by Daria Bedenko
The Black Book: The Britons on the Nazi Hitlist: Sybil Oldfield, 448 pp, Profile Books London 2020; Hardback £25 ; Paperback £9.99 Kindle £8.85
The Nazi leader, Adolf Hitler, had a plan for the invasion of the United Kingdom in 1940.It was called Operation Sea Lion. But the Germans failed to achieve air and naval superiority over the English Channel and the Luftwaffe lost the Battle of Britain
Now new details of the failed plan have come to light. Author Sybil Oldfield, in a book titled The Black Book: The Britons on the Nazi List, looks at those who would be the first to go if Hitler had won. The Nazi ‘Black Book’ hit-list contains the names of over 3,000 prominent British subjects who would be rounded up by the Germans had they succeeded in occupying Britain.
Those on this ‘Black Book’ list were to be placed under house arrest or thrown into “newly constructed camps”. Some could face an even worse fate.
SS Colonel Franz Six, a professor tasked with leading the elimination of any opposition to the Nazis in Britain, was green-lighted to “set up Einsatzgruppen [paramilitary SS death squads]… as the situation dictates and the necessity arises”, Oldfield says.
The Black Book was intended to serve as a handbook for troops occupying the UK while also containing names of people subject to arrest. Compiled under the oversight of SS Colonel Walter Schellenberg it claimed Jews in the media promoted “anti-German influence” and that “almost the whole of Britain was really controlled by very rich, assimilated British Jews”.
“Once I so quickly discovered that these anti-fascist Britons … were marvellous human beings — brave, humane, intelligent — the more I wanted to learn more and then share it,” Oldfield told The Times of Israel.
Among those included in the blacklist were Winston Churchill along with his cabinet; senior Labour politicians, trade unionists; well-known pre-war anti-fascists and many British Jews. They included the man who later became the first president of Israel, Chaim Weizmann; Oscar Deutsch, the owner of the Odeon cinema chain; film producers Ivor Montagu and Isidore Ostrer; and Lords Melchett and Bearsted from the financial sphere.
The list also included Albert Einstein as well as nuclear physicist Leo Szilard and Black singer Paul Robeson, although all three had already fled to the United States.
` The round up didn’t only target people. Organisations were also going to be dealt with by the Nazis. These included Penguin Books and the Left Book Club, Freemasons and the Rotary club, the Transport and General Workers Union, as well as the YMCA, the Workers’ Educational Association and the Quakers.
Oldfield said that the main goal of her book was to find out why the listed Britons were “suspected above all others of having the potential to obstruct the successful Nazification of Great Britain” along with making sure that what she believes is a “gap” in the historical record - the efforts of those resisting fascism before the war - is filled.
“It’s rather disturbing that the Nazis, who seem to exercise a sort of taboo fascination in popular consciousness, a forbidden darkness, always somehow get the headlines,” she said.