… combined attack on Castle Karlstein. The castle power supply was cut at 0400 and the distraction thus provided allowed the SOE team (including ANGEL) to climb the outer wall and gain access to the laboratory building. They passed through what appeared to be a cemetery with several freshly-dug unmarked graves. At the same time, a large armed group used a disused entrance near the main gate to enter the courtyard and proceeded to storm the gatehouse.
Despite being issued with cameras, the team omitted to take any photos to corroborate subsequent events, and all we know is based on their debriefings and what witness accounts we were able to obtain.
[REDACTED] encountered armed resistance within the laboratory, apparently from a small detachment of SS troops, and [REDACTED] was slightly injured by the blast from a mis-thrown grenade. The team proceeded inside and noted a room laid out as a laboratory, with several tables equipped with heavy leather restraints.
They continued to the basement where they found approximately sixty men, women and children imprisoned in cages – all villagers from the surrounding area who had been arrested in several recent ‘swoops’. Of these, around thirty were kept separate from the others and appeared to be in an advanced state of mental and physical degeneration. Our agents noted that the other villagers seemed terrified of them and indeed agent [REDACTED] reported being considerably disturbed by their appearance. Surviving members of the team described them as [REDACTED]. Interviews with villagers who had been held in the basement revealed that experiments were directed by a Nazi doctor who referred to the degenerate prisoners as ‘Ungeziefer’ (vermin).
The cage doors were released with a single electrical switch, so when the healthier prisoners were let out, so were the others. The first group panicked and fled upstairs and our agents were unable to control them. The [REDACTED] came after them with obviously hostile intent, although their rate of movement seemed slower, doubtless caused by their physical state. Our team noticed at this time that ANGEL was missing and seemed to have left the group around the time they entered the laboratory.
Efforts were now focused on evacuating the prisoners from the castle. The large group of partisans mentioned earlier had succeeded in capturing the gatehouse and were exchanging fire with garrison troops from positions further down the courtyard. There were several lorries parked in the yard and it was hoped to seize two of them as transport. Ropes were lowered from the wall above the courtyard and our group was able to supervise the escape of twenty-four civilians. This came at the cost of the life of [REDACTED] who attempted to hold off the crowd of [REDACTED] but was overwhelmed and torn to pieces.
The team were able to drive out of the main gate and escape with no further casualties, which although commendable means we must rely on what eye-witness accounts we we have been able to garner since the operation. A member of the partisans who were guarding the gatehouse recalls seeing a lone figure atop the southern Well Tower (see castle plan), arms raised. Just as the last lorry drove through the gate and he was preparing to leave his position, he noticed that the sky over the castle seemed to grow abruptly dark (it was approximately 0420 hrs) and the figure was no longer visible. Approximately a minute later there was a cessation of the firing from the garrison, a pause, then a resumption of fire targeted somewhere to the south. Others present report hearing men screaming and a deeper, unidentifiable sound. The gunfire ceased after another minute.
Details from that point are sketchy; aerial reconnaissance photos taken two days after the operation show extensive damage to the castle; thick curtain walls have been demolished and the Well Tower has been reduced to rubble. There is also damage to buildings in Karlstein village itself. Our analysts noted particularly what appeared to be a trail approximately fifteen yards wide leading from a breach in the castle wall through the surrounding woods to the outskirts of the village. Trees appear to have been crushed or pushed over, as if some large [REDACTED].
We also have reports of Stuka dive-bombers attacking areas near the castle in the hours after our team escaped, and also of artillery and tanks being rushed to Karlstein by road and rail. We have heard nothing from our contacts in the local Czech resistance. The Nazis seem to be trying to pass it off as the result of an accidental explosion at the castle. In any case, the area seems to be heavily patrolled.
The mission was a partial success, given that one objective was the release of the captive villagers. Additionally the damage done to Castle Karlstein suggests it will be unfit for whatever purpose it was previously used. Frustratingly, we still have no idea what force resulted in its destruction.
We still have no hard evidence as to the nature of the experimentation conducted by the unnamed doctor. ANGEL is still missing and although initial contact was established with the Czech resistance leadership, the silence following operation ‘Three Kings’ is worrying. .
In future, the importance of documentary evidence collection should be impressed on teams, particularly where they are specifically issued with equipment to gather it.