Nazi spy on air at 2NC, 2BL and 2GB

A new book reveals the history of a Nazi spy who managed to get on-air spots on two ABC stations and at 2GB just before the second world war.

Annette Wagner was an enigmatic world traveller and fashion expert who became a media identity on 2NC Newcastle (now ABC1233), 2BL (now ABC702) and 2GB in 1938 and 1939.

“We don’t quite know who she was,” Sydney historian Greg Clancy told Linda Mottram when interviewed on one of those stations today, 702 ABC Sydney.

“She was born in Switzerland, she grew up in England, she married a Frenchman, and she came to Australia in 1938, ostensibly to recover from a medical condition.”

Though she was in Australia for less than two years, she quickly built a media profile featuring on 2NC offering listeners fashion advice and travel tips. She then moved to Mosman in Sydney and got air time on 702 and 2GB, as well building a profile in women’s magazines.

Clancy’s research shows that, in addition to arranging meetings with Nazi sympathisers through her programs, Wagner may also have embedded encoded messages in the broadcasts.

“When she commenced her program, she would read out phoney cables from Paris, in French… This was a strange thing to do considering most people couldn’t speak French, but it was suspected that she might have been slipping little messages into the French.”

While this practice was unusual, it was not technically illegal as it was before World War II had broken out.

Clancy believes her intention was to establish herself as an identity, and to continue her work once the war started, but Wagner had attracted the attention of Australian military intelligence and was taken off air when the war began.

“She was a little too keen on watching military exercises, so they opened a security file on her and kept her under 24-hour surveillance at times,” Greg Clancy told Mottram.

“When the war started all non-citizens were taken off the radio, for obvious security reasons. She was furious … so she set about trying to get herself back on the radio, arguing that she was born in neutral Switzerland and was married to a Frenchman and therefore was not a threat.”

But she was kept off-air and in January 1940, eventually returned to France where she worked for Nazi intelligence.



The book is available at


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