'Execution month' ditched by military planners

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The Independent Online

Britain's wartime special forces unit planned a Europe-wide assassination campaign of Gestapo and SS officers in October 1943 in an operation named "execution month".

Agents working for the Special Operations Executive aiding resistance movements in all the occupied territories were to attack civilian German officials simultaneously to achieve maximum impact.

Minutes of a meeting of the SOE council held in London in June 1943, released by the Public Record Office today, show intelligence officers saw "considerable possibilities" in an execution campaign. The proposal, from a council member known as AD/E, suggested that "as a start a certain month be declared 'execution month'.

"Sufficient time must be allowed for thorough preparation, for the necessary distribution of suitable weapons, and for the posting of death warrants. It might be best to declare September or October as the 'execution month'. This would be a warning to the Germans as to what to expect during the long dark winter nights," the record reads.

The assassinations would be down to agents already in place in occupied countries or by SOE operatives parachuted in specifically for the task.

They were to be issued with silent pistols known as Welrods, and the SOE asked for production of the weapon to be stepped up so that 1,000 would be available by August and another 100 in each month afterwards.

The operation was authorised with the proviso that it "should for the most part be confined to civilian officials rather than soldiers; we should concentrate on Germans rather than Quislings (collaborators)".

The plan was eventually dropped for fear of provoking German reprisals after the Nazis massacred nearly 6,000 Yugoslavian civilians in a form of revenge for the execution of their commanding officers.