█ ADRIENNE WILMOTH LERNER
Lord Haw-Haw was the nickname of Nazi propagandist and broadcaster William Joyce. During World War II, Joyce broadcast a well-known English-language propaganda show from Berlin, often taunting Allied forces. Though never calling himself Lord Haw-Haw on air, he became infamous among Allied combat troops and British citizens.
Joyce was born in Brooklyn, New York, the son of an Irish father and English mother. His family returned to England when he was an infant. As an adult, Joyce joined several radical political organizations, including the British Fascisti. He wrote a series of articles for several extremist newspapers and gained a reputation as a skilled propagandist. In 1934, he served as the Director of Propaganda for the British Union of Fascists. While serving the political organization, Joyce donned full Blackshirt uniform and engaged in a number of street fights with protestors, earning his trade mark facial scar in one scuffle.
As Joyce gained power in the organization, he became more radical. He used his position as a platform for his deeply anti-Semitic views, blaming most of the era's political and social ills on "Jewish communists." He formed his own political party, the British National Socialist League, in 1937. The party proclaimed brotherhood with the Nazi party in Germany and championed similar causes.
Before the war, Joyce did not attempt to disguise his admiration for Adolph Hitler and Nazi policies. On August 26, 1939, Joyce fled to Berlin. He narrowly escaped arrest in Britain under a law that mandated the detention of Nazi sympathizers and political activists. Shortly after arriving in Berlin, Joyce formally joined the Nazi Party. He took a job working on an anti-Allied propagandist radio show.
British journalists were quick to dismiss Joyce's broadcasts and portrayed him a mere stooge. He was dubbed "Lord Haw-Haw" because of his distinct nasal drawl. Listening to Lord Haw-Haw's show was technically prohibited in Britain under a ban on enemy radio, but the show was popular on the British home front. The program drew strong denunciation, but many simply laughed at its absurdity and obviously propagandistic content. On a few occasions, the program managed to frighten listeners with discussions of German saboteurs in Britain and with accurate details of British towns, such as descriptions of belfries and landmarks.
At the war's end, Joyce fled Berlin and broadcast his final shows from Hamburg. When allied forces moved to occupy the city, Joyce retreated to nearby Flensburg and was captured. He was shot in the leg in the process of trying to escape into a patch of woods. Joyce was turned over to British authorities and detained until he was flown back to Britain as a prisoner.
The British government passed a new Treason Act of 1945 in order to prosecute citizens who seriously impeded or compromised the British war effort. The media attention surrounding Joyce's radio program and capture, as well as their portrayal of Joyce as a possible spy, encouraged the government to charge Joyce with treason under the new act. Although the courts could not substantiate charges of espionage, they did convict Joyce of treason based on his broadcasts and voluntary association and cooperation with Nazi officials. Joyce was sentenced to death by gallows and executed on January 3, 1946.
█ FURTHER READING:
Martland, Peter. Lord Haw-Haw: The English Voice of Nazi Germany. Barnsley, South Yorkshire: Pen & Sword Books, 2003.