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Wednesday, May 15, 2013

The Roundup, Part One

       "In the warmth of early afternoon Rosina Sorani was replacing a book on its shelf in the synagogue library after noting its title and subject matter in her notebook when she realized she was not alone.  Standing in the doorway were two men in gray suits.  One was bald and wore spectacles.  His companion was younger with a brush mustache who apologized if they had startled her.  The older man said they were looking for President Foa.  Rosina explained he was not there, but could she help?  The men stepped into the library and said they would like to look around.  Rosina asked if there was any particular book or subject they would like to see, remembring Foa had told her that in 1939, Fascists in Turin had forced their way into the Jewish community library, seized almost all its collection, and used the books to fuel a bonfire in the city's Piazza Carlina.
       Perhaps, sensing her concern, the older man said they were professors from the Einsatzstab Rosenberg Institute, ERR, claiming it was linked to the great universities of Europe, including the Sorbonne in Paris.  The ERR was dedicated to the study of academic fields which until now had not been fully exploited.   They were in Rome purely to assess the role the synagogue library could have as part of that program.  The younger man added that under no circumstances was she to confuse them with the SS or any other military organization.
       Somewhat reassured Rosina escorted them around the library, pointing out books produced by the earliest printers and documents handed down through the centuries.  She decided their polite questions were those of cultured men who had spent their lives in scholarly pursuits, and far removed from the coarse-voiced soldiers who walked the streets of Rome.  The older man revealed he was an Orientalist and had spent time in libraries in Palestine and other Middle East countries.  His colleague said he was a specialist in Jewish literature and his language teacher had been a rabbi in Berlin before the war.  He had spoken to Rosina in Hebrew and she was impressed.  From time to time as she pointed out a book the two men spoke to each other in German.
       After shaking her hand they left.
       The ERR was a specialist unit formed in July 1940 by the official theoritician of the Nazi Party, Alfred Rosenberg, to assemble a library for the new educational and research institute for the party, the Hohe Schule, to be located at the Chiemsee in Bavaria.  It would contain half a million volumes and would have an auditorium for three thousand people.
       Rosenberg had laid down a rule for what ERR acquired for the institute:  'If the desired object belongs to foreign 'Aryans' the owners are compelled to sell it;  if it belongs to Jews it is confiscated.  Material of no use is to be destroyed.'
       The Jewish library at Lublin in Poland was one of the first to be burnt;  Joseph Goebbels had sent a journalist from the Ministry of Propaganda to report the event.
       'We brought the books to the marketplace where we set fire to them.  The fire lasted twenty hours.  The Jews assembled around wept bitterly, almost silencing us with their cries.  We summoned the military band and with joyful shouts the soldiers drowned out the sounds of the Jewish cries.'
       A different fate had been earmarked for the Rome ghetto synagogue library.\
       In London, Simonds's report on Hitler's threat to kidnap the pope reached Stewart Menzies.  The MI6 chief sent for Sefton Delmer.  The former foreign correspondent for Lord Beaverbrook's Daily Express had interviewed Hitler before the war and had developed important connections across Europe.  In his office on Fleet Street he had written newsbreaking stories few other reporters could equal.  He spoke several languages and Beaverbrook called him 'my source in the world.'
       He had arranged in 1942 for Delmer to join the Foreign Office political warfare department.  It was there that Delmer picked up his first news of a plot to overthrow Hitler.  It had been leaked to him by a long-standing source, who Delmer suspected was an opponent of the Nazi regime.  In his diary Delmer would write:  'Whether successful or not, even the suspicion of an anti-Hitler coup would help to hasten his defeat.'
       The story normally would have guaranteed Delmer the front page of the Daily Express.  But he was told by Beaverbrook that he should hold it for a 'more opportune time.'
       By October 1943 Delmer knew that moment had come, when he had been transferred from the Foreign Office to MI6.  Menzies told him his new task 'is to foment the maximum suspicion between Hitler and his generals.'
       Delmer was to head a unique intelligence operation.  Using his journalistic skills he produced radio programs that supposedly originated from an undercover station in Germany.  In reality they came from a country house outside London.  Delmer had picked his team of German-speaking broadcasters with care.  He described each one as a 'loyal German dedicated to the fatherland but disturbed by the fanatical policies of Hitler.'  A number were Jews who had fled to England before the war.  Others were students from German universities.  All were told their broadcasts were not designed to attack Britain but to provide their listeners with news not broadcast to German audiences.  To emphasize its role Delmer called the station Free Fascist Republican Radio (FFRR).
       Menzies had shown Simonds's report to Delmer and told him to create a broadcast aimed at the Third Reich's Catholic populations.
       On October 7, the station announced that 'quarters have been prepared in Germany for Pope Pius where he will be taken and remain.'
       Pius was quoted as telling Secretary of State Maglione that 'I was placed by the will of God here and therefore shall not leave.  THey would have to tie me up and carry me out because I intend to remain here!'  The words were written by Sefton Delmer.  The threat to the pope and his response was published in newspapers around the world, creating outrage in Catholic countries.  Hitler's plot, which he had intended to remain secret until the last moment, was now in the public domain."  The Pope's Jews by Gordon Thomas pgs. 162-164

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