Hitler's UK Hit List Translated Into English to Mark 75th Anniversary of Battle of Britain

To mark 15 September, Battle of Britain Day (its 75th anniversary), a remarkable historical record can be viewed in English - and online - for the first time.

Known as Hitler’s Black Book listing ‘enemies of the state, traitors and undesirables, marked for punishment or death’, it has been painstakingly translated from the original German by specialist military genealogy website Forces War Records.  It documents 2,820 of the Reich’s ‘most wanted’ people in Britain, for targeting following invasion.  The entire digital Black Book can be seen and searched, free, on (www.forces-war-records.co.uk).  There are many notables within the collection: probable and improbable politicians, intelligensia, even entertainers. 

One further person on the hitlist however is a little known hero that the website’s historians, while researching the reasons WHY each had been named, believe was the inspiration for James Bond.  If he had been killed, the series may never have been written.  ‘Britain’s Schindler’ who saved 10,000 Jews from the Holocaust, is also named.


‘The real 007’

‘The real 007’, the wonderfully named Conrad Fulke Thomond O’Brien-ffrench, was a dashing and courageous spy who, for a dangerous few [weeks/months] was friendly with Bond creator, Ian Fleming.  

Giving Daniel Craig (starring in the 24th Bond movie, Spectre, from next month) a run for his money, O’Brien-ffrench, was the quintessential secret agent.  Classy, well-connected, intelligent, adventurous and athletic (leading a climbing party to safety in the Himalayas in 1921), he moved in only the best circles.  The fluent Russian speaking, expert skier later inherited the title Marquis de Castelthomond.

Tim Hayhoe, managing director of Forces War Records – and the man behind the project explains: “Although wounded and captured during World War 1, he nevertheless managed to send letters in invisible ink to Cathleen Mann, the ‘Moneypenny’ to Major Stewart Menzies of British Counterintelligence.  They contained details of troop movements and of a prototype heavy bomber, among other vital facts.”

After the war MI6 recruited him to gather information on the Russian Red Army.  Then, as World War Two loomed, he was assigned ‘agent Z3’ and based in Kitzbühel, Austria, he posed as a businessman, but secretly established a spy network that stretched deep into Germany.  It was there that O’Brien-ffrench met and impressed Fleming with his style, magnetism and derring-do. The dashing socialite was the first person to hear that German troops were moving towards the Austrian border in 1938, and immediately reported the news to London, necessarily blowing his cover by using an open line to prevent delay. He also managed to warn many local residents who were in especial danger, giving them time to escape. It is lucky that O’Brien-ffrench too managed to leave the country, as the fact that his name appears in the ‘Black Book’ proves the Nazis wanted revenge.


Britain’s Schindler

Major Francis E. Foley, born in Somerset in 1884, was studying Philosophy in Hamburg when World War One broke out, but managed to escape Germany with the aid of a borrowed German officers’ uniform. He initially joined the army and was later Injured in action & rendered unfit for service, he was invited to join British Intelligence and spent the rest of the war recruiting for and running spy networks across France, Belgium and the Netherlands.

After the Great War he worked as Passport Control Officer in Berlin, a cover for his work as head of the Berlin Station of the British Secret Intelligence Service (MI6).  His position enabled him to save tens of thousands of people from the Holocaust in the lead-up to the Second World War, as despite having no diplomatic immunity and being liable to arrest at any time, he blatantly broke the rules when stamping passports and issuing visas to allow Jews to escape “legally” to Britain and Palestine. Sometimes he went further by going into Internment Camps to get Jews out, hiding them in his home and helping them get forged passports.

It is lucky for him that he was recalled to Britain at the outbreak of World War Two, since the Nazis were on to him – and his name was added to the Black Book. As it was, he lived to do even more damage to their regime; in 1942 he helped to co-ordinate MI5 and MI6 in running a network of double agents, the now famous “Double Cross System”.


Others on the list

The British Black Book was compiled with a view to taking out the top layer of society and undermining British spirit. However, alongside obvious contenders, such as Winston Churchill, Clement Atlee (deputy PM) and Anthony Eden (secretary of state for war), it has a number of quite bizarre names on it too, such as Noel Coward, Paul Robeson and intriguingly, some people who were actually Nazi sympathisers.  The editors of the Daily Mail and Express were on it too.  But left off, intriguingly, was the royal family. 

If ‘the Few’ had lost the Battle of Britain, and Hitler’s ‘Operation Sea Lion’, the planned invasion of Britain in 1940, had succeeded, the people on the list would have been the first to be rounded up and risk being killed, sent to concentration camps or forced to throw in their lot with the Germans and start doing the Führer’s bidding.


The digitising of The Black Book

The list has been painstakingly translated from its original German, interpreted to make sense of the complicated government jargon and abbreviations, and transcribed by Forces War Records’ Managing Director Tim Hayhoe, with assistance from military history graduate Sean Bennington. Previously obscure abbreviations have been explained, biographical details for the people listed have been added where available, and background information has been given on each and every Nazi department mentioned and the heads of those departments. All of this has been a labour of love that has taken around a year to complete.

Similar lists were drawn up, and indeed used, for the USSR, France, Poland and many other countries in Europe; thankfully, the only place in the British Isles where the list was actually consulted to round up ‘enemies of the state’ was the occupied Channel Islands. 

Of the 20,000 or so versions of the German lists originally printed, only two are thought to be in existence today: one at The Imperial War Museum – and the other somewhere in Germany.

Forces War Records

Forces War Records (www.forces-war-records.co.uk) is the website to visit for those researching their family’s military history.  Specialising only in military history, the genealogy site contains over seven million records of individuals who have served from medieval times - right through to the present day.  This fascinating site also has a crack team of professional researchers and military experts on hand to personally uncover extra layers of history about long gone forebears.  Its mission is to hold the most in-depth, accurate and helpful military records available.


Notes to editors:

“The Black Book – key lists of people” is also available for media and gives further examples of high profile named politicians, writers, spies, teacher, professors and emigrees – and military (retired and serving)