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The amazing story of the man who, after World War II,

was able to say—


First episode, taken from Adventure issue: 1825 January 9th 1960.


My task was to kill Hitler. It was a job I welcomed, for I had suffered at his hands. A word from the German Fuehrer could have saved my brother. The word was not spoken, and my brother, Ted was shot. He was just nineteen.

I am George Preston. At the time I was given the task of killing Adolf Hitler, I was twenty-three. Before the outbreak of World War II in 1939, I had spent half my life on the Continent. Most of that time had been in Germany itself. I had seen the Nazi Party, of which Hitler was the chief, crush all opposition and carry him to power. In 1934 Hitler became the head of the German State with the title Fuehrer.

An hour or so before dusk on a June night in 1940, I shook hands with my chief. He was the head of a branch of the British Secret Service, and we had been talking for over an hour. “I’ve given my consent to your project because I agree with you that we shan’t win the war until Hitler is dead,” he was saying. “The man is evil, but he holds Germany together.” He was indeed right. Hitler was master of Europe from the North Cape in Norway to the Spanish frontier. Britain stood alone. I had been a junior newspaper reporter in Germany. I did the running about for the two senior journalists who were working in Germany for a British news agency. On the day when the Germans invaded Poland and made war certain, I reached France. Later I went to England. I tried to enlist in the Forces, but the doctors discovered that I had a perforated ear drum. It had been caused by a swimming mishap, and I never noticed any disability, but the Medical Board turned me down. I then resumed my work for the news agency and was sent to Paris. While I was there, during the period of the “phoney war,” as it was called, I started to do Secret Service work, and was engaged in counter espionage, which meant spying on the enemy’s spies. When victory in Europe for the Germans was certain, I was recalled to England. It was then, when the Nazis were crowding with jubilation, that the determination grew in me to go back and kill Hitler. I had heard that when Ted faced a firing squad, the volley did not kill him immediately. An officer named Jubenitz had walked over and rolled him over with his foot. “Ach, he is still alive!” he exclaimed. Then, with a cry of “Heil Hitler!” Jubenitz had finished off my brother with his pistol. I stood at the door of that little first floor room in London. It had been a bedroom until the house was taken over by the Government. “Goodbye,” I said. “Good luck,” replied the Chief.


I closed the door and went down the stairs. Every stitch of clothing I was wearing had been made in Germany.

The pistol I had concealed was a German Mauser 9mm. automatic. I was also carrying two sets of documents. I turned along the pavement of a London suburban street. The sunlight glinted on the cable of a barrage balloon. A taxi drew near. When I saw the registration number I lifted a hand and it stopped. The number indicated that it was engaged on our work. “You know where to go?” I asked the driver. “Yes, chum, I’ve had my orders,” replied the Cockney. I got into the taxi. I was glad that at last the night had come when I was going back to the Continent to kill Hitler. Our destination was a small country aerodrome used up to the war by a flying club, and two hours later the driver stopped just inside its gateway. An infantry sergeant in a steel helmet came up. “I’ve brought Mister Stone,” said the driver. “Good, we’re expecting Mister Stone,” replied the soldier. I did not go near the hanger or huts. The sergeant led me across the grass at a brisk pace until the shape of a plane stood out dimly against the sky. The pilot came to meet us. The sergeant announced me by the name I was using. “I’m Flying Officer Jim Johnson,” greeted the pilot. “I’m ready to go when you are.” The machine was a Westland Lysander. It was a little, high winged monoplane with a low take-off and landing speed. “Where are you going to put me down?” I asked. “It will be near Trencourt,” he said, naming a French village. “With the moon and my landing light I’ll get down.” I put on a leather jerkin and flying helmet and climbed into the rear seat. The intercom was a somewhat antiquated speaking tube device. The pilot busied himself with the controls, and soon had the engine started. It was extremely noisy. The Lysander roared along the flare path, and, after a very short run, was airborne. The moon rose while we were flying across the Channel. As we approached the coast of France a searchlight appeared to the north. The beam swished around, searching for us, but we were out of range. The Germans had occupied the ports such as Calais and Boulogne in strength, but there was still only a sprinkling of defences along the coast. “French coast ahead,” the Flying Officer announced over the intercom. “You won’t be with me much longer.” I was eager to get down and be on my way to Paris, where I should get news about Hitler. There was no doubt that he would shortly visit France in order to gloat over his conquest. Such a visit might give me the opportunity to kill him. I knew it would not be easy. Wherever he went, the Fuehrer was very strongly guarded by experts at the job. “We are approaching the landing ground,” said Flying Officer Johnson as we were passing over a wood. “We shall bump a bit, so don’t unfasten your belt too soon. As soon as you’ve left the plane I shall turn for the take off.” With the motors popping, he made a gliding approach to a field with trees on one side. Not until he was near the ground did he switch on his landing light. The brilliant shaft of light showed how rough the field was. The grass was coarse, and grew in big tussocks. There was a heavy crunch as the Lysander landed. For an instant I thought it was going to turn over, but the pilot held it level. We ran through swirls of grass. The propeller shaved the tops of the tussocks like a reaping machine. I unhooked my belt just as the Lysander came to a stop, yelled “Thanks for the rise,” and dropped to the ground. As soon as I was clear, the pilot started to turn the plane. I heard the shrill blast of a whistle somewhere on the far side of the field. It was audible through the roar of the engine. I lifted an arm and gave Flying Officer Johnson the signal to go. The din increased as he opened the throttle. I dropped to the ground. In a shower of cut grass, the Lysander picked up speed. There were flashes from the side of the field, and I heard the crack of rifles. The wheels lifted and the pilot switched out the landing light. I was glad to see the plane make a safe getaway. I looked across the field. By lying low, I could see dark, moving figures against the lighter sky. Five armed German soldiers were coming across the field, exchanging gruff shouts. I drew the Mauser and waited for them to get within pistol range. I could see the white’s of the nearest eyes in the moonlight when I fired. He let his rifle go, clasped his hands to his stomach and dropped. I picked the others off as fast as I could fire. The Mauser was an excellent gun. The over confident Germans had walked into my ambush, and I downed the lot of them by quick, straight shooting. In that way five of the enemy perished. They were the first of the enemy to stand between me and the task of killing the leader of the Germans.


On the following day I paid a call on Maurice Brun in his apartment in the Rue St Severin, not far from the south branch of the Seine in Paris.

Maurice was my friend. He had been my companion in my counter-espionage days. Now he was a journalist and wrote for a paper that was supporting the French leaders who had collaborated with the Germans. This gave him excellent camouflage. He wore tinted spectacles. Bomb blast has affected his eyes severely, and he could see very little. In Britain his apartment would have been called a bed sitting room. It contained many books which now Maurice could read only if he held the volume close to his nose. The radio was on. The programme came from a German controlled station. I squatted on the rug while Maurice, who had splendid sources, gave me information I needed. We spoke in French. “The Germans are celebrating their victory over France,” he explained. “Hitler has ordered flags to be flown throughout Germany for a fortnight and the church bells to be rung daily for a week. At the moment he is touring the battlefields with Mussolini.” Mussolini was the Italian leader who had brought his country into the war on Germany’s side when he felt sure Hitler was winning. Maurice’s voice became harsh. “Hitler has imagination!” he exclaimed. “He intends to humiliate France. The stage to be set for the signing of the armistice is to be precisely the same as that where the Germans signed the armistice for the First World War, in which they were defeated. Hitler has issued orders for the historic railway coach to be used.” I pricked up my wars. I knew that on November 11, 1918, at the en of the fighting in the First World War, when Germany was licked, the armistice was signed in a railway coach in the Forest of Compiegne, about fifty miles from Paris. A massive stone tablet there marked the spot. Since 1918 that railway coach had been kept in the building called the Invalides, in Paris. In that same building was the tomb of Napoleon. “Do you know when the ceremony is to take place?” I demanded. “On the twenty-first,” Maurice answered. “The day after tomorrow,” I muttered thoughtfully. It was something absolutely definite. On June 21 Hitler would be at a definite spot in the Forest of Compiegne. The clearing, preserved as a national monument with neat lawns and paths surrounding the tablet, was fringed by trees. The roads to the spot were tree lined. Maurice regarded me curiously. “Why have you come here, George?” he asked. “I’ve come to kill Hitler,” I said. Maurice pulled off his spectacles to wipe them with his silk handkerchief. He blinked in the strong light. “That is good,” he nodded. “It will be a privilege I shall cherish to assist you. There are ways in which I can help.” “What I need first is a rifle,” I told him. “It can be provided,” replied Maurice.

Paris looked peaceful in the summer sunshine. At a casual glance the only unusual feature was in the sightseers in the streets. German troopers with cameras and guide books were to be seen wandering about or gazing at features of historical interest. Their manner was inoffensive. They behaved politely to other pedestrians. I was on my way to arrange for transport out of Paris. With the fighting so recently finished, and with thousands of refugees now seeking to return home, the railways were no use to me. Maurice had put me on to a garage where I should be able to get the use of a lightweight motor cycle. I had reached Paris from Trencourt riding in a vegetable lorry.


Though Paris appeared so much itself on the surface. I was quite sure that the place was alive with Gestapo agents, and before I had walked much farther I was arrested!

A word now about the Gestapo. The name was shortened from Geheime Staatspolizei. The organisation was the secret political police of the Nazis, and the name had become one of terror. I had reached a road junction and was waiting to cross when a large van with wire netting across the windows stopped. Four grim men wearing the uniforms of S.S. troopers rode in the cab of the van. After looking me over, two of them sprang out. “You are coming with us,” one of them said harshly. “I will come with you, as I don’t enter into arguments in the street,” I replied in German. “But don’t lay a hand on me or you’ll be very sorry for it.” I put such a snarl of authority into my voice that one of them, who was going to grip my arm, dropped his hand away. It suited me to have a look at the Gestapo, to find out where their headquarters were, and who was in local command. I had an identity card in my pocket, and I was not carrying my pistol. The door at the back of the van was unlocked and opened. I got in. Six or seven people sat on the two narrow benches. They looked scared stiff. I had been picked up on what the Gestapo would have described as a “netting” operation. It was a dodge of theirs to send out a patrol and fill up a van with persons picked up here and there. These persons were then subjected to a fearsome questioning in Gestapo style. Sometimes an enemy of the Nazis was trapped. The van was driven to a large house. It entered a courtyard, and the gates clanged shut behind it. I squared my shoulders in military fashion when I got out of the van and glanced at my wrist watch, bought in Berlin. “My time’s short,” I snapped to a brutal looking sergeant. “You must get me cleared at once or you may have regrets.” He looked as if he would love to bawl me out, or even to use his boots on me. But his eyes dropped before my direct gaze, and he turned away to give an order. One of the troopers who had picked me up took me into the house and down a corridor. I decided that I was going to be interviewed by one of the specially trained commissioners, experts in cross-examination, equipped in every way to trip up a suspect. The commissioner into whose office I was taken was named Doktor Sigmind Kratz. He was a young man with a high forehead and a narrow, pale face. His glance appeared casual, but it took me all in. He was probably not so clever as he thought he was, but was undoubtedly an intelligent and dangerous man. He sat at a desk. A long cigarette holder lay at the side of his blotter. “I am told you’ve asked for a quick interview,” he said with a suspicion of a lisp. “I’ve not yet had the advantage of learning your name. “Oh, I’m Lieutenant Yunge,” I replied. “I am attached to the Abwehr, and if you’ve got a cigarette to spare I’d be grateful. I can’t smoke the French rubbish.” From the way his hand moved swiftly to his pocket to get his cigarettes, I knew that the card I’d just played was a trump. It was a weakness of the German system that there were intense inter-departmental quarrels and rivalries. It was my intention to play one off against the other. The Abwehr was the Intelligence Service of the German Supreme Command – the soldier’s secret service. Far from working hand in glove with the secret service of the Gestapo, there was next to no contact between them. There was also the S.D., which was a political secret service run by the Foreign Office. That also had its own watertight department. In a casual manner, while Dr Kratz brought out his cigarette case, I produced my Abwehr identity card. Elsewhere I had an S.D. card on which my name appeared as Eberhard. I intended to swop the cards according to circumstances. The cigarettes were of a Turkish blend, and we lit up. I soon replaced the Abwehr card in my wallet. “May I inquire what your duties are in Paris?” asked Dr Kratz lightly. “Shall I say that my duty is concerned with a certain important event on June twenty-first?” I replied. “Ach, the twenty-first,” he said. “I shall be away from Paris myself on the twenty first. I have duties to do somewhere else. Perhaps you can guess where.” This, of course, confirmed my idea that there would be many Germans on duty in the Forest of Compiegne, and I made up my mind that I should have to be there before them. I did not hurry my departure. I stayed and smoked the cigarette, while we talked about general topics. When I still hung on, Doktor Kratz hinted that he was busy, so I shook hands with him and left.


The German trooper looked up the big beech tree in which I was hiding. He did not see me among the branches.

I had entered the forest before dawn on the 20th, and selected the tree which commanded a good view of the clearing in which the armistice ceremony was to take place. All that day I stayed up in the tree. Although at ties I was bored with this inactivity and suffered agonies of cramp, I dared not climb down from my vantage point. Several high ranking German officers paid visits to the clearing and its neighbourhood to make preliminary checks before the big day. By mid-morning of the 21st, I was heartily sick of giving an imitation of a bird, but I forgot the pain from my cramped limbs when I saw the railway coach brought back in position in the centre of the glade. I estimated its distance as 100 yards. I detected considerable anxiety among the Army officers and Gestapo chiefs who shared the responsibility for the safety of the Fuehrer. Hitler’s decision to impose his will on the representatives of France on the same stage as the 1918 armistice had set them problems. The undergrowth under the trees was thick. A hundred snipers could have lurked in the bushes. The answer of the security chiefs was to bring hundreds of soldiers and storm troopers into the forest. I was able to sit down where a bough joined the massive trunk. I had a rope ready for a rapid descent, but my concern was to kill Hitler and not to plan my escape. I would think about that when the time came. I was completely satisfied with the Belgian rifle with which, through Maurice, I had been provided. The time did not drag because a great deal was going on. Troops arrived and stood shoulder to shoulder round the clearing. Cinema cameras were set up. Dozens of reporters appeared on the scene. With a tramp of marching feet, the guard of honour entered the clearing. The soldiers marched up to the coach, then halted and stood at ease. When, presently, they were brought to attention, I stood on the bough and peered through the leaves. I wore a green mask. The four French delegates entered the glade accompanied by German officials. There were two French generals, an admiral, and a tall man in civilian dress. With stern expressions, looking neither to right nor left, they passed the memorial to Germany’s defeat in 1918 and turned towards the coach. I checked on the loading of the rifle. Hitler, in military uniform with calf-length boots and a high-crowned cap, strutted into the clearing. Marshal Goering walked on one side of him and Admiral Raeder on the other. Hitler stopped before reaching the coach and beckoned to a small group of high ranking officers who were waiting. For the moment Marshal Goering, who was a very big man, blocked my full view of the Fuehrer. The party of persons honoured by Hitler’s notice came forward. I recognised three or four of them. One of the officials was Rudolph Swartz, who was very fat. However, he was not a comical fat man, but a ruthless and brutal terrorist. His trickery in the early days had done much to bring Hitler to power. Swartz raised his right hand in the Nazi salute. Hitler then laid a hand on his shoulder in a gesture of old comrades together again. Hitler moved, and I had a clear view of him. I brought the rifle up to my shoulder, aimed for his heart, and squeezed the trigger. The report of the rifle was followed by a jerk by Hitler. He swayed for an instant. His cap fell off, but to my amazement he did not drop. It was Rudolph Swartz who thudded to the ground at the Fuehrer’s feet. Within a moment Hitler was in the centre of a melee of officials and guards, and it was impossible to get a second shot at him. The bullet had, of course, been deflected. It had undoubtedly glanced off something that Hitler had in his breast pocket or, what seemed more likely, from a bullet-proof vest. The Fuehrer, his day of triumph marred, had escaped temporarily, but I had killed one of his most valuable lieutenants. The German under the tree stared up in a startled manner. I fired at him and he dropped. I lowered the rope that I had tied to the branch and slithered to the ground. The forest was in an uproar as I plunged into the undergrowth.


I SHOT HITLER 20 Episodes in Adventure issues 1825 – 1844 (1960)

© D. C. Thomson & Co Ltd 

Vic Whittle 2007