Extraordinary wartime exploits of psychologist revealed in new book

Dundee psychologist Professor Alan Kennedy has unearthed details of the extraordinary wartime exploits of one of his predecessors.

Alan Kennedy is emeritus Professor of Psychology in the University of Dundee, having previously held academic appointments in Melbourne, St Andrews, Aix-en-Provence, Clermont-Ferrand and Paris. In addition to his published research, he has written four novels: the latest, ‘Lucy’, was published in 2014.

It was while researching material for a novel set in war-time France that Professor Kennedy came across the name of his former colleague, Dr Oscar Oeser, who was one of the first psychologists to study the psychological effects of unemployment and led a three-year survey of Dundee youth in the 1930s, reporting on their economic deprivation and the harsh treatment they received at school.

Professor Kennedy had no idea of the contribution Oeser made to the war effort as a code-breaker, leader of a raid on Nazi intelligence centres and head of a de-Nazification unit in Germany after VE Day. The extraordinary story is contained in ‘Oscar & Lucy – An Autobiographical Biography’, published by Lasserrade Press.

“I was appointed to a lectureship in St Andrews in 1965 – the same post Oeser held thirty years earlier,” said Professor Kennedy. “Prior to that, I had been in Oeser’s department in Melbourne. I got to know him quite well, but none of us knew much about his wartime exploits. Most of his activities were classified at that time and little was officially released until after his death in 1983.”

In 1940, Oeser was recruited to work as a code breaker at Bletchley Park. South African-born Oeser, bilingual in English and German, became Section Head concerned with translating and interpreting deciphered German Air Force Enigma messages.

A child prodigy, Oeser had gained degrees in physics and mathematics before the age of twenty-one. He went on to complete a doctorate in psychology at Marburg University in Germany, and a second doctorate at Cambridge. At Bletchley Park he worked on the Lorenz teletype code known as “Fish” that the Germans believed too complex to decode (although it was, in fact, broken by Alan Turing). 

In May 1945, after four years at Bletchley Park, Oeser was recruited by Ian Fleming – later to write the James Bond novels - to lead a commando raid on Hitler’s “Eagles Nest” in Berchestgaden where several Lorenz machines had been hidden.

Oeser’s TICOM [Target Intelligence Committee] raid liberated over seven tons of German cryptographic equipment. This TICOM operation has been referred to as “the last great secret of WWII.” Among the haul of equipment was a top secret machine, known as the “Russian Fish” used by the Germans to decode Soviet signals. Oeser brought this back to Bletchley Park under conditions of extraordinary secrecy. It was used to intercept Russian signals during the early days of the cold war.

From 1945 to 1946 Oeser was in command of the British de-Nazification Bureau in Germany. He used the same peer-assessment method as part of a week-long programme of psychological and psychiatric tests to weed out personnel considered too dangerous to work in the new civil state in Germany.

Oeser spent the rest of his life in Melbourne, where he was the foundation Head of the Department of Psychology.

Professor Kennedy said, “The details of his raid on Hitler’s “Eagle’s Nest” were only declassified a few years ago. His TICOM team was in fact the first allied force to reach the place. Few psychologists know about him now, but Oeser really was an unsung hero – an exceptionally clever man who helped win the war. And his post-war work in Germany also helped win the peace.”

Oscar & Lucy – An Autobiographical Biography by Alan Kennedy is published by Lasserrade Press (www.lasserradepress.com).


Notes to Editors:

Contact details for Alan Kennedy:  Telephone:  00 33 05 62 09 08 64 [This is a French landline – there is no mobile telephone service in the area]

Email to: mail@lasserradepress.com


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