By Daria Carmon

MI5 files declassified by the British spy organization just last month, chronicle the espionage career of German operative Werner Plack and subsequent search for him during the Nazi era, and the account sounds like the plot of a movie, somewhat fitting since he had once been a film extra. Plack, elegant, charming, and with a facility for languages, gained entrance into the upper echelons of the prewar Hollywood movie colony, as well as traveling in prominent circles in WWII Berlin and occupied Paris. During his sojourn in Los Angeles, according to American sources, he worked not only in the film industry but supplied some of its leading figures with German wines. He was described as a heavy drinker with a bad credit history. Most significantly, Plack served as an informant for German consul Georg Gyssling on the movie glitterati. His time in America came to an end in August of 1940, while a passenger on a liner headed to Japan, and under suspicion by American intelligence of conveying coded information hidden in religious works. Plack’s documents were scrutinized on a layover in Honolulu but coded communications were not uncovered.

He then made his way back to his homeland, and employment by the Foreign Ministry as a recruiter of propagandists from among British and American detainees. In the course of MI5 interrogation, a Nazi agent talked regarding Plack’s propaganda activities. In fact, he had a hand in convincing well known British writer P.G. Wodehouse to participate in Berlin radio transmissions in 1941 tailored to the American people. These transmissions drew the ire of the British nation, prompting allegations by some that he was guilty of collaborating with the enemy. In the waning days of the war, Wodehouse faced MI5 questioning on the broadcasts, and although he admitted they were a grave error, he denied the collaboration claims. Of course, MI5 at that juncture was most anxious to apprehend the man whose business had been recruiting British propagandists – Werner Plack. Its operatives were engaged in an extensive search as the war came to a close, but to no avail. Plack’s trail went cold in 1945 and his MI5 dossier does not extend beyond December of that year.

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