#MI6, #FO1093/292, #Vichy, #SIS, #SOE, #SHAEF,
Document Source: Special Operations in preparation of Operation Overlord. Elimination of the Top German Commanders. Archive EUCMH via BAM USA. (Note Raw Archive)

Foreword

About this document: British Foreign Office File on Assassination Priorities for Operation Overlord dated twenty-one days before the D-Day launch of Operation Overlord, the first memo in a file designated as FO 1093/292, has the subject ‘Assassination Priorities for Overlord’, and states, The Chief of Staff has asked me to look into this, and to advise him about suitable candidates to whom attention might be paid, prior to, on and after D-Day. On the German side Stulpnagel, Runstedt, and Rommel look likely, but there may be some Vichy collaborators whose removal from the scene would assist.

This file contains dialogue about the possibility of the British Foreign Office and the Secret Intelligence Service (SIS), commonly known as MI6, providing a list of French and Germans who would be priorities for assassination, most likely by the Special Operations Executive (SOE), which conducted operations in occupied Europe, after the launch of Operation Overlord. The British Foreign Office on consideration thought it likely to provoke bloody reprisals, and doubted its effectiveness. Writing to Charles Peake, who was attached to Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force (SHAEF) on May 16, 1944, British diplomat Thomas E. Bromley said: If we designate individuals to be liquidated and reprisals are taken by the Germans, we incur a measure of responsibility. Moreover, it is likely that for every successful assassination, there will be two or three failures, as past records of these attempts show.

The files show that C the code name for the Chief of the Secret Intelligence Service (SIS), at the time Gen Sir Stewart Menzies, did not like the idea either, saying that the removal of certain Germans would have little effect on the efficient functioning of so widespread and highly organized a machine. In his own words, Chairman of the Joint Intelligence Committee, Victor Cavendish-Bentinck, was opposed not out of squeamishness, as there are several people in this world whom I could kill with my own hands with a feeling of pleasure and without that action in any way spoiling my appetite, but because it was the type of bright idea which in the end produces a good deal of trouble and does little good.

The file contains memos regarding a story that Adolf Hitler was living in disguise in Perpignan (France). Though this was thought to be quite fantastic, as the appointed British ambassador to France, Duff Cooper put it, so was the story of Hess. C indicated that reports confirmed Hitler was at his headquarters. Permanent Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs Sir Andrew Cadogan minuted on June 21, 1944: I suppose we should bomb Hitler if we could. I would much rather catch him, but I fear that is very unlikely.

PERMANENT UNDER-SECRETARY OF STATE, FOREIGN OFFICE
SUPREME HEADQUARTERS ALLIED EXPEDITIONARY FORCE
April 15, 1944.
Subject: Assassination Priorities for Overlord
To: Mr. Loxley.

The Chief of Staff has asked me to look into this and to advise him about suitable candidates to whom attention might be paid, prior to, on, and after D-Day. On the German side, Stulpnagel, Rundtedt, and Rommel look likely, but there may be some Vichy collaborators whose removal from the scene would assist. No doubt M.I. would have a view about Germans, but it occurs to me that C would be much the best-informed party on the general question and I should be most grateful if you would consult him informally it you think well, and for any assistance you could give me. Unfortunately, compiling a list is one thing, and getting results is quite another, but I suppose we must do our best.

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Registry No. P.N.L.
Draft Wing Commander, Koch de Gooreynd
(From Mr. Loxley)

TOP SECRET

I enclose a copy of a minute that I have received from Charles Peake, the British political officer attached to SHAEF, on the subject of Assassination priorities for Overlord. I am not entirely sure what is in the minds of SHAEF. Presumably, there are broadly speaking, two possibilities, the first being that Allied troops may capture certain suitable persons and the second that the resistance groups might be asked to assassinate if they could, any named French or German person. If the second possibility is what is meant, the matter seems relatively plain sailing, though I personally doubt whether any French resistance group would ever have any great chance of being able to assassinate Rommel. But if the proposal is that the Allies, if and when they capture Rommel, should have him speedily put to death rather than treat him as a prisoner of war, all sorts of large issues, such as our policy in regard to war criminals, at once arise. I have been asked to attend a meeting at SHAEF on Thursday, April 20, and I have promised to give them some preliminary views then. I should therefore be most grateful for any lists of names that you might care to supply. Meanwhile, I am having the political issues urgently examined here.

TWL/16/4

IMMEDIATE – TOP SECRET – April 17, 1944

I enclose a copy of a minute which I have received from Charles Peake, the British political officer attached to SHAEF, on the subject of Assassination priorities fox Operation Overlord. I am not entirely sure what is in the minds of SHAEF. Presumably, there are, broadly speaking two possibilities, the first being that Allied troops may capture certain suitable persons and the second that the French resistance groups might be asked to assassinate, if they could, any given named persons, whether French or German. If the second possibility is what is meant, the matter seems relatively plain sailing, though I personally doubt whether any French resistance group would ever have any great chance of being able to assassinate e.g. Rommel. But if the proposal is that the Allies, if and when they capture Rommel, should have him speedily put to death rather than treat him as a prisoner of war, all sorts of large issues, such as our policy in regard to war criminals, at once arise.

I have been asked to attend a meeting at SHAEF on Thursday, April 20, and I have promised to give them some preliminary views then. I should therefore be most grateful for any lists of names that you may care to supply before then. Meanwhile, I am having the political issues urgently examined here.

P.N. Loxley
Wing Commander Koch de Gooreynd.

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Thank you for your letter of April 17, enclosing a copy of Peake’s letter of April 15 with a somewhat piquant heading! C agrees with you that SHAEF’S intentions in the matter are far from clear, but he inclines to the view that they must be thinking of the removal between now and D-Day of personalities whose liquidation might actually assist the Overlord Operation. If that is so, the compiling of lists would seem to be a fairly simple matter. Military nominees would be known by SHAEF themselves, political undesirables to the F.0. and P.W.E., while our interest would be practically confined to the more formidable of the Abwehr and S.D. characters.

C would, however, like to point out that any action such as that which appears to be suggested might automatically lead to reprisals against hostages or United Nations personnel in enemy hands and we can only speculate as to where such retaliation would stop or what scale it might reach. We could easily put together a small list of names in consultation with M.I.14d, but we hardly care to do so until and unless we know exactly what effects it is hoped to attain by the action proposed, which would obviously affect our selection. At first sight, too, there appears to be some danger that this matter may impinge on the policy as regards the treatment of War Criminals and we would much prefer to get the precise intention of the proposal, the political issues, and the policy settled authoritatively before we submit any names.

P.N. Loxley

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I am relieved to see that Gen Morgan does not endorse Mr. Peake’s suggestion that we should take the responsibility of suggesting the names of French collaborators who might be ‘removed’. I hope, however, that the last sentence or Mr. Loxley’s first paragraph does not mean that our services should take a hand in ‘removing’ those whose names are submitted by French Resistance Leaders. I am strongly of the opinion that not only the preparation of French lists but their ‘removal’ should be left entirely to Frenchmen and that we should have no part at all in the proceedings. In regard to Germans, I see no snags in General Morgan’s proposal. There will probably be bloody reprisals as Mr. Harrison suggests. The Germans have already taken savage reprisals in many parts of France where Germans have been bumped off.

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