Founder of Gordonstoun suspected of spying for Nazis

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The Independent Online
THE German-born founder of a Scottish school attended by generations of the Royal Family was a suspected Nazi spy, according to confidential records released today by the Scottish Office.

MI5 agents in Edinburgh and the Secretary of State for Scotland were convinced in 1940 that Dr Kurt Hahn, founder of Gordonstoun School, in north-east Scotland, should be interned.

But MI5 in London and the Home Office regarded him as free from suspicion. Rumours circulated of a photograph of Hahn with Hitler and there were claims that during the First World War Hahn 'connived in measures calculated to break British morale'.

He was also accused of spreading propaganda, blaming the 1919 Treaty of Versailles for the Second World War and advocating the return of colonies to Germany. The revelations come from Scottish Office files released under an Open Government initiative passed by Parliament last year.

Gordonstoun, near Elgin, which catered for 150 boys, also came under local suspicion. It was strategically sited between two RAF aerodromes, ran navigation courses for pupils and had a look-out post over the Moray Firth. Police investigated claims and found them groundless.

Although five masters and 11 boys were interned by order of the Home Secretary, Hahn was left alone. In the summer of 1940 the school was evacuated and Hahn set up establishments in Wales and the Highlands.

Ironically, Hahn had quit his native Germany in the 1930s because he was of Jewish extraction. He had become a naturalised Briton but in the nervous atmosphere at the start of the war a school full of refugee German teachers and pupils inevitably fell under suspicion.

The Duke of Edinburgh and Princes Charles, Andrew and Edward were educated at Gordonstoun, which maintains Hahn's emphasis on self-reliance and practical skills.