‘Our work was so top secret that we didn’t really know whether it had any effect on the outcome of the war, as we never got any feedback. Now that the files are declassified it is possible to appreciate that the work of the secret listeners played a crucial role in the secret war,’ veteran secret listener Fritz Lustig (1919-2017).
At the heart of the bugging operation were the ‘secret listeners’ – German-Jewish émigrés who transferred from the army’s labour unit the Pioneer Corps to intelligence duties for British Intelligence. They had fled Nazism Germany and now, in a twist of fate, were spying on the country of their birth. They had the greatest motivation to defeat the Nazis and were now trusted with some of Britain’s most important wartime secrets. Having signed the Official Secrets Act, they swore never to talk about their work and remained totally loyal to Britain.
Eric Mark is the only ‘secret listener’ still alive. Many of the others went to their graves never speaking about their work. Their stories, and those of the women who served on the site, were nearly lost.
Listen to Fritz discussing his experiences with the BBC World Service here.