture, and literal death squads run by British army officers, as well as deliberate incitement of local racial violence. Most of the records were hastily destroyed, but some survived that process only to be subsequently buried within the archives.
posted by Joe in Australia at 3:52 AM on September 11 [3 favorites]


The Jewish Chronicle has another review that's more explicit about Victor Rothschild's reasons for keeping the operation secret: many senior British figures were antisemitic, and antisemites tended to be sympathetic to Germany.
[...] Partly, this was self-protection: the Home Office had been unaware of Roberts’s activities. MI5 was also reluctant to damage the excellent sources of information it had inside British fascism. But it’s hard to escape the conclusion that part of the motivation was embarrassment: in 1945, nobody wanted to hear that many Britons hadn’t been loyal to King and Country.

Sir William Strang’s career was protected for the same reason. He would go on to head the Foreign Office, and then sit in the House of Lords, one of the great and the good. He never knew about his appearance in MI5’s files. If it bothered Rothschild, he didn’t record it. “All Jews almost everywhere learn to live with the mild sort of antisemitism which afflicts so many people, even the liberal-minded,” he wrote towards the end of his life.

But MI5’s silence came at a cost. It meant Britain could tell itself fascism and antisemitism were Continental, Germanic vices, not something that ever tempted honest, decent John Bull. This failure to recognise a true picture of ourselves still echoes.
posted by Joe in Australia at 5:06 PM on September 13 [1 favorite]


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