The German Fifth Column in the Second World War

The German Fifth Column in the Second World War

The German Fifth Column in the Second World War

The German Fifth Column in the Second World War

Excerpt

In 1949 the International Council of Philosophic and Humanistic Studies, a body affiliated to Unesco, requested the State Institute for War Documentation at Amsterdam to contribute to a history of national socialist Germany and fascist Italy, to be written by historians from various countries. The subject was to be the so-called German Fifth Column. The request was acceded to; the Board of Directors of the Institute entrusted me with the task of writing the required study, which (a comparatively short piece) was finished in the last half of 1951.

At first I had confined myself to forming an idea of the intrigues carried out by the Germans outside Germany (usually summed up under the term 'Fifth Column work'), first from the literature on the subject and afterwards from other sources as well. At a later stage it struck me that, especially as regards the war years, the contrast between the activities ascribed to the German Fifth Column and its actual work constituted a problem in itself of general importance.

Thus a book came about that fell into three parts almost of its own accord.

The first part ('Fear') sketches how, after 1933, those outside Germany began to become increasingly afraid of sinister operations on the part of German agents and the partisans of national socialism; how this fear developed into a veritable panic each time Hitler passed on to a fresh deed of aggression; and finally how the conceptions born of fear and panic were embodied in what was written later on.

Numerous examples will be found later in this book of the mysterious omnipotence ascribed to the German Fifth Column. Here, however, I should like to quote a description given by a level-headed American journalist in order to conjure up a picture of what was, I believe, a fairly generally accepted view in most of the Western countries in the years in which Hitler, dizzy with success, stood at the very height of his power. It came from the pen of Otto Tolischus in the . . .

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