William Joyce

(1906—1946) fascist and propaganda broadcaster

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Anglo-US political activist who broadcast Nazi propaganda to Britain during World War II. Known as ‘Lord Haw Haw’, he was hanged as a traitor after the war.

Born in Brooklyn, New York, Joyce was the son of a successful building contractor, Michael Joyce, who in 1909 returned to his Irish homeland. A Protestant and ardent Anglophile, Michael Joyce had a profound influence on his son, who acted as an informer for the Black and Tans. Following Irish Independence (1921), the family was persecuted and fled to England, where their claim for restitution was rejected by the authorities. Joyce took first class honours at Birkbeck College, London, in English and history. In pursuit of his cherished ideal of the ‘English gentleman’, he joined Oswald Mosley's British Union of Fascists and was soon displaying his zeal as an organizer and skill as an orator. However, Mosley's admiration for Mussolini conflicted with Joyce's conviction that Hitler's Nazis offered the solution to Britain's malaise. Joyce quit Mosley's organization and formed his own National Socialist League. A summons for his arrest was issued in August 1939, but – obtaining a British passport – he managed to flee to Berlin.

The Nazi Ministry of Propaganda employed Joyce to make radio broadcasts in English. Soon he was writing his own scripts and employing every possible device to deride the British government and exaggerate German military success. ‘Lord Haw Haw’ made his final broadcast on 30 April 1945 from Hamburg; he was subsequently captured after talking to two British officers who recognized his distinctive voice. He was charged with treason, but when his US citizenship was revealed the prosecution were forced to resort to a legal judgement of 1608 to make the charge stick. Nevertheless, Joyce was found guilty and hanged.

Subjects: Contemporary History (Post 1945).

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