Known as Hitler’s Black Book and listing ‘enemies of the state, traitors and undesirables, marked for punishment or death’, it has been painstakingly translated from the original German by Forces War Records’ excellent researchers. It documents 2,820 of the Reich’s ‘most wanted’ people in Britain, for targeting following invasion. There are many notables within the collection: probable and improbable politicians, intelligentsia, even entertainers.
The British Black Book was compiled with a view to taking out the top layer of society and undermining the British spirit. However, alongside obvious contenders, such as Winston Churchill, Clement Atlee (Deputy PM) and Anthony Eden (Secretary of State for War), it has a number of quite bizarre names on it too, such as Noel Coward, Paul Robeson and intriguingly, some people who were actually suspected Nazi sympathisers. The editors of the Daily Mail and Daily Express were on it too. But left off was the Royal Family, who it was presumably assumed would have fled before an invasion.
If ‘the Few’ had lost the Battle of Britain, and Hitler’s ‘Operation Sea Lion’, the planned invasion of Britain in 1940, had succeeded, the people on the list would have been the first to be rounded up and risk being killed, sent to concentration camps or forced to throw in their lot with the Germans and start doing the Führer’s bidding.
The digitising of the Black Book here on Forces War Records
This online resource lists every name in the book, why they were wanted, by who and the department, and in some cases what happened to the person who wanted them. Search by name, term or any keyword, or simply browse by any department of the Nazi 'machine'.
Hitler's Black Book has been painstakingly translated from its original German, interpreted to make sense of the complicated government jargon and abbreviations, and transcribed by Forces War Records’ Managing Director Tim Hayhoe, with assistance from military expert Sean Bennington. The original document is almost unusable, because the details given were all German abbreviations which needed researching before deciphering could even begin. They used several sources of information to retrieve the facts and then explain them. Previously obscure abbreviations have been explained, biographical details for the people listed have been added where available, and background information has been given on each and every Nazi department mentioned and the heads of those departments. All of this has been a labour of love that has taken around a year to complete.
Similar lists were drawn up, and indeed used, for the USSR, France, Poland and many other countries in Europe; thankfully, the only place in the British Isles where the list was actually consulted to round up ‘enemies of the state’ was the occupied Channel Islands. Of the 20,000 or so versions of the German lists originally printed, only two are thought to be in existence today: one at the Imperial War Museum, the other somewhere in Germany.
The entire digital Black Book can be seen and searched for free here:
Or, read information from the Office of Jewish Affairs section of the digitised book here.
‘Britain’s Schindler’, who saved 10,000 Jews from the Holocaust, is named in Hitler’s Black Book
Major Francis E. Foley, born in Somerset in 1884, was studying Philosophy in Hamburg when World War One broke out, but managed to escape Germany with the aid of a borrowed German officer's uniform. He initially joined the army and was later injured in action & rendered unfit for service. Subsequently, he was invited to join British Intelligence and spent the rest of the war recruiting for and running spy networks across France, Belgium and the Netherlands.
After the Great War he worked as Passport Control Officer in Berlin, a cover for his work as head of the Berlin Station of the British Secret Intelligence Service (MI6). His position enabled him to save tens of thousands of people from the Holocaust in the lead-up to the Second World War, as despite having no diplomatic immunity and being liable to arrest at any time, he repeatedly broke the rules when stamping passports and issuing visas to allow Jews to escape “legally” to Britain and Palestine. Sometimes he went further by going into Internment Camps to get Jews out, hiding them in his home and helping them get forged passports.
It is lucky for him that he was recalled to Britain at the outbreak of World War Two, since the Nazis were on to him – and his name was added to the Black Book. As it was, he lived to do even more damage to their regime; in 1942 he helped to co-ordinate MI5 and MI6 in running a network of double agents, the now famous “Double Cross System”.
Other famous names found in the book include: H.G. Wells, Virginia Wolf, Aldous Huxley, O'brian Ffrench - who was arguably the inspiration for Ian Flemming's James Bond- and many more.
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