Churchill’s Choice: Hitler vs. Stalin

Churchill’s Choice: Hitler vs. Stalin

I find the glo­ri­fi­ca­tion of Churchill quite dis­gust­ing. It is typ­i­cal British-Amer­i­can arro­gance to ignore the out­come of WW2 for the peo­ples of East­ern Europe, not to speak of the Ger­mans. Churchill knew from the begin­ning about the ter­ri­ble fate of the Rus­sians and many oth­er East Euro­pean peo­ples under Bol­she­vist dic­ta­tor­ship. He obvi­ous­ly didn’t care. He was obsessed with anti-Ger­man hatred. Know­ing that he bombed Ger­man cities, killing thou­sands of civil­ians long before the Ger­mans were retal­i­at­ing, makes him in my opin­ion even worse than Hitler. Why  did he go into alliance with Stal­in against the Ger­mans? That is his crime and the recog­ni­tion of it will come. —H.W. via email.

“Total­i­ta­t­ian Eclipse,” car­toon by Zev in the Dai­ly Mir­ror, Lon­don, 8 April 1940.

The choice before Churchill and Britain in 1939-40 was any­thing but clear-cut. There were good rea­sons, how­ev­er, sup­port­ing the choice they made.

While con­sid­er­ing the fate of East­ern Europe it is rea­son­able also to con­sid­er that of West­ern Europe, and what Europe would have looked like had Hitler tri­umphed, and moved on into the nuclear age.

Before assum­ing that Churchill didn’t care about Bol­she­vism, it is nec­es­sary to read a lit­tle. Read about 1919-20, when he sup­port­ed the Whites against the Bol­she­viks, earn­ing no love from his prac­ti­cal, wise and emi­nent col­leagues, who didn’t see what he did.

Read on into the 1930s. Who occu­pied the Rhineland in vio­la­tion of treaties? What was the March 1938 Anschluss about? What hap­pened at Munich? What about March 1939, and the absorp­tion of all those Bohemi­ans, Mora­vians and Slo­va­kians into the Reich? Which coun­try first allied her­self with Russia—Britain or Ger­many? Cities like Guer­ni­ca, War­saw and Rot­ter­dam were all hit before the RAF had dropped a sin­gle bomb on the Reich. Indeed, for many months after the war start­ed in 1939, the most the British would drop were pam­phlets. Bomb­ing, some in the gov­ern­ment believed, would amount to destruc­tion of pri­vate prop­er­ty.

Why side with Stal­in in 1941? If your back is to the wall you tend to wel­come allies with­out being too choosy about them. It is a legit­i­mate crit­i­cism that Churchill was too trust­ing of Stal­in; those argu­ments are not com­ing out, they’ve been out for thir­ty years. But if he hat­ed Ger­mans, his post­war dec­la­ra­tion that the only way to sal­vage Europe was through rap­proche­ment between France and Ger­many was an odd way to express it. “My hate,” he wrote lat­er, “died with their sur­ren­der.”

In 1931 Churchill wrote “Mass Effects in Mod­ern Life”: words that still ring today:

No mate­r­i­al progress, even though it takes shapes we can­not now con­ceive, or how­ev­er it may expand the fac­ul­ties of man, can bring com­fort to his soul. It is this fact, more won­der­ful than any that Sci­ence can reveal, which gives the best hope that all will be well. Projects undreamed-of by past gen­er­a­tions will absorb our imme­di­ate descen­dants; forces ter­rif­ic and dev­as­tat­ing will be in their hands; com­forts, activ­i­ties, ameni­ties, plea­sures will crowd upon them, but their hearts will ache, their lives will be bar­ren, if they have not a vision above mate­r­i­al things.

“Implic­it in those words,” says Dr. Lar­ry Arnn, “are the speech­es of 1940. Churchill told the British peo­ple we must fight to the death—better to die than to give this thing up. The sin of Hitler, almost super­hu­man in its scale but not, is that he tried too form a poli­ty that would elim­i­nate the very heart of human­i­ty. No one saw that more clear­ly than Win­ston Churchill.”


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