Sefton Delmer, propaganda genius behind Gustav Siegfried Eins [Pic: Wikipedia]
On the afternoon of 17 May 1943, a remarkable broadcast was heard on German radio sets. ‘Achtung, achtung, said the speaker. An ‘incalculable flood catastrophe … befell our homeland last night from the destruction of the Moehne and Eder valley dams.’ He went on:
‘The responsibility for the fact that the enemy could succeed in inflicting this horrible desolation with his mines and bombs, unfortunately, will still be unavoidably affected by it, the responsibility for it remains with the Kommune, for the most part with a single individual, with Joseph Terboven.
Terboven – let it not be forgotten about him – allegedly in order to preserve for the nation the works of art in his ostentatious castle in Kettwig, had all portable anti-aircraft equipment from the Moehne Valley taken away on May 12, right after the air attack on Duisburg, and set up in Kettwig to protect his castle which he considered badly threatened.
Only the heavy guns permanently emplaced at the vital Moehne Valley dam on which the system of the whole Ruhr valley depends, were left there. And four days later, last night, the enemy was right on hand and simultaneously attacked the Moehne, Sorpe and Eder Valley Dams. On the Moehne the defence was hopeless. Joseph Terboven saw to that. One lone shitpot Englishman was brought down. The enemy made four low-altitude flights practically unhindered, calmly illuminated the region with flares, and with his mines smashed a gap 100 metres long in the dam.
At the Eder Valley dam it was not much better. There the Kommune land defenders had long since carried off the greater part of the anti-aircraft and set it up at Kassel, with the fantastic explanation that the enemy wouldn’t be able to find the dam in the Eder Valley anyway. The defence of the cities is much more important on account of the morale of the people. What is left of the morale, what is left of anything at all, whether Kassel itself will be spared the devil only knows – now that the Eder dam is blasted and the unleashed floods rage down the Weser, Schwalm and Fulds Valleys, destroying men, live stock and crops for many kilometres around, tearing away bridges and (halting) the war production for months to come.
The single dam which could be properly defended because there, perhaps by pure chance, all the flak was still available, was the Sorpe valley dam. There they brought down at least seven of the attackers, and in spite of three heavy attacks only a small hole was made in the dam. Let’s hope it will hold.’
The speaker claimed to be someone called ‘Der Chef’ – the Chief. He was a patriotic German officer, broadcasting from somewhere deep inside the German Reich from a radio station called Gustav Siegfried Eins (GS1).
Der Chef saw himself as the head of an organisation of disaffected German troops. He hated the British, led by Churchill who he described as a drunken old cigar-smoking Jew, but almost as much he hated what he called the Party Kommune. This was his term for the loose organisation of low and middle-ranking Nazi bosses who were mostly concerned with their own welfare to the detriment of the war effort. They feathered their own nests, shirked their civil and military duty and profiteered from the war. According to der Chef, as long as they were comfortably housed, continued to make money, were safe from Allied bombing and were well fed, they were happy to see the German people dying in a fruitless and mismanaged war.
The broadcast on 17 May 1943 was one of many where Der Chef attacked the Kommune, and in particular a man called Josef Terboven, the President of the Rhine Province and also the Reichskommissar for Norway.
Der Chef’s radio broadcasts went out at 12 minutes before the hour, and lasted about 12 minutes each. They were repeated throughout the day at the same time.
Two voices were heard in each broadcast, an announcer and Der Chef himself. He saw himself as a trenchant, hard-hitting spokesman, fearless, determined and completely sure of the ground on which he stood. He frequently used the coarse type of language which he saw as being appreciated by the front line soldier.
The broadcasts were apparently listened to by a number of German people. Whether they believed them or not is another matter since they were, of course, propaganda, broadcast by a clandestine British station, hidden in the Bedfordshire village of Aspley Guise*. The station was the brainchild of a unit in the Political Warfare Executive led by the Daily Express journalist Sefton Delmer. Delmer went on to create a number of other clandestine radio stations later in the war.
The translated extract above and much of the other information in this article comes from Lee Richards’s psywar.org website. Here is the full translated text of the 17 May broadcast.
*Fascinating Fact about the Dams Raid, number 317: Between 1880 and 1914, the Rector of Aspley Guise, the village which housed PWE’s secret radio station, was the Rev James Chadwick Maltby, grandfather of Dams Raid pilot, Flt Lt David Maltby.