Headstone for unmarked grave of Nazi spy who died undetected in wartime Britain

Jan Willem Ter BraakThe unmarked grave of a Dutch-born Nazi spy, who killed himself after spending several months working undercover in wartime Britain, will be marked with a headstone, 76 years after his death by suicide. Born in 1914 in The Hague, Holland, Englebertus Fukken joined the National Socialist Movement in the Netherlands, the Dutch affiliate of the National Socialist German Workers’ Party led by Adolf Hitler, in 1933. In 1940, shortly after the German invasion of Holland, Fukken, who had been trained as a journalist, was recruited by the Abwehr, Nazi Germany’s military intelligence. Abwehr’s leadership decided to include Fukken in the ranks of undercover agents sent to Britain in preparation for Operation SEA LION, Germany’s plan to invade Britain.

Between October 31 and November 2, 1940, the 26-year-old Fukken was secretly parachuted over the Buckinghamshire village of Haversham in central England. British authorities found his discarded parachute a few days later, but by that time Fukken had made his way on foot to the city of Cambridge. Fukken’s precise mission remains unknown. Speculation that he was sent to Britain to assassinate the country’s wartime leader, Sir Winston Churchill, is dismissed as fantastical by most historians. What is known is that Fukken carried with him false Dutch papers identifying him as Jan Willem Ter Braak, and a suitcase that contained a radio transmitter supplied to him by the Abwehr.

In Cambridge, Fukken took lodgings with a local family, posing as a member of the Free Dutch Forces, anti-Nazi Dutch officials who had fled to London after the German invasion of Holland and formed a government in exile. Fukken spent the next four months living undercover in Cambridge, and did not register with the authorities, as required. He traveled on most days to locations in England bombed by the Luftwaffe, inspecting the damage and reporting back to his Abwehr handlers in Hamburg by radio or by mail, using secret writing techniques. But his failure to register with the authorities meant that he had no access to ration cards, which were required to purchase food in wartime Britain. He then attracted the attention of the local authorities, after presenting them with a forged ration card that was detected during inspection by a police officer. Fearing arrest, he quickly moved lodgings, but was unable to solve the problem of access to food. Repeated attempts to get the Abwehr to exfiltrate him failed, and his calls for money and usable ration cards were not facilitated, as the Nazi leadership in Berlin had begun to shelve Operation SEA LION.

Frustrated, hungry and fearing arrest, Fukken fled to an air-raid shelter and shot himself with an Abwehr-issued pistol on March 30, 1941. The discovery of his body led British authorities to his lodgings and from there to the left luggage office at the Cambridge railway station, where the Nazi spy had deposited a suitcase filled with spy paraphernalia. After a secret meeting at the local coroner’s office, MI5, Britain’s counterintelligence agency, decided to bury Fukken in an unmarked grave in the village of Great Shelford, located four miles south of Cambridge. Although no information about Fukken was published at the time, he is today believed to have been the longest-surviving undercover Nazi spy in wartime Britain.

Fukken’s file was unearthed in 1999 by researchers who were examining newly declassified material at the British National Archives. Now, after a request by his family in Holland, the late Nazi spy’s grave will get a headstone. According to reports in the British media, the stone will carry Fukken’s original name, not the one that was found on his Dutch identity papers when he killed himself.

Author: Ian Allen | Date: 11 July 2017 | Permalink

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3 Responses to Headstone for unmarked grave of Nazi spy who died undetected in wartime Britain

  1. TRM says:

    So there was at least one Abwehr spy in the UK that wasn’t part of the double-cross system?

  2. intelNews says:

    @TRM: Yes, it would appear so. Ben Macintyre’s Agent Zigzag would appear to corroborate this view. [IA]

  3. maggie says:

    Has it been ratified to erect this Nazi;s headstone and if so was there a meeting of the r, and therefore they should be paying residents of shelford. If this hasnt happened yet when will the meeting be held (I am presuming an open meeting for all), what time and where. If this has already taken place why without consultation. Surely this mans family should want to have his remains with them and either they should pay or the German Government.

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