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This resource is hosted by the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory, but was compiled and authored by Padraig O’Malley. It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.

Robey Leibrandt

The South African Military History Society

KWAZULU-NATAL BRANCH

NEWSLETTER NO. 326

July 2002

Charles Whiteing's DDH talk dealt with Robey Leibbrandt and Operation Weissdorn.Charles treated us to a rousing tale of derring-do involving Robey Leibbrandt's plan to assassinate General Smuts and bring about a coup d'etat in South Africa with German and Ossewa Brandwag support. This plan, code named Operation Weissdorn, was delivered to Hitler in Berlin.Germany lost her colony of South West Africa at the end of World War Two when it became a South African mandate. When presented with the plan, Hitler realised the strategic mineral wealth of both S.W.A. and S.A. Foreign Minister Von Ribbentrop decided to increase espionage and propaganda activities in these territories, where there were many German sympathisers.When South Africa declared war on Germany on 4th September 1939, the Purified National Party and the Ossewa Brandwag movement represented the anti-war faction. Dr Hans van Rensburg, the head of the O.B. was suspected of being a double agent on Smuts' payroll. The elimination of General Smuts was to act as a catalyst to unite the country against the pro-war party.

Robey Leibbrandt of German and Irish descent (his mother was a cousin of William Joyce) was the South African Heavy Weight Champion, and represented South Africa at the 1934 Empire Games. With the S.A Olympic Tearn in 1936, Leibbrandt went to Germany, where he was most impressed with Nazi Germany and as fascinated with Hitler. He returned to Berlin in 1938 to study at the Reich Academy for Gymnastics, and stayed on when war broke out. He joined the German Army where he qualified as a glider pilot, and was awarded his paratrooper wings after completing the course.

Hitler ordered Admiral Caniris to implement Operation Weissdorn. Leibbrandt under the code name of Walter Kempf, was instructed to return to S.A. on the yacht Kyloe. He and radio operator Dorner were to land at Lamberts Bay.However, Leibbrandt demanded to be put ashore at Mitchells Bay on his own. Is dinghy capsized and then proceeded inland on foot.After various adventures, he was taken to Cape Town, to make arrangements to meet Dr van Rensburg, the O.B. leader. Van Rensburg was unsympathetic to Leibbrandt's overtures. Leibbrandt continued in his attempts to drum up support, winning converts to his cause with fiery speeches at meetings in the O.F.S. and the Transvaal. These converts took the Blood Oath, and trained in time bomb making sabotage and the planning of raids on banks and explosive stores.

After a confrontation with the police who had been given a tip-off Leibband evaded capture. A reward of R1000 was offered for his capture, dead or alive. The net was beginning to close. On the 21 December, a report in the Rand Daily Mail read, "Leibbraindt Group Smashed." In Berlin, a file labelled 'Operation Weissdorn' was Stamped "Cancelled".

Leibbrandt's treason trial began on 16th November 1942 and he was condemned to death. On 11th March1943 his death sentence was commuted to life imprisonment by General Smuts who had admired Leibbrandt's father as a "courageous Boer warrior" in the Anglo Boer War.

After the Nationalist Party won the General Election in May l948, Leibbrandt and all other political prisoners were pardoned and released. He later married and had five children. Members of our Society know one son Izan (Nazi spelt backwards) and one of his nephews.

Robey Leibbrandt died in 1966.

This resource is hosted by the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory, but was compiled and authored by Padraig O’Malley. Return to the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory site.