The Story of William Joyce ('Lord Haw-Haw')

William Joyce, also known as "Lord Haw-Haw", was a long-time resident of the UK, with fascist sympathies, who fled to Germany shortly before World War II began, and who spent the entire war making pro-Nazi propaganda radio broadcasts aimed at the British public.

Joyce was born in Brooklyn, New York in 1906, to an Irish-American father and an English mother. When he was 3 years old, the family moved to the UK. While in college, he became interested in the fascist movement and joined the British Fascisti Ltd, a group which admired the Italian dictator Benito Mussolini. In the early 1930s he joined the British Union of Fascists, a group whose members considered Adolph Hitler to be their hero. In 1937 he left the BUF and formed the British National Socialist League. This group had a membership of only about 20, but the members were very vocal, holding street-corner meetings which often ended in fist-fights. Joyce was very aggressive and never shrunk from confrontation. He made no effort to hide his admiration for Adolph Hitler and his belief that most of the world's problems were the fault of Jews and international finance.

At the end of August, 1939, only a week before the war began, Joyce was secretly warned that, once the war had begun, the British government was planning, under emergency war powers, to apprehend him and to hold him in captivity for the duration of the war. To avoid this, he secretly fled to Germany and was immediately welcomed by the Propaganda Ministry of Joseph Goebbels. Within three weeks he began doing weekly propaganda radio broadcasts to the UK, which continued until the end of the war. He was given the nickname "Lord Haw-Haw" by a British journalist because of his aristocratic nasal drawl, partially caused by a broken nose he received as a child which was never set properly.

It was illegal to listen to his broadcasts in the UK, but, in spite of that, they became quite popular with British listeners, with most probably finding the broadcasts more amusing than anything else. At one time, he had almost as many listeners as the BBC. Common themes throughout his broadcasts were that the war was caused by "Jewish International Finance" and that the British government, run and influenced by Jews, had betrayed the British people by leading them into another pointless war. He was constantly trying to generate fear and mistrust between the British people and their government.

Much of the content of his broadcasts was found to be rather comical, but sometimes he would cause alarm by, for instance, giving detailed descriptions of different types of bomb wounds and how to treat them, or by claiming that there were subversive groups working secretly within Britain (a "fifth column"). To prove that such subversive groups existed and were constantly monitoring events, he would sometimes tell of a specific town hall clock in a British city that was not working correctly at the time of his broadcast, or he would tell exactly how many steps there were in the stairway of a particular public building.

The British government despised Joyce, since he was able to transmit propaganda directly into the living rooms of the British people, and there was a segment of the public that sympathized with some of his beliefs. In fact, according to an internal report of the British government, the broadcasts had a real effect:

"The effect of Haw-Haw is considered in this region (Bristol) to be extremely insidious, and this danger is underestimated by the BBC and the Government, who do not fully appreciate to what extent this propaganda is believed."

The Germans also believed that the broadcasts were having an effect on British public opinion. Josef Goebbels wrote:

"Our English radio broadcasts are being taken with deadly seriousness in England. Lord Haw-Haw's name is on everybody's lips. We do not react, but intensify our broadcast."

Throughout the war, Joyce lived a comfortable life in Berlin, and in September 1944, in appreciation for his work, he was awarded the Cross of War Merit 1st Class, with a certificate signed by Adolf Hitler.

Toward the end of the war, as the Red Army approached Berlin, Joyce moved to Hamburg and continued his broadcasts from there. He began to drink heavily as the war drew to a close, and on April 30, 1945 he gave his final broadcast, while drunk, as British forces were nearing Hamburg. At about the same time that he made this broadcast, Adolph Hitler was committing suicide in Berlin.

On May 28, 1945, two British soldiers, while gathering firewood in a German forest near Flensburg, on the Danish border, came across a poorly-dressed man walking through the forest carrying a walking stick. The man first spoke to the soldiers in French, but then made the mistake of speaking a few sentences in English, and the soldiers immediately recognized his distinctive manner of speech as being that of William Joyce. In the process of being captured, Joyce was shot in the leg, and he was returned to London on a stretcher to face trial for treason.

Joyce had been both an American and a German citizen, but he had never actually had British citizenship, even though he had lived in Britain for many years, so there was some question as to whether the British could try him for treason. But the British claimed that he had held a British passport until mid-1940, long after he had begun his broadcasts, and that during the time he held a valid British passport he had a "reciprocal duty" to Great Britain. When he left the UK on his passport, they argued, he had the protection given to passport holders, and since protection demands allegiance, Joyce broke his allegiance and committed treason. The official charge against him was:

"William Joyce, on 18 September 1939 and on numerous other days between 18 September 1939 and 2 July 1940 did aid and assist the enemies of the King by broadcasting to the King's subjects propaganda on behalf of the King's enemies."

The above argument made by the British was deemed to be valid by the courts and, after a trial which lasted 3 days, a jury convicted Joyce of High Treason on September 19, 1945. After a number of unsuccessful appeals, he was hanged on January 3, 1946, at the age of 39. He was defiant in his convictions to the very end -- his last words were:

"In death as in life, I defy the Jews who caused this last war, and I defy the powers of darkness they represent."