New files suggest greater link between Wodehouse and Nazis
Rob Sharp is a freelance journalist specialising in arts and culture. He was on staff at The Independent from July 2007 to December 2011, first as a features writer, and then as the paper’s arts correspondent. He has written for a wide range of newspapers and magazines. For more information visit his website, www.robsharp.com or email him at email@example.com.
Friday 26 August 2011
PG Wodehouse made a series of radio broadcasts from Germany in 1941 that caused uproar in Britain, forcing the author to express his "horror " after stumbling into propagandist interviews that lead to accusations he was a Nazi sympathiser.
Now, new material released from the National Archives at Kew reveal Wodehouse, the humourist best known as the creator of the Jeeves stories, may have been less innocent than he maintained.
According to the files, British intelligence had "serious doubts" about Wodehouse's explanation for the broadcasts. The interviews caused outrage in Parliament and the British press. In response, Wodehouse denounced the broadcasts as a "hideous mistake".
However, the files reveal that Wodehouse knew the German propagandist, Werner Plack, who arranged the broadcasts, more intimately than he admitted. He referred to Plack as "a friend" in a private letter, and had met him at parties in Hollywood, where Plack had previously worked as a film extra.
Publicly, intelligence officers noted, Wodehouse had pretended not to know Plack's name, describing him as "Mr Slack or Black or something".
Wodehouse had also expressed worry over how much he had been paid for the five radio broadcasts, in which he discussed his time incarcerated in Nazi prison camps, saying "there is a good deal to be said for internment".
MI5 officer Major Edward Cussen interrogated Wodehouse in September 1944 after the fall of Paris to the Allies. Wodehouse was captured in June 1940 while at his villa in the French seaside resort of Le Touquet, where he had settled in 1935 for tax purposes. In Nazi-occupied France, he and his wife Ethel were declared "alien nationals", and he was transported to various camps, ending up in a converted asylum at the village of Tost near the German-Polish border. The pair were released in June 1941.
Plack was as a "colourful character" who spent over a decade in Hollywood, where he also sold German wine and reported to the German consul on leading figures in the film industry, alongside his acting career.
The news comes as it emerged that the British director, Michael Radford, best known for his 1994 film Il Postino, is to direct a film version of Wodehouse's war-time broadcasts. Radford will begin shooting Wodehouse's War next year in Germany, France and Britain.
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