The Secret History of Latimer House
In 1945 Fritz Lustig was one of a hundred “secret listeners”, all German-speaking émigrés, who worked for a branch of military intelligence known as MI9 during the second world war. They were based at three locations, but Fritz principally worked at Latimer House, post address No 1 Distribution Centre, c/o GPO Amersham! Having signed the Official Secrets Act, they worked in 12-hour shifts, eavesdropping on the conversations of German prisoners of war. The listeners overheard vital intelligence including details of Hitler’s secret weapon programme, the V-1 and V-2 rockets which led to the destruction of the German secret weapons establishment at Peenemünde in August 1943.
In April 1939, Fritz arrived in Britain after fleeing his home city, Berlin as the Nazis were rounding up all Jewish men and sending them to concentration camps. As an “enemy alien”, he was interned on the Isle of Man in the summer of 1940, before being allowed to join the British army’s Pioneer Corps. As a talented cellist, he was posted to its orchestra: “Not my idea of fighting the Nazis.” In 1943 he was transferred to the Intelligence Corps at Latimer House and met his future wife, Susan Cohn, also a refugee from Germany. Susan worked on intelligence and translations at Wilton Park and they both acquired bicycles to explore the countryside and local pubs between the two camps on their precious day off.
Just after VE Day, Fritz and Susan met with their commanding officer, Colonel Thomas Kendrick, to ask permission to marry. They were separated soon after when Fritz was posted to Bad Nenndorf in Germany. He was finally demobbed in 1946 and became a nationalised British subject the following year. Fritz and Susan settled in North London where they brought up their two sons. He worked in accountancy and as a credit controller but had a lifelong passion for music, playing as an amateur cellist in a string quartet. Through his friendship with Dr Helen Fry he helped uncover the importance of Latimer’s secret history and gave many interviews on TV and radio before his death, age 98 in 2017.