The Black Book

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A page from the Black Book (Sonderfahndungsliste G.B.)

The Sonderfahndungsliste G.B. ("Special Search List Great Britain") was a secret list of prominent British residents to be arrested, produced in 1940 by the SS as part of the preparation for the proposed invasion of Britain codenamed Unternehmen Seelöwe (Operation Sea Lion). After the war, the list became known as The Black Book.[1][2]

The information was prepared by the Reich Main Security Office (RHSA) under Reinhard Heydrich. Later, SS-Oberführer Walter Schellenberg claimed in his memoirs that he had compiled the list,[3] starting at the end of June 1940.[4] It contained 2,820 names of people, including British nationals and European exiles, who were to be immediately arrested by SS Einsatzgruppen upon the invasion, occupation, and annexation of Great Britain to the Third Reich. Abbreviations after each name indicated whether the individual was to be detained by RHSA Amt IV (the Gestapo) or Amt VI (Ausland-SD, Foreign Intelligence).[1]

The list was printed as a supplement or appendix to the secret Informationsheft G.B. handbook, which Schellenberg also claimed to have written. This handbook noted opportunities for looting, and named potentially dangerous anti-Nazi institutions including Masonic lodges, the Church of England and the Boy Scouts. On 17 September 1940, SS-Brigadeführer Dr. Franz Six was designated to a position in London where he would implement the post-invasion arrests and actions against institutions, but on the same day, Hitler postponed the invasion indefinitely.[5] In September 1945, at the end of the war, the list was discovered in Berlin. Reporting included the reactions of some of the people listed.[6]


SS functionary Walter Schellenberg said he had compiled the Black Book

The list was similar to earlier lists prepared by the SS,[7] such as the Special Prosecution Book-Poland (German: Sonderfahndungsbuch Polen) prepared before the Second World War by members of the German fifth column in cooperation with German Intelligence, and used to target the 61,000 Polish people on this list during Operation Tannenberg and Intelligenzaktion in occupied Poland between 1939 and 1941.

Rapid German victories led quickly to the Fall of France and British forces had to be withdrawn during the Dunkirk evacuation, with the Nazi spearhead reaching the coast on 21 May 1940. It was only then that the prospect of invading Britain was raised with Hitler, and the German high command did not issue any orders for preparations until 2 July. Eventually, on 16 July, Hitler issued his Directive no. 16 ordering preparation for invasion, codenamed Operation Sea Lion.[8]

German intelligence set out to provide their invading forces with encyclopaedic handbooks giving useful information. Seven maps, each covering the whole of the British Isles, covered different topographical aspects. A book provided 174 photographs, mostly aerial photography, supplemented with views cut out from newspapers and magazines. A mass of information was included in a book on Military-Geographical Data about England. Only one book was marked secret, the Informationsheft GB.[9] Walter Schellenberg wrote in his memoirs that "at the end of June 1940 I was ordered to prepare a small handbook for the invading troops and the political and administrative units that would accompany them, describing briefly the most important political, administrative and economic institutions of Great Britain and the leading public figures."[4]


The Sonderfahndungsliste G.B. was an appendix or supplement to the secret handbook Informationsheft Grossbritannien (Informationsheft GB) which provided information for German security services about institutions thought likely to resist the Nazis, including the private public schools, the Church of England and the Boy Scouts. A general survey of British museums and art galleries suggested opportunities for looting. The handbook described the organisation of the British police, and had a section analysing the British intelligence agencies. Following this, four pages had around 30 passport-sized photographs of individuals who also appeared in the appendix.[10]

The appendix, of 104 pages, was a list in alphabetical order[11][12] of 2820 names, some of which were duplicated. The term Fahndungsliste translates into "wanted list", and Sonderfahndungsliste into "specially" or "especially wanted list".[13] The instructions "Sämtliche in der Sonderfahndungsliste G.B. aufgefürten Personen sind festzunehmen" (all persons listed in the Special Wanted List G.B. are to be arrested) made this clear.[4]

Beside each name was the number of the Reich Main Security Office (RSHA) to which the person was to be handed over. Churchill was to be placed into the custody of Amt VI (Ausland-SD, Foreign Intelligence), but the vast majority of the people listed in the Black Book would be placed into the custody of Amt IV (Gestapo). The book had several notable mistakes, such as people who had already died (Lytton Strachey) or moved away (Paul Robeson), and omissions (such as George Bernard Shaw, one of the few English language writers whose works were published and performed in Nazi Germany).[14]

The dimension of the booklet is given as 19 centimetres (7.5 in), and Geheim! (Secret!) is printed on the cover. The facsimile version shows the printing in red, on a pale grey-green cover, and has 376 pages.[2][15]

Post-war discovery[edit]

A print run of the list produced around 20,000 booklets but the warehouse in which they were stored was destroyed in a bombing raid[16] and only two originals are known to survive.[17] One is in the Imperial War Museum in London,[18] and one is noted in the Hoover Institution Library and Archives.[15]

On 14 September 1945, The Guardian reported that the booklet had been discovered in the Berlin headquarters of the Reich Security Police (Reich Main Security Office).[6] When told the previous day that they were on the Gestapo's list, Lady Astor ("enemy of Germany") said "It is the complete answer to the terrible lie that the so-called 'Cliveden Set' was pro-Fascist", while Lord Vansittart said "The German black-list might indicate to some of those who now find themselves on it that their views, divergent from mine, were somewhat misplaced. Perhaps it will be an eye-opener to them", and the cartoonist David Low said "That is all right. I had them on my list too."[19]

Being included on the list was considered a mark of honour. Noël Coward recalled that, on learning of the book, Rebecca West sent him a telegram saying "My dear—the people we should have been seen dead with."[1][17]

Notable people listed[edit]

Surviving copies of the booklet[edit]



  1. ^ a b c Philip Gooden; Peter Lewis (September 25, 2014). The Word at War: World War Two in 100 Phrases. Bloomsbury Publishing. pp. 21–22. ISBN 978-1-4729-0490-4. 
  2. ^ a b FacsimileGeheim! (Secret!) is printed in red on the grey-green cover.
  3. ^ Shirer 2011, pp. 937–938.
  4. ^ a b c Reinhard R. Doerries (18 October 2013). Hitler's Intelligence Chief: Walter Schellenberg: Walter Schellenberg. Enigma Books. pp. 32–34. ISBN 978-1-936274-13-0. 
  5. ^ Shirer 2011, pp. 937, 939.
  6. ^ a b Guardian, Berlin 1945.
  7. ^ Forces War Records 2017.
  8. ^ Fleming 1975, pp. 35–41.
  9. ^ Fleming 1975, pp. 191–192.
  10. ^ Fleming 1975, pp. 192–195.
  11. ^ Walter Schellenberg, The Schellenberg Memoirs, London 1956 (Deutsch: Aufzeichungen, München 1979)
  12. ^ Invasion 1940. The Nazi Invasion Plan for Britain by SS General Walter Schellenberg, London 2000
  13. ^ "The Black Book". Forces War Records. 28 February 2017. Retrieved 10 March 2017. 
  14. ^ Schellenberg, Invasion, 1940, page 150
  15. ^ a b SearchWorks.
  16. ^ a b Dalrymple, James. Fatherland UK, The Independent, 3 March 2000
  17. ^ a b Noël Coward, Future Indefinite. London; Bloomsbury Publishing, 2014 ISBN 1408191482 (p. 92).
  18. ^ Imperial War Museums 1999.
  19. ^ a b c d e f Guardian, Berlin 1945, para 10.
  20. ^ a b c d Guardian, Berlin 1945, para 8.
  21. ^ Schellenberg, p. 160
  22. ^ Schellenberg, p. 161
  23. ^ Schellenberg, p. 162
  24. ^ Schellenberg, p. 165
  25. ^ Schellenberg, p. 168
  26. ^ Schellenberg, p. 170
  27. ^ "If Britain had been conquered. 2,300 names on Nazi Black List". Evening Telegraph. British Newspaper Archive. 14 September 1945. p. 8. Retrieved 26 June 2014. (Subscription required (help)). 
  28. ^ Schellenberg, p. 171
  29. ^ a b c d Schellenberg, p. 173
  30. ^ a b Guardian, Berlin 1945, para 6.
  31. ^ a b c Guardian, Berlin 1945, para 11.
  32. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Schellenberg, p. 174
  33. ^ a b c d e f g h Guardian, Berlin 1945, para 9.
  34. ^ "Hitler's Black Book - information for Doctor Frederick F C Curtis". Forces War Records. Imperial War Museum. Retrieved 29 January 2017. Schellenberg, p. 175
  35. ^ Schellenberg, p. 177
  36. ^ Schellenberg, p. 181
  37. ^ a b Schellenberg, p. 186
  38. ^ a b Schellenberg, p. 187
  39. ^ a b c d Ogilvy, Graham. Duchess of Atholl was on Nazi list for assassination Daily Mail 13 March 2000
  40. ^ Schellenberg, p. 191
  41. ^ Schellenberg, p. 192
  42. ^ a b Schellenberg, p. 195
  43. ^ Schellenberg, p. 201
  44. ^ a b c d e Guardian, Berlin 1945, para 12.
  45. ^ a b Hudson, Christopher.Revealed: Hitler's little black guide..., Daily Mail 23 February 2000
  46. ^ Schellenberg, p. 213
  47. ^ a b Schellenberg, p. 217
  48. ^ Schellenberg, p. 221
  49. ^ Schellenberg, p. 225
  50. ^ Schellenberg, p. 228
  51. ^ Schellenberg, p. 230
  52. ^ D. Mitchell, The fighting Pankhursts, Jonathan Cape Ltd, London 1967, p. 263
  53. ^ Brian Harrison, ‘Pevsner, Sir Nikolaus Bernhard Leon (1902–1983)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004
  54. ^ Schellenberg, p. 234
  55. ^ "CAST - WW2 Wanted". 1939-09-06. Retrieved 2017-01-02. 
  56. ^ Schellenberg, p. 235
  57. ^ Schellenberg, p. 235
  58. ^ Schellenberg, p. 237
  59. ^ Schellenberg, p. 239
  60. ^ Schellenberg, p. 243
  61. ^ Schellenberg, p. 244
  62. ^ Schellenberg, p. 249
  63. ^ Fearn, Nicholas. A travel guide for Nazis The Daily Telegraph 18 March 2000
  64. ^ Schellenberg, p. 253
  65. ^ Lawrence D. Stokes: Secret Intelligence and Anti-Nazi Resistance. The Mysterious Exile of Gottfried Reinhold Treviranus, in: The International History Review, Vol. 28, No. 1 (Mar., 2006), p. 60.
  66. ^ Schellenberg, p. 255
  67. ^ Schellenberg, p. 259
  68. ^ a b c Schellenberg, p. 260
  69. ^ Schellenberg, p. 261
  70. ^ a b Schellenberg, p. 262
  71. ^ "Hitler's Black Book - information for Alfred Zimmern". Retrieved 2017-01-02. 
  72. ^ Schellenberg, p. 265
  73. ^ "Hitler's Black Book - information for Karl Zuckermeyer". Retrieved 2017-01-02. 
  74. ^ Schellenberg, p. 265
  75. ^ Schellenberg, p. 265

See also[edit]