Feindsender

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Paper tag attached to Volksempfänger devices as a warning that listening to foreign radio stations is punishable

Feindsender (English: enemy radio station) is a term used in Nazi Germany to describe programs produced by radio stations of the enemies of the German Reich before and during World War II, such as the United Kingdom or the United States, or by radio-stations inside Germany broadcasting material against the Nazi government. The term has not been in general use since the downfall of the Third Reich.

Background[edit]

Already in 1929, Soviet Radio Moscow aired German-language radio programs, mainly to support the agitation by the Communist Party of Germany against the Weimar government. After the Nazi Machtergreifung in 1933, anyone who reportedly listened to Radio Moscow was observed by the Gestapo and could be sent to a concentration camp. The Nazis attempted to jam the broadcasts, this however also affected their own Deutschlandsender transmissions. In 1936 the Reich Ministry of Justice issued a decree, whereafter listening to Radio Moscow was liable to legal prosecution as a treasonous act. Meanwhile secret Gestapo reports confirmed the popularity of German-language programs aired by foreign radio stations.

With the beginning of the Second World War in 1939, many new laws and prohibitions were established in Nazi Germany, forcing the population to decide whether to obey the Nazi regime or to risk being declared "criminals". One of those new laws introduced on 1 September 1939, the first day of the German Invasion of Poland, concerned the "extraordinary radio-measures act" (German: Verordnung über außerordentliche Rundfunkmaßnahmen). This law prohibited deliberate listening to any foreign radio station under threat of penal servitude. Likewise all non-governmental radio transmissions were banned and all critical equipment of German amateur radio operators were seized by the Reichspost authorities.

Persecution[edit]

Soon, the British Broadcasting Company BBC came to be regarded as the main Feindsender, and listening to the German-language longwave program from London was punishable with imprisonment. Nevertheless broadcasts like Thomas Mann's Listen, Germany! were widely distributed. Radio Moscow, Voice of America, Vatican Radio and the Swiss Beromünster radio station were other widely known Feindsender during that time, besides black propaganda broadcasters disguised as German armed forces stations like British Soldatensender Calais or Gustav Siegfried Eins and German pirate radio stations. Despite the penalties, even in Nazi Germany, there were several radio stations which were considered state-disobedient.[citation needed]

If German citizens (Reichsbürger) were denounced for violating the prohibition, and listened to a British comedy broadcast, for instance, or to Jazz-music from the US, they would normally receive a warning if it was the first time they were caught, and would be arrested if caught again. However, the proliferation of information "jeopardizing the resisting force of the German people" was punished with incarceration or even with the death penalty in aggravated cases. Death sentences were seldom based solely on the radio-measures act, but — e.g. in the cases of Helmuth Hübener and Walter Klingenbeck — rested on convictions for high treason or Wehrkraftzersetzung.

Estimates of how many citizens listened to Feindsender vary. According to Sicherheitsdienst reports, a large-scale campaign in 1941, charging Nazi Blockleiter to visit the households in their area and attach warning paper tags to receiving sets, met widespread discontent. Listening to foreign radio stations has been dubbed "the little man's resistance" because, together with friendliness to forced laborers (also a crime, and punished even more harshly), and taking detours to avoid passing a Nazi memorial where one would be forced to salute (the Viscardi Way or "Shirkers' Way" in Munich) it was very common and served as proof that somebody had not really been a Nazi, even though cowardice or good reasons hindered him from performing other actions of resistance.[citation needed]

The term Feindsender in popular culture[edit]

  • The Electro-Pop-band Welle: Erdball called themselves Feindsender 64.3.

External links[edit]