This morning, I tuned in to the TV Military Channel and watched a documentary that was already in progress. I perked up when I heard the name Vera Atkins mentioned and saw Sarah Helm as one of the commentators. At that point in the documentary, the narrator was talking about the 5 women in the Prosper Network of the British SOE, which was infiltrated by the Nazis. (Sarah Helm is the author of a book about Vera Atkins.)
The narrator of the documentary said that SOE agent Gilbert Norman had sent a message back to the British on July 7, 1943, but did not include deliberate spelling mistakes which would have been proof that it was really him sending the message, and not a German who was in possession of his captured radio. Maurice Buckmaster ignored the lack of spelling mistakes and just told the sender to be more careful next time.
Then the narrator added that Vera Atkins, who had a “junior rank” in the SOE, “goes along” with Buckmaster and “fails to take action.” Why? Because “SHE IS NOT VERA ATKINS.” She is leading a “double life.”
The Special Operations Executive (SOE) was a secret British organization started by Winston Churchill and Hugh Dalton in July 1940, shortly after France signed an Armistice with Germany. Its purpose was to aid partisans and resistance fighters in France and other conquered countries that were occupied by Germany during World War II. Also called Churchill’s Secret Army, its directive was to “set Europe ablaze.”
The largest group of spies in the SOE was the F section which operated in France; it was headed by Major Maurice Buckmaster. The majority of the women agents were in the French section, including Madeleine Damerment.
Madeleine Damerment was sent to France to be a courier for the Bricklayer Network. She parachuted into France on the night of February 28, 1944 and was arrested by the Gestapo as soon as she landed. How did the Germans know that she was an SOE agent the moment that she arrived? It was because “Gilbert Norman was no longer operating his radio.” The narrator of the documentary then says: “Vera knows (that Gilbert’s radio has been captured) but keeps quiet.” He adds that “Madeleine was not warned that the F section of the SOE had been infiltrated and radios had been captured.”
Long story, short: Vera Atkins did not “take action” because Maurice Buckmaster “knows her true identify” and he “supports her application for British citizenship.” According to the documentary, “Vera had personal motives” for keeping quiet. It was revealed that Vera’s name was really Vera Rosenberg and she was Jewish. She was originally from Romania, which was an ally of Germany in World War II.
The documentary revealed that Vera Atkins had gone to Holland to save some of her Jewish relatives from being sent to a concentration camp. This was before she joined the SOE. Vera had “paid money to the Germans to save one of her cousins.” But according to the documentary, “the Nazis demanded more than money.” The Nazis stipulated that she could not reveal that she had bribed them to let her cousin go. For this reason, she could not challenge Buckmaster and demand that he confront Gilbert Norman, since Buckmaster was her only supporter in her quest for British citizenship. Everyone else in the SOE believes that Vera Atkins is British, and no one except Buckmaster knows that she is a Romanian Jew.
So what happened to Madeleine Damerment who was captured the moment that she landed in France? According to the documentary, “Vera went to Germany in December 1945.” She went on a mission to track down “her girls” who had “never been on the official list of SOE agents.”
Vera “traced Madeleine to Karlsruhe (prison) and then to Dachau.” At that point in the documentary, a color photo of the infamous “death train” at Dachau is shown. The photo actually showed German soldiers who had been taken to the train and shot by the American liberators of Dachau.
Then the narrator says: “On September 13, 1944, the Nazis dragged Madeleine into the yard of the (Dachau) camp, forced her to kneel and then shot her in the back of the neck.” Nothing was mentioned about any other SOE agents being shot at Dachau on the same day. No proof was given that Madeleine was shot at Dachau. You can read here about the SOE agents who were allegedly shot at Dachau.
Just before the show was interrupted for a commercial, the narrator said “Nothing could prepare Vera for what she uncovered next: Natzweiler.” You can read about the execution of British SOE agents at Natzweiler here on my website.
The narrator of the documentary said that Vera “tracks down evidence” that her agents were killed at Natzweiler. According to this documentary: “On July 6, 1944, four of her SOE agents were told that they were going to be given an injection to prevent typhus, but were instead given an injection of carbolic acid. Then their bodies were dragged to the crematorium and burned. Franz Berg witnessed the burning.” I wrote about Franz Berg here on my website.
Andrée Borrel, one of the SOE agents, “scratched the face of one of the Nazis and screamed as she was put into the oven.” According to the documentary, “one or maybe all of the women had been burned alive.”
The documentary goes on to say that Vera Atkins was a witness at two trials. At this point, a photo of Rudolf Hoess is shown, but he is not identified, as the narrator says “her evidence leads to the conviction” of German war criminals. You can read about Vera Atkins at the trial of the Natzweiler war criminals on my website here.
At the end of the documentary, we learn from Sarah Helm that Vera Atkins never acknowledged that anything had gone wrong (the Gilbert Norman fiasco) and she remained secretive all her life.