Britain’s Mixed Feelings About Hitler in the 1930s

This is an extract from a longer article, Jews Suffering in the Fall of the British Empire, on another website.  That article is mostly about genocide as practiced by Britain overseas.

The Problem of Hitler

By Gwydion M. Williams

Had the British ruling class genuinely believed that Imperial Germany was evil, they would have backed the French notion of breaking up Imperial Germany into three or four smaller units after winning the 1914-18 War.  Germany had only been unified since 1871, and there were enough differences between the West, South and East to keep them separate.  If Poland was to be given a ‘Corridor’ to the sea, East Prussia might have been a fourth state, since it had no land connection with the rest of the cut-down nation-state that was in fact set up.

As a system to preserve peace, the Versailles Treaty was absurd.  But as a British ruling class attempt to keep Continental Europe divided and France dependent on Britain, it was a plausible policy, albeit one that failed drastically.

In June 1919, when the Versailles Treaty was signed, there was no great fear of Bolshevism.  The White Russians, with foreign armies helping them, seemed to be winning the Russian Civil War.  The dominant element were right-wing militarists who popularised the infamous Protocols of the Elders of Zion and carried out many massacres of Jews who were just Jews and not Bolsheviks or even leftists.  But no one at the time was much bothered by this.

(Also not bothered were the rich Jewish family of Alisa Rosenbaum, who as ‘Ayn Rand’ later became a heroine of the New Right, and had been about as good for conservatism as heroin (diamorphine) is for its users.  They stayed in the Crimea, almost the last White Russian stronghold, before reluctantly accepting a new role as Soviet citizens.  Young Alisa got permission to go to the USA at a time when the Soviets were relaxed about such things.  As a Hollywood script writer, she learned nothing about truth but a great deal about how to manipulate Anglo minds.  I’ve explained this in detail elsewhere.[85])

The Bolsheviks survived and formed the Soviet Union as the core of a growing global Communist movement.  This alarmed the British ruling class.  Bolshevism had been checked by its defeat by Poland in 1920, but pre-1914 ‘normality’ had not been restored and in fact never was restored. Germany got a government dominated by Social-Democrats, as did Czechoslovakia, and both were friendly to the Soviet Union.

British government actions in the 1920s and 1930s make perfect sense if you suppose that the British ruling class privately preferred Fascism and similar Hard-Right creeds to parliamentary democracies that elected democratic socialist governments.  This was only occasionally said openly, because the public including most Tory voters had a real belief in parliamentary democracy as A Wonderful Thing.  But Churchill did say something of the sort about Mussolini’s Italy:

“‘Before leaving for London by the mid-day train to-day, Mr. Churchill received representatives of the Italian and foreign Press. Mr. Churchill informed his audience that he had prepared what he, an ex-journalist, considered the questions and answers most likely to help them in their work, and that a typed copy of this would be given to whomsoever desired one. The following are extracts in his own words from the impressions made upon him by a week’s visit to Italy.

“‘You will naturally ask me about the interviews I have had with Italian statesmen and in particular with Signor Mussolini and Count Volpe. Those interviews were purely formal and of a general character. It is a good thing in modern Europe for public men in different countries to meet on a friendly and social basis and form personal impressions of one another. It is one of the ways in which international suspicion may be diminished and frank and confident relations maintained.

“‘I could not help being charmed, like so many other people have been, by Signor Mussolini’s gentle and simple bearing and by his calm detached poise in spite of so many burdens and dangers. Secondly, anyone could see that he thought of nothing but the lasting good, as he understands it, of the Italian people, and that no lesser interest was of the slightest consequence to him…

“‘I have heard a great deal about your new law of corporations which, I am told, directly associates twenty millions of active citizens with the State and obliges the State to undertake very direct responsibilities in regard to these dependents. Such a movement is of the deepest interest, and its results will be watched in every country. It will certainly require the utmost good will and cooperation of all the people, as well as the wise and clear guidance of the State. But at any rate, in the face of such a system, ardently accepted, it is quite absurd to suggest that the Italian Government does not rest upon popular bases or that it is not upheld by the active and practical assent of the great masses.

“‘If I had been an Italian I am sure that I should have been wholeheartedly with you from the start to finish in your triumphant struggle against the bestial appetites and passions of Leninism. But in England we have not had to fight this danger in the same deadly form. We have our way of doing things. But that we should succeed in grappling with Communism and choking the life out of it-of that I am absolutely sure.

“‘I will, however, say a word on the international aspect of Fascismo. Externally, your movement has rendered a service to the whole world. The great fear which has always beset every democratic leader or working-class leader has been that of being undermined or overbid by someone more extreme than he: It seems that a continued progression to the Left, a sort of inevitable landslide into the abyss was characteristic of all revolutions. Italy has shown that there is a way of fighting the subversive forces which can rally the mass of the people, properly led, to value and wish to defend the honour and stability of civilised society. She has provided the necessary antidote to the Russian poison. Hereafter, no great nation will be unprovided with the ultimate means of protection against cancerous growths, and every responsible labour leader in every country ought to feel his feet more firmly planted in resisting levelling and reckless doctrines. The great mass of people love their country and are proud of its flag and history. They do not regard these as incompatible with a progressive advance towards social justice and economic betterment.’” (The Times, 21st January, 1927. [86])

In 1927, Hitler was a fringe politician.  Italian Fascism was not anti-Jewish until much later.  Italian Jews were found disproportionately both in Italian Fascism and among dedicated anti-Fascists of various sorts – as usual, Jews acted as individuals.  A Jewish woman called Margherita Sarfatti was Mussolini’s biographer as well as one of his mistresses.[87]  Her father had been a friend to the man who became Pope Pius X.  She has been called ‘the Jewish Mother of Fascism’: the actual inventor of the surprising and novel combination of right-wing and left-wing ideas that Mussolini as a gifted populist then led to power.[88]  Meantime the Polish Republic that former left-winger Jozef Pilsudski created in 1918 was hostile to Jews, though it would assimilate converts in line with long-term Roman Catholic practice.

In my view, Churchill saw Hitler as too dangerous, precisely because he was more sympathetic to the Fascist world-view than most Tories.  Had he not spent so many years in parliament and become wholly absorbed in the glamorous Westminster subculture, he might have made a vastly more effective British Fascist leader than Oswald Mosley.  I assume he was certain that Hitler in charge of Germany would be looking for a German Empire dominating Continental Europe, because that is what he would have done as Germany’s leader.  Knew that if Hitler succeeded, the British Empire would decline to be second or third globally, depending on what the USA did.  This he found unacceptable.

Others were less clear-sighted about fascism, or perhaps more realistic about the reduced power of the British Empire in a fast-changing world.  By the time Hitler came to power in 1933, the world economy was in the grip of the Great Slump.  Many parliamentary democracies had collapsed or had voted themselves into powerlessness, as happened in Imperial Japan.  Many believed that a Germany in which 30% of the working class were unemployed would opt for either Nazism or Communism.

I don’t believe that many members of the British ruling class failed to see Hitler as a potential enemy in a new World War.  Nor were they timid people terrified by a gigantic Nazi beast: when Hitler remilitarized the Rhineland in 1936, Germany was in no position to fight a major war.  He was allowed to get stronger.  And whereas the left-wing governments of the Weimar Republic had been bulled to pay impossible reparations for a war they had been forced to declare themselves guilty of, Hitler was treated much more leniently.

Both in Britain and France, most of the centre-right saw Nazism as a useful counter to the Soviet Union.  They were also cautious, but not all to the same degree.  One strong supporter of friendship was Charles Vane-Tempest-Stewart, 7th Marquess of Londonderry.  A Member of the House of Lords from 1915, he became a leading Tory politician and a minister at a time when many Lords had important government jobs.  His role is described in a book called Making Friends With Hitler:

“A pillar of the Conservative Party, Londonderry, socially and politically, could scarcely have been better connected.  The King called him ‘Charley’.  Members of the royal family were frequently guests in his London mansion.  The political establishment dined regularly at his table… Londonderry was on first-name terms with all the major political figures of the day…  Instinctively pro-German, he visited Germany on a number of occasions after leaving the government in 1935…  Ultimately, this meant for Londonderry political disaster, and personal misery.  He spent his later years in a relentless, but fruitless, campaign to vindicate his heavily criticized record as Air Minister and his acquired reputation as a friend of the Nazis.”[89]

But because he did not attempt to defend Hitler once the British Empire was committed to a war against him, he remained broadly acceptable.  A recent Channel 4 series called ‘Great British Buildings: Restoration of the Year’ included his Stately Home, Mount Stewart.  There was not a word about the man’s politics in the general historic survey that was part of each narrative.[90]

The Stately Home itself got far more attention than it merited.  Tens of millions of pounds of public money have been spent restoring the dull centres of self-indulgence of the class that caused two World Wars.  That failed in its aim of preserving the British Empire.  Meantime we are learning that Grenfell Tower became an inferno and caused dozens of deaths because restoration work that made it look more pleasant to its rich Kensington neighbours used a type of plastic cladding that was flammable.  This was preferred to a fireproof version that was slightly more expensive.[91]  Thanks to the Tory chant of ‘Red Tape, Red Tape’ whenever sensible safety regulations are proposed, it was not made a legal requirement to use the fireproof version on a tall building that might be impossible to escape from.  It is the law in the USA and Germany: in Britain it was called needless.  Boris Johnson as London Mayor also cut the London Fire Service, which does useful work warning of fire hazards as well as trying to extinguish fires when they start.  And it seems that a grand total of £5000 was saved by not using the fireproof panels: but this was just the lives of the poor rather than flattery for the rich.

Jews were major victims of the British ruling class’s indifference and incompetence in the end-game before they lost their cherished Empire.  But many others were victims, including ordinary English people who thought that the ruling class cared about them.  Thatcherism was a revival of the same folly, though of necessity attached to a US hegemony as a mere back-up and booster.

Back in the 1930s, though he was a member of an increasingly incompetent ruling class, Lord Londonderry was not blind to the possibility that Germany would once again become Britain’s enemy in the complex game of world politics.  He was correctly credited with some good work as Air Minister:

“Londonderry did set in train the design and promotion of what would turn into the Hurricanes and Spitfires that were to play such a vital part in the Battle of Britain.  The beginnings of British radar development… also date back to his period in office.”[92]

He also hoped to avoid another World War and preserve values that in fact perished:

“The 1930s are still within living memory for a by now elderly part of the society.  But … it has the feel of a remote epoch.  Attitudes towards Empire, rate, state and nation all have a distant ring.  Not least, it seems strange today that anyone in Britain would actively have wanted to make friends with Hitler – the most recognised face of evil in the twentieth century, the epitome of race hatred and war, the abnegation of all values held to be positive in a civilised society.  But in the 1930s such a mentality was anything but strange.  Many looked to Hitler with admiration and pressed for a policy of friendship with Nazi Germany.”[93]

Had Hitler been wiser and more patient, mainstream 1930s values might have stabilised Europe on a very right-wing, racist and anti-Jewish basis.  In my view, it was decisive for the triumph of modern values that the war happened the way it did.  Excellent that the fall of the British Empire liberated all of its components, Britain included.  Brooker T. Washington’s comment that you can’t hold a man down without staying down with him was as valid for Imperial Britain as for the US South, and Britons were rather quicker to realise this.  What we now see as normal British values might never have happened without the World War forcing this oppressive British Empire to become dependent on both the United States and Soviet Union, and without many right-wing ideas becoming tainted by an association with Nazis.  I’ve looked at this in detail: Reinventing Normality in the 20th Century.[94]  From this viewpoint, I see Lord Londonderry’s efforts as less foolish than they now seems.  But there was a widespread failure to realise that Hitler was indeed a Radical Rightist very ready to upset the existing balance of the world:

“The most penetrating criticism of the Hitler regime after 1933 would regularly come from the Manchester Guardian [Since 1959 The Guardian]…  In 1930, however, even this newspaper dismissed Hitler as a mere braggart without genuine or sustainable principles… ‘not anything as fatal, sinister, and calamitous as fear, nervousness and sensational journalism made it appear’…  The Times thought it was difficult to know what the Nazi Party wanted, apart from making Germany strong again, but was optimistic that Hitler would eventually guide its revolutionary spirit into ‘useful channels’.  Oddly, the Daily Mail, a mass-circulation newspaper whose owner, Lord Rothermere, was sympathetic to Hitler (and, in the early 1930s, to Oswald Mosley’s British Union of Fascists), was practically alone in at least acknowledging – from a position of admiration – that the Nazi leader was not just a talented demagogue but also ideologically driven, that there was ‘intense conviction behind his words’.”[95]

“Rothermere believed fervently that offering Hitler friendship and a free hand in eastern Europe, where he could take on and destroy Bolshevism, was in Britain’s national interest, and the only way to avoid a second disastrous war.”[96]

The British ruling class had an empire under threat.  The fate of Jews in Continental Europe was seen as a much less important matter, though Hitler’s view was also seen as extreme:

“[Nazi mistreatment of Jews] was causing great anxiety in Britain.  Besides the dislike of persecution, Londonderry wrote, there was the feeling ‘that you are taking on a tremendous force which is capable of having repercussions all over the world’ and could be ‘antagonistic to some of your most proper and legitimate aspirations.  Londonderry’s evident belief in the international power of Jewry as compounded by what followed: ‘As I told you, I have no great affection for the Jews.  It is possible to trace their participation in most of those international disturbances which have created so much havoc in different countries,’ though he added that it was possible to ‘find many Jews strongly ranged on the other side who have done their best with the wealth at their disposal, and also by their influence to counteract those malevolent and mischievous activities of fellow Jews.

“Londonderry was certainly not a racial anti-Semite in the Nazi sense.  There is no inkling in his extensive papers and correspondence of obsessive or pervasive hatred of Jews.  Lord and Lady Londonderry had numerous Jewish friends and colleagues.”[97]

This was typical of the British right at the time, and for many years afterwards.  Things changed when Israel in the Six-Day War of 1967 humiliated Soviet-backed and Arab-nationalist Egypt.  Until then, right-wingers accepted some Jews among their number, but felt that a majority of Jews were on the wrong side and must be viewed with suspicion.  And until 1939, Hitler was acceptable.  The Berlin Olympics showed that.

Hitler by 1936 was openly a dictator, with no limits on his power since the death of President Hindenburg in 1934.  And blatantly not restrained by law: the Night of the Long Knives is mostly now presented just as a purge of the odious Stormtroopers, but it went much wider.  Several leaders of the disbanded Catholic Centre Party were murdered.[98]  Conservative Vice-Chancellor Franz von Papen was arrested and several of his close associates killed, after which he wisely quit to become German ambassador to Austria.[99]  He had helped get Hitler appointed in what started out as a coalition.  By 1936, it was blatantly a Nazi dictatorship.

Hitler by 1936 had also deprived Jews of their citizenship, and had a blatant policy of treating Jews badly in the hope that they would emigrate.  This included giving privileges to Zionists, since they shared a common goal of getting Jews out of Germany, even though both sides understood that they were inherently enemies in their longer-term goals.  Effective politics is all about forming workable agreements with people you don’t entirely agree with, and it is absurd that Ken Livingstone was told off for mentioning it.  This seems part of a general Modernist attitude that a fact may not be mentioned just because it is true.  Not if someone has decided that the world would look nicer if we pretended it was not true.

Hitler in 1936 wanted to make a success of the Berlin Olympic Games.  Gaining this had indeed been a major credit for Germany:

“Germany and its World War allies Bulgaria, Hungary, Turkey, and Austria were excluded from the 1920 Olympic Games…  Germany’s exclusion was extended to the 1924 Games held in Paris.”[100]

Hungary, Bulgaria and Turkey were allowed to take part in 1924: Germany joined them in 1928.  Berlin was then given the next-but one games:

“The bidding for these [1936] Olympic Games was the first to be contested by IOC members casting votes for their own favorite host cities. The vote occurred in 1931, during the Weimar Republic, before Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party rose to power in 1933…  Many other cities around the world also wanted to host the Summer Olympics for that year, but except for Barcelona they did not receive any IOC votes.”[101]

Berlin won by 43 votes to 16 for Barcelona.  And the next scheduled games in 1940 were awarded to Tokyo, even though Japan had annexed Manchuria in 1931 and got Chinese government troops banned from Shanghai after a limited conflict in 1932.  But for as long as right-wing dictatorships seemed useful to Britain’s global hegemony, they were tolerated and even helped.

The Nazis had felt some initial doubts about the Olympic movement, but then decided it was useful:

“The other side of the coin was the determined German propaganda offensive in 1936, spearheaded by Ribbentrop, and with its high point in the summer Olympics in Berlin, to win over British support.”[102]

All of the usual participants turned up for the Berlin Olympics, even though these were a blatant celebration of Nazism.  Including Harold Abrahams, Jewish hero of the film Chariots of Fire and a BBC sports reporter.[103]  The only country not to attend was Spain under its new left-wing government.  They were holding an Alternative Olympics when the right-wing military tried to overthrow them and the Spanish Civil War began.

Later articles in this series will say a lot more about the Olympics, and also the British Empire’s dishonest pro-fascist line in the Spanish Civil War.  For now, note that there was no particular attachment to parliamentary democracy:

“Londonderry summarised his own views to Winston Churchill in early May…  ‘Whatever the regime,’ he stated, ‘if it creates efficient organisation, I feel a certain amount of admiration for it, and that is why I respect Hitler, Mussolini, and Stalin, I should not’ he went on, ‘like to live under these regimes myself because they are the negation of the freedom which we have learned through the ages to claim and enjoy, but still they do constitute and organisation and I feel that if the Nazi regime in Germany is destroyed, Germany will go Communist and we shall find a lining up of Communism between France, Germany and Russia.’”[104]

But he lost out in 1935, being replaced as Air Minister and then unwisely concentrating on maintaining friendship with Nazi Germany:

“At home the Londonderrys were now widely seen as the foremost apologists for Hitler’s regime…  Among the Nazi hierarchy they were regarded as champions of the German cause.  Though their social status and connections to the highest in the land in Britain were unaffected, their political influence – never as great as they had imagined – was now negligible.”[105]

“From Germany’s point of view, despite all the efforts at winning over Britain… a retrospective of 1936 could offer only a disappointing assessment of achieving the desired basis of friendship.  The abdication in December of King Edward VIII, known to the Nazi leadership for his sympathy for Germany, was interpreted by Ribbentrop as a blow to his hopes.”[106]

“On 28 December 1937, Ribbentrop had finished compiling a 23-page report on Anglo-German relations and how to handle Chamberlain’s initiative to improve them…  Here too, Londonderry was explicitly mentioned.  He was included, along with the ‘Astor group’ (otherwise known, if not altogether accurately, as ‘the Cliveden set’, from the place of weekend gatherings at the home of Lord and Lady Astor of a number of prominent ‘appeasers’), The Times (whose editor, Geoffrey Dawson, was an ‘appeaser’ and frequently the guests at Cliveden).”[107]

From my childhood I remember a comic song about the pro-Nazi role of Lord and Lady Astor:

“There is in Bucks a country house, country house
“Where dwell Lord Astor and his spouse, and his spouse
“And there go Chamberlain and Halifax
“To manufacture Fascist pacts, Fascist pacts
“Fare ye well ye League of Nations
“Welcome peaceful penetrations
“No more nonsense about International Law, oh law”.

This song has somehow dropped out of memory: someone should go looking for it.  I could find no trace of it on-line or in any book I have read.  The fashion among most of the left is to praise the people who actually achieved nothing, most notably Trotsky.[108]  They held up all of the losers for admiration, and were then astonished when they too lost.  That was the history of the 1970s Britain.  Hopefully it will be different this time round.

Back in the 1930s, Lord Londonderry had a false understanding of what Hitler wanted:

“Churchill, replying, left his second cousin [Londonderry] in no doubt about the extent of their disagreement on policy towards Germany:

“‘We certainly do not wish to pursue a policy inimical to the legitimate interests of Germany, but you must surely be aware that when the German Government speaks of friendship with England, what they mean is that we shall give them back their former Colonies, and also agree to their having a free hand so far as we are concerned in Central and Southern Europe.  This means that they would devour Austria and Czecho-Slovakia [sic] as a preliminary to making a gigantic middle-Europa-block.  It would certainly not be in our interests to connive at such policies of aggression.  It would be wrong and cynical in the last degree to buy immunity for ourselves at the expense of the smaller countries of Central Europe.’”[109]

Churchill may have been mistaken about the former German possession beyond Europe, which Hitler was not vastly interested in.  He was interested in lands where Germans could settle to enlarge Germany, in the same way that earlier settlements had expanded into former Slavonic territories, including Prussia.  He wanted them to do this rather than be assimilated as they had been in the white colonies of the British Empire and in the United States.  His ambition was to take Ukraine and perhaps other territories that were then part of the Soviet Union.  His intention was also to clear away the existing population in a way that had not previously been done to any white population.  He wanted to apply to Europe the methods that Europe had applied in the wider world.  Had he not also had a pathological fear of Jews and hatred of Jews, he might well have succeeded.

In the shorter run, Hitler alarmed the British ruling class by taking over the ethnic-Czech parts of Czechoslovakia, just as Churchill had feared.  When it happened, it was also too much for Londonderry.  In a 1938 book, he had tried to reassure Britons:

“Londonderry’s book, which he called Ourselves and Germany, was eventually published (after a brief delay caused by the need to add the postscript on the Anschluss) at the beginning of April.  A second, paperback, edition published by Penguin later in the year significantly increased its circulation, and the attention paid to it…  Early reviews in major English newspapers were positive.”[110]

He chose to blame Austria’s leaders for the annexation of Austria.[111]  But he also said:

“The incorporation of Austria in the German Reich …was a legitimate German aspiration… a totally different situation arises should the German policy of expansion extend to the incorporation or forcible acquisition of Czechoslovakia.”[112]

Why Hitler missed this is baffling.  Obviously it was less of a moral offence than things that Hitler had previously got away with.  But from the viewpoint of the rulers of the British Empire, it made him suddenly much more of a menace than an asset:

“The former British Ambassador in Berlin, Sir Horace Rumbold… provided a thoughtful response [to Londonderry’s book]…

“Rumbold began by agreeing that Britain’s policy towards Germany before 1930 had been deplorable…

“Rumbold then turned to Londonderry’s demand in his book… that the Germans should be pressed to indicate ‘the limits of their ambitions’.  Rumbold saw what Londonderry had been incapable of seeing.  ‘I doubt whether even Hitler could tell you what the limit is.’”[113]

This was the key point.  Hitler would have been much wiser to proceed slowly and not alarm the British Empire, which still viewed itself as controlling the entire world.

If he’d been more modest, he might have got almost all he was after without a war with France or Britain.

If he’d been more modest, he would not have been Hitler.

But Hitler had also been encouraged by the sympathy he got from the British elite.  He failed to work out what the genuine limits were.  He did correctly conclude that no one important cared what he did to Continental Jews:

“Londonderry noted that ‘we may fail to understand, and many of us undoubtedly condemn, the attitude which the Chancellor [Hitler] adopts towards the Jews and certain religious bodies’…

“In his appended postscript on the Anschluss [union with Austria], Londonderry did not refer with a single word to the savage bestiality of the Nazi attacks on the Jews…

“Londonderry’s comments do not appear to have attracted the attention of the many non-Jews among his correspondents.  But one Jewish friend, Anthony Rothschild, of the famous banking family, did take him to task.  He asked on what authority Londonderry could make such a sweeping statement which ‘savours of the stock in trade of all anti-Semitic writers’, and could be used to support the persecution of Jews…  Londonderry’s reply apologised for the personal pain he had caused his longstanding family friend…  His anti-Bolshevism, predictably, came into play at this point as he picked up the standard anti-Semitic line that Jews had been behind the 1917 Russian Revolution…

“His wife, he said, fearing as he did Jewish influence and believing ‘that the Jews in the East End [of London] are a really dangerous element in this country’, had suggested that ‘those many Jews who exist in all parts of the world and who have made tremendous contributions to progress and the highest form of religious idealism’ should seek to control ‘the dangerous elements’ who were ‘so powerful in moulding the destinies of the world’.

“Rothschild’s remarkable restrained, if understandably cool, response used history and logic to counter Londonderry’s ‘nebulous accusations’, pointing out that

‘Except insofar as in the past those of the Jewish faith living all over the world have attempted to help their persecuted co-religionists elsewhere or in support of Zionism – which was the official, but, as many Jews like myself think, the mistaken policy of the British government – there is no such thing as Jewish influence as such, and any apprehensions based on the supposition of its existence are entirely imaginary’

“Londonderry had, as his public and private statements reveal, an ingrained anti-Jewish prejudice – though there was little that was distinctive in a latent antipathy which was common enough on the Conservative Right.”[114]

Londonderry was a fool to think of ‘The Jews’ doing anything in particular.  They acted as individuals, while obviously avoiding political movements that were anti-Jewish.

Zinoviev and Kamenev, the most notable Jews among the Old Bolsheviks, had been against attempting the October Revolution.  (Trotsky at the time was very much a New Bolshevik, brought in by Lenin.)  There were also more Jews among the indecisive Mensheviks than among the Bolsheviks.  Parvus (Israel Lazarevich Gelfand) was by 1917 a paid agent of Imperial Germany.  Rosa Luxemburg liked the idea of revolution but not the reality: she would probably have become an opponent of Lenin had she not been killed by German right-wingers.  Emma Goldman, an anarchist rather than a Marxist, did become a minor nuisance on the left, claiming to be purer than the Global Communist Movement that was the real anti-fascist force.

Regarding Parvus, the nearest real-life person to an International Jewish Conspirator, he may have sincerely believed that a German victory would be best for socialism.  This was certainly the view of Irishman James Connolly and of Roger Casement.  Lenin refused to work with Parvus after taking power in Russia.  Parvus became marginal, dying in 1924.

Hitler Crosses a Line

Londonderry was more pro-Hitler than most of the ruling class, but they all made the same errors.  And somehow let Hitler misread them:

“‘Appeasement’ only became a dirty word after the events of the late summer and early autumn [1938, the Munich Agreement].”[115]

It became that only after it became clear that Hitler would not stay within what the British ruling class had seen as agreed limits.  For as long as Hitler was seen as more useful than dangerous, he was allowed to get away with a great deal.  Making Friends With Hitler does not see it so, but does say:

“Leading futures in the German Army’s General Staff… thought Germany could not win a war against the western powers which would inevitably ensure from an attack on Czechoslovakia…   Goering more than anyone feared the consequences of general European war, which Germany was not yet ready to face.”[116]

“Chamberlain was speaking in the House of Commons as news of Hitler’s concession was given to him.  He immediately announced it, and the packed House erupted in tumultuous cheering.”[117]

But then Hitler apparently decided that he could do just as he pleased:

“Hitler was telling Nazi leaders that he had decided to smash what remained of the Czech state and occupy Prague.  Five days later the Wehrmacht crossed the border and, later on that evening of 15 March [1939], the German dictator himself entered the city.  It was to prove the terminal blow for the policy of appeasement, and the breaking point in Lord Londonderry’s lingering delusions about building a friendly relationship with Nazi Germany.”[118]

“Despite disappointments, [Londonderry] still hoped that the breakthrough reached at Munich could prove a platform on which to build.  These hopes were shattered… by the news of the German invasion of what remained of Czechoslovakia…

“Londonderry stated (echoing the sentiments of Halifax), ‘Germany appears to have assumed the attitude of world domination’, which could not be accepted under any circumstances.”[119]

You could see the British view as irrational, but it was the actual British view.  Hitler had no excuse for not knowing this.  He’d shown skill at easing German conservatives out of power, and in getting control of the military.  Somehow he forgot caution after his run of successes.  He made an enemy of the British Empire against the wishes of most of the [British] ruling class

“It was a sobering moment for German sympathizers generally.  Many would-be friends of Hitler’s Reich now found they could go no further.  The Conservative writer and journalist Francis Yeats-Brown, for instance, long an admirer of Italian Fascism who late in 1938 had written a series of articles in the Observer enthusing about Hitler’s Germany, saw Prague as the end of the road.”[120]

There was then an overdue effort to curb him, using Poland but not doing so honestly:

“The cynicism was the knowledge that Britain could, in the event of a German attack on Poland, do nothing militarily to guarantee just given.  No discussions with the French were held about an attack on Germany’s western borders should Poland be attacked in the east.  Military advice was that Poland would be overrun within three months.  The guarantee, whatever its appearances, was aimed not at helping Poland fight a war, but in preventing such a war taking place; or, at least, delaying it until Britain had completed the build-up of it defences – more than a year away at the earliest.”[121]

So how did Hitler get as far as he did before 1939?  Because Britain’s rulers were not anti-Fascist or anti-Nazi, [and cared little about the fate of Jews in Continental Europe.] They cared only about global power.

“[Londonderry had] an instinctive, paternalistic authoritarianism, far removed from the Fascist variety.  But he presumed that members of the social and political oligarchy that had traditionally been formed from the British nobility had a born right to rule.  Though he usually concealed it, he had an inbuilt arrogance and disdain for ‘the bourgeoisie’ – meaning, particularly, Neville Chamberlain (‘a second-class parochially-minded tradesman’, as he described him) – now governing Britain in place of the aristocracy.”[122]

Similar people had adjusted to Fascism in Italy and Germany, after the regular political system had broken down.  The British ruling class did something similar on a global scale:

“The only conceivably viable policy in summer 1939 which offered any alternative to increasingly certain war was to forge a military alliance with the Soviet Union.  An opinion survey carried out in April 1939 found 87 per cent of respondents in Britain in favour.  But this did not include the two individuals effectively determining British foreign policy at this state: Chamberlain and Halifax.  Londonderry had for his part set his face against such an alliance even before it was seriously mooted.  When the idea – backed most prominently by Churchill, as well as by the Labour Party – became taken up as a policy option, he dubbed it ‘disastrous’.”[123]

If they suspected that working with the Soviet Union against Nazi Germany would move the society well to the left, they were quite right.  It did do just that, though most modern historians pretend otherwise.  Londonderry might have seen Nazi global domination as a lesser evil.

“Hitler, though misjudging how British attitudes had changed since Prague, was aware that there were those in Britain who even now favoured peace over war at the price of concessions to German demands in Poland.  The British Ambassador in Berlin, Sir Neville Henderson, was one of those.  Another was R. A. Butler, who in the post-war era would become a leading force in the Conservative Party and at this time was Under-Secretary at the Foreign Office and chief spokesman on foreign affairs in the House of Commons.  [Halifax was in the House of Lords.]  Butler… favoured putting pressure on the Poles, even at this juncture, to come to terms with Germany.  He saw ‘a German-British agreement including Colonies AND a reasonable Polish settlement’ as the only alternative to war.  But the Foreign Office mandarins were having none of these suggestions of a ‘Polish Munich’.”[124]

‘R. A. Butler’, commonly known as Rab Butler, is described in the Wiki as “the key-figure in the revival of post-war Conservatism, arguably the most successful chancellor since the war and unquestionably a Home Secretary of reforming zeal.”[125]  But he kept on being passed over as Tory leader.  There were rumours at the time of something that would have looked very bad if it had ever come to light: more than his public inclination towards peace.  To date, nothing has come to light – which may just mean an efficient cover-up.

The war began with the destruction of Poland.  The West might have expected it to last some time: Serbia had lasted more than a year.  In fact organised resistance collapsed after 35 days.  Poland was already decisively defeated when the Soviet Union stepped in after 17 days.  But the war was about power, not Poland, so it continued.  Britain may have hoped to win by denying overseas food supplies to Germany, which had worked in the First World War.  This was indeed applied in the long run, producing hunger in Germany and also making the intentional starvation of people in the Concentration Camps seem less of an anomaly.  But there was a natural reluctance to engage in the horribly costly trench warfare of the previous war.  And though the idea of a sudden breakthrough using tanks had been invented within the British Army, conventional military opinion successfully suppressed it:

“Not until the German western offensive in May 1940 did the British army engage in military action…  Some called this strange period ‘the twilight war…  The Germans came to refer to it as the ‘Sitzkreig’ (or ‘sitting war’).  The Americans dubbed it ‘the phoney war’.  In Britain, too, this appellation stuck.

“From the point of view of the Poles there was nothing at all ‘phoney’ about the war.  After not much more than three weeks of savage fighting, the Polish army was utterly destroyed.”[126]

Actually Britain’s real war started earlier, in April with the Norwegian campaign.  Lord Londonderry kept quiet for the duration of the war.  Others were less wise:

“The Duke of Westminster, aged sixty, one of the richest men in England, with a propensity to share some of the Nazi’s delusions about Jews and Freemasons, had joined ‘The Link’ in 1939 at precisely the time that others were losing their ardour for Hitler’s Germany.  He was said to have been keen on avoiding bombs dropping on central London since he owned so much of it.”

This was the 2nd Duke.  Later Dukes of Westminster remain enormously rich, though they are not direct descendants of the pro-Hitler Duke.  They hit the news recently when it was found that the new 7th Duke had paid hardly any tax on an inheritance of nine thousand million pounds, thanks to devious but entirely legal trust funds.[127]  Right-wingers had somehow convinced the public that a proper inheritance tax was wickedly ‘taxing the dead’.  Then the needy get their small payments cut in the name of austerity.

Looking back to Lord Londonderry, I got interested enough to get hold of the man’s own book, which I briefly quoted from earlier.  Here in substance is what he said before the Munich Agreement:

“During the period which elapsed since [1935] the situation with regard to Germany has, I am afraid, grown steadily worse.  Herr Hitler’s conciliatory gestures have been disregarded and his offers brushed on one side…  The time may not be far off … when the Germans will be able to dispense with the hope of any understanding with us and strike out along a course of Weltpolitik frankly antagonistic to Great Britain and her many imperial and commercial interests.  It is to avert such an unfortunate eventuality as this that I have made every effort to convince the people of this country of the value and importance of a friendly understanding between Britain and Germany.”[128]

He knew it might come to war.  And saw weakness in the British Empire’s hybrid of democracy and autocracy:

“We are apt to ignore the fact that our political institutions rest on a foundation of centuries and that the individuals who from time to time operate our political system have never been invested with the plenary powers inherent in the principle of dictatorship.  For this reason, therefore, I regard the position of a dictator with feelings of apprehension, since under dictatorship the centre of gravity is in the dictator, and not in the system of government.”[129]

He claims to have worked for disarmament, which would be disputed:

“Speaking on behalf of the British Government … I declared that we were ‘prepared to subscribe to universal acceptance of the abolition of naval and military aircraft and of air bombing (except for polite purposes in outlying places), provided only that there can be devised an effective scheme for the international control of civil aviation which will prevent all possibility of the misuse of civil aircraft for military purposes…

“We never opposed the principle of abolition at Geneva … if other nations would do likewise.

“The police bombing reservation, for advocating which I was very bitterly attacked by the Labour party and others in England, was a comparatively minor one.  It arose from the fact that British colonial possessions are widely scattered, and since the War our responsibilities have been increased by the various mandates which we hold from the League of Nations.  More than any other Power we rely upon aircraft … to police and control undeveloped regions such as, for instance, the North-West Frontier.”[130]

Britain had created fleets of long-range bombers, suitable for use against a wide range of possible foes.  Designed to attack cities rather than enemy armies.  The USA had done the same.  Germany, thought guilty of atrocities like the bombing of Guernica, had not made the same preparations for ‘strategic bombing’.

Londonderry takes a soft line about Nazi intentions:

“[Hitler] declined to join the Eastern Pace of Mutual Assistance proposed by France, on the grounds that in no circumstances could Germany be found fighting on the same side as Soviet Russia, or against Poland, with whom she had recently signed a ten-year treaty of non-aggression.  He was, however, ready to sign bilateral pacts of non-aggression with his neighbours.”[131]

“I endeavoured to probe as far as I could the alleged fear of Russia, and in my judgement it is no different from the fear which exists in the minds of all other countries which all have the same abiding fear.  The Russian Air Force is, as far as I could gather, an unknown quantity to the Germans.  They regard its potentialities as immense.”[132]

The German military and Hitler actually wildly underestimated Soviet power.  And then pretended otherwise as a good excuse for their own planned aggression.  They were very surprised when their lies turned out to be not too far from the truth.  Before that, it helped win over right-wingers:

 “In the Fuhrer’s opinion continental Europe presented a strangely unbalanced picture.  Unstable, weakly governments and systems of government prevailed. Most governments were very short-lived…  Even in a big country like France the position is so unsafe that no party or movement dares to aim with energy at any one goal, because they fear to conjure up a crisis of the worst kind.

“Against this decay in continental Europe stands the extraordinary development of Soviet power.  Soviet Russia has not only become the greatest military power, but at the same time the embodiment of an idea.  How such ideas had worked when combined with great strength we know only too well from the French Revolution.”[133]

I quoted earlier the citation of a letter to Ribbentrop in which Londonderry said ‘I have no great affection for the Jews’.  He also said:

“In thinking over my conversations with the Fuhrer, yourself and General Goring, I acquired a great deal of useful information, but on the other hand … I have not very clearly in my mind your definite opinion in relation to your desires in Europe itself, nor have I come away with a very clear knowledge of the actual reasons which control your internal policy in relation to the Jews and also in relation to religious bodies…

“I should be wrong if I minimised in any way the anxiety which is felt here in relation to your policy towards the Jews, for there is the feeling that we do not like persecution, but in addition to this there is the material feeling that you are taking on a tremendous force that is capable of having repercussions all over the world which can be nothing but antagonistic to some of your most proper and legitimate aspirations.”[134]

He was more interested in the former German colonies:

“British public opinion was in no way mollified by the next official declaration of policy …  Herr Hitler brought the colonial question to the front, arguing that without colonies German’s living room was too small to guarantee sufficient food supplies for the nation…  As the majority of her colonies are administered by Great Britain under mandate from the League of Nations, his remarks were interpreted, not incorrectly, as being in great part intended for British consumption.”[135]

But Europe was the key:

“I found General Goring far less consolatory and rather impatient of the attitude which we seemed to adopt towards his country…  The interests of the two countries did not clash in any way and yet we were unwilling … to grant to Germany the position of military superiority on the continent of Europe.  Why should we claim to interfere in German policy in central Europe of seeking to incorporate in the Reich the German-speaking people in Austria and Czechoslovakia…

“The German opposition to Bolshevism continued unabated, and he and Herr Hitler viewed with grave anxiety the Bolshevist influences in Spain which were extending to France and Belgium.  Germany encircles by Bolshevik countries was placed in a position of extreme danger.” (Ourselves and Germany, Page 146-7)

A wild exaggeration.  Communists got 15.3% of the vote in the 1936 French election.  6.1% in Belgium.  2.5% in Spain.  Socialist parties were larger, but still needed to work with non-socialist radicals to form governments.  But anti-Communism was used by the right to condemn anything left of centre;.  And Londonderry probably felt he had more in common with Nazis than moderate leftists:

“We may regret the apparent lack of freedom and independence which is allowed to the German people by the authority of the Government, which appears to us to be concentrated in the person of the Chancellor [Hitler, who remained ‘Fuhrer and Chancellor].  We may fail to understand, and many of us undoubtedly condemn, the attitude which the Chancellor adopts towards the Jews and certain religious bodies.  Religious and racial persecution, it might be said, came to an end in the British Empire with the Catholic Emancipation Act in 1829 and the abolition of negro slavery in 1833, and is something which is unknown to the present generation, except, perhaps, in Ireland.” (Ibid, Page 169-170.)

Which is exaggerated.  Jews who had not at least technically converted to Christianity could not be MPs until 1855 and could not hold senior university positions until 1871.  They were at least accepted as being part of the ‘White Race’: anyone not of the white race could not be a Commissioned Officer, even though they were a large proportion of the lower ranks.  Rich non-whites – mostly from the Indian subcontinent – could go most places and even be admitted to aristocratic circles that mostly excluded their superiors in the Empire.  Beyond Britain, there were solid racial barriers till almost the end.

Within Mainland Britain, Roman Catholics including those of Irish origin could rise freely, if not quite equal to the English.  But the British government imposed a system of devolved government on Northern Ireland, which they had not asked for and initially did not want.  This produced the predictable result of a total polarisation between Protestant parties and Catholic parties.  Up until the Good Friday Agreement of 1998, the Protestant parties always dominated the government, apart from the short-lived Sunningdale Agreement of 1973-4.  While in the Irish Free State, later Irish Republic, Protestants have been a somewhat privileged minority and there have always been some in the government.





[89] Kershaw, Ian. Making Friends With Hitler.  Allen Lane (Penguin Books) 2004, page xv.



[92] Making Friends With Hitler, Page 113.

[93] Ibid., Page xiv.


[95] Making Friends With Hitler, Pages 28-9.

[96] Ibid., Page 58.

[97] Ibid., Page 146.



[100] Mogulof, Milly. Foiled: Hitler’s Jewish Olympian.  The Helene Mayer Story. RDR Books, 2002.  Page 8


[102] Making Friends With Hitler, Page 153


[104] Making Friends With Hitler, Page 154-5.

[105] Ibid., Page 171.

[106] Ibid., Page 176.

[107] Ibid., Page 212.


[109] Making Friends With Hitler, Page 206-7

[110] Ibid., Page 224-5.

[111] The Marquess of Londonderry, Ourselves and Germany, Robert Hale Limited 1938.  Page 178

[112] Ibid., Page 184.

[113] Making Friends With Hitler, Pages 226-7.

[114] Ibid., Page 228-230.

[115] Ibid., Page 238.

[116] Ibid., Page 241.

[117] Ibid., Page 245.

[118] Ibid., Page 269.

[119] Ibid., Page 277.

[120] Ibid., Page 279.

[121] Ibid., Page 274.

[122] Ibid., Page 289.

[123] Ibid., Page 293.

[124] Ibid., Page 294.


[126] Making Friends With Hitler, Page 297.


[128] The Marquess of Londonderry, Ourselves and Germany, Robert Hale Limited 1938.

[129] Ibid., Page 19.

[130] Ibid., Pages 55-8.

[131] Ibid., Pages 69-70.

[132] Ibid., Page 87.

[133] Ibid., Pages 98-9.

[134] Ibid., Page 111.

[135] Ibid., Pages 142-3.