Sefton Delmer

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Sefton Delmer as a journalist in the Friedland transit camp on the arrival of German nuclear physicists from the Soviet Sukhumi (February 1958)

Denis Sefton "Tom" Delmer (born May 24, 1904 in Berlin , Germany , † September 4, 1979 in Lamarsh , Essex , United Kingdom ) was a British journalist .

Live and act


Denis Sefton Delmer was born in Berlin as the son of the Australian professor of English, Frederick Sefton Delmer . His father was a lecturer there at the Friedrich Wilhelms University (today Humboldt University). At the beginning of the First World War , his father was interned as an enemy foreigner in the Ruhleben camp. In 1917 the Delmers were released as part of a prisoner exchange between the British and German governments and emigrated to England.

In Berlin, Sefton Delmer went to the Friedrichwerdersche Gymnasium , in London to St Paul's School and in Oxford to Lincoln College , from which he obtained only a moderate degree in modern languages. He spoke only German up to the age of five, and when he spoke English, a slight German accent could be heard until 1939.

Correspondent in Berlin

After completing his studies, Delmer worked as a freelance journalist and joined the London editorial staff of the Daily Express in 1927 . The owner of the Express, Lord Beaverbrook , sent him to Berlin in 1928 as a correspondent, where he became the Express's office manager. In this role he learned a. a. Know the Hitler sponsor Ernst Hanfstaengl and the chief of staff of the SA Ernst Röhm and befriended him. Röhm made contact with Adolf Hitler , with whom he was the first British journalist to conduct an interview. Delmer recognized early on the extraordinary effect Hitler had on the Germans. He described the situation in the years before the seizure of power as "an atmosphere of unreality [...] in which all kinds of revival preachers, charlatans, quacks and swindlers flourished ... In February 1929 I saw for the first time the greatest of all miracles of this illusion-hungry people : Adolf Hitler". Delmer also accompanied Hitler on his campaign trips in 1932 in his private plane and was also present when Hitler visited the Reichstag, which was destroyed by fire in late February 1933. During this time Delmer was considered a sympathizer of the Nazis; the British government thought he was being paid by the Nazis. In National Socialist circles, on the other hand, Delmer was considered a British spy. Delmer denied both.

During the Weimar period , Sefton Delmer reported on the effects of the global economic crisis on the German Reich , the era of the presidential cabinets and the rise of Hitler. His sources of information included numerous leading personalities in political life - in addition to Ernst Röhm, well-informed background people such as the newsman Walter Bochow or the agent Georg Bell .

In 1935 Delmer married Isabel Nicholas in Paris . In the later 1930s he wrote reports on the Spanish Civil War as a war correspondent . It was in this capacity that the New York Times first noticed him ; due to the lack of her own correspondents, she quoted Delmer's accounts of war crimes committed by the nationalists ( Franco supporters) against the population of a village on the Somosierra pass :

"Even the Red Cross flag, which stands at half mast on a hut, is torn and tattered by bullets."

The general responsible for the massacre, Francisco García-Escámez, asked Delmer:

"What do they think in London about this thing?"
"They think the [democratically elected] government in Madrid will win."
"Well then, just tell them what you saw here."

From 1939 until his return to Great Britain in 1940, he documented the initial phase of the Second World War from Poland and France as a journalist .


Delmer worked in the German service of the BBC and had his first radio appearance there an hour after Hitler's apparent offer of peace to Winston Churchill on July 19, 1940. Delmer only read out his commentary after a brief editorial consultation at prime evening airtime with an unconditional rejection of the "Offer". In it he addressed Hitler directly and let him know that despite his current successes he would soon "conquer himself to death"; “Conquering himself to death”, an expression that Delmer heard in connection with the First World War as a schoolboy in Berlin, became a regular expression within the BBC. Delmer's outright rejection of Hitler had political consequences in the British Parliament; the BBC backed him up, and a little later he became the most popular writer on German programs. The Times printed a letter to the editor dated September 11, 1941, in which the BBC's deputy chief Stephen Tallents promoted the BBC's German programming and identified Sefton Delmer as a constant: “I invite anyone who reports to the BBC to propaganda against the Germans would have a 'too intellectual and literary touch', but a listen, for example to the program of Frau Wernicke , a fictional housewife in Berlin who some in Germany know better than some British statesmen today. Or listen to Mr. Sefton Delmer, every Tuesday evening at 9 am, as he replies to Hans Fritzsche's broadcast two hours earlier. "

Worked for British propaganda stations

From 1941 to 1945, Delmer was involved in the British government's propaganda efforts aimed at the German population. On behalf of the Political Warfare Executive , he ran various German-language propaganda channels that were located in the countryside in a factory-like building in the village of Milton Bryan in Central Bedfordshire - including the German-language soldiers channel Calais . These propaganda stations pretended to be stations of the National Socialist government. Their task was to inform the German population about the course of the war from the British point of view and thus to provide them with a counter-image to the Nazi propaganda and to drive a wedge between the Nazi leadership and the German people through targeted false information. Atrocities committed by the National Socialists were also reported. The station's employees included emigrated German journalists such as Hans Reinholz and Otto John , who later became head of the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution . In Germany, Delmer's stations found a large audience - although listening was strictly prohibited by the state.

After the Second World War

Immediately after the Second World War, Delmer built Germany's first news agency with a staff of editors and archivists from London and with the help of employees of the naval intelligence service in Flensburg - Mürwik . The aforementioned German News Service was later given the German name Deutscher Pressedienst . After the World War, Delmer also headed the international department of the Daily Express for fifteen years . In particular, his critical articles about Reinhard Gehlen , the founder of the Gehlen secret service , caused an international stir. In 1959 he finally retired after differences with Beaverbrook into private life, which he spent in Lamarsh, Essex. During this time he presented several extensive memory books.

In right-wing extremist circles, Delmer is repeatedly credited with a statement, citing the memoirs of Friedrich Grimm , in which an unnamed Briton or Frenchman is said to have conceded the targeted launch of false atrocity reports and reports about National Socialist Germany.

Fonts (selection)

  • The Germans and I , authorized translation from English by Gerda von Uslar. Nannen, Hamburg 1962. In English as Trail Sinister (Volume 1) and Black Boomerang (Volume 2), Secker and Warburg, London 1961/1962.
  • War in the Aether: Secret transmitter against Hitler . Zurich: Book Club Ex Libris, 1963.
  • Weimar Germany. Democracy on trial . Macdonald, London 1972.
  • The Ghost Army: or, The Invasion That Didn't Happen . From the English by Hansheinz Werner. Praeger, Munich 1972.


  • Karen Bayer: How dead is Hitler? The British star reporter Sefton Delmer and the Germans . von Zabern, Mainz 2008, ISBN 978-3-8053-3876-9 .
  • Winfried B. Lerg: Sefton Delmer (1904–1979). Obituary in Mitteilungen StRuG, 4/1979, pp. 172–173, online here .

See also

Web links

Commons : Sefton Delmer  - Collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. The Ruhleben Story (English)
  2. Oxford Dictionary of National Biography ( Memento of the original from October 26, 2012 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was automatically inserted and not yet checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. (English) @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  3. ^ Frederick Sefton Delmer: English Literature from Beowulf to Bernard Shaw. Adamant Media Corporation 2001 (reprinted from 1913 in English). ISBN 978-0-543-90834-6
  4. Sefton Delmer: Trail Sinister , Secker & Warburg 1961, p. 19 (English)
  5. ^ Andreas Krüger: "The Germany reports of British newspaper correspondents in Berlin in the final phase of the Weimar Republic", Bochum 1992
  6. Sefton Delmer: The Germans and I , p. 98 f.
  7. Isabel Nicholas (1912–1992) was friends with the sculptor Alberto Giacometti and one of his models for numerous works. See James Lord: Alberto Giacometti , Knaur 1991, pp. 149-161
  8. ^ New York Times, August 2, 1936
  9. Der Spiegel : News Agencies. New career for the code breakers , from: November 26th 2010; Retrieved on: June 13, 2017
  10. ↑ The head of the secret service, Gehlen, gave Delmer a lot of space in his memoirs and described his (largely correct) allegations of a Nazi burden of Gehlen's “service” as “sharp-tongued propaganda”, “hateful” and “defamatory”. Delmer taught him how powerful the press is, whereupon he, Gehlen, initiated the press work of the Federal Intelligence Service . (Reinhard Gehlen, Der Dienst, Verlag v. Hase & Köhler, Mainz 1971, p. 186f)
  11. ^ Friedrich Grimm: Political Justice . The disease of our time, Bonn 1953, p. 146f.
  12. Friedrich Grimm: With an open visor. From the memoirs of a German lawyer . Modified by Hermann Schild. Leoni am Starnberger See 1961, p. 249.