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Nazis in Pre-War London, 1930–1939

The Fate and Role of German Party Members and British Sympathizers

James J. Barnes is Professor of History, and Patience P. Barnes is a Research Associate, at Wabash College, Crawfordsville, Indiana. Their collaborations include Free Trade in Books: A Study of the London Book Trade since 1800 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1964); Authors, Publishers, and Politicians: the Quest for an Anglo-American Copyright Agreement, 1815–1854 (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, and Columbus, OH: Ohio State University Press, 1974); Hitler’s “Mein Kampf” in Britain and America, 1930–1939 (Cambridge University Press, 1980); James Vincent Murphy: Translator and Interpreter of Fascist Europe, 1880–1946 (Universiity Press of America, 1987); Private and Confidential: Letters from British Ministers in Washington to the Foreign Secretaries in London, 1844–1867 (Susquehanna University Press, 1983); Nazi Refugee Turned Gestapo Spy: the Life of Hans Wesemann, 1895–1971 (Praeger, 2001); The American Civil War through British Eyes: Diplomatic Dispatches from British Diplomats. 3 vols. (Caliban, London; and Kent State University Press. Ohio, Vol. I, 2003; Vols 2 & 3, 2004). They have also co-authored numerous articles in the fields of British, German, and American history.

This book seeks to answer a number of questions concerning the activities of Nazi Germans in London prior to World War II:

Who were they? What were they doing in London?

How many of them were there, and how long did they stay?

Were they mostly professional espionage agents, or simply Germans living and working in Britain?

Once war broke out, were they interned or expelled?

Once war broke out, In September 1930 the Nazi Party newspaper, Völkischer Beobachter, sent its first representative to London. Soon afterwards, German residents in London established an Ortsgruppe, or local Nazi group, which provided Party members with a place to congregate and support the new movement. By 1933, more than 100 members belonged to the London group. The Nazis in pre-war London created a dilemma for the Foreign Office and the Home Office, who were divided as to how best to treat residents whose allegiance was to the German Reich. Some felt that all Nazi organizations should be banned, and Party Members should not be allowed to enter the UK. Others, including MI5, argued that it would be easier to keep track of Nazis if they were in-country. Previously unpublished German documents reveal the fate of German diplomats, journalists, and professionals, many of whom were interned in Britain or deported to Nazi Germany once war broke out on 3 September 1939. Nazis in Pre-War London is the first book to study the history of the Nazis in Britain. An Appendix lists the details concerning the nearly 400 German Party members, as well as Nazi journalists, who spent time in Britain prior to the war.

Hardback ISBN: 978-1-84519-053-8
Hardback Price: £55.00 / $67.50
Release Date: July 2005
Paperback ISBN: 978-1-84519-054-5
Paperback Price: £19.95 / $34.95
Release Date: 19.95 / $34.95
Page Extent / Format: 320 pp. / 229 x 152 mm
Illustrated: No


List of Abbreviations

A Nazi Journalist Comes to London

Founding the London Ortsgruppe

Otto Bene, Ortsgruppenleiter

Establishing a Nazi Brown House

The Expulsion of Hans Wilhelm Thost

Appointment of a Nazi Consul-General

The Nazi Takeover of German News Agencies

Party and SS Members in the German Embassy

Bonhoeffer and the Struggle for Church Autonomy

Nazi Infiltration of Business and Labor

Mosley’s British Union of Fascists

Nazi Influence over the British Legion

Otto Karlowa and the Landesgruppe Gross Britannien

The Government’s Dilemma: Whether to Outlaw Foreign Organizations

German Journalists: First Targets for Expulsion

Nazi Intimidation Leads to Deportation

The Question of Espionage

Appendix – Members of the London Ortsgruppe

The fruit of extensive research in British and German archives, this is the first study to chronicle the activities of Nazis in pre-war London and the British government’s response to them… This book contains much interesting and useful material (including an appendix with basic data on over 400 members of the Nazi Party living in or near London), and complements studies of British fascism, the policy of appeasement, and the Third Reich. Highly recommended.

James and Patience Barnes have engaged in some detailed detective work to uncover one of the least known and most intriguing aspects of the history of Nazism. Their study provides a fascinating insight into the previously overlooked but highly significant story of Nazi overseas operations. Neither the history of London nor the history of Nazism will look quite the same again.
Professor Dan Stone, Royal Holloway, University of London, author of The Historiography of the Holocaust and Responses to Nazism in Britain 1933–1939: Before War and Holocaust

The history of German Nazi groups abroad is still a relatively neglected subject, and the authors of this book have dutifully researched their ramifications in the British capital. Through an impressive and extremely detailed research carried out in British, American, and German archives, they have brought to life the about four hundred Germans who sought to organize Nazi activity in London in the 1930s. … The strength of the book lies in its thorough, wide, and precise research.
Journal of British Studies

How fascinating to watch the machinations of the Third Reich from far afield. As early as September 1930, more than two years before Hitler came to power, a young Nazi journalist representing the Völkischer Beobachter, Hans Wilhelm Thost, was dispatched to establish a toehold in London. His instructions were simple: to tell the readers of the VB the ‘inside story’ of events in Britain, to promote peace between the two nations, and to secure ‘justice’ for Germany from the restraints of Versailles. At the same time, Thost reported to Alfred Rosenberg, a member of Hitler’s inner circle, about political matters, ran errands on his behalf, and informed on the loyalty of arriving émigrés and members of London’s German community… Patience and James Barnes have written an outstanding book, encyclopaedic in detail and thoroughly researched. No archive or relevant primary source has been overlooked, to the exclusion of important secondary works.
German Studies Review

This is the first book to study the activities of Nazis in London in the 1930s. These fell into two main categories: journalists reporting for German newspapers, and members of the German community in the British capital. London acquired a reporter for the Nazi Party newspaper, the Völkischer Beobachter, as early as 1930, and Nazi sympathizers among Germans in the city organized a branch of the party, an Orstgruppe, not long afterward. As is well known, once the Nazis were in power they attached great importance to organizing and controlling Germans in foreign countries, and James J. Barnes and Patience P. Barnes may be right in asserting that the Orstgruppenleiter was more important than the German ambassador, save during Joachim von Ribbentrop’s tenure of that post at the peak of Adolf Hitler’s efforts to achieve an understanding with Britain. British authorities – the Home Office, the Foreign Office, and MI5 – were, at first sight, surprisingly, more concerned with the journalists than with the Orstgruppe. In 1935 the senior Nazi journalist in Britain, Hans Thost of the Völkischer Beobachter, was expelled, and there were nine more expulsions of journalists in 1937 alone. Barnes and Barnes assemble fairly conclusive evidence that Thost was detected engaging in low-level espionage.
American Historical Review

The most interesting chapter … presents the whole debate between various government departments, notably the Foreign Office and the Home Office, on whether it was advisable to ban all Nazi organizations in Britain.
German Historical Institute, London

In a particularly valuable chapter, the authors reconstruct the composition of the group, which for the most part comprised business-persons, diplomats, journalists, clerical workers, artisans, and domestic servants… James and Patience Barnes have certainly undertaken their detective work with forensic meticulousness. This volume is rich in its informative detail. What is more, the authors should be congratulated for including an appendix that lists the names, addresses, birth dates, occupations, years spent in England, and dates of joining the NSDAP for some 400 Germans who lived in Britain during the 1930s and who became members of the NSDAP. This is an original and well-researched volume, and it will surely fill a gap in current historiography.
Central European History

Like Claudia Baldoli’s work Exporting Fascism (Oxford, 2003), this new book by James and Patience Barnes opens up fresh material for research, in this case the impact of the National Socialist Party (NSDAP) in London in the 1930s. This is quite an achievement in itself; the favourable impression is reinforced by the subtle analysis and the meticulous detective work that buttress their conclusions. There is much that is new here. It will provide a reference point for future work in British and German archives. Since the completion of the authors’ research in London, the continuing release of MI5 files has provided some interesting new material about the increasing concern felt by the Security Service about the Nazi threat. To date, however, the new documents do not fundamentally alter the case made in this book.
Journal of Modern History

This study presents a great deal of valuable research on German National Socialists living in Britain, mainly London, during the 1930s, and looks at the question of Anglo-German relations from a number of interesting yet hitherto largely neglected perspectives. It offers the fullest account available of the leadership, personnel and activities of the NSDAP Ortsgruppen, detailing their fortunes from the party’s founding in London in 1931 to the fate of some party members, including their internment or expulsion, at the outbreak of war. Most interesting is the way this organization managed its relations with the British secret service, which was from the start aware of its dangerous potential; with native fascist movements, particularly the British Union of Fascists, which would have welcomed some collaboration, while Ortsgruppen members were instructed ‘not to participate in British politics and particularly . . . not to associate with Fascists’ (21); and with the British public more generally, as members were reminded by their Ortsgruppenleiter Otto Bene that ‘Herr Hitler had issued strict orders that Germans in this country were to refrain from the distribution of Nazi propaganda’ (19). Similarly intriguing is the way in which German NSDAP members and nonparty members in Britain were managed by the German Embassy in London, and this study demonstrates the ever extending reach of the Nazi regime, including its policy of anti-Semitism, into the diplomatic service.
... Indeed, what Nazis in Pre-War London is never short on is detail, and on offer is an almost encyclopaedic account of the individuals involved, including, where possible, their personal histories, a chronicle of events, and the scandals, incidents and intrigues that inevitably figure in such a tale of ‘enemies within’.
European History Quarterly

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