The Secret Listeners

Site-specific installation reveals secrets of
when the British bugged Nazis in a Middlesex mansion

German and Austrian refugees – many Jewish – who had fled Nazi Germany before the Second World War were recruited by British intelligence to spy on top-ranking Nazi prisoners in a secret project based at an Enfield mansion.
This secret work was explored in an event at Trent Park – the place where it happened.

Insider knowledge
Trent Park was previously home to the Sassoon family and had hosted Charlie Chaplin and Lawrence of Arabia as house guests. Between 1942 and 1945, Nazi prisoners, including many generals and other high-ranking officers, lived there in relative comfort. The British plan was to make the POWs feel relaxed enough to discuss issues among themselves, unaware that every room in the mansion was bugged.

The project – called The Secret Listeners – revealed how the refugee spies were able to provide vital information, thanks to their extensive knowledge of the German language and cultural traditions. They recorded and made detailed transcripts of private conversations between senior Nazi officers. These yielded valuable strategic information to the Allies, including the extent to which the German Army was both aware of and implicated in the Holocaust.

Bringing the past to life
The project was made possible by a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF). Pascal Theatre Company, working with Middlesex University, The Jewish Military Museum, The Jewish Museum and the Wiener Library, trained up 20 young volunteers to undertake the research needed to pull the information together. Trent Park is currently home to Middlesex University, which is where the performance took place
on 22 July 2012.

Project contributors were recruited from students and graduates at the University as well as volunteers from the North London Jewish Community. They were given access to transcripts of the original recordings that are held in the National Archives.

A performance of the resulting drama was held at The Jewish Museum in 2013, and a permanent record of the project is available to view at Middlesex University and the Jewish Military Museum.

Head of HLF London, Sue Bowers, said at the time: “This is a fascinating but little-known slice of national history, which underlines the vital contribution made by this group of refugees. The young people taking part will help ensure that the story is much more widely known while at the same time gaining a range of valuable skills.”

Director: Thomas Kampe
Sound Designer: Nick Ryan
Artistic Consultant: Adam Ganz

For further information, please email: admin@pascal-theatre.com

A book documenting The Secret Listeners project, edited by Julia Pascal and Thomas Kampe, is published by Pascal Theatre Company.

The project is documented on a website

secretlisteners.pascal-theatre.com

The Secret Listeners