Classified: World War II | DW Transtel | DW | 04.09.2015
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DW Transtel

Classified: World War II

During World War Two, lies, propaganda and disinformation were the order of the day. What do we now know about the machinations of those involved, kept secret from the public for decades after the end of the conflict?

During World War Two, lies, propaganda and disinformation were the order of the day. What do we now know about the machinations of those involved, kept secret from the public for
decades after the end of the conflict? What were the crimes that one simply didn’t speak of, even if one was aware of them? What were the events that historians were only able to find
out about years after they happened? New facts are coming to light all the time, whether about espionage, diplomatic contacts or economic ties. Classified: World War II tells the stories from
this terrible war that aren’t common knowledge.

01 Hitler’s Money Launderers: Swiss Banks
For Nazi Germany, looted gold was a key source of World War Two funding. Banks in neutral Switzerland earned a fortune converting the gold into foreign currencies, which the Nazis then used to acquire raw materials. The banks have never been held to account for their actions.

02 The Vatican’s Fatal Silence
Catholicism and Nazism may seem incompatible with one another, yet the Vatican and Pope Pius XII played an unholy role with respect to Hitler and the Nazi dictatorship in Germany. Pius decided to remain silent in public about the crimes of the Nazis, instead of taking a stand as a moral authority.

03 Nazi Terror in Buchenwald
Ilse Koch, the wife of the commandant of the Buchenwald concentration camp, led a comfortable life, even as the prisoners starved and died agonizing deaths. Although she played no official role there, she was feared for her cruelty and capriciousness.

04 Hitler’s Mountain of Treasures
George Clooney’s The Monuments Men relates a Hollywood version of efforts by the Allies towards the end of World War Two to find and recover art treasures stolen by the Nazis. One trove the Nazis were about to destroy so it would not fall into the hands of the victors was rescued at the last moment. But who was actually responsible for saving the works?

05 The Dead Man Who Had Hitler Fooled
In 1943 the Allies were planning to invade Sicily but wanted Nazi Germany to believe they intended to invade Sardinia and Greece instead. So they thought up a disinformation manoeuver, Operation Mincemeat. It involved the body of a dead man dressed up as a British officer with misleading fake documents in his pockets. The Germans fell for the ruse.

06 Codename Ramsay – The Soviets’ Top Spy in Tokyo
Richard Sorge, a Soviet military intelligence officer with a German father and a Russian mother, is considered one of the most successful spies of the 20th century. He provided Stalin with reports on the war plans of the Axis powers. The fact that Stalin didn’t always believe him cost the lives of millions of people. As for Sorge’s own life, when he was arrested in Tokyo, Moscow did nothing to save him.

07 Japan’s Attack on Manchuria
The roots of the Second World War in Asia lie in the conflict between Japan and China, which escalated into a full-scale war in 1937. But even as early as 1931, Japan attacked and occupied the Chinese territory of Manchuria. The pretext was a staged event, which became known as the Mukden Incident. The secret operation and disinformation campaign was devised and led by a Japanese military officer named Ishiwara Kanji, who was probably acting independently of the government.