Dienstag, 21. Juli 2009
The Fifth Column
IT IS PRETTY GENERALLY ADMITTED ROW that the Munich "peace"
gave Germany industrial and military areas essential to fur
ther aggressions. Instead of helping to put a troubled Europe on
the road to lasting peace, Munich strengthened the totalitarian
powers, especially Germany, and a strengthened Germany in
evitably means increased activities of the Nazis Fifth Column
which is, in all quarters of the globe, actively preparing the
ground for Hitler s greater plans.
If we can divine the future by the past, the Fifth Column,
that shadowy group of secret agents now entrenched in every
important country throughout the world, is an omeri of what is
to come. Before Germany marched into Austria, that unhappy
country witnessed a large influx of Fifth Column members. In
Czechoslovakia, especially in those months before the Republic s
heart was handed to Hitler on a platter, there was a tremendous
increase in the numbers and activities of agents sent into the
Central European country.
During my stay there in the brief period immediately pre
ceding the "peace," I learned a little about the operations of the
Gestapo s secret agents in Czechoslovakia. Their numbers are
vast and those few of whom I learned, are infinitesimal to the
actual numbers at work then and now, not only in Czechoslo
vakia but in other countries.
For years Hitler had laid plans to fight, if he had to, for
Czechoslovakia, whose natural mountain barriers and man-made
defensive line of steel and concrete stood in the way of his an
nounced drive to the Ukrainian wheat fields. In preparation for
the day when he might have to fight for its control, he sent into
the Republic a host of spies, provocateurs, propagandists and
saboteurs to establish themselves, make contacts, carry on propa
ganda and build a machine which would be invaluable in time
In a few instances I learned the details of the Nazis inex
orable determination and their inhuman indifference to the
lives of even their own agents.
Arno Oertel, alias Harald Half, was a thin, white-faced spy
trained in two Gestapo schools for Fifth Column work. Oertel
was given a German passport by Richter, the Gestapo district
chief at Bischofswerda on what was then the Czechoslovak-Ger
At the appointed hour Oertel sat on a bench staring at the
fountain, watching men and women strolling and chatting cheer
fully on the way to meet friends for late afternoon coffee. Occa
sionally he looked at the afternoon papers lying on the bench
beside him. He felt that he was being watched but he saw no
one in a gray suit with a blue handkerchief. He wiped his fore
head with his handkerchief, partly because of the heat, partly
because of nervousness. As he held the handkerchief he could
feel the tightly bound capsule.
Precisely at five he noticed a man in a gray suit with a gray
hat and a blue handkerchief in the breast pocket of his coat,
strolling toward him. As the man approached he took out a
package of cigarettes, selected one and searched his pockets for
a light. Stopping before Oertel, he doffed his hat and smilingly
asked for a light. Oertel produced his lighter and the other in
turn offered him a cigarette. He sat down on the bench.
"Report once a week," he said abruptly, puffing at his cigarette
and staring at two children playing in the sunshine which flooded
Karlsplatz. He stretched his feet like a man relaxing after a
hard day s work. "Deliver reports to Frau Suchy personally.
One week she will come to Prague, the next you go to her. De
liver a copy of your report to the English missionary, Vicar
Robert Smith, who lives at 31 Karlsplatz."
Smith, to whom the unidentified man in the gray suit told
Oertel to report, was a minister of the Church of Scotland in
Prague, a British subject with influential connections not only
with English-speaking people but with Czech government
officials.* Besides his ministerial work, the Reverend Smith led
an amateur orchestra group giving free concerts for German
emigres. On his clerical recommendation, he got German "em
igre" women into England as house servants for British govern
ment officials and army officers.
Often the Gestapo uses Czech citizens whose relatives are in
Germany and upon whom pressure is put. The work of these
agents consists not only of ferreting out military information
regarding Czech defense measures and establishing contacts with
Czech citizens for permanent espionage, but of the equally im
portant assignment of disrupting anti-fascist groups of creating
opposition within organizations having large memberships in or
der to split and disintegrate them. Agents also make reports
on public opinion and attitudes, and record carefully the names
and addresses of those engaged in anti-fascist work. A similar
procedure was followed in Austria before that country was in
vaded, and it enabled the Nazis to make wholesale arrests im
mediately upon entering the country.
Prague, with a German population of sixty thousand is still
the headquarters for the astonishing espionage and propaganda
machine which the Gestapo built throughout the country. Before
Czechoslovakia was cut up, most of the espionage reports crossed
the frontier into Germany through Tetschen-Bodenbach. The
propaganda and espionage center of the Henlein group was in
the headquarters of the Sudeten Deutsche Partei.
THE WORK OF FOREIGN AGENTS does not necessarily involve the
securing of military and naval secrets. Information of all
kinds is important to an aggressor planning an invasion or esti
mating a potential enemy s strength and morale; and often a
diplomatic secret is worth far more than the choicest blueprint of
a carefully guarded military device.
There are persons whom money, social position, political prom
ises or glory cannot interest in following a policy of benefit to a
foreign power. In such instances, however, protection of class
interests sometimes drives them to acts which can scarcely be dis
tinguished from those of paid foreign agents. This is especially
true of those whose financial interests are on an international
scale and who consequently think internationally.
Such class interests were involved in the betrayal of Austria
to the Nazis only a few months before aggressor nations were
invited to cut themselves a slice of Czechoslovakia; and it will
probably never be known just how much the Nazis Fifth Col
umn, working in dinner jackets and evening gowns, influenced
the powerful personages involved to chart a course which sacri
ficed a nation and a people and which foretold the Munich
The story begins when Neville Chamberlain, Prime Minister
of England, accepted an invitation to spend the week-end of
arch 26-27, 1938, at Cliveden, Lord and Lady Astor s country
estate at Taplow, Buckinghamshire, in the beautiful Thames
Valley. When the Prime Minister and his wife arrived at the
huge Georgian house rising out of a fairyland of gardens and
forests with the placid river for a background, the other guests
who had already arrived and their hosts were under the horse
shoe stone staircase to receive them.
The small but carefully selected group of guests had been in
vited "to play charades" over the week-end a game in which
the participants form opposing sides and act a certain part while
the opponents try to guess what they are portraying. Every man
invited held a strategic position in the British government, and
it was during this "charades party" week-end that they secretly
charted a course of British policy which will affect not only the
fate of the British Empire but the course of world events and the
lives of countless millions of people for years to come.
This course, which indirectly menaces the peace and security
of the United States, deliberately launched England on a series
of maneuvers which made Hitler stronger and will inevitably
lead Great Britain on the road to fascism. The British Parlia
ment and the British people do not know of these decisions,
some of which the Chamberlain government has already car
And without a knowledge of what happened during the talks
in those historic two days and what preceded them, the world
can only puzzle over an almost incomprehensible British foreign
Present at this week-end gathering, besides the As tors and the
Prime Minister and his wife, were the following:
Sir Thomas Inskip, Minister for Defense.
Sir Alexander Cadogan, who replaced Sir Robert Vansittart as
adviser to the British Cabinet and who acts in a supervisory
capacity over the extraordinarily powerful British Intelligence
Geoffrey Dawson, editor of the London Times.
Lord Lothian, Governor of the National Bank of Scotland, a
determined advocate of refusing arms to the Spanish democratic
government while Hitler and Mussolini supplied Franco with
Tom Jones, adviser to former Premier Baldwin.
The Right Honorable E. A. Fitzroy, Speaker of the House of
The Baroness Mary Ravensdale, sister-in-law of Sir Oswald
Mosley, leader of the British fascist movement.
To understand the amazing game played by the Cliveden
house guests, in which nations and peoples have already been
shuffled about as pawns, one must remember that powerful Ger
man industrialists and financiers like the Krupps and the Thys-
sens supported Hitler primarily in order to crush the German
trade-union and political movements which were in the late
igao s threatening their wealth and power.
The Astors are part of the same family in the United States.
Lady Nancy Astor, born in Virginia, married into one of the
richest families in England. Her interests and the interests of
Viscount Astor, her husband, stretch into banking, railroads, life
insurance and journalism. Half a dozen members of the family are
in Parliament: Lady Astor, her husband, their son, in the House
of Commons; and two relatives in the House of Lords. The Astor
family controls two of the most powerful and influential news
papers in the world, the London Times and the London Ob
server. In the past these papers, whose influence cannot be ex
aggerated, have been strong enough to make and break Prime
In the quiet and subdued atmosphere of the diplomats draw
ing rooms in London they tell, with many a chuckle, how Lord
Halifax, his bowler firmly on his head, was sent to Berlin and
Berchtesgaden in mid-November, 1937, with instructions not to
get into any arguments. Lord Halifax, in the mellow judgment
of his close friends, is one of the most amiable and charming
of the British peers, earnest, well meaning and not particularly
In Berlin Halifax met Goering, attired for the occasion in a
new and bewilderingly gaudy uniform. In the course of their
conversation Goering, resting his hands on his enormous paunch,
"The world cannot stand still. World conditions cannot be
frozen just as they are forever. The world is subject to change/
"Of course not," Lord Halifax agreed amiably. "It s absurd to
think that anything can be frozen and no changes made."
"Germany cannot stand still," Goering continued. "Germany
must expand. She must have Austria, Czechoslovakia and other
countries she must have oil"
Now this was a point for argument but the Messenger Ex
traordinary had been instructed not to get into any arguments;
so he nodded and in his best pacifying tone murmured, "Natur
ally. No one expects Germany to stand still if she must expand."
- John L. Spivak