Jump to content
Great War Forum

Remembered Today:

Sign in to follow this  
yperman

A German "Black Book" ?

Recommended Posts

yperman

Good afternoon,

 

in 'All quiet on the Home Front' (Van Emden and Humphries) on  p264 there is a reference  to a libel case, brought by a dancer accused of being a lesbian. The defendant  was a MP called Noel Pemberton Billing (a leader  of the Vigilante Society) who  alleged that the German secret service had a 'black book' of 47,000 leading Britons (such as former Judges and even Asquith) who were vulnerable to blackmail for  'sexual perversity'. Billing won his case. Was there any truth to his claim? It sounds highly unlikely to me.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
David Filsell

From memory it is all basically true. I'm pretty sure there's a book about the case and/or Pemberton Billing - it might even have a blac cover!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
yperman

Thank you - I am intrigued! I suppose every country's foreign office would keep such a list - but the size seems incredible. Lloyd George would presumably have been relaxed about the claims! I think I will go on a book hunt.

 

Yperman 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
SiegeGunner

One wonders, if the Germans were able to compile such a list (or even one of more modest proportions), how secret and scandalous the information can have been, and therefore how much use it would have been for blackmail purposes.  And would it have been a double-edged sword  ...  thinking of unfortunate occurrences such as the senior military officer who died of a heart attack while dancing for the Kaiser's amusement in a tutu?  In WW2 the Germans certainly had a long list of people they intended to arrest and probably liquidate if they occupied Britain (but not based on their sexual proclivities), and they never tired of decrying Churchill as a drunk.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
MelPack

This is a vivid description of the libel trial and the issues involved:

 

Pemberton Billing himself was a flamboyant figure, an early aviator and aeroplane designer and inventor, a lover of fast cars and independently wealthy. He was the Nigel Farage of his day. On 23 March 1918 the German offensive drove the Allies back, creating much unease in Britain. The Vigilante explained that “the Germans and the Ashkenazim [ie the Jews] had complete control of the white slave trade and Jewish-controlled prostitutes were deliberately spreading disease to British troops”, so weakening them.

At the same time a private performance of Oscar Wilde’s play Salome was planned in the Prince of Wales Theatre in London. It had never been performed in Britain before but had been in Paris and other more civilised places for a number of years. Britain’s strict censorship of the theatre (which lasted until 1968) meant the production needed a licence, even for a private invite-only performance. The granting of the licence was seen by the right as another indication of the Jewish/homosexual plot by traitors in the establishment to undermine British values and spread sexual decadence and unmanly weakness.

In an aside in an article on the Black Book conspiracy The Vigilante noted the performance, claiming it was part of “a cult of the clitoris” and that the 1,000 attending it were listed in the 47,000 in the Black Book. The American actress Maud Allen played the role of Salome and, in a rerun of Oscar Wilde’s first trial, she sued Pemberton Billing for libel for suggesting that she was a lesbian. The trial handed the right the perfect chance to present their racist conspiracy theories in an atmosphere of moral panic and war hysteria.

Pemberton Billing called a number of witnesses who claimed to have seen the Black Book and to know of the conspiracy and the disabling sexual depravity to be found in high society, orchestrated by Jews and homosexuals. The trial dominated the news for five days as Pemberton Billing included in his slurs Lady Asquith, wife of the Liberal Party leader, the Lord Chief Justice and many other members of the establishment who he claimed were Jews (some in fact were not), traitors and engaged in orgies and “worship of the clitoris”.

This was the first time that the clitoris had ever been mentioned outside of medical journals, so newspapers carried long articles explaining what it might be and what an orgasm was — as only lesbians or the most debauched could possibly know of such things. Dr Cook, tuberculosis officer for Lambeth, was called as an expert and stated that all involved with the production of Salome must have perverted minds, be sadists and sodomists, and that to call it a cult of the clitoris was legitimate.

Oscar Wilde’s ex-lover Lord Alfred Douglas — now a reformed homophobe — was called as a witness on the dangers of Oscar Wilde and all his works. To the cheers of the gallery Pemberton Billing won the case and was carried from the Old Bailey and through the streets to cheering patriotic crowds. It was his greatest triumph.

 

http://socialistreview.org.uk/399/homophobia-first-world-war

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
MartH

The man did start an aviation business which became Supermarine during the GW after he sold out.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
EastSurrey

This ridiculous and incompetently conducted trial was being reported in the 'Times' in enormous detail alongside reports of the German Blucher offensive in May/June 1918. It has been suggested that Pemberton Billing had been  encouraged by senior people who had  feared that the Government would negotiate a peace with Germany, and on favourable terms to the latter. Billing was unable to produce the 'Black Book' and said that Mr Primrose and Major Rothschild, the two men who had seen it with him, had subsequently been killed in Palestine. Billing's mistress, Eileen Villiers-Stuart, appeared as  a witness and claimed both men had been murdered!

Michael

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
yperman

Thank you all very much. I was  aware in general terms that there was an anti-semitic and homophobic element to British society and literature in and after the Great War - your comments have given me a far better insight. As you say the parallel with early  National Socialism is striking.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
SiegeGunner

One wonders what use such a book, if it ever existed (and how long would it have taken to compile?), would have been to the Germans.  Why bother enumerating 47,000 'sexual perverts' when it would suffice, if blackmail was the object, to 'screen' half a dozen people in the area of interest (say, for the sake of argument, a department of the Admiralty) and identify one or more who might be vulnerable (or simply amenable).  Does anyone actually know of a documented case of the Germans attempting to subborn someone in Britain during WW1 using any means of applying pressure  ...  not just blackmail, but, for example,  threats against family members in Germany of people of German heritage?

 

It seems to me far more likely that this book, or something like it on a much more modest scale, would have been compiled by some British group for its own political purposes.  I am not aware of any evidence that the Germans were on a moral crusade, and if they had somehow succeeded in invading/occupying Britain, they would not have needed blackmail to enforce their will.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Sign in to follow this  

×
×
  • Create New...