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Spyclists! This Time Nazis on Bikes

April 15, 2010

It was hard to Heil Hitler! while shifting gears. Source: Bundesarchiv

In my extraordinary efforts to bring you all things Nazi and bicycle related, I alert you to breaking news from National Archives (formerly PRO which was a cooler name) in England. During the late 1930s, MI5 (the British internal security organization) was concerned that cycling tours by German youth organizations, such as the Hitler Youth, were being used to spy on England.

The Daily Herald broke the story in 1937 with the article entitled, “Nazis must be spyclists!” To arouse concern among the British citizenry, the newspaper cited instructions from a German cycling journal supposedly circulated among the young cyclists:

“Make a note of the names of places, rivers, seas and mountains…Perhaps you may be able to utilise these sometime for the benefit of the Fatherland.”

One gets the impression the Nazi government was lacking maps of England at the time of these instructions.

Turns out this article was largely the product of an over-ambitious journalist (hard to imagine right?) with a weak grasp on reality. Nevertheless, the article was still enough to grab MI5’s attention, so they begin to monitor the itineraries of the German cyclists. Hundreds of pages of newly declassified documents (shown here for a fee) demonstrate how MIA was suspicious of their stops at such lovely tourist attractions as the steelworks in Sheffield, in addition to the leisurely dinner at the Spalding Rotary club, where they had a “sausage and mashed potato supper” with their English friends.

Such were more innocent times, when the worst thing you had to worry about was nice little Aryan boys on their bike tours, snapping photos of the industrial landscape of Yorkshire and eating shitty food. It would be only be three years later that these same boys would be bombing London to death and committing even more memorable atrocities on the Eastern Front.

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