Forbidden Words, Banished Voices: Jewish Refugees at the Service of BBC Propaganda to Wartime Germany

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

During the Second World War, the BBC operated a German Service, which was tasked with broadcasting propaganda programs into Nazi Germany and occupied Europe. Psychological warfare was transmitted through radio waves to spread defeatism on the fighting front and amongst civilians, and to convince the German people that there was no future for the Third Reich. Dozens of German-speaking Jews who fled Central Europe and arrived in England as refugees found employment in the German Service. Many of these individuals worked as journalists, actors, comedians or authors in their previous homelands, some had even earned a degree of fame and recognition before the persecutory policies of National Socialism restricted their lives and forced them into exile. From the perspective of BBC officials, these refugees’ experience in the press and in the performing arts, as well as their intimate knowledge of German society and culture, set them in a unique position to create effective and powerful propaganda. This paper explores how, branded as unwelcome outsiders by their native societies, it was precisely their familiarity as ‘insiders’ that paradoxically primed them to perform the task.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)97-119
Number of pages23
JournalJournal of Contemporary History
Volume55
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 1 2020
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • BBC
  • Germany
  • Jews
  • propaganda
  • refugees
  • Second World War

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