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How the BBC tried to beat Hitler with humour - and why it's so nice to hear some of it in The Archers

The BBC tried to beat Hitler's propaganda machine with German language broadcasts of comedy programmes to the country
The BBC tried to trump Hitler's propaganda machine with German language broadcasts of comedy programmes to the country Credit: AP

Why did the BBC spend the Second World War trying to make Germans laugh? A war effort too far, you might think. Nonetheless, that’s what happened, as told in Archive on 4: Beating Hitler with Humour (Radio 4, Saturday).

To mark 80 years since the outbreak of the war, the German writer Timur Vermes told the story of the BBC German Service, which broadcast from London in the German language in the hope of reaching listeners in Germany and encouraging them to resist Hitler’s regime. It only went off-air in 1999, so you’ve got to admit they were thorough.

Initially, the German Service broadcast only straightforward news. They attempted to make the bulletins as accurate as possible, including reports...

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