Sometime between 1936 and 1939, the Gestapo drew up two lists of people in the United Kingdom in readiness for the planned invasion. Those included were not only refugees from Nazi Germany, but also Britons considered a particular danger. The plan was to have them arrested by the 20,000 SS men deployed in Britain, and removed, as the German army spread out to occupy the country. Removal was to involve house arrest, “protective detention” and execution. Sybil Oldfield, the daughter of a German refugee, has spent the past six years identifying the names on the lists, following up individuals’ stories and trying to understand exactly what made them so threatening to the Nazis. Many have long since been forgotten but, she argues, should be celebrated, for the often brave moral stands they took.
“My dear, the people that we should have been seen dead with!” Nöel Coward’s quip to Rebecca West was occasioned by his learning of the existence of the “black book”, a list drawn up by the Nazis of dissident Britons who would be eliminated in the event of a successful invasion. Sybil Oldfield’s thoroughly researched and fascinating historical biography explores the lives of many of the 2,600 citizens who attracted Hitler’s ire, ranging from high-profile entertainers and writers to those naturalised refugees who doggedly resisted the Nazis from afar.