German Operation Sea Lion: Occupation Plans for Britain (1940)


Figure 1.--Hitler and Himmler were all too aware of Germany's relatively small population given the great enterprise they had in mind of building a vast German Empire with mass of helot-like slave laborors. Britain, especially England with its Anglo-Saxon component, seemed a potentially important source of 'racially valuable' stock. Of course the NAZIs had all these racial ideas before DNA had even been dicovered. They had no ida,for exmple, as to how important the neolithic, pre-Celtic popultion was to the British genetic stock. As the War progressed, Himmler began to rethink the potential of harvesting valuable racial stock in the West. He especially came to the conclusionthat France offered little. England was more of a question. Hitler was more of a realist and Britain's continued resistance affected his thinking about Britain's place in the in the future NAZI Europe. And we see the SS developing plans for subjecting Britain, including Einsatzgruppen prepared to act more brutally than had been the case in Poland. All of this was completely unknon to the Briish people, including Churchill and the rest of the leadership.

German agencies after Hitler issued Führer Directive 16 began preparing for not only the invasion, but for occupying a subjugated Britain. This included setting up Einsatzgruppen. What we do not understand is why the Germans did not organize Einsatzgruppen for France, but did for Britain. And here the racial aspect further confuses the history. The SS decided there was only limited genetic material to be harvested in France, but that the British were a kindred Aryan people. For what ever reason, the Germans decided that the subjugation of Britain required Einsatzgruppen. Walter Schellenberg, director of the counter espionage unit of the Reichssicherheitshauptamt (Head Office of Reich Security--RSHA) prepared a secret occupation handbook. (Schellenberg was recruited by SS-Obergruppenführer Reinhard Heydrich and would later become the top German intelligence officer after British agents shot Heydrich and Abwehr head, Admiral Canaris was arrested.) His handbook would have been proven useful by occupation authorities. It offered detailed information on a wide range of topics concerning Britain and the Empire. There were detailed analyses of both the political and economic system. Individual chapters covered an impressive list of topics, everything from Parliament and public schools to freemasonry a perennial NAZI target. The book also discussed the Boy Scouts, probably because of the importance of the Hitler Youth in Germany. Schellenberg's book today provides modern historians insights into exactly how the Germans viewed Britain. Some of it is insightful. Other sections are largely projections of twisted NAZI ideology. The most chilling section was the Sonderfahndungsliste G.B.--Special Search List for Great Britain (black book). This is what the French avoided by surrendering to the Germans and collaborating. (Of course what would have happened after the Germans won the War does not seem to have occurred to the Vichy men.) The price of British resistance was to be high. Schellenberg's black book listed 2,820 individuals who the SS would take into 'protective custody'. The people were chosen by Schellenberg's counter espionage unit with input by sympathetic British Fascists although we do not know just how the selection process worked. The Sonderfahndungsliste was the British version of the Sonderfahndungsbuch Polen--Special Prosecution Book--Poland. The SS Einsatzgruppen in Poland summarily shot thousands of civilians on the list. Churchill was of course at the top of the list as was Chamberlain. And individuals they had scores to settle with, such as Col. Kenneth Strong, a former British military attache at the British Embassy in Berlin. German and other political refugees were included. There were Jews such as Chaim Weizmann and Sigmund Freud, who was already dead. Included on the list was Boy Scout founder, Robert Baden Powell as was cartoonist David Low. In addition to political figures there were many authors who upset NAZI sensibilities, including Vera Brittain (feminist author and pacifist), Noël Coward (actor who openly criticized appeasement and was not only homosexual but had connections with MI-5), E.M. Forster (humanist novelist and broadcaster who was also homosexual), Aldous Huxley (humanist author and pacifist had moved to America), F.L. Lucas (literary critic and prominent anti-Fascist). Steven Spender (left-wing poet, novelist, and essayist), Lytton Strachey (also dead), H.G. Wells (science fiction writer and socialist), Rebecca West (author and suffragette), Virginia Wolf (Feminist author), and many others. It was a matter of honor to have been included on the list when it was found after the War. West telegraphed Coward, 'My dear, the people we should have been seen dead with." Also on the list were American journalists working in Britain in addition to Afro-American actor Paul Robeson. [Schellenberg] This of course well before Hitler declared war on America. Quite a few women were on the list, including feminist politicians and writers. Interestingly the NAZIs were going after pacifists even though they had helped bring about Germany military victories by ensuring Britain was unprepared for war. Several homosexuals (one of the groups persecuted by the NAZIs) were on the list, but this was probably because of their political beliefs rather than their sexual orientation which at the time was not well publicized. Not included on the list were men like George Bernard Shaw and David Lloyd George who had been willing to associate and make peace with the NAZIs. Shaw was a rare important English-language author (he was Irish) whose books were allowed to be published in NAZI Germany. RSHA commander Heydrich chose SS Col. Professor Dr. Frank Six to command the six Einsatzkommando groups that were to cleanse Britain. They were to operate throughout Britain from the major urban centers: London, Birmingham, Bristol, Liverpool, Manchester, and Edinburgh. Six would not be able to carry out his deadly assignments in Britain, but he would do his grisly work in the Soviet Union a year later. It is likely that the Einsatzgruppen in Britain would have conducted operations similar to those in Poland focusing on prominent anti-NAZIs and groups that would have been likely to have formed the core of any resistance effort. Whether they would acted so ruthlessly we do not, but there is every reason to believe that any resistance to NAZI rule would have been savagely dealt with.

Peace Offers (July 1940)

The Fall of France was a stunning event (June 1940). Few had expected it, even OKW had not anticipated such a earth shattering event. And given the performance of the British Expeditionary Force and Royal Air Force in Belgium and France, many if not most observers, including many in the British establishment, expected the British to come to terms with the NAZIs. This may have been a factor in Hitler's decision to permit the rump Vichy regime. And if the British had not succeeded in extracting the BEF from Dunkirk, that provably would have been precisely what would have occurred. Even Chamberlain by this time realized that you could not make peace with Hitler. And the British saw clearly that a NAZI dominated Europe would mean that an independent Britain would cease to exist. After Churchill was appointed prime minister, the arch appeaser Chamberlain supported him. The two were determined that there would be no British Vichy. Hitler for his part was stunned that the British would not comes to terms and accept the inevitable. He was willing to allow them to keep the Empire and the fleet. He was willing to guarantee the Empire if Britain would accept a German-dominated continent. Of course his assurances were worthless. The British knew all about Hitler's guarantees. It does not seem to have crossed Hitler's mind that his duplicity at Munich made future diplomacy impossible. Military victories were of course possible, but there would be no more diplomacy with Britain. After the Germans won the War, they could demand their old colonies or any other colony and Britain would have no choice but to comply. It never occurred to him that after his deceit at Munich, that many in Britain saw no point, but to fight it out come what may. He was still unaware how the his bad faith over Czechoslovakia had changed Britain, even appeasers like Chamberlain. Churchill perfectly captured the mood of the British people, but no one in Britain including Churchill understood the full extent of the danger in which appeasement had placed them.

Operation Sea Lion

The German Plan to invade Britain after the fall of France was code named Operation Sea Lion. The BEF had managed to escape capture at Dunkirk, but had to abandon their heavy equipment. This mean that while Britain still had its army, it was an unarmed army. The American Naval Attaché reported that the British were no more prepared to defend the coast than Long Island. The British asked for surplus World War I destroyers, but President Roosevelt was not yet ready to authorize this. He did ask General Marshall to find surplus arms, mostly small arms, that could be rushed to Britain. [Freidel, p. 336.] The Germans were also unprepared. The Wehrmacht had not anticipated the dimensions of their victory in France. There had been no planning for an invasion of Britain. Blitzkrieg was essentially modern warfare, rapid land movement supported by aircraft. There was, however, no naval component. The Panzers stopped at the Channel ports. The Kriegsmarine received less support than the other two services. It did not have the capability to take on the Royal Navy for a Channel crossing. And Hitler was unsure of the operation from the beginning. He confided in Admiral Raeder, "On land I am a hero. At sea I am a coward." And with France defeated, he wanted to end the war in the West and prepare for his ultimate objective, seizing Lebensraum in the East. Hitler hoped that he could bring about a British Vichy without an invasion. And His vision was in part racial, seeing in Britain Aryan stock that would eventually come to terms with Aryan Germany. It is not clear to what extent Hitler ever seriously contemplated an invasion. Here historians disagree. Some believe he simply wanted to threaten the British, assuming that they would agree to seek terms. Hitler believed that at least threatening invasion would force the issue. With France defeated, Hitler ordered his generals to organize the invasion of Britain. Without the needed naval forces, the Luftwaffe would be used to prepare for the invasion. Air superiority over the channel and southeaster England would have to be achieved. Hitler ordered the Luftwaffe to destroy the RAF. Göring assured him that this could be easily accomplished.

Anticipated Victory Plans

German agencies after Hitler issued Führer Directive 16 began preparing for not only the invasion, but for occupying a subjugated Britain. In the heady days after the Fall of France, few in Germany believed that the British would not make peace. When they did not, it was widely believed that Germany would quickly add Britain to the growing list of NAZI military victories. And the obvious role that the Luftwaffe would have just added to German confidence. The Luftwaffe had played a key role in the German victories. And no enemy air force, including the RAF in France had shown any capability of confronting them. Fortunately, Air Chief Marshal Dowding had convinced Churchill not to commit any more of the RAF's precious fighter squadrons to the crumbling French campaign.

Battle of Britain

The Battle of Britain was the first air campaign in history. An air campaign against Britain meant the Luftwaffe would have to set up air bases along the Channel. Here they had many well-developed French bases they could use. But it took time to move into the bases and bring in supplies. The first encounters took place over the Channel with the Luftwaffe trying to lure RAF squadrons into combat over the Channel. Air Chief Marshall Downing held his fighters back, bracing for the onslaught that was to come. The Luftwaffe commenced the campaign with attacks on British coastal radar stations, aircraft factories, and fighter airfields (August 12). This was the beginning of what is now known as the Battle of Britain. Radar stations and airfields were damaged and 22 RAF planes were destroyed. The radar had, however, given early warning and the damage was much less than the Germans had hoped. Fortunately for the British, the Germans did bot yet fully understand the importance of radar and did not persist in the attacks ion the radar stations. The attack was just the beginning, The Luftwaffe began daily raids on Britain with a focus on RAF installations in southeastern England. If the RAF's 11 Wing had been forced to pull back north, the Luftwaffe would have achieved air superiority over the Channel and the invasion beaches.

German Occupation

The Germans certain of victory began planning for the occupation of Britain. This included setting up Einsatzgruppen. What we do not understand is why the Germans did not organize Einsatzgruppen for France, but did for Britain. And here the racial aspect further confuses the history. The SS decided there was only limited genetic material to be harvested in France, but that the British were a kindred Aryan people. For what ever reason, the Germans decided that the subjugation of Britain required Einsatzgruppen. We suspect that they just wanted to keep France quiet so they could exploit it to support their war effort. There are many indications that the NAZIs planned very severe actions in France after they win the War. This also would have occurred in Britain had the British agreed to a Vichy-like peace.

Walter Schellenberg

Walter Schellenberg, director of the counter espionage unit of the Reichssicherheitshauptamt (Head Office of Reich Security--RSHA) prepared a secret occupation handbook. (Schellenberg was recruited by SS-Obergruppenführer Reinhard Heydrich and would later become the top German intelligence officer after British agents shot Heydrich and Abwehr head, Admiral Canaris was arrested.)

RSHA Handbook: The Black Book

The RSHA handbook would have been proven useful by occupation authorities. It offered detailed information on a wide range of topics concerning Britain and the Empire. There were detailed analyses of both the political and economic system. Individual chapters covered an impressive list of topics, everything from Parliament and public schools to freemasonry a perennial NAZI target. The book also discussed the Boy Scouts, probably because of the importance of the Hitler Youth in Germany. Schellenberg's book today provides modern historians insights into exactly how the Germans viewed Britain. Some of it is insightful. Other sections are largely projections of twisted NAZI ideology. The most chilling section was the Sonderfahndungsliste G.B.--Special Search List for Great Britain (Black Book). This is what the French avoided by surrendering to the Germans and collaborating. (Of course what would have happened after the Germans won the War does not seem to have occurred to the Vichy men.)

Sonderfahndungsliste: Special: Protection List

The price of British resistance was to be high. Schellenberg's black book listed 2,820 individuals who the SS would take into 'protective custody'. The people were chosen by Schellenberg's counter espionage unit with input by sympathetic British Fascists although we do not know just how the selection process worked. The Sonderfahndungsliste was the British version of the Sonderfahndungsbuch Polen--Special Prosecution Book--Poland. The SS Einsatzgruppen in Poland summarily shot thousands of civilians on the list. Churchill was of course at the top of the list as was Chamberlain. And individuals they had scores to settle with, such as Col. Kenneth Strong, a former British military attache at the British Embassy in Berlin. German and other political refugees were included. There were Jews such as Chaim Weizmann and Sigmund Freud, who was already dead. Included on the list was Boy Scout founder, Robert Baden Powell as was cartoonist David Low. In addition to political figures there were many authors who upset NAZI sensibilities, including Vera Brittain (feminist author and pacifist), Noël Coward (actor who openly criticized appeasement and was not only homosexual but had connections with MI-5), E.M. Forster (humanist novelist and broadcaster who was also homosexual), Aldous Huxley (humanist author and pacifist had moved to America), F.L. Lucas (literary critic and prominent anti-Fascist). Steven Spender (left-wing poet, novelist, and essayist), Lytton Strachey (also dead), H.G. Wells (science fiction writer and socialist), Rebecca West (author and suffragette), Virginia Wolf (Feminist author), and many others. It was a matter of honor to have been included on the list when it was found after the War. West telegraphed Coward, 'My dear, the people we should have been seen dead with." Also on the list were American journalists working in Britain in addition to Afro-American actor Paul Robeson. [Schellenberg] This of course well before Hitler declared war on America. Quite a few women were on the list, including feminist politicians and writers. Interestingly the NAZIs were going after pacifists even though they had helped bring about Germany military victories by ensuring Britain was unprepared for war. Several homosexuals (one of the groups persecuted by the NAZIs) were on the list, but this was probably because of their political beliefs rather than their sexual orientation which at the time was not well publicized. Not included on the list were men like George Bernard Shaw and David Lloyd George who had been willing to associate and make peace with the NAZIs. Shaw was a rare important English-language author (he was Irish) whose books were allowed to be published in NAZI Germany.

SS Col. Professor Dr. Frank Six

SHA commander Heydrich chose SS Col. Professor Dr. Frank Six to command the six Einsatzkommando groups that were to cleanse Britain. Six was an academic with a Ph.D. Heydrich also chose academics for the murderous Einsatzgruppen turned loose on the Soviet Union a year later. At the time was the head of department Amt VII, Written Records of the Reichssicherheitshauptamt (RSHA). Six was to head the operations throughout Britain from the major urban centers: London, Birmingham, Bristol, Liverpool, Manchester, and Edinburgh. Six would not be able to carry out his deadly assignments in Britain, but he would do his grisly work in the Soviet Union a year later. He must have lost some influence with Heydrich because he was not given the overall command of the Einsatzgruppen in The Soviet Union. He was only given a sub unit to command--chief of Vorkommando Moscow, part of Einsatzgruppe B. It is likely that Six's Einsatzgruppen in Britain would have conducted operations similar to those in Poland focusing on prominent anti-NAZIs and groups that would have been likely to have formed the core of any resistance effort. Whether they would acted so ruthlessly we do not, but there is every reason to believe that any resistance to NAZI rule would have been savagely dealt with. Six was tried for war crimes after the War, but received only a light sentence.

Deportation Plans

German documents captured after the War reveal that Field Marshall Walther von Brauchitsch, commander-in-chief of the German Army, planned to deport British males after the German victory. Hitler had placed Brauchitsch in charge of the Army's invasion operations. He had been an advocate of harsh measures in Poland and appears to have concluded that even harsher measures would be needed in Britain as part of the German occupation. Brauchitsch ordered that "The able-bodied male population between the ages of 17 and 45 will, unless the local situation calls for an exceptional ruling, be interned and dispatched to the Continent". This would have been about 25 percent of Britain's male subjects. And the end of the British nation as it would have obviously affected the birth rate. It is unclear how the deported male population would have been used. Some might have been conscripted are allowed to volunteer for the military. Those that did not volunteer might have been used for labor brigades. Others would have been useful as slave labor in factories and mines, freeing German workers for military service. Race was important in NAZI Germany so they may not have been treated as harshly as Ostarbeiter (Eastern Worker), but conditions for these men would have bee very poor. [Shirer, p. 949.]

Occupation Objectives

NAZI plans were to plunder Britain for anything of financial, military, or industrial use to support the war effort in th East. [Shirer, p. 943] Also to be seized was anything of cultural value. here the purpose in addition to add to the art collection of NAZI leaders was to destroy British national existence. The population as in the rest of the NAZI Empire was to be terrorized into compliance. As in occupied Europe, after notables were arrested and dealt with, civilian hostages would be taken, and the death penalty imposed for even trivial acts of resistance. [Shirer, p. 782]

Racial Assessment

Given Germany's relatively small population and plans to rule a vast empire, Hitler, Himmler, and other NAZIs were very interested in harvesting 'biological material. They were most interested in the Nordic peoples in Scandinavia. But it was such an obsession that Himmler even launched the Lebensborn Program to kidnap blond, blue eyed children in occupied countries. It is not all together clear how Hitler and Himmler saw Britain. Britain of course was conquered by very Germanic Anglo-Saxons (6th century AD) and then had Viking settlement to complete the British genetic admixture (9th -10th centuries), but of course there were a Celtic and French component. Unknown to the NAZIs at the time was the importance of the neolithic, pre-Celtic population. Hitler at times spoke admiringly of the British. The same was true of the Americans. But as his military victories built on each other, he seems to have begun to modify this assessment. Hitler seems to have developed negative views. Dealing with Chamberlain seems to caused him to reassess his thinking. And the failure of the British to come to terms with him after the fall of France also affected his thinking. One historian reports him in social conversations with his associates and their families as referring to the English lower classes as 'racially inferior'. [Hitler] All of this is confusing, it seems that Hitler had not really made up his mind. Albert Speer who probably spent more time with Hitler in unguarded conversation than anyone besides his personal staff, tells us that Hitler held conflict views on the British, saying at times that he would prefer to make a deal with Britain rather than the Soviets and at other times that Britain was 'Enemy One'. [Speer. p. 112 and 228.] Of course here he was not talking specifically about racial issues. This seems to have been a conclusion that Himmler also reached for the British in general. Otto Bräutigam of the Reich Ministry for the Occupied Eastern Territories claimed he had the opportunity to read a personal report by General Eduard Wagner (late-February 1943). Wagner was the Chief Quartermaster of the Heer and as such was involved in such matters as labor issues. Wagner was involved in a wide range of war crimes, including shooting hostages and worked closely with Heydrich and the Einsatzgruppen drawing up instructions for murdering Soviet Jews. Ironically Wagner subsequently became deeply involved in the Bomb Plot, not out of any moral objections, but because Hitler was losing the War. Wagner was reporting on a discussion with SS Chief Heinrich Himmler. Himmler told him that he planned to use SS special forces (presumably Einsatzgruppen) to kill about 80 percent of the British and French populations after the War. [Bräutigam, p. 590.] This was essentially a Generalplan Ost for the West. Besides the horror of what nearly transpired, the same level of killing in France and Britain is interesting because the British clearly had a greater Germanic ethnic component and Himmler must have known that as he studied such matters.

Reader Comments

A British reader writes, "I don't that it is just a matter that the British people did not fully understand the mortal danger at the time. I don't think that most people even today have an idea of just what was at stake. There are several films made after the war about what Great Britain would have been like if the country had fallen to Nazi rule. They paint a very grim picture but not quite as horrific as would have been the case in actuality.There were also children's comic book stories with this theme. A comic called 'The Victor' ran such a story. In these stories there is a strong resistance movement causing big trouble for the Nazi occupation forces. We win and the 'daft' Nazi's get done over. The head quarters of the resistance movement was in the rugged part of England. The Lake district, Wales and Scotland. Reading this I see that any effective resistance is an illusion."

Sources

Bräutigam, Otto: "So hat es sich zugetragen..." (Holzner Verlag, Germany 1968). Wagner had ties with Speer because armament production and labor are related. Because of this and other ties with coup plotters as well as as suggestions that he be a part of a provisional government, Speer was thought to be apart of the Bomb Plot. Only Hitler's personal affection for him probably saved him.

Freidel, Frank. Franklin D. Roosevelt: Rendezvous with Destiny (Little Brown: Boston, 1990), 710p.

Hitler, Adolf. November 15, 1941 Hitler's Table Talk (Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1953).

Schellenberg, Walter. Invasion, 1940: The Nazi Invasion Plan for Britain (Little Brown Book Group: 2001). The title is assigned for the modern publication. It was not an invasion plan, but a handbook for administrators after the invasion. Quite a number of copies were printed by the Germans. Only two copies survive. One is held by the Imperial War Museum.

Shirer, William L. The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich (Simon and Schuster, New York, 1960).

Speer, Albert. Inside the Third Reich (Avon, New York, 1970), 734p.







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