The story of Germany’s survivor of the General’s Conspiracy

The Rookery
The Rookery
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MENTION in previous articles has been made of the wartime propaganda station at Milton Bryan and also of The Rookery, Aspley Guise, which provided accommodation for the head of the activities, Sefton Delmer.

This was a murky world of intrigue and to become acquainted with both locations would be the only survivor of the ‘General’s Conspiracy’ (to eliminate Hitler) to escape abroad, Otto John, who before the war as a law student had been repulsed by the Nazi excess.

As an avenue to escape from Germany he took an unpaid job at Frankfurt airport and a chance meeting with the head of Lufthansa saw him appointed as a lawyer, supervising Lufthansa’s subsidiary companies abroad.

Thus he occupied an ideal position by which to establish contact with the Allies and in fact would advise them of the various attempts to assassinate Hitler and of the Peenemunde secret. Then in the aftermath of D Day the newsroom at Milton Bryan intercepted a report concerning another plot against Hitler.

A bomb exploded at his headquarters but he survived and thereon the revolt was ruthlessly suppressed. Otto’s brother was killed in the ensuing purge but Otto escaped the Gestapo by virtue of his Lufthansa employment.

He boarded a plane for Madrid and the British Secret Service made arrangements for him to be flown to Britain. With his hair dyed black he arrived at Poole by flying boat, to next be conveyed to London.

After two weeks questioning he was interrogated by Delmer about working for British propaganda and driven to Milton Bryan, where he again met Delmer. He was then driven to his accommodation at The Rookery and at Milton Bryan spent his days exploring the station and investigating the files.

After the war Otto remained at The Rookery and countered the inactivity by borrowing a bicycle and exploring the countryside. Eventually he was summoned to London and asked to join a German Austrian division of the Foreign Office, regarding the re-education of the population in the British occupied zones.

In time arrangements were made for him to acquire the status of ‘British War Reporter’ and he travelled by air to Germany. Later his duties involved interrogating high ranking German officers and in December 1950 he was appointed Head of the Federal Internal Security Office in West Germany.

Working from an office in the ruins of Cologne, the objective was to investigate extremist intrigues against the state. But the timing proved inopportune for in that very year the Soviets infiltrated a former SS Officer into German intelligence. They made plans for a mass arrest of Western agents but to preserve the cover of their source needed a suitable ‘incident’, to explain how they obtained the knowledge.

That incident would be set up by the KGB and involve the unwitting Otto. In July 1954 he was drugged by a ‘trusted friend,’ who was in fact a KGB agent, and regained consciousness on the sofa of a KGB house in East Berlin. Coerced into making a statement over East Berlin radio he was then given instructions to apply for political asylum to the East German Government.

After consuming drugged food the next sensation involved him in an anti German performance at a rehearsed press conference, after which he was transferred to a dacha outside Moscow. During his Soviet stay he then realised the extent of the KGB penetration, when shown copies of recent secret reports from his West German department.

Under guard, by 1955 he was back in East Berlin occupying an office but pretending to visit a university professor he managed to shake off his ‘minders,’ and eventually reached West Berlin in a car driven by a friend.

Yet his reception proved anything but welcome and charged with treason on December 22, 1956 his trial by the German High Court sentenced him to four years’ hard labour. It would not be until July 28, 1958 that he eventually gained his release.