Nazi plot to poison chocolate
Secret files reveal how German spies planned to carry on fighting after defeat
The Nazis plotted to poison chocolate, sugar and Nescafe coffee as part of a post-Second World War sabotage operation, previously secret MI5 files reveal.
German spies were equipped with everything from poisoned pills disguised as aspirin to cigarette lighters that gave off lethal fumes when ignited. And female agents were supplied with “microbe” weapons hidden in handbag mirrors, which were to be used against top-ranking officials in Allied-occupied territory.
British commanders were so worried about the danger of everyday items being poisoned that they recommended banning their troops from eating German food and smoking German cigarettes as they advanced through Germany in 1945.
MI5 even arranged for a bar of chocolate and a tin of Nescafe seized from a captured saboteur to be tested for poison, documents released by The National Archives in Kew, west London, show.
The Nazi leadership also planned to plant sleeper agents around the world after the war with the aim of later provoking global unrest and creating a “Fourth Reich”, the newly-declassified files disclose.
A French collaborator arrested in Italy in 1945 told his interrogators that “ample funds” had been transferred to South America and “trustworthy men” sent to live in Spain and Switzerland.
Olivier Mordrelle, a leader of the separatist movement in Brittany, northern France, was sentenced to death in his absence in 1940 after being found to be in the pay of the Germans.
He returned to France after Hitler's invasion and performed a number of roles for the occupiers, culminating in being appointed French representative for post-war activities by the Nazi intelligence agency, the Sicherheitsdienst.
Mordrelle said he was one of 15 delegates from western European countries who attended a meeting in Deisenhofen, near Munich, in April 1945 at which German post-war resistance plans were discussed.
A very senior SS officer told them that underground agents were to lie low after the war ended until they were told to organise anti-Bolshevik movements in their countries to “stir up unrest culminating in civil war”.
“The main purpose was to make the Allies' post-war task as hard as possible so the Nazi Party could, in time, reappear in a suitable disguise and build up a Fourth Reich,” Mordrelle said.
Under interrogation, one of the would-be saboteurs recounted how a senior Nazi commander told him: “If things went too badly in the war, Germany would use other methods. Bacterial warfare would be carried out both by agents and with munitions.”
The top German official also said the subject of bacterial weapons was “not for little girls”, the files reveal.
A captured Nazi report of a meeting in Berlin in October 1944 reveals that discussions were held about poisoning food, wine and whiskey.
In April 1945 four US Army soldiers were hospitalised, one of whom died, apparently as a result of drinking poisoned alcohol obtained in Germany.
A British intelligence report on “poison as a post-war weapon” highlighted the “past and present German pre-occupation with the subject”.
And a secret document drawn up by the supreme headquarters of the Allied Expeditionary Force in April 1945 noted the shift in Nazi tactics from conventional warfare towards assassination and terrorism.
It stated: “Within Germany, assassination attempts are likely to be made against important Allied individuals and there is evidence that a policy of general terrorism may be adopted against the occupying troops.”
In a reference to fears about Nazi poisons, the report went on: “Captured agents and hidden equipment dumps should be searched for cigarette lighters, medicines, foods and cigarettes, which are obviously not part of a food dump prepared for the use of the agents themselves.”
The Security Service papers also contain warnings about a Nazi swastika-shaped belt buckle that contained a mini-pistol capable of firing two shots.
Lord Rothschild, then head of MI5's counter-espionage section, had a bar of chocolate and a tin of Nescafe seized from German forces sent away for tests for poisons.
Dr Bruce White, from the National Institute for Medical Research in Hampstead, north London, wrote back to say his scientists planned to “try your chocolate on a monkey”, but the files do not reveal the results.
These concerns were not confined to the Allies — a seized Nazi document dated February 1944 suggested that the Polish resistance had tried to poison German civilians and troops with tins of Nivea cream containing a paste impregnated with mustard gas.
Newly-released MI5 files show that German agents arrested in northern France in March 1945 revealed the range of ingenious but deadly poisons developed by Nazi scientists, including:
- Special cigarettes which would give the smoker a headache. At this point the spy should offer an “aspirin” tablet that was in fact poison and would kill within 10 minutes;
- A powder impregnated with poison to be placed on surfaces such as door handles, books and desks;
- Another powder that could be dusted onto food by waiters that would cause death if swallowed but not if inhaled;
- A tiny pellet to be dropped into an ashtray which, when heated up by burning cigarette ash, gave off a vapour that would kill anyone nearby.