UK suspected Hitler Youth acted as ‘spyclists’

The British intelligence agency MI5 suspected members of the Hitler Youth conducted bicycle reconnaissance tours through the countryside in the run-up to World War II, documents released by the UK National Archives revealed on Monday.

UK suspected Hitler Youth acted as 'spyclists'
A British newspaper photo of a Hitler Youth bike tour. Photo: National Archives

“File KV 5/87 deals with the activities of the Hitler Youth in the UK in the years leading up to the Second World War, in particular bicycling tours. The danger of reconnaissance activity was recognised, though initially on the basis of an exaggerated newspaper report about ‘spyclists’,” archive officials said in a statement about the newly declassified documents.

Concerns about the Hitler Youth tours apparently began after the Daily Herald newspaper ran a May 1937 article entitled, “Nazis must be spyclists,” which allegedly translated Nazi cycling association documents encouraging young fascists on holidays abroad to take special note of important landmarks and geological features for use by German authorities.

While MI5 was apparently sceptical about the report’s authenticity, it still gathered reports about Hitler Youth cycling tours through England ahead of the war.

The more than 100 pages of records and intercepted correspondence also detail how the Nazi organisation attempted to create a relationship with the Boy Scouts. The German ambassador reportedly invited prominent Boy Scout leaders, including founder Baden Powell, to dine with German Foreign Minister Joachim von Ribbentrop.

Powell was also allegedly invited to meet Nazi leader Adolf Hitler, though there is no evidence that such a meeting took place.

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