Brits Who Fought For Hitler
A nation reviles treachery, perhaps now more than ever. But the chronicles of recent history have ignored the most shameful episode of World War Two. The Britisches Freikorps unit of the Waffen SS served alongside the Nazis on the Eastern Front. Its members wore the death’s head insignia and took German rank. They helped defend Berlin even as Hitler retreated to his bunker. But each and every member was recruited from British, Canadian, Australian and South African soldiers who volunteered to betray their country.
Recognising the potential propaganda value of the unit, the Nazis ordered 800 SS uniforms with Union Jack arm badges. Most Allied prisoners of war ignored or resisted recruitment tactics ranging from leaflet bombardment to bribery and torture. But some 200 Allied prisoners answered the Nazi call. Some were motivated by greed, or by sympathies with the fascist cause. Others were simply described by intelligence files of the time as of ‘weak character’, and found the opportunities offered by the Germans to drink and womanise too tempting.
The British Free Corps was itself betrayed by one of its number who joined only to feed MI5 with information. John Brown, the quartermaster of a camp at Genshagen. As Germany collapsed, Brown’s information allowed the Allies to round up the traitors who often posed as fleeing PoWs. They were prosecuted and sentenced at court martial and treason trials. The intelligence files were quietly closed and access to the devastating information within was restricted. There was no cover-up, rather a conspiracy of indifference. For the first time on British Television, the British SS soldiers speak of their treachery, and their part in a failed German propaganda coup.