German Propaganda Archive Calvin University


Background: Hans Fritzsche was the most popular German news commentator. These two pieces are taken from a collection of his radio broadcasts during the first several months of the war. Both followed the sinking of the battleship Royal Oak in the harbor at Scapa Flow. The sinking was a substantial German victory, but the Germans wrongly thought that they had also damaged the Repulse, another major battleship.

The source: Hans Fritzsche, “Deutsche Torpedoes in Scapa Flow” and “Churchill schweigt beharrlich,” Krieg den Kriegshetzern. 8 Wochen politische Zeitungsschau (Berlin: Brunnen-Verlag, 1940), pp. 145-154.

German Torpedoes in Scapa Flow

by Hans Fritzsche

16 October 1939

Newspapers in every country in the world today are reporting that the large British battleship Royal Oak was sunk by a German submarine. This has raised the general question of the size and strength of the English fleet. This is all too obviously a question that is most unpleasant for the English, and was therefore immediately dealt with by England’s press and radio. It is not all that serious, people say in England. One simply says that the loss was painful, but England still has numerous ships of the same size and strength — about an even dozen. The English Ministry of Lies — this time in close cooperation with the Admiralty — released information that simply repeated the facts in the last naval handbook after striking out the two losses that have been admitted, namely the aircraft carrier Courageous and the Royal Oak.

Mr. McMillan and Mr. Churchill may be surprised when they read this evening or tomorrow morning what the world press has to say about this all too sketchy summary of the strength of the English fleet.

That shows in the official English reports about the most modern British aircraft carrier Ark Royal. The British Admiralty is operating the Ark Royal on paper, but the nasty Germans have meanwhile proven that the British Admiralty no longer operates this ship on the high seas. It has vanished without a trace since 26 September. Another aircraft carrier has taken its placed. It would be the third major British ship lost. [The Ark Royal survived until November 1941.]

But that is not enough! We recall that the day that the German military announced the destruction of this aircraft carrier in the middle of the North Sea, another British warship took two direct hits from 250-kilo bombs. The British Admiralty, which denied a total loss, also denied that the bombs had hit at all until — and this gets interesting — after a long period of hemming and hawing it conceded that the Hood, the largest and most powerful battleship in the British fleet and England’s pride, had received several “scratches.” If Winston Churchill admits scratches, the two bombs probably hit, and one may add the Hood as Number 4 to the list of major British losses.

But there is more. After the German Luftwaffe attack on English naval forces in the north of the North Sea last week, Winston Churchill admitted that several bomb splinters had hit several English ships. These bomb splinters have seriously puzzled experts around the world. Either a bomb hits a ship, explodes, and leaves splinters behind as proof of destruction, or else it misses and falls into the water. The water is unlikely to spit up bomb fragments like bits of cork on ships that have not been hit. The Paris newspaper Matin had some unfriendly thoughts about these splinters a few days ago — that English warships must be susceptible to damage in ways that should cause England the greatest concern.

Otherwise one could not explain why, as was reported last night, that a Swedish fishing boat had seen two large British warships being towed by other ships after the German air attack on English forces in the north of the North Sea. These would be numbers 5 and 6 on the British naval casualty list.

But that is still not all. American naval experts had the bright idea of comparing the effect of a German torpedo on the battleship Royal Oak,which sank in a few minutes even though it was well-protected against torpedo attacks, with the effect of another German torpedo, which Mr. Winston Churchill says struck the passenger and freight steamer Athenia during the early days of the war. It was in no way protected against torpedoes, but despite a presumed direct hit only sank after many hours.

This peculiar situation led to the compelling conclusion that the Athenia cannot have been hit by a German torpedo. Maybe it was English — the English after all should know the effects of their torpedoes — but more likely it was an infernal machine planted on board. [A German U-boat had in fact sunk the Athenia, but the Germans were not sure of this until the submarine returned to port.]

This shows that Mr. Churchill’s tower of lies is collapsing around him.

One stone from this collapsing tower of English lies, by the way, struck British War Minister Hore-Belisha. A few days ago he announced that transporting English troops to France had been temporarily suspended, since additional troops first had to be trained, and besides there were all sorts of problems such as artillery sinking into the sea, and so on. His announcement seems to have made a poor impression in France, so it was quickly changed. Yesterday Hore-Belisha said to foreign representatives that the troop transport is functioning like clockwork and would continue in the future.

Well, anyone can choose what to believe and what not to believe.

That naturally does not mean that the Frenchman is free to choose what he believes, as is proven by daily court verdicts in Paris and the provinces against people who ask why France is waging war when it has not been attacked.

The average Frenchman is driven to this question, not to mention a lot of others, by drastic increases in the prices of the necessities of life. French newspapers frequently publish columns of the names of merchants who take the opportunity to cheat their fellow citizens in the name of liberty, equality, and fraternity.

The stupid ways in which the warmongers are trying to mislead the French people is clear from a exposed lie in the Paris Journal.The paper falsified the Führer’s peace speech of 6 October [1939], maintaining among other things, that the Führer had told the Reichstag that his prestige was great enough to allow him to go to war. One of the Journal’s readers who had heard the French translation of the Führer’s speech on German radio point out to the newspaper that the Führer had said that his prestige was great enough to enable him to make a peace offer, even if others might falsely interpret it as a sign of weakness. The Paris Journal had to run a correction. It said that the “bloody insanity of the Führer” was so well known that it did not note the minor translation error.

That is the atmosphere in which the warmongers over there are trying to carry on their business. The French and British people can thank Mr. Chamberlain that Adolf Hitler’s outstretched hand of peace was rejected. He rejected the Führer’s unique offer, and now the countries in Western Europe will have to depend on Chamberlain.

Churchill’s Stubborn Silence

by Hans Fritzsche

17 October 1939

What is the British fleet up to, anyway? You are asking that question, I am asking that question, the world is constantly raising it.

We were all absolutely astonished when the British Admiralty simply admitted on Saturday that the battleship Royal Oak had been sunk by a German submarine. With good reason, one asked why an agency that previously was known only for the stubbornness of its tactics of secrecy suddenly adopted a news policy of quick and honest reporting.

We first thought that the reason for the rapid admission was that American news agencies and radio stations had already reported the sinking of the Royal Oak. But that was probably not Mr. Winston Churchill’s reason, since the Americans probably depended on sources in the British Admiralty; only their apparatus for spreading the news functioned better than the English, for whom some hands faltered at the typewriter or the telegraph keyboard and some mouths had trouble speaking over the telephone.

It became clear today why Mr. Winston Churchill was in such a hurry to give out the news of the sinking of the Royal Oak,which shook England and gained the world’s attention.

Mr. Winston Churchill knew already on Saturday that the fleet His British Majesty had entrusted to him had suffered not only this serious loss, but that at the same time another, perhaps more serious, blow had fallen.

The same German U-boat that sank the Royal Oak had also torpedoed the Repulse,one of the most powerful battleships in the British navy. [The U-boat captain believed that he had torpedoed the Repulse, but he was wrong. The Repulse was actually at sea.]

Mr. Winston Churchill apparently has a precise feel for what a nation’s nerves can take, of how to use agitation to drive a people to war. Mr. Churchill knows all too well the feelings that the man on the street in England has for the Repulse, since this battleship has been in all the newspapers in the country nearly every day since last spring. When the English king wanted to visit Canada last spring, the English government put at his disposal its most impressive ship that the Home Fleet of Old England has. The government and the king agreed that a state visit to Canada required the Repulse,on which staterooms were already prepared.

But that did raise deep public concern. Several English naval experts said that the Repulsewas the only ship then at England’s disposal that was superior in power and armaments to German ships, and that the Repulse was the only vessel capable of guaranteeing England’s control of the North Sea. Since England was already playing with the thought last spring of waging war against Germany and since it was waiting only for the completion of its encirclement plans before letting war loose on Germany, there suddenly were conversations in the House of Commons, in the newspapers, on the subways and over garden fences: That is impossible! If the King travels to Canada on the Repulse, the Germans will attack us when this powerful ship is far way, and England is done for. Since one always believes the other side is planning what one plans to do oneself, the English believed that we Germans were only waiting for the Repulse to set sail before beginning our own preventive war, which we could win quickly and completely.

The responsible men in England, for reasons that have since become clear, had reasons not to make clear to the man in the street that the fear of a German attack was absurd, and so they bowed to the unintended effects of their artificially caused war mood and told the king with a shrug that he could not sail to Canada on the Repulse, but they would give him a fine passenger steamer instead. It bore the lovely and genuine English name Empress of Australia, but it had been christened the Tirpitz during its construction in Germany. It was one of the ships that the English took from us after Versailles. A truly royal means of transportation!

The loss of the Repulse,which had caused the hearts of millions of Englishmen to tremble nervously a few months ago, which to keep in England the British king had been given a stolen German ship, the Repulse on which English pride depended as on no other ship in the entire British navy — the loss of the Repulse could not be admitted under any circumstances.

It therefore seemed easier for Mr. Winston Churchill to quickly admit the sinking of the Royal Oak in order to conceal the torpedoing of that ship.

That is the answer to the riddle of the so sudden apparent love of truth on the part of the First Lord of the British Admiralty.

The English people had become all too deeply persuaded that the guarantee of England’s dominance of its home waters depended on the Repulse, and only on the Repulse.

The British Admiralty carried out this concealment maneuver with truly astonishing determination. Too bad that when the support for such a lie collapses, not only the lie and the liar are in trouble, but the whole framework one has erected. So it was here. Listen:

It was naturally hard for British radio to carry on its musical and political programming Saturday evening and Sunday. After such an event funeral marches are hardly encouraging, and one did not of course want to provide too many details to an already depressed English public. Mr. McMillan’s helpers found a way out from material apparently provided by Mr. Churchill, a way that at first glance did not seem at all dumb. They told their listening public, which was gradually regaining its courage, that the sinking of the Royal Oak was known only through sources in the British Admiralty. The Germans had released no reports, and probably would not be able to do so in the future since the German U-boat that had dared to attack a proud British battleship had been destroyed along with its whole crew. That was at least a small consolation for English listeners. Further balm was provided by rapidly-following announcements that other German U-boats had been sunk. British radio even dared to report that 13 October was a black day for the German fleet.

The main point was that the poor English listeners were left with the impression that no one in England or the wide world would have known about the sinking of the Royal Oak if the British Admiralty had not reported it. And the U-boat that sunk the Royal Oak was destroyed! Mr. Churchill could sleep in peace. There was no German witness to testify to what had really happened.

As previously mentioned, that was the plank that brought the lie down. Once the plank fell, everything fell apart. The commander of the German U-boat that had allegedly been sunk turned up alive — and reported that the Royal Oak had been sunk and the Repulse torpedoed!

Well, Mr. Churchill, you probably had not expected that!

The First Lord of the British Admiralty must have been deeply shocked, since his reply to the communiqué released by the Supreme Command of the German Military was extraordinarily thin. The English Reuters agency reported that there was no comment in London to the German announcement of the torpedoing of the Repulse. London shipping circles laughed over these German propaganda methods.

One need only say this: They could not comment, they could not deny, but neither, of course, could they admit it. And shipping circles may have laughed, but Lloyds at least was pleased, since it does not insure warships. There are enough sunken merchant ships to pay for.

Naval circles in England that know the facts, however, probably did not laugh.

And what did the British Prime Minister have to say in his speech last Thursday, in which he rejected the Führer’s peace offer? He said: “The time for words is past. The time for deeds has come.”

It has come, Mr. Churchill. You are right! But not in the way you had expected!

Last edited 24 November 2023

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