A key purpose of embassies is to gather intelligence. In the period leading up to World War II, Switzerland was an ideal place to gather intelligence. As a neutral country, officials from both the Allied and Axis sides often visited Switzerland and were sometimes a bit loose with their talk and correspondence. Indeed, the subject of spies in pre-WWII Switzerland was even the subject of many movies, such as Alfred Hitchcock’s The Lady Vanishes.
This original telegram, written by an unidentified official, ‘Jurišić’, and sent on August 8, 1940, from the Royal Yugoslavian Embassy in Bern, Switzerland to the Foreign Ministry in Belgrade, predicts that Germany planned to launch an attack upon England that upcoming September. While Germany and Britain had been at war since the beginning of September 1939, neither party had, as of yet, placed boots on the ground in each other’s homelands.
The intelligence conveyed in this telegram was correct at the time. Throughout the summer of 1940, Hitler was planning to launch ‘Operation Sea Lion’ (Unternehmen Seelöwe), his massive intended seaborne landing upon the south coast of England. By early August 1940, this design was in its advanced stages. However, a number of factors, including the emergence of British air superiority, poor German logistical arrangements, and a lack of confidence in the design on the part of the German high command, caused Operation Sea Lion to be “postponed indefinitely” (i.e. cancelled).
Very few original intelligence telegrams, especially regarding such an important matter, ever appear on the market.