My humanist convictions would not allow me to turn a blind eye to the enormous suffering that was being unleashed by this psychopath Hitler. I must do something, something practical, I must make my contribution towards the good of humanity.
One January day in 1941, I presented myself without further ado at the British embassy in Madrid, Britain being the only European country to have preserved her independence and to be challenging the Germans in a war which was clearly going to be long and bloody.
I was sent from receptionist to secretary, from clerk to minor official, each one of whom expressed an interest in finding out exactly what it was I wanted to say in the confidential interview I sought. If I believed what I had to say was of crucial importance, then I should put in writing.
Although a newcomer to these pursuits, I wasn’t so naïve as to think that it would be a good idea to put down my intentions in writing, even if they were none other than to put myself at the disposal of British intelligence.
I must confess that my plans were fairly confused. I intended to continue living in Madrid whilst I made use of contacts and acquaintances who did not yet exist but were still just fragments of my imagination.
I decided to attempt to sound out the opposite side, but using a different approach to the one I had tried with the British, which had ended in rejection. Bit by bit I worked out my plan of attack until I thought it was good enough. I did not ask anyone else’s advice.
In order to offer myself to the Nazis, I first studied their doctrines. Then I telephoned the German embassy and asked to talk to the military attaché because I was willing to offer my services to the Axis cause and to that of the “New Europe”. They suggested I ring back the next day.
I rang back the next day at about the same time. After a pause, I heard that same guttural voice that had spoken to me before. The voice told me that a faired-haired gentleman, with blue eyes, dressed in a light suit and carrying a raincoat over his arm, would be sitting waiting for me at one of the tables at the far end of the Café Lyon at 4.30 p.m. next day.
I went to the café in Calle Alcalá at the appointed time and found a young German sitting alone at a table who identified himself as Federico. At first I seemed to be holding the man’s attention, but after a while it dawned on me that I wasn’t making such a good impression on him as I had first imagined.
I told him that I was at the complete disposal of his superiors for anything they wanted: I could work in the embassy and make contacts for them with people with access to information. I told him a thousand foolish things, such as that I had friends in official and diplomatic circles, and then I poured out more empty verbiage about National Socialism.
The second meeting at the Cervecería de Correos beerhouse was much easier because neither of us felt so tense, but Federico told me in clear and forthright language that they were not in the least interested in any of my propositions, they just wanted material that would be of use to the Abwehr, the German military intelligence and counter-intelligence service.
To which I replied, somewhat rashly perhaps, that if they could get me a job as a foreign correspondent for a Spanish newspaper or magazine, I had what was necessary to travel to Britain, namely a passport. Once there, I’d be able to obtain information for them.
Federico thought that a much more interesting alternative and asked for more time to think about it.