Prague, June 7 (CTK) - The former communist secret police (StB) launched the probably most extensive misinformation operation in 1964 when several boxes with WW2 confidential documents discrediting important Western personalities were "accidentally" uncovered at the bottom of a Czech lake, the Czech civilian intelligence informed on its website today.
The documents were to prove that a number of personalities in Western countries were Gestapo informers and war criminals. However, it was the StB officers who placed the empty boxes to the lake and later released documents from the StB and Soviet KGB archives.
The plan dubbed "Neptun" was masterminded after the StB learnt that the public Czechoslovak Television (CT) planned to shoot a documentary about the exploration of a lake in the Sumava mountains. This locality was connected with rumours saying that the Nazis hid cases with stolen treasures and confidential documents there.
In June 1964, communist intelligence officers put several specially adjusted empty boxes to the bottom floor of the lake. In early July divers with the TV crew arrived and found the boxes along with other war "souvenirs" and explosives.
Among the divers was also then StB expert in misinformation campaigns Ladislav Bitman, naturally under cover. He navigated the other divers to the place where he hid the boxes.
The lake area was then closed and the Interior Ministry's experts arrived on the spot to help the divers. The boxes were then dispatched to Prague for further exploration.
Unlike other StB activities, this operation was broadly presented to the public, primarily to foreign reporters. The intelligence service supported the fabrications and did the utmost to make them seem trustworthy, pretending surprise at the find.
StB archivists then selected what documents would be "the newly discovered" in the lake. The StB wanted them to include information about the collaboration of mainly Germans with Gestapo. Some documents were directly sent from the KGB that backed up the plan.
Then interior minister Lubomir Strougal even announced beforehand that complete lists of Gestapo collaborators had been found.
The aim of the misinformation campaign, focusing on important personalities above all in the then West Germany, was to stir up fears in these people that their past would be revealed not only in the case of top officers, but also rank-and-file members of the German Sicherheitsdienst secret service of the Nazi NSDAP party and part of the SS, or possibly of other Nazi forces, an StB collaborator said.
In mid-September, the Interior Ministry held a press conference with dozens of foreign journalists attending. Though the StB was not able to show everything it promised beforehand, the operation fulfilled its goal. It triggered a campaign to open the questions of the past of German politicians and the limitation of war crimes.
Though the documents really pointed to some war criminals, the StB and KGB had possessed them since the end of the war actually and only waited for the best moment for revealing them.
The StB succeeded in deteriorating relations between German and Italy as it released the names of people living in Germany who secretly operated against Italy during the war.
Moreover, the release of the documents and speculations what else could be found, allegedly made the West German secret services uncertain.
A film was shot about the operation and Bitman, who later fled for the USA where he now lectures at university on misinformation campaigns, also published a propaganda book on the event under a false name.
This story is from the Czech News Agency (ČTK).
The Prague Daily Monitor and Monitor CE are not responsible for its conten