“The SS car, which had been parked behind the German customs house, had driven right through the barrier. ... (After a brief a shootout between Coppens and the SS) I turned and ran round the corner of the house toward my car. Looking back, I saw Best and Stevens being hauled out of the Buick like bundles of hay.”
In brazenly violating Dutch neutrality, the Germans had managed to capture the two British agents, though the Dutch agent Coppens later died of his wounds from the brief shootout. Best and Stevens would be held in relatively comfortable captivity, along with Elser, as special prisoners in various concentration camps. Elser would be eliminated in the final days of World War II on the orders of SS leader Heinrich Himmler. Best and Stevens were liberated in 1945.
Hitler's unwillingness to continue the Schaemmel deception in 1939 was undoubtedly a mistake. Had the operation continued, and Schellenberg been allowed to go to London, there is no telling just how much damage the Germans could have done to British intelligence, but certainly it would have been severe. The kidnapping of Best and Stevens gave Josef Goebbels' propaganda machine something to tout, but ultimately benefited the German war effort not at all.
Cody K. Carlson holds a master's degree in history from the University of Utah and currently teaches at Salt Lake Community College. He is also the co-developer of the popular History Challenge iPhone/iPad apps. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
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