December 2, 2007
THEY helped bring death, destruction and terror on an industrial scale to an entire continent. And as Europe rebuilt itself following the Second World War, they were imprisoned on a desolate Scottish moor.
Newly uncovered documents have revealed that a Caithness prisoner-of-war camp had an extraordinary secret role as a place where some of the most notorious figures in Hitler's Third Reich were locked up, interrogated and - where possible - subjected to "de-Nazification".
While the existence of Camp 165 at Watten, near Wick, is known, local historian Valerie Campbell has obtained recently declassified Government files which reveal the existence of an inner compound with the grim nickname "Little Belsen".
Inmates included Paul Werner Hoppe, the commandant of Stutthof concentration camp, Poland, Dr Paul Schroder, the man behind the Nazi's V2 flying bomb project, Hitler's personal aide and SS commander Max Wunsche, Nazi propagandist Gunter d'Alquen, and U-boat captain Otto Kretschmer, known as the Wolf of the Atlantic.
Even today, many locals who worked behind the barbed wire fences of the clandestine compound are reluctant to speak about it.
The compound - which operated between 1943 and 1948 - was divided into two areas, A and B. Area A held prisoners who were assessed as low threat and were eventually allowed to carry out unpaid work on surrounding farms. The high security, top secret area B, overseen by armed guards in watch towers, housed "black" prisoners regarded as hard-line and dangerous Nazis.
The B prisoners were subjected to "de-Nazification programmes" where they were repeatedly shown newsreels and films outlining the horrors committed under the name of the Third Reich and highlighting their defeat by Allied forces.
Those deemed to be reformed could be repatriated with the most unrepentant being transferred to stand trial or face further interrogation elsewhere. A third 'C' category was later created for those deemed to be the greatest threat.
Little exists of the compound today, but at its height it was a mini community of more than 70 Nissen huts. Most of its infamous inmates slept in the freezing rusty shacks which often shook in the violent northern winds.
As well as detention and interrogation rooms there was a makeshift church, a barber's, workshops, classrooms and - for the low security inmates - a theatre. Prisoners were given outfits with a distinctive diamond on the back - which it was claimed would act as a target if they tried to escape.
Campbell said: "Most people associate the village of Watten with Alexander Bain, the inventor of the electric clock. They would know nothing of its significance as a PoW camp that held some of the most infamous men in the Nazi regime.
The remote location of the camp was key to its creation.
Between 1942 and 1945, Hoppe was in charge of Stutthoff concentration camp and personally oversaw the deaths of thousands of men, women and children who the Nazi regime deemed to be "sub-human". When British forces liberated the camp, many soldiers were physically sick at the horrors they discovered.
Hoppe was held at Camp Watten between August 1947 and January 1948 and it was expected that he would be executed on his return to Germany.
Yet, extraordinarily, the commandant escaped from a British base in Saxony and was able to work unhindered as a landscape gardener. He was finally re-arrested in 1953 and sentenced to just nine years imprisonment, insisting he had been too young to understand what happened at his camp.
Nazi rocket scientist Schroder, who invented the V2 pilotless bomb which killed thousands of residents in London alone, was treated even more mercifully during his incarceration in Caithness in 1947.
Schroder co-operated with intelligence officials on sharing his knowledge on "the technicalities of rocket projectiles" and as such was awarded special status, despite being deemed to be a Nazi zealot and a "public enemy". He was eventually handed over to the Americans and became a respected adviser to the US Air Force.
Nazi journalist d'Alquen, who was handpicked by Himmler to pen the official history of the SS and helped popularise the idea of Jews as "vermin", was sent to Watten in 1945.
He was allowed to publish a monthly magazine for detainees called Der Wattener.
After the camp closed he was sent to the US where he became a key member of the CIA and helped devise its anti-communist propaganda strategy during the early Cold War.
Viscountess Margaret Thurso, who lived near the camp, was fascinated by the revelations.
Camp 165 Watten by Valerie Campbell will be published by Whittles in January.
Last updated: 02-Dec-07 01:14 GMT
1. Lobeydoser / 1:45am 2 Dec 2007
Reading this weekly blog and the Scotsman's, its obvious some of these de-Nazified pows must have stayed on.
2. Mikey Hughes Militaria, Clydebank / 7:56am 2 Dec 2007
62 years after WW2 and we are still learning. Mikey Hughes Militaria.
3. Yane / 8:18am 2 Dec 2007
Is this right? — Shroder gets in trouble for doing sh**ty stuff ta folk & then gets rewarded for telling how to do sh**ty stuff ta folk.
4. Caora Dubh, Croit sheasgair / 8:21am 2 Dec 2007
"Dr Paul Schroder, the man behind the Nazi's V2 flying bomb project"
Marc Horne, are you an uneducated nitwit? This is a shocking error for a journalist to have made. The "flying bomb" or "buzz-bomb" was the V1. Its propulsion system was a pulse-jet.
Any educated adult knows that the V2 was a rocket developed at Peenemunde (mostly), under the guidance of Dr Wernher von Braun, the same man who later led the team of engineers that developed the Saturn V rocket of the AmerUSAn Apollo space programme.
5. wayne bijlyeerheid / 8:41am 2 Dec 2007
First thing that sprung to my mind.
6. Caora Dubh, Croit sheasgair / 8:44am 2 Dec 2007
#3 Yane: Yes, horribly right. The AmerUSAns smuggled many Germans with technical expertise out of Germany at the end of World War 2 and quashed actions against them, provided they would help the USA in its power struggle with the USSR.
Having spoken with a fair number of Germans, I have gathered that both older and younger Germans are highly polarised in their views on the Nazi era. Many older Germans still look upon Hitler as a saviour, a man sent to rescue the Germans from poverty and the depredations of the Versailles World War 1 reparations. These Germans either believe that the Nazi atrocities recorded by history are lies, or that the atrocities were justified. They tend to drone on about Allied atrocities committed against Germans. Opposing them is a faction that has accepted the full ghastliness of Nazism - many of these older Germans experienced the horror of Nazism directly, having lost family members, friends or acquaintances to the Gestapo and/or SS. It is intersting that this direct experience seems to be required to turn someone against a tyrannical regime.
As for younger Germans, they have had anti-Nazi history shoved down their throats ad nauseum at school. No one should have to apologise for that which they didn't do, especially children. Apologies by Germans who were children during WW2, or by young white Australians or South Africans are embarrassing, pathetic, and meaningless. The only people who should apologise for crimes against humanity are the perpetrators. Making young people feel guilty for that which an older generation perpetrated is highly counterproductive and should be stopped. German neo-Nazism is largely a reaction against this artificial guilt that many young Germans feel to be inculcated by school curricula, and even films and books. Instead, there needs to be a strong, positive emphasis on the achievements of Germans after World War 2.
8. Dr. James Wilkie / 9:55am 2 Dec 2007
#6. Excellent analysis. I have met more ex-Nazis than most, and I never encountered a hard-liner who was prepared to express one word of regret for what the regime committed. I also agree that many of the measures taken postwar to try to extirpate vestiges of Nazism only served to exasperate people and put undesirable ideas into the minds of a younger generation who had no personal experience of the Nazi era.
The classic example was the party-political campaign against Austrian President Kurt Waldheim, who was never in his life a Nazi or responsible for war crimes. All it did was to bring the idea of anti-Semitism into the limelight - and put it into the heads of thousands of unstable individuals who previously would never have given it a moment's thought.
9. Ninian Reid, Edinburgh / 10:18am 2 Dec 2007
Crivvens, a Guantanamo Bay on our very own doorstep ! But even as a "grim nickname", "Little Belsen" seems crudely and insensitively misplaced - unless we were gassing and incinerating the assembled Nazis which was very far from the case. And who of course got the Americans to the Moon ? The jigsaw puzzle of unholy alliances can take decades to fully unravel. This may not be the biggest piece in the box , but a fascinating one nevertheless. Absorbing journalism ; it's what Sundays are made for.
10. Bob Christie, Fiefdom of Broon / 10:55am 2 Dec 2007
# 6 Well said!
The rocket pioneer Wernher von Braun was spirited by the US out of Germany at the end of the war and became an American citizen in 1950.
But if you visit the Mittelbau Dora concentration camp near Nordhausen in Thueringen, you can see a photgraph of the same von Braun in the uniform of a high ranking SS officer.
11. paul the binman / 11:02am 2 Dec 2007
Lets not throw stones ,after all Britain also brough a lot of ex Nazi's to our rocket industry and also lot into our chemical industrys as did the French and Russians.We also used and awfull lot in our spy games against the Russians too......
12. Upbeat / 11:06am 2 Dec 2007
It is disturbing that someone has come here attempting to tell Scotsman readers that the V2 rocket, was no " flying bomb". While the words flying bomb were more commonly assocaited with the V1..the V2 was also a bomb that flew !
The V1 Flying bomb was nicknamed the "Buzz Bomb" or " Doodle Bug" It was powered by a simple pulse jet engine , and carried a 2000lb warhead. The fule capaicity was carefully regulated so that the in flight time would bring the bomb over teh traget . At this point the motor would stop and the bomb would fall. Considerable success to counter this weapon was achieved by the simple expedient of Military Intelligence using captured german agents to misinform the German high command about the areas that had been hit. By convincing the Germans that the bombs were overshooting central London the weapon was loaded with less fuel. This resulted in many bombs dropping over Kent instead of London Docklands.
The V2 was a true rocket. It had a 10000 kg warhead. Using a primitive guidance system it had a range of 300 km, and flew above the speed of sound. There was no warning before a missile arrived. It was almost imposible to provide any defence against this weapon. But overall it was never a cost effective weapon in WW2. a large bomber could carry more explosives and was cheaper to build.
Many details can be found here : http://www.zamandayolculuk.com/cetinbal/V2RROCKET.htm
13. Upbeat / 11:08am 2 Dec 2007
Sorry serious typo in #12
14. robinright, Germany Aachen /Cologne / 11:30am 2 Dec 2007
As a past war borne German I can hardly understand, why the allied forces flattened the whole of Germany with their bombs, but left the concentration camps more or less intact till the very end. As far as I know, no roads or railway lines leading to the concentration camps were prime targets for allied bombers.
Very interesting also, that too many prime Nazis even got top jobs in the secret services of the so called democratic western world, not to talk about the "very brown Werner von Braun" in the NASA , who is and was as much guilty for murdering thousands of people as commanders of concentration camps.
I was a much more than regular regular visitor to Scotland for 31 years and I could not believe when very close Scottish friends warned me again and again that there still was a lot of racism against Germans in Sotland. After the incident on Edinburgh airport I know better now, please see: www.scotland-cv.com.
Perhaps I had better be a top criminal and murderer to be really welcome in Britain as a German.
15. AAndrew H, Slough / 12:10pm 2 Dec 2007
Bombing the roads and railway lines to concentration camps would have been a double edged sword. On one hand, it may have prevented or delayed the arrival of slave labourers to the camps but on the other hand it would have prevented or delayed the arrival of food and other supplies. I think it is safe to assume that if food was prevented or delayed from arriving at the camps the inmates would have been the last to receive whatever meagre supplies existed.
As for the death camps, theses being the camps which only served the purpose of killing people (Sobibor, Treblinka, Belzec, Chelmo), these camps had been destroyed by the Nazis before the allies were even aware of them. They could not have been bombed or interrupted.
Auschwitz therefore remains the only camp where the interruption of inmate arrival may have saved lives. In think in all other possible cases the bombing of camps and/or roads and railways leading to camps would have not been in the camp inmates interest.
16. James Donald, Croix d'Torfin / 5:45pm 2 Dec 2007
#1. Lobeydoser - "Does he now write for the Guardian?" - Not possible since he died in 1998 but the Guardian would be the last newspaper he would have written for.
17. James Donald, Croix d'Torfin / 5:53pm 2 Dec 2007
#9. Ninian Reid, Edinburgh - "Absorbing journalism ; it's what Sundays are made for" - absorbing perhaps but an indication as to the quality of the piece is this statement:
18. James Donald, Croix d'Torfin / 6:04pm 2 Dec 2007
#8. Dr. James Wilkie - Even after his death, there were many barbed comments about Waldheim and war crimes, not least from the odious Efraim Zuroff. I recently read an interesting book regarding Waldheim entitled "The Waldheim Affair: Democracy Subverted" by Harold H. Tittmann III - worth getting if you have not read it already.
19. Mannstein, USA / 1:40am 3 Dec 2007
Interesting logic. Bomber Harris who made it his career during the war bombing civilians is a hero with his own statue in Trafalgar Square. The German that worked on the V-2 is a public enemy.
Give us all a break as we say on this side of the Atlantic.
22. robinright, Germany Aachen/Cologne -2 / 9:46am 3 Dec 2007
It is not amusing to see, hear or read all the cheap excuses from people worldwide to justify their actions now and in the past. Most of them still having a clear conscience, but only, because they never used it.
It is more than true: Character is something one cannot buy, steal, study or even clone! Best regards
your : robinright.com
23. jbeard, London / 10:48am 3 Dec 2007
The real reason these mass murderers were kept on, intead of being merely tried and executed, was because the western powers saw them as valuable assets in the cold war, as the article subsequently reveals.
25. James Donald, Croix d'Torfin / 8:52pm 3 Dec 2007
#24. Conan, Moffat - Don't mention it, Conan, resident idiot and troll. If you have nothing to write other than insults, don't bother.
26. James Donald, Croix d'Torfin / 9:10pm 3 Dec 2007
#23. jbeard, London - Aside from Hoppe there were few (if any) other "mass murderers" held in Camp 165. Most (but not all) prisoners were those considered "black" by the British (black being a rather loose term to describe strong supporters of the regime), mostly Waffen-SS, U-Boat men, Paratroopers etc.
The camp has been described in print before in "FOR FUHRER AND FATHERLAND: SS MURDER AND MAYHEM IN WARTIME BRITAIN" by Roderick De Normann. More obscure is the a booklet about German prisoners at Watten (and Caithness POWs in Germany and Japan) using first-hand accounts produced by the pupils of Hillhead Primary School in Wick (several articles have also appeared in the John O-Groat Journal over the years).
This article is little more than an advertisement for the book and, as I indicated at post #17, I hope the quality of the book exceeds that of the article.
27. A.Mackenzie., USA / 10:17pm 3 Dec 2007
I keep asking for forensic evidence instead of "massive documentation" but so far have not been successful.
28. Conan, Moffat / 12:45am 4 Dec 2007
James Donald states; "If you have nothing to write other than insults, don't bother." ..... talk about the pot calling the kettle BLACK.
29. Mannstein, USA / 3:12am 4 Dec 2007
So these U-Boot men were mass murderers. That's an interesting observation. Maybe it's because they rejected the Allied re education ( brainwashing).
And what about Allied U-Boat Men? Oh yes they were fighting and dying to save Western civilization. Did that include the Communists who murdered 100 million?
Of course we all know that Operation Keehaul which delivered thousands of Russian ex patriates to be executed by the biggest mass murderer Uncle Joe was Britain's finest hour. As was the declaration of war by Churchill on little Finland defending itself courageously at the time against the Red Hordes.
What did all this buy you? The UK lost the Empire and has morphed into Bush's poodle. Oh how the mighty have fallen some of whom have still not come to terms with their predicament.
Becoming Stalin's allies was the biggest error the the West has made. Admit it and move on.
About the only thing the Anglo Americans are capable of is bombing undefended population centers. Dresden, Hiroshima, and Nagasaki, Iraq are prime examples.
Blow back time is just around the corner.
30. James Donald, Croix d'Torfin / 7:06am 4 Dec 2007
#28. Conan, Moffat - Again nothing to write about the story just pathetic trolling posts. Grow up.
31. J J PETTIGREW, DYSART / 7:15am 4 Dec 2007
Interesting but old news really, I was brought up in the knowledge that NASA was run by ex nazi scientists and the CIA was a nest of vengeful ex nazis determined to bring about Russia and Uncle Joes demise, in fact if you draw a moustache on mr Bush and look at his drive for world domination its hard to tell the difference, or should that be mr Busch, the correct German spelling.
32. James Donald, Croix d'Torfin / 2:41pm 4 Dec 2007
The book can be ordered direct from the publisher: http://moo.whittlespublishing.com/whittles/item/4899
33. Valerie Campbell, Scotland / 3:28pm 4 Dec 2007
The book is accurate. The Red Army did indeed liberate Stutthof. The British soldiers I refer to who were sick actually liberated Neuengamme, as my father was there at the time and witnessed it. As for the inner compund being nicknamed 'Little Belsen' this can be attributed to the artist Karl Weschke who spoke of the nickname those incarcerated there gave it. One other point. D'Alquen was at the camp in 1947, not 1945.
34. James Donald, Croix d'Torfin / 6:21pm 4 Dec 2007
#33. Valerie Campbell, Scotland - "The book is accurate" - Glad this is the case and it is the Scotsman article that is flawed.
Pity I did not know of your work earlier as I have some items which may have been of interest (My Grandparents were from Wick but were married in Watten).
Gunter d'Alquen was known to me through a mutual friend in Essen and showed me a certificate confirming he was Campspeaker in the Officer's Compound of Camp 165 from October 1947 to February 1948. A copy of this together with some other items relating to his time as a POW are on display in the Wick Heritage Centre.
Good luck with the sales of the book - I have ordered my copy already.
Stutthoff is located in Poland, on the coast of the Baltic east of Gdansk. The concentration camp was liberated by the Soviets, after it had been evacuated by the Nazis. Why did the writer of this article need fictionalize the account of its liberation?