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The Black Book was the post-war name given to the Sonderfahndungsliste G.B. ('Special Search List G.B'), the list of prominent Britons to be arrested in the case of a successful invasion of Britain by Nazi Germany in World War II. The list was a product of the SS Einsatzgruppen and compiled by Walter Schellenberg. It contained the names of 2,820 people, British subjects and European exiles, living in Britain who were to be immediately arrested if Unternehmen Seelöwe, the invasion of Britain, succeeded.

Walter Schellenberg as an SS-Oberführer

The list was appended to the 'Informationsheft GB', a 144 page handbook containing information on important aspects of British society including institutions such as embassies, universities, newspaper offices, and Freemasons' Lodges. It is alleged that British intelligence mole Dick Ellis provided much of the information.[1] However, much of the information on notable Britons was readily available through the British newspapers.


The original handbook, or 'Informationsheft GB' covered geography, economics, political system, government, legal system, administration, military, education system, important museums, press and radio, religion, parties, immigrants, freemasons, Jews, police apparatus and secret service. The 'Black Book', as it is known in the tabloid press, was a later appendage and consisted of 104 pages of names listed in alphabetical order.[2][3] 'Fahndungsliste' translates into 'wanted list', 'sonderfahndungsliste into 'especially wanted list' or 'most wanted list'.

Beside each name was the number of the RSHA (Reich Main Security Office) to which the person was to be handed over. Churchill was to be placed into the custody of Amt VI (Foreign Military 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).[4]

A print run produced 20,000 books but the warehouse in which they were stored was destroyed in a bombing raid[5] and only two originals are known to survive (one in the Imperial War Museum in London). On learning of the book, Rebecca West is said to have sent a telegram to Noël Coward saying "My dear - the people we should have been seen dead with."

The list was similar to earlier lists prepared by SS, such as the Special Prosecution Book-Poland (German: Sonderfahndungsbuch Polen). It was a list of enemies of the Reich list prepared before the war by members of the German fifth column in cooperation with German Intelligence. The 61,000 people on this list were targets of Einsatzgruppen during Operation Tannenberg and Intelligenzaktion, actions of elimination of Polish intelligentsia and the upper classes in occupied Poland between 1939 and 1941.

Notable people listed

  • Max Aitken, Lord Beaverbrook [4][6]
  • Sir Norman Angell, Labour MP awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1933 [4]
  • Robert Baden-Powell, founder and leader of Scouting (the Nazis regarded Scouting as a spy organisation) [4]
  • Edvard Beneš, President of the Czechoslovak government in exile [4]
  • Violet Bonham Carter, anti-fascist liberal politician. Cryptically referred to as "an Encirclement lady politician" [4]
  • Vera Brittain, feminist writer and pacifist [4]
  • Neville Chamberlain, former prime minister [4]
  • Sydney Chapman, economist and civil servant [4]
  • Winston Churchill, Prime minister [4]
  • Marthe Cnockaert, First World War spy[4]
  • Claud Cockburn, journalist[4][6]
  • Seymour Cocks, Labour politician[4]
  • Lionel Leonard Cohen, lawyer[4]
  • Robert Waley Cohen, industrialist[4]
  • G. D. H. Cole, academic[4]
  • Norman Collins, broadcasting executive[4]
  • Edward Conze, Anglo-German scholar[4]
  • Duff Cooper, Cabinet Minister of Information [4]
  • Margery Corbett Ashby, feminist[4]
  • Noël Coward, actor who opposed appeasement and was an armed forces entertainer, arrestable also for his homosexuality and connections with MI5 [4]
  • Charles de Gaulle, Free French leader and general[4][6]
  • Sefton Delmer, journalist [4]
  • Anthony Eden, Secretary of State for War [4]
  • Conrad O'Brien-ffrench, SIS/MI6 Agent ST36, Agent Z3 for Dansey's Z Organization [4]
  • E. M. Forster, author [4]
  • Sigmund Freud, founder of psychoanalysis and a Jew (died September 23, 1939) [4]
  • Willie Gallacher, trade unionist [4][7]
  • Sir Philip Gibbs, journalist and novelist [4]
  • Victor Gollancz, publisher[4]
  • J. B. S. Haldane, geneticist and evolutionary biologist and Communist [4]
  • Ernst Hanfstaengl, German refugee. Once a financial backer of Hitler, he had fallen from favour and had fled Germany in 1937 [4]
  • Aldous Huxley, author (who had emigrated to the USA in 1936) [4]
  • Alexander Korda, Hungarian-born British producer and film director[4][6]
  • Harold Laski, political theorist, economist and author [4]
  • Megan Lloyd George, politician[4][5]
  • David Low, political cartoonist and caricaturist [4]
  • F. L. Lucas, literary critic, writer and anti-fascist campaigner [4]
  • Jan Masaryk, foreign minister of the Czechoslovak government in exile [4]
  • Jimmy Maxton, pacifist politician[4][7]
  • Naomi Mitchison, novelist[4][7]
  • Gilbert Murray, classical scholar and activist for the League of Nations[4]
  • Harold Nicolson, diplomat, author and diarist[4][6]
  • Vic Oliver, Jewish entertainer, originally from Austria. Married to Winston Churchill's daughter Sarah [4]
  • Ignacy Jan Paderewski, pianist, former Prime Minister of Poland [4]
  • Sylvia Pankhurst, suffragist, writer, journalist and anti-fascist[4][8]
  • Nikolaus Pevsner, German-born architectural historian [4][9]
  • J. B. Priestley, anti-Nazi popular broadcasts and fiction [4]
  • Hermann Rauschning, German refugee and once personal friend of Hitler who had turned against him [4]
  • Paul Robeson, African-American singer/actor with strong Communist affiliations [4]
  • Bertrand Russell, philosopher, historian and pacifist [4]
  • C. P. Snow, physicist and novelist [4]
  • Stephen Spender, poet, novelist and essayist [4]
  • Katharine Stewart-Murray, Duchess of Atholl[4][7]
  • Lytton Strachey, died 1932, writer and critic[4][10]
  • Sybil Thorndike, actress[4]
  • Gottfried Reinhold Treviranus, politician, former German minister [4][11]
  • Beatrice Webb, socialist and economist [4]
  • Chaim Weizmann, Zionist leader [4]
  • H. G. Wells, author and socialist [4]
  • Rebecca West, English suffragist and writer [4]
  • Ted Willis, dramatist[4]
  • Virginia Woolf, novelist and essayist [4]

See also


  1. York Membery. Nazis put Britain's Scouts on hit list, Sunday Times 30 May 1999
  2. Walter Schellenberg, The Schellenberg Memoirs, London 1956 (Deutsch: Aufzeichungen, München 1979)
  3. Invasion 1940. The Nazi Invasion Plan for Britain by SS General Walter Schellenberg, London 2000
  4. 4.00 4.01 4.02 4.03 4.04 4.05 4.06 4.07 4.08 4.09 4.10 4.11 4.12 4.13 4.14 4.15 4.16 4.17 4.18 4.19 4.20 4.21 4.22 4.23 4.24 4.25 4.26 4.27 4.28 4.29 4.30 4.31 4.32 4.33 4.34 4.35 4.36 4.37 4.38 4.39 4.40 4.41 4.42 4.43 4.44 4.45 4.46 4.47 4.48 4.49 4.50 4.51 4.52 4.53 4.54 4.55 4.56 4.57 4.58 4.59 4.60 4.61 4.62 Schellenberg, Invasion, 1940, at pages 150, 160, 161, 162, 165, 168, 170, 173, 175, 180, 181, 186, 187, 191, 195, 201, 213, 217, 221, 225, 228, 230, 233, 234, 235, 237, 239, 244, 249, 255, 259, 260, 262
  5. 5.0 5.1 Dalrymple, James. Fatherland UK, The Independent, 3 March 2000
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 6.4 Hudson, Christopher.Revealed: Hitler's little black guide..., Daily Mail 23 February 2000
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 7.3 Ogilvy, Graham. Duchess of Atholl was on Nazi list for assassination Daily Mail 13 March 2000
  8. D. Mitchell, The fighting Pankhursts, Jonathan Cape Ltd, London 1967, p. 263
  9. Brian Harrison, ‘Pevsner, Sir Nikolaus Bernhard Leon (1902–1983)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004
  10. Fearn, Nicholas. A travel guide for Nazis The Daily Telegraph 18 March 2000
  11. 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.


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