Eric Reginald Pleasants, 1944
|Years of service||?-1945|
|Unit||British Free Corps|
Pleasants attended school in Norwich to age 14, then worked variously as trainee electrician, forester, boxer, wrestler and then showman weight-lifter in Britain and continental Europe. In late 1939 he joined the Merchant Navy as a compromise between military call-up and his distaste for war. He served on a freighter bringing potatoes from Jersey to Southampton, but overstayed his time ashore on the island, missed his boat, and was caught there when the Channel Islands were occupied by the German Army in July 1940. He obtained temporary farm work as a potato picker, but also began stealing from empty properties, resulting in arrest and prosecution in the Magistrates' Court. He was deported by the German occupying authorities, first to Fort d'Hauteville prison near Dijon, France, and eventually to an internment camp in Kreuzburg, Germany.
In Germany he chose to join the Waffen SS, and became an SS-Schütze in the British Free Corps which in 1944 became a foreign legion of the Waffen-SS. He claimed to have been invited to join the German broadcasting service from Berlin to Allied and neutral countries, and, in this connection, to have met William Joyce and John Amery, and to have discussed with them the possibilities of charges of treason. He claimed also to have had a sexual relationship with Joyce's wife, Eileen. In August 1944 he demanded to be returned to his camp. He was stripped of his uniform and summarily despatched to an SS punishment camp at Bandekow near Schwerin, where he worked in a road-making gang, but returned to the BFC in November. He was selected to box for the SS pioneers against the SS police in Prague in late 1944, and won his bout. In late February or early March 1945 Pleasants 'got himself attached to [Vivian] Stranders’ embryonic ‘Peace Camp’ – in reality he spent his time giving exhibition bouts against Max Schmeling in German officers’ messes.'
Pleasants deserted from the Waffen-SS in 1945 and went into hiding. He 'was obliged to kill two Russian soldiers with his bare hands when they attempted to arrest him in the southern suburbs [of Berlin]. Captured by the Red Army in 1946, he was imprisoned in a GULAG camp at Vorkuta along the arctic circle before being repatriated to England in about 1952. No action was taken against him by the British authorities, as "he was thought to have suffered enough" although he was apparently interviewed.[by whom?]
Pleasants' autobiography was ghost-written by Eddie Chapman (a British safe-breaker and double agent whom he befriended in German custody) under the title I Killed to Live – The Story of Eric Pleasants as told to Eddie Chapman, Cassell & Co, 1957. Another version appears to have been edited by Ian Sayer and Douglas Botting and published posthumously as Hitler's Bastard: Through Hell and Back in Nazi Germany and Stalin's Russia, Random House, 2012.
- Weale, Adrian (2014-11-12). Renegades (Kindle Locations 2482-2484). Random House. Kindle Edition
- Weale, Adrian (2014-11-12). Renegades (Kindle Location 2857). Random House. Kindle Edition
- Weale, Adrian (2014-11-12). Renegades (Kindle Location 2873). Random House. Kindle Edition
- Weale, Adrian (2014-11-12). Renegades (Kindle Locations 2992-2994). Random House. Kindle Edition
- Weale, Adrian (2014-11-12). Renegades (Kindle Locations 3198-3199). Random House. Kindle Edition
- Weale, Adrian (2014-11-12). Renegades (Kindle Location 3416). Random House. Kindle Edition