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BLOG: Wartime Radio Propaganda

Hello, and Happy Valentine's Week to everyone!

Before I introduce today's blog and guest author, I have an exciting announcement! Pre-orders for West of Santillane are now available on Amazon. If you have a Kindle e-book, be sure to go order your copy today. On March 8th at 12am, it will automatically be downloaded to your device. I'm pleased to say that The Historical Fiction Company--which produces an online magazine and holds an annual writing contest each year, specifically for historical fiction novels, has already given my book a 5-star rating!!! Stuff like that gives an author warm-fuzzies inside! Ha!

This week, I'm so thrilled to welcome a prolific and dynamic writer--Deborah Swift. Her newest book, The Shadow Network, is a WWII tale about radios, propaganda, and the people behind the attempts to counteract Nazism in Britain. I'd like to welcome Deborah once again to Brook's Journal. Scroll down and learn a little bit about entertainers who kicked against Hitler's goad!

And as always, READ ON, everybody!

Wartime Radio Propaganda by Deborah Swift

There is no doubt that Radio was the most popular entertainment medium during the Second World War. Radio could reach a large number of the population and was used to inform, bring news bulletins and also to encourage people to get behind the war effort. One of the most popular shows in Britain, It's That Man Again was able to reach 40% of the British population, and in the USA 90% of American families owned a radio.

It was obvious that people’s opinions were formed and could be controlled by this mass medium, so in Germany, on the orders of Goebbels, the radio sets were replaced by German sets - the Volksempfänger or  “people’s receiver” - which could only receive one channel – that of the Nazis’ official propaganda. [below, left] This meant that Germans, frustrated by this meagre content, were much more inclined to listen to ‘pirate’ radio stations. 

Fake News

Because of this, the Political Warfare Executive in London came up with the idea of inventing a fake German radio station, supposedly broadcasting from within Germany, and this was used to spread anti-establishment and anti-Nazi propaganda to the unsuspecting German public who thought they were listening to a genuine, but illegal, German radio station.

On the other side of the equation, Lord Haw-Haw’s show “Germany Calling” was broadcast to audiences in Great Britain. Lord Haw Haw (William Joyce) was Germany’s English speaking broadcaster on the station Reichssender Hamburg and aimed to demoralize the Allies. Weirdly, it attracted an audience of about 6-million regular listeners across Great Britain. This was probably because although the broadcasts were known to be Nazi propaganda, they gave the only news from behind enemy lines about the fate of air crews who did not return from bombing raids over Germany. 

The secret radio stations in England such as Soldatensender Calais (pretending to be German troops in France) employed German prisoners of war or other German speakers to make their broadcasts. This is one of the stations featured in The Shadow Network. The broadcasts were deliberately racy and were designed to capture the hearts of ordinary Germans and make them believe they were listening to a forbidden radio station from their own country. Soldatensender Calais broadcasted a combination of popular music, supposed support of the war, and "dirt" – news that would create dissent in the German forces, such as speculation that German soldiers' wives were having affairs with the many foreign workers in German factories.Their popularity spread, and they got wide audiences for their programmes. In my book Lilli Bergen, a refugee, is employed on Soldatensender Calais as a singer.

The first such station, Gustav Siegfried Eins featured a fake Nazi extremist called ‘Der Chef’, played by an actor, who accused Adolf Hitler and the Gestapo of going soft. It undermined the German soldiers’ trust in their leaders by reporting on their (alleged) corruption and sexual improprieties.

The creator of these radio stations was Tom Sefton Delmer [below, right], a British journalist who had lived in Germany and spoke perfect German. Delmer created several stations and used gossip from prisoners of war, or from intercepted German mail, to create credible stories. He had a team of people collecting suitable material from newspapers and from bugging the captured German officers’ camps.

The Nazi plot to blow up


The risks associated with these stations were that they would be discovered, and their propaganda then ‘outed’ as fake news. It is difficult to assess exactly how much effect the manipulation of people’s views had on the war effort, but it was thought that a lack of morale would certainly do no harm. There was a known threat of sabotage from the Germans who had sent several agents to sabotage infrastructure that would affect Britain’s ability to fight.

In my novel, the Germans send an agent to sabotage the radio station. As far as I know, the radio station was never discovered and so never became a target, but there were German saboteurs operating within Britain at the time, and there is no doubt they would have removed the station had they known of its existence.

All About the Book

One woman must sacrifice everything to uncover the truth in this enthralling historical novel, inspired by the true World War Two campaign Radio Aspidistra…

England, 1942: Having fled Germany after her father was captured by the Nazis, Lilli Bergen is desperate to do something pro-active for the Allies. So when she’s approached by the Political Warfare Executive, Lilli jumps at the chance. She’s recruited as a singer for a radio station broadcasting propaganda to German soldiers – a shadow network.

But Lilli’s world is flipped upside down when her ex-boyfriend, Bren Murphy, appears at her workplace; the very man she thinks betrayed her father to the Nazis. Lilli always thought Bren was a Nazi sympathiser – so what is he doing in England supposedly working against the Germans?

Lilli knows Bren is up to something, and must put aside a blossoming new relationship in order to discover the truth. Can Lilli expose him, before it’s too late?

Set in the fascinating world of wartime radio, don’t miss The Shadow Network, a heart-stopping novel of betrayal, treachery, and courage against the odds.

All About Deborah

Deborah Swift is the English author of eighteen historical novels, including Millennium Award winner Past Encounters, and The Lady’s Slipper, shortlisted for the Impress Prize.

Her most recent books are the Renaissance trilogy based around the life of the poisoner Giulia Tofana, The Poison Keeper and its sequels, one of which won the Coffee Pot Book Club Gold Medal. Recently she has completed a secret agent series set in WW2, the first in the series being The Silk Code.

Deborah used to work as a set and costume designer for theatre and TV and enjoys the research aspect of creating historical fiction, something she loved doing as a scenographer. She likes to write about extraordinary characters set against the background of real historical events. Deborah lives in North Lancashire on the edge of the Lake District, an area made famous by the Romantic Poets such as Wordsworth and Coleridge.

Connect with Deborah



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